Sunday, June 11, 2017 is a day fans of Rivers United FC will never forget. On that day, the ‘Pride of Rivers’ shaped up to face high-flying FC Ifeanyiubah (FCIU) in an eagerly-anticipated Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) contest at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt.
The visitors came into the game in good spirits and speculations were rife that United would suffer a first home reverse of the campaign in the hands of the ‘Anambra Warriors’.
It was an even and well-fought game for most parts with FCIU more than often on the front foot as they made their intentions clear from the get go with United also giving as good as they got.
It made for compelling football as cores were tied at 1-1 after well-taken penalties were traded at both ends in the second half with Bolaji Sakin and Prince Aggrey putting their respective spot kicks away with aplomb.
Fans of United began to leave the stadium in droves as the fourth official signalled four minutes of additional time.
FCIU looked solid, even at that point, seemingly full value for a share of the spoils……but then…..cue magic!
Efosa Eguakun stepped up to the plate, scoring a stupendous goal, with just seconds remaining, to etch his name into Rivers United folklore, for ever.
“I will not lie; I have never scored such a goal in my entire career,” Eguakun told our official website, www.riversunitedfc.com.ng
“I remember being in a state of confusion moments before the goal was scored.
“But I was encouraged by my captain (Festus Austine) and coach (Stanley Eguma).
“Nzube (Anaezemba) started the move and when I got the final pass from (Ifeanyi) Nweke, the only thought I had was to volley the ball as hard as I could.
“When it hit the back of the net, the feeling was beautiful.
“This goal means a lot to me because I heard so many stories after I signed for this club.
“Many persons said I was too old and could no longer play at this level,” he recalled sadly.
The celebrations by the supporters, after the goal were furious and manic as Eguakun got mobbed by his teammates.
An emotional moment, lapped up by the veteran!
More than a few eyebrows were raised when the attacking midfielder joined the ‘Pride of Rivers’ at the start of the current campaign.
With many questioning the ability of the former Al-Merreikh man to cope with the rigours of Nigeria’s top division, he sent down dozens of humble pie down the throats of his critics by scoring arguably the most dramatic goal in the history of the club.
Predictably, he has been included in the match day squad of Rivers United’s NPFL game against Lobi Stars at the Aper Aku Stadium, Makurdi on Friday.
United have yet to win away from home in all competitions this season but Eguakun believes they can take the monkey off their backs in Makurdi.
“I believe that people are expecting a lot from us in this game and that with their prayers, we can either pick up a draw or win.
“I am also appealing to all my teammates to play with their hearts because if we are united, we can achieve a good result.
“I will give my best whether I start or come off the bench,” he said.
Ovoke admits loss of form
Last season, the man to be feared at Rivers United was Bernard Ovoke!
Blessed with a low centre of gravity, dare-devil dribbling skills, an eye for goal and the instincts and abiliy to change the course of any game on a sixpence, Ovoke wowed even fans of opposition clubs with football artistry at its very best.
Rivers United was severally written off by many bookmakers and branded relegation fodder last term but thanks, mainly to Ovoke’s influence, the ‘Pride of Rivers’ tore the form books to shreds and finished as runners-up in the NPFL behind a powerful Enugu Rangers side that sealed a first title triumph in 32 years!
Ovoke was the name on every lip as he finished as Rivers United’s top scorer.
He began the current season as he finished the last one; scoring his first goal of the season on match day two as United drew 1-1 with Akwa United in Uyo.
Ovoke was again flavour of the month; he could do no wrong as he promptly set a 20-goal target for himself.
Many expected him to attain the feat effortlessly but the wheels were to come off spectacularly.
An inexplicable loss of form followed and the dashing winger has added just one more league goal to his tally five months on.
We sat down with him to pick his brains on his seeming fall from grace to grass even as he vowed to rise like a Phoenix from the ashes of ignominy.
“I agree with the fans because I really haven’t played so well this season as compared how I played last season,” Ovoke told our official website, www.riversunitedfc.com.ng
“I want to apologise to the fans and also to people who love my game.
“I have been working hard in training every day because I want to return to the (level) that made me famous last season.
“It is a good thing that Rivers United can still win, at least, two trophies this season and I will give my all to see us accomplish that.
“Hopefully, I will give a good performance against Lobi Stars on Friday,” he said.
Ovoke had declared earlier in the campaign that he will score 20 goals this season and believes the feat can be still be achieved.
“Of course, I still believe I can score 20 goals this season.
“We (Rivers United) still have 15 matches to play in the league and we are still in (the running for the) Caf Confederation Cup.
“Don’t forget too, that the Federation Cup is yet to commence so I know I can achieve my target.
“I have made some mistakes this season but I have decided to focus on my game and return to my best,” he said.
Ovoke has scored four goals in all competitions for Rivers United this season.