Real test for Butali against Green Sharks

By ronnie evans
Nov 25, 2021
  • Butali Sugar who effortlessly coasted to the playoffs face their first test against a tricky Green Sharks. (SNA. File Photo)

Butali Sugar Warriors coach Cliff Okello is wary of the threat posed by Green Sharks ahead of their semi-final playoff showdown on Saturday as the Kenya Hockey Union season comes to a close.

Okello’s team is chasing an unprecedented fourth title in a row and made easy pickings of all their opponents in the regular season that saw them top their pool.

However Okello says that these one off matches offers a different preposition. “The playoffs games are very tricky because it is very easy to be knocked out regardless of the fine form your team may be in. We will approach the match like any other of course with caution because they have given us problems in the past,” he explained.

Okello cited a scrappy 1-0 win against Green Sharks in 2015 as a true testament of their resolve during their matches.

“They are a tough team to beat because they have a compact defence and are quick when going forward. We intend to dictate play and use our fast players as we attack because at the end of it all only outscoring them would give us the win,” he added.

Meanwhile, Butali’s midfielder Tony Nyikuri will come up against his former side of close to 10 years and Okello has kept faith in him by starting him in all of their matches. Nyikuri is expected to keep his place.

Richard Ruitha will start in goal while the deadly duo of Frank Wanangwe and Emmanuel Simiyu will lead the attack.

Green Sharks coach Ben Owaga is confident that his side can stage a major upset. “The players have a strong mentality coming into this match. We have been improving our defensive formations in training and using the midfielders to provide extra cover at the back. We do not fear any team and we are ready to push Butali like we did so with Kenya Police,” a confident Owaga said.

Owaga will welcome back dependable Alex Kubasu who missed the last match through a minor injury. First choice goalkeeper Ely Tangaza is set to retain his place in goal. Kenyan internationals Victor Osiche and Chris Wokila are also expected to contain Butali Warriors’ surge.

In the other pairing, Pool B winners and favourites Kenya Police will tackle Strathmore University. Kenya Police coach Ken Kaunda said that his team has been working on set pieces because they are looking to be clinical in that aspect given that it has been their strength all season.

Those set pieces will be centered on towering Moses Cheplaiti and captain Brian Saina who have both impressed in their conversion rate. Kenyan International Calvins Kanu will spearhead their attack.

Meshack Senge, the Strathmore University coach has said that a solid defence will be their key priority in the tie.

“They are known to attack at will so keeping things tight at the back will be our focus. We will also strive to catch them off guard on fast breaks and score early goals,” he said.

Senge’s biggest concern will be his players’ mental strength in the opening quarter given that they have frequently taken time to settle into matches.

Fixtures

Saturday: Dedan Kimathi University v JKUAT (12 p.m.), Park Road Tigers v Kabarak University (2 p.m.) (National League); Kenya Police v Strathmore University (4 p.m.), Butali Sugar v Green Sharks (6 p.m.) - Premier League semi-final playoffs.