With 18 points from 14 games, United fell slightly shy of their target of 20, but can certainly take positives from the last five months of action.
In terms of the league, a top eight finish is the aim for the Team of Choice, and somewhere in the region of 38 – 40 points has historically proven enough to achieve that.
And after a sluggish start to the new campaign – which came just weeks after Maritzburg escaped relegation via the play-offs, the KwaZulu-Natal Capital City club have generally been on an upward trend.
And there was of course the bonus of a fine run in the Telkom Knockout competition, which saw Maritzburg upsetting Kaizer Chiefs 2-1 in the semi-finals, before bowing out to Mamelodi Sundowns by the same score-line in a hard-fought final in Durban.
United then ended the year with a 1-1 draw against high-flying Chiefs in the league, showing that on their day they can take on and match the best.
Head coach Eric Tinkler is pleased overall with what his men have delivered this season, especially after struggling for points in the opening rounds of the league.
“In the first five games, we played good football, but we’re in the business of earning points and looking to get away from the relegation,” he explained.
“So we had to change the system slightly, change the way we play, look to play a bit of ugly football on occasions just to grow the confidence of the team and I think we managed to do that - the players responded extremely well.
“And reaching the final of the Telkom Knockout, fantastic achievement. And then the points we’ve collected since have been very positive. So come January, February, we need to build on what we’ve done so far.”
Midfielder Keegan Buchanan, who ended the year with a Man-of-the-Match performance against Amakhosi, echoed his coach’s sentiments in that he believes the Team of Choice are on the right track.
“We wanted 20 points, we fell two points short, so I won’t say we reached our actual goal, but we’re happy with our performances,” Buchanan stated.
“We had some big games, and coming from a relegation fight in the same year, and challenging these teams which are on top of the log is a positive for us and we can only get better come January.
“We run out socks off, we try to win our one-on-one battles. To a degree we are a counter attack team, we sit in the middle block and we work hard and when we win the ball, we hit you with our speed,” he elaborated.
“We’re still sharpening it, it’s not where it can be, but if we can keep being difficult for the big teams and every team to beat, then I’m sure we will finish well and obviously our goal is the top eight, so if we can continue to get better then we can achieve it.”
January is set to be a busy month for Maritzburg, with games against Golden Arrows (home), SuperSport United (away), Chippa United (away), AmaZulu (home), Baroka FC (away) and Cape Town City (home) all on the schedule.
“It’s a massive month for us,” coach Eric said. “The difficult period is when we have to play SuperSport away, and then two days later we’re in East London to play Chippa, that’s a major challenge. It’s important we start strongly, with Arrows at home, we obviously need to try win that game.”
Meanwhile off the field, there were some exciting developments as well as the Team of Choice opened their official club shop in the Liberty Midlands Mall and also unveiled their mascot, Unity the Blue, during the match against Chiefs at the Harry Gwala Stadium.
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