By James Anthony, The Sight News
Sunshine Stars, in a resolute display, held hosts, Rivers United in a classical Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) match day 24 tie at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Portharcourt.
The visitors headed into Sunday’s game, with an impressive record of not conceding in 45 minutes against the Pride of Rivers, though were lucky not to have trailed from inside the opening 18 minutes following a mix up in the area.
Midfield dynamo, Anthony Omaka had to react fastest, to clear Sunshine Stars back line during a scuffle from successive defensive and goalkeeping lose ball in the area.
Moments earlier at the other end, Sikiru Alimi combined well with Franklin Sasere but the latter’s shot from the edge sailed wide, while midfield maestro, Dayo Ojo had a low drive kept out calmly by Emeka Nwabulu minutes before the break.
After a close first half that saw very little real openings, the hosts showed up for the final period with renewed determination to end their five-match winless run against the Akure Landlords.
And 11 minutes into the restart, United carved an opening for Osita Chikere who could not find the space to hit properly from two yards out before Ocheje recovered to stop a goal-bound tame effort.
In the 76 minute, another mix up gifted United a real chance, but Ocheje close out on Musa Newman with the striker not able to capitalise from point blank against his former side.
Ocheje was at it again, 11 minutes from time when his finger tip save combined with the woodwork, stopped Markson Ojo’s curling effort.
In the end, a good tactical display and Ocheje’s composure when faced with dangerous situations, ensured the coach Henry Abiodun tutored visitors, returned to Akure with a share of the spoils and a boost to their survival quest.
With the draw, Sunshine Stars have now amassed 25 points from 23 matches and will next face Nasarawa United at home in a rescheduled week 23 game.
Rivers United’s manager, Stanley Eguma blamed his side’s failure to win on the profligacy of his boys in front of goal, when faced with the media after game.
Eguma stated: “We worked hard today to do what we ought to do but it was unfortunate the ball did not go in. The result is not a true reflection of the game”.
On his part, Sunshine Stars’ coach, Henry Abiodun, appeared satisfied with the outcome of the game and was pleased his game plans was carried out.
“Our game plan was carried out and it worked for us here today, we got a point. We travelled with 23 players but only 15 of them could dress for this game as a result of a mix up we are having with some people and the LMC.
“We are not under pressure but not happy with where we are, that’s why we all have to work hard to get at it. My promise to the fans is that, we will do our best to avoid relegation” Abiodun added.