- Published on Friday, 08 September 2017 13:23
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By Tunde Oyedele
At last the final weekend of the 2016/17 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) season is here with title hopes for table-toppers and lamentations in the camp of those battling relegation, and Nasarawa United coach Kabiru Dogo intends finish the campaign on a high when they host ABS FC in Lafia on Saturday despite an underwhelming season.
Dogo, while giving his assessment of the outgoing season in an interview with npfl.ng said: “I won’t say we had an appalling year because we are not struggling but we didn’t achieve the target we set for ourselves.
“By the start of the season in January, things were looking very promising for my club with the arrival of a few new faces combining with the players we had to create a squad that we thought could possibly challenge for the title. But here we are, Nasarawa is only good for a seventh-place finish. Well, that’s not too bad but our position fell short of my expectation this year.”
There was huge excitement surrounding Dogo’s Nasarawa United when the team forced Wikki Tourists to a goalless draw on the first matchday as the point on the road gave their management and fans a reason to expect a league season of an exciting football.
Alas, the bubble soon burst and the Nasarawa United of 2014/15 season, that finished third to claim a CAF Confederation Cup appearance found it difficult to sustain that previous performance this term.
It took Nasarawa United until Matchday 29 in the middle of July to find their first and only away win of the season at Sunshine Stars at the Akure Township Stadium. What could have given the Lafia club hope of a top-four finish was finally dashed in Lagos last weekend when Dogo and his boys went down 2-0 to MFM FC.
Even against relegated teams such as Remo Stars and Gombe United, whom they dominated and could have beaten, Nasarawa United drawn their game 1-1 at home to Gombe on Matchday 27, lost by a lone goal in Sagamu on Matchday 24 and ultimately struggled to find a winning formula required of a top side and would now end the season empty-handed.
“The person who should take the majority of the blame for Nasarawa’s failure to win something in the league this year is the man in charge of the tactics and squad selection, that’s the manager. It’s my job to produce the results regardless of the situations the club faces, so, I take responsibility for what happened but we want to end the season on a high with our last game,” Dogo said.
Despite the disappointment, Dogo still finds some cheering moments about the NPFL in terms of general scorecard, declaring that "this season was better than the previous two seasons."
“Honestly, I will rate the NPFL far above average this season. Although, it’s not ending the way we would have loved as a club, but the league has improved in standard. I’m satisfied with the teams’ discipline, officiating and organization of the whole set up,” he told npfl.ng.
Speaking on where the league crown could be heading for after weekend’s games, Dogo said: “That’s the question everyone is asking now, will it go to Plateau United or MFM FC? Actually, we are witnessing a season where champions of the league will not be known until the final day, this makes the NPFL unique and very interesting.
“I also believe that the League Management Company (LMC) deserves commendation because they applied the rules strictly and their steadfastness in the administration of the league showed in the results of some crucial matches this year."
On Matchday 38 engagements across the country on Sunday, Dogo said he expects a thrilling and photo-finish final day that league enthusiasts would be proud of.
Nasarawa United would host relegation-threatened Abubakar Bukola Saraki (ABS) FC in their last match at their home ground in Lafia.
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