With the season over, it’s time to assess PWD’s 2022/23 MTN Elite One season. The Abakwa Boys beat Renaissance FC 3-2 on Sunday in Mbouda to ensure they continue their stay in the top-flight championship they have been part of since 2018. Here’s a look at the club’s tough campaign.
Season in a sentence
PWD again seemed a lost cause but if recovery under Bep Constantine was slow and agonising, safety was eventually achieved on the last day and hope that brighter times may at last lie ahead.
The Abakwa Boys started the season as a CAF Confederation Cup club. Their aggregate 1-2 defeat to Malagasy side Elgeco Plus, weeks before the start of the domestic championship didn’t help their confidence going into the new season. The club struggled during the start of the season. Defeats to Colombe, UMS, Stade Renard and Avion without scoring led to the departure of Martin Nkabyo. The gaffer who returned to the club for his third spell only lasted six games in the dugout.
Games stand out as PWD’s season-defining fixtures this season
Many supporters would pick the 3-0 win against Aigle Royal in Alain Nseme’s first game as interim coach just after the departure coach Nkabyo and a 0-1 defeat against the same opponent as the moment of reference for the season. The former result because it was the first win of the season, achieved — in keeping with the fact that it was against former boss David Pagou- in Nseme’s first game in charge. It was a special league victory over the grass field rivals and raised the season’s first serious hope of revival after the disastrous start under Nkabyo. It calmed gnawing fears of being involved in the relegation battle.
The manner of that triumph, with goals of the highest quality from Leonel Ateba, a brace from Junior Tangko and an all-round display of commitment that cancelled out Aigle’s technical superiority. The response of the blue and white crowd told the world that PWD’s constant 12th man, their passionate and irrationally loyal support, truly believed that confirmation of their top-flight status would be a formality.
Some could cite the excellent 1-0 result at the Yaounde military stadium against Colombe on February 19 because of what it did to the survival prospects and morale of the players at the start of the second phase of the season.
Yes, it was outstanding, four days before they visited UMS in the game that was marred by controversy after the host were given a controversial penalty to beat the Abakwa Boys.
Others would choose the defeat against Aigle Royal. That ultimately defined the best of a bad season. It ignited the feeling that the latest battle against relegation might still end in tears and led to the hiring of Bep Roger Constantine who eventually kept the club afloat.
Though all is well that ends well, if one puts into context PWD’s opening day 2-0 defeat to Colombe without an attacking presence, a result that felt even heavier, the second game — losing 0-1 at home to UMS that didn’t have proper pre-season preparations– was the real body blow.
Again, defeats to Stade Renard and Avion by the identical flattened PWD, whose management took a big decision to part ways with coach Nkabyo as they looked likely to struggle as the season progressed. The results brought PWD crashing to earth after all the promise of a bright future from the new recruits.
Sunderland did not begin to recover from that abysmal start until after coach Nkabyo resigned in early November and his deputy stepped into the interim shoes. By then, PWD was bottom and winless with just zero points from four games, looking like a lost cause.
The green shoots of recovery quickly surfaced in Nseme’s first game in charge. No one watching that second game could have guessed that a new manager would make such an impact. They beat Aigle Royal 3-0. That day the home fans attacked Pagou for losing to PWD. The rest is history.
An impressive turnaround in results can be largely thanks to Leonel Ateba who started all but one game this season for PWD, scoring seven wins and five assists. The former Cotonsport and Fortuna man must be credited in large measure to PWD’s survival. Before Nseme left he astutely used the transfer window to make improvements to the squad, bringing in Ndiforchu Blaise, Heka and a number of players.
Ateba’s tally of League goals in a troubled side would not disgrace a striker. The goals were predominantly the result of Ateba’s tireless running and eye for opportunity. What is more?, he and his mates have earned PWD another season in the top-flight.
Unfortunately for him defeats to UMS, Stade Renard, Aigle and draws against Djiko and Eding with Ateba’s telling contribution wasn’t good enough.
Enter Roger Constantine Bep
His arrival led to the revival, PWD improved in terms of organization and performance.
The revival also brought individual success stories, in particular the solid central defence pairing of Berinyuy Derick and Nyaba Brian plus unrecognisably better play of full-backs. All were players he inherited.
Coach Bep the mystery man of Abakwa.
History will remember him as the man who took PWD Bamenda from the bottom of the table to 4th place.
This morning the #Abakwaboys were battling relegation but right now they stand 4th.
— Kosi_foottalk (@Kosi_foottalk) April 30, 2023
But if there can be only one star, it has to be Leonel Ateba Mbida Christian. Though in his first season, he revealed himself to be as sharp as when he was playing for Fortuna, a tribute to his healthy lifestyle and a dogged determination to stay at the top as long as his body allows.
He won three, played three draws and only lost to defending champions Cotonsport of Garoua as his PWD finished the season on the fourth spot despite arriving when they were in the bottom half of Pool A.
PWD must finally accomplish the aim of climbing to the next level, namely a place so far above that relegation is not seen as a serious possibility at any stage of next season.
The 2020 champions must be thinking about strengthening the squad. That must be done by a smart combination of keeping the best of the current lot and adding quality in all areas. Less than 15 quality acquisitions would be enough — cover for Bawak Etta at full-back and in central defence plus a creative midfielder and one goal-hungry attacker will make them a different proposition next season, but first thing first president Pascal Abunde asked the players to rest and comeback ready to have a run in the cup of Cameroon as they don’t want to finish the season empty-handed.
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