Sandpit Songs of the Season: Week 10

 

Port’s season has gone off the rails a little with two defeats in two games, so a trip to face leaders Buriram is the last thing the club needs as we head into the Songkran break.

This week in Songs of the Season we pay tribute to the hosts’ Brazilian striker Diogo, with a cracking bit of dancefloor-friendly shoegaze from the criminally underrated Chapterhouse, singing about something we are sure to see a lot of at the Chang Arena this Wednesday…

 

 

The Divine Mop: Buriram United vs. Port FC, 11 April 2018

 

Port will try to become the first team to defeat clear title favourites Buriram when they travel to the land of depressed husbands on Wednesday. This match couldn’t come at a worse time for Port though, having just suffered back-to-back defeats against Police and Bangkok United, whereas Buriram have maintained their unbeaten start to the season and currently enjoy a four point gap at the top of the table.

Port are also missing a couple of foreign players, with Kim (8) suspended after getting his fourth yellow card against Bangkok United, while Suarez (5) is reportedly out for a month after picking up an injury against Police Tero. Buriram are also missing a key foreign player, with instrumental centre back Tunez (5) having sat out the last 3 league fixtures through injury.

 

Buriram United

Key Players

 

It’s a strong team with too many to choose from, so here’s the lot of them.

33 year old Siwarak Tedsungnoen (1) kept two clean sheets against Port last season, with the fixture at PAT Stadium featuring an absolutely ridiculous point blank save from a Genki header. A model of consistency and Kawin’s understudy at national team level, don’t expect to get anything easy from Siwarak.

Buriram are without key defender Andres Tunez, and haven’t kept a clean sheet in the three league games since his injury. Their back three will be led by Pansa Hemviboon (3), who was my Player of the Tournament for Thailand in the recent King’s Cup. Standing at 6 foot 3, he is a formidable physical presence who doesn’t lose much in the air. Pansa will be joined by South Korean Yoo Jun-Soo (16) and former Port loanee Pravinwat Boonyong (4), who has become a surprise regular at The Thunder Castle this season.

 

Pansa Hemviboon

 

Extremely attack-minded Narubadin Weerawatnodom (13) will be right wing-back, with the more experienced and less bombastic Korrakot Wiryaudomsiri (11) on the left flank.

Buriram have a mix of youth and experience in central midfield, with 20 year old Ratthanakorn Maikami (26) being joined by either one of experienced duo Suchao Nuchnum (8) – who you may remember being bitch-slapped by Lazarus Kaimbi after reportedly calling him a monkey a couple of years ago – or Jakkaphan Kaewprom (10), who made the T1 team of the season in 2017.

Ahead of them will be one of Thailand’s best youngsters Supachok Sarachat (19), who has scored one and assisted two in a promising start to the campaign. The 19 year old has already scored 10 times in 47 appearances for The Thunder Castle, and will try to occupy the space in front of the back four that Aung Thu and Sumanya used to such good effect in Port’s two recent defeats.

 

Supachok Sarachat

 

Remarkably for a team comfortably atop the league, before Buriram’s draw with Sukhothai last weekend, they had only one player who had scored more than one goal. That of course was The Divine Mop: Diogo Luis Santo (40). It’s not just his hair that invites the comparison. The Brazilian spends most of his time sprawled across the floor and has an uncanny knack for finding filth wherever he is deployed. Like a mop though, Diogo is also reliable. And yes, this metaphor is in need of a good rinse. In only one season since he arrived at Buriram have they not triumphed in the league, and this was in no small part due to the fact that he was injured for most of the season. When he is fit, The Divine Mop is guaranteed to clean up. He has done so 11 times in 9 games so far this season, and will be expecting to add to that tally against Port’s lacklustre defence. Never bet against the best striker in the league.

 

Diogo Luis Santo

 

Diogo is joined by Edgar Bruno da Silva (23). Edgar scored his second goal of the season with a well-taken header against Suphanburi on the weekend, but has been far from convincing so far in 2018. He’s one of those players that has turned up at a lot of impressive-sounding clubs but not really seen a lot of action. Like his teammate Diogo, Edgar played for Brazil at youth level, then went on to represent such teams as Sao Paolo, Porto, Red Star Belgrade and Vasco da Gama. More recently representing a slew of average teams across Asia, Edgar is a mediocre T1 striker if ever there was one. His main function seems to be to get the ball to Diogo and watch the master at work.

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 

Form

 

Buriram have spent most of 2018 so far just getting the job done. Experienced winners one and all, they have made a habit of scoring late goals and grinding out results. Their recent last-gasp win against Chonburi was a textbook example. After starting out with 4 wins, Buriram were finally held to a 2-2 draw by Bangkok United, but they went on another run of 3 wins before being held to a 1-1 draw by Suphanburi.

Port, on the other hand… Actually no, I’d rather not. You all know how we’ve been doing over the last couple of weeks, so no reminder is necessary!

 

Port FC

Now or Never?

 

It’s time, Jadet. It’s quite possibly now or never. 9 T1 bosses have received their marching orders in just 9 weeks, and Sir Det could well make that 10 in 10 if Port take another heavy beating. He doesn’t have a full complement of troops at his disposal, either.

With Kim out, Jadet will most likely turn to Adisorn (13) to fill the midfield void, although Athibordee (35) is another realistic option. Athibordee was brought on when Jadet tried to change Port’s fortunes against Bangkok United, but was later subbed off. Ouch. With Adisorn having a barnstorming Buriram battle under his belt from last season, he really ought to be the man Jadet puts his faith in in his time of need.

Further forward there is a bit more of a dilemma. Suarez leaves a hole in the team that no player in Port’s squad is particularly well suited to fill. If Bodin (10) comes in again, then we are likely to see him and Nurul (31) on the flanks and Pakorn (7) playing through the middle, which just doesn’t seem like a great idea. As much as I like Pakorn, that’s not his position. Alternatively, Arthit (29) – who looked lively when he came on – could be deployed as a partner for Boskovic (23) and Port could switch to a pure 4-4-2. Interestingly, when Buriram visited PAT Stadium last season, Port lined up in a 4-4-2 which featured Adisorn in midfield and came away with a point. Rattanai (17), recently restored to the first XI, also kept goal that day, making one of his finest appearances in a Port shirt, while Todsapol (6) made a rare appearance before going off injured.

Whatever Jadet chooses though, the players are just going to have to do better. More discipline will be required at the back, more running in midfield and most of all better finishing. Yes Dragan, I’m looking at you!

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 


 

The match will be shown live on True Sport 2 at 17:45 on Wednesday 11 April, 2018. For those who can’t make it to The Chang Arena, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match on a big screen with sound. We’re already booked in, so head upstairs and we should be easy to find. Don’t forget to wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount on drinks.

 

Hark the Herald Angels Sing: Port FC 0-3 Bangkok Utd

 

 

We’re definitely not the newborn king…

After the embarrassing debacle in North Bangkok last week against bottom side Police, the Port faithful were hoping for a bit of a bounceback against Bangkok United who have been a thorn in our side for some time.

Port came out in a 4-3-3 with Bodin (10) finally getting a well-deserved start. With Todsapol (6) back it looked as if the defence might be a bit more solid.

After a tentative start Port had a nice flurry of two corners, but like so many times in the last few matches, the opportunities went to waste. The game was soon to jump to life, getting its legs when Boskovic (23) was carded for an elbow to the face of Manuel. The crack on the big German awakened the Angels who began a physical onslaught against which Port cowered like Mary to the Angel Gabriel in Simone Martini’s Annunciation. Another two yellows were to follow – one to Anthony A and another for a very silly challenge by Siwakorn (16). Moments after Rattanai (17) was forced to make an excellent save and the groans from the crowd could be heard. BU had come to play football.

Mere minutes later while Port defenders were slapping their hands calling for handball off a corner; BU decided to continue playing and were rewarded with a goal by Everton, Port again showing just how not to defend and BU playing disciplined, organised, physical football.
Port’s run of abysmal finishing continued with Nurul (31) and Bosk missing what should have been fairly easy goals, and they were then again punished for poor defending when Robson broke free for a one-on-one with Rattanai and made it 0-2.

Nurul again took a spill in the box and was given a well-deserved card for diving. Ekapoom still holds the Port “Sack o’ Potatoes” trophy for going to ground easily, but at this rate Nurul will surpass him in one season.

Just a few minutes from half-time Jadet decided to make a double substitution with Bodin out and Arthit (29) in, and Siwakorn out and Athibodee (35) in. Very perplexing moves so close to the break.

The second half saw BU let up a bit, and Port took some decent shots all stopped by BU’s keeper Falkesgaard, who might be staking a claim as the top keeper in the league. The final nail came from a beautiful long-range strike from Sumanya. 0-3, Port crucified, no heavenly ascension. With Port done, Terens (28) was brought on and actually provided a bit of a spark, but again that did not translate into a goal. I was glad to hear the final whistle.

My Observations

Port’s level of play is no better two months into the season than it was in the first match. While other teams are coming together, we are still a collection of very talented individuals who do not play as an organised unit. There appears to be no real system and there is only one tactic employed; play the ball wide, cross it, and hope the one or maybe on occasion two in the box can fight off the four opposing players and get a chance. This of course is not working. Our squad is talented. If every player were instructed in their role and executed it, knowing exactly where they needed to be and making sure they were there, we’d be very hard to beat. Instead we pass, hesitate, look for someone, and then play on. We’ve always played this way under the current regime, and I really don’t see that changing. If Port are serious about wanting to win a title the entire culture surrounding the team needs to change. It needs to become more professional and more serious. I don’t think it’s ever been that way at Port. At least it hasn’t during my time as a supporter. The team is underachieving. Players with proven track records at other teams are not excelling and long-term Port players are not developing. Truthfully I think we need a wholesale cleanout of all coaches. There are still some folks hanging on that have been there since I started supporting 6 years ago. We need to update from tip to toe: dietician, statistician, fitness coach, scouts, etc. In addition the new regime needs to stress team play above individual play and sit players that won’t adapt. There are a few models in Thai football we could follow, BU being one of them.

Yes, we had some shots, yes their keeper was great, but the bottom line is we lost 0-3. Was it the worst Port performance? No, it wasn’t. We’d beat a mid to low level T1 team if we play like that every week, but we are supposed to be entering the realm of the elite and we are most certainly not there yet.

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Michael Falkesgaard

We might have actually had a goal or two if it were not for this man. Best keeping display I have seen in a long time. Perhaps the second coming?

 

Sandpit Songs of the Season: Week 9

 

Bangkok Utd are the visitors to the PAT this evening in the first Bangkok derby of the season, and whilst many of us quite admire the Angels, for being one of the best-run clubs in Thailand, for sticking with the same coach for 4 years and for playing some cracking football last season, it has to be said that we don’t really enjoy playing them – I’ve been following Port for 4 years and I’ve never seen us beat them, and last season they put 15 goals past us in 3 games.

As the legendary Mark E Smith (RIP) put it, “They are waiting for you, bitterly, for you to fall over…it’s a curse.” It is indeed, and let’s hope Port can finally lift it tonight…

 

 

The Portlist 5: What Port Are Made Of

 

My last Portlist came after the pitiful 2-0 defeat to Bangkok Glass, when I said that the response to this defeat would show what Port were really made of. A hard-fought last minute 1-0 victory against Ubon was the immediate response, although it was followed by a disappointing capitulation late on against Sukhothai, where Port threw away a goal and a man advantage to draw 2-2. Port then overcame bottom-of-the-league Air Force 3-1, a scoreline which probably flattered Port, before putting on an absolute horror show away to Police Tero, losing 4-2.

Whilst some are now saying that the response to the Police Tero defeat will show what Port are really made of, I think the response to the Bangkok Glass fiasco answered that question in no uncertain terms. We’re formidable at home – capable of taking on all comers and emerging victorious – but take us away from PAT Stadium and we can lose to just about anyone.

It’s not a new phenomenon, but one Port have been fighting against for years. The one undeniable improvement that has been made this year is that Port have shown that they are able to keep complacency at bay against weaker clubs at home and grind out victories. Away from home it’s the same old story.

With all that being said there have been a lot of individual performances of note over the last month or so, so let’s get on with the task at hand. It’s Portlist time!

 


 

1 (3) David Rochela

The whole team has been fighting their hardest not to be number one on the Portlist this month, so El Capitan wins it by default as much as anything else. I have nothing particularly good or particularly bad to say about his recent performances, and in the context of most of his teammates, that’s a positive.

2 (2) Dragan Boskovic

Dragan hangs on to his spot at number two, having contributed towards a fair amount of goals, despite some less than inspiring performances. A goal and an assist against Sukhothai was supposed to ignite his campaign, and he followed it up with an excellent header against Air Force, before winning a late consolation penalty against Police.

3 (6) Pakorn Prempak

Yes, he occasionally goes missing, but when he’s on form he’s just so damn good. It was Pakorn’s cross that Arthit headed home to seal the injury-time win against Ubon, but the Midfield Monk really starred against Air Force, scoring a brace and assisting another. In a team full of increasingly inconsistent performers, I can’t see how I can keep Pakorn out of the top three.

4 (1) Sergio Suarez

The early season goal-rush had catapulted Sergio to the top of the Portlist, but just one goal in four and a few lackluster performances later, and it’s as you were for the Spaniard.

5 (5) Siwakorn Jakkuprasart

Phew. Siwakorn finally got his first yellow card. As always, Siwakorn has been consistent in his efforts, although their have been some less-than-stellar performances. I think it was Sukhothai away where the Thin White Duke put on an exhibition in how not to finish, squandering several chances which could have won Port the game, but we already known Siwakorn can’t finish, and that’s not his job. He has continued to keep things ticking over well in midfield, and doesn’t deserve to drop any places all things considered.

6 (7) Kevin Deeromram

Kevin was Port’s best player against Police, although that doesn’t say a great deal. His attacking just seems to get better and better as he grows in confidence, and he does an excellent job providing balance to the team, with his overlapping runs giving Nurul the opportunity to pass to the left when he is more naturally inclined to cut inside.

7 (4) Kim Sung Hwan

What a shame. From being number two on the Portlist after his performance against Muangthong, Kim has slipped five places already after some frighteningly poor displays. As defensive midfielder you are responsible for dealing with the guy in the hole. Against Police that was Aung Thu, and he was given free reign to run at Port’s defence all night. In Kim’s defence he doesn’t look at all fit, but then that’s not really a defence, and another reason he is sliding down the Portlist. If Kim gets fit and finds some consistency he will rise again, but he needs a couple of huge performances over the next week to convince fans that he is the real deal.

8 (8) Nitipong Selanon

Nitipong has made himself at home at the number eight spot. I see no reason for that to change at the moment.

9 (9) Nurul Sriyankem

He’s ever so promising, but just isn’t quite producing the goods. At times in the first half against Air Force Nurul looked like the most dangerous player on the pitch, but come the final whistle he had produced nothing and his fellow winger had notched up two goals and an assist. Of course the ability is there, and I still have confidence that Nurul will influence games in the way that some of his teammates do, but it just hasn’t quite happened for him yet.

10 (13) Worawut Srisupha

Worawut’s early season heroics turned out to be the exception, not the rule. This is unsurprising to those of us with a few years of watching Worawut under our belts; what has been surprising is that he’s managed to hold on to the first choice goalkeeping spot ahead of Rattanai, who has been fit for a few weeks now.

11 (21) Athibordee Atirat

Gaining ten places on the Portlist by virtue of his elevation in the centre back rankings. Having overtaken Dolah, Athibordee has had a decent run in the team, although he has done little to show that he could ever establish himself as a T1 centre half. Once Todsapol is fit again (I’m hearing rumours suggesting he could be primed for a return this week but steadfastly not holding my breath) he will be straight back in the team. Nevertheless, Athibordee’s stock has undoubtedly risen, as his ability to do two jobs to a decent standard is a quality that will come in handy at some point later in the season.

12 (14) Adisorn Daeng-rueng

A few solid performances this season and the inconsistency of Kim mean that Adisorn edges up the Portlist.

13 (11) Bodin Phala

That freekick is increasingly fading from the memory, and Bodin once again needs to do something from the bench to stand a chance of replacing either Pakorn or Nurul.

14 (10) Todsapol Lated

Until I see him on the pitch, I’m not going to believe he’s fit, although I really, really hope he is.

15 (15) Arthit Butjinda

Arthit can count himself unlucky not to have moved up a couple of places. His match-winning header against Ubon and his lay-off for Kevin’s goal against Police were classic centre-forward play, something which Port lack when Arthit is not on the pitch.

16 (12) Rattanai Songsangchan

The goalkeeping crisis is over, and surprisingly Rattanai has emerged in second place, still deputising for Worawut. I’ll be intrigued to see how long that lasts.

17 (16) Elias Dolah

Punished for his display against Bangkok Glass, Dolah has touched the ball just once since, winning a header just before the final whistle was blown against Air Force.

18 (18) Terens Puhiri

Poor Terens still hasn’t touched the ball in a competitive game. Please can we see him in action, Jadet? Pretty please? #PickTerens #PassToTerens

19 (20) Panpanpong Pinkong

Bringing on Panpanpong for Kevin when Port were in need of a goal against Air Force was a real head-scratcher. Still, he got on the pitch so he gains a place.

20 (19) Meechok Marhasarunukun

And Meechok drops a place as a result.

21 (17) Worawut Namvech

If Todsapol does return to fitness then Worawut, who must be gutted to have been overlooked when Athibordee made it in to the first XI ahead of him, will probably fail to make the match day squad.

22 (22) Watchara Buathong

Still third choice goalie.

23 (27) Chaowala Sriarwut

Now that some of Port’s first team squad have been appearing for Port B, the fact that Chaowala is still the main difference-maker shows just how good he is.

24 (24) Chakrit Rawanprakone

Until injury strikes a winger higher up the Portlist, Chakrit will probably continue to find himself playing for Port B.

25 (26) Jetjinn Sriprach

Swap winger for left back.

26 (24) Pummared Kladkleep

Pummared has probably fallen below Chaowala in the midfield rankings. Get comfortable in T4, mate.

27 (23) Anipong Kijkam

After nearly sneaking in to the matchday squad after a couple of injuries, Anipong can once again focus on keeping goal for Port B, although he appears to still be training with the first team. Can’t be bad.

28 (28) Partchya Katethip

The exciting young winger has to try and outperform Chakrit for Port B if he wants to move up the Portlist.

29 (29) Chanayut Jejue

Scored a fantastic goal for Port B a few weeks ago, taking on a couple of players on the left, playing a neat one-two on the edge of the box before slipping the ball past the goalie.

30 (30) Danudet Treemongkonchok

I’m developing quite a record with telling players they need a goal to stay on the Port list. I’ve been successful with Chanayut and now Danudet, who scored just a day after my last Portlist, but I think I’ll save my Midas touch for the next Portlist.

99 (99) Tana Chanabut

 

 

A picture is worth a thousand words.

 

Port Devoured by Pigs: Police Tero FC 4-2 Port FC

 

“There you go. Givin’ a f**k when it ain’t your turn” Detective Bunk, The Wire

 

Confidence was high going into Sunday evening’s clash at the Boonyachida stadium. Police Tero had seemingly become the latest “struggling” club to dispose of their coach* after a slow start and despite some shows of defensive frailty in the second half against Air Force, Port had put in a great showing of free-flowing football during their 3-1 victory.

(* = I had a chance meeting with a member of Tero staff the other day who confirmed Scott Cooper has returned home due to a legitimate family emergency and should be back in the Tero dugout by the end of this month.)

My journey there was relatively straightforward, a number 29 bus from Chatuchak Park along the main road and I soon found myself near the Police Sports and Social Club. Luckily another Port fan was on the bus so seeing him get up was my cue to get off. A quick walk over the bridge and a somewhat pleasant walk through the serene and leafy Police complex, I was at the stadium. Tim and Tom hadn’t been so lucky with their Grab Taxi – in spite of that app using GPS, they had instead taken a somewhat more scenic tour of Lak Si district.

 

 

 

 

 

The Tero’s Sandpit Equivalent….Let’s call it the Bacon Mixer, was soon filling up with Port fans. Thumbs up to Tero for a nicer selection of food outlets, including a burger van, a Pad Thai van and another van selling fries in a variety of flavours. However, beers still needed to purchased from enterprising Port fans with their pickup trucks outside the stadium. A Police Tero drink tent did open up selling Chang….so I continued walking around the block to the Port trucks selling LEO. A rather Orwellian sign reminded us that “POLICE (TERO) ARE EVERYWHERE!” One thing noticeable from the Tero fans was the popularity of their man from Myanmar, with many “AUNG THU 10” shirts on show. Rain did briefly threaten, and when I say briefly it was literally a minute. Luckily it never returned as umbrellas were being confiscated from us when we entered the away end.

Pre-match talk had been around whether Jadet would bring Dolah back into the defence, the midfield trio of Adison, Siwakorn and Kim had looked impressive against Air Force but Jadet instead opted to swap Suarez for Adisorn and makeshift centre back Athibordee was going to keep his place.

 

 

A noticeable change as the teams emerged was Port’s yellow kit. Despite Grand Sport giving us a home shirt (orange/blue), away shirt (black) and a third shirt (purple), all of the above were deemed to be potential clashes with Tero’s red and black, so a new yellow shirt was quickly scrambled from the GS catalogue and scatter gunned with our various sponsor labels. At the rate we’re acquiring new shirts, they will soon need to double the floorspace at the club shop.

Port didn’t start too badly, an early concern was Kim being clattered and moving even more gingerly than usual. At one stage Port were applying more pressure and forced quite a few consecutive corners. Pakorn looked in no danger of repeating previous heroics from corners with each one being gobbled up by their centre backs or not even beating the first man. On the 26th minute, and perhaps slightly against the run of play the Police took the lead. A nice give and go from Aung Thu to their winger Mongkol was returned back into the Port box, N’Dri scuffed his shot/pass and fell over, but the loose ball fell nicely to the Burmese striker to tuck away their opening goal.

Port were back on the offensive when Suarez’s long shot was spilled by their keeper, Pakorn was quickly onto the rebound but it hit the underside of the crossbar. Tero were next to test the woodwork when a free kick into the box was headed against the bar by Chiang Rai loanee Mongkol. Tero then doubled their lead when a deep cross into the box which found captain Michael N’Dri in acres of space at the back post. He had all the time in the world to measure the flight of the ball, write out a few speeding tickets and then volley in, without even needing to take an extra touch to control the ball.

At this stage Port’s performance had been slightly drunk and disorderly, worthy of a night in the cells to calm down at worst. Hopefully Madame was going to post bail and Jadet would come pick them up from the station but instead Port were about to be found guilty of more serious crimes and transferred instead to the Bangkok Hilton for the second half, where they were going to be having severe issues holding onto the soap…

Police Tero started the second half very much like they had ended the first and added a third goal on 52 minutes when N’dri laid the ball back to Aung Thu in the box, he held off a somewhat half-hearted citizen’s arrest from Suarez to navigate his shot past a group of yellow shirts into the corner. Three minutes later the humiliation was completed as the Keystone Cops defending struck again. That man Aung Thu began running at Ports defence, who in turn began flocking towards him like he had some kind of gravitational pull, only to leave N’dri in plenty of space to collect a pass from our Burmese oppressor and curl a fourth goal past Worawut into the bottom corner. At 4-0 Police Tero had quite literally “fired up the Quattro” and it was certainly Ashes to Ashes as far as Port getting a share of the spoils.

At this stage I hoped Jadet would use the remaining 30 or so minutes to give The Flash some game-time, just by way of giving the fans something to get behind should he finally touch the ball, but alas Bordin and Adisorn were introduced, and later Arthit, returning from his suspension. Bordin did at least manage a shot on target that was easily collected by their keeper.

The rest of the match was slowly fizzling out, N’dri and that man Aung Thu were still having fun every time Tero attacked. Had they added a fifth, a ”Tero Five-O” headline to this report was in the offing.

 

 

Port fans began to make their exit, with injury time approaching Port began applying more pressure to the point that Police Tero’s defence could finally put down their coffee and donuts. Bordin forced a double save from the Tero keeper, the ball fell to Bosko who was fouled and the ref pointed to the spot. El Capitan tucked away the penalty and ran into the net to recover the ball. About 30 minutes ago that would have meant something but at this late stage it was very much what Larry David would call “an empty gesture”. However, during the next attack the ball dropped to Kevin on the edge of the box and he curled one past the Tero keeper to take some of the gloss away from what had been an impressive showing from The Boys In Blue Red. This was pretty much the last kick of the game. As far as todays clash had gone, we fought the law, and the law won.

At fulltime I stayed around to gauge the reaction from the Port faithful. When the vanquished Yellows and Madame were greeted with a Viking clap, that was my breaking point.

So to add some context to my opening Wire quote, it kind of dawned on me that maybe us “farang” fans get more worked up and invested in the results than the Thai fans do. As far as I know, there are no 606 style phone ins where angry fans vent their spleens about bad performances and call for heads to roll. Thinking back to last season, the Zico experiment ended with him doing a lap of honour and receiving bunches of flowers from the Zone C.

 

 

After the match, Port fans were having an impromptu acoustic set with the Tero fans in the Bacon Mixer. Seeing this reaction to a turgid defeat was a bit too much to bear and I made my way back to the bus stop, where I stood waiting amongst plenty of smug looking Police fans. Next time I witness a heavy defeat like this, no more anger, no ranting, just five simple words.

 

 

Sandpit Man of the Match: Aung Thu

I wanted to avoid the tried and tested cliché of “The fans”, for putting up with this tripe and still remaining in high spirits. Certainly no-one in a yellow shirt did anything that left a lasting impact so I will break with tradition and award it a member of the opposition. Aung Thu was a constant menace throughout the game, scored two and also one assist. In this new era of enforced ASEAN quotas for the Thai league, he’s certainly the only one that has stood out so far this year. Meanwhile, our own Terens seems to be mothballed, at least until the cup competitions start.

What’s next for Port?

A tricky couple of fixtures coming up for Port before the Songkran break. Bangkok United visit the PAT on Saturday night, I think they have averaged 4 or more goals against us in the 3 games last season. Next Wednesday, Port make a trip to the Thunder Castle to face league leaders Buriram. A few weeks ago this looked like a potential title deciding, meeting of the top 2 but after their promising start, weaknesses at the back for Port are becoming more exposed. Kim is clearly playing through a lot of pain and Bosko looks like he will be lucky to pass Josimar’s total last season, let alone get anywhere near the 38 he managed for BU last year.

 

Where Angels Fear to Tread? Port FC vs Bangkok Utd Preview

 

After Sunday’s calamitous defeat at Police Tero, Port face arguably their biggest challenge of the season so far on Saturday (19:00) when Mano Polking and his Bangkok Utd side roll into Khlong Thoey. It’s the first of a trio of games – along with away to Buriram and home to surprise package Prachuap – that will almost certainly define Port’s season and tell us if the club’s AFC bid is for real.

 

The Opposition

The Angels are a much-changed lineup from the side that demolished Port on three separate occasions last season. Following last season’s traumatic FA Cup final defeat to Chiang Rai (the most exciting game I saw all year), BU’s owner wielded the axe and got rid of the club’s vaunted attacking trio of Boskovic (now at Port), Mario Djurovski (Glass) and Jaycee John (Air Force), replacing them with players largely new to Thai football.

Whilst the new-look side aren’t quite setting T1 alight the way they did last season (when they were, on their day, the scariest attacking force in the division by some distance), they’ve made a fairly solid start with 3 wins, 3 draws and 2 defeats, and are sitting in the chasing pack that is forming behind Buriram, Sukhothai, Prachuap & Port. The good news for Port is that BU aren’t scoring anything like as freely as last season, and are yet to keep a clean sheet.

Danger Men

Port will need to keep a very close eye on no11 Sumanya Purisay, who has scored 5 goals in 7 games from midfield this season. In the absence of last season’s goal machines, and as BU’s new strikers adjust to the pace of Thai football, Sumanya has stepped up and, with an assist to his name as well, been involved in exactly half of the team’s goals. The message is simple to Port – stop Sumanya, and the chances are you’ll stop BU.

Of the club’s new boys, MF Vander Luiz would also have caused Port’s defenders a few sleepless nights. The Brazilian had a superb 2017 season at Chiang Rai, with 9 goals & 15 assists in all competitions, and he’s already notched 3 goals and 2 assists for his new club this season. I say “would have”, because Luiz managed to get himself off against his former club last weekend and will thus be suspended on Saturday – bad news for BU, great news for Port!

His fellow Brazilian Robson joined BU from Paranas in the close season, and in 6 appearances has already got 3 goals and an assist.

These potentially dangerous attackers will be supported by former Port RB Ekkachai, who, now playing as a winger, has had a superb start to 2018 with 2 goals and a couple of assists to his name already.

So whilst BU may not be the sphincter-loosening, balls-out attacking machine they were in 2017, it’s still likely to be a busy evening for Rochela & co.

The Manager’s Verdict

Who better to help us preview the match than Bangkok Utd’s manager himself, all-round top fella and friend of The Sandpit, Mano Polking

BUFC have made a pretty solid start – how happy are you with the way things are going? How are your new players settling in?
After 7 matches if we talk about a good start I would say we are probably missing two points. The ties against Suphan and Prachuap are still a bit painful for me cause we created chances enough to win both games. Big changes need a bit of time but I’m very happy with the new players. They are very professional and already got a good understanding with the rest of the team.

What are the club’s ambitions for 2018?
It will never change. We want a title and we want to go to the Champions League.

Which other teams have impressed you the most this season? Who do you think will win T1?
Sukhothai and Prachuap are very dangerous teams with fast and skillful players upfront. And of course your lovely Port 🙂
If in the next games we don’t find a team that can stop Buriram’s run they are clearly favourites for the title.

 

Have Port impressed you so far this season? Which Port players will you be keeping a special eye on next Saturday?
Port is impressing everyone but being honest that is not a big surprise for me. If you keep your good players, buy for that amount of money three Thai national team players, invest a lot on an Asian quota bringing a experience champions league winner plus the top scorer of last season you should play a good role in the season. And on top of that you have by far the best crowd and atmosphere in the league that keep pushing you for 90 minutes. Its too early to predict where you will finish but for sure it will be a great year for you guys. Simple like that.
We have to be very careful with all players. Port has a clear eleven at the moment and too much potential to score goals and are defending quite well.

Finally, give us your UNBIASED score prediction for the game…
Port 1-2 Bangkok United 😉

NB We did a full interview with Mano prior to this fixture last season – click here to read it. 

 

Port Lineup

The media used to refer to Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri as ‘The Tinkerman’, for his constant lineup tweaks and squad rotation. Whatever the opposite of Tinkerman is, that’s Jadet. Once he has his first XI in his head, then the rest of the squad may as well stay home with their feet up, because they ain’t getting near the starting lineup. Of course, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and until Sunday, that first XI had certainly delivered. The problem is, when they don’t deliver, Sir Det doesn’t seem to have a Plan B. His experiment against Air Force – dropping Suarez, bringing in Adisorn and pushing Kim further forward – seemed to be working brilliantly for the first half, but fell badly apart in the second half, so it was no surprise when normal service was resumed at Police Tero – and no surprise when, with the team 2-0 down and looking pretty clueless against a team who were pressing them all over the pitch, Jadet had no idea how to change things.

Several things became apparent on Sunday. Firstly, Athibordee is not comfortable at CB, and there is no need to play him out of position when a fit Dolah is on the bench. Secondly, Kim hasn’t looked fit all season and, against pressing, counter-attacking opponents, was exposed time & time again. Aung Thu must’ve been delighted to have so much space to work in. Thirdly, neither Nurul or Pakorn are comfortable on the left, so time to drop one of them and give Bodin or Terens a start. Alternatively, drop Suarez (he gave the ball away pretty much every time he touched it on Sunday) and bring Bodin in as an AM, in the hope that he can strike up a similar partnership with Boskovic as Mario had last season, as the big fella is looking totally isolated up front and needs more service to feet. There is little point in spending top dollar on T1’s top striker if you aren’t going to adapt your style of play to accommodate him.

Will Jadet freshen things up, or stick with the side that has given Port 4 wins out of 4 at home this season? I think we know the answer to that one. But whatever he does, Port will have to be a LOT sharper and more energetic than they were at Tero, otherwise another hammering could well ensue, and if that is followed by a pasting at Buriram, La Pang may well be sharpening the axe.

Here’s my preferred XI for Saturday:

 

 

Port FC vs Bangkok Utd, Saturday 7 April 19:00. If you can’t make it to the game, it’ll be on True 2, and will also be shown chez Sandpit sponsors The Sportsman if you ask them nicely.