Maritzburg United coach Middendorp hailed the impact of his new players, in particular Delron Buckley, following their first Absa Premiership victory of the season against AmaZulu on Tuesday.
|Ernst Middendorp © Backpagepix
Cuthbert Malajila scored both goals in the 2-0 KwaZulu-Natal derby victory at the Harry Gwala Stadium in Pietermaritzburg, but it was the influence of the veteran ex-Bafana Bafana winger that stood out.
Buckley, deployed in a more central role in the second half, was an ever-present when the hosts attacked and set up the opener for Malajila.
The 34-year-old was not the only player to impress on his home debut, with Mthokozisi Yende as well as substitutes Orlando Smeekes and Frank Sarfo Gymafi also making telling starts to their United careers.
“I think it was a very balanced first half from two teams that know each other extremely well,” Middendorp said. “We changed our strategy a little bit in the second half to try and work more with the ball in the midfield and I think it worked.
“We had more power in our movement forward with the option of Smeekes and Gymafi and that is something we can look forward to more this year, having more weapons in the front line.
“If you take a player like Delron Buckley, he was very crucial for us.”
The German highlighted the importance of their strength in depth, saying it would be key for them over the coming campaign.
“The players know it that we always have a plan b and even a plan c,”
he said. “Those will always give us different options if the opponents are negating the initial system we entered the game with.
“It’s actually very good for us and it was something that we targeted during the off season (having more options).”
The match had started poorly with both goalkeepers hardly tested in the opening 45 minutes, before Malajila netted in the 65th and 77th minutes to secure the win.
“I think early in the game, both sides were sort of holding back to see what the other would do,” Middendorp added. “But the intent was clear after the interval and we managed to come away with all three points, which was most important.”
AmaZulu coach Roger Palmgren insisted that his side had showed enough hunger to win despite appearing to be flat-footed early on.
“I think we were committed enough,” he said. “I think we did quite well defensively in the first half, but not so well offensively throughout the game.”
The result meant a second heavy defeat for Usuthu following on from the 6-0 thrashing by Kaizer Chiefs in their opening match of the season.
Palmgren, though, remained confident they can turn things around.
He added: “It’s not an excuse, but rather a fact that we have so many of our players out. There are at least six or seven regulars missing.
“We now have a bit of a break before our next game and hopefully we can get some of those players back.”