Carl Peters
Sport Editor
3 minute read
19 Feb 2021
06:21

Maritzburg United’s bosses still backing Middendorp

Carl Peters

Maritzburg United’s board of directors are still backing Ernst Middendorp despite their team’s run of mostly unexpected losses in the DStv Premiership recently, but admit that he has to get the players fully behind him to produce better results.

Maritzburg United’s board of directors are still backing Ernst Middendorp despite their team’s run of mostly unexpected losses in the DStv Premiership recently, but admit that he has to get the players fully behind him to produce better results.

Middendorp has 15 matches left to save the not-so “Team of Choice” from relegation, having just come through four straight defeats against league newcomers TS Galaxy and Tshakhuma, Soweto giants Orlando Pirates and improved Durban outfit Golden Arrows.

The well-travelled German coach was visibly annoyed after his erratic men’s latest reverse against Tshakhuma at Harry Gwala Stadium last weekend, but it was debatable whether he had done enough from his side to make them play more cohesively.

Most of his team’s matches have been dour, in fact, but United boss Farook Kadodia says they maintain the belief that Middendorp will eventually succeed in his mission to get the side away from the so-called drop zone, as he did a number of years ago.

Kadodia is convinced that squad changes they made recently in consultation with Middendorp will bear fruit, although the surprising release of well-established midfielder Keagan Buchanan last week suggested that the 62-year-old coach had a good deal of homework left to do on squad harmony and getting the players to buy fully into his approach.

ALSO READ | Middendorp open about United’s problems.

Buchanan’s departure just before the transfer deadline, along with that of defender Pogiso Sanoka, coincided with Middendorp bringing in two new men, right-footed defender Dusan Stevic from Serbia and young attacking midfielder Keletso Sifama from his former club, Kaizer Chiefs.

Stevic signed an 18-month deal until next July, with the Midlands outfit having an extension option, while Sifama will be on loan to them until the end of the season.

These signings closely followed United’s capture of German goalkeeper Marcel Engelhardt, who is still looking to keep a clean sheet in South Africa after one appearance in the league and one in the Nedbank Cup so far.

Kadodia said that if these new players could settle quickly and the others showed greater willingness to die with their boots on, then Middendorp’s job would become easier.

ALSO READ | Maritzburg United gives ultimatum to Msunduzi municipality over financial backing.

 He did admit, though, that the club have failed in their bid to sign a new defensive midfielder, which they felt they desperately needed to improve their crippling goals-against situation.

In terms of fixtures, they are currently preparing for a duel with title-chasing Pirates in the Nedbank Cup last 16 at Harry Gwala Stadium on February 27.

That arduous assignment will be followed by their first game of the second half of the 30-match league campaign, against Black Leopards three days later, also at Harry Gwala Stadium.

A reality for Middendorp, as well as Kadodia and his fellow directors, is that the team’s frequent shedding of points on home soil — and in games against fellow stragglers — means the remainder of the season promises to be really tough for them.

In the circumstances, Kadodia and company will agree that their coming knockout clash with Pirates is far from a must-win affair, but the one against Leopards is much more critical.

Leopards visit Baroka tomorrow and should they not lose the game, Maritzburg will drop to last position in the standings.