After seeing his side’s five-game unbeaten run end at Rangers on matchday 13, Heartland FC boss Fidelis Ilechukwu believes some of his squad have become too complacent and vowed to “do something about it”.
The Naze Millionaires have been impressive since rallying from a difficult start to the season which saw them lose five of their first seven games to embark on a five-game unbeaten run which was halted by the Flying Antelopes on Sunday.
A howitzer from Isaac Loute put Rangers ahead before Godspower Aniefok headed in the second from a set-piece on the stroke of halftime.
The result left Heartland in tenth place and lifted Rangers to second in the table.
While not many expected Heartland to win the Oriental Derby and leave the Nnamdi Azikiwe stadium with all three points, the manner of his players’ showing left Ilechukwu with a lot of questions.
Particularly upsetting for the former MFM gaffer was their display in defence which he said could have seen them lose by a lot more if Rangers had been more clinical.
“There was a lot of defensive errors, too much error in the backline. If Rangers [had capitalised] on the errors, I think it could have been 4-0. Thank God they could not,” Ilechukwu said.
The defensive errors appear a worrying trend that has crept into their game and seen them drop points from winning positions in recent matches.
The Owerri club dropped two points at home to FC Ifeanyiubah when they conceded an 86th-minute equaliser and at Sunshine Stars when they let in a 72nd-minute leveller.
Ilechuwkwu says fatigue and a lack of concentration caused by a threadbare squad with little competition for places are possible factors for their recent defensive troubles.
Heartland had operated under a transfer ban (amid multiple ongoing off-pitch issues) in the offseason preventing Ilechukwu from replenishing their squad.
But the Heartland boss vowed to stamp out any traces of complacency in his squad and ensure “everybody will be at their peak to make sure we do well” in what is sure to be a trying season for the club.
“Maybe it’s fatigue,” Ilechukwu when asked what was responsible for their defensive shortcomings. “I’m trying to look at the area we [struggled].”
“This is what happened in our game against FC Ifeanyiubah – defensive errors, may it’s lack of concentration and when a player plays more games when he doesn’t have competition, I think he feels relaxed, so I’m going to do something about it so that everybody will be at their peak to make sure we do well.”
Despite his exasperation at their performance in Enugu, Ilechukwu praised his players for performing creditably so far despite the myriad challenges they continue to face at the club.
“We have been on a five-game unbeaten run from the end of last month to this month, I think it’s a good one despite our challenges which you don’t know. It’s not easy when what you’re supposed to get you can’t get it and you manage what you have it’s a sign of discipline and also team determination.”