3 teams, 2 spots. A look at Ghana’s trio as they Race for Abuja 2018
With just two match weeks to wrap up the 2018 Sapholda Hockey League, the race for the ultimate and the nod to represent the country on the continent in the men’s division has become fierce and tough.
Three clubs; the defending league champions and two former champions battle for the ultimate and the qualification spot. A keenly contested league season has seen these clubs put up splendid performances as they vie for the bragging rights in the country and possibly the continent.
Who wins the 2018 Sapholda Hockey League? Who gets the nod to Africa?
The defending league champions have continued from where they stopped last season. 6 wins, a draw and a loss ( their first in twelve months), the revenue controllers sit top of the log with 19 points.
With two matches to play, the champions face a difficult test as they play former champions and fellow contenders, Police on match week 9. A repeat of the first leg scoreline assures them of a place in Africa as well as the league title for the second year running. However, with Police also vying for a place in Africa and a revengeful mindset, GRA will have to put up their best ever performance to down the law enforcers.
Their final game of the season is against Reformers: With their recent displays against Exchequers and Police, the defending champions will have to be weary of them. Nonetheless, with Africa within sight, one should expect a day of goals in that fixture.
With wins in both matches, GRA clinch the title and make another appearance in Africa.
With a 76% penalty corner conversion rate, teams cannot afford to concede a penalty corner against GRA. Another area of concern is the accuracy of long balls into the ‘D’ for deflection- 11 out of their 40 goals scored.
The team easily loses concentration and as a result of this, accumulates cards. The worst disciplined team in the men’s category this season. Also their inability to soak pressure might be an area of worry in their final two games.
Players to watch
Ernest Opoku, Damalie Luke, Salya Nsalbini and Nick Hanson.
The bankers have been by far the best performers in this year’s league. Yet to taste defeat in the current league season, Exchequers lie second on the league log with 18 points from a possible 24 (5 wins and 3 draws). After their impressive 2-1 victory over GRA in the first round, the bankers have failed to continue their sensational form with two draws in a row ( against GRA and Police) and a below average win over Reformers.
Nevertheless, the bankers are the most likely to qualify for Africa from their last two fixtures- an easy one on paper.
They face Legon Knights on match week 9 before rounding up the season with Ark Men.
With nine goals against them in the first round, the bankers will have no case of worry against the Knights. Lying bottom on the log and not very impressive against the ‘big sides’, the Knights will be an easy one for Exchequers.
The story might not be so in their fixture against Ark Men. A hard fought 1-0 win over them back in May 2018, Exchequers will have to work a bit hard especially on their penalty corners to have an easy one this time around.
A win in both games and Exchequers return to Africa.
With 3 goals conceded in 8 matches, Exchequers boast of the best defence in the league and that without any doubt is their strength.
The bankers have the worst penalty conversion rate amongst the top three- 21% as well as the worst scoring ratio- a goal in every 5 chances created. Exchequers are very bad when it comes to penalty corners and also without any recognised striker, find it difficult to score goals.
Players to watch
Ankomah Emmanuel, Akpene Samuel, Osmanu Mohammed and Akaba Elikem.
After winning the 2016 Hockey league, the law enforcers have found it tedious in the league with a 4th place finish last season. However, the acquisition of Johnny Botsio and Tettey Francis from Trustees, the law enforcers are on the verge of another ACCC appearance. 5 wins, 2 draws and a disappointing defeat to GRA places them 3rd on the log with 17 points.
Police face GRA in a fiery contest on match week nine with a sweet fixture against Legon Knights on the final day.
A revenge against GRA will be their best result in two years as it jets them to Nigeria for the 2018 ACCC. Playing two-men advantage for the last 10 minutes in their first round fixture against GRA and still losing means the law enforcers will have to work extra hard to pick a win or hope for an unlikely instance- GRA playing three men down.
On the final day, Police will either be playing for pride or joy (depending on the outcome of their match against GRA). However, a date with Legon knights is no match to a team who is eager to make an appearance in Africa. An easy win for Police in that game but will that be enough to send them to Africa?
The law enforcers have depended on penalty corners for a while now courtesy the likes of veteran Sam Benedict, Alfred Ntiamoah and now- Johnny Botsio. However, a 47% penalty conversion rate this season depicts the law enforcers will need to improve in that area or find another strategy. Their skillful and deadly trio upfront- Johnny Botsio, Francis Tettey and Richard Adjei is another area of strength for them.
With 8 goals conceded in as many games ( concede a goal every game on the average), Police have the worst defence among the top three and this should be a concern to them. Also without a prolific striker, Police find it difficult to score goals from open play.
Players to watch
Johnny Botsio, Abbiw Charles, Alfred Ntiamoah and Sam Benedict.
Chances of qualification;