United’s Awal fit to take on Ajax

2013-05-10 00:00

HIS form has been up and down over the last few weeks, but Ghanaian centre back Mohamed Awal remains a massive player for Maritzburg United ahead of tomorrow afternoon’s crucial PSL clash against Ajax Cape Town at Harry Gwala Stadium.

Awal has been struggling with a hamstring strain for much of 2013, and there is a school of thought that suggests his recent dip in form is largely due to the fact he was playing when he should have been rested by coach Ernst Middendorp.

The coach criticised his defender heavily, saying that he was inconsistent, and even substituted him at half time in a 2-2 draw at home to Golden Arrows last month.

But Awal is back to full fitness now and fully focused on helping his side pick up three valuable log points tomorrow.

“I feel fine now and I think I am back to my best,” the Ghanaian international told The Witness.

“You know, it’s not easy when you are coming back from an injury. It takes some time to get things going again.”

Awal conceded that he had been playing a couple of matches while still injured, and that this contributed towards his questionable performances.

United have been solid at the back for most of the season, with Awal forming a solid partnership with Mario Booysen at the heart of the defence. The two complement each other well for the most part.

Awal brings elements of strength and pace to United’s last line while Booysen’s tactical awareness and composure are a major asset in dealing with opposition attacks.

But just lately United have been vulnerable at the back. In Awal’s absence there have been goals shipped through individual errors by the likes of David Booysen, Ruben Cloete and Thabang Matuka.

There can be no such carelessness tomorrow, and Awal says those mistakes have built character in the squad.

“The best defenders in football sometimes make stupid mistakes,” said the soft-spoken Awal. “But through making those mistakes we are able to learn and that is what we have all done.”

United, quite simply, must win tomorrow and then again on the last day of the season against Orlando Pirates if they are to fulfill their ambitions of finishing in the top eight this season.

It is a position that could have been avoided, Awal believes.

“If you look back over the season we had chances when we were doing well to score goals and move up to second and even to challenge for first on the log,” he said.

“… we were wasteful and now we have made a problem for ourselves.

“But we can still achieve what we set out to achieve. We have two matches left, and I think that everything will be fine.”

United are without Ryan de Jongh and Peter Petersen, who are both suspended.

But Middendorp has an otherwise fully fit squad at his disposal for what is the biggest game of United’s season so far and their last in front of a home crowd.

The match kicks off at 3 pm and will not be televised.

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