SHARKS AND DOLPHINS IN GARDEN CITY DERBY
Sharks and Dolphins in Garden City derby
By Ifeanyi Ibeh
March 19, 2010 02:55AM
The Nigerian Premier League enters the 25th round on Saturday with four matches on the cards. The day's star attraction is billed for the Sharks FC Stadium, Port Harcourt, where Sharks and Dolphins will engage each other in a local derby. This is irrespective of the current positions of both sides in the Premier League standings.
Sharks, despite their fearsome name, have – this season – disappointingly crashed down to the bottom of the rung of the 20-team league table. On the other hand, Dolphins are pretty comfortable in a mid-table position, and even though there is little chance of them claiming a third league title come the end of the season, they can pretty much look forward to having another go at the title next season.
Premier League survival is however, uppermost in the minds of Sharks' management, and what better way to go about it than to secure a morale boosting victory over their less popular but, without a doubt, more illustrious city rivals on Saturday.
Sharks are the best supported club side in Port Harcourt, but with two league titles and four FA Cup trophies, as well as numerous Rivers State FA Cup winners medals in their trophy cabinet, Dolphins are the most successful club in the Garden City.
The closest Sharks have come to winning a national title was as far back as 1979 when they lost to Shooting Stars of Ibadan in the final of the FA Cup. But more often than not, they start out as favourites whenever they get to square up against Dolphins. And it looks set to remain that way on Saturday as Sharks gets set to welcome Dolphins to the Sharks FC Stadium, which hasn't played host to the Garden City derby since 2003.
Their last meeting, back in the middle of October at the Liberation Stadium, ended in a one-all draw; and that was the same score line the last time both sides clashed at the Sharks FC Stadium seven years ago. That could just be the case at the end of Saturday's clash, going by the words of Dolphins' manager, Stanley Eguma, who insists his side will not end up losers on Saturday.
“I can't lose to Sharks, and I am not planning to do so on Saturday. So they will be in for a shock on Saturday,” Eguma said.
With fans expected to pack into the match venue, there is a possibility of some of the on-the-pitch tension spilling over into the terraces as fans of both sides will respectively be seeking the downfall of the other.
Eguma however, calls for calm just as he anticipates an entertaining encounter.
“Games between Dolphins and Sharks can never be seen as any other game,” he said.
“They are keenly contested, with so much grit involved, and this one won't be different. I just hope and pray that the fans behave themselves and let the players on the pitch entertain them to good football.”
Saturday will also see Shooting Stars playing hosts to Sunshine Stars of Akure in Ibadan, with the home side keen to reverse the 1-0 defeat they suffered at the hands of Sunshine when both sides met last October.
That will also be the case when Gombe United play hosts to relegation-threatened Gateway FC, who inflicted a 2-1 defeat on them five months ago at Abeokuta.
The last encounter billed for Saturday will see a Niger Tornadoes side that has lost just once in their last five matches, coming up against Bayelsa United, who have notched up three victories in their last five games.