Akwa United tactician, Abdu Maikaba has rued the inability of his fringe players to step up their game and show they deserve the first-team role after they were beaten 2-0 by Nasarawa United in their last Group D tie in Aba on Friday.
The Promise Keepers coach decided to rest regular players like Olorunleke Ojo, Emmanuel Ariwachukwu, Gabriel Wassa, Ubong Essien, Aniekeme Asuquo, Michael Ibe, Ubong Friday and Ezekiel Bassey having already qualified for the quarter-final by the strength of their two victories in their first two games but it backfired.
Nojeem Olukokun scored the first goal in the injury time of the first half after a lapse in concentration from the Akwa United defenders before Isah Ndala netted the second in the second half to confine the defending champions of the Federation Cup to their first defeat in the competition this term.
Speaking at the end of the game, Maikaba reckoned that the result would have been different had he fielded a strong side but opined that he had no regret asking his main team to rest based on the number of games they have played in recent times.
He said he wants them to be refreshed ahead of the quarter-final fixture but that he never bargained for a defeat which meant that they must leave Aba for Kano after they were demoted from the top of the group to second.
“I decided to change the players that have been playing all these while because we have a situation that made that necessary,” Maikaba told Goal.
“We have already qualified for the next round and we saw it as an opportunity to see the rest of the players. We won’t have got any other opportunity to test them. I do not have any regret making such a decision because players are humans too and need rest.
“I agree that the result won’t have been the same had we fielded the same set of players that won the opening two games. We have to accept the result and move on. We are going to prepare the mindset of the players ahead of the quarter-final fixture in Kano on Wednesday.”
Akwa United who are the reigning champions of the Federation Cup will trade tackles with Enugu Rangers at the Sani Abacha Stadium, Kano as they target a third crown in four years.