Battered giants Ingwe plotting strong KPL finish


AFC Leopards SC players celebrate Paul Kiongera's (L) goal against Thika United During their Sportpesa ...
AFC Leopards SC players celebrate Paul Kiongera's (L) goal against Thika United During their Sportpesa Premier League match at the Mumias Sports Complex on July 09, 2016. AFC Leopards SC won 4-0. Photo/Tabitha Otwori/www.sportpicha.com

AFC Leopards Interim Coach, Ezekiel Akwana, will be hoping he can impress his employers when he leads his charges against Ulinzi Stars in a Friday Kenyan Premier League (KPL) clash amid reports the club has received at least 20 applicants for a coaching role at the Den.

Ingwe Team Manager Joseph Milimu told Citizen Digital his charges are seeking a top eight finish, a feat that will mean dislodging at least four teams ahead of them with only five rounds to go before the league draws to an end in November, 19.

“It has been two weeks of intense training looking forward to a strong finish of the league, during the international break. All players have been in camp apart from John Ndirangu and Ian Otieno who are sick, and we hope the focus we have been instilling will pay.

“Of course that was the reason we requested Harambee Stars technical bench to let us have them (Bruno Kiyai and Bernard Mang’oli) in camp because we wanted a 100 per cent concentration,” told Milimu.

Reflecting on their poor run that has seen them drop from early title contenders to only three places above relegation zone, the TM has conceded his side goes into the match as underdogs.

“They have enjoyed quite a good run which has seen them qualify for the GOtv Shield Cup final. This is a big motivation for them compared to us, because we are trying to come out of a difficult period.

“There was that concern most of our players do not understand what it means to put on an Ingwe jersey, but we hope we have prepared the team well mentally at least for the remaining matches of the season,” Milimu underscored.

Interim coach Ezekiel Akwana, who took over from Belgian Ivan Minnaert after his unceremonious sacking, is on record saying his players are lacking the enthusiasm that the cadre of his club demands.

Akwana is not in the plans of the management to lead the club next season, as the search of Minnaert’s successor on permanent basis continues but Milimu opines the tactician is keen to finish in the best position possible.

“That is the work of the management; it is not a disruption in the team in any way. The task of the current technical bench is to ensure we record good results as the season comes to the end so that the incoming coach starts from a good ground.

“Certainly any change is for the good of the team and the coach who will be hired will work together with the current them.”

Apart from custodian Otieno and winger Ndirangu, Leopards will miss injured striker Paul Mungai Kiongera leaving Akwana with the option of Kepha Aswani, Kiyai and Alfred Wekesa in goal hunt mission, according to the TM.

On the other hand, Ulinzi, perched sixth on the log with 37 points, will bank on Harambee Stars duo John Mark Makwatta and goalkeeper cum Captain James Saruni to seal a season double over the visitors.

Makwatta, who has netted 11 league goals so far, scored the decisive goal in their reverse fixture aiding the Nakuru based club to win 2-1.

Elsewhere, Bandari FC will lock horns with league leaders Tusker FC in Mombasa on Saturday, a match coach Paul Nkata has termed as a must win.

“I said I don’t want to put myself in a situation where our close opponents catch up with us before our final match of the league. We therefore want to continue our good away record although we know it won’t be easy in Mombasa.

“We will be playing in a very hot environment and that’s why we have been training under the sun for long hours. We are ready for them,” remarked the former Uganda Cranes player.

The Brewers have a chance to stretch their lead at the summit of the log to seven points with their closest rivals, K’Ogalo’s focus this weekend being their KPL Top 8 tournament final against Muhoroni Youth.

Relegation battle continues for Nairobi City Stars and Sofapaka, stuck at the bottom of the table with the former hosting James Nandwa coached Thika United while Batoto ba Mungu travel to Sony Sugar.

Posta Rangers, whose Head Coach Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno’s target of the season (32) points has been surpassed, will play Homeboyz as Ushuru and Chemelil Sugar complete the six matches scheduled.

 

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