Matchday 18 of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) saw Lobi Stars return to the top of the table ahead of long-time custodians Remo Stars.
The penultimate matchday of the first half of the 2023/24 season brought intriguing matchups and witnessed a reshuffle at the top, with five of the top six sides failing to secure victories.
Things are not looking promising for teams like Akwa United and Sporting Lagos, as time continues to tick while they attempt to salvage their season. Nine games took place, with the match between Heartland and Kwara United postponed to a later date.
Here is a rundown of how the games went.
Sporting Lagos still winless in South-West derbies
The South-West derby lived up to expectations but was a disappointment for the home side, unable to hold on for the win despite going ahead twice in the game. Jonathan Alukwu got back on the scoresheet, but substitute Godwin Monday was the star of the evening, coming on to score, and eventually earning the Oluyole Warriors a well-deserved point.
In Jos, Plateau United earned another win at home. Coming off a win against Rivers United in a rescheduled fixture, Plateau United went all out for another victory. Adam Yakubu, who secured the winner against the ‘Pride of Rivers', scored the lone goal in the game, handing Plateau United maximum points against the defending champions.
Cathedral blessings for Rangers
Gombe United, a shadow of themselves this season, could not withstand pressure at the Cathedral as they were swept aside by hosts Enugu Rangers. Trusted legs Kenechuku Agu, Godwin Obaje, and captain Chidiebere Nwobodo all found the net, securing a 4-1 victory after Wasiu Alalade initially put the away side in front.
Akure served perhaps the most underwhelming match of the matchday, as Sunshine Stars were left to rue their missed chances. However, Niger Tornadoes left with a hard-fought point, avoiding defeat for the first time in Akure since 2022.
Doma United came to Umuahia determined to get some points. They held their own for a while, but ultimately crumbled, conceding three goals for the first time in 14 games. Abia Warriors won 3-0, maintaining their unbeaten home record this season.
One of the standout wins this game week, especially considering it is rare for Insurance to concede twice in the same match. Bayelsa United came up big, especially without Robert Mizo. The 2-0 win may be the motivation the Prosperity Boys needed to restart their fight against relegation.
Lobi now atop
Lobi Stars missed out on going three points clear of second-placed Remo Stars after they were held at home by visiting Kano Pillars. However, their nearest rivals Remo Stars failed to win in Katsina, which leaves Lobi at the top of the league table.
At the Muhammadu Dikko Stadium, Katsina United were on fire, securing a 2-0 win that displaced Remo off the summit of the log. Junior Okoro got the first goal in the 22nd minute, and Nafiu Ibrahim sealed their victory with a late goal.
Rivers United hosted Akwa United in Port-Harcourt and had to come from behind to claim victory. Wisdom scored for Akwa in the sixth minute. However, a brace from Sadik Abubakar sealed a comeback win for his team and sent Akwa to the lower rungs of the table.