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Rivers United captain urges teammates to stay calm in title race

Rivers United captain, Festus Austin says players of the club must not get carried away as they look to win the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) title at the first time of asking.

United is currently top of the NPFL standings with three matches remaining and the ‘Pride of Rivers’ know they are within striking distance of an improbable title.

Austin however concedes that it will be extremely premature to start singing the victory tunes with three potentially difficult fixtures still to navigate.

“Nobody (at Rivers United) should even start thinking of celebrating because it is too early for that kind of thing.

“If you take a closer look at the (NPFL) table, you will realize that there are four or even five clubs that are capable of winning the title.

“At this stage of the season, calm heads, disciplined individuals and consistent levels of hard work are required,” he said.

United will embark on a banana skin trip to Bauchi to face Wikki Tourists on Sunday, a side that previously spent 63 days at the top of the table, in their next league game, knowing defeat could sound the death knell on their title aspirations.

The Port Harcourt side, in stark contrast, have spent just 18 days cumulatively, as the top dogs of the division.

Statistics aside, Austin anticipates an extremely difficult test against the Tourists especially putting United’s shocking form away from home in perspective, as they have failed to score on their travels in their last nine attempts.

The last time Rivers United avoided defeat away from home was three months ago (June 9) when they drew 0-0 at champions, Enyimba and Austin knows improvements are rapidly required.

“We have not been getting good results on the road in recent matches.

“It is not like we played badly in all those matches but the truth is, football is a game decided by goals and I will not use this medium to make excuses.

“The fans want us to start performing from this Sunday’s game against Wikki and that is what we will try to do against one of the best sides in the league,” he said.

Austin played no part in United’s last game, an impressive come-from-behind win against last season’s runners up, Warri Wolves after he failed a late fitness test.

The centre half who is in the frame for a return against Wikki this weekend revealed he was extremely nervous watching last Saturday’s game against Wolves from the side lines.

He however cut a relieved figure at full time with his side closing out the win and also against the backdrop of title rivals, Enugu Rangers and Wikki Tourists dropping vital points simultaneously.

“I feel excited (at the current situation) which enabled us move to the top of the table.

“I am very happy about this,” he said.

Austin will be even happier if his side can pull the chestnut out of the fire and claim unlikely points at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium, Bauchi on Sunday.

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