Maritzburg United coach Ernst Middendorp has pleaded for one hundred percent commitment from his players as the battle to keep the “Team of Choice” in the big time gets tougher.
The bottom of the table United have a chance to move away from the DStv Premiership’s danger zone as they welcome fellow stragglers Black Leopards in a six-pointer at Harry Gwala Stadium tomorrow at 5 pm.
The Team of Choice, who were dumped out of the Nedbank Cup Last 16 by Orlando Pirates with 3-1 defeat, trail the 15th placed Leopards by three points.
Leopards have managed 12 points while the Pietermaritzburg-based outfit have accumulated a meagre nine points from 15 outings.
A win for Middendorp’s charges would see them level on points with Lidoda Duvha, but the hosts have a better goal difference and Leopards have played one more game than United.
“It’s a very important game on our side, as we have mentioned before. Knowing that the team [Leopards] is coming with two wins in a row and have qualified for the Nedbank Cup last eight, we definitely have to work very hard to remain here [in the Premiership] in the end,” said Middendorp.
TS Sporting 1-2 Richards Bay
Pretoria Callies 1-0 JDR Stars
Chippa Utd 1-1 CT City (Chippa Utd won 2-1 on penalties)
Maritzburg 1-3 Pirates
Leopards 1-0 AmaZulu
TTM 2-2 Swallows (TTM won 4-3 on penalties)
CT All Stars 3-3 CT Spurs (All Stars won 5-3 on penalties)
With only 15 games left for them to try and keep the team in the top tier, Middendorp doesn’t want to set any specific target of wins or points they need to accumulate to ensure they survive relegation to the GladAfrica Championship.
“Counting points or targeting points, I think at the moment let’s just take it game by game,” said the German-born coach. “If we are able to get 100% commitment, focus, intensity from our side we definitely have a chance [to survive]. But we need to show consistency over the duration of the game, that’s crucial for us. That’s what we are working on day in, day out.”
Leopards have done well against KwaZulu-Natal teams recently as in their last two outings they defeated Golden Arrows 2-1 in the league and dispatched AmaZulu 1-0 from the Nedbank Cup.
Without a doubt, being booted out of the Nedbank Cup can’t be counted as a big blow for the coach or United’s management as their main priority now is to avoid relegation.
However, Middendorp wasn’t very pleased with the way they lost to Pirates as Maritzburg went to half time leading 1-0, thanks to Thabiso Kutumela’s early goal but conceded two quick goals in the second half.
Pirates equalised through Kabelo Dlamini in the 56th minutes and took the lead in the 57th minutes with a goal from Deon Hotto before Vincent Pule wrapped it up with 12 minutes to time.
“We need to push ourselves in order to be competitive because if you want to achieve something or want to stay in the league you must know that pressure is normal, and you must be able to handle it,” Middendorp said after the game.
“That means winning those one-against-one moments, making runs going forward and keeping the intensity. Unfortunately, in those few minutes we conceded those goals, it should not happen but it’s definitely a little bit of naivety but as I said it’s in the league where we need to keep intensity.
“Home or away, it doesn’t matter. We need to work on intensity for our game to be successful,” he insisted.
Sundowns v Polokwane City — 3 pm
DStv Premiership Fixtures
TTM v Chiefs — Postponed
Stellenbosch v Sundowns — Postponed
AmaZulu v SuperSport — 5 pm
Pirates v Celtic — 5 pm
TS Galaxy v Swallows — 5 pm
Maritzburg v Leopards — 5 pm
Chippa v CT City — 3 pm
Arrows v Baroka — 5 pm