Akwa United and city rivals Dakkada FC clash on Wednesday, in a Matchday 30 fixture, which was brought forward by the League Management Company (LMC).
The fixture according to the league organizers was brought forward to promote the integrity of the league, since both teams are enjoy funding from the same source and reside in the same city.
The reverse fixture on Matchday 10 saw Akarandut Orok’s effort secure three points for Akwa United in their away visit to Dakkada, despite deciding the game at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium.
Akwa United began the season’s campaign with little spark, leading to the sacking of head coach, John Obuh. Contrastingly, Dakkada FC, despite their newcomer status to the elite league, have been fearless and produced excellent results in the first few matchdays, including a 2-0 bashing of Rangers International of Enugu away from home.
Akwa United had since rejuvenated following the arrival of Kennedy Boboye, who have taken the team off the relegation zone to 6th place on the log, seven points adrift of leaders Lobi Stars and one less than the visitors (Dakkada FC).
A look at some of the key battles grounds gives insight to what is expected at the 30,000 capacity Godswill Akpabio Stadium when both sides clash.
Disappointing Matchday 19
Both sides go into the fixture on a disappointing note, having failed to secure wins in their respective Matchday 19 fixtures. Dakkada FC were held by Abdu Maikaba’s Plateau United to a barren draw on Saturday before Boboye’s men endured similar fate a day after to Rangers International of Enugu.
Wins in respective games would have taken Dakkada and Akwa United to 4th and 5th spots respectively. Both managers understand how crucial the fixture would be for their quest for a top-three finish at the end of the campaign. A win for Akwa United could lift them to 4th place, while Dakkada have a potential of beating Rivers United to 3rd spot if they win with a margin of two goals.
Akwa United have managed only a win in their past five fixtures, drawing on two occasions, while the visitors have also won similar number of games, but have secured three draws in the process. Akwa United won five of their ten fixtures at home in the first half of the season, while Dakkada FC were better travellers, losing only once in nine outings outside Uyo. Going by their excellent run away from home, Dakkada FC seems advantaged going into the fixture.
Impact of Mid-Season Additions
Akwa United were quite busy in the transfer window, bringing in six, as against Dakkada FC who settled for three. The Promise keepers drafted in like for like replacements in Ukeme Williams for Ifeanyj Ifeanyi, Ifeanyi Eze for Aniekeme Asuquo and Salish Saidu for Mfon Udoh. While Saidu is yet to cement his place in the squad, Ukeme (signed from Wikki Tourists) and Ifeanyi Eze have started the previous three games and made a remarkable impact.
For the visitors, despite losing two key players, Utibe Arit and Ifeagwu Ojukwu to Lobi and Rangers respectively, they have kept faith with bulk of the players they started the season with, at least in the previous three games. Winger Edim Efimi has been the only one of the three signings who made a substitute appearance in the draw at home to Plateau United on Saturday.
Expectedly, it promises to be a tough dwell between both sides in every department in the field. As witnessed in the first leg, Akwa United defence marshalled by Dennis Nya and Samson Gbadebo had to work their socks off to keep the attacking trio of Femi Ajayi, Moses Effiong and Isaac Bassey at bay.
Same contest may be re-enacted on Wednesday, but Coach Boboye has to choose between Nya and Gbadebo, who partners Olisa Nda in defence. Nda has started the previous three fixture, while Dennis and Gbadebo started two and one respectively. The Dakkada trio have scored 13 of the team’s 20 goals in the past 19 match days.
The opposite end will also face similar test, as the duo of Ndifreke Effiong and Akarandut Orok are expected to start for the Promise Keepers. Dakkada FC’s pair of Alalibo Somiari and Harrison Ibukun, have formed a unique pair in the back, but they will have to work hard to keep Effiong and Orok from hitting target, as they have been responsible for 10 of United’s 16 goals in the first half of the season.
The ability of the technical advisers to switch formation and effect impact-driven changes during the course of the game, may also play a key role in Wednesday’s clash.