Ayu Again! Port Face Ayutthaya in FA Cup 2nd Round

 

Last year, Port beat BEC Tero twice in 7 days in the two different cup competitions, and this season they’ve been handed the chance of doing a similar double.

On 26 July Port travel to Ayutthaya Utd in the League Cup 2nd round, and in today’s Chang FA Cup 2nd round draw they were drawn against the Warriors again, this time at home. A chance for one of the teams to either do the double or get quick revenge.

The game takes place at the PAT on Wednesday 2nd August (my late dad’s birthday – an excuse for a few pre – and post – match Leos if ever there was one), with the time TBC.

 

Rumble In Ratchaburi: Punishments Handed Down

 

Both offending parties from the Rumble in Ratchaburi have had their punishments handed down by the FAT. Former Port striker Thiago Cunha has been given a 5 match ban and a 50,000 baht fine, while Ratchaburi manager Tanawat Nitikanchana, also known as Fluke, has been given a three month ban and a 60,000 baht fine. Additionally, Ratchaburi have been fined 100,000 baht and told to submit an improved security plan, but Chonburi escaped punishment despite their players walking off the pitch.

The Melee at Mitrphol started when Fluke, son of the Ratchaburi owner, came on to the pitch to protest the officials as they walked towards the tunnel at half time of their home clash last week with Chonburi. Professional troll and occasional footballer Thiago then sprayed water at the raging Ratchaburi manager, who responded by punching Thiago in the back of the head. Thiago then emptied the rest of his water in to Fluke’s face and all hell broke loose.

 

 

At some point in the insanity that followed, Thiago was sent off and then punched in the face – reportedly by a security guard. Fluke made a quick dash for the exit, and Thiago came back out on to the pitch with blood pouring from his face. At this point the red mist really descended. Thiago ran down the touchline shouting obscenities and pushed over a security guard before finally being restrained by teammates and more security. Eventually, he was escorted from the pitch, but play did not resume for another 45 minutes or so as the Chonburi players walked off the pitch, came back again and then the officials tried to make sense of what on Earth had just happened. I’ve watched videos, and I’m still not exactly sure of the sequence of events, so apologies if there are any inaccuracies in my timeline.

Those who read our last piece about Thiago will recall that the Barmy Brazilian was at the centre of a brawl in India last December. In the ruckus that followed the final whistle of the Indian Super League semi-final, Thiago drop-kicked an opponent before pegging it towards officials for protection. At Port he also taught the dressing-room door a thing or two about getting in his way after being substituted. Ratchaburi boss Fluke has some form in this area, too. I’m not as well acquainted with incidents he has been involved with, but have seen footage of him shoulder-barging an opposition player who was trying to take a throw-in. Charming!

All in all, what we have here is a spat between two pretty unsavory characters who are either unwilling or incapable of controlling themselves for the good of their team or the game in general. There are differences of opinion on who should be attributed more blame for the incident. I personally think that much more fault lies with Fluke, who initiated the actual violence, but Thiago is obviously at fault for his rampage up and down the touchline in the aftermath. The punishments seem pretty reasonable to me, although the pitiful fines are a bit redundant.

Will we see Crazy Cunha again in Thai football? Only time will tell. If he returns to the Chonburi side immediately after his ban ends, his comeback could be at PAT Stadium, although this depends whether or not cup games are included in the 5 game ban. Don’t worry Thiago, I’m sure the Port fans won’t try to wind you up or anything, and I for one will most certainly not be kitted out in full Muay Thai gear!

 

Stuck In The Middle With Ubon: Ubon UMT United 2-1 Port FC

“Monks, these two extremes ought not to be practiced by one who has gone forth from the household life. (What are the two?) There is addiction to indulgence of sense-pleasures, which is low, coarse, the way of ordinary people, unworthy, and unprofitable; and there is addiction to self-mortification, which is painful, unworthy, and unprofitable.
Avoiding both these extremes, the Tathagata (the Perfect One) has realized the Middle Path; it gives vision, gives knowledge, and leads to calm, to insight, to enlightenment and to Nibbana” – Buddhist Teaching



This weekend saw the start of Buddhist lent. A time for all Buddhists to reflect on Buddhist teachings while the monks hide out from the rain and hibernate. Buddhist teaching is centred on following the central path; the middle way. It cautions against extremity in action and in thought. And so it was in Ubon Ratchantani yesterday as two great proponents of the middle way battled it out in attempting to be the most average, centre of the road team.



Ubon UMT United have some great credentials when it comes to being average. They play their football nestled between Cambodia below and Laos above. We all know they are somewhere over there but they remain very much off the radar, much like a secret US army base. They sat last week in tenth place in an eighteen team league. BEC Tero Sasana for now holding the most envious league postion of ninth. But Ubon have their eyes on becoming that most plain Jane before the rains stop in November. The wonderful and safe space found only in the middle ground, unburdened as it is by feast or famine. They do other things medicore teams do to ensure their continued unexceptional existence, like selling their best player from the first half of the season lest they might look vainglorious and finish in the top half of the table. That would be low, going so high. Having purged themselves of national team striker Siroch Chatthong and all thoughts of glory, Ubon have bedded comfortably in as snug  as a bug in a discounted rug. Like most average Thai teams Ubon have a big foreign centre-half and a Brazilian named Thiago.  They are not adverse to sharing two points rather than gorging alone on three having drawn six games this year. Their win and loss balance was in perfect equilibrium at eight each before kick off yesterday. They like their rice porridge not too hot and not too cold.



Port FC are no slouches when it comes to table slouching themselves, although their eightfold path to encentrement manifests itself in other ways too. They have some wonderfully average players of course. But that alone is not enough to temper extremist tendencies. The season started in a greedy fashion as Port somehow managed to elbow their way to the top five buffet table like a maniacal Chinese tourist coming off hunger strike. They took more than their fill from the big boys. The dressing room became more instagrammed than The Emirates in London. There was decadent ripped jeans and self-assured selfies galore down at PAT. The old mad dame might have even blushed. Home crowds were consistently boisterous and are proudly the one aspect of Port FC that never follows the middle way. (Perhaps closer to the middle finger.) Long may that last. But in the context of mediocrity, they’d become dangerously out of sync. They’d lost their way, the middle way. But small sample size gave way to reality check with a little help from tactical naivety and questionable player choice. We have some consistently useful release valves at Port to insure we keep ourselves humdrum. Average goals conceded is one such lever. It is hard to keep your head above seasonal floodwater when you concede two goals every ninety minutes. We also like to have a new manager at the start of every season, be it of the rainy or football variety. We’ve also tried a new severe austerity technique by denying ourselves of our best player and captain for an entire game (Rochela). Either rainy season sniffles got him or Zico did. Lets hope that whatever the root cause was soon ceases to hold sway.



Buddhist ascetics or recovering addicts to sense pleasures need not have worried about any such temptations last night in a game so middle way it felt like your brain was being dissected by its ordinariness. Two average teams playing average football. After the fifth time the ball got stuck in a puddle on the pitch it was easy to relax about the threat of excessive excitement. Indian-era Beatles encouraged us to turn off your mind, relax and float down stream, this is not dying. But its not exactly living either. Simple passes were over played. Passable would have been a welcome relief. Players bunched in bee hives on the sideline without lifting their heads. Kalu (10) can be singled out for his exceedingly poor finishing. Missing easy opportunities early in the game marks you out as extreme and not in a good way. Two goals for Ubon in the first twenty-eight minutes was seen as immoderate by any one watching and not exactly reflective of the game as a whole. Ubon also saw it as such and decided that they had taken as much as they could take in any average alms bowl. No sense in being accused of gluttony. They waded back through the Ubon rice paddy and sat out the game with lententidinal patience. Port FC made a game of it when Kalu made merit in the forty-eighth minute. It was to prove the last major incident of note. Rather than single out many players for their poor decision making, woeful crossing and lethargic movement lets just say the players looked happy for the break in fixtures now imminent. The game veered much the nearer to self mortification than to self indulgence and the reality of what middle of the road in the Thai Premier league looks like was made painfully evident. The equaliser that seemed so fitting never came and it was Ubon’s sporadic counter attacks that looked most likely to unbalance this petering out. Port’s substitutions in the second half only reminded us of the paucity of quality on show. This mid-year, mid-season, middling affair in muddy waters, mired in maudlin performances had come to an end. The journey to the centre of inadequacy was over with much for us all to reflect on. Thank Buddhist teachings for small mercies. Thai Port FC now sit in ninth place in the Thai Premier league standings.


Dom’s Man of the Match: Adisorn




Thaigo – not not that one, another Thiago – Ferreira Dos Santos – scored the first goal and looked a constant threat to a shaky Port defence. Ubon looked a bit more relaxed in the second half but Thiago had opportunities. If I had to pick the best Port player I’d say Adisorn (13) was as industrious as ever and seemed to relish the captain’s role. Tana(99) took over as captain for the second half but the armband should’ve stayed where it was.


On Tour With The Eagles: Ubon UMT vs. Port FC, 9 July 2017

 

Port head North this weekend to face Ubon UMT. Both teams could be forgiven for “taking it easy” for the rest of the season as both the Eagles and ourselves have achieved target number one of all promoted teams and sit comfortably in mid table with that “peaceful easy feeling” any realistically chance of relegation has “already gone”. Whilst an assault on the summit of the table is realistically out of reach, even if either side were to “take it to the limit”in the remaining games. The Sanuk football revolution under Zico means that despite little to play for there’s little sense of “after the thrills is gone” about the remainder of 2017 for Port.

Of all our rivals, Ubon are a bit of a favourite of mine, akin to a Thai version of mid 90’s Bolton Wanderers. Unfashionable and with a reputation as big and strong battlers that belies what really is a very good footballing side. Throw in a manager, in Scott Cooper, who prepares well, plays to his squad’s strengths, a new stadium and for us metropolitan southern fairies a seldom visited northern location and it’s a simile that works for me, we just need Jay Jay Okocha to arrive on a “midnight flyer”. Along with Sukhothai last season, Ubon appeared to represent somewhat of a beacon for the future of Thai football, rather than vanity projects for megalomaniac owners or corporations keeping their name in the public arena whilst playing in front a few hundred. These clubs are well run and on the surface sustainable. 2016 saw this new breed succeed as Sukhothai more than comfortably stayed up and (kinda) won the FA Cup, while Ubon undertook the role many assigned Port preseason and won the title in the second tier.

Come the start of 2017 and things looked good. “New Kid in Town” Ubon entered the T1/Prem/mega league (I think it’s currently called one of these) with the opening of their new stadium (which had the possibly of being extended from its current 6,000 upwards as the fan base grew) they’d also held on to national team striker Siroch Chatthong and got busy in the transfer market strengthening their squad for a first season in the big time. Three games into the season they sat atop the table on goals scored. However, being Thai football, it appears all wasn’t quite as perfect as it seemed and there was some “heartache tonight”. On the field Ubon have fallen back to mid table and currently sit 10th, still somewhat better than expected. However, off the field rumours persist around ownership issues, attendance has been disappointing and relations with fans strained. Over the transfer window Siroch Chatthong found himself “In the City” after being sold to some club in Rangsit with a fetish for buying any available Thai national team player. Brazilian body builder/hulk impersonator and centre back Victor was linked with a move to Buriram, to attempt the impossible and replace Tunez, before Buriram remember they could just get the original back from Spain and left the Brazilian in Issan.

 

Form

 

Recent form hasn’t been great since they followed Port with an equally enjoyable 3-2 win over the Lizards. After the mid season break Ubon limped back into action with a 1-0 defeat at Ratchaburi, before going goal and draw crazy. A 93rd minute penalty by Bangkok United’s league leading marksman Dragon Boskovic put a 3-2 blip in what would have otherwise been three back-to-back 2-2 draws. Before Wednesday saw that rarest of things, a night where “The Long Run” out to Ladkrabang wasn’t “Wasted Time” thanks to a 8 goal thriller. Having taken the lead though Thiago (7) the Eagles found themselves 3-1 down just before the hour, before their other Brazilians Carlao (83) and Victor (6) pulled them level, only for an injury time goal to seemingly allow Honda to claim the win. At which point the recent arrival from Port Piyachart Tamaphan popped up to restore the parity in the 95th minute.

Port head into this fixture on the back of a defeat to Buriram as a linesman’s “lyin eyes” were the only ones not to see that Coelho was clearly off side, meaning it was “one of these nights”. However, the performance – offside goal aside – away from home to what currently appears to be the best team in the league showed a lot of promise. The Zico era may have started with what appears a rather an uninspiring 4 points from 4 games but given that the two defeats have come against the league leaders and a Bangkok United team that gave Port there most comprehensive footballing lesson of the first half of the season and are on a run of ten games that has seen them win nine. The sole defeat being a single goal to defeat to Buriram (all the best teams do it apparently). Points were dropped away to Navy where all the boxes of a traditional Port blow up were ticked, 2-0 up away from home with over an hour gone, rather than shut up shop, the wheels feel off, and we were again the “victim of love” of giving away late penalties to make it 2-2. Change doesn’t happen overnight and we appear to be moving in the right direction.

 

Key Players

 

Victor Cardozo (6)

 

Ubon will be a big test, they are as we know big, strong and well drilled, however they (like Port) suffer with issues of giving away late goals (especially penalties) and have drawn half their home games and too many overall recently. At the back, they are led by Victor (6) who put in an impressive showing in the 1-0 win for Port at the PAT. With Kalu (10) likely to start up front alone, the not-so-big Serb will need to be at his Youtube best to test the Brazilian and it will require assistance from the rest of the team. Blindly lumping it forward to the target man is unlikely to work. Also physically, we need to contend with Ubon collectively as we did in the reverse (I’m think Dolah and Rochela charging virtually the length of the pitch to back up team mates in the dying moments). Dolah excels at this, popping up to intimidate and man handle anyone attempting to bullying some of the slighter Port starters. Ubon also have the Albanian German Nebihi (8) who is top scorer with ten. He didn’t start when we last played and has been in and out of the team since the mid-season break. If he starts he will offer a range of creativity to compliment the Big Scary Foreign striker in the form of Carlao (83) or Thiago (7). Japanese midfielder Yamazaki (14) is suspended for the game so hopefully that allows Port to win the battle there.

 

Carlao (83) and Bajram Nebihi (8)

 

Starting XI

 

 

Zico either likes to tinker or hasn’t yet decided what will be his go to starting line-up. The only major absence is Josimar (30) after pulling a “James Dean” lite, so Kalu (10) will be “Desperado” to take his opportunity and cement his place in the team for “the long run” with a goal or two. I’d expect “ol 55” Boonyong (shockingly 55) is to feature on the bench as Dolah (4) and Rochela (22) assume their normal partnership in front of Rattanai (17). With Pinkong (19) enjoying some reasonable form and the Nitipong (34) and Pakorn (9) partnership on the right developing with each match along with the Dirk Kuyt-esque hustle of Genki (18) always of worth in a battle away from home. It’s only in central midfield I can see any change. Suarez (5) had one of his least productive evenings away to that other exponent of “big and strong” football Honda and often struggles when a spoiler used to man mark him, however I’d expect him to start along with Siwakorn (16) which leaves the call on who partners him in the middle as the main choice I can see Zico confronted with Ittipol (7) appear to have edged ahead of Adisorn (13), however Adisorn had a great game in the reverse and his bustle and bite might just edge him into the starting 11 come kick off .“I can’t tell you why” Tana (99) keeps getting game time as its often “wasted time”. Let’s hope we’re “Glad all over” come Sunday night!

 

The match will be shown live on True Sport 2 at 19:00 on Sunday 9 July, 2017. For those who can’t make it out to Ubon, feel free to join us at The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13, where the match will be shown on a big screen with sound. 

 

Offside Hassle at Thunder Castle: Buriram Utd 1-0 Port FC

 

Today I am going to talk as much about the away day experience as I am the game. By the way for any of you that missed it, we lost.

The day started with me having to get up at 04:00 to put a bit of a shift in at DKSH towers to enable me to bonk off early for an “offsite meeting” yeah that old chestnut, the perks of being the boss. Remember always, family, football and work in that order.

As I sat in the departure lounge at Don Mueang I noticed a few familiar Port faces – Achim my German buddy and Big Bubba, who were to become my trusted lieutenants. I also noticed a small chick in  Adidas trackie bottoms with an entourage – it was our owner Madam Pang, who greeted me on the way on the plane with a huge smile, having spotted I was in her team’s colours. On arrival at Buriram Airport, my tenth time there, we were informed that the club had hired a car and Madame insisted we get in. We were staying at The Amari, and if you ever get a chance put this on your bucket list, it is one of the best hotels I have ever stayed in and I’ve been to a few. Its simplicity merged with a real hospitable friendliness made the defeat a lot easier. Off to Paddy’s for some beers and a throw of arrows and then back to the game. We shook hands with every single Port fan before the game: we had about ninety in total.

Both teams adopted the exact same formation, our now familiar 4-4-1-1.

Kalu (10) was always going to have a tough task in that lone striker role against the league leaders complimented by Suarez in the hole, they did OK to be fair. Buriram on the other hand had a samba double operating these roles and again they did OK.

First twenty minutes they came at us strong, our midfield battled hard. Ittipol (7) and Siwakorn (16) knew straight away they were in for a tough time and they weren’t helped by the Thunder Castle full backs who had the pace of thoroughbreds.

In the 27th minute one of the aforementioned Brazilians broke the deadlock in unbelievable circumstances. Well unbelievable to anyone who hasn’t watched Thai football before anyway. A kick out from Rattanai (17), who has now established himself as our number one stopper in my opinion, fell straight to the Buriram center midfielder who hooked a right footer over the top to Coelho who was two yards offside and to our disbelief ten seconds later the ball was in the onion bag, Rattanai on his arse!!! 1-0 Buriram. That said if you watch the goal our defensive positioning would not be out of play at the red arrows display at Duxford air museum. How the hell Rochela was ten yards from his partner Dolah and the two fullbacks I’ll never know. Think back to the Invincibles – you would never see Tony Adams two yards from the high line never mind ten.

The second half Zico, my friend, you earned your corn. We were fantastic in every department and my team put in a display worthy of my trip and the expense and as a football fan if you come away from a midweek away came having ticked those boxes then you have done well. We had a couple of half chances, Pakorn (9) started pulling the strings and was assisted ably by Nitipong (34) down the right. Listen to me here, when these two bring their A-game there is no better right hand side in the league. Defensively we were solid although we rode our luck at times but we were playing against the league leaders. Adisorn (13) and Tana (99) entered the fray and performed admirably and Genki, though substituted, put in his usual shift. In the 81st minute Pakorn fizzed in a free kick that took paint off the crossbar but it wasn’t to be but we yet again proved one point, on our day Thai Port are a match for anyone. Onto Ubon where I am that convinced of a victory I will be discussing as serious investment with my compatriot Paddy Power. Peace out my fellow sandpit members, boarding has been called!

 

Tim’s Man of the Match – Pakorn

As with Sunday’s win over Honda, Port put in a much improved performance with a greater degree of intensity, better organisation and crisper passing than seen during the last days of Jadet, and as such there were several contenders for the coveted Sandpit MOTM award. Rattanai, who loves playing against Buriram, bossed his area and made some superb saves when needed; Nitipong for once managed to combine both attacking and defensive duties; and the midfield duo of Siwakorn and Ittipol didn’t give Buriram a moment’s peace.

But my MOTM this week is the Midfield Monk himself, Pakorn, who has come back from the Wat with a new lease of life. His corners and free kicks could, if there had been anyone on the end of them, given Port the win, and when he moved into a more central role – as our own Tommie Duncan has long advocated – he looked even more of a threat. If he can keep up this level of performance in the next few weeks, Port will be hard to beat.

 

‘Ram You Hard: Buriram Utd vs. Port FC, 5 July 2017

One of our most spirited performances of the season took place against Buriram earlier in the season where we matched them man for man in every department. Even before Diogo’s red card I felt we had our chances and in midfield our energy and tenacity was really evident, Adisorn (13) having a particularly endearing display. It also meant that I could go home to my beloved, a lady who frequents PAT quite often, with my head held high but I am a little less convinced of a repeat when I get off the plane Thursday afternoon. That said, we have the night at Smelly Thongs to give me hope!

The Thunder castle are flying this year. After a disappointing 2016 they have improved immensely this term, and apart from back to back defeats at the hands of Glass away and a surprising home defeat by Ratchaburi at the start of May their record has been phenomenal. They have won seven and drawn one of their last eight with Diogo (40) and his compatriot Jakson Coelho (50) being the driving force in this excellent run.

 

Diogo (40) and Coelho (50)

 

I have seen them play Bangkok United at home on 27th May, the day Glasgow Celtic secured an undefeated domestic treble, in what was a very entertaining game against decent opposition, I was impressed. Their pace and presence was frightening and we will need to bring our A game on Wednesday. No place for passengers for sure.

 

 

Yesterday’s fantastic result should add wind to our sails as the Zico effect gathers momentum, the fight for places and someone to impress on an equal playing field seems to be giving some of the squad a lift. This will need to be the case as our transfer window activity – or should I say lack of – has been embarrassing but far from surprising. There is nothing this wonderful club can conjure up any more that will astonish me. Kalu (10) and Suarez (5) getting on the score sheet was a welcome boost, I don’t care what they say goals breed confidence for attackers, end of. We need to play a high line tomorrow and support the one up front as this has worked this season when we have adopted this tactic, Chang Rai and Smellies away proved this and paid dividends. If we try to soak it up against this mob on Wednesday we good get an old fashioned drubbing, Thai Honda, Bangkok United-esque!

On a more personal note I am going to sample The Buriram Amari tomorrow nothing beats falling in the door two hundred yards from the away end after the footie. I will take it a few at Paddy’s bar beforehand and get a bit of the old man’s craic. Let’s not forget whilst I will never hope Port to get beat if it happens there will be a little Silver lining. Four points isn’t that hard to claw back.

 

Tom’s Transfer Talk: Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life

 

Port’s underwhelming transfer window came to a close yesterday with three exits and no arrivals. Young midfielder Tatchanon (39) has gone on loan to Chonburi, while Pinyo (21) has made the temporary switch to Prachuap in T2. It seems to be a sensible move for Pinyo, who because of injury has not played a single league minute in a year and a half at Port, but sending Tatchanon to Chonburi, where he will surely struggle for first team football, seems like a head-scratcher. Suchon (11) is the final departure, moving permanently to Nongbua Pitchaya in the lower reaches of T2.

Tatchanon, Pinyo and Suchon

This may surprise some readers, but despite the frustrated tone of some of my recent Transfer Talks and the criticism which I have been doling out, in a broader context I don’t think Port have had a bad window. The heightened expectations after the arrival of Zico may have made us feel entitled to a slew of national team signings, but in reality we are still a mid-table team with mid-table ambitions who have made some mid-table signings on a mid-table budget. Admittedly, we have also made some very pointless signings who will never justify the wages being paid to them, and whilst that situation is far from ideal, it’s also not the end of the world. The club is where it wanted to be, and there is no reason to think that will change drastically in the second half of the season. If it turns out that Port have been punching above their weight and slip a few places down the table, then it won’t be down to Port having a weakened squad, but luck and the law of averages.

Have other teams improved significantly? No, the same players that were in Thai football are still here. Some decent foreign players have come in, and some have moved on. Thai players are the same as they’ve always been, just distributed slightly differently throughout the league. What could be significant is the new coaching regime at Port. If, as we expect, the team Zico has brought with him takes a more professional approach to training and preparation then Port will improve. It did seem that despite Jadet’s shortcomings he was doing a good job with what he had at his disposal, but do we think Zico is incapable of producing the same results? In the short term maybe or maybe not, but in the long term Port have improved their prospects markedly in my eyes.

Here’s my assessment of how Port’s transfers have changed the state of the squad.

 

Depth in Goal

Port now have 3 good options in goal, where before we had two good options and some bloke who we picked up from the street because he happened to have a pair of gloves.

 

Stronger at the Back

In defence, Port dropped the ball by letting Hansson go but picked up Pravinwat (55) on loan from Bangkok Glass, who has come straight in to the first team and made some encouraging performances. As a former national team charge of Zico, he also has experience playing in a back 3.

At left back, Yossawat (28) and Jetjinn (51) replaced Piyachart (23) and Suchon (11). Two better, younger full-backs who with any luck will be Port’s left back options for years to come.

 

Same Old in Midfield, For Now

Whilst there have been a few arrivals and departures in midfield, Zico’s primary options are largely unchanged. Wanchalerm (40) and Tatchanon (39) have been replaced by Pummared (41) and Narakorn (29), which I think is crazy, but neither was getting any game-time in the first place. For reasons unbeknownst to me, they were not favoured, so it makes more sense that they have moved on. In the short term Port’s midfield options ultimately remain pretty much unchanged, although in the long term they are surely reduced.

 

Rehabilitation Up Front

Port’s forward options have also not really changed, which in itself is a travesty considering the circumstances, but a couple of players seem to have been rehabilitated in to the squad. Both Suarez (5) and Kaludjerovic (10) were not being picked for one reason or another, but both played and scored in their first start under Zico. We can argue all day long (and I bloody well have) about who should have come and gone in the transfer window, but the reality is that we’re back where we started in the first half of the season, and that fired us in to the top half of the table.

Like him or not, Kalu is an option to bring on when a goal is needed. Suarez is an occasionally excellent player that is capable of changing the course of Port’s season if he can produce his best form week in week out. Ultimately, Port are better off being able to pick these two than not. Remember, at the end of the first half of the season Jadet wouldn’t even put them in the matchday squad.

 

Completed Transfers

 

In

Yossawat Montha (Buriram Utd)

Jetjinn Sriprach (Thai Honda)

Narakorn Khana (BBCU)

Pummared Kladkleep (BBCU)

Pravinwat Boonyong (loan, Bangkok Glass)

Watchara Buathong (returning from loan, BBCU)

 

Out

Wanchalerm Yingyong (loan ended, Prachuap)

Niran Hansson (Police Tero)

Weera Koedpudsa (Nakhon Ratchasima)

Rodrigo Maranhao (Sukhothai)

Suchon Sa-nguandee (Nongbua Pitchaya)

Piyachart Tamaphan (loan, Ubon UMT)

Pinyo Inpinit (loan, Prachuap)

Tatchanon Nakarawong (loan, Chonburi)

 

,

Pakornholioooooooohhh!!! Winger Wins Sandpit June POTM

 

TP (Thai Port) for my bunghole! June was, let’s face it, not the greatest month in Port FC history. Limp defeats to Suphanburi and Bangkok Utd, the all too common late collapse at Navy, and an FA Cup win against Thai Fleet that was played, appropriately enough, under water, coupled with a transfer window of such staggering incompetence you wondered if La Pang had been replaced by Teresa May…it was a bad month to be a Port fan, and this was reflected in the less than enthusiastic reader response to our June POTM poll.

But anyway, here are the top 3 voted by you…

 

Pakorn – 41.3%

He may be teeth-gnashingly frustrating, but the stats don’t lie – Pakorn is, when you add up goals & assists, Port’s most productive player, and there was indeed much gnashing of teeth when he missed the trip to Suphanburi after returning somewhat out of shape after his spell as a Buddhist monk. Possibly the only time such a sentence has been written in the history of football blogging. Port’s poor attempts at corners & free-kicks in that game made us realise just how much the Ballin’ Bonze contributes to the team and his return in the Thai Fleet game, in which he scored straight from a corner, was most welcome. And he did it again against Navy. So it may have been a fairly poor month for Port, but Pakorn’s spell of making merit was enough to win him his first POTM award.

 

Genki Nagasato – 29.3%

Genki Nagasato! Genki Nagasaaaaaaaaaaatoooohhhhhhh

 

Rodrigo Maranhao – 14.7%

I would comment further on this but I’d only start banging my head against the wall and crying.

 

Look out for July’s POTM poll coming up, somewhat unsurprisingly, at the end of July.

 

Port Crush Honda: Port FC 3-1 Thai Honda

 

Zico’s tenure at Port finally moved out of first gear with a 3-1 victory over Thai Honda. Port were in cruise control at 2-0 up, Honda pulled within a car-length before Port applied the nitrous to win comfortably. The feeling of relief was palpable at PAT Stadium, as Zico got his first win as boss and Port put a little more daylight between them and the strugglers, going in to a very tough run of games where points will be at a premium. Honda were, as my preview suggested they would be, pretty awful. Rafinha (7) was their only legitimate threat, with new signing Roninho (77) playing like a one man team and Jesus (9) confined to the bench.

Zico chose not to continue with his back 3 experiment, and his switch back to a system that the players are more comfortable with turned out to be the right decision. That’s not to say that a back 3 isn’t a good option going forward – looking at Port’s personnel it could well be – but it takes time for the players to adapt to a new system like this. Zico went with the system most likely to yield 3 points on the day, and it did just that.

 

 

There were a few interesting decisions to be made with the starting XI, mostly centred around what to do about the absence of Josimar (30). Zico chose to go back to the future, employing an almost identical system to the one Port started the season with against Ratchaburi on the first day of the T1 season. The only change from the XI that started that game was the inclusion of Panpanpong (19) ahead of the departed Piyachart (23, who scored a belter of a freekick for Ubon by the way) showing just how much Port’s squad has been improved since the start of the season. Erm, yeah. That would be not at all.

Nevertheless, with the limited options available, Zico acted decisively, bringing in both Suarez (5) and Kaludjerovic (10) from the cold, as well as giving a start to Piyachat (88) who displaced Adisorn (13) from the starting XI for the first time in what seems like forever. With a goal apiece for Port’s two forwards, it’s hard to argue with his decisions.

 

cr. การท่าเรือ เอฟซี Port FC

 

The game started fairly evenly, with neither side holding back on the attack. Port were the first to create a clear chance, when on 5 minutes a devilish Pakorn (9) cross was flicked on by Kalu in to the path of Genki (18). With about a yard between him and the goal it only needed a touch, but as he did last week against Bangkok United, Genki failed to make contact and the chance went begging.

On 15 minutes, Pakorn fired narrowly over from a free-kick, and 5 minutes after that Kalu almost made a fortuitous breakthrough when he blocked a clearance and the ball ballooned on to the top of the bar and over.

Honda’s next chance was probably the best move of the first half, and it deserved a better finish than the one applied by defensive midfielder Silva (33). Rafinha (7) and Roninho (77)

combined well to send their fellow Brazilian through, and Silva shaped to curl the ball in to the far corner, but struck the ball so poorly that the curl never came and the ball went behind harmlessly for a goal kick. Honda kept the pressure up, with their long-throw expert Meedech (26) showing almost Delap-like technique in his delivery in to the box. He was starved for targets, though, and with Dolah (4) maintaining aerial dominance and Rochela (22) sweeping up everything on the ground Honda could not find a way through.

It was Port who broke the deadlock, but from a very surprising source! Siwakorn (16) received the ball in the middle and played it square to the advancing Panpanpong (19), who looked for all the world as if he was going to cross. I’m sure even his biggest fan wouldn’t have been advising him to shoot, but from all of 30 yards the left-back struck it hard, kept it down and hit the target. The fact that it dipped in front of the keeper made it a little tricky for him, but the ball definitely seemed to be well within reach of Buncha (24) when it went past him. That’s not to take anything away from the left-back, though. It was a superb strike, and is most certainly in contention for a spot in our Goal of the Season short-list.

Port had to be happy with their half-time advantage, but a better performance was going to be needed to secure the points in the second half. Pakorn set about completing the task with some absolutely scorching deliveries. He was finding the danger area with unerring regularity, and more often than not it was Kalu on the end of his crosses. The Serb certainly has a nose for where to position himself to get on the end of balls in to the box, and on 53 minutes he was in prime position to head home a Pakorn free-kick, but somehow contrived to hit the bar from 6 yards.

A minute later Genki made a dog’s breakfast of a half-chance after the ‘keeper got himself in to trouble, leaving him an empty net albeit from a very tight angle. It would have been stunning if he’d found the target, but he should have certainly done better than whacking the ball straight out of play!

In the 59th minute, Suarez almost got a goal worthy of his excellent performance. With fellow midfielders Siwakorn (16) and Piyachat (88) keeping play ticking over, Suarez had been spreading the play well with some superbly struck cross-field passes. The ball sat up nicely for him and he struck a gorgeous volley, which looked to those of us behind the goal to be sailing in to the top corner but for the intervention of Kalu’s back. Having missed a sitter and prevented a teammate scoring, and seemed it was not going to be Kalu’s day.

On 63 minutes, Port went 2-0 up. Another swashbuckling Pakorn delivery caused a headache for the ‘keeper. He seemed undecided whether to block with his hands or feet, and ended up doing neither. The ball fell straight in to the path of Suarez, who calmly slotted home his fourth goal for Port. The visiting group of Suarez groupies wearing Las Palmas shirts erupted in to celebration, as did the rest of the stadium. Unfortunately though, when Port go 2-0 up trouble is usually just around the corner.

 

cr. การท่าเรือ เอฟซี

 

This time it took just 5 minutes for Port to blow their two goal advantage. Dolah (4) lost his balance trying to stop a ball coming in from the left, and when substitute Jesus (9) laid it off to Rafinha (7) there was no stopping his quickly taken strike in to the bottom right corner. Honda kept their foot on the gas, creating a few chances from distance, but nothing they could muster troubled Rattanai (17), who gathered everything that came his way calmly.

In the 78th Port did something completely out of character – they made the game safe! It was another cross from the right, but this time it was Nitipong (34) who found the perfect ball in. Kalu was once again in the right place at the right time, and this time headed the ball down, past Buncha and in to the back of the net. He jumped in to Zone B to celebrate with the fans, where he may or may not have been touched by the hands of these particularly loyal friends we spotted behind the goal.

 

The Sandpit’s Rear of the Year cr. Humans of Thai Port

 

Although the outcome was almost certainly decided, there was still time for Honda striker Thawin (10) to miss an absolutely gilt-edged chance. A deflected strike from Jesus (9) fell straight to him, but somehow from 8 yards out he fired wide when it seemed easier to score than to miss. It was to be the last chance of the game, and a big roar of relief greeted the referee’s whistle. It was a must-win, and Port won. Job done!

 

Port FC Man of the Match

 

cr. การท่าเรือ เอฟซี

 

Lots of suggestions came my way for Man of the Match, but I’ve decided to go with Sergio Suarez (5). He clearly didn’t have 90 minutes in him, but the quality of his passing when he was on was a joy to behold. Zico-era Port have been switching the direction of play much more effectively than in the past, and Suarez is probably the best passer in the squad on his day. Honourable mentions must go to Rochela (22), who looked in control throughout, Nitipong (34) who put in a typically tireless performance, Siwakorn (16) who took on more defensive responsibility in the absence of Adisorn (13) and Pakorn (9) whose crossing was as good as it’s ever been.

Isn’t it nice to be spoiled for choice? Well played, Port. Let’s carry that momentum in to the tricky run of fixtures coming up. We can beat anyone on our day!

 

Tom’s Transfer Talk: Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off

 

It is now official that the deal for Thai national team winger Mongkol has fallen through. Earlier this week it was widely reported (including by us) that he had joined Port on loan, but Mongkol has instead opted to join Pattaya United.

It’s little wonder Zico was unable to convince him to move to Khlong Toei considering the chaos of Port’s transfer window. Early on, there were several arrivals, but almost all were players who were never likely to be regular starters at PAT Stadium. Transfers like Pummared and Narakorn from BBCU are hardly inspiring. The real chaos has been regarding Port’s foreign players, though. T1 rules state that only two foreign player swaps are allowed mid-season, and by swapping Maranhao in for Kaludjerovic for the Suphanburi game, then Kaludjerovic back in for Maranhao for the Bangkok United game, Port’s two swaps have already been made. Unbelievable incompetence, which for our more sensitive readers can be read about in fairy tale form here.

As well as the Mongkol deal being off, Supachai has said he wants to move somewhere where he will start regularly, and the deal for Ratchaburi winger Rungrath has also fallen through. For all the excitement and rumours of last week, not a single signing has been made, and with Josimar picking up an injury, Port’s dearth of options going forward is really being put in focus.

It seems likely that either Kaludjerovic or Suarez will start in place of Josimar in today’s crucial clash against Thai Honda. If they don’t perform, Port’s management during this crucial part of the season will surely come in for some deservedly heavy criticism.