Port travel to Sukhothai – “The Fire Bats” – this Sunday looking to bounce back after the 3-0 thrashing by Bangkok Glass. On Tuesday I was ready to write about a poor Sukhothai with 4 points and not many prospects. Unfortunately for Port, Sukhothai managed a 1-0 win away at Thai Honda. When you know Honda had a player sent off in the 45th minute, the win against 10 men is slightly less impressive. Still we can all remember how we got on at Honda, no wait I don’t want to remember that. So the Bats will be lifted by their second win of the season.
In 2016 Sukhothai were guided through a great season by Somchai Chuayboonchum “Naa Chuai”, an Ex-Port Player (1976–1983) and briefly Port Manager (November 2014–April 2015). In the 2016 season they managed to finish 7th and technically win the F.A. Cup. Sukhothai made it to the semi finals of the F.A. Cup, but the competition was abandoned due to the death of King Rama IX Bhumibol Adulyadej. So the winner was decided by the drawing of lots and Sukhothai were the lucky ones. In the F.A. Cup quarter finals Sukhothai dispatched a Port team 4-0 at the Thung Thalay Luang Stadium. However, this result was against a team made up of 50% first team and 50% reserve players. After this result Port went on the beat Ubon UMT and secure promotion. 4-0 is a bitter pill to swallow, but it did help us win promotion.
After their great showing last year Sukhothai sacked “Naa Chuai” for no discernible reason. And following this unfair sacking they have imploded this year, 6 losses in the first 7 games is a terminal start to any season. With a draw and a win in the last two matches have Sukhothai now turned the corner? Let’s hope not. They have creative midfielder J. Rakotonomenjanahary or “Baggio” (10) for short, and he is quite short! He came to Port as a trialist before the 2015 season and I was one of the people who said he was too small to make it, and having a midget as a foreign player is a waste. He has proved me wrong, being the creative heart of a decent Sukhothai side in 2016. Sukhothai’s two foreign strikers have both knocked in 2 goals this year. Ivory coast forward Bireme Diouf (27) started the last game on the left wing with Admir Adrović (9) playing as a target man, so we are likely to be looking at two scary foreign strikers on Sunday. With only 4 goals between them, hopefully they won’t prove too scary.
So is this a possible banana skin for Port? Yes, but not just because Sukhothai have some confidence now. The official Thai League website (90% reliable) says Siwakorn (16) picked up his fourth yellow card on Wednesday. So Port will be away from home and without Siwakorn. Siwakorn isn’t just a sublime passing genius, he works hard every game and plugs any gaps that need to be filled. He has a phenomenal love of yellow cards, he had a collection of at least 12 last year. Early in his career he had a habit of diving in for silly challenges just because he’d lost possession, now he’s calmed down a bit. He’s channeled this anger into a defensive strategy. If a dangerous player is free or looking likely to cause Port a problem Siwakorn will tackle with all the aggression of a young Graham Souness. Port get a respite from the attack, Siwakorn gets a yellow. Hence his large card collection.
So Port without Siwakorn(16) is the big talking point of the weekend. I think Jadet will bring in Piyachat (88) and he will attempt to play him in similar role to Siwakorn. Port’s line up is fairly settled now. Jadet did play around with the line up at Honda away, the last time we had two matches close together, but we all know what happened then. I hope we’ll see a similar set of players to Wednesday night and they’ll get a chance to regain some form.
Likely Line Up
Key Match ups
Baggio vs. Everyone else
Baggio (10) is a great little player and if he’s given the freedom to play the ball around he can really cause Port some problems. If Port close him down they can close Sukhothai down. He is Sukhothai’s one creative driving force. Port’s midfield need to single him out, having one person man marking him and other players looking to close down his options.
He should start on Sunday, but away against Thai Honda he was brought on as a sub. Could be a new way to use Baggio, or it could be he was subbed on because it was a more defensive set up for an away match.
Diouf vs. Meechok
Mechook (20) has proved himself a quality right back, but if Sukhothai put Diouf (27) on the left wing the 32 year old wily striker will be another top level test for the 19 year old right back. Mechook is ready for it, but I think it will be a long day for the young man.
Key match up for Port vs. BEC Tero
Dolah (4), Suarez (5), Nitipong (34) vs. The Ref.
Dolah(4), Suarez(5), and Nitipong (34) all find themselves on 3 yellow cards. Another entry in the book will see them miss a tough game next week. Next weekend Port face a half decent BEC Tero side currently sitting in 5th place.
We really need to take 6 points off the bottom teams this year. Sukhothai, Sisaket and Samut Prakan should be among those teams. Port have a habit of under-performing against lower league opposition, I just hope this trend stops on Sunday.
3-1 win for Port.
“Sukhotired: A View from Sukhothai” by Henry Musa
Where to begin, the season started with 6 losses out of 7, changing coaches twice and going from finishing 7th last year to now being in the relegation zone. It’s an understatement to say it’s been a disappointing start to the season for Sukhothai fans. After finally ending our 5 game winless streak on Wednesday, thanks to a 1-0 win over Thai Honda and being only 1 point away from safety, Sukhothai will definitely be hungry for the 3 points this Sunday. It’s unlikely that Coach Bae will change his starting 11 from Wednesday’s match. Whilst Sukhothai has slightly improved in both defence and midfield since the beginning of Coach Bae’s reign, 2 weeks ago, the team is still lacking the firepower and creativity we saw last season. Thankfully our goalkeeper, “Art” Pairote Eiam-mak (35) is in good form and has been keeping out the goals (most of them) and both Baggio (10) and Diouf (27) are also starting to pick up their game. Baggio seems to be the only play-maker on the pitch this season but Diouf does have his occasional spurts of brilliance. Thankfully Baggio walked away unscathed by that dangerous high tackle on him on Wednesday. Our two new foreign players, Anton Zemlianukhin (20) and Admir Adrović (9) also look hungry to prove themselves and have steadily been adjusting themselves to fit in with Coach Bae’s style of play. Sunday definitely looks to be an exciting match which everybody in the Sukhothai camp is looking forward to. It’s probably safe to say that Sunday’s match will most likely be a lot more competitive than Sukhothai’s last encounter with Port.
My prediction is a 2-1 win to Sukhothai.
For any Port fans travelling to Sukhothai, I wish you all a very pleasant stay in the nation’s historical first capital. For those of you who haven’t visited the ruins, it’s definitely a must see. Our two clubs have a very strong relationship and you can look forward to being greeted with hospitality at Talae Luang Stadium.”
Henry Musa is a long time Sukhothai fan now based in Rayong. He runs and regularly updates the Sukhothai English Facebook page, “Sukhothai F.C. English Fanzone”. While chatting to Henry, he told me he has a Thai Port connection. As a nipper Henry would come along to games at PAT stadium with his Dad and the Sandpit’s very own Peter Hockley A.K.A. “Hockers”. Henry sends his regards Hockers.
The match will be shown live on True Sport 7 at 18:00 on Sunday 23rd April, 2017