Maritzburg face tough battle to stay up

Providing the spark: Maritzburg United midfielder Sheldon van Wyk. Picture: Gallo Images.

Even though they have earned some reprieve, Maritzburg United still have a long way to go to ensure their safety in the Premiership.

They put their troubles of the past week behind them to produce a gutsy performance as they chalked up a vital 1-0 win over Free State Stars in Bethlehem on Tuesday.

Although they haven’t moved from the bottom of the log, the win put them within touching distance of their nearest rivals in the “minileague” relegation battle.

They were equal on 20 points with Jomo Cosmos and a point behind University of Pretoria before last night’s fixtures.

But what’s more encouraging is that the United players are now closing ranks behind coach Ernst Middendorp, who was said to have lost control of the dressing room due to his military-style regime.

Their revival was sparked by a tempestuous 1-1 draw against Golden Arrows in a local derby last week.

Sheldon van Wyk’s solitary goal moved them to 20 points with five matches to play, but victory came at a price as Pogiso Sanoka was sent off, ruling him out of the crucial match against SuperSport United on Friday.

However, there is still a mountain to climb to achieve safety, as they are seeking to earn a place in the relegation play-offs at this point.

In their way stands Matsatsantsa, who they host at Harry Gwala Stadium before their trip to in form Orlando Pirates.

They then return home to take on Ajax Cape Town before wrapping up the season with a potentially explosive clash against Jomo Cosmos at Olen Park on May 21.

Middendorp hasn’t found his third spell with the Team of Choice a bed of roses, battling to put together a string of positive results.

Meanwhile, Maritzburg are still awaiting a commissioner’s report into their match against Arrows, which nearly degenerated into an ugly fight between coaches. Middendorp accused Arrows boss Mato Madlala of influencing officials and also claimed Arrows assistant coach Mandla Ncikazi swore at him.

“I saw two fingers coming into my face and I got rude and I must use these words, the first one starts with ‘f’ and the other one starts with ‘s’,” Middendorp said.

“You can’t call someone f***** s*** … it’s not right. “And if you don’t respect each other then you can’t accept each other. This is not correct and this is definitely not what you have to do.”

-Kgomotso Sethusha