A FIVE-MATCH unbeaten run and excellent results in their last two matches against Pretoria powerhouses have significantly bolstered Maritzburg United’s season going into tonight’s Premier Soccer League clash against Santos at Athlone Stadium.
United’s 2-0 Telkom Knockout quarter-final victory over Mamelodi Sundowns and 2-2 draw against SuperSport United, both at Harry Gwala Stadium in the last week, have not had too much impact on their league position.
The point gained against SuperSport, though, has seen the PMB team climb two places on the league to 12th.
United will aim to continue inching their way to mid-table in coming weeks. After a patchy start when they lost three and drew one, that could take some time.
Given that Santos also had a positive result in midweek, ending Kaizer Chiefs’ unbeaten league record with a 1-0 win at the Rand Stadium, the Capetonian side will be on a high too.
And Cape Town is a difficult venue to travel to.
It is the manner in which United fought for a draw and could even have won their game against SuperSport that suggests they will fancy their chances of getting a result tonight.
If anything, Wednesday’s win could even have been a more impressive result than United’s defeat of Sundowns, despite SuperSport being in worse form than their Pretoria neighbours.
While the football was by no means pretty, United managed to lift themselves from a high-intensity quarter-final three days before and match one of the most robust teams in the league.
It’s the sort of fighting spirit United will need on their trip to Cape Town.
Santos might not play the best football in the league, but they have good players and are a hard nut to crack under coach Boebie Solomons, which resulted in a fourth-placed finish last season. They have lost one match this campaign.
Salmaan King (formerly Graham, formerly of Maritzburg United) is a dangerous attacking player who can beat defenders, create and score goals. Santos have strikers Erwin Isaacs and Eleazar Rodgers out suspended.
For Maritzburg, left midfielder Rudolf Bester hit a sparkling vein of form against SuperSport with the sort of performance that should have the bigger teams knocking for the Namibian’s signature at the end of the season.
Coach Ernst Middendorp will welcome goalkeeper Shu-aib Walters back from suspension to replace Johnny Mathole, who recovered from a nervous start to make some decent saves in his PSL debut against SuperSport.
Midfielder Bevan Fransch also returns from suspension and left wing Kurt Lentjies is included in the squad after a hamstring injury.
T oday: Free State Stars v Ajax Cape Town (Goble Park, 3.30 pm), Orlando Pirates v Kaizer Chiefs (FNB Stadium, 3.30 pm – live on SuperSport 4 and SABC1), Santos v Maritzburg United (Athlone Stadium, 6 pm – live on SuperSport 4), Platinum Stars v Moroka Swallows (Moruleng Stadium, 8.15 pm), Vasco Da Gama v AmaZulu (Newlands Stadium, 8.15 pm)
Tomorrow: Golden Arrows v Black Aces (Chatsworth Stadium, 3.30 pm), SuperSport United v Bloemfontein Celtic (Lucas Moripe Stadium, 3.30pm – live on SuperSport 4), Wits University v Mamelodi Sundowns (Mbombela Stadium, 3.30 pm – live on SABC 1)