NPFL Preview: Matchday 2
Lobi Stars FC (18th) vs Kano Pillars FC (1st)
Kano Pillars will travel to Makurdi on Wednesday where they will hopefully get their first ninety minutes for the season after a misguided display of petulance meant they got only fifty in front of their fans at the Sani Abacha Stadium. Pillars have been awarded three points and three goals as a result of their opponent’s forfeiture and are therefore top of the log.
Putting an opening day defeat behind them quickly, getting their first goals and points for the season is the task for Lobi on Wednesday. Losing is part of the game but in losing to a 3SC side largely composed of green horns Lobi will be wary of Pillars’ experience.
FC Ifeanyiubah (19th) vs MFM FC (1st)
MFM were one of the teams of the first round of fixtures ruthlessly putting Niger Tornadoes to sword with three first half goals. They have yet to lose to Wednesday’s opponent in the NPFL since gaining promotion in 2016.
FC IfeanyiUbah, the only blemish on a very good opening day, have been docked all three points and three goals as well as an eight million naira fine. Surely they will be eager to get back to playing ball, something which they’re quite good at.
Niger Tornadoes FC (19th) vs ABS FC (3rd)
ABS proved that they were not overawed by their new NPFL status nor opponents Akwa United in 3 – 1 win which set a marker down for the new season. Can they kick on? They just might, Tornadoes were made to look ordinary at the Agege Stadium and this is probably a good time to face them.
Akwa United FC (17th) vs Rivers United FC (5th)
Rivers United showed why they have been tipped by many to be champions with a good display in a 2 – 1 victory over El Kanemi which was more comfortable than the scoreline indicates, but their travails on the road were well documented last season and it remains to be seen if they have found the remedy.
Abdu Maikaba’s arrival at Akwa United was greeted by excitement and anticipation but some of that must have been lost in Ilorin. Losing to newly promoted ABS will have hurt, in Rivers they face a stiffer test but home comforts should boost their morale.
El-Kanemi Warriors FC (12th) vs Wikki Tourists FC (10th)
Wikki Tourists began life without NPFL top goal scorer Godwin Obaje who joined Etoile du Sahel last month with a goalless draw. As expected, the Tourists’ season will largely depend on whether they can replace Obaje’s goals. Football returning to the El Kanemi Stadium after three years will surely gladden many hearts. With the Boko Haram menace on the wane the Maiduguri venue has been deemed safe enough to host matches. A win would certainly make for a more memorable return.
Nasarawa United FC (10th) vs Rangers Int’l FC (12th)
Defending champions Rangers have been a bit listless over their last four fixtures in all competitions (2D, 2L). It could be the loss of last season’s MVP Chisom Egbuchulam or simply teams wanting to beat the champions but Sunday’s loss while not indicative of a malaise shows that there is work to be done for Imama Amakpakabo who has asked for patience reminding the fans of how they started last season.
“When the game started, we had about seven players that did not come to the party,
“So when you have up to seven players that are not up there, and these are same players that few months ago were champions of Nigeria, we managed to hope as best as possible that the result would come at the end of the day (but it did not).
“We are creating the chances which is good. It is my responsibility to see that they start scoring and we will improve on that. It is a long season and we started last year by losing away (at Kano Pillars), we have 37 more games to play and I’m sure we will get it right.” -Amakpakabo
Nasarawa, however, have been difficult hosts over the last three seasons claiming all the points in this fixture.
Abia Warriors FC (5th) vs Katsina United FC (5th)
The Warriors claimed a magnificent scalp on Sunday, but focus will be key as they travel from one end of the spectrum to the other. Promoted Katsina will certainly be a different prospect to the champions but they will underestimate the Nigeria National League (Nigeria’s second tier) champions at their peril.
Gombe United FC (12th) vs Remo Stars FC (12th)
A meeting of familiar opponents will ensue at the Pantami Satdium when promoted sides Gombe United and Remo Stars clash. Top flight debutants Remo were welcomed to the big leagues with a 2 – 1 defeat by Plateau. In Gombe they will be facing old foes and the familiarity might help them secure their first ever NPFL points.
Plateau United FC (5th) vs Enyimba Int’l FC (9th)
Enyimba broke in their new ‘home’ ground, the U. J. Esuene Satdium in Calabar, with a one-nil victory and will hope the new environment brings them more luck than the former while they continue to wait on their own stadium. Enyimba had a difficult season in 2016 but will be quietly optimistic about the new season with fresh heads in coach Gbenga Ogunbote and captain Mfon Udoh.
Sunshine Stars FC (16th) vs Shooting Stars FC (4th)
It was a mix of the old and the new for 3SC and coach Fatai Amoo will want more of the same when his boys turn out against neighbors Sunshine. Shooting may not have had the best off season in terms of experienced additions but they had enough to see off Lobi with the more experienced Afolabi Abdulwaheed leading with a goal and youngster Sunday Faleye following with his first touch!