In October 2016, Gardnesville-based first division side, LISCR FC, announced the signing of Gambian coach Tapha Manneh as head coach on a three-year deal. The Gambian tactician replaced former Barrack Young Controller and NPA head coach Abraham Sesay who had helped the club escape the relegation zone after a poor start in the league under Coach Robert Lartey.
With plans to build a team that will compete for titles, Manneh, who previously coached the Gambian under-20 football team, was seen by LISCR’s managers as the right man to get the club back to its form. His appointment as head coach sparked several debates among few Liberian coaches and fans who questioned his competency given that he only holds a CAF B License.
During all the debates, the 42-year-old has used his tactics on the pitch to show why he was the right man to lead LISCR back to its glory days. Upon his arrival, Manneh made key changes into the squad by releasing several of the older players who he felt couldn’t help him get his job done.
The former Gamtel FC coach recruited several young players from LISCR’s junior team, Gardnesville Football Club, and some of the National County Meet stars including the 2016-17 MVP Edward Ledlum and County Meet winner Asiamuh Dann.
The brave decision to bring on those young lads without first division experience raised doubts among fans and football pundits who felt Manneh would have found it very difficult to compete with the likes of FC Fassell and Barrack Young Controller, teams with players experienced even on the international scene.
Despite the huge changes made in the LISCR FC team, Manneh showed that sometimes football isn’t all about the players – that coaching matter too. The four-time Gambian FA Cup winner has set a record in Liberian football, following LISCR FC’s 2-2 draw with five-time Liberia league champions, LPRC Oilers Football Club.
The Shipping Boys, under the guidance of Manneh, became the first Liberian club to play 20 league games unbeaten. They equaled LPRC Oilers’ 19 unbeaten league games record after an impressive 3-0 win over Jubilee FC. From 20 games played, LISCR has recorded nine wins and 11 draws. They are seated second on the league table with 38 points, five points behind league leaders, FC Fassell.
The sensational LPRC Oilers had made history in 2009 by becoming the first Liberian club team to go unbeaten in 19 consecutive league games. The Oil Boys, under Coach Gabriel Johns, played 19 games unbeaten before suffering a 2-1 defeat to former Liberia Premier League team, United Soccer Ambassador Football Club.
As fate would have it, just as USA FC put an end to LPRC’s unbeaten run in 2009, the Oil Boys themselves had the chance of stopping LISCR from surpassing their record when they met on Tuesday at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium.
Six minutes into the match, LISCR was reduced to 10 men after their midfielder Sheku Sheriff was shown a straight red card. LPRC made use of the opportunity as they managed to score two goals before the end of the first half. Down with ten players and two goals down, it all appeared like the Shipping Boys’ unbeaten run was coming to an end, but they never lost their hopes as they return stronger in the second half.
After several attempts in the second half, they restored some of their lost hopes after Morris Vambo pull one back to reduce the goal deficit to one. They never stopped pushing for the equalizer, as they took control of the possession and began to create the goal scoring chances. Finally, they got the score leveled when former Keitrace FC striker, Christopher Jackson, scored with a diving header from Asiamuh Dann’s right foot cross.
From two goals down, LISCR had leveled the score to shut the mouths of their critics. With less than five minutes to the end of the game, they missed out on making one of the best comebacks in the ongoing league season after missing from the penalty spot. LPRC’s shot stopper, Famolou Kamara, was given a red card for bringing down Morris Vambo in his penalty area. Striker Prince Urey failed to convert the penalty as both sides shared the points after the sound of the final whistle.
Just as LISCR is undefeated in the First Division League in which they are a major contender, their unbeaten form is also extended to the 2016-17 Liberia Football Association Knockout competition. From the first round to the third round where they played five games, including two against the formidable FC Fassell in round three, they are yet to taste a defeat in the competition.
LISCR is currently in the semifinals and will have to get past fellow first division side, Keitrace FC, in a two-leg match if they are to reach the final.
Overall, Manneh has led his team to 25 games undefeated in all competitions, the longest ever in the history of Liberia football.
Featured photo courtesy of T. Kla Wesley Jr.