Plateau United’s 1-1 draw away to multiple champions Enyimba International in Aba has underscored the resolve of the Jos based side to finish this season in the Nigeria Professional Football League NPFL with a bang.
Snatching a point at a hostile ground like the Enyimba International stadium is no mean feat, considering the seemingly invincibility of the Aba Elephants as Enyimba are also known, over the years, on their patch.
Another routine win looked on the card March 12 when striker Victor Mbaoma put the People’s Elephant in the lead – running onto Austin Oladapo’s lobbed pass to send an audacious chip over Suraj Ayeleso in the 28th minute.
Plateau’s winger Austin Opara thundered in the equaliser deep in the second half to level matters.
Enyimba piled on a wave of pressure on their opponents, in search of the winning goal, however, Plateau’s defence, marshalled by the irrepressible central defender Andrew Ikefe, kept its compact shape to see off the game.
Ikefe describes the the tactical input by new manager Fidelis Ilechukwu as a masterstroke that unsettled their opponents:
“The tactical approach to the Enyimba game was to try and keep our cool because when we saw the Enyimba lineup, they came with a four man attack.
“So the coach (Ilechukwu) told us to keep possession of the ball because if we happened to lose possession we will find it difficult to play the game.
“But when we keep the ball they will be the one to look for it and that alone we can scatter their plans and get the maximum three points, though we tried to get the three points but we are still okay with the one point because Enyimba aren’t an easy side to play against.”
Going by the newfound form of Plateau United, they appear like the team instilling fear into opponents before kickoff.
The new form coincides with the arrival of the former Heartland and MFM gaffer, Fidelis Ilechukwu.
“Coach Ilechukwu has brought competition in the team,” Ikefe pointed out.
“Everybody wants to play and you being given a chance, you wouldn’t want to take it for granted.
“Like if you followed our last game against Enyimba, Buhari was not there likewise Itodo and those that covered for them did very well.
“Talking about his tactics, we always play as a group by being compact which is one thing that helps a lot when you are playing because when you are far from from each other, talking about being scattered, you find it difficult to play.”
Ilechukwu’s tactical prowess may have been noticed by a section of Enyimba fans who kept chanting his name after the game, urging the Imo State born gaffer to switch to the two time CAF Champions League kings.
Ilechukwu seems to be on cloud nine following his team’s one all draw with Enyimba, which solidifies their 2nd position in the NPFL table
Conversely his counterpart Finidi’s time at the Elephants appears to be under huge scrutiny as Enyimba sit 9th in the standings with 25 points from 18 games played – a stat not usually associated with the Aba Warlords at this stage of the nation’s top-flight.
Up next for Plateau United is a home tie in Jos against 7th placed Sunshine Stars of Akure while Enyimba travel to Bauchi to confront Wikki Tourists.
#NPFL22 FT SCORES MD 18
Kwara Utd 2-1 Heartland
Sunshine Stars 2-1 Dakkada
Katsina Utd 1-0 Wikki
Lobi 1-2 Abia Warriors
Akwa Utd 0-3 Rangers
Gombe Utd 0-0 Rivers Utd
Nasarawa Utd 1-1 MFM
3SC 1-0 Kano Pillars
Enyimba 1-1 Plateau Utd
Tornadoes 1-0 Remo Stars