United’s destiny in their own hands

2011-02-25 00:00

SELF-BELIEF, application, and a determination to not let Santos off the hook will be the key elements if Maritzburg United are to notch a crucial victory against the Capetonians in tonight’s Premier Soccer League match at Harry Gwala Stadium.

United’s Achilles heel this season has undoubtedly been some woeful finishing that has seen the team drop far too many points, especially at home. It’s a weakness that has landed a side that once had the appearance of being able to challenge for a top eight place in the midst of yet another relegation battle.

This provides even more reason for United to go out against Santos tonight and do what they rarely have this season — take the game by the scruff of the neck, and then don’t let go.

Third-last United still have a three-point gap over second-last Moroka Swallows, who play Platinum Stars at Dobsonville Stadium tomorrow. That means the PMB team’s destiny is in their own hands.

Picking up further points, though, will be crucial to keep their noses in front of the Birds, and that means scoring goals, and winning home games.

United have some absentee concerns. John Arwuah, probably the team’s most consistent player this season along with Rudolf Bester, will have an operation on Tuesday to a knee the defensive midfielder injured in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat away to SuperSport United, and is expected to be out for three to eight weeks.

It’s a big blow for United, though the suspension of striker Diyo Sibisi for tonight’s game is almost as crucial given Maritzburg’s scoring troubles.

“We will have to look at our options and come up with solutions for the players we are missing,” coach Ernst Middendorp said this week.

On the positive side, forward Gert Schalkwyk should return from the ankle injury that kept him out of the SuperSport game. Middendorp might be tempted to utilise the skilful player in tandem up-front with the team’s top scorer from the wing this season, seven-goal Rudolf Bester.

Santos, fourth-placed finishers last season, are in a creditable sixth place this campaign.

The Capetonians do not have a reputation as the best travellers, but coach Boebie Solomons still brings a competitive, settled line-up to Pietermaritzburg who beat United 1-0 in the corresponding fixture last season.

Ex-United player Salmaan King (formerly Graham), is a terrier on the wing with his pace and tenacity. Young PSL debutant striker Vuyisile Wana has five goals since the Christmas break.

Santos goalkeeper Tshepo Motsoeneng is doubtful with an injury picked up in his side’s 2-2 home draw against Kaizer Chiefs on Sunday, and Lee Langeveldt is likely to deputise between the posts.

Tonight: Ajax Cape Town v Free State Stars (Athlone Stadium, 8 pm – live on SuperSport 4), Maritzburg United v Santos (Harry Gwala Stadium, 8 pm)

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