Sack Race Gets Off To Flying Start – Jadet Next To Go?

 

Never again let it be said that Thailand lags behind the footballing powerhouses of the world. The Brazils, Spains and Germanys of this world may produce technically wonderful players and world class clubs, but when it comes to the sack race? Give me Thailand every time. Indeed, so renowned is Thailand becoming for its’ mastery in the under-appreciated art of sack-racing, they have even exported their craft to the home of football itself – England. Premier League champions Leicester, no less, saw their miraculous league-winning tinkerman unceremoniously shown the trapdoor by top Thai sack-merchant Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.

On the day that Thai sack-racing cemented its’ supremacy, pundits and journalists alike said it simply couldn’t be done. The lovable granddad who overcame 5,000-1 odds to lead the Foxes to the most remarkable league triumph in modern history couldn’t just be replaced by some chubby bloke no one had ever heard of called Craig. But replace him they did, and it paid immediate dividends, as the chubby bloke oversaw two stunning wins in his first two games in charge.

Meanwhile, back in Thailand, Sisaket boss Dusit Chalermsan was the first out of the door after just three games, and once again his sacking was rewarded by an immediate three points. Maybe there’s something to this managerial merry-go-round malarkey. If there is, then you’ll want to put a few shekels on Super Power Samut Prakan and Sukhothai picking up three points this weekend, as their managers Chalermwut Sa-ngaphol and Somchai Makmul have just got the chop after game week five, essentially guaranteeing The Power (yes, really) and The Fire Bats victory.

So what of the undisputed 2015 sack-race champions, not just of Thailand but the world? A breathtaking run of five managers in a single season put Port FC atop international sack-race standings, although they were not exactly rewarded with the success on the pitch, suffering TPL relegation. The following season, Port supremo Madame Pang tried another approach, experimenting with just two managers and winning promotion back to the top flight. In 2017 though, the same manager who brought Port back to the big time is looking increasingly likely to be the next to go, after some bizarre team selections have resulted in two humiliating defeats away from home.

Jadet Meelarp, who led Chonburi to a league triumph in 2007, has increasingly been drawing criticism from the Port fans for his inconsistent and downright confusing decisions in recent weeks. For the opening three games, he steadfastly refused to pick Tatchanon (39), widely regarded as Port’s best holding midfielder. He finally relented for the home tie with Navy, where Port kept their first clean sheet and Tatchanon gave a midfield master-class which surely assured his place in the team going forward. But no, for the away trip to Honda Tatchanon was dropped from the matchday squad altogether, and lost boy Siwapong (97) was given what should be his first and last start in a Port shirt before being hauled off early with the game already as good as lost.

Jadet’s next head-scratcher was the inclusion of flappy bird Weera (1) in goal. The man who you wouldn’t trust to hold your beer while you tie your shoelaces was inexplicably preferred to excellent young stopper Rattanai (17) and obvious second-choice Worawut (36). He proceeded to fumble and bumble his way through 90 calamitous minutes, being directly responsible for two of the five goals, and proving every Port fan right who nearly choked on their Leo after seeing his name in the starting lineup.

And this is just the game at Thai Honda. The week three clash with Bangkok Utd away saw the inexplicable inclusion of 34 year old Suchon (11) while natural right-winger Nitipong (34) was played in defence against one of the finest attacking teams in the league. Suchon looked a mile off the pace throughout, while Nitipong looked like a fish out of water in defence as Port shipped six and never looked like getting in to the game.

The trend that seems to be emerging if we look at all of these decisions as a whole, is that Jadet seems to want to just give everyone a go on the pitch. It doesn’t matter how good you are; as long as everyone gets a turn, then that’s the most important thing. With this attitude, Jadet will do a fine job coaching a school team once he does get sacked by Port, but this is T1 and if you want to stay in the league, picking your best players week in week out is a pre-requisite.

Jadet’s situation isn’t quite as simple as I’m making it out to be, though. Is he even the one picking the team every week? We know he isn’t giving the pre-match team talks, and that there is a constant presence on the bench with authority far greater than his. The extent to which this is a factor we just don’t know, but with that presence set to remain in place for the foreseeable future, would a change in management likely give the team a lift, and could another manager given the prevailing conditions get more out of this squad? I think so, and most Port fans seem to agree.

With a three week break coming up after Saturday’s tough test against giants Buriram, it would seem to be the ideal time to make the change in the likely event of Port’s first home defeat of the season. With former Port managers Dusit Chalermsan and Gary Stevens in the market for a job, speculation is understandably rife that Port’s axe-wielder-in-chief will ensure that Port finish fourth in the sack-race and that Jadet will be looking for a new job come Sunday.

I for one will have mixed feelings. Do I think Jadet is a great manager? No. Do I think Port will be better off with a new man at the helm? Yes. But do I think sacking him is likely to remove the root of the problem? I’m afraid not.

 

Thunder Castle to Besiege Fortress PAT: Port FC v Buriram Utd Preview

 

Port have not lost a home League game since July 2nd 2016, but will face a stern test when they lock horns with the Buri-rams this Saturday. Buriram? Who are yer? Particularly for those who are new to Thai football, their rise to fame is worth revisiting.

 

The Plot

A leather-clad, Ducati riding ex-politician, with, allegedly, a hint of chicanery; a singing and dancing, cheerleading wife; a town that lost its team; a town that gained one; a footballing marriage of convenience; fairy tale success and a burgeoning, bitter rivalry. The Buriram story has all the intrigues of a classic TV drama; imagine The Borgias meets When Saturday Comes.

The Electricians

In 1970, The Provincial Electricity Authority FC was founded, playing mostly in the lower divisions of Thai football until, at the end of 2003/04 Season, they were promoted to the Thai Premier League. In 2008, after leading a fairly nomadic existence, with no ‘ohm’ to call their own, the team was switched to and nicknamed Faifa (Electric) Ayutthaya, where they generated a bigger fan base. That season, they charged to the Title, becoming one of the leading clubs in the Country. However, after a fairly static follow-up campaign, the club ran out of juice and finished in 9th place.

The Politician

Enter Newin Chidchob, a highly influential Thai politician, with an impressive CV: MP for Buriram, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and a former close ally of Thaksin Shinawatra. His career in politics was, allegedly, not without controversy, surviving a suspended jail sentence, fines, and accusations of doubtful business practices, before eventually receiving a 5 year ban from politics in 2007 for his associations with the disbanded Thai Rak Thai Party. With time on his hands and more than a bit of loose change in his pocket, he looked around for something to occupy his time; preferably a TPL team to buy.

Mr Buriram – Newin Chidchob

 

The Acquisition

In 2010, Newin took over Ayuthaya PEA and promptly moved them 350 kilometres to the Isan town of Buriram, who already had a football team, Buriram FC, which was also de-facto owned by Newin, who just as promptly put them in the hands of his wife, Karuna, whose main responsibility had been cheerleading the home fans. Getting confused? Back on the pitch, Buriram PEA came runners-up in the TPL, and more notably, runners-up in the League Cup Final to a team with a slightly longer history, by the name of Thai Port. The following year, Buriram PEA, won the domestic treble, in the process gaining revenge over Port in a repeat League Cup Final.

The Amalgamation

In 2012, with Buriram FC about to join their sister club in the Premier League, Newin and Karuna, allegedly following the rules of Thai football rather more closely than those of politics, joined the two clubs together to create Buriram Utd FC. The magnificent Thunder Castle stadium, finished in June 2011, had become their home, later expanded to hold 32,600 fans. Karuna continued to rouse the fans, Newin delivered the impassioned team talks, was rumoured to pick the team, and, no doubt, drove the supporters bus. What he undoubtedly had done was turn Buriram into a passionate football town with a team to be proud of.

The Acclamation

In 6 seasons, between 2011 and 2016, Buriram in its two forms, won 13 out of the 18 domestic titles on offer, plus 4 Kor Royal Cups, going through the 2015 season unbeaten, with Brazilian forward Diogo breaking the Thai scoring record with 33 goals in 32 games.

Diogo – the Ultimate SFS

 

The Port Connection

Apart from the two League Cup Finals, Port and Buriram share a mutual loathing of Muang Thong Utd, with whom Buriram also have a bitter rivalry, making them okay in my book. They also shared an epic recent match, the memory of which still sends a tingle down my spine. It was 2014, Port had been promoted the previous season and were, unbelievably, in the top three after only one defeat in 8 games. The gates were closed on PAT Stadium with a full house of 12,000 and then some more, most of whom were hanging off the floodlight pylons. A game of high intensity was settled by Kroekrit’s first time piledriver after a thrilling, jinking run by Saruta. Chanin re-tied his shoelaces before every goal kick in the final 15 minutes as Port held on for a famous victory against the reigning champions. More of the same on Saturday please!

Video highlights of that game below; the goal at 2:30:

 

Here’s a good read from 2015 on Buriram, which also visits the controversies surrounding the club which I have been too respectful to go into, given the fact that I will be having a few pre-match beers with their fans on Saturday! We have always been greeted with the warmest hospitality by Thai and Farang fans on our trips to the Thunder Castle – much appreciated!

 

The View from Buriram

Many thanks to Graham Dresser of Buriram Times for this preview:

“In good news for Port, the defence is constantly being changed and is looking extremely shaky to say the least. Thank goodness Siwarak (1) is playing as well as ever in goal.
Up front, Diogo (40) seems to be back to his best and, once again, looking the best player in the league. He has frightening pace and does things that not many other players could even attempt; his contribution to the third goal against Thai Honda, the perfect example. Another Brazilian, Coutinho (20) (no, not that one), joined in the close season and did well in the friendlies. He is quick and likes to run at defences. Unfortunately, he suffered a knee injury and has only just returned to the squad. Supachok (19) hit the headlines with an excellently-taken hat-trick at the weekend and I believe he is a young player with a big future. Korean Seul-Ki (7) has moved into Suchao’s holding midfield role and looks like he is born to it. Former Iceland international centre-back Ottesen (23) has been signed and is finding his feet in the Thai league.
Buriram are currently in third place , two points behind Muang Thong with Nakhon Ratachasima to come before our trip to our friends at Thai Port. They have made a solid start to the season and I’m sure it will be an entertaining game. I’m not expecting 0-0! (Neither are we, Graham!) May I wish Thai Port and their fans an enjoyable and successful season (after Saturday) and thank you for allowing me to contribute to your publication.”

 

Coelho

 

I watched the highlights of the Rams’ game against Thai Honda and can only echo Graham’s words. Diogo combined at lightning speed with Coelho and Supachok to carve open the Honda defence at will. More on that later.

 

Predicted Port Lineup & Tactics

After that dismal performance against Thai Honda last night it is difficult to have confidence in any line-up against a rampant Buriram (4-0 winners v Nakhon Ratchasima) but I hope Jadet sticks mostly with last Saturday’s starting XI; keeping Meechok (20) in place of Nitipong (34) and Genki (18) in for Tana (99). Pakorn (9) just about keeps his place but I find his constant movement inside quite irritating; closing down others’ space to often lose the ball after the first one or two dribbles. I am a traditionalist, having grown up watching Ian Callaghan and Peter Thompson (Liverpool mid 60’s), and want to see my wingers go down the wing (see Saruta again). The key battles will be Dolah (4) and Rochela (22) trying to neutralize the deadly pairing of Diogo (40) and Coelho (50) (or Coutinho) and Siwakorn (16) tracking back on the excellent Supachok (19) (two future internationals?)

Predicted Score

I won’t predict a score but logic tells me Buriram will win; I just hope the game is not out of reach before half-time. If it isn’t and we are kicking towards Zone B in the second half, logic could take a back seat.

Pertinent Form Guide

Thai Honda 1 Buriram 5

Thai Honda 5 Thai Port 1

As the Americans say; ‘You do the Math’.

 

Christ on a Bike! Jesus Drives Honda to Big Win: Thai Honda 5-1 Port FC

 

This game took place on International Women’s Day, and Port’s players honoured the occasion by playing like girls. Actually that’s a bit harsh – girls would’ve put up more of a fight. For make no mistake, this was a clueless, gutless performance from a disorganised, confused, underprepared team hampered by some utterly baffling team selections.

 

The Team

Weera Duckworth negotiates his return to the team with Jadet

Firstly, if it was Jadet who picked this team, he needs to go now. If it was someone else, they need to step back and let the coach get on with his job. Weera in goal? If Rattanai was unavailable for whatever reason, why not Worawut? Weera hadn’t pulled on a Port shirt for 2 years and proceeded to spend the game showing exactly why. Siwapong for Tachanon? After Tachanon put in one of the best midfield performances of the season against Navy? I said at the start of the season that whilst I didn’t feel Jadet was the right guy to turn Port into a top-half T1 club, he deserved a chance based on encouraging performances in pre-season friendlies and the very obvious buzz and team spirit around the club. But if he was behind last night’s team selection, then I’m sorry big fella but your time’s up.

 

 

The Match

Port started the game like they always do away from home, ie looking as if they’d rather be anywhere else but here. Guys, I get it. I know you love the PAT. We all love the PAT. We have the best fans and the best atmosphere in Thailand. But sometimes WE HAVE TO PLAY AT OTHER STADIUMS. That’s football. Port’s timidity in the opening exchanges essentially told Honda that we were here to lose, and they grasped the game accordingly.

The rout began in the 13th minute, when Honda’s no7 Lima (man of the match and the best opposition player I’ve seen all season) latched onto a through ball into the area, only to have his heels clipped by Panpanpong. The ref pointed to the spot immediately, up stepped Honda’s SFS Jesus, and whilst Weera Duckworth went the right way (the first and last thing he got right all evening), the ball nestled into the corner for a goal.

Following the goal Port had their best spell of possession but were unable to do much with it, due to utterly pitiful performances from every single player in the midfield, particularly Siwapong who resembled a 14-year old boy thrown onto the pitch without ever having seen a football before. Josimar was left stranded up front whilst Honda’s midfield, the same strong, organised and occasionally dirty unit we came up against last season, bullied our players at every turn, aided in no small part by the referee who, when he failed to at least book Honda’s no40 for a shocking tackle from behind on Suarez, sent out a signal that they could be as physical as they liked. Suarez, never one to let things lie, exacted his revenge on Honda’s no19 a few minutes later, and was swiftly replaced by Wanchalerm before he got the red card that the ref would almost certainly have given him eventually, such was his clear dislike of all things Port, and whose performance was frequently critiqued by the Khlong Thoey Army via the medium of song.

If we thought the departure of Suarez, whose all-action style and occasional pretty flicks do a good job of masking the fact that he actually contributes very little, and the arrival of Wanchalerm would shore up the midfield, we were wrong, as Honda doubled their lead on half-time. Some utterly pathetic defending by Siwapong on the edge of the box gave the ball away, leaving no40 Ardchom with only Weera to beat, which is basically as good as an open goal. 2-0.

 

A typically packed Honda home game

 

Jadet made a change at half-time, taking off the pitiful Siwapong and bringing on Elsie Tana. Now, bringing on a player like Tana when you’re 2-0 down is rather like…I was going to say bringing a knife to a gunfight, but knives are sharp and dangerous and offer some kind of threat. So let’s say like bringing a courgette to a gunfight, and so it proved, with the veteran striker wandering aimlessly about for 45 minutes and contributing the sum total of fuck all.

But Port started the half in lively fashion, Josimar finally getting some service and firing a header straight at Honda’s keeper. However, within 8 minutes it was 4-0. Firstly, in the 48th minute, three Port defenders stood awestruck at the feet of Jesus giving him time to turn and slide the ball back to our old friend Ardchom, who fired home via a Dolah deflection; and then on 53 minutes, that man Lima passed to an unmarked Tannamit who again had only Weera to beat, and we all know what happened next. 4-0 Honda. Honda had clearly done their homework on Port’s defence, Dolah in particular, and so avoided Navy’s tactic of putting high balls into the box, instead adopting the devious strategy of PLAYING THE BALL ON THE GROUND. I seriously fear for the big Thai-Swede against Buriram on Saturday.

The introduction of Pakorn for the ineffective Ekkapoom sparked Port into life with several chances being missed, before the talented no9 pulled one back in the 69th minute via a delicious curling free-kick. But any hopes that it might spark an unlikely comeback were snuffed out on 84 minutes, when Weera, in hopefully his last ever act in a Port shirt, made a complete tit of himself dealing with a corner: firstly he palmed it into the path of Jesus, who bundled it over the line; then, realising he’d conceded a goal, he thought he’d better at least act the part of a goalkeeper and did a bizarre comedy dive. Quite what the watching Worawut and Rattanai made of it all is anyone’s guess.

And that was that, 5 goals shipped to a team in 14th place in a performance of such utter ineptitude you struggled to believe you were watching the same team who’d taken 7 points out of 9 at home. With 14 goals conceded in 5 games (11 of those in 2 away games) it’s very clear where Port’s deficiencies lie, and likewise it’s very clear what Port’s best starting XI is; but whoever is picking the team seems to think this is some kids’ Sunday league team and that every boy, even the rubbish ones like Weera and Siwapong, deserves a turn. If this tinkering with the squad continues, and if the obvious psychological issue of away games isn’t addressed, we are in for a long, hard season.

 

Port Man of the Match – THE FANS

I thought long & hard about the MOTM award. Josimar did his best without any kind of service; Rochela tried singlehandedly to put out the various fires that broke out every time Honda crossed into Port’s half and has my sincere sympathy for having to corral a defence of such staggering inadequacy; and Pakorn, when he came on, did more than anyone else to salvage a bit of pride. But it’s impossible to give awards to anyone on the pitch. So the award goes to the fans who, as always, turned out in numbers, even on a Wednesday evening game at one of Bangkok’s least accessible football grounds. They sang and cheered the team throughout, and quite reasonably made their dissatisfaction with the performance known. They’re the reason we all love Port so much, why so many of us farang fans have found a home here, and they deserve much, much better than the shit that was served up to them tonight.

 

Will Port Jump-Start Away Form at Honda? Thai Honda vs Port FC, 8 March 2017

 

Honda away is coming up this Wednesday 7.00 p.m., so the most important part of this preview is the location of Honda’s ground. The 72nd Anniversary Stadium is here.

 

 

If you are heading there try to work out a way to head off as soon as possible to avoid the rush-hour traffic.

 

Head-to-Head History

Port v Honda in 2013 saw unprecedented levels of hysteria at the PAT. Port knocked in 8 goals crushing Honda 8-1. The highest goal tally I’ve ever seen, and I couldn’t find anyone around me who’d seen a game with more Port goals. Heady days, but that was a long time ago and at home. The last time Port played at the 72nd Anniversary Stadium it was Port that looked all at sea as our then new manager decided to play Genki at left back and their Scary Foreign Striker ran rings around a tired defence. Our 2-1 defeat changed a challenge for the Division 1 championship into a scramble for promotion. And it took bloody ages to get out of the car park. Estimates vary, but it was around 45 minutes staring at the back of buses as cars inched through the logjam that always happens on the slip road you take to get to the main road.

 

Form

I put my name down to write this preview in the hope I’d be talking about Honda’s woeful form, and Port’s chances of avenging last season’s defeat. Honda haven’t had a great start losing, away to Navy and Supanburi, but sandwiched between those losses was a 1-0 win over Bangkok United at home. Yes, the same Bangkok United that demolished Port 6-2. That result coupled with Port’s away form does not bode well for Wednesday. Honda were battered 5-1 by Buriram at the weekend so we will see how they react to that. At least we know they are vulnerable. I think a draw would be an OK result on Wednesday.

The Bangkok United fixture had a gate of only 1,300. Hopefully Port can muster enough away support to drown out Honda and make the 72nd Anniversary Stadium feel like home. That would seem to be the key for Port, making this feel like a home game. Tim asked me last week “when was the last time you saw us win away?” and I really had to struggle to think of when. Of course the 1-1 away draw with Muangthong in last year’s cup was a brilliant away result. Our last away win was June 16th 2016 3-1 in the FA cup. That’s a long time without an away win especially as we were in Division One last year where we were a class above most of the sides. We really need to sort out our away form hoodoo, some sort of chicken sacrifice on the way to the game maybe. After the drubbing in the yellow shirts we might see the black 3rd strip get an outing on Wednesday. We need an away win at some point to stop the long barren away spell.

 

Honda’s Key Player

Jesus Walks

Unfortunately there’s no point praying to God, a la Maranhao, as Honda already have Jesus on their side. Anyone at Honda away last year will remember Jesus taking control of the area. Although he didn’t score he looked dangerous throughout and had tons of chances. Jesus is the classic Scary Foreign Striker and got 13 goals last year. He’s very strong in the box and good at getting on the end of crosses. (Inspired – Ed)

 

Key Matchup

Rochela (22) v Jesus, it’s a David versus Goliath matchup, and if Rochela can keep Jesus under control Port can make a game of it.

 

Port Lineup

Port’s last away result was to ship 6 goals, so Jadet may move to a more defensive set up. I hope he doesn’t, and I hope we get the chance to see Josimar trying to snatch an early goal and put some pressure on Honda.

I was great to finally see Tatchanon (39) take up his rightful place as our best holding midfield player. Still a massive mystery why it’s taken Jadet so long to put him there. Tana (99) on the left wing experiment was odd. I’m not a massive fan of Genki (18) or Ekkapoom(8) but either would have been better options. Josimar (30) looks a class player and must have done enough to get in the starting line up again. Our best lineup would be this:

Rattanai (17)

Meechok (20), Dolah(4), Rochela (22) , Pinkong (19)

Pakorn(9) Suarez(5), Tatchanon(39) Siwakorn(16) Genki (18)

Josimar (30)

We could see some rotation with three games in eight days. Changes just to keep people fresh could be Ekkapoom on the left wing maybe Todsapol (6) for Dolah(4). And we could see Piyachat(88) switch with Tatchanon.

 

Prediction

Honest Form Prediction – Honda 1-1 Port

Hopeful I Love Port Prediction – Rochela takes care of Jesus, Josimar pops up to nick a goal. It is possible – Honda 0-1 Port

 

Buri the Hatchet! Port & Buriram Fans’ Meetup, Saturday 11 March

 

Port face their toughest home test of the season this Saturday (19:00) when Isaan giants Buriram come to the PAT. Apart from Port, no other Thai league team has so many farang supporters, so our top boy Keith Wright got in touch with their firm to arrange a pre-match rumble.

Not, I should add, for the purposes of fisticuffs, but for beers, bantz and bonhomie, and probably saying nasty things about Muangthong. The meetup starts from 16:00 at The Sandpit’s official watering hole The Sportsman, on Sukhumvit soi 13, where all in attendance will get special beer prices and 10% discount on food & drinks.

We look forward to seeing you there on Saturday, followed by a great game at the PAT – hopefully more enjoyable than Buriram’s last visit in 2015…

 

IN THE NAVY! You Can Come to PAT; IN THE NAVY! You Can Lose to Port FC: Port 1-0 Navy FC

 

Shiver me timbers! The salty Sattahip seadogs of Navy FC sailed into Khlong Thoey on Saturday night in search of booty, but were sent to a watery grave by a disciplined, well-organised Port side who delivered their most solid performance of the season so far to win 1-0. The victory takes Port to the heady heights of 6th in T1. Yo ho ho and a bottle of Leo!

 

The Team

After the Terror of Thammasat, Jadet rang the changes and finally introduced Tachanon (39) in midfield, something he should really have done from day 1. The increasingly impressive Pinkong (19) was restored at left-back. Up front, Brazilian striker Josimar (30) was handed his first start, whilst Tana (99) started, somewhat bizarrely, on the left.

 

The Match

Having flown in from London on the morning of the match, nursing jetlag, a hangover and a heavy cold, your reporter was rather more dazed & confused than usual during last night’s game, and a cocktail of Lemsip Max and Leo didn’t exactly help matters. I didn’t even make it out of the stadium for a half-time bevvy. Unprecedented.

Port flew out of the blocks, clearly intent on consigning last week’s debacle to history, and tore into Navy from the start. And on 4 minutes, Nitipong skipped down the right, tried to cross the ball, and instead somehow managed to slice it into the far corner of the net for 1-0. A fortunate goal perhaps but it was certainly just reward for Port’s early attacking enthusiasm.

Port continued to dominate the first half, Suarez (5) and Josimar both being denied by the Navy netminder, with the scurvy seadogs over-reliant on an ageing and misfiring Bjorn Lindemann on the few occasions they got forward. Navy were frequently sitting so deep that Rochela (22), who once again put in so good a performance one gets tired talking about it, often found himself starting attacking moves from the halfway line.

 

 

Port emerged early for the second half, keen to put the game to bed, but whilst the midfield axis of Sivakhorn (16) & Tachanon were bossing the centre of the park, Port’s wingers were struggling – Pakorn (9) was having an off day, and Tana’s lack of energy and stamina were predictably exposed, which meant the excellent Josimar was getting very little service. It was no surprise when Tana was replaced by the more vibrant Genki later in the half.

The balance of the game shifted around the 70-minute mark when Port seemed to tire and their nautical nemeses started to get back into it, and for the remaining 24 minutes it was squeaky bum time as Navy bombarded Port, helped by Sivakhorn and Pinkong giving away sphincter-tightening free kicks around the box with alarming regularity. Dolah (4) and Rochela will have headaches this morning from clearing so many crosses, and on those rare occasions when they were bypassed, young Rattanai (17) was resolute in goal.

Port had a couple of chances to kill the game late on. Nitipong (34) shaved the crossbar when a pass to Josimar would’ve been a better option, and then in the last action of the game, the same two players found themselves 2 v 1 on Navy’s keeper, but Nitipong’s pass was just behind the burly Brazilian and, having to halt his run, he slipped and fell on the ball. At which point, to the relief of another big PAT crowd, the ref, who must’ve had an excellent game as I don’t remember shouting abuse at him even once, blew the whistle.

All in all, probably Port’s best overall performance of the season, helped by Jadet finally having the courage to pick his best players. Port were largely solid at the back and in midfield, and only the wings let the side down this time round. Had Jadet started with Genki or Ekkapoom on the left rather than the creaking Tana, those last 20 minutes might not have been so agonising. But 3 points are 3 points, and with tough games coming up away at Honda and home to Buriram, it was a game that Port simply had to win, and they did.

 

Man of the Match – Josimar Rodrigues

Refreshingly there were several candidates for the coveted Sandpit MOTM award. Dolah had his best game in a Port shirt so far, and his defensive partner Rochela was classy as ever. Tachanon showed why we’ve been calling for his inclusion since the opening game with a superb performance in midfield, Pinkong pretty much made the LB slot his own, and Nitipong was excellent coming forward, particularly when freed up by the late arrival of Meechok (20).

But for me, it came down to the typically industrious, constructive and destructive Sivakhorn, and debut boy Josimar, with the Brazilian just shading it. Josimar looks like he could well be the striker Port have been missing for the last 2 seasons – fast, strong, a lovely first touch, accurate passing and an obvious eye for goal, he didn’t give Navy’s defenders one second of peace. But his real value, particularly during those nervy last 20 minutes, was as an outlet when Port were under the cosh, controlling long balls, holding up the play and bringing teammates into the game. He reminded me of my favourite Coventry player of all time, the mighty Cyrille Regis, and from me there is no higher praise than that. Chapéu senhor!

 

Port To Shore Up Defence As Navy Weigh Anchor: Port FC vs. Siam Navy, 4 Mar 2017

 

After floundering at the hands of Bangkok Utd, Port will need to batten down the hatches to avoid being cast adrift in the lower regions of T1. Befogged by copious amounts of grog, Saturday’s performance did not seem too bad, but with the benefit of a highlights video, it was clear that the defence had completely lost its bearings, allowing the Angels to cruise to an emphatic victory.

Navy will sail into Port, buoyed by a narrow victory over last year’s Division Champions Thai Honda, after two equally narrow defeats at the hands of Buriram and the aforementioned Bangkok Utd. They are one point below us and this can be officially classified as a, ‘game we need to win to remain afloat’.

 

Siam Navy

Form

 

Navy are one of the oldest teams in Thailand, being formed in 1937, the same year as Air Force, and a good 30 years ahead of Port. This is their third consecutive year in the top flight and were sitting precariously above the relegation zone last year when the season ended prematurely.

Their early form suggests a well-organized defence and a solid midfield, possibly one of the oldest in the League; last week’s trio of Lindemann (10), Kornchan (18) and Bang Seung-hwan (99) totaling 101 years between them.

 

Players to Watch

 

German Bjorn Lindemann (10) is one of the more interesting foreign players in the League, arriving in Thailand in 2012 and featuring for Army, Suphanburi and Nakhon Ratchasima before arriving in Sattahip. He is a good, solid, technical player but may lack the pace to catch Siwakorn, we hope.

At centre back and captain, is another veteran, 35 year old Nataporn Phanrit (6), who earned 70 caps for the Thai National team between 2001-12. Navy are his 9th club in the top flight.

Finally, the third player to watch, was the scorer of the winning penalty against Thai Honda, Brazilian, Rodrigo Vergilio (23), a nifty centre-forward capable of stretching static defences –  which ours certainly was last week!  Think of a two-footed Leandro without the drama.

Port FC

The Starting XI

 

Rattanai (17) was one of the few players to come out with any credit from last week’s game and should keep his place. Jadet seems to pick his fullbacks by throwing their names in the air and seeing who lands face-up. We have been vulnerable down the wings for a while now and a settled, in-form pair needs to be established. This week he may stick with Nitipong (34) and Panpanpong (19); both have looked good going forward and Navy should not pose the attacking threat faced last week. Meechok (20) is perhaps the best alternative. What has happened to Todsapol (6)? Dolah (4) and Captain Marvelous, Rochela (22), were badly exposed late on by Mario’s probing passes but the pairing should be allowed to continue to develop their understanding. Vergilio (23) will test Dolah (4) if left one on one, but Rochela (22) will no doubt come to the rescue!

Siwakorn (16) continues to impress; he has a good first touch, is quick and energetic and can switch the pattern of play to good effect. We need to attack the 101 club at pace so Pakorn (9), Genki (18) out wide, possibly with one of Adisorn (13), Tatchanon (39), Wanchalerm (40) or the fit-again Piyachat (88) to complete a middle four. Up front, it could be the perfect moment to introduce Josimar (30) against the experienced but ageing Nataporn (6) with Sergio Suarez (5) tucked in behind him.

Tana (99) has done well coming on as an impact player while Ekkapoom (8) can also stretch tired legs late on.

 

Prediction

 

Won’t even bother. This is Port.

 

The match will be shown live on True Sports 2 at 20:00 on Saturday 4th March, 2017

 

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The Sandpit’s Port FC Player of the Month for February Is…

 

Voting for The Sandpit’s inaugural Player of the Month competition has now closed and the winner is…

El Capitan David Rochela!

 

 

In a vote that was tied just hours before the deadline, a late surge of support for Port FC’s captain propelled him to victory, adding February’s Player of the Month Award to his Player of the Year award from 2016.

Rochela produced a rock solid Man of the Match performance in Port’s opening day draw against Ratchaburi and then a strong showing in the victory over Suphanburi. The final game of the month saw Port visit Bangkok Utd, where Port conceded 6 and Rochela was far from his best, but 25% of voters adjudged that his first two displays were enough to merit him taking home the award.

In online discussion about the vote, Tommie Duncan commented “Aside from his play on Sunday, Rochela kept us in the first two matches. He was superhuman. Gets my vote.” And James Clarke, although he did not vote for the Spaniard, said “If he’d not played a minute of the season, I think we’d have 0 points, can’t make that case for anyone else.”

Siwakorn Jakkuprasart

Photo by Patikamol Sukcharoen

 

In second place was the consistent Siwakorn Jakkuprasart, who was Port FC’s Man of the Match in the away defeat to Bangkok Utd, where he also scored an early contender for Goal of the Season. Whilst he did nothing particularly outstanding in the first 2 games, Siwakorn as always put in solid performances and his all-action midfield displays provided a platform for those around him to flourish. Siwakorn was tied with Rochela with just hours to go before the deadline, but ended up taking 18% of the vote to finish second.

 

The Rest of the Nominees

 

Nitipong Selanon racked up 15% of the vote to finish in third. His attacking displays from full-back really caught the eye in the opening two games, although his defensive frailties were brutally exposed against Bangkok Utd.

 

Tana Chanabut took 12% of the vote after scoring two goals, despite starting just once and coming off the bench twice. As always, Tana is a major goal threat when he’s on the pitch, and he kick-started Port’s come-from-behind victory against Suphanburi with a stunning dipping strike from outside the box.

 

Sergio Suarez also took 12%, but had one fewer vote than Tana. Suarez looked a little overawed on the opening day of the season, but came to life against Suphanburi, scooping The Sandpit’s Man of the Match award, and scoring the winning goal.

 

Rattanai Songcangchan was picked by 10% of voters, who were willing to overlook the fact that the young ‘keeper conceded 9 goals in his opening 3 games. Realistically, Rattanai could be held responsible for just one of those goals, and made some stunning saves at important moments throughout the month.

 

Pakorn Prempak picked up 8% of the vote after providing 2 assists in the opening 3 games. An inch-perfect delivery was met by a Genki header to rescue a point on the opening day of the season, and a deep looping cross deceived Bangkok Utd’s ‘keeper to give Tana a tap-in last week.

 

Thanks to all 218 people who voted before the deadline, and congratulations to Rochela and all the other nominees.