Friday, August 10, 2012

NPL's most underrated

Kwara United goalkeeper, Yekeen
There is no doubting it that this season's Nigeria Premier League (NPL) belongs to the like of Sibi Gwar, Tony Okpotu, Philip Asuquo, Gambo Mohammed, Bala Mohammed, Chikeluba Ofoedu, Sanusi Sani, Rabiu Ali and Mutiu Adegoke among others.

But there are a handful of players, who have gone almost unnoticed in their sides' run for the title, continent or survival. These players have been overlooked at some point this season.

With just two rounds of games to round off this season, picks its 11 most overlooked stars from the Nigerian top flight:

Gomo Onduku (Sharks)
This attacking winger has shown his explosive side this season in the colours of the Blue Angels. He has netted eight Premier League goals and a couple in the Cup including solo goals against Niger Tornadoes Feeders and First Bank.

His performance in April earned him the Bloggers Player of the Month. But Onduku, regarded as one of the best wingers this term, has been snubbed by national selectors.

ThankGod Ike (Warri Wolves)
Ike has been rock solid in the heart of Wolves' campaign this term in spite of an inconsistent show by the Warri club. This term, the ex-Heartland centre-back has scored five times including a match-winning goal against title-chasing Enugu Rangers.

He has equally been overlooked while his partner in the heart of Wolves' defence, Azubuike Egwuekwe has been the centre of attraction.

Bassey Ezekiel (Lobi Stars)
This left-back has been one of mainstay in the back four of title-chasing Lobi Stars. He has also filled in comfortably in the heart of defence this term when there is a vacuum. But his season has been blighted by injuries in the title run-in of his club.
Bright Esieme (ABS)
The ex-Abia Warriors' man has settled in seamlessly at ABS and it is no surprise that one of the title contenders, Kano Pillars are willing to sign him on for next season.

Esieme, who can play at right-back and as a central midfielder, will be remembered for his classy displays against Enyimba and Kano Pillars in Ilorin and Kano respectively this term.

Andrew Abalogu (ABS)
His understanding of the game is top-notch. He is quick and will fit in well in a counter-attacking style. This season Abalogu has netted eight league goals and has played as main striker, supporting striker and an attacking winger.

Little wonder, Heartland captain and centre-back, Chinedu Efugh testified to that the ex-Abia Warriors' man is a defender's nightmare.

"He's a handful. Always running at the defence, skilful and reads the game well. He deserves a mention and will be a top player in future," Efugh said of Abalogu.

Kazeem Yekeen (Kwara United)
Chigozie Agbim, Moses Ocheje and Femi Thomas are among highly-regarded Premier League goalkeepers this term but this ex-Under20 keeper has stood out among the less-hyped players in spite of an uneventful season by Kwara United.

Yekeen has had some top drawer performances against Ocean Boys, Dolphins and Gombe United among others.

Kayode Agboola (Rising Stars)
He is a product of the Westerlo Academy in Lagos and Agboola has proven to be a handful for defenders in his first season in the top flight. So far this striker, with a gifted quality of a fox-in-the-box, has scored seven league goals for struggling Rising Stars.

Nnamso Edo (Akwa United)
Edo is an aggressive right-back, who storms forward to join his teammates on the offensive. He is also known for his dead-ball ability from free kicks, corner kicks and penalties.

Edo has a decent return of five goals this term including stunning free kicks against Dolphins and Sunshine Stars.

Michael Okoyoh (Warri Wolves)
Though he has not enjoyed maximum playing time this term at Wolves, Okoyoh has been consistent in his cameo appearances. The playmaker is blessed with the vision to plant passes behind and over defences of opponents. He has scored twice in wins over Enyimba and Ocean Boys.

John Lawrence (Lobi Stars)
Lawrence is one of two goalkeepers to have scored from the spot this season. The other being 3SC's out-of-favour keeper, Dele Ajiboye. But the former Enyimba man has produced heroic moments for Lobi between the sticks in Cup and league games, which is one reason they are in the hunt for a double.

Austin Ekpoma (Gombe United)
This season, he has scored seven league goals from his midfield role in more than 25 appearances. Ekpoma can play in defensive and offensive midfield roles. He is also a dead-ball specialist.

His previous experience at Bendel Insurance, Zamfara United and Niger Tornadoes are beginning to show in his consistent outings for the Savannah Scorpions.

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