Not Today, Desmond Ray: Chonburi FC 0-1 Port FC

 

 

Port extended their winning run to 5 with a hard-fought win at a rainy Chonburi Stadium (their first here since 2006) last night, to cement 3rd place and finish the first leg of the 2018 season in some style. If last week’s 7-1 scuttling of Navy was champagne football, this was more Carlsberg Special Brew – rough, gritty, and not particularly pleasant, but it got us where we wanted to go.


Chonburi on a Saturday night – there are few more welcome away fixtures in Thai football and we decided to make the most of it, by leaving Bangkok at 1pm & heading for Bang Saen beach for a few pre-match snifters. Our van driver was clearly also in a holiday mood (as was his wife, who knocked back more Leos in the van than any of us farangs), and decided to take us on a one-hour sightseeing trip around Ramkamhaeng and Rama 3 before finally getting us on the motorway east, much to the delight of Hockers.

 

The Sandpit, with actual sand

 

Once we finally arrived in Bang Saen, we located a toilet (which seemed to be housed in a short-time hotel) and then hit the beach for a few cold beers and snacks. Terens’ minder Bayu had made the trip with us and he confirmed that the petite Papuan will be staying for the rest of the season and should be seeing more action once the cups get underway. Meanwhile Machar ‘The Beerhunter’ Smith had located a craft beer bar not far away so we headed off there, and as we did the deckchair renter told us “Tarua – desmolee!” We had no idea what he was on about but our resident master of the Thai tongue Tom Earls tells us that he was actually saying “Desmond Ray”. Desmond was apparently a US soldier who died in Thailand and, obviously being the only person ever in the history of the world to have actually died, the Thais now use his name when they want to tell you that you’re dead meat. I can’t go into any more detail as there’s nothing about him online and I suspect Tom may have been making it all up. With the deckchairman’s warning ringing in our ears, we were in urgent need of something stronger than Leo, and Hops Addict bar duly obliged. I can heartily recommend the Stone Tangerine Express IPA.

We arrived to find a stadium rather lacking in atmosphere, as Dale had predicted in his preview, with only a large, raucous Port contingent behind the way end to indicate that there was a top-flight football match about to take place. Just before kick-off the heavens opened and we entered the away end to find it even more substandard than usual, with several inches of water on the terracing adding to the cracked seating and poor views.

 

 

Therefore, given the fact that most of the significant action took place at the far end of the pitch (and as such may as well have been taking place on the moon for all we could see of it)  and that note-taking isn’t in the spirit of The Sandpit, most of this report is based on video highlights of the match.

After Chonburi fired a first-minute warning shot across Port’s bows, with striker Naphat heading narrowly wide, Port began bossing the game in the usual fashion, with Kim (8) pulling the strings in midfield, and Pakorn (7), Suarez (5) and Nurul (31) probing at the Sharks’ admittedly very solid defence. Indeed Nurul, on his return to his former club, was clearly a marked man, with Chonburi players hacking him down at every available opportunity and racking up 4 yellow cards in the first half alone for their troubles. Pakorn came close on 20 minutes with his free kick just shaving the Sharks’ crossbar, but Port didn’t have long to wait to make the breakthrough. On 23 minutes, Pakorn chipped in a cross from the right which Chonburi keeper Chanin failed to read with Suarez (5) getting in before him to deftly chip it into the back of the net off the outside of his left boot for 1-0. Chanin, realising he’d been done up like a kipper, added a comical little Weera-esque dive after the event to make it look like he’d been making some kind of effort to stop it.

And that, as far as Port were concerned, was it. After taking the lead they seemed to figure that, given Chonburi’s lack of decent striking options, they may as well let them have the ball and sit back while they wore themselves out. It was a strategy that almost cost Port dear as quickly as the 30th minute when Naphat got away from the typically poor Athibordee (35, once again being played out of position), only to fire straight at the impressive Rattanai (17); then again on 40 minutes when Chonburi’s otherwise comically bad winger Ciro put in a lovely far post cross which was narrowly headed over by Phanuphong.

 

 

After a brief 15-minute respite from what was rapidly becoming a real nerve-shredder of a game for Port fans, during which we calmed said nerves with Leo and other intoxicating substances, the second half was more of the same, with Port seemingly content to let Chonburi have the ball (even passing it to them on numerous occasions) and the Sharks launching wave after wave of attacks without having anyone with the guile or creativity to convert the numerous chances created. When they did get shots away, Port were throwing bodies at them with Kevin (97), Rochela (22) and the Rat all making heroic stops. Port simply weren’t in it, and had the Sharks had a couple of decent strikers, they would have won comfortably.

Thankfully they don’t, and despite the ref adding on a surprisingly generous 5 minutes of stoppage time, Port held on for, as I predicted, an ugly win against a limited but very robust and well-organised side. That is, as I said, Port’s 5th win in a row (3 of them away from home), and since the Chainat debacle Port’s record has been outstanding – 5 games, 5 wins, 16 goals scored, 3 conceded. That is title-winning form and come the end of the season those dropped points against the likes of Chainat and Police Tero could come back to haunt us; but keep this form up, and if Buriram and Bangkok Utd hit rough patches of their own, it might just turn into a 3-horse race. Next up? 4th-placed Muangthong on 9 June, for by far the biggest game played at the PAT for a couple of years at least.

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: David Rochela

There were some huge performances in Port’s defence last night, with Rattanai, Nitipong, Kevin and Kim all sweating blood for the shirt. But cometh the hour, cometh the man, and it was cap’n Rochela who took this week’s award with a performance that mixed classy, visionary defending with down & dirty blocks & tackles. It’s actually David’s first MOTM award this season, which is less of a reflection on his form and more a reflection on how much more quality there is in the team these days, that they are no longer quite so reliant on the schmooooove Spaniard. But of course, when needed, he’s always there, and last night was a match-winning performance.

 

Sandpit Songs of the Season: Week 17 – Chonburi FC

 

The first half of what’s been a thrilling 2018 season comes to an end tomorrow with a nice trip to our old friends Chonburi FC. The Sharks have had an up & down season but are as tight as the proverbial gnat’s chuff at the back and so it’s likely to be a tough game for Port’s buzzing strikers.

As for us fans, we’ll be turning up with binoculars and telescopes, because when you’re in the away end at Chonburi the pitch is…

 

 

Smile You Son of a Bitch: Chonburi FC vs Port FC Match Preview

 

Port make the short trip down the coast to Chonburi on Saturday for one of T1’s most amicable fixtures. Fans of the Lions & the Sharks have a long-standing entente cordiale that makes our matches a friendly affair, though last year Port were a little bit too friendly, going down 2-1 away and losing 3-1 at home in what turned out to be the last game of the disastrous Zico Experiment. With much-loved former Chonburi coach Jadet now firmly ensconced on the Port bench, and ex-Shark Nurul a permanent fixture in our attack, there are further reasons for the Sharks to extend the usual warm welcome to those of us making the trip on Saturday.

 

The Form Guide (last 5 games)

CHONBURI: WDLWW

PORT: WWWWL

Chonburi’s form has been all over the place like a madwoman’s shit this season, whilst Port (apart from a brief blip culminating in the airing of grievances that was Chainat) have been banging in the goals & playing some superb football. Port go into the game on the back of 4 consecutive wins (including 2 consecutive away wins) and, with the Sharks struggling to find the net this season (only 20 goals in 16 games), Jadet & co will surely be targeting 3 points from this one, though Chonburi’s miserly defence (only 18 conceded in 16 games) will almost certainly be harder to break down than that of Navy.

And the history of this fixture certainly doesn’t make encouraging reading for Port fans. The two clubs have played each other 20 times, with Chonburi winning 14 to Port’s measly 3.

So will Port be dealing with the Pathetic Sharks on Saturday, or are we gonna need a bigger boat?

 

 

The Opposition

Chonburi fan Dale Farrington is a legend in expat football circles, having set up what is believed to be the longest-established English-language club website in Thailand. I asked him for his thoughts on Sunday’s game…

Tell us the story of Chonburi’s season so far. Are you happy or unhappy with the way it’s gone?
It’s been quite painful so far. There’s very little to feel excited or happy about. Sadly, this is unlikely to change, as long as certain individuals remain at the club. And, realistically, they’re going nowhere. We’re doomed to an eternity of mediocrity.

 

You’re one of 10 clubs to change coach so far this season. Has the change helped?
If you look at this purely in terms of results then the answer would appear to be ‘yes’. However, performances – with the odd exception – have actually been worse. We could see that Goran was trying to build something and was making steady progress. Unfortunately, those who employed him in the first place, seemingly didn’t have the patience to wait for all the hard work to pay off. I’m privy to a lot of what went on during the run up to his resignation (it was 100% his decision to leave) and, I’m afraid, the club doesn’t come out of it very well.

Which players should we be looking out for? Who’s most likely to do us some damage?
Worachit is on a good scoring run – three in three, I believe – but he often flatters to deceive. Other than that, our centre back pairing of Gyeong-Min and Nattphol have been the stand out performers so far this season. Which tells you all you need to know. However, if you’re looking for comedy…

Who are the weakest links in your team?
The goalkeeper, the full backs, the midfield, the so called strikers and everyone on the bench.

You’re just above the relegation zone but only a couple of wins off the top 4. Where do you think the Sharks will finish?
It’s been a strange season, with most teams being unable to find any sort of consistency, and we definitely fall into that category. Therefore, anywhere between 6th and 13th is a possibility.

How do you rate this 2018 Port side? Which players are you most concerned about?
They certainly seem to have hit a rich vein of form just lately. If you can keep that up there’s no reason why you won’t finish in the top three and possibly bag a cup. Your coach – a Chonburi legend – has plenty of experience in winning things and I’m so pleased it’s working out for him, although, I hope he has a miserable time on Saturday. As for individuals, I think most of us are looking forward to seeing Nurul return – and have a stinker!

We have a few Chonburi virgins on the bus this week. Give us a quick guide to your stadium and its facilities.
Don’t bother going anywhere near the ground until ten minutes before kick off. It’s like the stadium at the end of the world on match days. In fact there’s more life – and entertainment – there during the week. I’d suggest heading to Bang Saen pre match. However, it is a long weekend for many people and is likely to be packed full of Bangkokians. So give yourselves plenty of time and grab the first parking space you can find!

Finally, score prediction please.
I’ll be extremely optimistic and go for 1-1.

 

Port Lineup

Whatever the opposite of a Tinkerman is, that’s Jadet. The Globular Guru knows his best XI and only changes it when circumstances such as injuries or suspensions dictate. So whilst we may bemoan the fact that we don’t get to see as much of Terens or Bodin as we may wish, 4 wins in a row suggests that the Obese Oberleutnant has hit on a winning formula and sees no reason to change things up. In a season that has seen 18 managerial changes across 10 clubs, the Corpulent Capo somehow manages to dodge the slings & arrows of Thai footballing fortune and remains the highest-placed Thai coach in T1, and long may it continue.

This week the only change is going to come in defence where Elias Dolah (4), who has supplanted Todsapol (6) in the heart of Port’s defence of late, is suspended, meaning Tossa will almost certainly be the man to replace him. With Chonburi relying more on pace than brawn up front, that’s probably no bad thing.

Elsewhere, Rattanai (17) should continue in goal after very solid performances against Navy & Suphanburi. In midfield, it’s likely to be as-you-were with Kim (8) scoring his first goal of the season against Navy and Siwakorn (16) looking back to his old self, although Adisorn (13) may be called upon to add a bit of bite to Port’s midfield. Pakorn (7) took a bit of a pounding from the sailors on Sunday and went off injured late in the game; if he’s deemed unfit to face Chonburi then expect Bodin (10) to replace him. The Flying Marmoset, Nurul (31), will almost certainly be called upon to face his old club.

Up front, the Boskovic (23) & Suarez (5) bromance is blossoming nicely, with 17 goals & 9 assists between them already this season, so it’s highly likely that both will start on Sunday. Bosko’s sudden rediscovery of form (6 goals in his last 3 games) and Suarez’ return from injury have revitalised Port’s season and Chonburi certainly won’t be looking forward to facing them – it’s a long time since we had such a sphincter-loosening forward line.

Tim’s XI

 

The Stadium

Chonburi Municipality Stadium has been home to The Sharks since 2012. Whilst it’s in pretty good shape for a Thai stadium, it does have the dreaded running track and, with away fans shoved behind one of the goals on a low-rise terrace, the view is one of the worst in Thai football. Factor in the lack of atmosphere (home crowds have been declining in the last few years and they were very quiet on our last visit), the total food/drink ban inside the stadium, and the 200BHT away ticket cost, and you have one of the least agreeable away fan experiences in T1. But on the plus side, the Chonburi fans are a friendly lot, there’s plenty of food & beer available outside the ground (the Muslim Fried Chicken stall won The Sandpit’s Best Away Ground Food Award 2018), and the beaches of Bang Saen are just a short drive away, and that’s where we’ll be spending the afternoon prior to the game.

 

 

 

Chonburi FC vs Port FC, Saturday 26 May 19:00 at Chonburi Stadium. The game will be shown live on True, and on the big screen at our sponsors The Sportsman.

 

Balls & Bats: Port Draw Sukhothai in League Cup R1

 

The draw for round 1 of the Toyota League Cup was made this afternoon, and the balls have dictated that Port will host fellow T1 side Sukhothai FC. A few weeks ago this might’ve been a somewhat tricky fixture, with Sukhothai getting off to a flyer, but times have changed since then and after a poor run that has seen them slip from 3rd to 10th, the Fire Bats became the 10th T1 club to part company with their coach yesterday.

With Buriram & Bangkok Utd looking like they’ve already made the top two spots their own, the cups are Port’s best hope of silverware this season, especially if the top two prioritise the league (and AFC qualification) over cup competitions.

The game will take place at the PAT on Wednesday 13 June, KO 19:00. You can see the rest of the R1 draw below:

Krabi FC vs Police Tero

Ranong United vs Ratchaburi FC

Trat FC vs Bangkok Glass

Nakhon Pathom FC vs Navy FC

Rayong FC vs Pattaya FC

Samut Sakhon FC vs Bangkok United

Nong Bua Pitchaya FC vs Ubon UMT United

Prachuap FC vs Suphanburi FC

Kasetsart FC vs Airforce FC

Port FC vs Sukhothai FC

Sisaket FC vs Nakhon Ratchasima FC

Trang FC vs Chainat FC

Army United vs Chiang Rai Utd

Udon Thani FC vs Muangthong

Lampang FC vs Buriram United

Khon Kaen FC vs Chonburi FC

 

 

Magnificent: Port FC 7 (Seven) – 1 Royal Thai Navy FC

 

The Lions of Khlong Toey roared to their fourth successive victory, ruthlessly dispatching a woeful excuse of a Navy team, playing the type of football we know we are capable of, but rarely get to see. The result also keeps us at the head of the chasing pack in 3rd, standing us in good stead for the second half of the season. If Bangkok United or Buriram have a dip in form, an on-form Port could well pounce and push on up the table.

This was my first game as a paying supporter since the Chainat 10 incident when I decided to use my GCSE in Spanish to tell Rochela what I truly thought of his and the team’s performance. Since then Port have responded to the criticism with the maximum possible total of points, with certain players putting decent shifts in and not letting their heads drop once they concede. I’ve been on a brief sojourn in Europe since then so it got me wondering if I was the Jonah in the situation and maybe I should stay away from the PAT just in case?

 

 

 

Well, the first 45 minutes truly dispelled the notion that I was cursed with an assured display of attacking football that somehow only finished 3-1 at half time. Within 10 seconds Pakorn (7) was driving towards the full back, who clearly thought defending was optional, setting up Suarez (5) for a tame effort. Minutes later Suarez and Nurul (31) again conspired to miss before Rochela (22) scared everyone by almost putting the ball into his own net. Then in the ninth minute Nurul went for his customary dive when he clearly could have got a shot away. Very quickly it was becoming clear that Navy were lambs to the slaughter, with Pakorn and Suarez dancing around their midfield like they didn’t exist and Siwakorn (16) indulging in a little jogo bonito more than once.

The goals were inevitable and the first came in the 22nd minute with some good work between Nitipong (34) and Pakorn on the right flank. Pakorn’s cross was inch perfect for Suarez to nod in at the near post with the hapless Intharat (19) jumping too late. Navy then started to show a little initiative, especially Amadou (81) and Vitor Junior (10) who asked questions of our defence, leading to a few speculative long ranges efforts, the third forcing a smart tip over from Rattanai. Then came the controversy; a Pakorn free kick from deep found Rochela, who got a bullet header on target but straight at Intharat. Now, to say that Intharat was already having a bit of a stinker would be an understatement, and true to form he spilled the shot under him, but did he manage to get both or one hand on the ball on the goal line before Dolah (4) stabbed it in? TV replays suggest both hands but from my viewpoint, and only 2 Leos deep, I saw only one but you know what? Fuck ‘em; they then proceeded to throw all their toys out of their pram complaining and remonstrating to the referee and his assistant. Chief toy-thrower Intharat then had to suffer the indignity of returning to his besieged goal to receive some choice words from the Zone B crowd.

 

Dodgy ‘keeper number one

 

Port continued to pile on the pressure and were rewarded with a third goal in the 42nd minute from flat track bully Pakorn. Buzzing down the left flank, he cut inside part time full back Chalitpon (35), looked up at goal and fired a lofted shot that looped over the hapless Intharat from 20 yards out. Hold on – have I used hapless already? Ah yes, so let’s go with doomed. There was still time for Navy to pull one back to their credit; Amadou cut into the Port area and worked his way to the byline and delivered a fine cut back across goal that Quak (22) could not miss. So, halftime and with almost all the momentum with Port the half time chatter was more about how many we would score rather than if Navy could pull level.

Now your intrepid reporter was too busy discussing the finer points of the first half outside the stadium to witness the first goal of the second half and Port’s fourth. Kim (8), clearly fancying his chances of getting on the scoresheet, advanced into the box and forced a corner. Pakorn’s delivery found Nurul, whose dangerous flick on flashed across the goal and was volleyed in from inches by Boskovic (23), who up until then had shown a lot of effort but little end product. Sadly, the inept Intharat had been hauled off at half time after his less than stellar performance and was replaced by the equally underwhelming Wanlop (27) who like his predecessor was a mere bystander. Port by now knew that they could make this very ugly for Navy and adjusted their team shape accordingly; as a unit they played 10 yards further upfield, Kim and Siwakorn joining the attack at will, with Boskovic floating deep and out on the wings and Suarez operating as a false 9. The next goal was only 5 minutes away; Siwakorn robbed the ball in midfield and powered forward, releasing Suarez who strode into the box unchallenged and cut back for Boskovic to fire into the net.

Then a profound moment; my American companion with her scant football knowledge asked me if the Navy players are actually sailors or real footballers. It certainly gave me food for thought; maybe these players would be better if they jacked in their day jobs and sailed off to the high seas? Maybe the club should sign some actual sailors? Would they do a better job than this bunch? Navy are easily the poorest team I have witnessed as a relative newbie and many veteran supporters were inclined to agree. One fellow supporter described them as a team of mannequins but I think that’s doing a disservice to all hard working mannequins around the world. For me it was like watching a cemetery but the bodies hadn’t been buried yet. Ubon and Air Force Central should hang their heads in shame for being below this rabble too, and that question was probably my Navy highlight of the second half.

And there was more to come. Pakorn lost possession out wide but won the ball back with very little pressure and sent a cross to the far post which found Rochela, clearly done with his defensive duties for the day, and nodded it in past the flapping Wanlop. By now it was wave after wave of port pressure, with Bodin (10) putting in an impressive 30 minute appearance. He looks a great player and hopefully Jadet will use him more often over the coming months as he’s wasted on the bench. Pakorn, who was substituted soon after, clearly dines out on weaker teams and is a Jadet favourite but Bodin has the skill and talent to become a more complete footballer. Then came the champagne moment that will definitely be among the candidates for goal of the season. Kim, still with an eye for goal, played two one twos (two one twos FFS! You couldn’t make it up) with Suarez, bamboozling the Navy back line and bursting into the box to calmly dispatch the ball into the bottom right hand corner. It was a goal of great simplicity and beauty and a fitting way to wrap up such an exemplary performance.

 

A rare sighting of Thailand’s no1 expat football fan amongst the riff raff

 

So that was that and it was time to the return from Zone D (very nice atmosphere there in my opinion) to the sandpit for the celebrations. Of course there were drums, flares, leo (AKA Khlong Toey champagne), and a rendition of my favourite song (Muangthong hua kuay) but this time there was a bonus moshpit for those inclined to throw themselves about.

So it’s happy days right now. The recent return to form has vindicated Jadet, who has cut out the drastic tactical measures and fine-tuned the shape of the team and the positioning of individual players to get the best out of them. Kim slots into a 3 man central defence with ease and pushes the team higher up the field so Nitipong and Kevin can join the attack without having to worry about defensive duties, giving Pakorn and Nurul more options. The midfield 3 are more comfortable with their positioning, especially with Siwakorn playing a little more to the right of central midfield to allow Kim to surge forward when he feels like it and not crowd out Boskovic and Suarez. Suarez is now thriving as a false 9 and I’m sure bigger clubs will come knocking at some point, plus Boskovic (née Russell) has had a magnificent run of goals with 6 in the last 3 games. He isn’t the number 9 we were expecting and I’m always shouting at him to get into the box but if he continues this form I’ll keep schtum. So next up is a trip to Chonburi, followed but The Scum at home; 2 games we must view as winnable to keep up the chase, and you can guarantee the PAT will be rocking come derby day.

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Sergio Suarez

 

 

A lot of fine performances; Siwakorn’s industry, Pakorn’s tormenting and Bosko’s quickfire double but the man who gave Navy the most nightmares during the match and probably for the coming weeks in their sleep was Sergio Gustavo Suarez Arteaga. Relishing his role as a false 9 and understanding the positioning of his strike partner, Suarez has developed into a player of great quality in recent months, destroying Navy’s defensive set up time and time again, plus two one twos!

 

,

Jadet Keeps Window Closed

 

Whilst one imagines that “OPEN A WINDOW, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD” must be a common refrain in the Meelarp household, there’s one window that Jadet is keeping firmly closed – the transfer window. Speaking to the Thai press, Sir Det announced that there would be no new arrivals in the mid-season window. With Port boasting their strongest ever squad and sitting pretty in third place, the Spherical Supremo (c Tom Earls) is happy with his existing resources.

“We have no plans to add new players in the second leg” he said (well, he said it in Thai, then I ran it through Google Translate and reworded it). “Everyone is playing well and helping the team, and we have no serious injuries”. One hopes he was touching wood when he said that last bit.

He continued: “We already have a strong team and lots of reserves waiting to come in, who are also good players. We will not add anyone.”

The Sandpit would quite like to see a decent back-up right-back come in, and possibly a big nasty central defender. Whilst the imminent start of both cup competitions will mean more action for the likes of Terens, Bodin, Arthit and others, it’ll also mean more potential injuries, and whilst Sir Det seems confident of Port’s strength in depth, there are several players – notably Nitipong, Kevin and Boskovic – who don’t have any quality cover.

Nevertheless, these are exciting times to be a Port fan, and with no managerial or playing changes likely to be made at the halfway point, unusual ones as well.

 

Sandpit Songs of the Season: Week 16 – Navy FC

 

A revitalised Port FC, stung into action by some reasoned, constructive criticism from the Sandpit pundits at Chainat recently, entertain struggling Navy FC at the PAT tonight. Port have won 3 in a row; Navy just got scuttled 6-3 at home to Chiang Rai. Whilst as Port fans we can never be too optimistic, I can only see one winner here.

This week’s song? No digging in the crates for obscure 80s indie songs this time; I’m going for the obvious. All together now, “In the Navy, you can come to PAT/In the Navy, you can lose to Port FC/In the Navy, get insulted by Zone B…..”

 

 

Man the Lifeboats! Navy Sail into Port with Sinking Feeling: Port FC vs Navy FC Preview

 

I had planned to start writing this last night but by the time I had got to the third volume, second part, seventh chapter, 85th page of James’s epic Suphanburi report, it was three o’clock in the morning, and so, here I am, a day later, about to embark on my Navy preview, fortified by a stiff drink (rum, naturally). The words of Polonius (Hamlet: Act 2, Scene 2), “Brevity is the soul of wit”, will be my watchwords.

Having had nothing of note befalling me (rather like James and Tim) on the way to my laptop in terms of transportation, accommodation, nutritional sustenance and lesbian-based entertainment (strictly reserved for weekends), I’ll slip anchor and steam into the preview.

 

The Opposition

Navy, under various guises, are even older than Port, founded, according to which Wikipedia account you prefer to disbelieve, in 1937 or 1956, so only a small margin of disagreement there. They have won a few Cups (only once) and were League runners-up in 2006. In recent years, the only thing about Navy that has tingled the senses (for me anyway) is their ground’s proximity to the cultural high-spots of Ban Chang. So, their current League position and the real possibility that they might be relegated, has left me in a cold sweat, only slightly relieved by seeing Ban Chang’s other neighbours, PTT Rayong, at the top of League Two.

This season, with 5 relegation places, ‘up for grabs’, as it were, Navy have steered a course into troubled waters indeed. Their 6-3 home defeat to Chiang Rai last weekend was just the tip of the iceberg and, with the Ta Han Nam sitting 10 points off the safety zone, it will require a Titanic effort to avoid plunging into the depths. They are the League’s second lowest scorers (12) and have conceded a whopping 35 goals. So what, if anything, can they provide in the way of a threat?

Given their goals tally to date, their foreign strikers seem somewhat less than scary, although I suppose three goals against a rampant Chiang Rai was at least creditable. Long-term Navy stalwart, Brazilian Rodrigo Vergilio (23), in his second spell after a temporary hiatus at Chonburi, has netted 3 times, equaling his ‘striking’ partner Chusana Numkanitsorn (11). They are likely to line up in a staggered, attacking four with another Brazilian, Vitor Junior (10) and Ivorian, Amadou Ouattara (81). Vitor’s nickname is Careca, giving birth to a possibly now well-jaded, Frank Carsonesque, shout every time he scores of, “It’s a Careca”. Unfortunately, another absolute gift for a few cheap ribald catcalls from the terraces, Singaporean Gabriel Quak (22 – fittingly, two little ducks in Bingo parlance), has not been in beak form recently and won’t ruffle many feathers from his likely perch on the bench (do ducks perch?). He will be hoping to fit the bill later on. Defender Jantakul (35) starts the game with the unfortunate burden of carrying on his back the number of goals he and his fellow defenders have conceded, although hopefully Port will quickly help relieve him of that embarrassment.

 

Vitor Junior

 

Rodrigo

 

Gabriel Quak

 

Port fans of long-standing will be hoping to see the return of goalkeeper Wanlop Saechio (27), who, after last week’s drubbing, may return at the expense of Apinyakul (19). Wanlop is still fondly remembered from 2012, mainly for lending his name to a terrace song based on Bob Marley’s, “One Love”. You know the rest. He is not so fondly remembered for letting in a shitload of goals that season as we were relegated. Hopefully, we can nostalgically serenade him from Zone B as he picks the ball out of the back of the net with alarming regularity. I think this is the team from that year pictured below, featuring crowd favourite Robbo and a 12 year old Siwakorn. I will be giving out a free, signed copy of April’s Big Chilli magazine featuring, ‘Thailand’s Number One Expat Football Fan’, to anybody who can name the full eleven. Answers on a postcard.

 

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Port Lineup

As for Port, well, the watershed continues.  Can a watershed continue or is it a single moment frozen in time, never to be seen again, like a goal from Tana? Does anybody really care? What is important is that Port seem to have woken up from their April slumber – the ‘cruellest’ month (T.S. Eliot) and now look like a proper, facking team again. Away victories at both Nakhon Ratchasima and Suphanburi have been won with a combination of grit and determination, some nifty teamwork, opportunistic finishing and the occasional stroke of luck. Players like Boskovic and Kim are beginning to impose themselves again, while Kevin, Nitipong, Nurul and Rochella remain consistently solid.

However, it pains me to say that, recently, my hero Siwakorn has let the team down badly with his decision making, both in his finishing and tackling – not good enough for someone who is a Rochela injury or suspension away from being Captain. He needs to be left out this week to cool his heels or practice his shooting, along with an off-the boil Pakorn, replaced by Bodin and Adisorn. If Bodin shows the same adventurous energy as he did against Chiang Rai, and Suarez and Boskovic continue their renewed, effective understanding, Navy could be in for a bombardment. This attacking line-up below should guarantee at least a 2-3 goal victory, although I am always loathe to make predictions about Port’s fortunes, but is this a new Port?

To be the old Port or not to be the old Port, that is the question (T1 2018; Act 1 Scene 16).

My lineup:

 

 

Port FC vs Navy FC, Sunday 20 May 2018, KO 18:00 at PAT Stadium.

 

Suph – Dragan on Fire as Keeper Drops Clanger: Suphanburi FC 1-2 Port FC

 

Port secured an important three points on Friday night against fellow top-five team and one of the home form teams in the league: Suphanburi.

With just two of us going we made our way to Suphanburi via public transport and allowed plenty of time for mishaps or a little sightseeing. There were mishaps aplenty but nothing too serious, it started small with an off-road detour though Chatuchuk Park as we made our way to Mo Chit Bus station. Upon reaching the station we quickly found a booth offering seats on a mini van to Suphanburi for 100 baht and were waved off in a general direction by the sales woman. After heading outside we were directed to the bus area by an official looking guy, we found a bus with our number on it and were told by the driver that she wasn’t leaving for an hour and to go to the row behind. There we moved from blue shirted driver to blue shirted driver, each sending us to a different location or colleague. At one point we spent 5 minutes on a bus with fellow passengers also going to Suphanburi, only to then be told it was going to a different Suphanburi and we had to get off and the process began again. With the weather closing in, we where taken under wing of a shouty woman under a parasol as it began to rain and eventually directed back to the sales window where it all started, where rather than being told we’d wasted our ticket money, we were met with a smile and informed that the sign for over there on this occasion means “stand here Farang muppets we’ll get someone to show you the odd place our buses depart” and so 50 mins later than planned and with the thunder getting heavy we were off and rolling. By the time we reached Suphanburi we had got ahead of the rain and arrived to see a 20ft Zico smiling down on us in the blazing sun.

We made our way to our hotel only to find it devoid of humans like the set of a post-apocalyptic film, eventually a maid approached us and via our limited Thai and her limited English assisted via google translate we established we weren’t expected and that “lungs don’t like pollution.” As Tim pointed out, it could have been worse. The word “cuddle” didn’t feature in any of the translations. Finally checked in the maid knocked to return my passport, looked at the picture page of both before handing me Tim’s, I guess to Thais us farangs really must all look the same. We made ourselves ready and headed into town, but sadly the rain we’d seen en route was now reaching Suphanburi, and as we left it started spitting. With us in the town proper and the rain now reaching downpour levels we decided to head for the first available place that looked acceptable for lunch. Upon entering there was a moment of panic as Mr Walker was handed a menu devoid of Leo. However, our waitress reassured us that The Sandpits cocktail of choice was served. And so, we settled in to see out the storm and put the world to rights, we were the only customers sitting outside on the veranda. As the customers inside left and new ones arrived it became clear we’d found our way to Suphanburi’s lesbian communities café of choice, complete with copies of playboy in the magazine rack. With kick off a couple of hours away and the rain virtually stopped we left and headed to the ground, only to find that the transport options in Suphanburi are close to nil. Eventually we flagged down the worlds smallest Baht bus, driven by a Benny Hill beret clad guy who had decided to complete his look with a Hitler moustache, who agreed to take us to the stadium, then attempted to deposit us at a McDonalds and bar en route before dropping us at the gates of Suphanburi Stadium.

The stadium itself is modern and impressive, were it not for the running track it would be rather good. The food and drink around were plentiful but they only serve Chang and the atmosphere was some what muted due to there being no entertainment and only a very small number of home fans.

The weather had settled for the evening drizzle more common for an evening game of an English autumn, even if the temperature was somewhat different. And so it remained for kick off. Port lined up with the Jadet standard line up of recent weeks.

The first chance of the game came after just 3 mins. Romulo (9) ran on to a ball down the right and fed the ball into the middle where Dolah (4) with time to deal with the ball choose to play it blindly into space behind him, where an unmarked Tanasith (11) was lurking but he sent the ball weakly towards goal allowing a combination of Dolah and Rattanai (17) to steer it to safety. It was the first of several Titus Bramble moments for the man who had looked to be moving ahead of Todsapol (6) in the battle to start regularly. Romulo was proving to a handful, shortly after a perfectly weighted chipped through ball from inside the Suphanburi half saw him get behind the Port defence, but fortune was on our side as the ball struck the back of his head, inches either side and the league’s second-best mop topped Brazilian would have been though for a one on one with Rattanai. A few moments later Suphan attacked again leading to two corners the second of which found Romulo, 10 yards out from goal and more importantly 2 yards in front of Dolah, the free header was grateful dispatched beyond the dive of Rattanai and inside the left post. 1-0 to the home side. They probably weren’t quite worthy of it, but equally you couldn’t massively begrudge them it.

So, the tone for much of the first half was set, played at an amble, spoiled by regular misplaced passes, each team probing. On occasions Kim (8) dropped back to play sweeper and allow Rochela (22) and Dolah to bring the ball out of defence, possibly to upset Suphanburi’s man for man system, whilst Dolah wasn’t having the great start defensively he was showing a higher level than normal with the ball.

For a moment there was a hope that the game might develop greater intensity as in the 29th min Pakorn (7) was clipped in the foreign land of the far end leaving both him and the defender on the ground and the referee allowed play to go on (something he had already done and would pleasingly do though out the game). Suphanburi won possession and showed no interest in stopping the game. The ball found its way to Romulo, whom Dolah had been taken an ever closer interest in as the game progressed, sensing he was about to be roughed up again the Brazilian flung his elbow out and made contact with the defender’s chest. A little shoving and pointing followed, and as ever Nurul was on hand with his Scrappy Doo “let me at em” impression whilst confronting someone double his size. Dolah v Romulo was now a running theme and would remain so for the rest of the match, its worth noting that whilst Elias the enforcer might not have had his best match of recent weeks, from the point he decided to get tighter on the Brazilian, Romulo went from the game’s stand out player to near ineffectual. Besides, watching the running battle provided an interesting aside to the football.

However, with 15mins left in the half the (very onside) Romulo would escape Dolah to attempt to reach a pacey through ball down the middle. He either didn’t quite have the legs or decided to leave it for Tanasith (11) coming in from a wide angle. Which allowed the diminutive wideman to slot the ball between a Rochela slide and Rattanai for a 2-0 lead. It looked to be game over before half time. The video screen behind us ran its silly goal video. The home fans erupted as much as a few hundred people per stand that can contain thousands can. And then there it was, the linesman’s flag standing proudly to keep Port in the game. Having seen a replay it’s hard to tell what the correct call was and thankfully VAR wasn’t available to waste 10 mins trying to decide before the ref had to get a coin out. End result: no goal, and Port still in with a shout of rescuing the game.

A moment later the largely anonymous Siwakorn (16) decided to remind us all that he was in fact taking part by taking a 10 yard run up before diving in studs up on Suban (23). quite why he felt it so important to suddenly up his effort and to do so in such a way to win the ball with such a low probability challenge, in a position it couldn’t harm us, is beyond me, much like Siwakorn’s place in the team of late. We really couldn’t have complained if the card had been red. There was still time for a Pakorn free kick to fly just over the bar and a Suarez header to fly wide of the post, yet the half ended without Port managing a shot on target.

The second half was to be somewhat different. Within a minute Pakorn crossed to Boskovic who under pressure from the keeper and defender had a shot deflected for a corner. Pakorn was again trotting about but it was a trot with more intent than recent weeks and at times threatened to even reach the canter of some of his better early season performances. Behind him Nitipong (34) sat deeper than normal and offered less going forward but put in a tighter performance defensively.

On the left Nurul (31) and Kevin (97) were full of vigour and bustle as normal. A Kevin burst out of defence resulted in a Siwakorn blocked shot. Nurul went through all his standard moves, when fairly tackled in the box he managed to exaggerate his fall (some would say into a dive) just in case the referee was in the mood to hand out a random penalty. They still hadn’t tested the keeper but the tempo from Port was already much greater than we’d seen in the first half. Dolah flattened Romulo to show there wasn’t a total change of approach. Siwakorn having been largely lost to the game in the first half had decided to get more involved and after a bright first few minutes began man-handling anything that moved.

Then something truly remarkable for Thai football happened. Nurul burst down the wing, pursued by Suban who soon trailed behind. He squared for the oncoming Boskovic, who was put off by a hip to hip challenge form Pitfai, which resulted in both challengers going down and the ball being cleared, in the process Suban collided with Pitfai and then Boskovic and stayed on the turf. The ball had been collected by Kim (8), who set Suarez (5) off on a burst though the middle (something he seems to be doing more regularly since return from injury), Suphan wanted the game stopped, Suarez shot and it was deflected for a corner. Firstly well done to the referee for again showing a level of common sense seldom seen in Thai football and secondly the behaviour of experienced Suphan keeper/skipper Sinthaweechai (18), who was pulling his own players away from the officials as they called this league’s most self defeating etiquette over the rules (it wasn’t the only time he did his, so he is officially added to the very short list of good blokes in Thai football not playing for Port).

The resulting corner was fired in by Pakorn to the near post where Rochela nodded it goalwards. It should have been Ports first attempt on target and an easy save for Sinthaweechai, but he decided to up the stakes on his good bloke standings by spilling the ball to Bosko, who smashed the ball home from a yard out. Whatever had been said to them at half time had certainly worked. In under 15 minutes of the second half the game had completely changed.

Port were now bossing the game, dominating possession but not working any openings of note. At this point Siwakorn had a moment, firstly giving the ball away, then having allowed Sirimongkhon (38) to get past him deciding to attempt some form of chin grab. It merited a yellow on its own and it was more than time he was given one for the official recorded “repeated fouling”. It had been inevitable for some time, and the only question is why he was left on the field long enough to allow it to happen, especially given his sub-par performance in the first half. So, with a probably 30 minutes to go the mood changed from ‘can we find the chance to win this?’ to very much ‘let’s try and hold on for a point.’ However, Port kept pressing and got their reward. A yellow dot at the far end brought down a dark blue one, the Suphan players, bench and fans appealed for a foul, the ref decided otherwise, Pakorn beat a man broke into a gallop, cut in from the right and over the half way line and played a peach of a through ball to Suarez, who bust though and drew Sinthaweechai to him, before smartly squaring to Boskovic who was just ahead of his marker to double his tally for the evening from about double the distance of his first. True fox in the box style from the… erm… Dragon. Suphan decided to moan maybe about the claimed foul, maybe about the possibility of offside. From our angle directly behind it and about 400 meters away to a man/woman/child the Port away following didn’t care and went into full party mode. A reasonable number had made the trip and now set about being the 11th man to pull the team over the line. It certainly wasn’t hard to win the battle of the fans against a disappointing, small and sparse home support.

After the goal it became backs-to-the-wall stuff as the ball spent ever more time being battled for by the small yellow and blue dots in the distance, the blues were taking control and in the 75th minute Chananan (10) curled a shot from the edge of the box that had Rattanai beat but not the woodwork. The ball stayed in play and seconds later the slightly taller yellow dot of Dolah had to head clear, which lead to a further cross which Rattanai collected. At this point, an offer of escaping with a point would have been gratefully accepted. Suphan were dominating, Port took to the dark arts, Rattanai made sure to end up on the floor pretty much every time he collected the ball, Suarez and Nurul cramped. Meanwhile the clock on the massive score board had ground to halt, each time l looked up after two minutes of play it answered that just 40 seconds had passed. Port occasional broke out but with little effect. The game was now all about the small dots at the far end. One attempt to break free saw Nurul body-checked by Suphan’s Suphan (26). As Paulo Di Canio once said, “To be sent off the opposition need to get a machine gun out and shoot Nurul down in the penalty box.” Yes he’s a diving git at times but week on week the guy is getting a rough treatment with little protection from refs and most weeks that includes at least one red card worthy incident (of which this was far from the worst).

The ball returned to the far end for the dots to battle over, Bodin (10) replaced Pakorn and the clock slowed some more. Every headed battle or 50/50 resulted in a worrying moment as the ball hung in the air, unclear if it would reach the ground revealing itself to be joyously closer to us or with the disappointment of more pressure. Suphan weren’t creating anything from their possession and territory advantage. Port spent a spell down to 9 men when the referee refused to allow someone straight back on after treatment for cramp. When Suphan did create chances, they were wasted. Suphan’s Suphan attempted an overhead kick well above the attacking paygrade of Thai centre backs. Chakrit (9) and Adisorn (13) prepared to come on but were sent on separately to waste a few more seconds, first Chakrit for Nurul. Then finally Suphan had their moment, a ball from just in the Port half was punted to the edge of the box and flicked on, Romulo escaped everyone and controlled with his right foot before swinging his left wildly from 6 yards and sending it wide. Suarez was booked for time wasting then replaced by Adisorn. Rattanai was booked for time wasting. And then finally it was over.

Its hard to know what to make of the result. Once Port got on top of Romulo, Suphanburi offered very little going forward, they are big strong and well organised but nothing special, due to the nature of it this goes down as a great snatch and grab and important away win, especially given their form and strength at home but l’m not entirely convinced that it will against a team that finishes in the top 6.

The normal fan/player post match singsong was a particularly happy one. Pretty much every shirt not swapped was sent into the away end. The players had clearly enjoyed their victory. The video footage of Dolah’s dad-dance is out there but he was joined by some youthful bouncing from Kevin and some Latin snake hip moves from Rochela, Kim, who had his best performance in a Port shirt for some time, was smiling.

And then we left hopeful of finding a taxi or lift back to town only to be disappointed. The home support had was almost entirely gone and there were no taxis or public transport, even in the day time it seemed. So, we were faced with a 6km walk back to town, upon which signs repeatedly told just how close Chainat was and yet it was a night when Chainat felt further and furtheraway.

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Dragan Boskovic

It seems quite predictable to give it to the player scoring both our goals, but it would seem equally contrary to not give it to him, especially on a night were nobody really stood out. Boskovic seems much improved since Suarez came back into the team and maybe we’re starting to see a partnership that develops to the level of his one with Mario last season.

 

The Portlist 6: Redemption

 

You know the drill. Port’s players ranked in order of importance.

 

 


 

1 (4) Sergio Suarez

Sergio has spent more time out of the team than in the team since my last Portlist, but he’s back now and showing us what we’ve been missing. Who’s going to stand up and take the deciding penalty in the dying minutes? Sergio. Who’s going to gamble and get in to the 6 yard box for a tap-in? Sergio. Who’s top of the Portlist again? Sergio.

2 (2) Dragan Boskovic

Dragan has been anything but consistent this season. Fortunately for him he has not been punished for his poorer performances, and now he’s on the upswing again he’s good to retain his number 2 spot in the Portlist. Since a fair amount of abuse was thrown in his direction after Chainat away Bole has looked like a different player, and that hard-working committed striker is the man who is now at number 2.

3 (1) David Rochela

David has presided over a defence which has had some great games and some very poor ones in 2018. He himself, however, has been mostly consistent, and that calm presence at the back is one that certainly makes Port a better team. Whilst I don’t think he is in the very highest echelon of defenders in Thai football, he’s still a crucial player for Port.

4 (6) Kevin Deeromram

We’re at that point in the season now where the potential to play well and influence games is irrelevant. All season long I’ve been talking about how players could make a difference if and when they find form, but at this point it’s time to elevate the players who have been doing that all season long. Step forward Kevin, who has been an example to his teammates with his application and ambition, and more than deserves to be moving up and up the Portlist.

5 (8) Nitipong Selanon

For too long Nitipong has been kept down at number 8. The ability to put in a 7/10 performance pretty much every week is one that very few in this Port team possess, and Nitipong’s value is that he is consistently churning out performances regardless of whether those around him share his willingness to work.

6 (9) Nurul Sriyankem

Nurul’s end product still isn’t where we would like it to be, but he’s a hard worker and is starting to figure out how to get the best out of himself on that unfamiliar left wing. The more he can help out the forwards by popping up in the box and getting on the end of things the higher he will rise.

7 (7) Kim Sung Hwan

I was hoping that moving Kim down to seventh would be temporary, but on current form he certainly doesn’t deserve to be any higher. The hope still remains that he hasn’t quite adapted to Thai football yet and could still find his feet, but at the moment all he seems to be able to find is his finger and his voice. Shouting and pointing is all well and good, but more is required.

8 (5) Siwakorn Jakkuprasart

Siwakorn’s inability to make the right decision in the final third was brutally exposed against Korat. Yes, Siwakorn’s work is primarily done in the middle of the park, but why oh why does he have to be such a liability going forward? He has the awareness and the technique anywhere else on the pitch, but just can’t seem to summon it when it really matters. What a shame.

9 (17) Elias Dolah

This list’s big mover. Dolah has finally found his way back in to the side and made himself undroppable for now with some excellent, solid performances. The more he grows in confidence and works on his concentration the more Port’s back line will fulfill it’s promise. Could easily move up the list if he performs consistently.

10 (3) Pakorn Prempak

The list’s other big mover, this time in the wrong direction. Pakorn has been serving up utter garbage with the odd assist sprinkled in since his match-winning turn against Air Force, and with the options at Jadet’s disposal surely can’t hold on to his place indefinitely if he keeps up this level of performance. Send him to the monastery in the break please, guys!

11 (10) Worawut Srisupha

I never quite know what’s going on with Port’s ‘keepers, but in terms of minutes played Worawut is usually ahead of his friend and teammate Rattanai, and that’s enough to keep him at number 11.

12 (13) Bodin Phala

He just looks so damn smooth when he comes on. He’s not the quickest or the most energetic, but he certainly offers something different, and it ought to be enough to give him a run in the first XI sometime soon.

13 (12) Adisorn Daeng-rueng

Port’s back-up to Kim, Siwakorn and even Suarez is another extremely consistent performer. If possessed with a little more natural ability he would be a nailed-on regular, but both he and Port seem happy to keep him around as a key squad player.

14 (16) Rattanai Songsangchan

Rattanai continues to win back his place in the team and then be swapped out again. It’s probably an injury, and the same thing will probably happen again in a few weeks.

15 (14) Todsapol Lated

Since the last Portlist, Todsapol regained his place after an injury lay-off then lost it again. He’s a good man to have around as a back-up.

16 (12) Arthit Butjinda

Arthit has made some excellent cameos and popped up with a crucial goal, but the more Boskovic returns to form the fewer chance Arthit is likely to get in the side.

17 (18) Terens Puhiri

Terens has finally been given the chance to show what he can do, and the signs were looking promising. Then Terens picked up a knock and has been replaced in the squad by he who shall not be named until much, much later in the list. Still, surely when Terens returns to fitness which, judging by a video he posted on his Instagram will be if not this week then next, he will be back on the bench and primed for 20 minutes of action.

18 (11) Athibordee Athirat

Athibordee has had his chance in the side, performed as a squad player playing out of position would be expected to perform and now finds himself back on the bench. All is right with the world.

19 (19) Panpanpong Pinkong

Firmly installed at number 19, with Kevin going absolutely nowhere save for injury.

20 (21) Worawut Namvech

It’s a real shame that one of Thailand’s top young defensive talents wasn’t given the opportunity when Port opted to play Athibordee, and surely Worawut will now cut his loan spell with Port short and go somewhere where he actually has a chance of getting some game time.

21 (24) Chakrit Rawanprakone

Chakrit made his debut as a late substitute against former club Korat last week, but with Terens returning to fitness will probably be back to playing for Port B before long. He’s scored for the T4 side and seems to be handling the situation well considering that he was a regular T1 started last season. Surely must be seriously considering his future with Port with the transfer window approaching.

22 (22) Watchara Buathong

Still third choice goalie, and he was even named on the bench last week. How exciting! Watchara is reported to being close to a move away from PAT Stadium, so expect that to go through soon.

23 (23) Chaowala Sriarwut

Continues to earn rave reviews in T4, and must feel like a place on the bench isn’t all that far away. After all, Buriram fielded a 15 year old the other week!

24 (29) Chanayut Jejue

Chanayut has scored a couple of superb goals this season for Port’s B team. Probably not enough to get him elevated to the first team squad, but the quality of some of his play has been impressive.

25 (25) Jetjinn Sriprach

Playing consistently. In T4. Another surely looking for a way out.

26 (26) Pummared Kladkleep

There’s been no sign of Pummared anywhere near the first team. Arguably less likely to move on as he has always been a lower league player anyway.

27 (27) Anipong Kijkam

Keeping his place in the Port B side, and could potentially be in the frame to be Port’s third choice ‘keeper should Watchara move on as expected. It would make sense.

28 (20) Meechok Marhasaranukun

Meechok has already announced his impending departure from Port, with a deal apparently in place to take him to Port’s opponents this week Suphanburi. I’m not surprised that Meechok has chosen to move on, but I am surprised that he has chosen another club where he is unlikely to be getting regular first team football. He had some excellent performances for Port, particularly in 2016 when he broke through as an 18 year old, and will always be thought of well by port fans.

 

99 (99) Tana Chanabut

 

 

How I wish Tana would keep on this strapping uniform and take to the streets with a whistle rather than don the blue and orange and mooch about PAT Stadium pretending to be a professional footballer. How I wish that were the case.