Plateau Utd vs MFM FC: Ten things we learnt

By Clement Nwankpa Jr

Ibeh Johnson’s third minute goal was all Plateau United needed to beat MFM in a top-of-the-table clash at Rwang Pam Stadium, Jos. There were ten take-aways from the game which sees Plateau United extend their lead to six points.

Yes, this is a popular saying. Now, Plateau United coach Kennedy Boboye has put together some tough guys out there. The playing conditions at the Rwang Pam Stadium on Sunday evening provided banana peels on Plateau’s way. The heavy rainfall meant it became a battle for the fittest. The ball’s movement on the rough surface was largely impeded so there was no room for finesse. The best players on the evening were those able to raise the ball expertly up and send it as far as possible, what is called ‘police football’ or ‘kick-and-follow’ in local parlance. MFM could not match Boboye’s ‘bulldozers’ in such situations. And no NPFL team can fare better either. So the boys could even muscle through odds provided by natural forces. Boboye has adapted his tactics to suit such terrible situations.

MFM’s little magician Chukwuka Onuwa surprisingly started the game from the bench but keen followers were not shocked he never made it to the pitch. Fidelis Ilechukwu opted to start with players who could be up to the hosts’ physical challenges but playing conditions even got tougher with the rain. It wasn’t a day for the craftsmen. It wasn’t a day for Onuwa’s sleeky runs, footworks, crisp turns and cut-through passes. On what surface was he going to do all that? Who would even let him settle on the ball? Ilechukwu was right to leave him out of this one.

MFM were well aware of the implications of losing this game. And that is what we are faced with now. Plateau United have opened a six-point lead with four matches left. It will take a collapse of monumental proportion to stop them from winning a first ever Nigerian top flight title.

It was a sold-out arena. There was even an overflow. Notably, Plateau United jerseys were in hot demand at the match venue. The hawkers of the jerseys couldn’t even meet the demands. Before kickoff, there was no jersey left while prospective buyers increased. Success has many friends. Even those monitoring the result of Manchester United demolishing West Ham at the same time, were screaming ‘Up United! Up United’…Hahahaha… Whether they referred to Manchester United or Plateau United, United na United…All join…And there was a big government presence, a hitherto unfamiliar sight during Plateau’s matches. The team’s performances have endeared them more to the locals. You could mistakenly think you are in Kano with the ‘Sai Masu Gida’ faithful.

When you are loved by the people, you have no reason to hide inside a car. You could walk any distance you wish. Boboye was driven out of the venue on a tricycle (keke). When the fans spotted him, they ran after the tricycle shouting ‘coachee! coachee!’ He waved back at them savouring the moment’s delight. He is doing a Leicester with this team. He is on the verge of recording an unprecedented accomplishment in the Tin City and the fans idolise him for this.

This was a game the ball spent most of the time up than down. Expectedly, Plateau’s left-back, Daniel Itodo’s throw-ins caused all sorts of havoc in MFM’S box. Not to be outdone, MFM’s left back Jonathan Zikiye ensured all throws won in the hosts’ half were heaved into the box with ferocity whether on the right or left flank. It was a bid to give Plateau some dose of their own medicine but the hosts dealt with Zikiye’s throws more easily than MFM contended with Itodo’s. It wasn’t difficult to see who, between the two was the ‘apprentice.’

It has been established that this was more a game of brawn than finesse. But there were a few moments of brilliance largely provided by Plateau’s forward Anayo Ogbonna. From the third minute when he teed up Ibeh Johnson for the match winner to the 48th minute when his bicycle kick off Itodo’s throw hit the woodwork, his directness provided the incision that helped the league leaders see out this one.

In the absence of Stephen Odey, Austine Ogunye got the nod to lead MFM’s attack. He got a glorious opportunity in the 57th minute to make Odey’s absence less felt, but blew it. The workaholic Waheed Adebayo had done all the difficult work, found his way to the corner line and laid the ball for Ogunye. All Ogunye needed was to tap in with keeper John Gaadi displaced but his effort was off target. That was the miss of the game and could have proved more vital than most of Odey’s 18 all season.

Godwin Obaje’s elder brother, Joshua Obaje had seen it all and done it all in the domestic scene. He was part of the Heartland squad that lost in the CAF Champions League final in 2009. He came in for Peter Eneji in the 52nd minute and well aware of the difficulties the players had stringing passes together, he opted to hit the ball with venom from anywhere he got the prompting. In the 60th minute, his 20-yard effort rattled the palms of substitute keeper, Nasamu Emmanuel and four minutes later, he hit it from 25 yards but this time, it was inches wide.

MFM have been second for the larger part of the season but failure to get something in Jos with results in Calabar and Uyo not going their way, there is the real danger of Akwa United and Enyimba, who both trail MFM by two points with superior goals difference, nicking the Champions League and Confederation Cup tickets on the last day. The Olukoya Boys still have their destiny in their hands but can’t afford any more slip-up.

Source: NPFL.NG

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