United victory a sign of growth

2012-10-08 00:00

ERNST Middendorp had labelled Friday night’s PSL clash with Chippa United in Cape Town as “crucial”, and the Maritzburg United coach is thrilled to be returning home with three log points in the bag following his side’s 1-0 victory against the league’s newcomers.

United entered the match having been beaten by Wits in their last fixture, and what pleased Middendorp most on Friday was the character shown by the players.

“It is not only the result but the performance that went with it was pleasing,” the German told The Witness yesterday. “We had good ball possession but, if we want to be critical, we needed more drive to get into scoring positions. At 1-0 you are always living on the edge.”

The goal came from a relatively unlikely source — 20-year-old midfielder Philani Zulu, who was a part of the squad towards the end of last season, but has battled to break into the first side since his arrival at the club. But Middendorp refused to take any credit for what was a brave selection.

“I did not give Philani [Zulu] his chance. He is the only one who can give himself a chance,” Middendorp said of the match winner. “If I see that he is in the right place then I will have no problem starting him for the next game.”

It was a match that illustrated United’s depth as a smaller squad than others in the PSL. With Zulu coming in, midfield workhorse Michael Morton was rested while Byrone Hendricks was once again favoured in defensive midfield.

“For me, Byrone was man of the match,” said Middendorp. “He is more of a defender than Michael [Morton] and so our fullbacks were able to get more up the pitch.”

It was not all rosy for United. Mthokozisi Yende’s late red card means he will miss United’s next fixture against his former club and log leaders Kaizer Chiefs in Pietermaritzburg on October 26.

“We have now two or three weeks to prepare … the win was important for us heading into this break,” added Middendorp.

More encouraging for the Team of Choice is that striker Cuthbert Malajila has been called up for international duty with Zimbabwe for this weekend’s clash with Angola. With Delron Buckley having been called up for Bafana Bafana, United’s good form this season has clearly not gone unnoticed.

“It is good, it gives value to the club,” Middendorp said of his international players. “It shows we are moving in the right direction.”

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