Lobi, Kano Pillars contest highlights Matchday 18 packed schedule

By George Akpayen

It will be a full schedule of fixtures for the first in four matchdays and it comes with a top-three clash between table-toppers Lobi Stars and Kano Pillars in third place. The game will hold at the Aper Aku Stadium this Sunday and is live on NTA.

This will be the 27th meeting between Lobi And Kano Pillars in the last 15 years. Pillars have won 12 of the previous 26 meetings, four better than Lobi’s win while the other six matches have ended in draws. However the Kano club have only avoided defeat five times in their 13 travels to Lobi including a 1-0 win in May 2004.

This season, things have changed a bit in the playing personnel of Lobi under Solomon Ogbeide with Samad Kadiri and Austine Ogunye carrying for the can for goalscoring unlike last term when it was Anthony Okpotu and Kingsley Eduwo. Samad and Ogunye have scored a combined 10 goals.

The 10 goals by the Lobi striking pair is four less than Junior Lokosa, who is the league’s top scorer on 14 goals. The lethal Lokosa has scored four of those goals on the road – the most away goals by any individual this season. So the Kano Pillars will always be a threat to the back-four of Lobi.

Lokosa’s strike partner Nyima Nwagua who joined from Lobi is also on hand to make his mark though he has had an underwhelming start to the campaign so far scoring twice while midfielder Alassan Ibrahim now regarded as heir-apparent to playmaker Rabiu Ali has stepped in with four goals and three assists.

The Lobi versus Kano Pillars game is not be short of big-name players in the country, and should offer an eye-catching contest.

NINTH ORIENTAL DERBY

In the southeast, precisely Nnewi, seven-time champions Rangers are up for an Oriental Derby against FC Ifeanyiubah. Rangers dropped points at home in previous matchday to bottom-placed Kwara United and the duo of Ebuka Okeke and Tope Olusesi already braced for the derby.

Okeke said: ““We apologise (for the draw at home against Kwara United) to our darling fans and the only way we can make up for the draw is to go to Nnewi and pick the maximum three points. It is a vow I have made to my Enugu friends and which I must keep.”

“That game is a must win for us. It is an Oriental Derby and we will put all our best to come home with the maximum points. We have a good record in Oriental Derbies. We won in Owerri, drew in Umuahia and beat Enyimba. We will brush the Anambra Warriors (FC Ifeanyiubah) aside. We will make them look like mere toy warriors and get Rangers back to gunning for the title,” Olusesi said.

FC Ifeanyiubah and Rangers are the only undefeated sides in the mini-Oriental Derby league with the latter picking the most points, being seven. The Flying Antelopes have beaten Heartland (in Owerri) and Enyimba (in Enugu) and played a 0-0 draw at Abia Warriors.

This is FC Ifeanyiubah’s third game of this quintet of derby. The Anambra Warriors have beaten Heartland and drew 1-1 against Abia Warriors — both matches at home. It is a contest of who blinks first in this Oriental Derby between FC Ifeanyiubah and Rangers.

THE UNBEATEN MANAGERS

Talk of unbeaten streaks. Only two managers — Kwara United’s Abubakar Bala and his counterpart at Niger Tornadoes Hamza Abara hold that feat after replacing John Obuh and Erasmus Onuh respectively.

Bala has led Kwara United to four unbeaten matches since assuming head coach role in mid-March (1W 3D). His team saw off Kano Pillars (2-1) and followed up with three draws including two on the road at Sunshine Stars and Rangers. This Sunday, Bala leads out his men against another bottom-four side Go Round in a six-pointer, and the former Tornadoes trainer will be keen to stretch his run to five unbeaten games though with a win.

It has been an impressive start to his time as head coach at Tornadoes. Abara and his team appear to have a hatred for defeats since took charge in February. He has led them to seven unbeaten games (4W 3D) — getting draws at difficult venues at Kano Pillars, El-Kanemi Warriors and Go Round. Abara, who is a match-reader, takes charge of his eighth game as Tornadoes when Yobe Desert Stars come calling against a very experienced manager in Mohammed Baba Ganaru.

CONTINENTAL RETURNEES

The quartet of Akwa United, Enyimba, MFM FC and title-holders Plateau United return to the league after their experience on the continent in midweek. Akwa United, MFM and Plateau United will play no part in the CAF Confederation Cup and will face Sunshine Stars, Rivers United and Heartland respectively as they bid to pick themselves up after their elimination from Africa.

Enyimba take a six-game unbeaten sequence (in all competitions including the CAF Confederation Cup) to Jos to face Wikki Tourists. The People’s Elephant have not won on the road so far in the league this term but have taken a point each at Lobi, Rivers United, El-Kanemi, Kano Pillars, Yobe Stars and Kwara United.

This packed matchday will also have Nasarawa United play hosts to Abia Warriors while Abdullahi Biffo will lead out Katsina United against El-Kanemi at the Muhammadu Dikko Stadium.