United upbeat

2013-08-31 00:00

THE mood in the Maritzburg United camp is still good despite the team being beaten 2-0 by Free State Stars on Wednesday.

The Team of Choice return home this weekend to take on the University of Pretoria at Harry Gwala Stadium, and captain Michael Morton told Weekend Witness they had put the defeat behind them and were looking forward to the game.

“One defeat is not going to get spirits down, and the guys are still looking up. We’re looking forward to being back home, and we know our objective,” Morton said.

He said travelling to the Free State was never easy, but he did not make any excuses for the loss, saying: “We just weren’t up to scratch”.

A positive from Wednesday’s game, Morton said, was that star midfielder Delron Buckley got a good run, and didn’t have any problems with his injury. “It is good to have everyone back,” he said.

New signing Ashley Hartog has started training with the club, although coach Ernst Middendorp had said last week that he might only be ready for the tough away trip to Johannesburg to take on league champions Kaizer Chiefs in two weeks.

Nhlanhla Vilakazi, also a new signing, is still quite far off to be ready for action.

Last week, Middendorp had said having Mohammad Awal, Mario Booysen and Robyn Johannes would give him a selection headache as he decided who to play in defence. On Wednesday, all three played, and Morton said having three quality centre backs would benefit the club.

“The fact that the coach can mess with the formation at the back is a good thing,” hesaid.

Wednesday’s performance would have created concern for Middendorp after the encouraging signs that came out of the Polokwane match, but the German coach and Team of Choice fans will be boosted by the fact that tonight’s clash is back in the Midlands.

United host AmaTuks in today’s late kick-off (8.15 pm), and they will be favoured to get back to winning ways against a side that they drew twice to home and away last season.

Tuks, despite their top-eight finish in the league in 2012/13, have started this campaign with back-to-back losses without finding the back of the net. They are rooted to the bottom of the table, and while coach Steve Barker has expressed confidence in his side bouncing back, he will be all too aware of the dreaded “second season syndrome”.

It hasn’t been much better for United in front of goal — their solitary strike for the season coming via new striker Mohammed Yakubu.

Much has been said of the 23-year-old since his signing from Ghanaian outfit Ashanti Gold, and Middendorp has grown frustrated at those who have drawn comparisons between Yakubu and United’s top scorer from last season Cuthbert Malajila (now with Mamelodi Sundowns).

With United, more often than not, solid defensively under Middendorp’s rigidity, whether or not Harry Gwala will be celebrating tonight is likely to be decided at Yakubu’s end of the pitch.

It seems like the ability to create and score goals is always the primary concern for Maritzburg, but with Buckley getting a good run on Wednesday and the likes of Dillon Sheppard, Heinrich Isaacks and Terrance Mandaza all capable of producing something special, United will back themselves to register their second win of the season.

The match will be televised on SABC 1.

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