Akin Olowokere, the caretaker coach of Sunshine Stars of Akure heaped praises on the players after they looked have found their rhythm again to register a 2-1 win over visiting Gombe United in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) match day 25 encounter at the Otunba Dipo Dina International Stadium, Ijebu Ode, on Sunday evening.
With both teams equally matched and Sunshine Stars playing home away from home following the indefinite banishment from their Akure ground, the visitors sought to take advantage of the difficult circumstances of their hosts but Sikiru Alimi cracked them with a surprise strike from a tight angle, latching on Seun Olulayo’s pass, to put Sunshine ahead on the 32nd minute to give hope into the break. A second goal from Ekundayo Ojo looked to have sealed it for Sunshine Stars until Austin Oladapo pulled one back nine minutes from time.
It was indeed a hard earned victory, their first in three fixtures and Olowokere obviously could not help thanking providence for ending their misery. Then he also paid tribute to the determination of the players, saying he was impressed by their effort which he adjudged as a huge improvement over their performance in previous games.
“I am happy with the victory and the performance of the players which is an improvement over previous games. It is not always easy for a team that is down to come up again. This is our first win in several weeks. We even lost at home but with this victory, I can confidently say we have bounced back, ” Olowookere said.
With hints that former Shooting Stars player, Duke Udi is close to landing the job of substantive Manager at the Club, Olowokere waxed more confidence when he declared that it is not possible for Sunshine Stars to be relegated.
“We have only been having poor results and it is not a reflection of the quality and it is also not for lack of commitment from the players who have always put in their best. I am happy now that we have been sent to play in Ijebu Ode, the players are more relaxed and the tension of Akure is not there which explains why despite the pressure mounted by Gombe today, they did not crack. Sunshine Stars will play in the NPFL next season, I assure you”, declared the Coach who stood at the lines all through the encounter.
He found support in goal scorer, Alimi who equally insisted that they have brilliant squad that not been lucky winning matches. Alimi also revealed that the players are challenged to prove themselves as competitive players.
“We had no fears coming into the match, notwithstanding the condition the club has found itself. We have been highly motivated for this and our remaining games. It was really a contested match but we had our plans.
“We as players are challenged to prove ourselves. We know the strength of every player in the team and we know that we are not supposed to be where we are on the table. So, we are determined to take the club to where we are supposed to be”, Alimi told www.npfl.ng after the match.
The visitors had returned for second half action looking the more organised with close knit passes to dominate possession and determined to cancel the lead but Ojo increased the tally on the 54th minute with a blinder from the edge of the box.
Gombe United remained undaunted and their efforts paid off with substitute Oladapo pulling back one in style with a scissors kick inside the 12 yard. It was the second time within 10 minutes that Sunshine Stars defense marked loosely and were caught ball watching. This time, though, Oladapo made the most of it.
All efforts by the visitors to rally out the equaliser proved abortive as goal keeper Henry Ayodele stood firm to produce great saves from Umar Zango and Afolabi Abdulwaheed’s several strikes.
Equally so, efforts by the trio of Alimi, Ebitimi Agogo and Thompson Ezekiel to increase the scoreline for Sunshine Stars ended in many misses.