GOMBE AS PILLARS’ STEPPING STONE
By Bolade Oladoye
March 26, 2010 01:13AM
It has just got to be a win for Kano Pillars tomorrow when they take on northern rivals Gombe United tomorrow in the week 26 match-up of the Nigeria Premier League. A win because that is the only way they can keep the pressure on Enyimba, who are ahead by just two points, and they can pull away from Kwara United who are tied on points with them.
A win will take them to the top, at least till Enyimba play Sharks on Sunday in Aba.
While it could look easy for Pillars on paper, considering that they have defeated every team that has come to Kano this season, except for the draw with the League's defending champions, Bayelsa United, last December. However, how they will cope without their main firepower remains to be seen. Ahmad Musa, the League's top scorer with 14 goals, has joined the Super Eagles Team B for the African Nations Championships (CHAN) qualifier against Niger in Kano on Sunday, while they will also be without Solomon Okpako, the versatile midfielder who is also with the national team. If they slip up in Kano on Saturday they might regret letting former star, Bello Korfamata, join Heartland of Owerri.
But all considered, it doesn't look like there are going to be any upsets on Saturday. Gombe's away record have been anything but impressive. They have lost 10 out of 12 away matches, with such an abysmal record against Pillars, they stand no chance. But in the first meeting this season, Pillars crashed at Gombe by two-nil. Both sides have clashed thrice in Kano, but the only time Gombe got any result was the 1-1 they got November 2005 at the Sani Abacha Stadium.
Gateway looking at the exit
In other matches for Saturday, all eyes will be on Gateway of Abeokuta, or is it Ilaro? Toyin Ayinla will get his baptism of fire, after the Loveday Omoruyi-led Gateway technical crew was given the boot last week for poor performance.
Ayinla, “a son of the soil” of defunct Abiola Babes fame, has a lot on his hand with getting a team rooted at the bottom, with trap door to division 1 already opened to them, out of relegation trouble. This is not the first time Toyin Ayinla is handling a team at the top flight. He once did so when the Swede's coach of Kwara United went AWOL. As the assistant, he handled the team until he was sacked at the end of the season, despite the good job he did. Then he handled a team that has a tradition of wanting to win, as opposed to the Gateway team that all their years in the top flight has been about fighting relegation.
But it does look as if his first day at work might be “football made easy by weak opposition”, going by the fact that the Ranchers Bees they will be sizing up on Saturday has not won on the road this season, and it doesn't look like that might change at Ilaro tomorrow. All their ten matches on the road were lost, so it is almost a certainty Ayinla will open his stint with a win. But the big question his: will he steer the Abeokuta side out of relegation with 12 matches to go?
In the other match of the day, the defending champion, though not worthy of the name at the moment, take on title chasing Rangers of Enugu at the Samson Siasia Stadium. If anything, it is Rangers that needs the result most. Last Sunday, their title hope was dealt a severe blow when they played to a goalless draw with Lobi Stars in front of their home fans. With 39 points, nine more than Bayelsa, they are in the fourth position tied with Niger Tornadoes on points. So anything short of a win, the Enugu side is out of the top four.