Thika United have enhanced their hopes of remaining in the SportPesa Premier League courtesy of their 2-1 win over National Super League side Ushuru in the first of their two-leg play-off on Thursday at the Thika Stadium.
Saad Musa and Onwudi Chibueze scored for Thika while Mohammed Hassan replied once for the taxmen.
The second leg will be played on December 24 in Narok.
Having lost a petition at the Sports Dispute Tribunal seeking to stop the play-offs and have them retain their Premiership status, Thika came out guns blazing and dominated proceedings for the better part of the first half.
They, however, suffered a setback in the 21st minute when midfielder Michael Mutinda stumbled and fell awkwardly, thereby necessitating an early substitution.
His enforced replacement Saad Musa ended up being a blessing in disguise.
He sent Thika ahead in the 38th minute connecting tellingly with Eugene Mukangula’s cross.
Ushuru coach Ken Kenyatta tried hard to motivate his players, and they came back strongly in the second stanza.
Benson Amianda twice had good chances to score for the taxmen in the 60th and 66th minutes.
Kenyatta’s boys were duly rewarded for their enterprise on 85 minutes when Mohammed Hassan who capitalized on a case of poor clearance from the Thika backline to fire home.
Nigerian Chibueze however saved the day for Thika four minutes later directing a powerful shot past Ushuru goalkeeper Kennedy Obwanda.
“It has been difficult getting the boys back from off-season break but I thank God,” said a relieved Thika coach Nicholas Muyoti.
There is still the second leg to determine who between the two teams earns the right to play in top flight football next season.
The two-leg play-off features the 16th placed team in the SportPesa Premier League against the second runners up in the National Super League at the end of this season.