The 2018 Nigeria Professional Football League season was supposed to be seen as a fresh start for Enugu Rangers after a disastrous 2017 campaign that failed to see them live up to the highs of their title-winning 2016 season.
However, the Coal City outfit - under the watch of Gbenga Ogunbote - have not been as impressive as many would have expected.
They might presently occupy seventh spot, seven points behind log leaders Lobi Stars and two points off the continental places, but they’ve not churned out enough favourable results that could make them challenge for league honours.
It was a game that they were expected to win, as the Harmony Warriors languish in the relegation zone and dominate comfortably, but they wasted too many chances. The visitors from Ilorin grew in confidence in the second period, and dominated proceedings, but were very unlucky not to the find the back of the net and take a big win away from the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium.
Does this mean the Flying Antelopes will have another bad campaign and should the Enugu faithful lose hope on Gbenga Ogunbote turning their fortunes around?
The former Shooting Stars boss acknowledged that the result was bad and asks fans to be patient.
“This was a great setback for us as we failed to take our chances in the first half.” Ogunbote told media after the game.
On the flip side, it has been a crazy week of football.— Odiko Godwin™ 🇳🇬 (@OdikoGodwin) April 15, 2018
What a week!
“The missed opportunities in the first half came to haunt us in the second," he added. "Surely we have to step up our game and get back the lost points on the road.
“I appeal to our fans for understanding over the missed two points.”
The season might be reaching it’s midpoint, but it’s not enough for Rangers fans to lose hope just yet. Indeed, the seven-time Nigerian top-flight champions are in a better position than they were last season.
Nigeria (@OptaNGR) April 15, 2018
At this stage last year, they were closer to the relegation zone after failing to make any impact in the Caf Champions League and Confederation Cup.
The club was also in a managerial crisis which saw title-winning coach Imama Amapakabo axed in controversial circumstances. All this shocked the atmosphere at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, but things are calmer now.
What’s more is that Ogunbote has a track record of making his mark at any club he finds himself, from taking Sunshine Stars to the semi-finals of the Caf Champions League to saving Sharks and Shooting Stars from relegation.
He also led Enyimba to a third-place finish last term even with the People’s Elephant having mixed results at their makeshift U.J. Eusene Stadium in Calabar.
Sunday’s result against Kwara United might really hurt, but the second half of the 2018 Nigeria Professional Football League season and the mid-season transfer window offers a chance for things to improve.