November, 7 2023.
Today's only fixture in the 2023/24 Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL); pits two sides with contrasting identities, but shared aspirations.
While Bendel Insurance is ranked amongst the traditional clubs, that were founding members of the Nigerian League in 1972; Doma United FC only got promoted to the NPFL last season; but the goal of both sides is to at least punch one of the four tickets, that would allow them play continental football, in 2024.
The rescheduled match-day 5 encounter, holds today at the Pantami Stadium, in Gombe; a venue that is still making headlines, for the right reasons, after Sunday's North-Eastern derby of a sort, between Premier League new boys, Doma United FC and their more illustrious city rivals, Gombe United FC.
Doma United FC are just in their second campaign in the NPFL; and despite a slow start to their season, they produced one of the biggest wins of the day, by thumping Gombe United 3-0 in a packed Pantami Stadium.
It was literarily the Emmanuel Show; with Emmanuel Ekpenyong netting the opener, before Emmanuel Jesam scored twice to seal the comfortable road win, for the Jewels of the Savannah.
Aside the well-deserved victory, and well-taken goals, another major talking point on the day was the performance of Doma United FC goalkeeper, Kingdom Osayi; who in addition to keeping a clean sheet, provided the assists for both of the goals scored by Emmanuel Jesam - this feat should be confirmed as a record in the NPFL, without further delay.
Back to the rescheduled match, Bendel Insurance are already in Gombe, haven traveled by flight to the North-East within 24 hours of beating Remo Stars of Ikenne 1-0, in Benin City.
That defeat ended the unbeaten run of the Sky Blues from Ikenne-Remo, who were then the league leaders. It was also an opportunity to assert which of the two arch rivals, whose strained relationship started during their days in the Nigeria National League (NNL), takes home the bragging rights. Remarkably, the rivalry was rekindled after they gained promotion in successive seasons.
Only last season, Imade Oserenkoho scored twice as the Benin Arsenal thrashed Remo Stars 3-0 at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, and winning 1-0 this time, thanks to a goal by Ismail Sariki; Insurance tutored by Monday Odigie is no doubt bullish about their chances to take all 3 points; but they will surely face a test of character.
In the aftermath of their 3-0 derby win on Sunday, head coach of Doma United, Akinade Onigbinde told reporters that the focus of the management, coaching crew and players of the team this season, is to pick one of the four tickets, that would qualify them for any of CAF's Inter-club Championships, next year.
"The target we have from our owner Umar Suleiman from the start of the season is to finish second or third on the table and we know we have to work towards it and with the support of our fans, we believe we can achieve our goal"; the former FRSC Stickers of Abuja gaffer said.
Having already lost in the league this season, 0-1 to Gombe United; the odds are no doubt stacked against Bendel Insurance, the nation's current holders of the NFF Federation Cup; www.ckdmedia.ng reports.
Doma United produced one of the best performances of the season to defeat Gombe United on Sunday; and this will surely be in the mindset and head of the players as well as Coaches of Insurance; who knows they must not allow thunder to strike twice, at the same Stadium.
Victory for Doma United takes their points tally to ten (10) and seventh (7th) on the NPFL log, with a game against Enyimba of Aba in hand; while Insurance can climb from 7th to 2nd in the table with a high-margin victory today.