…Unimpressive Heartland held 1-1 by Warri Wolves
by Kehinde Olukoju
Heartland FC missed a golden chance to move up the ladder of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) table after playing an off-colour draw at the Dan Anyiam Stadium, Owerri in a Matchday 17 fixture.
The Seasiders took the lead in the 14th minute through an ex-Heartland Striker, Efe Yarhere before the Naze Millionaires restored parity in the 44th minute through Kingsley Maduforo.
Heartland head coach, Fidelis Ilechukwu named an unchanged side to the team that defeated Wikki Tourists in Owerri on Wednesday while the caretaker manager of Warri Wolves, Paul Offor made four changes to the team that was held to a goalless draw at home by Jigawa Golden Stars.
Offor brought on veteran goalkeeper, John Lawrence for Bulus Pwadadi while Walter Ighoakpokrire, Lucius Ozioma and Efe Yarhere replaced Tega Ebetomame, Eru Jackson and Emeka Uzor in the starting 11 in that order.
It was Heartland that created the first real chance of the game with purposeful attacking forays in the opening 10 minutes but the Seasiders’ defence led by Innocent Orukpe, Walter Ighoakpokrire, Wisdom Jumbo and Chimezie David did everything to repel their hosts early onslaught.
Despite starting the game impressively, Heartland were still making schoolboy errors in the defence which Uche Ihuarulam and Efe Yarhere almost capitalised on in the 11th and 13th minutes.
The home team were however a goal behind in the 14th minute from another defensive blunder off the interchange of passes between Uche Oguchi and Ayo Adetola which left the goalkeeper, Chijioke Ejiogu badly exposed. Yarhere picked up the gift of a pass and placed the ball beyond the reach of onrushing Ejiogu for the curtain-raiser.
Heartland had two decent chances with which to equalise in the 32nd minute but Kingsley Maduforo’s effort was cleared on the goal line while Pascal Eze blasted away the follow up shot to give Warri Wolves a respite.
The Naze Millionaires however managed to get the equaliser just before the halftime break through Maduforo. Pascal Seka had initially played a pile-driver which Goalkeeper, John Lawrence spilled and Maduforo was alert to bundle home the rebound.
There was nothing much to separate both sides in the second half with few chances created. Warri Wolves were initially contented with defending their goal area while leaving Yarhere and Emeka Uzor with occasional forays into Heartland’s goal area through counter-attacks.
The Seasiders thought they had won the game when Uzor fired past a displaced Ejiogu in the 72nd minute but the referee adjudged that the goalscorer was in an offside position.
The final chance of the game fell to Heartland’s Amah Chibundu who was a late substitute and would have written his name in gold had he converted from six yards in the 95th minute. Chibundu miscued his shot when he had a yawning net at his mercy with Wolves’ goalkeeper, John Lawrence already displaced. But his defender, Olalere Oluwasegun quickly cleared the ball before the referee signalled the end of the game.