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NPFL: TOP 3 SEEK CONSOLIDATION ON MATCH DAY 23

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BY MUYIWA AKINTUNDE 

Plateau United travel 130 kilometers to Bauchi hoping to preserve their leadership position while Rivers United and Lobi Stars – both one point behind – will hunt for points at home.

There is already a gulf between the top three and the rest of the field with Plateau  United as well as Rivers United and Lobi Stars seven and six points better than Akwa United and Sunshine Stars, in fourth and fifth.

Wikki Tourists v Plateau United

Two seasons ago, this fixture ended in favour of the hosts who won 1-0. 

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November 17 when Plateau United hosted this evening’s opponents, it ended 2-1, advantage the home side.

Twelfth placed Wikki walloped Lobi Stars 4-0 and pipped Nasarawa United by a lone goal in their last two home games, while Plateau played goalless with Lobi Stars and Dakkada FC in their recent trips.

Rivers United v FC Ifeanyi Ubah

Current runners-up Rivers United welcome ninth placed FC Ifeanyi Ubah to Yakubu Gowon Stadium in Port Harcourt with a mission to repay the Nnewi-based side in their own coins.

The reverse fixture four months ago had the Anambra Warriors scoring the only goal of the match.

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In four previous visits to Port Harcourt, FC Ifeanyi Ubah had managed two draws losing the others.

Rivers United returned from their last match victorious in Okigwe against Heartland to preserve their second spot. They had beaten their last two guests, Kano Pillars 2-1 and Kwara United 1-0.

FC Ifeanyi Ubah, on their part, lost their last two away games to bottom placed Adamawa United 1-2 and Sunshine Stars 0-2.

Lobi Stars v Kano Pillars

For Lobi Stars, the focus is on achieving a season’s double over their visitors, who suffered a lone goal setback at Sani Abacha Stadium, Kano last November 17.

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That result was payback for the Ortom Boys who were beaten by the same scoreline in Makurdi five months earlier at the closing stages of last season.

Like Rivers United, Lobi Stars also triumphed in their trip last Sunday by pipping Kwara United 1-0 in Ilorin.

At home however, it has been only one victory in their last three outings – 2-1 over Wikki Tourists in between goalless (versus Plateau United) and 1-1 against Rangers. 

Last Sunday, Pillars defeated Dakkada FC 2-0 in Kano to make up for three away losses on the bounce.

Sunshine Stars v Abia Warriors

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While Akwa United in fourth spot will rest today as their opponents Enyimba engage in continental assignment in Guinea, the team next on the log Sunshine Stars receive Abia Warriors in Akure.

June 2, 2017 was the last time the Stars played host to the Warriors, and the home team picked maximum points via the only goal.

Sunshine Stars were dimmed 0-3 at Warri Township Stadium by Warri Wolves last Sunday and played goalless with Rangers in their last home game after beating FC Ifeanyi Ubah 2-0 two Matchdays earlier.

Abia Warriors meanwhile lost their last six away matches.

MFM v Rangers

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Both teams only two points above the bottom four, although the Flying Antelopes have two games in hand.

Inconsistency at home has been the undoing of the Olukoya Boys this season, their last outing at Agege Township Stadium ending barren against struggling Heartland.

That was after they fought back from a goal down to beat Kano Pillars 3-1 and make up for their lone goal setback against Enyimba.

MFM appear to have Rangers’ number though going by their lone goal victory in the first leg in Enugu last November.

Rangers, 2-0 victors over Adamawa  United last Sunday in Enugu, recently lost 1-2 away to Nasarawa United and played goalless with Sunshine Stars in Akure. 

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Rangers had also been defeated in their two visits to MFM in the top flight.

Bottom Four

In a relegation faceoff, Jigawa Golden Stars host Kwara United; the latter just two points and a step ahead.

Jigawa are themselves three points and a spot better than Adamawa United, who occupy the last place on the table.

Nasarawa United, who have visiting Katsina United to contend with, complete the bottom four.

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Matchday 23 fixtures:

  • Wikki Tourists v Plateau United
  • Jigawa Golden Stars v Kwara United
  • Lobi Stars v Kano Pillars
  • Dakkada FC v Heartland
  • Rivers United v FC Ifeanyi Ubah
  • MFM v Rangers
  • Adamawa United v Warri Wolves
  • Sunshine Stars v Abia Warriors
  • Nasarawa United v Katsina United
  • Akwa United v Enyimba (rescheduled)

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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