Five talking points from Nasarawa United vs Katsina United

By Clement Nwankpa Jr

Nasarawa United defeated Katsina United 2-1 at the Lafia City Stadium thanks to a brace by Najeem Olukokun and Katsina United could only muster a response from an own goal by Abdulbasit Shittu. Here are five talking points.

(1) Nasarawa United unveils another quality right back

Two seasons ago, Nasarawa paraded Ifeanyi Nweke, who was arguably the best right back that season. Last season, Nweke left for pastures new at Rivers United and the Solid Miners unleashed Yinka Onaolapo. Onaolapo caught the eyes and banished Nweke’s memories and this season Enyimba raided. If you think you have seen the best right back from the stables of Nasarawa, wait till you see Abubakar Abdullahi. This one is even younger. Promoted from Nasarawa feeder team, he just returned from a tour of Egypt with the Under-20 national team. This is Nweke and Onaolapo rolled into one. A modern day full back that lives in the opposition’s half. His burst and quick feet set up Olukokun for the second goal.

(2) There is an impressive assemblage of youth at Solid Miners

Since the advent of the LMC Under-18 rules, there has been a harvest of youthful players by NPFL clubs. Nasarawa is one of the teams feasting heavily on this rule. Enough said already about Abdullahi. When Thomas Zenke was injured in the first half, another feeder team product Sanusi Ibrahim took his place and stepped up the tempo. Overall, there seems to be a conscious effort to give youth a chance at the club with a sprinkle of experience. There is also the keeper Mohammed Galadima, a member of the NPFL Under-18 squad to the South African Futures tournament last year and also part of the Under-20 team to Egypt. A product of Nasarawa feeders, Galadima wasn’t however listed for this game. The likes of skipper Emmanuel Makama and Suraj Ayeleso are around to guide this impressive collection of youths. Their mobility and dynamism makes it easier for coach Kabiru Dogo to press high up.

(3) Sani isn’t a natural left back

Faisal Sani has been Abdullahi Biffo’s Mr Utility at Katsina and has been deployed in every defensive position including midfield. His educated left foot makes his deployment at left back appealing but he is most comfortable on the left side of the central defence or a back three. Since Nasiru Sani joined Enyimba, Biffo has been improvising Faisal Sani or the more offensive Eric Gwammy at left back. Sani was deployed in the position in Lafia. His acceleration down the flank wasn’t as fluid as a natural left back so he was more on the back foot. This was the impetus Nasarawa needed to bombard the Changi Boys from the right flank marshalled by Abubakar with the complement of Williams Nwani and Kabir Balogun. If Sani joined the attack more often, he would have pegged back Abubakar. But the latter had a field day initiating one Nasarawa attack after another from the right back.

(4) Katsina took feet off the pedal

After Olukokun’s 10th minute strike, Katsina seized the initiative forcing Shittu’s own goal in the 24th minute. For a moment, the hosts appeared rattled and Katsina seemed primed for some upset in Lafia. But they slowed down and allowed Nasarawa dictate the pace. With the incessant Nasarawa attacks, it was only a matter of time before they retained the lead. From then, there was no stopping the hosts. And as Biffo pointed out in the post match, his boys gave Nasarawa “too much respect.”

(5) Another prodigy from the Ndala stable

One of the star attractions in the Nasarawa team was the young holding midfielder Isah Ndala. He is preferred these days in the place of the more experienced Eugene Obi and it’s easy to see why. Boy has a lot of energy to burn. A huge prospect of a box-to-box midfielder we have in our hands. He was the reason Katsina never found their rhythm in the middle of the park despite parading the likes of Destiny Ashadi and Joshua Agboola in this department. A product of an Academy in Jos, Ndala, who is in the current Under-20 set-up, is having his first professional stint. Does the name ring a bell? His elder brother is Ibrahim Ndala, member of the 2001 U17s in Trinidad and Tobago.