One of Thai football’s oldest – and friendliest – rivalries resumes this Wednesday as Port travel down the coast to play Chonburi. With both teams somewhat unexpectedly sunning themselves on the upper slopes of T1, it should be a hard fought game between two sides whose original ambitions have been somewhat revised in the light of very encouraging starts to the season. Port will be playing to hold onto their 5th place, or even move up into 4th; Chonburi will be aiming to leapfrog them into the top 6.
After two poor away performances Port have won twice on the road – including THAT win at Chiang Rai – and are starting to play like a team who believe they belong in the top 6. They’ll need to show all that confidence in what is likely to be a tough test.
With both teams scoring – and conceding – plenty of goals in their first 11 games, entertainment is most definitely on the cards, though given Chonburi’s dwindling home crowds, and the difficulty for Port fans of getting there & back on a Wednesday night, there may not be a huge crowd there to see it. However, the Sandpit will be there so look out for a dozen or so farangs piling out of two minivans and come & have a beer with us!
Imagine The Smiths without Morrissey. Or Fawlty Towers without John Cleese. Or a bacon sarnie without the bacon. That will give you an idea of the prospect we Port fans are facing on Wednesday because – and you may want to sit down when you read this bit – David Rochela will not be playing. The captain – a pretty much permanent fixture in the Port starting XI since he joined from Buriram in June 2015 – picked up a ridiculous yellow card against Police Tero on Sunday, and as it was his 4th of the season, he’s suspended for one game. Ohhhh the humanity.
The Sandpit’s sources at the club (yes, we do have sources, and not just the ones we put on our pre-match chips) suggest that young Thai-Swede Niran Hansson will be called on to replace Rochela and make his first competitive start for Port alongside his compatriot and best mate Elias Dolah. Niran looked very impressive in the one friendly appearance he’s made so far and his pace would be very useful in dealing with Chonburi’s livewire striker Renan Marques (9 goals already this season), though there is still a nagging feeling that the somewhat conservative Jadet may go for the more experienced Anisong.
Elsewhere, Elsie Tana is also suspended, and whilst he had one of his better games against Police, in a game like this, where Port will likely be doing more defending, it will be reassuring to see Genki take his place. Tana’s attitude towards tracking back is rather like my own towards doing the washing up – I’m aware of the basic concept, but I certainly don’t intend to get involved in it & would rather leave it for others – whereas Genki’s balls-out (not literally, I hasten to add) energetic wing play would make Port a lot more resilient.
Reliable LB Pinpanpong Pinkong Pingpong was stretchered off against Police so if he is unfit to play tomorrow, expect Nitipong to switch to LB and Meechok to come in at RB.
Otherwise I expect the lineup to remain the same, with Siwakorn and Adisorn harrassing Chonburi’s midfield like a pair of Jack Russell (no relation) terriers, Suarez hopefully playing like he did on Sunday, and Josimar continuing his run of 5 goals in his last 5 games.
For a look at Chonburi FC, who better than the legendary Dale Farrington, founder of one of the original English-language Thai football sites? Take it away Dale!
Chonburi v Port or Port Authority of Thailand or Thai Port or Singhtarua or any variation on the above, will always be a fixture that resonates with older Chonburi fans, as this was our first ever game in the top flight, way back in 2006. Much has changed for both clubs since that historic occasion – which was then a local derby and cost B30 to get in – and, even though Wednesday’s match isn’t as eagerly as anticipated as our TPL debut all those years ago, there’s still plenty surrounding it to pique our interest. Most notably, the return of our most successful head coach.
The current Port boss, Jadet Meelarp, has had three spells in charge of the Sharks (and would anybody rule out another return at some point in the future?) during which he delivered the League title (2007), the FA Cup (2010) and the Kor Royal Cup (2008). He also led us to a second place TPL finish in 2008. “Sir Ded” is still very highly regarded by the local fans and will receive a tremendous welcome when he takes his seat in the dugout, or his standing position in the technical area – I’m not really sure which he favours these days – before kick off (Ded is definitely a dugout guy these days and leaves the touchline stuff to others – Ed).
On the flip side of the coin, the home team’s ranks will probably include two former Port favourites – Chonburi loanees, goalkeeper Chanin Sae-Ear and midfielder Kroerkrit Taweekarn – both of whom are still very fondly remembered at their old club. However, as regular readers of my website or my Twitter account will know, I’m not a fan of either of them, and would gladly drive them back to Klong Toey myself, at the earliest opportunity – I wouldn’t even charge them for petrol. The former is too small to be a keeper and is prone to making silly mistakes – his distribution is generally terrible too. Whilst the latter has to rank as one of the most over rated footballers I have ever seen in over fifty years of following the sport. He offers nothing to the team – other than a pretty face for the girls to scream at/squeal over – and how he is an established Thailand international will remain a mystery to me as long as I live – hopefully another fifty years! You can guarantee that I will be paying particular attention to both their performances (if selected) tomorrow night.
Whilst history is most certainly on our side – since that opening day 3-1 defeat over a decade ago, Chonburi have won six and drawn two of the eight subsequent meetings – this match isn’t easy to call. Both teams have had an erratic start to the 2017 campaign and it would take a brave pundit to forecast Wednesday’s result. However, the two sides go into the match on the back of impressive weekend victories, which should see the Sharks and the Lions (who are currently sitting 5th) brimming with confidence. In fact, I’m reminded of Alan Partridge holding a hot apple pie and threatening to squeeze it when confronted by a rival; “A jet of molten Bramley apple will squirt out. Could go your way; could go mine. Either way, one of us is going down”. 0-0 draw, anyone?
On a final note, I will be keeping a close eye on the attendance at this game. Our crowds have dropped alarmingly in recent weeks and the club appears unwilling or unable to address the slide. There was a token effort at the last home match, with tickets being issued to a group of about 25 schoolchildren, but this isn’t enough. Traditionally, Port don’t bring that many fans, and midweek turnouts are generally low, so the onus is on the Chonburi management to try and fill the home stands. I wonder what they’re doing to put things right? No. Don’t bother trying to answer that. I know exactly what they’re (not) doing! Another sub 3,000 turnout will be an embarrassment – it looks particularly cringeworthy on TV – and it will now be very hard to attract those stay away supporters back to Chonburi Stadium. Worrying times indeed.