Pietermaritzburg - Maritzburg United battled well to come back from 1-0 down to salvage a point during their 1-all draw against Platinum Stars on Saturday.
It was yet another game where United, needing to pick up the full three points, did everything they could, but somehow ended up dropping two, thereby not helping their cause to get out of the relegation zone.
To make matters worse, Jomo Cosmos beat Free State Stars on Saturday, opening up an eight-point gap between themselves and the Team of Choice. United can still catch the University of Pretoria, who were beaten 2-0 by Tshwane rivals SuperSport United yesterday.
A 72nd-minute strike by Robert Ng’ambi looked to have taken the wind out of United, who were the better side for much of the game. But they managed to rally together, and Evans Rusike’s header beat Mbongeni Mzimela in the Dikwena goal nine minutes later.
Debutant Ryan Moon could also have found the back of the net, but alas, there would be no fairytale ending to the encounter, which was played in front of a sizeable crowd at Harry Gwala Stadium.
Cavin Johnson’s side had a simple tactic, and it worked for most of the game. Former United midfielder Ryan de Jongh was deployed in a holding position in front of the back four, and his job was to nullify the threat posed by Kurt Lentjies. He performed the task with aplomb in the first half. However, he was not as effective in the second half as United tried to find an opening.
At the end of the game, the teams had to settle for a point each, and Ernst Middendorp felt it was not what his team had deserved after yet another dominant performance.
“Of course, it’s not an easy task … conceding the number of goals as we have seen. We worked on it a lot,” the German said after seeing his team’s defence improve.
The German was impressed with the character shown by his team when they managed to fight back from 1-0 down to seal a crucial point.
And, with 12 games remaining in the league, Middendorp was still confident that they would reach their target and ensure that they survive and remain in the top flight.
“For us it’s not about the top eight. For us, it’s about coming out of the relegation zone. The target is still position number 13. That is what we should target. And, in the end, if we can make it happen and have two teams below us. We can make it happen,” Middendorp said.
United’s next assignment is a trip to Bloemfontein to take on Bloemfontein Celtic next Sunday. Three days later, they welcome title-chasing Bidvest Wits to Harry Gwala.