United three ties away from top 8 spot

2013-05-01 00:00

MARITZBURG United have put in good performances throughout this season, even in some of the matches that they have lost. But that will count for nothing if they are unable to fulfil their ambitions of finishing the campaign in the top half of the table.

United are currently in ninth place, just two points behind Free State Stars who are in fifth place on the log. The problem is not so much United’s position as that there are only three fixtures remaining for the Team of Choice to claw their way into the mix for next year’s lucrative MTN8.

Tonight’s tie away to Platinum Stars may appear daunting considering that the Rustenberg-based side are chasing a league and cup double this season, but past performances suggest that United need not shy away from playing the “big” clubs in the PSL.

SuperSport United, log leaders Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns have all struggled against United this season, but if ever there was a time for coach Ernst Middendorp’s side to cause an upset and take all three points from a tough away clash, it is tonight.

If United are to succeed, they will need to improve in front of goal and start capitalising on the chances they create. By yesterday the fitness of Zimbabwean striker Cuthbert Malajila was still in question after he picked up a knee injury on Friday night.

Malajila has scored 10 of United’s 27 league goals this season and is considered crucial to United’s chances whenever they take to the field. But with Orlando Smeekes fit again and Terrance Mandaza having shown glimpses of promise at various stages throughout the season, Middendorp at least has options in the striking department to fall back on should Malajila not recover in time for tonight.

It may be trickier to replace playmaker Delron Buckley should he be left out of tonight’s affair with a foot injury.

Should Buckley not play tonight, then Middendorp could call on Ryan de Jongh, Philani Zulu or Maritzburg College youngster Bandile Shandu to plug the hole in an advanced midfield role.

One certainty for United is that Mohamed Awal misses out at centre back through suspension. His place in the starting lineup is likely to be taken by the experienced Byrone Hendricks, who will partner Mario Booysen.

Kick-off is at 7.30 pm.

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