Middendorp happy with fighting spirit

Ernst Middendorp © Backpagepix
Ernst Middendorp was delighted to have ended a seven-match winless streak for Maritzburg United in the Absa Premiership on Sunday, saying the victory over Black Leopards was just reward for his tireless players.

The Team of Choice had Terrance Mandaza to thanks after the Zimbabwean scored twice in the closing six minutes to sink Black Leopards 2-1 in Pietermaritzburg.

Nkosiyabo Xakane gave his side the lead early in the second half, Mandaza's double sent the Harry Gwala Stadium into ecstasy.

The three points moved United back into fifth place on the log and left Middendorp with massive relief after he cut a frustrated figure for most of the game.

"There were two major things that happened today," he said. "One was we've given ourselves more or less some distance from relegation.

"Secondly, we've shown everybody that we're in the race for the top eight. Those are two very clear things that have come out and I am so happy for the players.

"The spirit and trust these players have shown in each other is unbelievable, it's really fantastic."

Maritzburg last won a league match against Moroka Swallows on November 24 last year, while they had also failed to score a goal in four games during 2013 - one was the Nedbank Cup penalty shoot-out win over University of Pretoria.

"It's not only about the seven games without winning, more importantly for me is that we haven't been scoring," Middendorp said. "Despite progressing in the Nedbank Cup, we needed penalties.

"It was even more difficult to day because five of our forwards were injured and not even on the bench. This is what makes it interesting for you as a coach, to find solutions.

"We have always taken pride in our goal difference. I think the (Mamelodi) Sundown result apart, we've worked hard on it and emphasised the importance of not conceding.

"We let one in today, but still got the three points. But we have to continue working because anyone can beat you in this league, I've said it before. If we can show character, drive and spirit on the field, then anything is possible."

Lidoda Duvha coach Abel Makhubele was left extremely irritated by the manner of defeat, especially the second Mandaza goal when the striker appeared to have handled the ball in the build-up.

The Limpopo side dropped to 14th after the latest round of action.

"The first goal was a really soft goal to concede and the second one, everyone expected the referee to blow the whistle for a handball, but he didn't," Makhubele said. That's not an excuse because our players must learn to play to the whistle.

"So that's how we lost it. We tried hard, it was just one of those days."