Au revoir: Remo slip into NNL, Plateau spring clear at the summit as Akwa and Enyimba turn the heat on MFM – NPFL Matchday 34 Review.
By Shehu Idris
September 24, 2016. On the synthetic terrace of Agege Stadium, Nduka Ugbade and his players, claded in all cerulean, jubilating frantically as the referee whistle goes. 2-0, they’ve beating C.O.D United and They -Remo stars- have gained promotion to NPFL for the first time ever.
Elation and Euphoria permeated across Ijebu Ọdẹ. That little town, that’s about to show the entire nation that it’s more than just a waypoint between the boisterous city of Lagos and the ancient city of Ibadan. It’ll host NPFL games at the Dipo Dina stadium. The owner of the Club, Kunle Soname innovated schemes and plans to lure fans into the stadium, giving away lots of gifts from packs of frozen chicken to packs of frozen fishes, and it worked. Fans gyrating at every home game.
But Barely 5 games into their NPFL season, The Club management and Ugbade fell out after a contractual disagreement, that signalled the beginning of the slide for the ‘Sky blues’.
In came Fatai Oshọ, a former coach, who had been doing wonders with Crown FC of Oshogbo. They expected him to replicate his Abracadabra formula here also but he wouldn’t.
Lost his first game away at Akwa, started a drought of winless run that spanned 7 games which was followed by a more detrimental 5-game losing streak. They’ve always been tourists enjoying their debut season and the luxurious trips around the country that comes with it.
By Matchday 25, when all teams had played their outstanding matches against the team with Continental Commitments – Rangers, Rivers, Wikki, FC Ubah – they’ve settled at the bottom of the log, their hope of survival looking bleak unless they improve.
The reality hit them and they responded, although feintly. An Away point in Abia was flanked on both sides by 2 consecutive home wins but then they decended back into the spineless debutants that they’ve been all season. Fell into even uglier 9-game winless streak that just had to end against Rivers United, that haven’t managed an away win this season, if they wish to keep their hopes of surviving the fall burning and there was this feeling that they would because Rivers United, their Opponents, are at their lowest ebb themselves. After an awesome 2015/16 NPFL season, which they finished second with a place on the continent but it all came crashing down as they suffer the stark contrast, struggling in the puddle of relegation. They also must win this to ease the pressure heaping around them.
It was a case of who wants it more and it was the ‘Prides of Rivers’ that scooped that chance up.
After spells of dominance and glimpses of last season’s emphatic performance. They had their reward. Bernard ‘Golden Boy’ Ovoke curled in free kick. The trajectory perfect and reminiscent of the reasons that earned him the sobriquet. Emeka Ogbugh doubled it in the 34th minute, Adekunle Tunde spilled a Kanoute Abdoulaye shot and Ogbugh cleaned it in nicely for the Stanley Eguma boys. The cherry was added, when Chiwendu Ali’s 35-yard ferociously hammered freekick rattles the cross bar but fall kindly for Esosa Igbinabo to stroke home. Although Ochowechi Salefu pulled one back for the host, it could only be a consolation as Remo Stars officially slipped into the chasm of relegation.
It’s been 10 months after that Dreamy promotion, it’s been 34 NPFL games since that joyous moment in Agege and Remo Stars are going back to where they belong; NNL. All the fantastical Joy and happiness replaced with cold, hard reality.
And For the 7th season consecutively, another club from the Ódùdùwá region of country will be dropping to NNL.
In other news…
• On the soggy Ryam Pam Stadium in Jos, the potential title decider or should I say “Top-of-the-table” clichéd match didn’t live up to its hype and expectations although the pitch did, with expected splashes of mucky sands at every kick. Plateau United leaped 6 points clear of their Opponents and Second-Placed MFM FC.
Only a 3rd minute quickie from Ibeh Johnson was the difference between them.
• Across the Niger, pulling up at the Nest of champions in Uyo, Akwa United shellacked Niger Tornadoes 3-0. Cyril Olisema slots the first goal from the spot before Gabriel Okechukwu and Edem Akakatang bouyed the victory with their goals. Trimming the gap on MFM to 2 points.
• In that emphatic stride, Enyimba devoured ABS FC 3-0 at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium. Bathelomew Igbenebu, continued being Igbenebu, belted another VAT wonder Goal worthy volley in. Then, he found the head of Eric Frimpong to double the lead before Ibrahim Mustafa rounded things up with a tap in off Chukwude’s Maradona-esque run.
• To the North, The desert Scopion of Gombe keep their survival hopes flickering as they wrung out a 1-0 victory against Kano Pillars.
• Oh…I almost forgot. Just across the border to the West, The CHAN Eagles conceded a late penalty against Benin Republic and it was converted. We now wait for the return leg in Kano, we should roast them with slicky Football and the scorching Kano sun…And we would.
Kastina United 2-0 Wikki Tourists
Remo stars 1-3 Rivers United
Enyimba 3-0 ABS
Plateau United 1-0 MFM FC
Gombe United 1-0 Kano Pillars
Abia Warriors 2-0 Shooting Stars
Nasarawa United 1-0 Lobi Stars
Akwa United 3-0 Niger Tornadoes
Rangers Int’l 1-0 Sunshine stars
El Kanemi Warriors 2-0 FC Ifeanyi Ubah