After a run of three defeats in a row, Port got their season back on track with a hard-fought win over the high-flying Killer Wasps of Prachuap. It wasn’t pretty – Port rode their luck on several occasions and could’ve had no complaints if PT had sneaked a draw or even a win – and it wasn’t enough to hide the fact that Port’s chronic weaknesses are still present, but when you’re on a run like that, grinding out an ugly 1-0 is exactly what is required.
Before the game I had the honour of spending some time with Thailand’s No1 Expat Football Fan (The Big Chilli), Peter ‘Hockers’ Hockley. It is a measure of the man’s humility and modesty that he is still happy to spend time with us lesser mortals in the Sandpit, and to impart his footballing knowledge to those who sit at his feet, and I think I speak for all of us when I say how privileged we felt to be able to bask in the glow of his magnificence.
After the Adoration of St Hockers we had a football match to watch, and a very important one at that. With Port on a run of three defeats, the season – and Mme Pang’s expensive project – was in danger of going up in smoke, and coach Jadet staring down the barrel of a very stylish, limited edition diamond-encrusted gun (assuming Central Embassy has a firearms boutique). A win was required, and the Spherical Supremo (c Tom Earls) went back to his side’s last win (against Air Force) for inspiration, with Kim (8) taking the Suarez role in midfield. Otherwise it was as-you-were, Jadet keeping faith with the likes of Pakorn (7) & Boskovic (23) despite neither of them offering much in those last three matches. Jadet’s loyalty to certain players may well prove to be his undoing this season.
Port almost got off to a dream start on 3 minutes when a Pakorn (now sporting a Beatles-style moptop) free kick forced a spectacular save from the Wasps’ keeper (makes a change from beekeepers I guess). Despite the ball dropping at least 2 feet behind the goalline, the referee inexplicably awarded a goal kick, much to the Midfield Monk’s rage.
As is often the case (ie every bloody week) Port failed to turn their early pressure into goals and Prachuap got into the game. Whilst they’re a very fit, physical, well-organised side, they’re somewhat lacking in creativity, their sole tactic being to get the ball forward to foreign strikers Reis (big, skillful) and Doumbouya (very big, rubbish). Doumbouya was competing for and winning every aerial ball that was flung in his direction (Boskovic please take note), but thankfully he is a real 50p Head and his headers were flying off in all directions apart from Port’s goal. The big Frenchman’s diving is even worse than his heading as he showed on 20 minutes, earning not even a glance of derision from the ref for his efforts.
Five minutes later Port almost took the lead when Kevin (97) pinged a sublime cross into the heart of the Prachuap area. To the amazement of all of us, Brent McGrath, oops sorry I mean Boskovic, dived into a 50-50 challenge with the keeper and both ended up in a heap, which led to the Benny Hill-esque spectacle of nurses running around on the pitch. All that was missing was Jadet repeatedly slapping an old bald man on the head (and there were plenty of those in Zone B).
The game restarted, and on 32 minutes Port broke the deadlock. A sublime long pass from Kim, having his best game at the PAT so far, found Pakorn on the left, and the Bangkok Beatle skipped past Prachuap’s full-back and laid the ball on a plate for Siwakorn (16), who couldn’t miss from 8 yards out.
As any entomologist will tell you, wasps are at their most dangerous after, er, conceding a goal (I’ve not really thought this through), and Prachuap laid siege to the Port goal for the rest of the half, Reis almost taking out a couple of Sandpit regulars in Zone B with some wild long shots, and Doumbouya being denied by a heroic block from Todsapol (6) after Rattanai (17) spilled a shot he should’ve saved.
The Wasps came out for the second half like they’d caught a whiff of a jam sarnie or a Raspberry Mivvi, and continued to swarm around the Port penalty area as if it was an English pub beer garden in August. Doumbouya tested the Rat on 47 minutes, and then clattered into him a minute later, forcing Jadet to make a tactical change, taking off Todsapol and replacing him with the bigger Dolah (4). It is somewhat bizarre that it took Jadet 50 minutes to notice that Doumbouya is a big bastard – we pointed it out in our match preview two days ago, and it makes you wonder how much research Port’s coaching team do into the opposition.
The change made Port look a bit more solid at the back and they started to get back into the game, and on 67 minutes Nitipong (34) nearly raised the roof (if there was a roof) with a 30-yard thunderbastard which was acrobatically tipped over bar by the PT keeper.
Five minutes later it was real brown trouser time in the Port defence, the kind of moment where you can almost believe that some higher force (St Hockers perhaps) had Port in its divine protection. Some nice work down the right by a PT winger found Doumbouya in the box. His low shot beat Rattanai but bounced back off the post to Dolah, whose hurried attempt at a clearance bounced back off the crossbar. Prachuap are probably still wondering how the hell they didn’t score; Dolah is probably apologising to Port’s laundry staff for the state of his shorts.
After this very squeakiest of squeaky bum moments, Port settled back and closed out the rest of the game, and the final whistle was greeted with the kind of exhausted relief you feel when that wasp that got into your office or classroom has finally been guided out through a window or twatted with a rolled up newspaper. No, it wasn’t the kind of swaggering, swashbuckling win we like to see at the PAT, but Prachuap, as their record this season shows, are a very good side. Port’s old weaknesses remain, particularly up front where Boskovic is clearly struggling and needs to be replaced by Arthit ASAP, but the win takes them up to equal 3rd and, with a very winnable away game against struggling Chainat coming up on Wednesday, the season could just be getting back on the rails.
The Sandpit Man of the Match: Adisorn
There were a few contenders for the hallowed Sandpit MOTM award. Kim had his best game at the PAT so far, looking fitter and more up for it than he has all season; Rattanai was unbeatable at the back and caught everything that was thrown at him; Rochela looked back to his best; and Siwakorn rounded off an impressive performance with his first goal of the season.
But this week’s award goes to the little man you just can’t keep down, Adisorn (13). His running battle against Reis, who is almost twice as big, was one of the most entertaining features of the game. Adisorn was ironically more wasp-like than any of his opponents, buzzing around them and stinging their ankles and not giving any of them a moment’s peace, and for his efforts he’s this week’s MOTM.