Influence of leading goalscorers on NPFL title race & survival bids
By George Akpayen
Table-toppers Lobi Stars, Akwa United and Kano Pillars have shown their intentions to contend for the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) title this season but the little detail of how the goals have spread this term could be a major factor in deciding the battles at the top and at the rear.
Holders Plateau United and seven-time champions are currently seven and six points respectively off the pace in the title race though there are still 14 rounds of matches to the finish line. However the two clubs have the highest number of individual goalscorers with 14 apiece.
Third-placed Kano Pillars have the second to the least goals spread of six players. Interestingly the Kano club have scored the most number of goals this season being 30. Rabiu Ali, Awalu Ali, Adamu Hassan, Nyima Nwagua, Alassan Ibrahim and Junior Lokosa who tops the NPFL leaderboard for goalscorers have accounted for Kano Pillars’ goals.
Nonetheless, the four-time champions have relied heavily on Lokosa who joined them midway last season after he was cut loose by lower division side First Bank FC and rejected by Heartland. Lokosa has not only sparkled in his club’s bid in the title race but has accounted for 63 per cent of their total goals.
Without Lokosa’s goals Kano Pillars would have failed to secured 22 out of their 38 points garnered so far. This makes Lokosa very influential in Kano Pillars’ setup. Also, Lokosa has scored more goals than El-Kanemi (17), Go Round (16) and Heartland (15). He has failed to score in eight matches including three he did not feature in against Yobe Stars (away), Nasarawa United (away) and Abia Warriors (away).
Abia Warriors striking pair of Samson Obi and Ndifreke Effiong have also weighed in massively this season. Their combination was borne out of necessity with their taliman of last season Sunday Adetunji out for a long-term owing to an arm injury. Obi and Ndifreke have scored a combine 17 goals, two less than Lokosa’s haul. Without their goals, Abia Warriors would have lot 30 of their 34 points considering they have just only five individual goalscorers this season.
Stephen Alfred has also been of huge influence in helping Kwara United in their race for survival. The Ilorin club are temporary out of the woods with their 29 points but Alfred’s nine goals have ensured they can keep 18 of their total points.
Seventh-placed Katsina United have something of an amulet in Destiny Ashadi. He has been directly involved in 12 of his club’s 28 goals so far — scoring seven and providing five assists. Without Ashadi’s goals, Katsina United would have notched up 27 points which could have left them in the scrap for survival.
Worthy of mentions on their individual performance and how they have impacted on their team’s outing this term through their goals and assists are Ibrahim Babawo of Niger Tornadoes (4 goals + 4 assists), Chikere Osita of Rivers United (4 goals + 3 assists), Nafiu Kabuga of Wikki (7 goals + 4 assists), Chinedu Ohanachom of Yobe Stars (5 goals + 3 assists), Sikiru Alimi of Sunshine Stars (7 goals), FC Ifeanyiubah’s Pascal Seka (6 goals + 2 assists), Plateau United’s Tosin Omoyele (5 goals + 4 assists) as well as Nasarawa United trio of Najeem Olukokun (7 goals + 1 assists), Ikechukwu Nwani (5 goals + 2 assists) and Kabir Balogun ( 1 goal + 6 assists).
In the end, the race for the top-scoring player in the NPFL will matter to some of these players though it already looks like a one-man contest with Lokosa being good value for his 19 goals so far. Lokosa is now inching closer to equalling or surpassing Mfon Udoh’s 23-goal record in a single season and that could be achieved barring injury or the Kano Pillars man securing a move abroad.