Coach Eric will be looking for his men to head into the game with a positive approach, to show character and fight, to maintain their focus in defence and to pounce on any chances up front, in what is United’s third last home match of the season (8pm kick off at the Harry Gwala Stadium).
“It’s about closing the gap between us and the sides directly above us,” said the Maritzburg tactician. ”We need to collect the three points, anything less than that especially at home wouldn’t suffice. The players know the importance of getting the (three points), because then it puts the pressure on the teams above us who play on Saturday and Sunday.”
MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
Following the former Bafana Bafana midfielder’s arrival as head coach, the Team of Choice have shown improvements in terms of points collected, positive football, and the increased threat they’ve offered in attack.
“I look at the football we’ve played and I feel we deserved more than we’ve got,” said coach Eric. “But unfortunately one can’t rely on the fact that we’ve played good football, we need to get the results.
“Our offensive play has been a lot better we’ve created more opportunities, scored a lot more goals. It’s about creating the continuity, we were a bit wasteful Sundowns, we had great chances, against Chiefs we had great chances.
“So those last two games I think we definitely deserved a hell of a lot more. But the harder you work the luckier you get. We just have to stick at it, and our fortunes must change.”
HANDLING THE PRESSURE
With only six matches to play this season, every point counts. For the players, it’s time to show their mettle.
“There’s a lot of pressure,” said the coach. “So it’s about showing character, taking responsibility, because nobody else is going to do this for you. I can prepare them physically, tactically, do my best get them in the right frame of mind mentally…but ultimately when the referee blows that whistle, they are on the field, I’m not on the field, it’s up to them.”
The Team of Choice beat Celtic 1-0 in Bloemfontein earlier this season. However, it’s no secret that the Free State team have overall enjoyed a strong campaign, and they’re currently eighth on the Absa Premiership standings.
“Their players have been playing without fear, expressing themselves, and playing very good football,” said coach Eric. “We need to look at their strengths and make sure that defensively we fulfil our obligations. But obviously we need to study where their weaknesses lie and expose those weaknesses. That’s what we will have looked at in the week.”
“We obviously want to score, but we also have to defend, because we’ve been conceding in the last few games. Now is not time for good football, the result is the most important thing, so we have to go out there and get the three points no matter how we play.
“It’s crunch time for us, a cup final on Friday. We have to go out and win the game at all costs. No motivation is needed.”
While the United rearguard focus on keeping a clean sheet, Mokate has emphasised the importance of the front men also coming to the party.
“The strikers haven’t been scoring to be honest. Now we must up our efforts – it’s do or die. We’ve been doing it every day at training, scoring goals in friendlies. What won’t help is for us to put unnecessary pressure on ourselves; sometimes if you’re not scoring, it’s better if you create (goals) for the benefit of the team.”