The copybook of Johnathan McKinstry’s tenure as Uganda Cranes manager remains unblotted, as the Northern Irishman saw his players grind out a narrow 1-0 win at home against South Sudan on Thursday.
It is true there is no such thing as a bad win but it is noteworthy that McKinstry, in his post-match conference admitted that though the result was good, the performance left a lot to be desired. The Cranes were leggy for the bulk of the match and indeed, only found the back of the net five minutes from time when Halid Lwaliwa rose highest to nod home Farouk Miya’s free-kick delivery.
Everybody associated with the team be it the players, coaches, support staff or the fans will be hoping the return leg in Nairobi tomorrow will go far more smoothly and provide more excitement than the affair in Kitende. For this to happen, McKinstry might have to tweak a few things, not just the tactics but also the mental fortitude the players need to fight hard to win the second leg.
If the Uganda Cranes stand a chance, McKinstry needs to make changes in crucial areas of the game
1. Change of shape
The Uganda Cranes began the game on Thursday lined up in a 4-3-3 formation. The general idea would have been that this would give Uganda an advantage in midfield and thus help the Cranes dominate possession, which they did.
The issue though is, that South Sudan was very compact and well organised, which explains why Uganda struggled to find any space to create chances. McKinstry reacted well by switching to a 4-1-4-1 which added offensive impetus by pushing men forward.
It wouldn’t be too surprising if McKinstry sets his team up differently tomorrow, not just to exploit South Sudan’s ultra-conservativeness but to also deal with the shaky displays of some of the starters, and injuries.
2. Shuffling the frontline to find space for Okello
There was much speculation about why exactly this happened, and some opined that the boy just wasn’t ready for the pressure of a major finals tournament. A year later on, Okello became a professional footballer at AS Paradou of Algeria.
In the first game, Okello only came off the bench and made the team more threatening, dove-tailing well with Miya. He replaced an Emma Okwi who was very off-colour on Thursday. Whether or not the swap remains permanent on Monday remains to be seen.
3. Finding a partner for Awany
In the absence of Murushid Juuko, McKinstry elected to pair Timothy Awany with Ronald Mukiibi and while the two routinely tried to build-up play from the back by playing long balls to the forwards, it was clear that the two weren’t a strong pair.
Mukiibi, in particular, lost possession over and over again due to over-ambitious passing and there’s a high chance he could be ruled out of the second game with what appeared to be a hamstring injury.
It is imperative that McKinstry finds a suitable partner for Awany. Whether that is Lwaliwa, whose impressive cameo included the all-important winning goal, or URA’s Patrick Mbowa. Whoever he picks for this next game is still the object of curiosity.
4. Choosing between Bwomono and Wadada
One of the bolder decisions made by McKinstry and his assistants was to start South end’s Elvis Bwomono over mainstay Nicolas Wadada at right back. An unknown quantity, at least to Uganda Cranes fans before the game, few knew what to expect. He was a mixed debut, to say the least.
Bwomono was solid in defence but perhaps a little too cautious in the attack. In the end, he did not offer enough going forward but whether this was a deficiency on his part or a coaching instruction is unclear.
Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see if McKinstry persists with him or reverts to Wadada, who was last season voted the best defender in the Tanzanian Premier League due to his performances for Azam.
Author: Timothy Ainebyoona
Timothy is a dynamic analyst passionate about news and all things sport.