Relegation Special: Who will beat the drop?

It is March and the business end of the season is right upon us. With KCCA second in the league standings, having four games in hand and just three points off table toppers SC Villa, the title seems pretty much decided which leaves the relegation battle for a point of interest over the next couple of months.

Currently, JMC, Kirinya-Jinja SSS and Lweza occupy the dreaded relegation spots, but with just eight games left of play and just five points separating Proline placed seventh from the red line, quite a number of teams are nervously looking over their shoulders.

We shall however, concentrate on the bottom seven. Who will be the unlucky trio to miss out on top flight football next season? We take a look at their current form and remaining fixtures.

© Kawowo Sports | JOHN BATANUDDE
JMC Hippos line-up against KCCA in the season opener.

16th: JMC Hippos – 9 points.

It is almost certain that JMC are unlikely to escape the drop. In their second campaign in the Premier League and with 22 games gone already, the Jinja municipality team is yet hit double figures.

The Hippos have collected just nine points, failed to win a single league game while losing a record 13 times this term. And with 34 goals conceded thus far, they harbour the leakiest defense in the division.

A change of management hasn’t helped matters, with second-rate results still the order of the day.

Form: DDDDLLD [Five points from last seven games]

Fixtures: Onduparaka [H], The Saints [A], Bul [H], Express [A], KCCA [H], Krinya-Jinja SSS [A], Police [H], Bright Stars [A]

With Express, KCCA and fellow strugglers Kirinya-Jinja SSS who by the way haven’t lost at home this season still to play, it is difficult to see a way back for JMC.

While they could negotiate their way past Onduparaka, one of the dreadful teams on the road, and The Saints who have struggled to post positive results at home, it is hard to believe JMC will escape the knife.

Even the most ardent fan must be accepting that the team is doomed for Big League next season.

© Kawowo Sports | AMINAH BABIRYE
Kirinya-Jinja SS’ James Otim

15th: Kirinya-Jinja SSS – 17 Points.

For the past couple of seasons, league debutants have found a way of maintaining their premier league statuses. Apart from Rwenshama who were handed an immediate return to the Big League in the 2014/15 campaign, Sadolin Paints, Lweza and most recently The Saints and JMC kept their seats in the top division as they survived for another season.

It appears Kirinya-Jinja SSS are headed the Rwenshama way. With only a pair of victories managed, the ‘school boys’ find themselves seated 15th in the league with 17 points.

They have many a time shown they have the ability, but the lack of experience and leadership which are usually essential in the team hasn’t helped matters.

Form: LDWLWDL [Eight points from last seven games]

Fixtures: Vipers [H], Police [H], Bright Stars [A], SC Villa [H], URA [A], KCCA [A], JMC [H], Lweza [A], Proline [H]

A glance at their remaining fixtures suggests a tough run-in for the newcomers. With resurgent URA, defending champions KCCA who boast of a perfect league record at home this season and Bright Stars whose backyard is a castle for many still on the menu, Abbey Bogere’s charges face a mountain to climb in their hope to launch a late bid for survival.

They ought to utilize this international break to work on their sharpness upfront that has been the root cause for their problems.

While they boast of the joint second best defence in the league having conceded only fourteen goals, survival will not be secured if the problem at the other end of the pitch is not properly addressed.

© Kawowo Sports | JOHN BATANUDDE
Lweza’s Manko Kaweesa

14th: Lweza – 22 points.

In their first campaign in top flight, Lweza impressively beat the drop by six points following a tenth finish in the league with 37 points.

However, the season after witnessed a decline in performance as only two points and a place separated the Kajansi side from the axe.

Currently enduring a poor run, fans will fear they are headed for the worst. Nine points since December have seen the club now headed by Hamza Kalanzi crawl down the red line, as they remain one of the only three teams in the league yet to post a win in 2017.

Form: LLDDLDD [Four points in last seven games]

Fixtures: Soana [H], Onduparaka [A], The Saints [H], Bul [A], Express [H], KCCA [A], Kirinya-Jinja SSS [H], Police [A].

Survival is still very possible but how they will handle their major hurdles in Onduparaka, KCCA, Express and fellow relegation candidates especially Bul remains to be seen.

© Kawowo Sports | JOHN BATANUDDE
The Saints line up against KCCA FC

13th: The Saints – 23 points.

The Saints’ recovery in the second round last term left many lauding. The season ended with The Saints third in the form table in the second round as they picked 27 points. Only Express [30] and KCCA [28] accumulated more points than Moses Basena’s side.

Fast forward to this term and Basena’s troops are all but safety. While Basena says he is not thinking about relegation and believes his side is not in the relegation fight, the league table reads otherwise.

22 games gone and only 23 points garnered, and with only six points earned since the turn of year, Basena must drop his belief and start thinking about relegation.

Form: DWLLDDL [Six points from seven games]

Fixtures: URA [A], JMC [H], Lweza [A], Proline [H], Sadolin Paints [A], Soana [H], Onduparaka [A], Vipers [A].

Give The Saints a goal scorer and the distance between them and the drop zone would be big. The Saints possess games, dictate play and create numerous chances, but their efforts have been undermined by their failure to utilize those chances. The earlier they stopped being goal-shy the better for them.

Games against JMC and Lweza should be the side’s starting point for revival.

© Kawowo Sports | JOHN BATANUDDE
Robert Achema is the most inform Bul player

12th: Bul – 23 points

Since earning promotion to top flight in 2011, only once have Bul ended the season placed around the relegation zone and that was in their maiden season.

Seventh, sixth, fifth and sixth reads Bul’s final spots at the end of the season for each of the past four seasons.

The management and players are aware of that, and the two wins last week couldn’t have come at the right time.

The mood around the ‘soap makers’ seem transformed, the side appears revitalized and the confidence is without a doubt back in the team. It is generally accepted that successive victories were sorely needed.

Form: LWLLDWW [Ten points from seven games]

Fixtures: SC Villa [A], URA [H], JMC [A], Lweza [H], Proline [A], Sadolin Paints [H], Soana [A], Onduparaka [H]

The first two games after the international break are most likely to determine Bul’s fate this campaign. Can they maintain their winning run or at least avoid defeat against Emma Okwi’s SC Villa and invigorated URA? Consistency will be key in their fight for survival.

Bul will require Robert Achema to continue with his super form if the drop is to be beaten. The forward has found his scoring boots at the right time, scoring three goals in their previous two games. In each of those games, he came as a substitute to rescue his team.

© Kawowo Sports | AISHA NAKATO
Rahmat Senfuka

11th: Police – 24 points.

Police enjoyed a mini revival when Abdallah Mubiru assumed the reigns at the club late last year, winning five in a row in all competition. It was a notable run that one time lifted the Cops to the seventh position.

But now with only one point picked up from the available 12 since then, the 2005 league champions will hope their brilliant run of results didn’t come too soon.

Home ties to Onduparaka and Bul and a trip to Express just before the international break proved too damaging as the side moved closer to the drop zone.

Form: WWWLDLL [Ten points from seven games]

Fixtures: KCCA [H], Kirinya-Jinja SSS [A], Vipers [H], Bright Stars [H], SC Villa, [A], URA [H], JMC [A], Lweza [H]

Police haven’t won since their sweet revenge against Soana last month and looking at the run-in, it doesn’t get any tougher for the Cops. You can look at the table and say ‘one win and they are safe’ but they have to get that one win and pray teams above them falter. The longer it takes, the more the fear factor.

Police faithful will have faith in their new additions, Michael Birungi, William Wadri among others who have kept the attitude positive despite the struggles.

© Kawowo Sports | AISHA NAKATO
Sadolin’s Norman Ogik closes marked by Lweza’s Moses Kazibwe.

10th: Sadolin Paints – 24 points

They maybe 10th but Sadolin Paints are by no means out of danger. With only a slim two points in between them and the red line, the side is closer to the drop than safety. However, with two victories in 2017, Peter Kirumira’s side seems to have recovered from their slump in December that stretched to February. They went on a losing run of four games from December 10 until late last month that saw them plunge as low as the 13th position.

Form: LLLWLWD

Fixtures: Proline [A], Vipers [A], Soana [H], Onduparaka [A], The Saints [H], Bul [A], Express [H], KCCA [A].

Like their fellow strugglers Kirinya-Jinja SSS and Police, Sadolin have one of the toughest run-ins, facing four of the league’s top six in their final eight fixtures. With such a small margin for error, Sadolin are not safe until it is safe.

One of their top performing areas this season has been their defence. With only 16 goals conceded, only KCCA, Kirinya-Jinja SSS [both with 14] and Vipers [12] have the meanest defences in the league. It is at the other end of the pitch that they have had issues, with only 12 scored.

If they are to beat the drop, forwards Swafi Nasser Bassan and Fred Kyambade will be required to find the net more often than before.

The club’s lead goal-getter Norman Ojik returned to scoring at JMC after close to four months without seeing the back of the net. The side will also need him to keep his scoring boots if the mission is to be accomplished.