Friday, May 17, 2013

LBA eyes rookies of the year

Etebo (left) with April LBA
By Ojeikere Aikhoje

Andrew Abalogu, Austin Amutu, Bright Esieme, Alaba Johnson as well as Ichull Lordson were some of the rookies who made the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) exciting last term and created a frenzy amongst clubs during the transfer window.

It’s a new season and several rookies are already making solid impressions in the colours of their clubs.

In the first part of this report, celebrates the New Kids on the Block, who look good to replace Abalogu as the League Bloggers Awards (LBA) Rookie of the year.

Isah Akor (Heartland)

Akor shot into limelight with a five-star outing in the 2012 Federation Cup that earned him the top scorer’s award at lower division side, Prime FC.

A transfer to top flight campaigners, Heartland, was reward for his outing in the Cup and he has since justified the investment with seven goals to emerge joint-top scorer in the NPFL.

Akor is yet to score his first top flight hat-trick, but scored a brace against Kaduna United.

There is no doubt that he is the best thing to happen to Heartland this term.

Oghenekaro Etebo (Warri Wolves)

The first hat-trick in this term came from an unlikely source, Oghenekaro Etebo, a fresher in the top flight.

Wolves were already under pressure having played successive draws at home.

However, Etebo eventually made his way to stardom with a hat-trick against newly promoted, El-Kanemi Warriors.

The former Lord Honour FC youngster has increased his tally to five.

His outstanding performance in April earned him the LBA Player of the Month Award.

Uche Ihuarulam (Bayelsa United)

Ihuarulam has seized the opportunity at Bayelsa United to hit limelight in his first season in the topflight.

Nembe City benefited from Ihuarulam’s goals to gain promotion last term. In fact, he was the club’s top scorer last term.

A brace on a road trip at El-Kanemi and a goal against Wikki has made him one of the top scorers.

Ihuarulam is blessed with shots and remains deadly in the box.

Happy Okuoka (Heartland)

Okuoka has only continued from where he stopped during the Super Four in Kano.

It’s difficult to believe that he’s fresh from non-league football.

However, the young lad has since adapted to the rigours of top flight football and is a regular at the Naze Millionaires.

Japhet Opubo (Nembe City)

Opubo seized the occasion on Matchday One at Heartland to announce his arrival at the big stage.

On a day bookmakers had tipped Heartland to run rings round the rookies, Opubo rose to the occasion with his colleagues to steal a famous 2-1 victory.

Interestingly, the goalkeeper has left the experienced duo of Kola Ige and Segun Howzat out of the first team.

Ajibola Otegbeye (ABS)

Plucked from Nigeria’s fourth division, Ajibola Otegbeye, has maximized the opportunity offered from ABS to excel.

The youngster scored on his debut at El-Kanemi and has continued to impress in subsequent matches against Sunshine Stars and Sharks.

He is comfortable as a striker and winger.

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