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#RoadToFinal: Former champions Saints rediscover their swagger

2018 season is one that anyone associated with the Saints Football Club would give an arm and a leg to never remember as far as Bet9jaSociaLiga is concerned. As the defending champions last year, the Saints Army flattered to deceive as they fell like a pack of cards, with newbies, Dannaz Football Club, putting an end to their two-year dominance and hegemony.

Not only did Saints, under the managerial guidance of club and Bet9aSociaLiga legend, Kunle Ibaru, lose the title, but they were also flat in most of their performances in season three.

Consequently, heading into the 2019 campaign changes were made by the management of the club, with Mayowa Sobande named as the club’s new manager.

So, after the first phase of the season, we can confirm that the club has done excellently well in their quest to reclaim what many believed to be a lost glory.

The Saints Army are on their way up following a brilliant first half of the season under Sobande, who seems to have rejuvenated a legitimate sleeping giant.

Genesis

Led by the firepower of Olayinka Adiro, Sobande’s men began the campaign in a blistering manner, blowing away debutants Alimosho in their season opener at CIS.

It wasn’t the best of welcomes the Herds had expected, but Saints, it was the perfect start to the season – 3-1, it ended in their favor.

Goals were superb, especially from Adiro, who netted a brace, his second of the day, an obvious contender for goal of the season.

Up next for the two-time winners was a clash of the Titans against their conquerors, Dannaz, which turned out to be the only blemish in an otherwise perfect season so far for Saints.

Since the Cedars arrived at the Bet9jaSociaLiga, they have had the better of the Saints Army and things remained the same as Dannaz defeated them for the fourth time, albeit narrowly, 1-0.

Saints needed to bounce back as soon as possible and that was exactly what they did courtesy of a 1-0 victory over their playoff opponents, Raineri.

The Saints Army will drop points once again in their next tie against the Cubs following a 1-1 draw before finally finding the right form and consistency to put together a run of wins until matchday 8.

Three successive wins over Citizens, the Royals FC and a thumping victory over the All Black on matchday 7 sealed their place in the playoffs.

In those three games, Saints scored nine goals, four of which were scored against the Black Panthers, and conceded just two (both coming against Royals).

A goalless draw against the Guns FC on matchday 8 rounded up activities for Saints in the first round, but it also put an end to their winning streak – which was enough to see them lose their place at the top of the table to nemesis, Dannaz.

The Fabulous

While 2018 was one anyone associated with the rich boys at Saints will do well to forget, this season has been way better and seen the Saints display much swagger befitting of their status.

Saints were not just brilliant going forward in the first half of the season but also miserly at the back where they kept things really tight.

With 14 goals scored in eight matches, they finished as the third-highest scorers behind the duo of Dannaz (17) and Raineri (15).

On the other hand, they conceded just five times, keeping four clean sheets, joint-top with defending champs, Dannaz.

Also, it would be worthy to mention their mini winning run between MD4 to 6, when they won three in three, scoring nine goals, letting in just two.

The Farcical

There are really no negatives to talk about Saints so far in the season, at least not yet. But perhaps they’d have done more against Alimosho in their final match to really edge Dannaz at the top.

Coach's Corner

Having engineered a total turnaround in fortunes, the quiet coach of Saints, Sobande is happy with the progress the Army has made so far in the season.

“The season has been good thus far. We are into the playoffs which is always a good thing. The whole team has been excellent.”

Up Next

The first phase is done and the Saints have since switched focus to the playoff where they face a familiar foe in Raineri.

That game is one of three matches billed for the campus mini stadium on November 24.

In sum, Saints are on a mission to reclaim something they believe rightly belongs to them, and that is why you hardly find their manager, Sobande smiling.

He is totally focused on bringing back that crown to the Saints, but so far, after the first phase, he has succeeded in bringing the swagger of champion back to the Saints Army.

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