Plateau United saw their stay atop the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) this season brought to an end after Akwa United secured a 0-0 draw in Jos.
On the other hand, it was also the first time Akwa United under Coach Kennedy Boboye would fail to pick maximum points in five games.
After beating Enyimba 4-0 in their last game at this arena, the Peace Boys put up another dominant performance against Akwa but failed to make their dominance reflect on the scoreboard.
A combination of resolute defending by the visitors, brave goalkeeping by Jean Efala and the hosts’ profligacy contributed to the barren scoreline
Going into the game, Plateau were top with 24 points while Akwa were fourth with 22 points. These were two highflying teams whose current forms marked out as title contenders.
In-form Akwa’s Five Match Winning Run
While Plateau had been consistent all season, after a stuttering start to the season, Akwa were enjoying a resurgence under Boboye who replaced John Obuh.
Akwa’s away form had been particularly impressive. Since Boboye mounted the saddle, they had won twice on the road. They were therefore one team expected to give Plateau some tough times at this venue.
Akwa were the most in-form team in the league having won their last five matches before the trip to the Tin City. This run ensured that the team enmeshed in the relegation zone prior to Boboye’s appointment, rose to 4th.
Much of this run was thanks to former NPFL top scorer, Akarandut Orok, who scored in all but one of those five matches.
Another thing that raised the stakes in this game was the fact that both coaches, Plateau’s Abdu Maikaba and Boboye were up against their former teams.
Maikaba had a successful stint at Akwa where he won the Aiteo Cup in 2017, before moving to Plateau as Boboye’s replacement.
Similarly, Boboye, against the odds led Plateau to a league title in 2017, had a stint with Remo Stars in 2018 before his latest appointment.
Interestingly, there were talks of a coaching swap between both clubs when Maikaba shockingly joined Plateau with Boboye rumoured to be heading the other way. The Boboye-to-Akwa speculation was on till the Promise Keepers named a head coach.
Both coaches were involved with the national teams in the last dispensation. While Maikaba was one of Paul Aigbogun’s assistants in the U-20 national team, Boboye assisted Imama Amapakabo in the U-23 national team.
Akwa are experiencing arguably the league’s most remarkable ‘manager bounce’ in recent times with Boboye drastically changing the club’s fortunes. A club that looked set to be more involved with survival battles based on earlier results, were looking down at 15 other clubs before this tie while only three points adrift of the pacesetters.
Conversely, Plateau weren’t experiencing a manager bounce. They were reaping the fruits of Maikaba being on the saddle for a third season. His abilities were never in doubt. He only needed time to put his stamp on the team and that he has done. Not a few believe Plateau are the best passing team in the league. That is the hallmark of Maikaba’s teams.
The teams, no doubt, brimmed with quality on the benches. Add this to the array of stars on display on both ends, all pointed towards a feisty and action-packed encounter and the fans were not disappointed.