United’s best chance for a top-eight finish as they take on Aces

2010-02-10 00:00

FOLLOWING a morale-boosting 1-0 victory over Golden Arrows at the weekend, Maritzburg United are presented with their best-ever opportunity to finish in the Premier Soccer League’s elite top eight as they take on Mpumalanga Black Aces at the Puma Rugby Stadium tonight.

“It’s the whole focus of the club at the moment and the coach [Ernst Middendorp] talks about it all the time, but has also told us to take it one game at a time,” United captain Fadlu Davids said yesterday. Davids was the scorer of an expert goal in his side’s return to Harry Gwala Stadium on Saturday night.

Victory tonight would not only put United in a strong position for the top eight, but also see them mathematically clear of relegation with three matches to go. This would be a milestone on its own for a team that have fought against the drop in all three of its previous PSL seasons.

“To be honest we’re not looking at that at all. The team are only looking up and trying to focus on how high we can finish,” Davids said. “Even when we were quite low down, Ernst always made it clear that we weren’t thinking about fighting relegation.”

United’s victory on Saturday largely came down to the resolve they showed against an Arrows side that played well enough to have registered a victory on most other nights. It will take a repeat of that determination if Maritzburg are to overcome an Aces team (21 points) desperate for a victory to make ground on third-last Free State Stars (26).

“It’s always difficult to play against the teams at the bottom at the end of the season because, of course, they come out fighting. Every game is like a cup final for them and as determined as we are, they are sure to be even more desperate,” Davids said.

The form of pacy, intelligent, on-loan midfielder Kurt Lentjies has been a major factor in United’s progression up the table. With Felix Obada returning from a one-match suspension tonight, the PMB team’s dangerous attacking trio of Rudolf Bester, Obada and Lentjies will aim to cause havoc in support of strikers Davids and Brice Aka.

“I think Kurt’s an exceptional player,” Davids said. “It’s just a pity we couldn’t sign him outright from Ikapa Sporting [at the beginning of last season], when Mamelodi Sundowns came in with an astronomical offer that United could not match, because what a player he would be to own.

“But it’s not just been him, but also the other two signings, Mario Booysen and Shu-aib Walters, who have all brought a lot of stability to the team.”

Davids went on trial at Chinese Super League club, Shaanxi Chanba, last month, but says he is reluctant to join a team that may face relegation.

“There training facilities were not good at all, and they finished 13th last season. There are indications from some top five Chinese clubs after the trial, but with the future looking bright at United, especially if we can keep the coach, then I might want to stay on here,” the striker said.

•Tickets for United’s game against Orlando Pirates at Harry Gwala Stadium next Wednesday night are on sale (R30 ground, R20 junior) at Computicket, the club offices and SuperSave.

Today: Free State Stars v Wits University (Charles Mopeli, 3.30 pm), Mpumalanga Black Aces v Maritzburg United (Puma Rugby Stadium, 7.30 pm), Mamelodi Sundowns v Platinum Stars (Super Stadium, 7.30 pm), Jomo Cosmos v Bloemfontein Celtic (Rand Stadium, 7.30 pm – SSpt Blitz), Moroka Swallows v Ajax Cape Town (Olympia Stadium, 8 pm), Orlando Pi rates v AmaZulu (Orlando Stadium, 8 pm – SuperSport 4)

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