When Enyimba conceded with virtually the last kick of the game in their 1-1 draw with Akwa United on Wednesday, it was hardly surprising to thousands of viewers that saw the televised game on the NPFL TV App as it was the least United deserved in the game.
Philip David’s 94th minute strike meant that the 2019 league champions dropped points at home for the first time in the 2020/2021 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) season, but the result really flattered the highly rated hosts.
The game came just three days after Enyimba had to dig deep to secure their place in the group stage of the CAF Confederation Cup after a pulsating penalty shootout win over Rivers United in Port Harcourt.
Head coach Fatai Osho made just three changes to the side that squeezed out Sunday’s win and the result of that was one of Enyimba’s worst displays of the season, by their lofty standards as Akwa United should really have taken them to the sword in the first half.
While Enyimba players, out of the quality they possess became markedly better in the second half, during which they scored a brilliant team goal, it was obvious in the end that they had terribly ran out of gas and a share of the spoils is basically not more than they deserved.
In a chat to www.aclsports.com after the game, Osho quite noticed that something was off with his players but couldn’t quite pin-point what it was.
“”I have to look more into that maybe it was fatigue or something else but one this is clear; they didn’t play to their potentials. They looked sluggish, if the Rivers match took too much away from them or is it the attitude, we have to look into that,” said Osho.
No Bro, it was not the attitude. Your players were knackered, completely exhausted and almost empty by the time the game was over. In fact, it took their outstanding attitude to create one of the best team goals we have witnessed this season in the second half but in the end, you cannot cheat nature.
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Enyimba are one of the best, if not the best in Nigeria in terms of proper scouting for their playing personnel. Hence, the club have up to three good players in each position. Three because the risk for players injuries and fatigue is higher in Nigeria and Africa due to the transportation congestion among other factors.
Now, if a team have three good players capable of walking into any team in the division, then the coaches have to ensure that the squad is fully utilised to bring the best out of the players always and to avoid the kind of situation they found themselves on Wednesday.
It is understandable that consistency is required for players as well but the ultimate job of the manager is to know how to balance the task of giving players consistency and keeping them fresh.
The idea in which players play until they are injured before calling on other players in the same position will always have adverse effect on the team as the new players might have gone way short of match sharpness or even loss of confidence in some cases.
After a 2 legged gruelling encounter with Rivers Utd the players though tired gave their all against Akwa United and we all watched with our different opinions on what we expected from them. While we enjoyed the game they endured the pain. pic.twitter.com/3G42toaYwh— CHUQUDI (@TitanChinakwe) February 25, 2021
Inside sources revealed that right back Frank Kappe, signed from Katsina United has opted for a loan back to Katsina after he has been completely ostracised from the team. His former Katsina teammate Martins Usule and defender Somiari Alalibo are also some of the players not to have played up to 30 minutes of league football this term.
The next two months are going to be very crucial for Enyimba as they face one of the busiest schedule ever in the club’s history. The People’s Elephant have two outstanding games already and by the time they face a gruelling schedule that includes six CAF Confederation Cup group stage games in seven weeks, Osho would need more than the small group of seventeen players he has used in the last seven games.
The controversy that trailed the abrupt end of last season also means that the League Management Company (LMC) will be under pressure not to give Enyimba any unnecessary breathing space in match scheduling, meaning that the players will bear the brunt as they travel over land and sea both at day and night.
One thing is definite: Osho has moulded his side to a very brilliant ball-playing proportion which would take the strongest of willed oppositions to stop but the only key to guard against an implosion is to trust the squad players more which keeps squad happiness and chemistry.
Enyimba’s hectic schedule begins this weekend as they start a run of five matches in fourteen days, the first two away to Jigawa Golden Stars in Kaduna and Warri Wolves in Ozoro, a journey which is about twenty hours apart. This is the time for Osho to earn his pay. ALOHA!