United’s date with Chiefs

2013-04-03 00:00

MARITZBURG United travel to Polokwane tonight for a date with PSL log leaders Kaizer Chiefs at Peter Mokaba stadium.

While United should be in high spirits following their convincing 2-0 win over Chippa United on Sunday, coach Ernst Middendorp refuses to allow himself to be satisfied just yet.

The coach feels that, at times, his players were “too casual” in their win on Sunday and he has warned them that they will need to sharpen up if they want to stand any chance of getting points out of tonight’s match.

“Especially in defence we were careless sometimes,” said Middendorp on the team bus travelling to Polokwane yesterday.

“We got away with it against them [Chippa], but if we do the same thing against sides like Kaizer Chiefs then we will be punished.”

Middendorp’s defensive structure has without a doubt been his strongest point this season, and his disapproval after keeping a clean sheet is indicative of just how much of an emphasis the coach places on his back four.

The good news for United is that, on Sunday, they displayed enterprising attacking movements that were highlighted in the side’s two goals through the Zimbabwean striking duo of Terrance Mandaza and Cuthbert Malajila.

After being on the receiving end of a nasty tackle against Chippa just three days ago, there are concerns that Malajila — who has been fighting a knee injury throughout 2013 — may be too banged up to feature in tonight’s match.

Namibian winger Heinrich Isaacks was also a slight injury concern yesterday, but Middendorp remains optimistic that he will have both players available.

“We still have some time before making any final decisions, but I am sure that we will have everybody available,” said Middendrop.

The combination of Manadaza and Malajila was simply riveting on Sunday, but it is unlikely that United will start tonight’s match against Chiefs, who have lost just one league game all season, with two out-and-out strikers.

“We are in a good position now that we have everybody available,” said Middendorp. “It gives us many options, not just with Mandaza and Malajila.”

Against Chippa, Middendorp moved speedy right back Rheece Evans to right wing in the latter stages of the match with great success — Evans had a major role to play in the opening goal — and the coach has not been scared to try his players out in different positions throughout the season.

It all makes predicting how Middendorp will set up difficult to do, especially considering that fatigue could see a couple of starters from Sunday’s match left out of tonight’s in favour of fresher legs.

But regardless of the side that takes to the field, this is a United side that believes. As Middendorp has said many times before this season — United have the ability to beat any side in the league at any stage.

“A lot has been said about Chiefs, but I prefer to talk about the quality of players we have.

“Guys like Mohamed [Awal], Mario [Booysen], Dillon Sheppard, Delron Buckley — we have many,” said Middendorp.

“We must be at 100% and then there is always a chance.”

The sides drew 1-1 at Harry Gwala stadium in the first half of the season when a towering Mandaza header in the last minute of stoppage time rescued a point for United.

Tonight’s match kicks off at 7.30 pm and will be televised on SuperSport Four.

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