NAIROBI, March 3 – Gor Mahia’s hunt for the first win of the season continues after the defending champions were held to a goalless draw away to Ulinzi Stars in a SportPesa Premier League staged at Nakuru’s Afraha Stadium on Thursday.
The match acted as a perfect training for K’Ogalo ahead of Sunday’s Mashemeji Derby first-leg, where they host bitter rivals AFC leopards at the Safaricom Kasarani Stadium.
The stalemate meant Gor, who missed the services of injured left-back Abuoba Sibomana and midfield kingpin Khalid Aucho who fell ill, have failed to register a win in six matches in all competitions, with the latest seeing them knocked out of the CAF Champions League in the preliminary round.
K’Ogalo, are placed11th on three points, four adrift of Leopards who jointly top the standing alongside Mathare United on seven points apiece.
Head coach Frank Nuttall, who relegated regulars Karim Nizigiyimana, Ronald Omino and George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo to the bench, saw his charges take control of the opening half but there was nothing fruitful that came out of it as the Soldiers managed to contain them.
As early as the fourth minute, Gor were knocking on Ulinzi’s door with Godfrey Walusimbi laying off to Enock Agwanda, who in turn flashed wide from close range.
Cliff Kasuti caused some scare in K’Ogalo’s defence in the eighth minute when he dribbled past Bernard Odhiambo to cross in for Oscar Wamalwa but Musa Mohammed recovered swiftly to clear the danger.
It was Francis Kahata’s turn to waste the opportunity after the midfielder picked Walusimbi’s neat cut in from the flanks, only for him to fire over, before Nuttall was forced to make his first substitution, introducing Nizigiyimana for injured Odhiambo.
Gor’s first shot on target came at the half hour mark when Kahata forced Ulinzi keeper James Saruni to fully stretch and punch away his low drive.
Ulinzi’s attempt to head into the interval on the lead was thwarted by Gor custodian Jerim Onyango, who rescued Mark Makwata’s set-piece from the edge of the box.
Ulinzi dominated the early proceedings of the second half, with Makwata and John Nairuka partnering well to find Kasuti in space but Onyango did well to act as a sweeper and snatch the attempt.
On the other end, Omar Mbongi denied Agwanda off the line after the latter had rounded Saruni in the 60th minute.
Gor mounted pressure in search for the tie breaker through ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo, who came on for Agwanda but lady luck was not on his side as there was no one in the box to tap home his inviting cross.
The draw left Nuttall under pressure as he is yet to replicate last season’s outstanding performance where the 15-time national champions defended the league unbeaten.