Tusker – Ulinzi preview: The Don sweating over duo’s injury

Head coach Dunstan Nyaudo in a half time pep talk; he will be leading the team against Tusker on Thursday 7th June in the first clash of the second leg

The past few weeks have presented mixed results for head coach Dunstan The Don Nyaudo and after tough clash last time out in the league, where Ulinzi Stars fell to Sofapaka, the coach will be hoping for better tidings against Tusker on Thursday but he carries the team on a cautious footing with key forwards Masita Masuta and Oscar Wamalwa habouring injuries.

The last time Masuta played at Ruaraka Stadium, he scored with a powerful header but this time the team’s medical department is in a race to have him fit enough for the clash after limping off the Tuesday 5th June friendly match against Baba Dogo United with an ankle injury.

Scored twice

Ulinzi Stars won the friendly match at St. Mary’s School 3 – 0 with Masita scoring twice and Geoffrey Kokoyo the other, before the striker was withdrawn as a precautionary measure and on Wednesday he joined Wamalwa for separate light training under the watchful eye of Doctor John Imboywa.

Wamalwa picked a knee injury in the win over Transmillan FC in the SportPesa Shield and has not fully recovered, making him a doubt for the match as well.

The coach will however have a key option in the availability of Mark Bikokwa who replaced Wamalwa and scored against Transmillan in his first game upon return from a military course that locked him out of the first leg.

Bikokwa rating

The coach had good rating for Bikokwa, who also played a role in the third goal as Ulinzi Stars beat Transmillan 3 – 0 in Kitale, and the striker may just bear The Don’s wildcard for the Tusker clash.

”Bikokwa has been very sharp since coming back from his military courses and he showed his quality in the game. He is also very positive and is definitely a player I will use in the second leg,” the coach said after the win over Transmillan.

While Bikokwa seems a good prospect for a start, Geoffrey Kokoyo who also had a great game against Transmillan may have done enough for a start against Tusker. He partnered well with George Omondi and the coach, who has a knack for not tinkering with a winning team, may just give him the nod.

“Koki is a leader and we all saw his qualities in the Transmillan game. Of course Tusker pose a bigger challenge but we saw glimpses of who Koki is and going forward I know I will have a selection headache in defence,” the coach noted.

Geoffrey Kokoyo could be handed a start against Tusker after an impressive show against Transmillan FC on his return to the team

Matano factor

The Don’s opposite number, Robert The Lion Matano, is a man well aware of Ulinzi Stars inside out, having coached the team just over a year ago and this season, led AFC Leopards to beat Ulinzi Stars 2 – 1 at Thika Sub County Stadium.

The past few matches have not produced the best results for The Lion but The Don is well aware of the man and team he will be facing.

“We are facing a man with lots of experience at this stage and remember he is a former Ulinzi Stars coach. I think he is the coach with most league titles among the current crop so he is a man I respect a lot,” Nyaudo said.

Ulinzi triumphed in the two sides’ meeting earlier this season at Afraha Stadium, courtesy of Masita’s header in the 68th minute, turning home Cliff Kasuti’s left footed cross and though the team then was under Ugandan Sam Timbe, The Don knows the Brewers will be out for revenge.

Good team

“When taking on a team like Tusker, past results don’t matter a lot but I know they will want to get at us after the first leg win. It will be tough because they have a good team, and we respect them a lot but we will also be going out to give our A game,” he concluded.

Tusker are coming from a morale boosting 7 – 0 win over Taita Taveta AllStars in the SportPesa Shield, which snapped a three – game losing streak while Ulinzi Stars have lost once in the last seven matches (2 draws, one loss, four wins).

Head to head

In the last five league meetings, Ulinzi Stars have beaten Tusker thrice, the Brewers have won once and one match ended in a draw.

The match will be officiated by Felix Ekai as center referee, with FIFA Assistant Referee Stephen Yiembe slotting in as first assistant then Adam Juma will be the second assistant referee with Collins Opiyo serving as fourth official and James Theuri as the match commissioner.

Ulinzi Stars Cup