23 March 2009

Wits victory can provide platform

FOUR weeks ago Maritzburg United had not won two matches in succession this season.

Following their 2-1 extra-time Nedbank Cup victory over Santos on Friday night, the PMB team have now won four league and cup games in a row, and will be going for a fifth in their Premier Soccer League game against Wits University at Woodburn Stadium tomorrow (3.30 pm).

United's win against Santos was their second in a week against the Capetonians, having beaten them 1-0 in the league at Woodburn last Saturday. The Team of Choice fought back from a goal down against a Santos side who have lost just twice at home in the league this season, with goals by Siphiwe Mkhonza (92nd) and Fadlu Davids (116th).

"It's been a great month for us," United coach Gordon Igesund said yesterday. "It started on March 4 when we beat Bay United away, then we beat Thanda [Royal Zulu] at home in the cup, then Santos at home in the league, and now we've beaten Santos twice in the week, and this time in Cape Town.

"But people should know Santos was a tough, tough game for us. In the first half we weren't really getting forward enough, so I changed things around a bit.

"Ten or 15 minutes into the second half we really started to get on top of them, and I was very happy with the way we fought back into the game and the performance. It was a very tactically disciplined performance again.

"I told the players this morning that I was very proud of them Ð in each of our last four matches they've risen to the occasion."

After running at Santos in their home victory, United took a more direct approach in the Cape.

"They tried to catch us on the break and for the second time in a week we prevented them from doing it. They play with six or seven players behind the ball and they're such a hard team to break down.

"At one stage I had three defenders and played five in the middle. I wouldn't say we played the direct route, but more that we got it down the wings a lot and tried to get behind Santos, which we managed to do."

Now United must lift themselves after 120 gruelling minutes for tomorrow's key game against Wits.

"I said before the game that I really didn't want it to go to extra time for that reason. But I've got three players coming back - Bageta Dikilu and Brice Aka from suspension, and perhaps Tony Tsabedze from injury - and hopefully they can add a fresh element. Tsabedze started light training today after his hamstring injury, and I will see in the next two days if he can play.

"This game against Wits is as important as the league game we won against Santos. If we can win it we will increase the pressure on the teams below us.

"And if we can ease the pressure on ourselves then we can start to concentrate on having a good run in the Nedbank, especially with so many of the big teams having been knocked out."

Twelfth-placed United's only suspension against Wits is central defender Gary Goldstone.

Chairman Farouk Kadodia appealed yesterday to Pietermaritzburg businesses to allow supporters off work for tomorrow's crucial game.

* Article courtesy of Marc Strydom and the Witness