NPFL Matchday 16 Previews: Heartland in search of derby win

The Naze Millionaires are yet to beat the Warriors before in the topflight and tempers are at boiling point for them to halt the sequence

Katsina United-Rivers United

The Chanji Boys were narrowly beaten yet again in Lafia by Nasarawa United on Wednesday after they surrendered their lead and losing 2-1 to the Solid Miners eventually. The Abdullahi Biffo led side must finetune what is responsible for their near misses since the league season started if they are to pick the maximum points yet again before their fans on Sunday.

Katsina United under Baldwin Bazuaye dazed the Pride of Rivers in Port Harcourt to record a 1-1 draw on August 7 last year after earlier beating the same opponents 2-0 in Katsina on April 27, 2017. The team has been fortified better than they were last season and Rivers United will have their hands full at the Muhammadu Dikko Stadium in their desperate bid to avoid another defeat.

Rivers United returned to winning ways during their midweek 2-0 home win over Heartland after enduring three consecutive matches without a win. They will desire another positive result to wipe off their recent free fall in their away matches. They have garnered four points in their away games this season and will need more from their tie with Katsina United if they are to move up the ladder of the league table which currently indicated that there are neither here nor there with their 20 points only suitable for 10th spot after 14 matches.


Heartland-Abia Warriors

Another Oriental derby has come upon us in Owerri with the Naze Millionaires in a fisticuff for the three points with the Warriors on Sunday. It is laughable that Heartland despite being five times winners of the league are still in search of their first win over the Umuahia side which gained promotion into the elite division in 2014.

It is a must win for Heartland based on their precarious position in the league table despite going in the hunt for their Oriental derby victory against Abia Warriors. They have started playing with focus and precision since Ezekiel Onyegbule took charge of the team from Ramson Madu and the adulation on the team by Rivers United coach, Stanley Eguma after their midweek tie in Port Harcourt despite losing 2-0 is an indication that the recovery period has begun under the new coach. They must find a way to end their miserable run against their neighbours on Sunday.

Abia Warriors are seeking their fifth win from seven outings when they trade tackles with Heartland at the Dan Anyiam Stadium. They have beaten their rivals both home and away twice in 2015 and 2016 while their two opening ties in 2014 in their debut season in the topflight ended 1-1 apiece. Based on track record, the Umuahia side are the overwhelming favourites to pick the available points but it will hard to achieve that judging by their hosts 18th spot in the league log.

The Warriors were unable to consolidate on their impressive away draw against Akwa United when they hosted Lobi Stars last Wednesday. They were held to a 1-1 draw after their goalkeeper, Agbor Ekoi’s gaffe and a good result from their trip to Owerri will help elevate them further up the league table from their present eighth spot with 20 points from 15 games.


Wikki Tourists-Kano Pillars

Sai Masu Gida ended their three match winless streak in style with a 4-0 thumping of FC IfeanyiUbah in Kano on Wednesday which has taken them to second in the league table with 24 points from 15 matches. They are up against the Giant Elephants whom they last beat at home in the opening fixture of 2014 season. The Pyramids side under coach Ibrahim Musa are looking like title contenders this season and getting a decent result against Wikki who are playing their home matches in Jos should put their league aspirations in better perspective.

Wikki are in a league position where all points they gather matter and against Kano Pillars at the Jos Road Stadium on Sunday they must secure their fourth consecutive home win over their rivals starting from 2015 if they want to leave the relegation zone for good.  They have relied heavily on their home form and have picked 19 points out of possible 21 but their undoing remains their poor away record. They are still on the lookout for their first away point after seven matches and they fall in the same class as Nasarawa United, MFM and Go Round as the only teams yet to pick an away point. They are 14th in the league table.


Lobi Stars-El Kanemi Warriors

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The Pride of Benue are getting closer to being declared the champions of the first round of the league with the results they have gathered both home and away after 15 matches. It is on record that they have claimed eight points from their away fixtures and they have also been very miserly at dropping points at home. The 19 points they have acquired from maximum 21 at home is among the finest in the elite division this season. They will strengthen their stronghold in the summit of the league log if they beat the Borno Army at the Aper Aku Stadium, Makurdi on Sunday.

Lobi got a respectable draw in Umuahia against Abia Warriors on Wednesday and they will face a more prepared El Kanemi side who rested during the mid week games because their tie with Akwa United was postponed because of the latter’s involvement in the Caf Confederation Cup. The Solomon Ogbeide men still have players like Umar Zango, Kadiri Samad, David Tyavkase, Ayo Saka, Austin Ogunye and so on to call upon while Anthony Okpotu is expected to return to the team preparatory for their next game with Plateau United after serving out his three matches ban at the end of the weekend tie.

El Kanemi Warriors will put their indifferent season behind them when they face Lobi on Sunday and besides denying their hosts the chance to extend their lead in the league table, the Borno Army will be revalitalising their season if they are able to get a favourable result in Makurdi. Their present spot of 19th with 16 points from 14 matches is deemed not good enough for a club that have Imama Amapakabo in charge.