When Gor Mahia were registering poor results during pre-season friendlies, coach Frank Nuttall told fans to be patient. Many did not listen. Matters came to a head when Gor Mahia lost to Bandari in Mombasa and fans unhappy at the poor display expressed unhappiness resulting in a bitter exchange between fans and some players. But coach Nuttall stuck to his guns trying various combinations while telling fans that the team was still gelling.
Now Gor Mahia has gotten off to a brilliant start. Three league wins in three matches is the best start Gor Mahia has had in recent years. In 2013, Gor Mahia started with 2 draws. And in 2014 it was 2 wins and a draw.
Coach Nuttall says he is happy with the good start. “I am also amazed at how the new players have settled in very fast. It is as if they have been around all that time,” he said to Supersport.com
But Nuttall knows that there is still a long way to go and players must remain focused.
“We are all happy we are winning, but we must go step by step. We should not be carried away but the wins. The fans can savour the wins, but for the players, it is important to remain focused. Immediately we are done with one match, we shift attention to the next. All I can tell my players is not to get carried away. Let us celebrate when we ultimately finish the job.” ” he added.
The porous defence is worrisome. Consider that in 2013, Gor Mahia played the first four games without conceding a goal. This was thanks to a no nonsense defence with players like Calabar, Mosoti, Musa, Jerim among others.
In 2014 they conceded only one goal in the first five matches. Yet this season they have conceded four goals in three matches. But Nuttall is unperturbed and sees opportunity for improvement.
“All we are looking for is a win and that is what we are getting. As for the conceding of goals, I am not very particularly disturbed but I know we will improve,” he said.
It is also worth noting that though Gor Mahia were not conceding goals in 2013, they were also not scoring. In 2013, it took a while before new signing Kiongera gelled with Rama Salim, Lavatsa et al. And in 2014, the strike force was so dependent on Sserunkuma that some Gor Mahia fans dubbed it the “Patia Sserunkuma tactic“. It looked like Gor Mahia midfielders had one mission which is to find Sserunkuma whether it was via long balls or short passes. This was detrimental as Blackberry often appeared lost.
Nuttall’s re-entry breathed some life into Blackberry who found his role, as well as Timothy Otieno. Nuttall is now working on creating a multi-dimensional attack that can worry opposing defences from all angles. The net result is that Gor Mahia have scored 9 goals in three matches.
Contrast this with 2014, where they scored 9 goals after 8 league matches. And in 2013 they scored 9 goals at the 10th league match. It has taken the team less than half the time to reach 9 goals this time around.
Ali Hassan Abondo
One player who has been instrumental in Gor Mahia’s brilliant start is Ali Abondo. The Kisumu lad has found the back of the net 8 times in all competitions. His ability to make astute and well timed runs and then calmly plant the net is reminiscent of the legendary Hezborn Omollo who scored over 20 goals in the leagues of 1983 and 1984 and scored 15 goals in 1985 and is likely the most prolific striker ever to don the Kogalo jersey.
This is the same Abondo who was jettisoned in 2013 with technical bench members accusing him of not working hard enough. Abondo has learned from the past.
“All seasons cannot be the same; last season was a bit different unlike this time round. What is important is to learn from previous mistakes and work towards rectifying them the following season, with hard work and prayer it pays off. I work hard every day to have that confidence thanks to my family also for their support.” says Abondo to futaa.com
This is the same Abondo whom first questioned his return to the squad with some saying that Gor Mahia should have brought back Kevin Omondi “Ade” instead.
But no Gor Mahia player nor fan will get carried away. Only three matches have been played so far. And even a prolific striker like Sserunkuma cannot be expected to continue the breakneck pace that Abondo is scoring goals. But the newly focused Abondo with guidance from coach Nuttall will find ways to contribute whether he is scoring goals or tenaciously defending and putting in timely tackles as he did back in 2013. A player can be called upon to play different roles in each game.
And Gor Mahia will remain grounded and humility will prevail knowing that all is not perfect.
Speaking of humility, two encounters that gave Kogalo a dose of humility is the matches against CNaPs where Gor Mahia barely scraped through and the match against AC Leopards whom Gor Mahia will face in the return leg.
Gor Mahia will be looking for a miraculous 2-1 win in the second leg. The fact that the Wednesday night match against SoNy Sugar has been postponed will only help by giving Gor Mahia more time to prepare and to avoid injuries. Also, fewer midweek matches and more weekend matches is good for the club’s financial coffers.
Whatever the score is in Congo, Gor Mahia players will gain experience. And the continental sojourn has sharpened Gor Mahia players leaving Chemelil Sugar coach Mike Mururi to lament.
““Lack of competitive games in a long time also played a part in our defeat. Gor Mahia has been playing continental matches as opposed to us. They looked fitter than us and were ruthless.” he said to goal.com