24 March 2009

United going for five in a row

CONFIDENCE high, the spectre of relegation slowly receding and the scent of mid-table permeating their nostrils, Maritzburg United will aim for another victory against tough Wits University in their Premier Soccer League game at Woodburn Stadium today.

After twice being postponed, once because of a waterlogged pitch and then a clash with United’s Nedbank Cup game against Santos in Cape Town on Friday, won 2-1 in extra time by the PMB team, today the clash with Wits finally goes ahead in the only PSL game played today.

And the Team of Choice’s prospects have improved dramatically in the interim, with an away victory over Bay United (2-1) and home defeat of Santos (1-0) seeing United open a healthy four-point cushion between themselves and second-last Bloemfontein Celtic.

Captain Bageta Dikilu says a heart-to-heart between the players following their 5-2 defeat against Lamontville Golden Arrows prompted the team’s four-game league and cup winning streak.

“After the Arrows game the players and coach had a meeting and we said we didn’t understand how we could lose like that. Since then we have fought every game and the results have been coming,” said Dikilu, who returns from suspension today.

The DR Congolese does not believe United will be over-confident from their winning run.

“We know Wits are a strong team, but we are on our home ground and we have to do everything to get the three points. If we win we can go to 12th. We know it won’t be easy, but if we work very hard it is possible.”

Under coach Roger de Sa and assistant Eric Tinkler, seventh-placed Wits are a team of few stars who have relied on hard work and solid organisation to secure some impressive results.

“In the first round Wits beat us 4-1 in Johannesburg, so they are a dangerous team,” Dikilu said.

“Since I have been in South Africa any team coached by Roger de Sa, Owen da Gama, Gavin Hunt, Clive Barker or Gordon Igesund has always been difficult to beat. Those coaches seem to know how to get the best from their players.”

Dikilu says United’s improved form stems from an almost entirely new squad finally gelling under coach Igesund.

“At Maritzburg 80% of our players came from other teams — Elias Ngwepe from Sundowns, Brice Aka from Morocco, Bageta from Ajax.

“In the first three or four months it was not easy for the coach to get the players to play the way he wanted. But after six or seven months the players have been listening and understanding the coach’s instructions.”

The arrival of right-wing Fanyana Dhladhla on loan from Mamelodi Sundowns in the transfer window has been a key factor in United’s much-improved second half of the season.

“Fanyana has worked very hard for us,” Dikilu said. “When he arrived I said to the coach that he was a good addition. Some people said ‘Why buy Fanyana Dhladhla?’, but now people can see why and he has scored four goals in seven games.”

United left-wing Tony Tsabedze is likely to return from injury while defender Gary Goldstone is suspended.

• Fans still in possession of tickets from the original rained-out game against Wits on February 28 will be allowed entry today.

Kickoff: 3.30 pm.

* Article courtesy of Marc Strydom and the Witness