By George Akpayen

The last matchday in the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) threw up amazing talking points and even recorded surprises among the fixtures. We look back at major highlights of Matchday 23.


Matchweek 23 ran for four consecutive days and it offered us the chance to see different leaders at the top of the NPFL standings. On Saturday, one of the sides aiming for the title this season, Remo Stars edged past Bayelsa United 1-0 through Adams Olamilekan’s goal and displaced Enyimba. The following day, being Sunday, three clubs took turns to occupy the summit before Lobi Stars finally claimed it until Matchday 24. First, Rangers went top after racing into an early two-goal lead at Niger Tornadoes through Chidiebere Nwobodo and Godwin Obaje while Lobi Stars and Plateau United struggled to breach the defences of Katsina United and Bendel Insurance.

Within the space of 15 minutes, Plateau United scored two second half goals through Alex Enejo and Barnabas Daniel against Bendel Insurance to go top. However, Lobi who needed any kind of win got into the groove in the final 20 minutes. John Victor and Alao Danbani scored a goal each to ensure they defeated Katsina United and claim top spot for keeps until the next matchday.


Obi has been in charge of 16 NPFL matches at Heartland and is yet to guide the club to win. His record currently stands at nine draws and seven defeats. However the three wins they have on the board was achieved during the brief spell Kennedy Boboye who won against Bendel Insurance (1-0), Akwa United (1-0) and Remo Stars (3-1) before he was told to leave by the Imo State government. Heartland since the start of this year are yet to win a game including in their last NPFL fixture against Sunshine Stars, a team now managed by Boboye. Obi’s men played out a 1-1 draw on Sunday with Sunshine Stars at the Awka Stadium, leaving them bottom of the standings and six points off safety. Obi is nevertheless still in charge as Heartland head coach.


It was another outing for Doma United without a win on Monday at their Pantami Stadium home ground where they play a goalless draw with Sporting Lagos. Indeed, times have changed for the Savannah Tigers who have now gone six straight matches without a win (D2 L4) and that poor run of results has seen them slip down to ninth position on the standings. In the early moment of the campaign, Doma United hovered between first and fourth places and even put together a nine-game undefeated run between November 5 and December 9, 2023 (W6 D3). Akinade Onigbinde and his men somehow have been brought down to Earth at the moment.


Suleiman Sani is nimble-footed and brought that to bear in Akwa United’s 3-1 defeat of the champions Enyimba in Monday’s game. Sani, who joined from Wikki Tourists, appears to have sparked life into the survival race of Akwa United since joining the club in the mid-season transfer window. Already he has made four appearances in the NPFL for the Promise Keepers and has scored three goals including two in their 3-1 win over champions Enyimba.


Sani’s super form has also happened at the right time for Akwa United who made a return to their home ground, Godswill Akpabio Stadium, otherwise known as the Nest of Champions in Uyo after spending 127 days at the Eket Stadium which is around 54 kilometres to Uyo. Akwa United struggled for form at the Eket Stadium in their 10 matches (W5 D5 L1) including a 0-1 loss to Bayelsa United, which sparked the call for the Promise Keepers to return to the Nest of Champions. Their first match on return ended with a 3-1 win over title-holders Enyimba on Monday – throwing up the theory that the Promise Keepers were homesick.


For the first time in their NPFL history, Abia Warriors somehow grind out a big win at Kano Pillars. No one saw this coming as the odds before kickoff favoured Kano Pillars who had sewn up six straight wins at home before the meeting while all of Abia Warriors’ previous eight visits have ended in defeats with a massive aggregate scoreline of 18-2. Daniel Ijeh’s late goal secured Warriors their first league win at the Sani Abacha Stadium in Kano and also their first league double over the former champions.

David NPFL
March 6, 2024
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