8 Reasons We Love Beating Muangthong

 

It’s been a while since Port have beaten their fiercest rivals. 2,853 days to be exact, but who’s counting? To celebrate Port breaking their near 8 year drought, we thought it was only right to give you 8 reasons why we LOVE beating the Muangscum.

 

We Even Gave Them a Head Start

 

We didn’t just beat Muangthong. We beat them giving up a one goal head start! Whilst Dolah clearly felled Teerasil, replays showed contact was made just outside the box. Maybe next time if the ref doesn’t give them a one goal start, we’ll win more convincingly!

 

The Numbers

Muangthong: 25 Shots, 2 Goals

Port: 4 Shots, 3 Goals

Check your pockets, Muangthong, you’ve been robbed!

 

Those Four Minutes

Possibly the most exhilarating four minutes of football in Port history. One nil down and without a goal in the last 2 games, Port suddenly turned on the afterburners, sending cross after cross in to the Muangthong box, and attacking the ball as if our lives depended on it.

The first goal was a pleasant surprise, the second a downright shock, and the third an out-of-body experience!

 

Headers and Volleys

At Port we don’t just score run-of-the-mill goals like dodgy penalties and tap-ins; we go the extra mile. Josimar’s first was a stunning left-footed volley which curled in to the bottom corner, the second a Beckham-esque cross by Panpanpong met by a Ronaldo-esque leap and header by Suarez, the third a pinpoint pull-back from Nitipong met by a right footed pile driver from Josimar. The perfect hattrick. The Holy Trinity. The Tarua Trilogy!

 

 

The Title Race Is Back On

In two losses to Thai Honda and Port, Muangthong’s seven point advantage at the top has been cut to just one. If Muangthong lose out by a couple of points this year, we’ll be sure to remind them about this game, and the points they could have had, if not for…

 

Port’s Twelfth Man

“You Shall Not Pass!”

 

Usually this is where we sing the praises of the traveling fans, but in the ghost town that was the SCG, Port received some spooky help from the woodwork. First, the bar rejected Lee Ho’s powerful header, then the post repelled Sorawit’s mishit effort, before finally the bar once again said “No” to Lee Ho. “You shall not pass!”

 

Bragging Rights

Who else is looking forward to all those conversations with Muangthong supporters now? Not just in the coming days and weeks, but for years to come Port fans will be reminding their glory-supporting counterparts about those four minutes at the SCG.

 

This Video

We may not have been there to cheer on the lads, but they made sure the occasion didn’t pass without some Tarua songs ringing through the bowels of the SCG. We particularly hope the dressing rooms are next door, so that Weera’s wall-banging antics were clearly audible in a silent, dejected Muangthong dressing room.

 

 

If you can’t view this video, click here for a Youtube version.

 

Ahh, Schadenfreude!

 

Can Lions Roar Behind Closed Doors? Muangthong United vs. Port FC, 17 May 2017

 

Port take on fierce rivals Muangthong United behind closed doors on Wednesday, hoping to make some noise by securing a shock victory in the eerie silence of SCG Stadium. With the normal feuding between the Yamaha Ultras and the Khlong Toei Army set to be put to one side for a year, we might even be able to talk about the football for once!

 

Muangthong United

Players to Watch

 

I’ve had to be extremely selective here, as pretty much the entire starting XI plus a couple of substitutes would be players to watch in any other team in the league.

Even with the abundance of quality on display though, the number one threat has to be Chanathip Songkrasin (18). The 5 foot 2 (yes, you read that right) attacking midfielder has been running rings around and through the legs of defenders across the continent this season. Almost certainly the most talented Thai player of all time, Jay (as he is known by Thai fans) has lightning-quick feet and a football brain to match. He will be playing one of his last games in Thailand before he heads off to Consadole Sapporo in the Japanese top-tier for the next year and a half, so expect the mini maestro to put on a show before his departure.

Theerathon Bunmathan (3), or “Heea Um” – as he is not-so-affectionately known in the Port terraces – is a wing back and dead-ball specialist with one of the best left feet in Asia. He already his nine assists to his name in 2017. From left back. Bloody hell. Um’s ability to land a cross on his teammate’s forehead is unerring, although in recent games against Port Um has let the crowd get to him and performed well below his usual level. He’s probably over the moon that he can get on with his job in peace and quiet on Wednesday!

Teerasil Dangda(10) has his critics (including me, after some of his recent performances for the national team) but his record speaks for itself. When he’s on his game, his finishing is second to none in Thai football, although his work-rate can at times be questionable. If given half a chance in or around the area, Port will just have to pray he has his boots on the wrong feet!

This fella is an absolute brute of a centre half. Celio Santos (29) stands a full foot above Chanathip (6 foot 2) and at times seems almost as wide as he is tall. Celio is a formidable barrier on his own, and his defensive partner – experienced Japanese defender Naoaki Aoyama (5) – isn’t bad either. Muangthong have yet to concede a single goal at home in the league, and most of the credit has to go to Celio who has been outstanding week in week out.

 

Chanathip, Theerathon, Teerasil and Celio Santos

 

Form

 

10 wins out of 13 isn’t too shabby, is it? The only glimmer of home for Port fans is Muangthong’s loss last week to specialist giant-killers Thai Honda. Honda took an early lead to Muangthong, and showed incredible resilience to hang on for a win against a barrage of late attacks. If Port can channel the spirit of their exceptional performances against Chiang Rai and Buriram, they too could spring a surprise at the SCG against opponents who have been busy both at home and abroad in the League and Asian Champions League this season. The catch is, that without their 12th man, the Port players will feel very alone indeed in the SCG.

 

Port FC

Starting XI

 

With the mid-season break nearly upon us, it’s time for players to really play for their places. With weaknesses in the squad likely (hopefully) to be addressed in the upcoming transfer window, big performances are needed from several players to ensure that they’re not replaced or lose their position in the starting XI. With that in mind, here are some of the people I think should probably be looking over their shoulder.

With Rattanai (17) now back in training after his injury and Watchara (37) returning the club after BBCU went out of business, Worawut (36) has a big few weeks ahead of him. Rattanai looks odds-on to replace him in the Starting XI when he is back to full fitness, but Worawut still has three games to prove that he belongs ahead of Watchara in the squad. If he continues to look vulnerable under the high ball with his punching (flapping) and distribution very much hit and miss, he could be usurped by Watchara and loaned out if he’s not careful.

Panpanpong (19) has had a decent season to date, but is far from the complete full back. With 21 year old Buriram defender Yossawat being the first arrival, it is clear Jadet is seeking to bolster his options in that area of the pitch, so Panpanpong is going to have to step up his game to stay ahead of his younger teammate in the pecking order.

Adisorn (13) has been a surprising hit this season, performing well in big games and forcing his way in to the first XI. Nevertheless, defensive midfield is a position that Jadet may look to address, as he has shown very little faith in his other options, Tatchanon (39), Wanchalerm (40) and Ittipol (7). Adisorn’s performances in the next few weeks could determine whether or not Jadet will look for another option in the transfer market.

Neither Genki (18) nor Tana (99) has been quite able to make the left wing spot their own so far this season, and that makes them vulnerable. Jadet has already brought in a left sided midfielder in the transfer window, so we know he is looking to add depth in that area of the pitch. The question is, will he be looking to replace either of the two, or supplement them?

Pakorn (9) has been utterly abysmal at times this season. His performance at Korat last week was a prime example of just how bad he can be when his head is not in the game, and it’s a risky time to be at your worst with the window approaching. It’s absolutely infuriating watching a player of his talent blow mostly cold and rarely hot, as he could and should be such a huge asset to Port. If Jadet does look to give himself another option on the right, I would be far from shocked.

Suarez (5) hasn’t quite lived up to the early promise he showed in pre-season. He has had some great games, but has also gone missing at times too. With Maranhao (92) itching to get in to the squad and challenge for a place in the side, Suarez has to put his best foot forward in the coming games to be sure he retains his place.

Josimar (30) has had his moments this season, but he could certainly be more consistent. With Kaludjerovic (10) surely out of the door after being left off the bench against Korat, either Maranhao (92), Asdrubal (27) or another forward will be coming in to the squad and challenging Josimar for his place up front. Josi has three games to prove that he is the man to lead the line for Port in the second leg.

With probably only Nitipong (34), Rochela (22), Dolah (4) and Siwakorn (16) really able to say they are sure their place isn’t under threat, a lot of players have a lot to prove against Muangthong.

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 

Weak Link?

 

 

My usual ‘Key Battle’ segment seems a bit redundant here, as Port have 11 Key Battles against 11 excellent players. Instead I’m going to focus on perhaps Muangthong’s weakest player. Premier League fans may remember Xisco Jimenez from his ill-fated move to Newcastle in 2008. With a transfer fee of £5.7 million and £50,000 per week wages, Newcastle were less than impressed with the 1 goal in 9 games Xisco managed before being shipped back to Spain.

Despite his failure to light up the Premier League, Xisco would still be expected to be a dominant force in T1, but as it is the Spaniard has found the net 5 times so far this season (the same as Josimar). The main reason I think Xisco could be Muangthong’s weak link today is that his aerial prowess – his main threat – could amount to little if he is well-marshalled by Port defender Dolah (4). Dolah has looked increasingly confident at the heart of the Port defence, earning The Sandpit’s Man of the Match awards against both Chonburi and Korat, and will be relishing the chance to dominate a big name like Xisco in a physical battle.

I may be clutching at straws calling Xisco a weak link, but it’s all I’ve got!

 

The match will be shown live on True4U at 18:00 on Wednesday 17 May, but we recommend you join us upstairs at The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13, where a group of Port fans will be watching on a big screen.

 

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Pop-corn, Piss-poor Port and a Proliferation of Pongs: Swatcats 0-0 Port FC

 

“There are lies, damned lies and then there are statistics” (origin unknown, attributed to many).

 

This particular statistic, 0-0, does, indeed, not lie. A more depressing, turgid exhibition of vacuous nothingness it would be hard to find outside of a Jose Mourinho press conference.

At least, for most of us, it had been a welcome chance to visit a new ground. The stadium, built for the late King’s 80th birthday anniversary, was completed in 2007 and, along with the surrounding sports complex, was used to host the South-East Asian Games that same year. Situated just outside the main city, it has a fairly pleasant aspect, impressive floodlights and the inevitable running track, although the elevated view, for one of at least eagle vision, is not a significant drawback.

 

 

On a quiet Sunday though there was little gastronomic fare to appease the appetites  of the decent away crowd. I did manage to pick up a reasonably acceptable Pork laap with rice, only to find that my fellow farang travellers were munching on pop-corn on the stadium steps. Popcorn?! Popcorn?! FFS lads – this is a football match, not a bleeding Pixar movie! Hang your collective heads in Bovril soaked shame. Just try asking for a bag at Wigan Athletic!

Once inside the mostly uncovered, all-seater ground, with an official capacity of  24,641, we were disappointed to see the sparse home crowd dotted like a scatter graph of rainfall in the Sahara Desert. This is a club who, only a few years ago, were one of the best and most passionately supported clubs in the country, boasting the highest ever home attendance in the Premier League when they hosted Buriram in July 2015. The crowd that day was a rib-breaking 34,689 (official capacity 24,641). More on this and other Thai grounds in the Sandpit next month.

As implied, the view was unimpaired and the pattern of play fairly easy to follow, even if, with my gradually deteriorating eyesight, individual players could not. I can confidently say that both teams started with eleven men; one lot were dressed in black shirts (who must have been Port because I was wearing one as well) and the other in orange. Some Port players were instantly recognizable by their size and stature: Dolah is tall and Tana is not; Siwakorn is skinny but talented whilst Pakorn…

 

Pakorn does have a left foot!

 

The numbers on their backs also gave somewhat of a clue, their linear form being just discernibly visible from a distance of 150 metres, and provoked memories from days ill-spent in local Bingo halls: Piyachat 88 (two fat ladies); Rochela 22 (two little ducks) were the most distinctive, while Josimar 30 (Burlington Bertie), quickly established his particular identity with a couple of ballooned shots over the bar.

 

Josimar aims for the popcorn bag

 

At one time we had, so I believed, an assortment of players whose names ended in Pong. What we would have given for one of our ill-directed shots to have Pinged off a Pong and into the net. Not only would it have had a certain rhythmic assonance, but the victory that would have surely ensued would have lightened up the four hour journey home. I’m not quite sure what the real collective name is for a group of Pongs – probably a ‘Putridity’ given their overall performance.

The journey up had had its moments of light relief. John had cunningly adapted Dominic’s legendary Chiang Rai ditty, ‘A win away, a win away’, adding a few words of his own and proceeded to sing it in a voice suggestive of John Denver on nitrous oxide. Linny had tried to drag us out of the culinary gutter (I had started the day with a full English) by diverting the bus to a posh restaurant and winery on the outskirts of Khao Yai National Park. Whilst nobody had a ‘Sideways’ moment and swigged down a whole bottle of Pinot Noir, it did add a certain touch of class to the journey, although, back where I come from, the only wine regularly enjoyed by the locals has an ‘h’ in it. The restaurant certainly seemed to be encouraging a bit of drunkenness; even the menu was leathered.

 

 

Oh, before I forget, there was a football match.  I knew we had gone there for something. However, there were really few incidents of note to report. The Port Lions started promisingly, getting their claws into the Swat Cats, who seemed to be suffering from a night on the tiles, but the home team gradually started feline their way into the game, slinging in a few airballs to test Worawut’s (36) handling and the pattern of  play was set. Port scratched around for a few chances without finding the purrfect rhythm to upset their hosts.

At times, Port played the ball neatly out to the wings, only to cross it into the nearest defender, the stand (no mean feat), the long jump pit or a stray popcorn bag. There were a few goalmouth scrambles at both ends, Tana (99) missed another 6 yarder, Worawut dropped the ball with alarming regularity and Siwakorn (16) collected his obligatory yellow card, thereby, once again, curbing his enthusiasm for decisive tackling later on. No-one loves Siwakorn more as a player than me (or Keith) but his recklessness is damaging not only to him but the team. Most of his tackles are in the opponent’s half where any danger is minimal. Personally, I would haul him off after the next inevitable yellow as a warning – he is not a teenager any more.

Genki (18) ‘ran abaht a bit’, Tana and Pakorn (9) didn’t; Josimar (30) looked like he was running through treacle (although to be fair, the playing surface was sodden and challenging, to say the least); only Dolah (4) and Captain Fantastic (22) came out with any real credit – Dolah, my MOM.

 

Our Man of the Match – Elias Dolah

 

I think the whole game was summed up when the Swat Cat right back sent the ball ballooning towards the corner flag to his right with an attempted cross to the left. One didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Did we have a great time, though? Yes, we bloody well did! See you all in Sisaket!

 

Super Trouper: The Sandpit Talks to Jason Withe

 

Next Sunday (21 May) Port take on T1 strugglers Super Power Samut Prakan FC who, at the time of writing, have one solitary point from their first 13 games. To whet your appetite for the game, we had a chat to Super Power coach and Thai football veteran Jason Withe about life in the basement of T1, his long coaching career in Thailand, and dodgy refereeing at the PAT…


You recently left a Director of Football position at Sukhothai to take on probably the toughest job in T1 this season, managing Super Power. Why did you decide to take the position?

I was asked to come in and cover Sukhothai for the AFC Champions League with the view of any head coaches job coming available I could leave which was agreed by the club. Although I have the skills for the role of Director of Football I do feel I’m best suited to the role of head coach at this stage in my career and I enjoy the challenge of being on the grass working with players.

Super Power are rooted to the bottom with just one solitary point so far. Are you seeing signs of progress since you arrived and do you think you can turn things around? Why do you think the club has got off to such a start?

Since joining the club I was shocked at the player recruitment process and some serious questions have been asked as to why 36 players have been signed with 14 players over the age of 30yrs, and I was totally shocked that the club had only signed 1 striker! We have 5 right backs and 4 left backs and this is a club that’s struggling financially. There have been signs of progress but in this position the most important thing is to pick up points and we have fallen short of this.

What’s it like managing a team in an atmosphere like the PAT? Is it intimidating or motivating?

I must say I enjoy the atmosphere and the closeness of the supporters. Coming from England it’s something that we are used to and the problem with many stadiums this side of the world is many clubs have a running track around the pitch which very much distances the crowd and can diminish the atmosphere. My only concern when playing at Port is the referees being influenced by the crowd which I have witnessed first hand. I remember playing at Port with Songkhla Utd and we were winning 0-1 with 5/10min to play. Port injured one of our players and the referee wouldn’t allow him back on the pitch when he was ready so we were at a disadvantage of 10 men while Port were pressing for an equaliser and of course they scored! Straight after this he allowed our player back on the pitch. He then gave around 8 minutes’ extra time – where this came from I don’t know and yes you guessed it Port got the winner in the 98th minute! (The referee is always right and I have absolutely no doubt that was the case here – Ed)

 

“Excuse me good sir, but I believe you may have erred in your judgment”

 

On a similar note, I remember as a teenage Coventry fan shouting abuse at your dad when he was playing for Villa at Highfield Road 🙂 Do you think Thai fans are generally too polite (Port fans excepted of course!) and do you miss the edgier atmosphere in England, or do you prefer the Thai way?

Really good question but in this day and age we live in a very different society. Abuse from the terraces seemed to be acceptable in those days but I’ve been witness to seeing the wrong type of abuse in England which has no place in the game or society. It’s always great being involved in games that have a good atmosphere and I remember working with the Indonesia national team and the home national stadium was almost full with 80,000 people 3 hours before kick off. It was the best atmosphere I’ve been part of.

A mixture of both would be ideal and there are parts that I wish could be replicated everywhere. I like at the end of the game when the away team stand in front of the home team supporters and the supporters sing to them which is very respectful and nice to see. I’m not sure you would get Arsenal fans doing this to Spurs players or Celtic fans doing this to Rangers players!

Are you surprised at how well Port are doing this season? Do you think Super Power can spring a surprise?

I’ve watched Port a few times this season and although their form can be a little unpredictable they have some good players who can cause problems for any team in this league. As for us causing a surprise…it would certainly be a nice surprise for me if we did! We are in the process of rebuilding and starting from scratch and the chance to bring in some fresh faces for the second leg would be helpful.

You’ve been in Thailand on & off for a long time now due to your father’s involvement with the national team. What do you like about living & working here?

I’ve seen Thai football grow and change here from when I first came here in 1998 and we always said that Thailand has the potential to be a real powerhouse in Asia. It is great to see the league is so much stronger than when I first came here and the clubs are a lot better organised. I’ve always been open as a coach in my journey of continuous learning and working in different countries experiencing different cultures. I have made many friends here over the years and enjoy working with Thai players and I also enjoy Thai food – a little too much at times!

What are the biggest challenges for foreign coaches working in Thailand, and how have you dealt with them? What advice would you give to new foreign coaches here, particularly in terms of handling Thai players?

The biggest challenge is adapting to the Thai culture and I was lucky because my father was already working as national coach so I had his help. I find that they want you to impart your knowledge of how you can improve the team but it really is a step-by-step process and you really need to work with owners, coaching staff and players who are open minded. I always tell the players that although I have worked here for many years and understand the Thai culture I have a different mindset and they need to be open to change. This works with many players being open from the start but some players here still find it very difficult working with foreign coaches. Coaches must also remember what might work in their own country might not work here so being adaptable and flexible is essential.

Dealing with players here is the biggest challenge as many Thai players can be very sensitive. I find all players want to learn and improve themselves but how you impart your knowledge is essential. Although players here are becoming more professional this is very dependent on the clubs’ outlook and professionalism. I recently visited Buriram and spent some time with their coaching staff and looking at their setup. I would have to say they are running very much in line with clubs in the UK and Europe. If all clubs worked the same way I’m sure the national team would benefit from this. All clubs here should be looking at Buriram as a model club to align to.

You won the Thai league & cup double with BEC Tero in 2000, at the age of 29. What was it like managing here at such a young age, in a country where in general younger people aren’t always taken as seriously as older people?

I came here from the UK and had played for West Brom, Burnley, Stockport County and a few other decent clubs. I was already highly qualified and an FA tutor delivering FA qualifications so I was really comfortable and confident in my coaching and imparting my knowledge. Although I was young and had a few players older than me I never felt any problem with any of the players and as I am now I feel it’s important to be open with players and let them have an opinion. Buy-in is essential from all players and you will get found out very quickly if you don’t have the knowledge to back it up. I didn’t have a problem with this and players I have worked with here have always bought into my methods which have proved successful.

Finally, prediction time! Who’s going to win the T1 this season, and which 3 teams are going down?

I’ve seen a lot of Muangthong this season and they have really been impressive. Their only hurdle might be balancing the AFC Champions League with their domestic campaign and staying injury free.

As for the 3 teams going down I’m sure people will be predicting us as one of those teams but i feel it will be very dependent on what teams bring in for the 2nd leg. I know for sure we will be fighting like many other teams around us not to go down.


Big thanks to Jason for taking time out from Super Power’s relegation battle to answer our questions. We wish him all the best for the rest of the season (apart from on 21 May of course!)

 

Korat What Cats? Nakhon Ratchasima FC vs. Port FC, 14 April 2017

 

The Port Lions prowl in to Korat on Sunday seeking to devour their rather less threatening feline cousins the Swatcats. True to nature, the Lions have been in ferocious form this season, scoffing up The Beetles in Chiang Rai and sending the Thunder back to their Castle with their tails between their legs after their visit to the Lion’s Den. As nature intended, the Swatcats have been rather meeker, recording 3 wins (against 3 of the bottom 4), 7 draws (against the mid table sides) and 3 losses (to 2 of the top 3, plus Suphanburi). There’s a good pussy cat! Will Port be King of the Korat Jungle or will the Swatcats pounce on Port’s recent lackluster form?

 

Nakhon Ratchasima

Key Players

 

Adiyiah left his mark on Rochela

Port fans won’t have particularly fond memories of Korat forward Dominic Adiyiah (10), after he bicycle-kicked a golf ball sized bruise on to David Rochela’s forehead when the two sides met in pre-season. Port went on to record a 2-0 win that day, but Adiyiah was a constant menace, providing the Swatcats’ spark going forward and using his devastating pace to good effect down the channels. The Ghanaian international has performed well, but has only one goal and two assists to his name in 2017, suggesting that perhaps his meow is worse than his bite.

Thai forward Kirati Kaewsombat (99) proves that over-the-hill former Thai national team strikers like the number 99 *cough cough, Tana, cough cough*. I’ve got Kirati down as a key player more for his illustrious past than his current form. The bulky target man played 27 times for Thailand and enjoyed stints at Buriram and Chonburi, but is yet to find the net in 6 appearances for Korat this season.

Korat have been pretty solid at the back this season (17 goals conceded, to Port’s 25), and much of the credit to this must go to centre half Victor Igbonefo (15). Born in Nigeria but now an Indonesian citizen, the 6 foot 1 centre half is a strong ever-present figure at the heart of the defence. Josimar (30) will have his work cut out in what will be a tough, physical contest between the two.

 

 

The Russ Report

We like to get perspectives from fans of the opposition as well as our own, so we asked Nakhon Ratchasima fan, and writer of the excellent Swatcat Blog – Russ John – to give us his take on Sunday’s clash. Here’s what he sent us…

It’s great to have Port back where they belong in the top tier and their fans will receive a generous welcome back to the 80th Anniversary Stadium this weekend

I think this weekend’s matchup is a difficult one to analyze. The Swatcats have become the draw specialists with 7/13 draws so far – converting a couple of these draws into wins would see them well up the table, but my honest opinion is that the team is pretty ordinary and will struggle to make the top ten. Scoring goals has been a problem, and although Dominic Adiyiah (10, my Port fans man to watch) is a real talent he needs a big target man to feed off his work.

The Swatcats defence has looked vulnerable at times against the higher ranked teams – particularly down the flanks and if Josimar can break forward quickly he could be amongst the goals on Sunday.

An inconsistent start to the campaign for Port, producing euphoria then despair amongst their fans. This suggests to me that no real system has been planned or is being employed and that the team is relying too heavily on individuals having exceptional games. As we all know, very few players produce the goods week in, week out and exceptional performances cannot be relied on. It only needs a couple of defeats to plunge the team into mid table obscurity…or worse!!

So its dull old Swatcats verses enigmatic Port – a difficult one to call – if Port’s stars turn up on the day, an away win is possible but with the Swatcats being the draw specialists, one is tempted to suggest that a draw may be on the cards.

I am going to stick my rather fragile neck out and go for a home win.

 

Port FC

Starting XI

 

Suspensions are once again the issue, with Adisorn (13) and Suarez (5) both having picked up their fourth yellow card against Pattaya United. Whilst finding the right players to replace these two presents a challenge for Jadet, it could also be an opportunity to switch up the system against a team who – much like Pattaya on Saturday – will be difficult to break down.

After watching the friendly against Nakhon Pathom on Wednesday, it seems very likely that Jadet will switch to a 4-4-2, bringing in Tatchanon (39) for Adisorn, and Kaludjerovic (10) for Suarez. The addition of Tatchanon could bring the best out of Siwakorn (16), as he will have more freedom to attack with a disciplined defensive midfielder alongside him. Kaludjerovic may not have impressed with his early season form, or indeed in Wednesday’s friendly, but the man knows where the goal is. With Josimar (30) winning most balls in the air, there will be more scraps for Kalu to feed off than when he struggled in Port’s first few games. Alternatively, Tana (99) may get the nod up front, although he too is far from his best at the moment. It may not be ideal, but I think against bottom-half teams, Port need to come in to the game with a plan to win, and this system hopefully represents that kind of plan.

Other news from Wednesday’s friendly was that neither Worawut (36) nor Siwakorn (16) played any part, with Weera (1) and Ittipol (7) deputizing. We really hope they were rested rather than injured, and will be fully fit to take on the Swacats on Sunday!

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 

Key Battle

 

 

 

Adiyiah (10) operates mostly on the right, meaning that Port left back Panpanpong (19) will have his work cut out for him. Panpanpong will need his usual discipline and solid defensive play to keep Adiyiah in check, but with the Ghanaian being quite a bit quicker than him, he will also need some help from left winger Genki (18) and his centre halves, Rochela (22) and Dolah (4).

 

Korat What Cats?

 

A Sisawat – or ‘Swat’ – Cat

 

For those of you wondering what on earth a Swatcat is, click here to see our Crystal Balls feature on Nakhon Ratchasima FC.

 

The match will be shown live on True Sport 7 at 18:00 on Sunday 14 May, 2017. For those who can’t make it out to Nakhon Ratchasima, feel free to join us upstairs at The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13, where a group of Port fans will be watching on a big screen.

 

Lions Overpower Tigers: Port FC 3-0 Nakhon Pathom (Friendly)

 

Maranhao starred as Port eased to a 3-0 victory in Wednesday’s friendly with T2 side Nakhon Pathom. The Brazilian, as he so often has been in friendlies, was Port’s best player, scoring twice and gift-wrapping a third for Spaniard Asdrubal, who made another step towards recovering from his long-term knee injury. The game was played out over three thirds, allowing Jadet to experiment with lots of different combinations throughout the side.

 

The First Third

 

 

The first third saw a combination of the second and third string getting some much-needed action. Goalkeeper Watchara (37) has now returned to Port as his loan spell at BBCU ended with the dissolution of the club. He was not required to make a single save as Port dominated possession, but on one of the few occasions a cross came in to his area, he flapped at it rather unconvincingly. In front of him Hansson (33) was the most impressive defender, but he was also largely untested.

Wanchalerm (40) looked tidy in defensive midfield, but it was on the right wing where Port were really making an impression. Maranhao (92) had the beating of his defender time and time again, although with Siwapong (97) not doing much to support Kaludjerovic (10), there was little for him to aim for in the middle. When Port did finally make a breakthrough, Kalu bungled his chance. Clear through on the keeper, Kalu’s side-footed effort was saved, but the ball fell to Maranhao who blasted in the rebound from the edge of the area. Port 1-0 Nakhon Pathom

On the left hand side Port weren’t making as much progress. Asdrubal (27) – returning from an injury that was expected to keep him out for the full season – looked a long way off full fitness. The Spaniard did show some nice touches, but wasn’t able to get past his defender or contribute tellingly in the attack. Maranhao, on the other hand, continued to make his case for inclusion in Port’s second leg T1 squad. In a textbook Maranhao move, he beat his defender with a stepover, moved the ball inside and rifled a shot – this time with his left foot – into the near post bottom corner. Ahh, how we’ve missed that Brazilian spark. Unstoppable. Port 2-0 Nakhon Pathom

 

The Second Third

 

 

The second third saw some more established players coming in, as well as youngster Techin (25), who got his first outing since the very first friendly in pre-season. Techin played alongside Tatchanon (39) in midfield, while Jadet experimented with a front two of Tana (99) and Kalu.

Play continued in the same vein, with Port pouring forward and Nakhon Pathom offering nothing but desperate defending. Tana and Kalu were both off the pace, leaving it once again for to the wingers to create and convert the chances. Meechok (20) linked up well with Maranhao on the right, overlapping the Brazilian and then finding him in the box with a pinpoint cross, before Maranhao unselfishly squared to Asdrubal, who celebrated his return to the action by beating the keeper from close range to score his first Port goal. Port 3-0 Nakhon Pathom

 

The Final Third

 

 

Jadet used the final third to trial what will be very close to his Starting XI in Korat on Sunday. With Adisorn (13) and Suarez (5) suspended, Jadet looks like he will turn to Tatchanon (39) as cover for Adisorn, and Kalu (10) as a replacement for Suarez. The absence of both Worawut (36) and Siwakorn (16) from training is hopefully not an indication that either is not fit for the upcoming game!

The final third, which you would expect Port to dominate with their first choice players, was bizarrely the most even period of the match. The rain that came down midway through the period did nothing to inspire the players to attack, and indeed despite a couple of nice touches from Pakorn (9) there was little of note to talk about.

 

Man of the Match

 

 

Undoubtedly, the man of the match was Maranhao. The skillful, energetic Brazilian was involved in everything that Port created. Now back to full fitness, Maranhao must be playing himself into serious contention for a place in the Port’s squad for the second leg of the season. The spark he provided was in stark contrast to Kalu, who as usual looked sluggish and was unable to convert the chances that came his way.

 

Photos by Alisa Suwanrumpha

 

Aye of the Tiger: Nakhon Pathom Accept Friendly Invitation

 

Port have had a Rocky last couple of weeks in terms of results, so they’ve decided that if they want to be a T1 Survivor this season, they need to get a bit more practice. So tomorrow night at the PAT they entertain Nakhon Pathom FC, aka The King Tiger, in a friendly.

We Sandpitters have a soft spot for Nakhon Pathom after a memorable under-the-radar away trip at the end of last season, so it will be good to welcome them to the PAT, albeit for what is just a practice game.

We expect to see Jadet and co cast their eye over a few fringe players such as Tatchanon, Wanchalerm, Hansson and Kaludjerovic, and we also hope to see Maranhao, whose pace and inventiveness have been sorely missed upfront so far this season. I suspect we may also see a handful of triallists given the upcoming June transfer window.

The game kicks off at 17:00 on Wednesday 10 May, and admission is as usual FOC.

 

Pitiful Port Punished by Poor Pattaya: Port FC 0-2 Pattaya Utd

 

The Dolphins swam into Khlong Thoey this evening, no doubt expecting a tough game, only to be pleasantly surprised when an out-of-sorts Port side not only handed them 3 points on a plate, but also threw in brandy, mints and a taxi home.

 

The Lineup

Jadet – or whoever picks the team – stuck largely with Port’s regular starting XI in a game they would’ve expected to win fairly comfortably. The only changes from Wednesday’s narrow defeat at Chonburi were Elsie Tana (99) coming back in for Genki (18), thus replacing a guy who can run for hours and sweat blood for the shirt with a bloke who visibly does not give a shit; and LB Pinkong (19) dropped in favour of Piyachart (23), for reasons best known to Jadet himself.

 

The Siwakorn Fanclub

 

The Game

When we interviewed Josimar a few weeks ago, he made the telling observation that whilst Port play well against better teams, when they can soak up pressure and attack on the break, they struggle when they’re required to take the game to inferior opponents, and tonight’s performance bore that out. Right from the start it was obvious that Port had no gameplan – they were even struggling to take goal kicks in the first 5 minutes. Pattaya’s strategy seemed to be to confuse Port by playing a high line to prevent them from calmly beginning attacks from their own half, and it worked like a dream for the first 20 minutes, with Port unable to retain the ball for longer than a few seconds and the Dolphins’ big midfielder Wellington providing the kind of calm head in the middle of the park that Port lack.

From the 20-minute mark Port started to impose themselves on the game, with Josimar (30) coming closest to scoring when fed in by Suarez (5) down the left, but chances were few & far between. Piyachart and the typically lethargic Tana offered little threat down the left, and the absence of the suspended Nitipong (34) deprived Port of the usual dynamism down the right, meaning Port were more often than not going down the middle, where Suarez was ineffectual yet again. When he’s on his game he’s unplayable, but his problem is he’s not on it nearly as often as Port need him to be and once again I found myself pining for Maranhao.

The half finished 0-0 and I hoped that the break would see the most obvious change, ie Tana replaced by Genki; however the same XI emerged from the tunnel for the second half, as did the same shortcomings.

 

Nothing to see here

 

The game changed during a 5-minute period near the hour mark. Firstly, Suarez fed Josimar (30) on the edge of the box and the big Brazilian decided not to shoot but to check back and play a marvellous ball to Tana, who only had to sidefoot it over the line to give Port the lead. So why he decided to chip the keeper, and spoon it into Zone B, only he knows. I apologise to those around me for the torrent of abuse that flowed from my mouth at that point (the kind of Russell meltdown not seen since the dark days of Brent McGrath in 2015) but I’ve been saying since early last season that Tana is a waste of space, and once again tonight he proved it. There are limbless beggars on Sukhumvit Road who would’ve stuck that chance away.

Minutes later Pattaya caught Port on the break and a cross from the right found Picha who, unchallenged, slotted it past Worawut to give the Dolphins the lead.

Port belatedly introduced Genki but for Pakorn (9) who went down with a knock just as Tana’s number appeared on the board, and the Japanese winger’s energy livened up Port’s attack considerably, but there was simply no invention, no creativity, and no gameplan for dealing with highly mediocre opponents who had found themselves a goal up and intended to stay there. But it would be unfair to say that Pattaya simply parked the bus; they were dangerous on the break and hit the crossbar twice in a matter of minutes, whilst Port could’ve played for another hour without creating a scoring chance.

On 92 minutes, another Pattaya break led to another cross, from the left this time, which found that man Picha on the far post where, once again unchallenged, he nodded it easily into the Port net. Whether anything of note happened after this I cannot say, for I was out of there and heading for the taxi home.

A sobering defeat – against one of the poorest sides we’ve played this season – after the euphoria of recent weeks, and one which, following the defeats to Bangkok Glass and Chonburi, suggests that Port aren’t quite as good as we – or they – think. Good players – Hansson and Tachanon, to name but two – are being left on the bench, whilst players who simply aren’t good enough for this level – Tana, Piyachart – are starting games. Playing with a lone striker is fair enough when you’re playing Buriram, but not at home against the likes of Pattaya, where attacking should mean more than leaving Josimar to feed off scraps. And what Port really miss in games like this is a calm head in midfield – Siwakorn and Adisorn’s bustling style is great when you’re up against it, but not required when the opposition are clearly there for the taking. And Port’s “big” players, such as Suarez and Pakorn, just aren’t consistent enough. Yes, 8th after 13 games is a fantastic start but we should be building on it, rather than – as looked to be the case tonight – stepping back and admiring our handiwork.

With two tough away games coming up – Nakhon Ratchasima and Muangthong – Port’s season is in danger of fizzling out into mid-table obscurity or worse. One can only hope that the mid-season break will see Port’s somewhat unimaginative midfield and attack given a bit of spark. Maranhao and Asdrubal are both waiting in the wings and one – or both – are sorely needed right now.

 

Man of the Match – Genki Nagasato

Not many contenders for the MOTM award tonight – even Rochela was out of sorts. But at least the Genk livened things up when he came on and tried to make things happen. It must kill a player with his commitment and workrate to be sitting on the bench watching a player like Tana play in his position, and when Genki came on, he straight away showed what Port had missed in the first hour of the game. No, he didn’t set the game alight, create any good chances or score, but he was the best of a very bad bunch.

 

Photos by Tim & Linny Russell

 

PAT vs. PATT: Port FC vs. Pattaya Utd, 6 May 2017

 

Port will entertain the Dolphins at PAT Stadium this Saturday, where they will be favourites to take all three points. Port have defied pre-season expectations and sit at 7th place in the table, whereas their opponents are more or less where they were expected to be in 14th. Port have only lost once with the raucous home crowd cheering them on this season, so against a weaker team the pressure will be on for Port to come out and play like a top-half side.

 

Pattaya United

Players to Watch

 

Pattaya have only two players who have scored more than one goal this season. One of them is Milos Stojanovic (18), whose 6 goals account for nearly half of Pattaya’s pretty meagre total of 14. His big bald dome is easy to spot on the field, which could explain why Pattaya’s players aim at it so often. Stojanovic is 6 foot tall and has an excellent jump on him, meaning that he wins a lot of the hopeful long balls and crosses aimed in his direction.

Pattaya’s other multiple goalscorer in 2017 has been 24 year old Thai attacking midfielder Peeradon Chamratsamee (8). Formerly of Muangthong and having represented Thailand up to under 23 level, Peeradon can carry the ball forward at pace and shoot from distance. Two of his three excellent goals this season goals have come from outside the area. His little-and-large partnership with Stojanovic represents Pattaya’s only real attacking plan, so if Stojanovic can be neutralized in the air and Peeradon on the ground, Port will have little to fear from Pattaya.

At the back, Pattaya have height, strength and experience, but it hasn’t stopped them conceding 24 goals so far in 2017. Brazilian midfielder Wellington Priori (6) stands at 6 foot 3 and looks like a useful player, and behind him in central defence 36 year old captain Lee Won-young (3) tries manfully to hold things together. He was successful for the first time this season on Wednesday, when Pattaya kept their first clean sheet against Thai Honda. They even managed to snatch a 1-0 win in bizarre fashion when the Honda keeper booted the ball at Stojanovic, allowing his teammate Chayawat (13) to nip in and score a lucky winner.

 

Stojanovic, Peeradol, Wellington and Lee

 

The Insider View From Robin Lennon

 

The Sandpit asked Pattaya fan Robin Lennon to contribute to our preview, and he sent us this fantastic segment on their season to date…

After seven games Pattaya United were sitting comfortably mid-table with ten points, one behind Port and a potential sixth place. Wins were as expected and our losses against the big boys were competitive and by no means one sided, our new young team were playing attractive football. Optimism was high, a couple of near home capacity crowds against Chonburi and Muangthong and positive initiatives from the new owners such as season tickets, a supporters bus to away games, a new social media platform, a club shop planned for Central Dept store on Beach Road this month, stadium improvements and an all round better match day experience. Fast forward one month, and whilst Port have continued to go from strength to strength, Pattaya have gone backwards on the pitch with four defeats on the bounce and three at the hands of teams I consider around our own level. Wins against Suphanburi and Navy with a point against Ratchaburi and mid-table competitiveness could have been expected, as it is the possibility of a nervous season long relegation battle rears its ugly head.

So what has gone wrong in April? It would be easy to blame an injury crisis that has slowly built up week after week and which undoubtedly hasn’t helped the cause, however the facts show that in the last two home games Pattaya were leading going into the final stages. Against Suphanburi three goals were conceded in the last eleven minutes and even more disastrously two goals were conceded in the last five minutes to go down against Navy. No, our problems have stemmed from an inability to finish teams off by adding a two goal cushion when in the ascendency, and tactically sitting back and trying to defend a one goal lead putting pressure on a shaky and perhaps tiring defence. The coach has to take a measure of blame for the negative approach which plays against our strengths and highlights our weaknesses.  A self-inflicted goalkeeping blunder of epic proportions, “bouncegate”, by our reserve goalie and a subsequent missed penalty cost us the Ratchaburi game but the less said about that the better.

Which brings us to the Port game and what to expect. Well, a match I was relishing I’m now travelling to with a feeling of distinct nervousness having watched Port’s impressive performances on the TV when they haven’t coincided with attending our own fixtures. Amidst the expected PAT stadium cauldron the need to keep our defensive discipline and not concede early is essential, luckily our first choice keeper Somporn Yos (24) is back after several weeks out due to a nasty car accident requiring 38 stitches to his face. He has been a breath of fresh air between the posts given the comical goalkeeping we witnessed last season and unfortunately what we’ve seen in his absence over the last few games. I would assume our talismanic captain and all round cult figure Lee Won-young (3) given his physical stature will be assigned the job of containing the powerful and equally strong Josimar (30). Lee is a joy to watch, commanding in the air and calm and assured on the ball so it should be an interesting duel. In midfield keep an eye on Peeradol (8) our blond midfield playmaker who is definitely one for the future, confident, skillful and three goals to his name so far this season. Upfront Milos Stojanovic (18) with six goals in nine starts has been outstanding often plowing a lone furrow, my player of the season so far. A proven finisher in the Serbian and Korean leagues I believe he was signed up on Lee’s recommendation. We can only speculate what might have been if our tasty Serbian “M&M’s” partnership had materialised. Alas the Scarlet Pimpernel of Pattaya United, Milan Bubalo (7), is still MIA and will be replaced should he not appear before the end of the first leg of fixtures. A hugely costly error and much will depend on finding an effective strike partner for Milos for the second half of the season. Finally if you want a bit of opposition Brazilian trickery Wellington Priori (6) has the ability and skill to conjure something out of nothing, it all depends where he is played as he has deputised in virtually every position bar goalie so far this season, but hopefully attacking midfield for this fixture.

To conclude, for Pattaya United survival in the top flight this season is critical, we have a refreshing new ownership team clearly intent on developing the club on and off the pitch, their actions thus far are clear to see and impressive, however an extremely poor Friday night derby crowd against Navy of just under 2,000 demonstrates that they have a huge job ahead of them to try and expand the fan base in the long run. An unlikely win against Port would certainly help restore the early season optimism amongst the die hard core of loyal supporters, personally I’ll take the point.

 

Port FC

Starting XI

 

El Capitan David Rochela (22) and Tana (99) return from suspension on Saturday to bolster Port’s chances of securing another home win. Unfortunately, Nitipong (34) is the latest player to reach 4 yellow cards, meaning that he will very likely be replaced by Meechok (20) at right back. The only question in Jadet’s first choice XI continues to be whether he chooses Tana or Genki (18) on the left. Against weaker opposition, Jadet could well decide to give Tana the nod, as his brand of direct, creative wing play can at times offer more going forward than Genki’s naturally disciplined, hard-working game.

After a tough midweek game with only a couple of days to recover, Jadet could also consider resting players. Whilst it’s impossible to predict just how Jadet might choose to do that, I would guess that hard-working midfielders Adisorn (13) and Siwakorn (16) are possibilities, with Tatchanon (39) and Piyachat (88) leading candidates to come in as replacements. Jadet could also give Kaludjerovic (10) another chance to prove his worth to the squad if he thinks that Suarez (5) needs a break. Personally I think that professional footballers should be able to play two games a week without needing a rest, but many managers seem to like rotating their squads in times like these.

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 

Key Battle

 

 

Port are expected to score goals on Saturday, and Josimar is the main threat. Despite drawing a blank against Chonburi, Josimar still has 5 goals in his last 6 games and will fancy his chances against 36 year old Korean defender Lee Won-young. Whilst they are a similar height, Josimar will likely be able to out-muscle and outpace the Pattaya captain, who will have to use all of his experience to contain the Brazilian.

 

The match will be shown live on True4U and True Sport HD2 at 19:00 on Saturday 6 May, 2017

 

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Jaws 2 (Lions 1): Chonburi FC 2-1 Port FC Match Report

 

“The shark does not love. It feels no empathy. It trusts nothing. It lives in perfect harmony with its environment because it has no aspirations or desires. And no pity. A shark feels no sorrow, no remorse, hopes for nothing, dreams of nothing, has no illusions about itself or anything beyond itself.” (Rick Yancey)

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat. I mean van”. So we told Keith when upwards of 15 people signed up for the Sandpit’s Wednesday shark hunt to Chonburi. Eventually 12 of us – still a good turnout for a Wednesday evening game outside Bangkok – arrive at Pattana decked in the blue & orange, and board the buses for a short and fairly uneventful hop down the coast, which Strunk fails to enliven by playing Supertramp on his phone.

On arrival at the stadium, our first task is to get hold of tickets. Remarkably (actually, not remarkably at all – this is Thai football) despite the presence of only 30-odd Port fans, they’ve already run out of away tickets and we have to wait whilst someone runs off to fetch more. Who would’ve thought that Port fans might turn up to an away game AND have the temerity to actually go in and watch the game eh?

 

A warm welcome from the home fans. Muangthong, look and learn

 

Tickets duly purchased, beer & food are next on the agenda (for some of us – both Keith and myself are untypically on the wagon), and whilst the former is easy to locate, finding some decent nosh other than rather chewy battered quail eggs proves more difficult. But eventually we find a Muslim lady who is selling fried chicken of such extraordinary succulence it’s almost enough to make me grab the nearest Koran, work out the direction of Mecca, and drop to my knees shouting “ALLAHU AKBAR”. An early leader in the 2017 Sandpit T1 Football Ground Food Awards.

 

CFC – Chonburi Fried Chicken

 

Fed & watered, we make our way into the stadium to find that, for a club of Chonburi’s stature, it’s surprisingly shit – the usual Thai running track affair with decent stands on either side and the away fans shoved behind one of the goals, with the Hubble Telescope required to be able to get a decent view of the pitch. Note to the Thai FA – if clubs will persist in playing in stadiums not designed for football, make it a legal requirement that the away fans get an area on the side of the pitch rather than behind the goal, especially if you’re charging 200BHT a ticket.

Anyway rant over, and it’s time for kickoff…

The Match

With Rochela & Tana suspended, Anisong (15), aka John Denver (“Annie’s Song” – thanks Dom) and Genki (18) come into the team; otherwise it’s the same lineup who pulled out their truncheons and gave Police six of the best, trousers down on Sunday night.

Port, as is their habit these days, kick off at a furious pace and dominate the first 20 minutes or so, with Dolah (4), Suarez (5) and Genki all spurning good opportunities to take the lead. On 21 minutes the ball falls to Suarez – who otherwise had a bit of a stinker – on the halfway line, and seeing Chonburi’s keeper off his line, he attempts an outrageous lob which just clears the crossbar. Had it gone in, we would’ve handed out the Sandpit Goal of the Season award there & then.

Unfortunately Port can’t make their pressure tell and are punished on 23 minutes when John Denver clumsily challenges a Chonburi player in the area and concedes yet another Port penalty, though in his defence it was a challenge that had to be made. Up steps Chonburi’s SFS Renan Marques who buries the penalty to give the Sharks a somewhat undeserved – at this stage – lead.

The large Port following continue to sing, as we did throughout the entire game, regardless, and our loyalty is rewarded on the half hour mark when Genki beautifully chips the ball over a defender Gazza-style and then sidefoots the ball to Suarez, and just when you’re thinking it’s a bad pass, in comes Pakorn (9) to smash it into the Chonburi net, sparking ecstatic scenes in the away end.

Chonburi spend the remaining 15 minutes of the half laying siege to the Port goal but thanks to some solid defending from the increasingly impressive Dolah and the solid John Denver, the score remains 1-1 at half time.

The second half begins in comedy fashion with the first tumble of the night, as Mike Strunk (to be known henceforth as Mike’s Drunk) gets into an argument with a carelessly placed megaphone. The megaphone, not having spent the previous four hours knocking back cans of Leo, predictably wins, and the big American ends up sprawling over two rows of seats. One of my Sandpit colleagues will later top this by falling into a pond, but more on that later.

On 47 minutes Suarez sends Pakorn free down the right but as he so often does, the mercurial winger sends his shot into row Z, should such a thing exist in the Chonburi home end. From that point it becomes increasingly clear that Jadet, on his old stomping ground, has told his players that a draw will suffice, and Port sit back and do their best to soak up wave after wave of Shark attacks. Dolah and Adisorn (13) are on particularly fine and defiant form, throwing themselves into blocks and tackles with gusto, whilst keeper Worawut (36) even manages to catch a few crosses rather than punching them.

On the hour mark a notable event occurs, as John Denver leaves (not on a jet plane, but with Rochela’s suspension over, we don’t know when he’ll be back again. But we’re happy to tell him that, whilst we’ll smile at him, and wait for him, no way are we kissing him) to be replaced by young Niran Hansson (33), at last making his Port debut alongside fellow Thai-Swede Dolah in the heart of the Port defence. Niran puts in a good solid half hour and looks well at home, and certainly helps his cause.

 

The Khlongthoey Army out in force as usual

 

Despite their negative approach, on 78 minutes it looks briefly as if Port have snatched a possible winner. Pakorn crosses into the box, Josimar (30) nods it goalwards, and Genki turns it into the back of the net, only for the linesman – erroneously, as video will later show – to flag for either offside or a foul on the keeper. And 11 minutes later the inevitable happens as Port are punished for their lack of ambition. Chonburi swing a free kick into the box, Worawut comes out waving to his mother, as Big Ron once so memorably put it, a Chonburi boot sends it back goalwards and Pinkong manages to block it, but the ball loops into the air and unfortunately lands on the head of sexy MF Prince who bundles it into the Port net and then parties like it’s 1999.

Port have one more opportunity in the 93rd minute when Suarez find Josimar on the edge of the Chonburi area, but under pressure from a defender the big Brazilian’s shot flies over the bar, to the despair of the Port fans (and Josi’s army of tech-savvy fans in Brazil) and to the relief of the pitifully small home crowd.

2-1 it finishes then, and given Port’s lack of adventure in the second half, it’s probably no more than we deserved. Chonburi had clearly done their homework on Port and realised that, if you stifle the midfield engine room of Siwakorn, Adisorn and Suarez, you stop Port doing what they’ve done to so many top half teams this season. The midfield battle was often brutal and attritional but always compelling, and unfortunately Chonburi won it and thus the game, with Josimar starved of service.

But hey, you can’t win ’em all and Port will play worse than this and win before the season is over. With the team lying 7th in the table, and with 4 of our remaining 5 games before the break against teams in the bottom 6, things are still looking bright for Jadet’s men. Time to forget this defeat, move on, and take it out on Pattaya on Saturday. Dolphins are, after all, gentler creatures than sharks.

As for we Sandpitters, after the game we split into two groups, with the sober, mature, responsible members of the group taking the early bus home, where we discuss such varied and pertinent issues as midfield formations, the Thai education system and urban poverty in Khlong Thoey; whilst the alcoholic degenerates hang around the stadium consuming the Devil’s brew and, in my esteemed colleague Dominick Cartwright’s case, apparently falling into ponds. Unfortunately, as Arsene Wenger would put it, I did not see ze incident.

 

Man of the Match – Elias Dolah

MOTM performances were pretty thin on the ground tonight, with the usual contenders – Siwakorn, Suarez, Josi – well marshalled by an organised Chonburi side, and keeper Worawut having a Weera Duckworth moment for the second Chonburi goal.

But in the absence of David Rochela, young Dolah stepped up and put in another energetic, inspirational and defiant performance, showing just how he’s grown in stature and confidence since his nervy early performances for Port. If he continues playing like this, Port will have arguably the best centre-back pairing in T1 and future Rochela absences will not be quite as feared.

 

Photos by Tim & Linny Russell. Big thanks as ever to Keith Wright for organising the vans, and to the Chonburi fans, thin on the ground though they were, for a warm welcome.

 

FIN.