– Chinatu John
At the end of the day, it was a goal a piece and a point a piece for both teams but what a game this was. A fiercely contested Derby from start to finish and a good advert of the Nigerian Professional Football League. Fierce tackles, goals, a penalty, a sending off and a couple of handbags – what else would you want of a Derby? Good news though is that in the basis of previous visits to Port Harcourt, this was for us, a good result.
We came into this fixture in high spirits and it didn’t take long before we got into our groove. It took us about five minutes to get our engines cranked up and started and as we got on song, there was no stopping us, at least until the end of the first half. Joseph Osadiaye had returned to the squad but could only make the bench and it was a decent bench with Obioma, Ojo, Leonard, Governor, Anaemena and Achimugwu.
Aigbogun 2.0 named a strong backline of Francis, Isiaka, Nelson and Yinka. Franco and Farouk were their screen, Dimgba, Udeagha and Andrew lined up just behind Chinonso who kept the Rivers United defence line on their toes for the 80 minutes he spent on the pitch. I have always admired sacrificing a striker for a midfielder when away from home, Franco came in for the injured Wasiu. It was early encouraging signs for me.
Our first half was just top notch as everything seemed to click, everything except getting the ball at the back of the net. Dimgba couldn’t connect to an Abalogu cross, Franco tried from a distance, Nonso tried to hit the target too but it was to come with seconds to the end of the first half when Nonso finally got to beat his marker but was bundled down in box, and Dimgba cooly sent Rotimi the wrong way and buried the ball. His second goal in as many games.
The second half was totally different from the first as Rivers United came out with all guns blazing, asking questions with our defence line trying to answer as many as they can. Ex-Elephant, Markson Ojobo became a tormentor-in-chief as he never stopped delivering the crosses with which they finally got the equaliser, a header from Daniel Israel.
Nonso was sent off for dissent 10 minutes to time after being booked in the first half and we had to finish with 10 hard fighter who put their lives on the line for the valuable point. A second point from a ground we’ve failed to pick anything from in the last two seasons and it won’t be wrong to say that this time, the fans who took the section beside the press and player’s stand must have inspired the team to come out unscathed.
We wish Andrew and Wasiu quick recovery. Abia Warriors is next, and oh we would talk about them in a bit.