Rivers United will continue their quest to win the 2016 Federation Cup on Wednesday with a potentially difficult round of 32 contest against another Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) club, Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC).
United have been in peerless form in the competition this year hitting eight goals and conceding three in their opening two games of the competition.
It must however be pointed out that those big wins were recorded against lower-tier opposition (Papilo FC and Kaduna United) and 3SC will certainly represent a different proposition at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna.
Coached by well-respected gaffer, Gbenga Ogunbote, 3SC seem to be enjoying a new lease of life with recent results more heart-warming than in the early days of the season.
The trainer expects a ‘special occasion’ but insists his side will progress at the expense of the ‘Pride of Rivers’.
“Whenever a side I coach plays against a side from Rivers State, it is always a special occasion.
“This is because I have coached professional clubs from the State for long stretches in the past.
“However, I am a professional now and I will be trying to help my club, 3SC win (on Wednesday) against Rivers United.
“We will try to avoid making silly mistakes and progress to the next round,” Ogunbote said.
Ogunbote is likely to start goalkeeper, Charles Tambe against United with Promise Ebiaku, Waheed Omololu, James Moses, Olabisi Samuel and Alaba Osawe all favoured to start as well.
Former Ikorodu United man, Ifegwu Ojukwu always seems to have a goal or two in him and the ‘Oluyole Warriors’ will be looking towards the feared attacker to deliver once again on the big stage.
Rivers United struggled in their last game-an NPFL contest against Niger Tornadoes in Port Harcourt which they eventually won 1-0.
Match winner, Bernard Ovoke scored the only goal on Sunday against Tornadoes at the Yakubu Gown Stadium and only a very brave man will bet against the electrifying winger adding to his two goals in the competition on Wednesday.
In Chinonso Okonkwo, Onyekachi Okafor and Guy Kuemian, United have some of the best strikers certain to open up any defence in the country while Christian Weli, Obomate Frederick and Yusuf Jaiyeola provide grit and guile in equal measure in midfield.
Captain, Festus Austin offers leadership and inspiration from the rear with skillful Olalekan Gabriel, Idris Aloma and Markson Ojobo all providing good cover for veteran goal keeper, Sunday Rotimi.
Wednesday’s contest is shaping up to be a classic and technical manager of Rivers United, Stanley Eguma believes 3SC will be worthy opponents.
“It is another big game (for us because) Shooting Stars is another big name in Nigerian football.
“We cannot underestimate their strengths. They may not be in a very good position in the NPFL but the Federation Cup is a different ball game entirely.
“That is the reason why we have to be very well prepared and work above our capacity so that victory and nothing else comes our way.
“It will not be easy playing in (an unfamiliar terrain-Kaduna).
“We have to quickly adapt to the weather conditions up north but I hope we will be ready for it.
“In the Federation Cup, you cannot make a mistake.
“We must overcome this latest hurdle if we are to achieve our ambition of winning the trophy this year,” he said.
Form guide (last five matches)
Rivers United (WLLWD)
Rivers United 0-0 Enyimba (A)
Rivers United 4-1 MFM FC (H)
Rivers United 0-2 FCIU (A)
Rivers United 0-1 Nasarawa United (A)
Rivers United 1-0 Niger Tornadoes (H)
Shooting Stars (WDWWL)
Shooting Stars 1-3 Lobi Stars (A)
Shooting Stars 1-0 Enyimba (H)
Shooting Stars 1-0 MFM FC (A)
Shooting Stars 2-2 FCIU
Shooting Stars 2-1 Nasarawa United