- Published on Tuesday, 01 August 2017 17:16
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By Clement Nwankpa Jr
Gradually, the curtain is winding down on the 2016/17 season. With six matchdays left, the excitement is building up. Who wins the title? Who secures the continental slots? Who gets relegated? Results from Matchday 32 added to these puzzles. Here are 10 things we learnt from last weekend's results...
(1) MFM SET TO TAKE IT TO THE FINAL DAY
One thing that has threatened MFM's title credentials is poor away form. But in defeating Remo Stars 1-0 in Sagamu, the Olukoya Boys laid down a marker. Mixing their good home run with commensurate away points means they are now a major threat to Plateau United. It is looking increasingly likely this title push will drag into the last day.
(2) ABS DETERMINED TO AVOID THE DROP
Muhammadu Dikko Stadium is not the easiest place to get a point but ABS came from behind twice to draw 2-2 with Katsina United. That's more like it. It highlights Saraki Boys' resolve to remain in the top flight. If they could capitulate so easily in that second half against Sunshine Stars in Ilorin, and consequently plunge into the relegation waters, they need more grit to grind out more results and stay afloat, as they did in Katsina.
(3) TROUBLE-SHOOTING WARRIORS
How would one explain a team squeezing out a point in Lokoja and failing to pick maximum points in Umuahia? That's Abia Warriors' lot. The draw with Niger Tornadoes boosted their chances of survival but the 0-0 draw with FC Ifeanyiubah last weekend, has killed that enthusiasm. Abia Warriors missed begging
chances and many opined they deserved to win. But the players' failure to take those chances has adverse effects on the club's fortunes. Now, the relegation battle is real. For the second consecutive season, the club has found itself in this unenviable position at this stage.
(4) BOBOYE'S TACTICS SUBDUING HIS BOYS' TECHNICAL ABILITIES
Plateau United's over-reliance on throw-ins and set-pieces was highlighted in the 2-0 victory over Shooting Stars in Jos. The team spent the larger part of the game attacking Daniel Itodo's throw-ins just as the two goals came from set-pieces. While these tactics are yielding the points and, potentially, the title, it hides the creativity imbedded in the team. The likes of Peter Eneji and Benjamin Turba showed with occasional flashes that they could do better running with the ball than contesting for throws. Even Itodo that uses more of his hand has an educated left foot.
(5) MAIDUGURI: THE REAL FORTRESS
Akwa United might not be on top but many believe Abdu Maikaba has packaged the league's most impressive team. On a day they needed a result badly, you would fancy them getting it as they did in Port Harcourt midweek. But Maiduguri isn't a good hunting ground. The Promise Keepers fell 0-1 to El-Kanemi Warriors. If Akwa couldn't do it in the desert, Rangers' feat earlier in the season should now be better appreciated. El-Kanemi has built a fortress out there.
(6) ENYIMBA SUSTAINS CONTINENTAL PUSH
It was a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Kano Pillars, but Enyimba's quest to return to the continent should now be taken more seriously. The game, dubbed Nigerian El Classico, provided a banana peel that the Peoples Elephant successfully skipped. Their experience and history of navigating through hurdles and getting over the finish line should worry other candidates for the continental tickets even if they don't pose much threat to the title pushers.
(7) GOMBE UNITED'S ROMANCE WITH RELEGATION
Gombe United staged one of the season's biggest comebacks to draw 2-2 with FC Ifeanyiubah on Matchday 31 but drew 0-0 with Lobi at home last weekend. Just when many expected them to consolidate and boost survival chances. It is such inconsistencies that has highlighted Gombe United's season. At this rate, they are looking almost certain for the drop.
(8) RANGERS' EXIT FROM RED LINE AND OGBUGH'S NEW-FOUND FORM
Rangers defeated Rivers United 2-1 to leapfrog the bottom-four. This isn't the position many expected last season's champions to be but the Flying Antelopes notched a result that could preserve their top flight status. They broke a 32-year jinx by winning the title last year but risks their enviable status of never being relegated from the top flight being dented this season. Then Rivers United's Emeka Ogbugh scored his third goal in as many matches. Notable for a player not renowned for his goalscoring prowess.
(9) ONAOLAPO'S RISING STATUS
Nasarawa United's Yinka Onaolapo did no harm to his status as one of the league's most adventurous right backs. His goal made the difference as the Solid Miners defeated Tornadoes 1-0 in Lafia. He latched unto Adamu Hassan's pass to score. We have got used to his forward forays all season. When he isn't scoring, he is delivering inch-perfect crosses. He has made Ifeanyi Nweke's exit to Rivers United less felt.
(10) WIKKI SUSTAINS GOOD RUN
Wikki Tourists' transformation under coach Bala Nikyu is commendable. A team under the red line at mid-season has clawed up to mid-table. The push was sustained with a 2-1 victory over Sunshine in Bauchi.
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