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Tinkler still hopeful

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All of these teams are fighting for something, whether it’s the league championship, a place in the top eight or survival like Maritzburg themselves

Eric Tinkler, coach of Maritzburg United reacts during the match against Kaizer Chiefs on Saturday. Picture: BackpagePix

ERIC Tinkler believes that a simple act will turn the season around for Maritzburg United who are languishing at the bottom of the log, staring at the axe that looms large over them.

“Two wins (in a row) is just what you need. It can take one moment. I believe that will be the change that we need,” Tinkler said after seeing the Team of Choice lose to Kaizer Chiefs 1-0 at FNB Stadium on Saturday.

That’s easier said than done. Maritzburg’s last seven PSL matches will see them host Mamelodi Sundowns tomorrow, followed by clashes with Bloemfontein Celtic, Highlands Park, Orlando Pirates, Black Leopards, SuperSport United and Baroka FC.

All of these teams are fighting for something, whether it’s the league championship, a place in the top eight or survival like Maritzburg themselves.

“We had one point in our pocket and we gave it away,” Tinkler said. “At this stage of the season for us, that’s very expensive because we are running out of games. We’ve looked to try and close the gap with the teams above us. Highlands Park did us a favour against Baroka. We could have closed that gap, by picking up something and we didn’t. We put ourselves under immense pressure to look to get another win against Sundowns at home.”

It has to be said that Tinkler’s biggest challenge is instilling mental toughness in his players. Maritzburg’s players break down easily at the smallest challenge due to their precarious position on the log.

What must give them confidence is that four of their remaining seven matches are at home at Harry Gwala Stadium. Their passionate fans from KwaZulu-Natal’s capital back their club with their voices and numbers – creating a buzzing atmosphere that should inspire them in their fight for survival.

This is nothing new for Maritzburg, they’ve been in this situation before and have managed to claw themselves away of danger on the last day of the season.

“All one can do is to try and turn that negative into something positive,” Tinkler said. “That’s what I have been trying to work on. During the week, everything looks great. But it’s like what I keep telling the chairman, I’ll only know how they’ll react when the referee blows that whistle. That’s just the harsh reality.

“Again, when I look all the games away it’s not been just one or two players who are having an off day because you can get away with that – when I look against Chiefs, it’s three or four players who were under-performing.

“Then it becomes difficult structurally because you can only make three subs. It becomes hard, you’ve got to keep on motivating them and keep on pushing them to get that belief on themselves.

“It’s not an easy situation. This is where you see the true character of a human being.

“Because you’re in the dogfight right now. You must take responsibility.”