BY STEVE AYOO
Posta Rangers bucked the trend of the hitherto Kenyan Premier League side winning the promotion/relegation playoff clash as they soaked in second half pressure from National Super League side Nairobi Stima to force a 1-1 draw in their second leg clash and sail 3-2 on aggregate.
The mail men held a 2-1 advantage going into the second leg which they hosted at the Kenyatta Stadium, Machakos with the onus falling on Stima to turn the tie around.
Francis Nambute, who scored the first leg winning goal in Naivasha, netted the opener just three minutes into the match as Posta got a vital home goal against a Stima side that had the ammunition of Victor Omune waiting on the bench.
Rangers, who went into the break comfortably ahead, were barely troubled in a poor first half show by Stima but they were pushed almost to their breaking point after the breather.
Dennis Oalo drew Stima level just two minutes after the restart and with Omune and Elvis Osok entering the game immediately after the goal, Posta were up against it.
After losing the first leg, Stima coach Evans Mafuta had expressed full confidence that his team would win the second leg as he looked forward to welcoming Omune and Curtis Wekesa to the squad.
While the former AFC Leopards attacker started from the bench, the much sought-after Wekesa didn’t get the chance to play what would have been his final game for Stima who are resigned to losing him to top tier clubs.
Omune, who came on two minutes after the break, showed why his absence was felt in the first leg as he mostly had the Posta backline on the back foot. Before then, the Jockins Atudo-led roadblock looked impregnable.
Posta were gifted their goal as a cross from Felix Onyango, although dangerous, should have been easily dealt with by Jacob Osano in the visitors’ goal.
However, the keeper made a meal of the cross, spilled it and Nambute only had to be in the right place – and he was – as he tapped home to the excitement of the few Posta employees who were perhaps given the day off, and the accompanying allowances, to come cheer the team over the line.
It was strange seeing Posta have fans.
Levian Ochieng had to hack the ball into safety following a goal mouth scramble while Brian Osumba drew a fine save from Osano as Posta pushed to double their advantage.
Musa hits post
Stima’s best and only chance of the half saw Brian Musa hit the foot of the post with a volley that a stretching Gradus Ochieng was never going to stop.
Atudo then saw a vintage 25-yard freekick breeze just inches over in first half stoppage time.
Stima made for a perfect second half start as Oalo tidily finished a whipped in cross from Brian Odhiambo just two minutes after the break.
The equalizer scattered Posta, unsettled the players as they gave the ball away countless times, perhaps wary that one more goal would even matters, and with Stima having the momentum, perhaps lead to far more disastrous consequences.
With wind on their sail, Stima gave it a good go.
Omune shook his boots off by sending an effort straight to the keeper just moments after coming on. He then missed an open goal, booting wide after pouncing on a loose ball after Gradus had unsuccessfully rushed off his line to collect an aerial ball but got beaten by the vertically blessed and highly experienced Joseph Shikokoti.
Omune’s fellow substitute Osok – watched by his brother Teddy Osok who was among the crowd – also had the Posta keeper sprawling with a left-footed effort from a tight angle.
It was however Shikokoti who was increasingly stumping his authority in the game. When not collecting the ball from the back and threading balls through the Posta midfield, he was being a threat on the other end where he almost scored a Peter Crouch-esque overhead kick but his effort flew just over.
Oalo had the chance to win it for a Stima in the final minute from a counterattack but he aimed weakly at the keeper under pressure from the workhorse Atudo.
Had he scored, the tie would have gone straight to penalties.
However, John Kamau’s Posta hanged on by the skin of their collective teeth as they maintained their topflight status.
They buck a trend of former KPL sides (Thika United in 2016 and Mt Kenya in 2017) who both won the playoff against the NSL second runners up.
Posta will be in the draw for the 2019-20 KPL season alongside promoted Wazito FC and Kisumu Allstars.
Stima must reset, then go again.