Covid-19 NPFL Season: How Akwa United Fared

Akwa United began the 2019–20 Nigeria Professional Football League season with the acquisition of former Nigeria Under-20 coach John Obuh and assistant, Duke Udi – a former player of the Promise Keepers during the 2008-09 season.

Obuh, came with a huge reputation, following his last club assignment, which saw him led Kwara United back to the top-flight during the 2017-18 season, after the Afonja Warriors’ one-year stay in the second tier.

The management also bolstered the squad with 15 new signings including:
Goalkeepers; Adewale Adeyinka (Kwara United), Bassey Akpan (Sunshine Stars), Itodo Akor (El-Kanemi Warriors),
Defenders; Ali Chiwendu (Rivers United), Samson Gbadebo (Nasarawa United), Ekemini Ukoebe (Lori FC), Philip David (Go Round)
Midfielders; Samuel Mathias (Lobi Stars), Morice Chukwu (Go Round FC), Dare Ojo (Lobi Stars),
Forwards; Christian Ekong (Delta Force), Akarandut Orok (Al Hidd, Bahrain), Ubong Friday (Lori FC), Michael Ohanu (Kwara United), Chisom Chikatara (El Gouna)

On the opening day of the season on November 3, 2019, Akwa United forced Warri Wolves to a 1-1 draw at the Warri Township stadium with Mfon Udoh rescuing a point for the Promise Keepers at the half-hour mark, after Samuel Amadi – who would join the team a season later – had put the home side ahead on the 7th minute.

Matchday two saw Akwa United forced to a stalemate by visiting Abia Warriors in their first home game of the season.

The Promise Keepers then failed to win the next four games – drawing two against (Katsina 0-0 at home and Nassarawa 1-1 away) and losing two games on the road 3-1 against Enyimba and, 1-0 against Sunshine Stars – ending the whole of November 2019 without a win in six games and scoring a paltry three goals.

Akwa United’s first win of the 2019-29 NPFL season came at home on December 8, 2019 in a matchday seven 4-0 thrashing of Adamawa United, with Ndifreke Effiong scoring a hat-trick within an hour, while Paul Obata netted a goal.

The team suffered a 3-0 loss at MFM on December 13, 2019 in a Matchday Eight fixture and Saturday, December 14, 2019, Coach John Obuh resigned alongside his assistant, Duke Udi, following a poor start to the season.

Two days later, the club’s management appointed Kennedy Boboye – who led Plateau United to their NPFL title during the 2016-17 season – as the new head coach.
The Rivers born tactictian went seven matches unbeaten from matchday nine to 14, including hitting a six-match winning run – a joint longest winning run of the season alongside Enyimba.

Akwa United defeated Rivers 2-1 at home on December 18, 2019, beat Dakkada 1-0 in an away tie, beat Lobi Stars and Jigawa Stars 1-0 at away and home, respectively and recorded stalemate against Plateau United in Jos on January 12, 2020.

The team recorded a back-to-back 2-0 loss against Kwara United and Kano Pillars at home and away, respectively, before bouncing back to a six-game unbeaten run between matchday 17 and 21, in addition to a matchday 30 fixture.

The matches include (3-1 Home win vs Heartland and 1-2 Away win vs Enugu Rangers) and four draws (0-0 Ifeanyi Ubah Away, 0-0 Enugu Rangers Home, 2-2 Dakkada Home and 1-1 Warri Wolves, Home)

Akwa United lost 2-1 at Abia Warriors in a Matchday 22 tie, being their 23rd game of the season on March 1, 2019.

The team drew the next two games against against Katsina United (Matchday 24, 1-1) on March 15 and Nasarawa United (Matchday 25, 0-0) on March 18, all away from home, before the league came to a halt, following a decision taken by the League Management Committee (LMC).

This was done in order to comply with the Nigerian government’s laid-down protocols to stem the spread of COVID-19.

On July 10, 2020, 17 out of the 20 topflight teams voted to finish the season with final placings worked out on a points per game basis with the top three clubs submitted to CAF as the flag bearers for the 2020-21 Inter-Club competitions.

Plateau United with 49 points in 25 games and Enyimba which garnered 36 points in 20 games won the two slots for CAF Champions League as first and second placed teams with 1.96 and, 1.80 points per games (PPG), respectively.

Third-placed Rivers United with 1.80 PPG (45 points in 25 games) won the automatic slot for CAF Confederation Cup, while the additional slot for the CAF Confederation Cup was taken by the 2019 Federation Cup winners, Kano Pillars

There was no declared NPFL champion and no relegation or promotion from the second tier, the Nigeria National League (NNL).

Akwa United ended the season at 8th place with a point per game average of 1.40, after accumulating 35 points in 25 matches.

Ndifreke Effiong finished the season as Akwa United top scorer with 11 goals and also second joint NPFL leading scorer alongside Enyimba’s Ibrahim Mustapha and Ali Mallam of Kano Pillars – one goal shy of the golden boot winner, Israel Abia of Enugu Rangers.

Our goalkeeper and Cameroonian import, Jean Efala kept nine clean sheet – one clean sheet behind Chinedu Anozie of FC Ifeanyi Ubah.

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