Heartland renew regional tussle with Rangers in Oriental Derby

At no time has any competitive match between these two southeast ‘superpowers’ been an ordinary encounter when it comes to club football as tackles, challenges, blocks and splendid goalkeeping are always on display.

This Sunday, the ‘ Naze Millionaires’ as Heartland are nicknamed feature in a second back to back Oriental Derby against their more illustrious neighbours, Rangers International in a Matchday 3 fixture at the Dan Anyiam Stadium, Owerri. Heartland come into this contest on the back of a 0-0 draw with Enyimba in the first Oriental Derby this season

Heartland have started life back in the NPFL on a not too impressive note chalking up two points from a possible six while their visiting neighbours, Rangers have been abysmal, surrendering all six points in the first two matches of this season.

While the Owerri side did not enjoy a good pre-season, same cannot be said of the Coal City landlords who had a great pre-season with a new handler, Gbenga Ogunbote and over a dozen new signings.

After a lengthy heart-to-heart talk among players, coaches, management and (Enugu State) ministry officials, Rangers will look to put behind them the very challenging start to the season and focus on picking the full points at stake on Sunday.

“We understand the feelings of our numerous supporters all over the world over our not too good start to the season but we pledge to spill our blood on the field of Owerri to come out victorious. It will be a tough game like it always used to be whenever we play and we are going there to turn around our fortunes for the better this season,” said Rangers captain, Okechukwu Odita.

Heartland skipper, Julius Ubido, said hopes that they can finally get off the mark with a win after playing draws against Sunshine Stars and Heartland in their opening two games.

“We have not started the season well and we hope to make this game count in our favour to place us where we rightly belong,” said Ubido.

Interestingly when both teams met last in this fixture when Rangers won the title and Heartland dropped to the second tier in 2016, Julius Ubido opened scoring for the ‘Naze Millionaires.’ Ubido’s goal lasted just five minutes before Chinedu Udeagha levelled for Rangers on 17 minutes and Chisom Egbuchulam netted the winner in the second half.

This time, there will be no Egbuchulam or Udeagha in the playing personnel of Rangers. The Flying Antelopes will bank on the quartet of Chiamaka Madu, Tayo Fabiyi, Ibrahim Salau and Ibrahim Ajani to deliver the goods upfront.

On the other hand, Heartland head coach Ramson Madu will hope the trio of Abiodun Thompson, Lucky Emariojake and Nnamdi Egbujor can unlock the backline of Rangers to give them a first league win over their neighbours since September 2015.

Surely this is a finely-balanced fixture with both clubs yet to win a game this season.