Five takeaways as FC Ifeanyiubah hold Plateau United

By Clement Nwankpa Jr

Plateau United and FC Ifeanyiubah played out a thrilling 0-0 draw in the opening day of the NPFL at New Jos Stadium. Here are five things worthy of note…

UNDERESTIMATE FC IFEANYIUBAH AT YOUR PERIL

During the transfer window, FC Ifeanyiubah’s transfer policy tilted towards youth. They discarded most, if not all, their high-profile players and recruited from the academies, their feeder team and lower division teams. Even the team they put out in this game oozed inexperience all over. Looking at the team sheet, one would readily give the match to Plateau United. But the visitors were not awed by their more illustrious opponents. Kudos must go to the defence marshalled by Charles Okafor and the keeper Chinedu Anozie for soaking up all that was thrown at them. If they were more experienced, though, the attackers would have capitalised on a counter-attacking situation in the last minutes to take maximum points. The visitors had three attackers against the hosts’ two defenders but somehow developed cold feet when it mattered most. The resilience of that rearguard is however commendable. These kids won’t be that easy to beat after all. Watch out big boys!

EVEN MAIKABA CANNOT DO WITHOUT ITODO’S THROWS

A prominent feature in the Plateau United team had always been Daniel Itodo’s long throws. This was key to their shock triumph in 2017. Not a few had lampooned former head coach Kennedy Boboye for being so reliant on the throws noting the team’s lack of flair under him. Boboye had pointed out that as long as throws remained part of the game, he would continue to use what he had to achieve results. Boboye has been replaced by Abdu Maikaba, one of the most entertaining coaches in the NPFL. In this game, Maikaba showed he was not ready to jettison Itodo’s throws. Otherwise, he should have settled for the more ball-playing left-back, Gabriel Wassa, who was on the bench. With the likes of Bernard Ovoke and Sikiru Olatunbosun, the flair was not lacking but most of the goal threats still came from those throws. Itodo was still running all the way from left flank to the right to heave the throws in. Nothing has changed.

HAS ANOZIE DETHRONED AYODELE AS NPFL’S HEAVIEST KEEPER?

Make no mistakes, goalkeeper Anozie was the major reason the hosts didn’t win. On a day Manchester United’s David De Gea was foiling all Tottenham’s attempts in EPL, Jos fans got a similar treat from Anozie. The former Abia Warriors keeper was simply unbeatable. But a major snag was his size. He was looking too big for a footballer. Sunshine Stars plus-size keeper Henry Ayodele is believed to be the league’s heaviest keeper but with his more advancing age, the younger Anozie is stepping up. He looked more like a rugby player on Sunday. The good thing however is that he is working on it. This writer confronted him with this after the match and he replied: “Oga, I’m naturally a fat person. But I’m doing something about it.” He really needs to do something about it soon. This could be a career killer.

PLATEAU UNITED NEEDED OBAJE

This game showed how important former league top scorer, Godwin Obaje is to Plateau United. They missed his predatory presence in the box. He was unavailable for the game as he was on loan from FC Ifeanyiubah but the team lacked a quality finisher in the game. For all the incision created by the likes of Ovoke and Ibe Johnson, the killer touch was lacking in the box.

MAIKABA SETTLES FOR ‘KEEPER’ AJIBOYE AHEAD OF ‘SWEEPER’ DAVID OBIAZO

With David Obiazo’s signing, there was uncertainty over who would be first choice at Plateau United this season. Would Maikaba go for Ajiboye, one of the best shot-stoppers in the land, or the sweeping keeper, Obiazo? Considering Maikaba’s offensive disposition, some believed he would opt for Obiazo, who is very comfortable passing out from the back. But he may have elected to go with a one who could be trusted with the core duty of a keeper (keeping the ball away from the back of the net).