NPFL Final Day: All Eyes on Lobi’s Okpotu for Golden Boots

Anthony Okpotu

By
Clement Nwankpa Jr


Unless
Lobi Stars’ Anthony Okpotu reenacts Emem Eduok’s 2014 form against FC
IfeanyiUbah on final day, Mfon Udoh’s record 23 goals in a season is
on the verge of surviving a third season.

In
2014, Emem Eduok, then donning the colours of Dolphins, scored all
six goals as Dolphins beat Nembe City 6-0. That is still a league
record as no other player has scored six times in a Nigeria
Professional Football League (NPFL) game. 

That feat at the time took
Eduok’s tally to 19. Eduok would score Dolphins consolation in a 1-3
loss to Bayelsa United the next match day to grab his 20th.

Incidentally,
that same match day, Mfon Udoh grabbed a brace in Enyimba’s 2-1 away
win over Nembe taking his tally to 20. At 20, both players had
equaled the record at the time held by Jude Aneke. With both tied on
20 goals on match day 36, Udoh pulled away with the last two matches. 

He scored Enyimba’s solitary goal in the 1-1 draw with Dolphins on MD
37 before scoring twice in the 3-1 defeat of Pillars on the final
day. Thus he ended the season on 23 goals, a new NPFL record.

Considering
the form shown by Stephen Odey earlier this season, many thought
Udoh’s record would be eclipsed. By the halfway mark, Odey had 14
goals, nine short of equaling the record while 10 would set a new
record. 

With 19 matches to play in the second stanza, Odey was deemed
capable of setting a new record.
Emem Eduok

But
just like Godwin Obaje, last season, Odey’s potency reduced during
the second stanza. A combination of transfer imbroglios, and national
team invitations didn’t help his focus on the target. He scored just
four more goals bringing his tally to 18.

While
all eyes were on Odey all season, Okpotu stole in. His goal from the
spot last Sunday means he is tied with Odey on 18. With Odey’s move
to FC Zurich, the coast is clear for Okpotu to emerge top scorer with
another strike against FC IfeanyiUbah on final day.

Everything
is pointing towards Udoh’s record surviving this season unless Okpotu
does an Eduok. Can ‘the Panther’ produce six goals against FCIU this
weekend? That will take his tally to 24, a new record.

Interestingly,
Okpotu is not new to scoring many in a game. He has scored three
hat-tricks this season. So it means nine of his 18 goals have come in
just three games. 

With the WAFU Cup fixtures shifted till Monday
making the invited players available for their teams’ final day ties,
FCIU defenders would face a highly ambitious Okpotu. Do they have
antidote to ‘the Panther’s’ venom? Just a goal would ensure Okpotu
ends his most productive season with due recognition.

Perhaps,
Odey needed extra push to reenact his killer first stanza form during
the second stanza. Like last season’s top scorer, Obaje, he took his
foot off the pedal beyond the halfway mark. If he was as potent as he
was in the first stanza, he should have notched 28 goals.

Ironically,
Udoh scored only eight goals in the first stanza of the season in
which he set the record. So with 15 goals, he was more potent in the
second stanza. In fact, his first goal of that season was in the 3-0
defeat of Lobi Stars on match day eight.

Just
as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi bring out the best in each
other, Eduok’s form in 2014 was largely responsible for Udoh setting
the new record. Eduok kept pushing Udoh all the way. Perhaps, Udoh
would have slowed down by match day 35 if he had 18 goals and Eduok
was still on 13. 

Mfon Udoh


But Eduok scored six times on that day taking him to
19, one more than Udoh.

Udoh
scored five in the last three games to end at 23 while Eduok scored
21 times. In fact, with both players tied at 20 goals, Dolphins
engaged Enyimba on match day 37 with both players being on the score
sheet. So going into the final day, both had 21 goals. Udoh’s brace
on the last day gave him the edge.

So
while Eduok kept firing, Udoh kept replying. Should other strikers be
blamed for not pushing Odey harder? Beyond Okpotu, injured Abia
Warriors’ Sunday Adetunji is on 14; Lobi’s Kingsley Eduwo, 13; Godwin
Obaje (FCIU), 12; Alhassan Ibrahim (Akwa), 12; Samuel Mathias
(Elkanemi), 12; Mfon Udoh (Enyimba), 12; Adamu Hassan (Nasarawa), 12;
Chinedu Udechukwu (Katsina), 11.

As
the saying goes, better late than never. Okpotu’s late push may not
be enough to set a new record but could suffice to overtake Odey on
the final day.

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