United on top of injuries with Wits next

2013-02-27 00:00

FOR such a small squad, Maritzburg United managed the fitness of their players exceptionally well during the first half of the PSL season.

But, as Murphy’s Law would have it, injuries started plaguing United just as coach Ernst Middendorp bulked up with four new signings in January.

Cuthbert Malajila (striker), Ruben Cloete (defender/midfielder), Frank Sarfo-Gyamfi (midfielder), Heinrich Isaacks (midfielder) and Thabang Matuka (defender) have all struggled with various knocks and strains since the PSL resumed last month, but the good news from the camp yesterday was that only Isaacks is still unable to take to the field.

“We have had a few knocks, but the guys have all responded well to treatment,” United biokineticist Burger van der Merwe told The Witness yesterday.

“Heinie [Isaacks] has a medial ligament strain and probably won’t be ready for this weekend.”

United, who have not scored a goal in any of their three PSL matches this year, host Black Leopards at Harry Gwala Stadium on Sunday in their first Pietermaritzburg match of 2013.

While Malajila is suspended (yellow card limit) for Sunday’s clash, he remains crucial to United’s goal scoring ambitions as he continues to get back to full fitness following his off-season knee injury.

“When a player is out for a couple of weeks they lose their sharpness, but Cuthbert has been a soldier over the last few games and has been made to play a lot of football,” said Van der Merwe.

“You can see that he is getting his sharpness back and it won’t be long before he is back to full match fitness.”

The only long-term injury that Middendorp still has to consider is that of Dutch attacker Orlando Smeekes, who suffered a broken foot last September, but Van der Merwe confirmed yesterday that the 31-year-old will be back sooner rather than later.

“We are actually very excited about Orlando, he has made fantastic progress … we are hoping to have him back at training by mid-March.”

With the PSL currently in full swing and United preparing for Sunday’s clash and then a trip to Wits on March 6, fixture congestion has been an issue for many of the league’s clubs.

“When you have so many games in such a short space of time it can be very difficult to keep everybody fit, especially when we don’t have the biggest squad in the league,” said Van der Merwe.

And, somehow, United have as close to a fully fit squad as they could hope for as they continue their preparations for what is a must-win game coming up on Sunday.

The match kicks off at 3.30 pm and will be televised on SABC 1.

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