South Sudan’s strategy was to sit back, counter when the opportunity arises and that worked for them for large spells of this game.
Africa Nation Cup qualifier
Uganda 1 South Sudan 0
Burkina Faso 3 Malawi 1
Uganda Cranes' Nations Cup fixture against South Sudan yesterday should have been easy and obvious.
But it wasn't.
This game turned out to be so complicated that the Cranes needed some sort of rescue act from a member of the team familiar with the surroundings in Kitende to steer them to this priceless victory.
Cranes match-winner Halid Lwaliwa is a product of St Mary's Kitende, and it would be the Vipers' captain to lead this disjointed Cranes outfit out of jail in the 85th minute.
The 22-year-old rose highest to head home Farouk Miya's well-weighted ball into the 18-yard area to guarantee glory on an instantly forgettable afternoon.
That Lwaliwa was even only on the pitch just because first-choice central defender Ronald Mukibi had been forced off due to injury highlights the team's struggles on the day.
That Cranes' first shot on goal came in the 39th minute after Miya's free-kick was spilled to safety told a story of how much needs to be fixed - especially in attack - before the return game in four days.
Former KCCA star Allan Okello could have stretched the lead in the latter stages of the game but his header was dealt with.
South Sudan's strategy was to sit back, counter when the opportunity arises and that worked for them for large spells of this game.
They had a couple of decent chances - in the 23rd minute when striker Makueth Wol pounced on a decent through pass but shot wide and in the 55th minute when Joseph Ochaya appeared to have tugged a South Sudan player for a possible penalty shout.
With the Cranes disjointed, short of ideas, and a shadow of the side that has virtually won all its home games in recent qualifiers, Coach Jonathan Mckinstry was forced into several changes.
Besides Okello, who stepped in for Emmanuel Okwi, Edris Lubega replaced Derrick Nsibambi while Karim Watambala replaced Khalid Aucho.
Johnathan McKinstry's Cranes are a work in progress. The performance against South Sudan yesterday proved that and highlighted two crucial areas that he must fix before next week's game in Nairobi.
If Nicholas Wadada is fit, there is absolutely no reason to start Elvis Bwomono ahead of the Tanzania-based full-back.
Bwomono needs a couple of friendly games to prove that his qualities are way better than what Wadada has offered the team over the years.
South Sudan is average but rely on good positional sense and have the height to nullify their opponents' aerial threat. They are physical but also thrive on an effective counter-attacking play and individual improvisation.
If McKinstry makes independent and pragmatic tactical decisions that align with the players at his disposal, Cranes will earn a win in Nairobi.
A team is as good as its coach. As such, it's only McKinstry that can improve Cranes from yesterday's dismal outing.
It's only him that will identify a system that will allow the attacking players to flourish.
Kizito is more effective on the right, Miya is more effective coming through the left and an unfit Okwi can still flourish if allowed to start alongside a physically stronger Fahad Bayo to cover up for his physical concerns and allow space and time to master that moment of brilliance.