By SAMMY WEJINYA
A majestic performance by Rivers United failed to end in victory as their exciting Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) game against Wikki Tourists on Wednesday ended in a goalless draw.
The contest which was decided at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium, Bauchi was dominated by the visitors for long periods but a combination of shockingly-bad misses and some goalkeeping right out of the top drawer by the Wikki goalkeeper, Emeka Nwabulu meant there was to be no scoring in the rip-roaring contest.
United were without some big names like Festus Austine, Esosa Igbinoba and Nzube Anaezemba as the club’s technical manager, Stanley Eguma opted to ring the changes following the side’s 0-1 reverse in Akure to Sunshine Stars three days earlier.
The changes did not detrimentally affect the side as the Pride of Rivers produced their liveliest away display of the campaign in all competitions.
Their dominance in the first half was so overwhelming that they could have been four goals to the good at the break.
Emeka Ogbugh was the first to display profligacy as he managed to plant a header wide, with the goal gaping from point blank range when it seemed easier to miss from that distance.
Three minutes later, Lukman Mohammed missed yet another glorious opportunity for United when faced with Nwabulu inside the box.
The outrageous sequence of misses continued from the United perspective in the 37th minute when Yusuf Jaiyeola fluffed his lines after he was delightfully set up by Emeka Ogbugh.
On the stroke of half time, the visitors threatened again, this time through the lively Mohammed who shot on target this time but was denied by a save right out of the top drawer by the outstanding Nwabulu.
Wikki’s best chance of the half arrived in the 21st minute through Richard Jonathan whose effort from an acute angle failed to trouble the United goalkeeper, Femi Thomas.
Eguma’s team talk at the break seemed to work wonders on his charges as they eventually had the ball in the Wikki net in the 56th minute through Ogbugh.
The goal was however disallowed to the chagrin of the United players and technical staff who expressed their consternation at the decision.
Ogbugh reacted positively to his disallowed effort and almost had the ball in the back of the net again two minutes but saw his fierce drive pushed away in unconventional fashion by the overworked Nwabulu.
United continued to dominate with Sakin coming close to breaking the deadlock in the 64th minute with a superb strike that flew marginally wide while Mohammed asked yet another attacking question moments later.
Wikki then made a late charge to claim what would have represented a scarcely-deserved win in the dying embers of the contest with Alegbe firing a stunning volley just over in the 85th minute and Ezekiel Thompson having a say a minute later with a powerful drive that went off target by whiskers.
United almost claimed victory with the last kick of the game with substitute, Bernard Ovoke striking the frame of Nwabulu’s right hand post from the edge of the box.
Eguma was unhappy with the point afterwards as he struggled to come to terms with his side’s failure to amass maximum points on the day.
“We could have scored three goals today but we fluffed the many chances that came our way.
“We came here (Bauchi) to win but unfortunately we did not get that result.
“And when we scored through Ogbugh in the second half, the goal was disallowed.
“We cannot judge the referees; they judge us and we have accepted the judgement of the referee,” Eguma told the club’s official website, www.riversunitedfc.com.ng.
United dropped one place on the log to 15th with 11 points from nine matches while Wikki leapt out of the relegation zone, albeit by the skin of their teeth with the same number of points as United who have a superior goals difference.