NAIROBI, Kenya, March 18 – By all accounts, James Nandwa, is a dead man walking at the AFC Leopards’ head coach hot seat if reports of his imminent departure are to be believed. With time running out on his tenure, the midweek Kenyan Premier League clash against inform Sony Sugar could not have come at a worse time.
There has been no respite for the Harambee Stars assistant head coach with Ingwe winless in four league matches thus far, a catastrophe considering they were nominated title contenders ahead of the current campaign.
With Wednesday’s match set to be televised live on SuperSport, Nandwa could well suffer the added indignity of his last rites being laid bare to a Pan African audience.
That is unless Leopards fulfill their enormous potential against a team ran by a man who knows all too well about the pressure of managing one of Kenya’s big clubs when the going is tough.
Sony’s Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno was hounded out of Gor Mahia after leading the club to a second finish in the 2009 KPL and winning the domestic cup after K’Ogalo failed to win in eight and having re-invented himself at the cane cutters, he will definitely not hand Nandwa any gifts.
“This is our time to start winning and go all the way to clinching the league title. I’m sure we will do so since we have a formidable squad,” the beleaguered Nandwa maintained.
The man who led the club to the GOtv Shield and a storming run to finish behind Gor has called for patience as he tries to solve the disappearance of Ingwe from the KPL radar despite boasting of a squad capable of dominating the domestic top flight.
After settling for a barren draw on Sunday against Sofapaka, Leopards are languishing in the relegation zone with three points, seven behind Sony who are yet to concede after winning three and drawing one.
The Stars assistant coach was quoted in a local daily saying he could not explain why his laden side were misfiring, hardly the kind of admission that inspires confidence he is the man to find a solution, just ask EPL giants, Manchester United, faithful about their under fire boss David Moyes seven months into his tenure!
It is unlikely the Ingwe administration led by chairman Allan Kasavuli will accord Nandwa a similar period with wags suggesting they are only waiting to secure a replacement before giving him the boot. He has also failed to win the vocal Ingwe faithful to his side and soon, an open revolt is likely if they lose tomorrow.
The murmurs increased on Sunday when they could not skin ten-man Sofapaka in Machakos despite enjoying most of the territorial play and chances.
Nandwa is likely to retain the attack minded starting line-up that includes Allan Wanga, Mike Khamati, Jacob Keli and Paul Were with captain Martin Imbalambala, right back James Situma, Joseph Shikokoti and Edwin Wafula manning the defence.
With Leopards limping, Wednesday will be a perfect opportunity for Zico to exact revenge against Leopards whom they failed they beat over both legs last season.
While the Den is in turmoil, their arch rivals Gor Mahia have picked up from where they left last season having won three out of three KPL matches so far but face a potential banana skin in plucky Thika United in the last ‘Milk Derby’ before the league champions severe ties with Brookside Dairies end month.
For the second league tie in succession, K’Ogalo will miss the services of their skipper and custodian Jerim Onyango, but were handed a boost when he resumed training on Monday after a shoulder injury picked during their match against Mathare United at Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos County three weeks ago.
However Onyango who missed the CAF Champions League first round return leg clash against Esperance where they lost 5-0 and Sunday’s 2-0 win against Western Stima told Capital Sport he will be available this weekend when they travel to Nakuru Top Fry.
“I just resumed training yesterday (Monday) so I need some time to fully recover and that’s why I will not be available for tomorrow’s match pitting Thika. After undergoing medication on my shoulder I’m sure I will be between the post come Saturday.
“The team is well prepared for Thika though I know it will be difficult but our current form will give them morale to keep a clean sheet,” Onyango who hailed his reserve keeper David Juma, for doing duty in the past two matches added.
Coach Bobby Williamson, will look to continue with the good run when they square it out with the Juja based side, having the advantage of playing ‘away’ in Nairobi.
The Scotsman is expected to start inspirational Dan Sserunkuma who has netted in all three matches, Shaban Kenga and youngest Timona Wanyonyi on the flanks with Stars lynchpin Anthony Akumu and Ugandan Geoffrey Kizito manning the midfield.
The back four led by stand-in captain David ‘Calabar’ Owino, left back Godfrey Walusimbi, right back Musa Mohamed and Haron Shakava will hope to keep their solid back line intact.
Thika on the other hand are coming from a 2-1 win over Bandari and are keen on restoring their tag as Gor’s bogey team having lost both league ties last season. John Kamau’s sides famously denied Gor the title on the last day of the 2012 campaign.
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Leopards and Gor are playing catch-up in the KPL having taken part in the CAF Confederation and Champions League competitions where they exited at the first round to SuperSport and Esperance.