NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 7 – Nakumatt FC will contend the promotion and relegation play-off with either Nairobi Stima or Ushuru FC after losing 2-0 to Vihiga United on Sunday evening at the Ruaraka Complex.
Heading into the final day of the season, there were up to five teams who were in danger of dropping to the play off slot. Vihiga, Nzoia Sugar, Chemelil Sugar, Posta Rangers and Nakumatt were all staring at the possibility of dropping off the top tier.
But, Vihiga did themselves a world of favor beating Nakumatt with Posta Rangers who occupied the play-off slot heading into the final match day playing to a 0-0 draw with Kakamega Homeboyz in Kakamega.
In the other matches, Chemelil Sugar played to a 1-1 draw with Kariobangi Sharks at the Camp Toyoyo as Nzoia Sugar produced a 2-0 win over AFC Leopards in Mumias.
With the result, Nzoia moved to 13th, with 41 points, Chemelil 14th with 39 while Posta Rangers finished with 38 points at 15th, just one above Nakumatt who slumped to the dreaded position 16.
The relegation battle of the weekend though was at the Ruaraka Complex where Vihiga and Nakumatt, separated by three points in the standings faced off. While Nakumatt needed a win at all costs, even a point would have sufficed for Vihiga.
Within the opening quarter hour of the game, not wanting to take anything to chance, Vihiga had already put one foot into survival grabbing a quick 2-0 lead thanks to some schoolboy play from Nakumatt.
Amos Kigadi broke the deadlock in the fourth minute thanks to a well-executed counter from the visitors. Nakumatt winger Timonah Wanyonyi attempted to pass a freekick low from a good scoring range and it instead was intercepted at the wall.
Kigadi was sent through and he raced away, skipping past keeper Philip Odhiambo before slotting into an empty net.
Nothing was going right for Nakumatt. Their passing was awful and they lost ball after ball, the bumpy nature of the Ruaraka pitch not helping matters for them.
They found themselves 2-0 down after 11 minutes, Vihiga hitting the second through Michael Isabwa.
The visitors doubled their tally in text-book route one football. With only three touches of the ball from deep in their half, they were on the second goal.
Skipper Bernard Ochieng struck a freekick from the edge of their own box to the right of the opponent’s box, Kigadi rising to knock down the ball and Isabwa finishing off with a sweeping volley that left keeper Odhiambo dazed.
With danger looming and the possibility of the play-off now more real than ever, Nakumatt started getting into the game and pressing Vihiga in their own half.
In the 25th minute, skipper Kevin Thairu’s shot from distance after being teed up by Joe Waithira but the Nakumatt keeper made a good save. The shot stopper was on top of his game once again on the half hour mark when he leaped well to his left to parry away a Kyata Amani freekick.
Nakumatt kept punching in the Vihiga backline to get a goal back and some adrenaline to get all the points, but they could not get a goal.
Five minutes to the break, they came close once again when Amani’s cross from the right was met by Waithira’s header, but it deflected behind for a corner.
In the second half Nakumatt came in with some bit of increased pressure, the half time pep-talkby their American coach Melis Medo seemingly doing some magic.
They chased from the onset and came close in the 70th minute when impressive John Avire’s shot from the left went inches wide.
But, Vihiga were sitting back and waiting for the opportune time to strike. They almost did that in the 73rd minute when a long ball landed on Kigadi at the edge of the Nakumatt box but his shot was turned behind by Nakumatt keeper Odhiambo.
Minutes later, Chris Masinza broke the offside trap well on the right, squared the ball to Kigadi who was at the edge of the six yard box, but the striker could not hit the ball on target under pressure from Faina Jacobs.
Nakumatt dug deeper in the final minutes of the game, but their finishing was not up to par. They sunk their heads in the ground at the sound of the referee’s final whistle, knowing only too well the play-off is a lottery they need to play with utmost care.