This is the most trying period in the history of Rivers United FC.
Technical manager, Stanley Eguma is currently serving a one-match suspension while results on the pitch have been far from positive.
The ‘Pride of Rivers’ have yet to win in their last four games in all competitions and the alarm bells are well and truly ringing.
On Sunday, stars of the Port Harcourt club will attempt to hit positive notes when they file out against Gombe United at the Pantami Stadium, Gombe as the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) enters match day 17.
Draws away from home are usually celebrated in the NPFL but the boys from Port Harcourt know that a point on Sunday may not be enough to assuage the smitten emotions of the teeming faithful.
Head coach of Rivers United, Willy Udube knows this well and acknowledges that while a win in Gombe would be extremely difficult, it is a possibility his charges will be looking to exploit.
“The technical manager (Eguma) was given a one-match suspension but we have been able to steady (the ship) by making the players understand that (such things) can always happen in football.
“It has happened and we have to move on.
“We want to get all three points (against Gombe United) but football is not mathematics.
“I strongly believe that we will go home with something to make our fans happy.
“As I am talking to you now, the spirit is very very high,” Udube told the club’s official website, www.riversunitedfc.com.ng.
Saying the right things before big games is almost a pre-requisite for trainers but beating Gombe United at the Pantami is easier said than done.
There are no star turns at Gombe United as experienced tactician, Manu Garba, the club’s technical supremo is known to prefer graft over the spectacular.
Alhassan Yusuf, Maurice Chigozie, Akeem Balogun, Isaac Giwa, Bilya Yarma, Idris Bakare, Mannir Ubale and Sadiq Shuaibu are not names that easily roll off the tongue but wily gaffer, Garba has integrated these unheralded talent into an almost impregnable and extremely-cohesive unit.
Garba’s assistant, Hassan Abubakar is ultra-confident in his side’s chances of securing maximum points against last season’s NPFL runners up.
“I know we will win on Sunday because we have prepared very well for this game against Rivers United.
“They may not be doing too well this season but they are a good team with very good players.
“We drew our last game away from home against ABS FC so confidence is very high amongst our players,” he said.
The newly-promoted Gombe United will be keen to avoid any slip ups to prevent the drama of a relegation dogfight in the coming days while Rivers United know that defeat is almost non-negotiable.
A compelling and intriguing contest awaits on Sunday.
Game: Gombe United versus Rivers United FC
Competition: Nigeria Professional Football League (match day 17)
Current positions on the log: Gombe United (15th); Rivers United FC (19th)
Date: Sunday, April 2, 2017
Venue: Pantami Stadium, Gombe
Form guide (last five NPFL matches)
Gombe United (DWLDL)
Gombe United 0-1 Lobi Stars (A)
Gombe United 1-1 Shooting Stars (A)
Gombe United 0-2 Kano Pillars (A)
Gombe United 1-0 MFM FC (H)
Gombe United 1-1 ABS FC (A)
Rivers United FC (LLWDL)
Rivers United 0-0 Wikki Tourists (A)
Rivers United 1-0 Enugu Rangers (H)
Rivers United 1-2 MFM FC (A)
Rivers United 0-1 Enyimba (A)
Rivers United 0-0 Plateau United (H)
Previous meetings (head-to-head)
Matches: Nil (0)
Gombe United wins; Nil (0)
Gombe United wins : Nil (0); Rivers United wins: Nil (0)
Goals for: Nil
Goals against: Nil
Points accumulated (in competitive matches): Nil
Efosa, Rotimi call for calm
Two of the most experienced stalwarts of Rivers United FC, Efosa Eguakun and Sunday Rotimi have reached a consensus that everyone involved with the football club must pull in the same direction if the present slide is to be halted.
United have been poor in recent weeks with underwhelming results characterizing their matches in the past month.
The club was kicked out of the CAF Champions League by Sudanese outfit, Al Merreikh despite taking a seemingly commanding 3-0 lead to Omdurman from the first leg in Port Harcourt.
Eguakun says defeat cannot be contemplated and also took the time to appeal to fans of the football club to rally round the players.
“I have been in a similar situation before and understand what is going on.
“I want to appeal to the fans to be patient as football is full of ups and downs.
“When I was playing for Dolphins FC, the club experienced a similar situation but everyone rallied round each other and things turned around for the better.
“It’s is not all about good times. You know your friends when you face bad times so we want the fans to stand by us at this time.
“The players are not happy with the position we find ourselves on the table.
“Against Gombe United on Sunday, we will try to get a point or all three,” Eguakun who made his home debut in Rivers United’s 0-0 draw at home to the NPFL leaders, Plateau United in midweek told the club’s official website, www.riversunitedfc.com.ng.
Rotimi, the vice-captain of the football club, also spoke to us and echoed the sentiments of Eguakun.
“This is not the first time I am passing through something like this in my career so I know we will overcome this period.
“I have spoken to the younger players and we know that the game against Gombe United will be the turning point for us this season,” he said.
Statistics for our last NPFL game against Plateau United
Game: NPFL match day 16, Rivers United versus Plateau United
Date: Wednesday, March 29, 2017.
Venue: Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt.
Jelili Ogunmuyiwa (Centre referee)
Moroof Aromona (Assistant referee one)
Deji Winjobi (Assistant referee two)
Court Samson (Fourth official)
Rivers United FC: Sunday Rotimi, Ifeanyi Nweke, Gabriel Wassa, Emeka Atuloma, Ayobami Asekunowo, Festus Austine, Emeka Ogbugh, Lukman Mohmmed (Bolaji Sakin 64’), Kuemian Guy (Asamoah Godbless 79’), Esosa Igbinoba (Efosa Eguakun 37’) and Nzube Anaezemba.
Substitutes not used: Abiodun Akande, Doumbia Zoumana, Christian Weli and Ojobo Markson.
Plateau United: Dele Ajiboye, Ogene Elijah, Daniel Itodo, Chima Ndukwu, Golbe Elisha, Hamisu Saleh, Reuben Bala (Jimmy Ambrose 85’), Ibeh Johnson, John Odumegwu (Sadeeq Yusuf 73’), Mafeng Pam (Philip Azango 40’) and Joshua Obaje.
Substitutes not used: Ayo Segun, Wash Bitrus, Lengkat Isah and Olowo Emmanuel.
Rivers United: Ayobami Asekunowo (45’)
Plateau United: Elisha Golbe (33’)
Red cards: Nil