DURBAN – Maritzburg United fell short of their goal in the league despite surpassing all expectations by reaching the Telkom Knockout final.
The Team of Choice finished the first half of the season with 18 points after 14 league outings and they are currently eighth on the log.
On top of that they succumbed to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Tshwane giants, Mamelodi Sundowns, in the Telkom Knockout final at the iconic Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.
For a team operating on a shoestring budget that is a decent start to the season, especially if you consider that they almost got relegated last season. They required the play-offs to save their Premier Soccer League (PSL) status.
However, Maritzburg coach Eric Tinkler said: “We should have won the game against Kaizer Chiefs (the log leaders at Harry Gwala Stadium on December 23) to be brutally honest. A point against Chiefs denied us an opportunity to reach our target.
“We set the target of 20 points and by collecting three points, we would have achieved that.
“If we had scored the penalty (that was missed by Daylon Claasen and saved by Daniel Akpeyi in a 1-1 stalemate against Chiefs) and had we scored the chances that we had, we could have found ourselves lying in fifth place in the league.
"That was the objective (at the start of the season),” Tinkler said.
Maritzburg will be aiming for a top eight finish come the end of the season in May.
“We had a lot of ups and downs to be brutally honest.
“Our first five games, we only collected two points. We were all under immense pressure but yet I thought we played very good football. I thought we created so many chances.
“We couldn’t put the ball in to the back of the net, to a degree, there was a stage where I was panicking. We played good football in the first five games but we are in the business of earning points and we couldn’t do that.
"We had to get out of that relegation zone which forced us to change our system slightly,” he added.
The Team of Choice have been resolute at the back. They have conceded 10 league goals which is the second best in the league.
Bidvest Wits have only been broken down eight times so far this season but they have played less games because of their involvement in the CAF Confederation Cup.
“We had to play ugly football on occasion just to grow the confidence of the team.
“I think we managed to get that (confidence) and then they responded very well by reaching the final of the Telkom Knockout.
“It was a fantastic achievement for me and obviously the points we’ve collected since. It’s been very, very positive. Come January and February, it is very important that we build on what we’ve achieved so far,” Tinkler explained.
Tinkler is looking forward to the upcoming transfer window.
“There’s one or two areas that we need to strengthen. I’m down to 22 players at training and I think that's the smallest squad in the league. There’s just enough to play 11 v 11. I think there’s certain areas that we’ve identified that we need to look to strengthen. We will be looking in the market,” Tinkler said.