Sunshine Stars aim to put heat on El-Kanemi in Akure

By Idowu Bakare

Sunshine Stars will be looking for their third consecutive home win of the 2017/18 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) campaign when they host El-Kanemi Warriors at Akure Township Stadium on Wednesday.

The Owena Waves come into the game off the back of a creditable goalless draw at Abia Warriors on Matchday 5 – with goalkeeper Moses Ocheje producing a breathtaking performance to deny the hosts after getting the nod ahead of first-choice Henry Ayodele.

The victory kept Sunshine Stars in the top-six, one point above 10th-placed El-Kanemi, who failed to score in a home game at the Maiduguri Township Stadium for the first time since March 2013 in their tie against Kano Pillars on Sunday.

For El-Kanemi, they were brought back to earth on Sunday as Kano Pillars ended their perfect home start to the campaign and they are billed to face a test of nerves and character as they look for their first away point of the season in Akure.

The Borno club have lost and failed to score in their first two away games of the season against Rivers United and defending champions Plateau United.

DUKE UDI’S MAGIC WAND

While, Sunshine Stars were one of the favourites to be relegated last season, the hiring of Duke Udi from Osun United was the turning point in their campaign.

The transformation did not come about by chance but was well-earned. After his appointment, Sunshine won three away matches and ended the season as the second best away team after picking 11 away points.

They have continued from where they left off last season – by picking up away points at Heartland and Abia Warriors this season and will be hoping to make the Akure Stadium a fortress if they are​ to sneak into the top-three at the end of the weekend.

STARS TO WATCH

Sikiru Alimi, who opened his goals account for the season in the 2-1 win over Katsina United, will be hoping to repeat last season’s feat where he scored the winner against El-Kanemi.

For the visitors, new boy Ocheme Edoh has made an instant impact since joining from Rangers at the start of the season. The former Giwa FC striker scored and provided an assist in the 3-1 win over MFM FC.

LAST SEASON

Sikiru Alimi was the hero for Sunshine Stars last season as his 34th minute goal sealed a 1-0 win over El-Kanemi in Ijebu Ode.

FORM GUIDE (LAST FIVE GAMES)

SUNSHINE STARS: DWLWD

El-Kanemi: DLWWL

HEAD-TO-HEAD​ (LAST SIX MEETINGS)

El-Kanemi have drawn a blank in their last three away fixtures against Sunshine Stars – with the home team putting nine past them in that period.

23/07/17: Sunshine Stars 1-0 El-Kanemi

01/03/17: El-Kanemi 3-1 Sunshine Stars

21/08/16: El-Kanemi 3-2 Sunshine Stars

17/04/16: Sunshine Stars 3-0 El-Kanemi

23/08/15: Sunshine Stars 5-0 El-Kanemi

22/04/15: El-Kanemi 1-0 Sunshine Stars

VERDICT

El-Kanemi Warriors have been truly atrocious away from home since last season, so Sunshine Stars should be able to squeeze out a victory.