‘We could have finished Ajax’

2011-05-24 00:00

MARITZBURG United have returned from their party-spoiling trip to Cape Town where coach Ian Palmer and his side had a significant say in the PSL title race — drawing with Ajax and effectively handing the title to ­Orlando Pirates on Saturday.

The 2-2 result was a good one for United and if the Team of Choice had managed to hold on to the 2-1 lead they took in the 67th minute through a Diyo Sibisi penalty, they would have secured a top-10 finish on the log.

It was not to be, though, and while a late goal from Ajax did nothing to rescue their title hopes, it was enough to ensure that United finished in a respectable 12th position on the log after spending much of the latter part of the season engaged in a relegation struggle.

“We definitely could have got the win,” said Palmer on Sunday shortly after he had witnessed Jomo Cosmos gain promotion to the PSL next season.

“We had a lapse in concentration and we should have been able to close out the game with five minutes to go; just been able to hold onto the ball and kill the game off.”

Palmer acknowledged that he was satisfied with the way that his team had approached the game, though. “The team got there and really showed good character. That game had a cup final atmosphere and the players responded well.”

United first’s goal came as a result of a less than decisive piece of goalkeeping from Ajax veteran Hans Vonk. He was hurried into a clearance which was pounced on by United midfielder Gert Schalkwyk.

“I don’t think it is fair to say that that error cost Ajax the lead. I think that Gert [Schalkwyk] was very alert and did well in the situation,” said Palmer.

While the coach is set to be a part of the club’s plans next year, Palmer revealed that there were still a few “minor issues” that were being resolved with his contractual agreement to manage the club next season.

He said he is very happy with the current group of players that he has at United and that he envisaged a good next season with the club.

“Saturday’s game helped us in trying to change the mindset of the players. We need to develop a winning mentality that drives you to win no matter who you are playing against or in what circumstances,” said Palmer.

“… We have the potential to be a top-eight club next season and hopefully get into a cup final if possible.”

United midfielder Kurt Lentjies, who has been linked with a move to Ajax Cape town in the off-season, picked up an injury during Saturday’s match and had to be withdrawn.

Palmer has denied that there has been any interest shown in the player from Ajax.

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