Games between Akwa United and Rivers United are never straightforward affairs and the latest instalment which comes up on Wednesday, December 18 could prove to be the most exciting yet in recent years.
The last time the two sides met, at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu on June 15, 2019, Akwa were the bookies’ favourites to run away with the win.
The ‘Pride of Rivers’ however had other ideas and totally outclassed the ‘Promise Keepers’ 3-0 with Kehinde Adedipe, Bright Onyedikachi and Ossy Martins netting in the 2019 round of 32 AITEO Cup contest.
This Wednesday, the stakes are almost as high (if not higher) with both sides aiming to amass maximum points for varying reasons.
Akwa in disarray
The news dropped like a bombshell on Monday morning – the Akwa United head coach, Sam John Obuh had resigned.
And this was happening less than 48 hours to their biggest game of the season against their fearsome and in-form next-door neighbours, Rivers United!
This was certainly unusual stuff and more than a few eyebrows were understandably raised.
Club secretary, Omon Bassey promptly reacted to Obuh’s shock resignation on behalf of the Akwa United management.
“Yes, coaches take responsibility when things go awry, yet we can testify to the professionalism and discipline you brought to bear in the running of the club.
“This includes your untiring belief in the God factor in the life of this great organisation. We will miss you.
“Akwa United wish you well in your future endeavours, even as we daily strive to restore the confidence of our numerous fans worldwide,” Omon posited.
A New Man in the saddle – the Boboye factor
The Uyo club acted swiftly in the aftermath of Obuh’s decision to throw in the towel.
Popular ‘Port Harcourt boy’ Kennedy Boboye was appointed to take the reins just hours later.
Boboye knows Rivers United well but in his stint at his last two clubs, Plateau United and Remo Stars, he failed to mastermind a victory over the Port Harcourt club (two draws with Plateau United and two defeats with Remo Stars).
He also takes over an ailing club that has won just once in eight league matches this term.
Seeming mutiny within the ranks of the Uyo club forced the hand of the management to announce via its official media channels on Monday that “in a move to restore sanity, the club management has suspended one player indefinitely, while two are undergoing disciplinary related investigation.”
One of the players believed to be caught in the middle of the storm, top scorer, Ndifreke Effiong was forced to offer a public apology to the Akwa United family for his part in the less than savoury incidents of the last few days.
Blue tide rising
In stark contrast, things couldn’t have been more settled at Rivers United.
The Port Harcourt landlords easily dismantled Katsina United 2-0 on Sunday without breaking a sweat, barely stepping off first gear and with plenty still left in the tank thanks to goals from Stephen Gopey and Ishaq Rafiu.
Rivers United have lost just twice (each by 1-0 margins) in eight league games this season and know that a win on Wednesday could see them move up to second place on the standings.
Akwa United, comprehensively outclassed 0-3 by MFM FC in their last game, sit just two points above the relegation zone and look extremely low on confidence, a striking contrast to their opponents on Wednesday.
Rivers United’s technical manager, Stanley Eguma is training his sights on masterminding a positive display and result on Wednesday.
“It’s a big game, a local derby and they will be expecting us to come (to Uyo) with fireworks and we are going there to get the three points,” Eguma concluded.