Maintain the gap, Kerr asks of his players as KPL resumes

By alex wafula
Sep 08, 2017
  • Gor Mahia defender Karim Nizigiyimana training alongside Timothy Otieno. He pulled out of training due to a recurring hamstring strain. (Photo by Alex Wafula)

With a game in hand, Gor Mahia already have a healthy six point gap between them and second placed Sofapaka.

As the Kenyan Premier League returns after the international break, coach Dylan Kerr has urged his players to ensure the gap remains the same as they continue the charge for the title which is in Tusker FC's hands.

K’Ogalo will be playing Nzoia Sugar at the Moi Stadium in Kisumu on Sunday in a match Kerr expects to be tough. He hopes the international break will not slow down the momentum and the players will deliver.

“We can’t be comfortable at this point. We have to keep the gap and to do so, we have to win. There is a long run of games and to keep us lower on pressure, we got to ensure we have a comfortable distance between us and the chasing teams,” Kerr told Sports News Arena after his side’s Thursday evening training session.

Kerr dropped points for the first time since joining Gor Mahia in June when his side drew 1-1 with AFC Leopards in the Mashemeji Derby before the international break.

But he now wants his players to up their momentum and get back to winning ways, urging them to replicate their form on the training ground to match days.

“Well, they tell me that they play on a lower level on match days because of fear of making mistakes because of the fans. I understand them because I have played before huge crowds myself. But they should go out there and take a risk. Play with energy and enthusiasm,” the tactician said.

He expects a tough duel from Nzoia, a side Gor narrowly beat 1-0 in the first leg. The coach knows of the energy of Nzoia with their speedy counter attacking football but says he is adequately prepared for it.

“Every match is tough for us and when teams come up against us, they want to prove themselves. We don’t expect it easy,” Kerr opined.

Missing two key players

For the Nzoia game, Kerr might be missing the services of midfielder Ernest Wendo and defender Karim Nizigiyimana.

Wendo came back to training from the Harambee Stars trip to Morocco with a bout of Malaria while Nizigiyimana suffered a hamstring strain against AFC Leopards. Both will be subjected to late fitness tests.

Nzoia have blown hot and cold over the past five matches, winning twice, losing the same number and drawing once.

But in their maiden top-flight campaign, the boys from Bungoma have picked up massive results including the opening day capitulation of holders Tusker FC and more recently, home and away victories against Ulinzi Stars.

Boniface Omondi will be coming up against his former employers for the first time. The pint-sized winger joined Gor from Nzoia in June and he has cautioned his new teammates not to expect an easy time from his former friends.

As Gor battle Nzoia in Kisumu, second placed Sofapaka will be at home to Chemelil Sugar. The match will be played at Narok’s Afraha Stadium.

Batoto ba Mungu have not lost in their last five matches, winning four and drawing once. It is that rich vein of form that the 2009 KPL champions want to ride on against Chemelil.

John Baraza, the Sofapaka assistant coach knows it will not be business as usual with Chemelil seeking their second win in five matches.

“Chemelil is a very good team. They are tactically good and their defense is very tough. We have to ensure we are in top shape,” Baraza said looking forward to the fixture.

Sofapaka have a slight edge

The first leg meeting between the two sides ended in a 1-0 victory for Sofapaka. Overall over the last 17 meetings, Sofapaka have a slight edge in head to head record, having won six of those meetings, losing four while the remaining seven ended in draws.

Abdallah Juma, the Chemelil head coach expects a tough outing, but is keen to collect maximum points with their target being a top eight finish. They are currently 10th on the log.

Willis Ouma and Meshack Karani, now turning out for Sofapaka will be coming up against their former employers. The duo ditched the sugar belt club for the city side in the June transfer window.

At the same time, Ulinzi Stars, fresh from retaining the East Africa Military Games title in Bujumbura Burundi, will be in MUhoroni.

The soldiers arrived in the country on Wednesday night and only had one day to train before travelling to Nyanza for their weekend tie.

“It is very tough especially on the players. We had three very tough games in Burundi then double up that with the travel, then we have a hard game ahead of us, But we will do our best to see to it that we win,” Benjamin Nyangweso, the Ulinzi Stars head coach said.

With two matches at hand, Ulinzi are sixth with 32 points and will look to keep alive their small title hopes with three points in Muhoroni. The first leg tie in Nakuru ended 2-1 in favor of the soldiers.

Relegation battle

Meanwhile, the fight at the bottom of the log will be as intense as the one at the top.

The Ruaraka complex will host an intense battle pitting two giants fighting relegation - Western Stima and Mathare United. They are 15th and 16th on the log with only one point separating them.

The two sides have been struggling this season. 

Francis Kimanzi’s Mathare have not lost in the last five games, winning two and drawing thrice and it is that boost of confidence.

Henry Omino’s Western Stima has struggled, losing three of their last five matches. They picked up a slim 1-0 win away to Muhoroni Youth though and Omino notes it will be their confidence boost traveling to Nairobi.

KPL Weekend fixtures (All games kick off 3 p.m. unless stated)

Saturday: Bandari v Kariobangi Sharks (Mbaraki), Kakamega Homeboyz v Thika United (Mumias), Muhoroni Youth v Ulinzi Stars (Muhoroni), Nakumatt v Posta Rangers (2 p.m.), Mathare United v Western Stima (Ruaraka Complex, 4 p.m.), Gor Mahia v Nzoia Sugar (Moi Stadium, Kisumu).

Sunday: Sony Sugar v Tusker FC (Awendo), Zoo Kericho v AFC Leopards (Kericho), Sofapaka v Chemelil Sugar (Narok).