Maritzburg United are probably the surprise package of the season in 2019/20 as they continue to go from strength to strength, and now they’re breathing down Orlando Pirates’ neck.
The Team of Choice looked almost certain to be playing second-tier football at this point last season after a diabolical first half of the campaign, but Eric Tinkler has worked wonders in KwaZulu-Natal since his arrival and turned them into a serious dark horse.
Having narrowly missed out on the Telkom Knockout title as they were beaten by Mamelodi Sundowns, Maritzburg now find themselves in fifth place after 23 games, just three points behind the third-placed Buccaneers.
A 3-0 win over Stellenbosch over the weekend kept their incredible home record on Friday nights intact, and the coach has spoken of how much the supporters mean to them at Harry Gwala Stadium.
As quoted by the club’s official website, Tinkler said, “I’m very proud of the technical team, obviously very proud of the players. They showed the heart that we needed to bounce back from the loss in the Nedbank Cup.
“We wanted to keep a clean sheet at home, we wanted to keep our Friday night record, we’ve done that.”
He went on to say, “The Maritzburg fans are the best fans in the league to be honest - very proud of them. They’ve stuck with us through thick and thin last season they were here even when the team was struggling in relegation.
“This season they’re here supporting the team wholeheartedly, and they are our 12th man and that’s what’s been important for us.”
Now, after hitting the 30-point mark that is generally considered to guarantee safety in the top-flight, it’s time to move onto the next game, with Tinkler saying, “We just take it game by game. It was important for us to hit the 30-point mark because we can play without pressure and without stress. We just take every game we play as an important game, irrespective of who the opponents are.”
Next up for Maritzburg is a clash with Polokwane City, again under the Friday Night Lights, as they look to build on another victory at home.