United, unbeaten in 12 matches before the Christmas break and six points clear at the top of the log, have now lost twice since the return to action of the NFD, and drawn twice and are now second on the table a point behind Bay United.
On Friday, United were again disturbingly flat. This from a team that was positively buzzing for the first half of the season.
The Pietermaritzburg side went a goal down to an 18th-minute strike by Sandile Gumede in an uninspiring game.
_quote United striker Godfrey Doboro missed two sitters, in the first and 58th minutes, that enraged the United directors.
After the game Doboro was angrily reprimanded by United financial director Imraan Kadodia, but was hauled back into the change room by coach Ian Palmer.
The incident indicated that, once again, there are problems that run deeper than a mere slump.
Reports in the KZN press have had Palmer under pressure at United.
On Friday, though, the coach received support from an unlikely source – his opposite number at Nathi, Mlungisi ‘Professor’ Ngubane.
Twice a coach at United, having helped save the team from relegation from the PSL in 2005/06, but having not managed the feat twice last season, Ngubane is well acquainted with the off-the-field rifts that can appear from nowhere at Maritzburg.
“United have had a good season and they need to work hard and forget about this result against us,” Ngubane said. “I know that they can bounce back.
“But they must give the current technical team a chance. Because we don’t face United again this season, so we want them to play well and help us against the other teams.”
He urged United to not panic or put too much pressure on Palmer and his technical team.
“They can't change their coach now, because if they do everything will just collapse,” Ngubane said.
“The players must forget politics, Palmer is clearly doing a good job and for the team to suddenly start playing so badly there is something wrong with the players, and they must pull up their socks.”
Also of concern against Lions was the manner in which several United players collapsed in exhaustion after their flat performance.
“They were not tired,” said Ngubane, before using a more graphic expletive to describe the United players’ condition.