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Thika United; Muwonge- Mbugua, Omumbo, Kizito, Nyaberi- Kuria, Luvutsi, Macharia- Opondo, Odhiambo, Olunga.
Western Stima; Andika- Opon, Onyango, Makachi, Akango- Okello, Shimayo, Bai, Nyarombo- Omuse, Oketch.

James Kamau shuffled his defense in response to Glay’s departure early in the day and left star players King’atua and
Dennis Odhiambo on the bench.
Omino made a single change; swapping Samuel Odhiambo for Andika between the goal-posts.

Western Stima’s half
As the title says, this was a game of two halves; each team dominating an entire period but only one maximized on the play-out. Western Stima was superior to Thika United in the first half.

The game started in a predictable pattern; Thika playing more proactive and Stima being the reactive side. The inability of Thika to settle in their approach caused a high turnover (the game
being end-to-end) and naturally,
the reactive side would be more comfortable in such a situation. Western Stima was breaking down Thika’s play with their physical hustling and caused them problems, countering, on the
flanks. The western team managed to get into positions of sending in crosses but never took advantage of their two striker system. Thika were never truly troubled and Omumbo, who enjoyed a good game, was a key reason for this.

Thika’s coach showed good response to the pressure his team was receiving and had the wingers help in covering the
flanks. He also had Macharia move deeper to deal with Stima’s diamond 4-4-2 that had good distribution of players in the midfield. Basically, Thika were
now playing on the break
with Stima getting lots of possession. Unfortunately for Stima, their mid-table colours shone through. They couldn’t build up properly and for the period of their dominance the game lacked clear chances from build-up play. On the other hand, Thika’s sacrificing of offensive capability for defensive stability made them look listless going forward. They couldn’t counter-attack well as Stima’s physicality (and two holding midfielder)
made it impossible to transition on the ground. The milk side also lacked the creativity or physical presence to maneuver their way past this as King’atua and Odhiambo were on the bench. It
was getting stale until Thika decided to play aerial balls forward. Not that it was some kind of secret card but it was all they could do. They pumped balls to Michael Olunga yet there was nobody to link with his excellent
hold-up ability.

Omino’s team had expected to prosper on the break but Thika didn’t play to their hands. He didn’t make any tweaks in that first half and all the possession surrendered to them proved to be
useless. Perhaps he should have
started Kemboi to run in behind the home team’s defense.

Thika bring in the big guns
The balance of play shifted in the second half as Kamau brought in Odhiambo and King’atua. The duo sucked in Western Stima’s entire semblance to width allowing Mbugua and Nyaberi, who had been pinned at their fullback
positions, to suddenly prosper on the overlap. Thika were now playing in a 4-3-1-2 system- matching Western Stima’s positioning. These developments
made Stima lose their midfield organization and Thika now bossed the possession; their natural way of playing. It became so effective; Kemboi’s entrance had absolutely no influence on the game at the moment. Thika went into full rhythm and scored a beautiful team goal initiated by King’atua’s creativity and finished by Olunga- a box striker, finishing inside the box.

In a testament to Thika United’s change in fortune this season, they immediately changed approach. Instead of continuing their proactive style for a second goal, they closed shop and sat
deep. Expectedly, this made the
game revert to the first half showing; only this time Thika had the capability to hurt their visitors on the break.

Stima made like for like changes and their quest to transition quickly into attack bore no fruit. Thika were sitting deep hence there was no space to run in behind; forcing, their secret weapon, Kemboi to drift into the wings for space. Nothing seemed to work on the offense for the electricity side and actually made their only chances off set pieces.

This was a typical mid-table game, lots of effort but little, true, quality-except for the periods leading to Thika’s goal. Henry Omino stuck to his strategy; James Kamau showed adaptability and
deservingly won the game. Perhaps, a portrayal of the old coach-young coach axis.

For African football discussion:
@RobertMalit

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