The Team of Choice were not at their usual fluent best in the first half at a packed Harry Gwala Stadium, and went a goal down shortly after the interval.
The introduction of substitute Allan Kateregga on 55 minutes proved however to be the turning point as the Ugandan international sparked his teammates back to life with his enterprise and energy before scoring two superbly taken late goals to win the match for United in exhilarating fashion.
“The good thing, which has happened in all the games so far, is that the players who have come off the bench have all contributed, and that’s what we had,” said coach Eric.
“Great contribution from Kateregga, I think he was really the catalyst because he showed composure and confidence on the ball and made the right decisions with every pass he made, and looked a threat.
“That built the confidence of the team, especially after the equaliser. And then you started to see the team you saw against Polokwane and AmaZulu and Chiefs and Sundowns. Because then we started to dominate the proceedings and we deserved the winner. You wish the players would show the character from the first whistle, like we showed against Polokwane.”
The Maritzburg tactician did admit to being frustrated at United’s tentative display in the opening stanza.
“Truth be told our first half performance was not very good – we didn’t play the brand of football we’ve been playing at home. We looked to play very direct. We didn’t put our foot on the ball, we didn’t look to build up through the phases.
“You could see [Celtic] came here for a point. Usually they commit a lot more bodies to attack. But they always had four players back…yet in that first half they caused us scares, which we had to rectify.”
Going into the last five matches of the season now, the most crucial factor, says the coach, is for the players to maintain a positive mentality.
“What’s key is how we apply ourselves against Highlands because that’s going to be an extremely tough game.
“First half you could see, there’s panic, fear, players who are afraid of making mistakes, nobody wants to take responsibility. That comes from where you are in the league. It becomes a mental condition, you think the world is against you, results are against you. We dominated against Sundowns, didn’t get the result. We dominated against Chiefs, didn’t get the result.
“Mentally that affects the players. And like I said, Kateregga was the catalyst, little things like that, coming in, getting the equaliser, the response was there, the players’ mentality changed. So this win was extremely important to the team. I think it’s a very tough task that we have ahead of us, but we believe we can do it.”
Maritzburg take on Highlands Park at the Makhulong Stadium on Saturday 13 April, 3pm kick off.