By Promise Etim

In what could be the defining moment of a turbulent season, 2021 Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) winners, Akwa United FC of Uyo, notch their hopes of beating the drop with the 3-1 thumping of eight-time champions, Enyimba of Aba on Monday.

It was the first match for the Uyo-based side determined at the Nest of Champions since the 22nd of October, 2023, when the Promise Keepers were held to a barren draw by visiting Shooting Stars of Ibadan.

Super Eagles return to the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, and continental engagement of Rivers United and Enyimba FC of Aba informed the decision to adopt the Eket Township Stadium as the venue for their home games, of which they have managed five wins in nine attempts.

The recent approval by the league organizers to return the team to their fortress (Nest of Champions) was greeted with mixed reactions, as fans were divided over the possible better outcome of the Matchday 23 dwell with the Elephants, having slipped to a 0-1 loss to Bayelsa United a week earlier in Eket.

With the departure of Uche Collins (Enyimba), Williams Sunday (Rivers United), and Hadi Mohammed (Shooting Stars), the Promise Keepers reinforced their frontline, drafting in Ubong Friday, Efa Efa, Damilare Johnson and Suleiman Sani (Wikki Tourists). Aside from Friday, the three others are relatively unknown domestically. A significant gamble for a team that managed 17 goals in 22 games and desperately needed goals.

An unlikely source, Phillip David scored first, securing an opener for the Promise Keepers on seven minutes. It was his third goal against the current league champions in five fixtures. Enyimba fans are yet to come to terms with the 94th-minute equalizer David handed Akwa United in Aba in the first fixture of the title-winning campaign.

Sani, who made his NPFL debut a fortnight ago during Akwa United’s defeat away to Rangers of Enugu on Matchday 20, finished off a swift team move in the 51st minute to double the advantage. Enyimba reduced the deficit with a 75th-minute penalty through Chijioke Mbaoma. Sani’s curling strike deep into stoppage time was enough to hand the Promise Keepers their first win in four games.

The result means Akwa United moved a place better, to 17th spot, a point away from safety. The Uyo-based side are away to Shooting Stars of Ibadan on Sunday.

Post-match assessment of the team by the majority of fans who watched Monday’s game suggests the team’s chances of survival have received a massive boost following their return to the Godswill Akpabio Stadium and further hinges on the ability of the technical crew to fix the team’s goalscoring challenges in the next fixtures.

A projected 50 points would be enough to secure a place in the top flight for the Promise Keepers next season. Coach Umar Abdullahi, who has spent the past eight years honing his managerial skills with the Uyo-based side, will have to work his socks out to keep the team in the top flight next season.

David NPFL
March 4, 2024

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