The Team of Choice’s fight-to-the-death attitude has been a hallmark of coach Eric’s time at the club and was again very much in evidence on Friday night as Daylon Claasen snatched an 88th minute equaliser before a 94th minute own goal gave the hosts a 2-1 win over Golden Arrows in an enthralling Absa Premiership match at a packed Harry Gwala Stadium.
It had looked as if United would not be able to end a nine-match winless run against Abafana bes’Thende, but in the end, coach Eric felt his men were rewarded for their efforts.
“I think it would have been an injustice if we didn’t collect all three points,” he said. “When I reflect on the whole game, I thought we started extremely well.
“I spoke to the players about the first 15, we haven’t scored in the first 15 minutes in a game yet this season, and I thought those first 15 minutes we created some very good chances to take the lead.
“We retained possession very well and they were only trying to hurt us on the counter, playing the long balls in behind. That’s how we ended up conceding, with the long ball in behind us we got caught holding the line when we should have been dropping off.
“But the boys responded, we still looked a threat going forward although we didn’t create many chances after conceding (in the first half).”
The half time talk focussed mainly on how Maritzburg could go about breaking down a stubborn Arrows defence, and all three of the substitutions, as well as a couple of tactical changes, made a significant impact on the game.
“To be honest they defended very well,” the coach explained. “We recognised we weren’t getting in the crosses and needed to play more through the middle, but still going wide to create the combinations.
“I think with the hard work the boys put in they got a deserved equaliser. They switched off after the equaliser because Knox (Mutizwa) nearly scored, Richard (Ofori) had to make a good save, and then we got the winner.
“The boys have been showing this to me the whole season – the never-say-die attitude. Which is good, because that’s the attitude I have. I’m very proud of the performance and very happy with the result.”
The victory pushed United up to fifth spot ahead of the weekend’s action, and will provide further inspiration for a group of players seemingly headed in the right direction.
“To have reached the halfway point and accumulated 21 points, I think the boys can be proud, the technical team can be proud and the club can be proud, considering where we were last season it’s a great turnaround, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
The win also kept the Team of Choice’s remarkable run of home form (16 matches unbeaten 10 wins, six draws) on Friday nights going, and the support from the stands certainly played a major role against Arrows.
“We want to keep that record going,” said coach Eric. “We are extremely grateful to the Maritzburg fans, because the support we get on a Friday night is absolutely fantastic. After we scored the winner, the noise from the fans was inspirational to the players, just to hold on.”
In a very busy January, Maritzburg now quickly move onto the next one – away in Pretoria against SuperSport United on Wednesday the 8th.
* You can get behind the Team of Choice through our social media platforms - please click on links below: