Last Chance Saloon: Port FC vs. Buriram Utd, FA Cup QF Preview, 1 August 2018

 

Port’s season will likely be defined by what happens in the next two games. Wednesday’s FA Cup quarter final sees the two highest place teams left in the competition face off, meaning whoever wins will be the favourites to lift the cup. Then on Sunday, Port face the runaway league leaders knowing that if they lose, rivals Muangthong could draw level on points. The Scum won’t leapfrog Port as they have the inferior head-to-head record, but with tough away trips to Prachuap and Chiang Rai on the horizon, the third place spot that Port have occupied throughout much of the season will be well and truly up for grabs.

 

Buriram United

Players to Watch

 

In my preview of the away clash (click here) to Buriram I covered the whole Buriram lineup, so this time I’ll pick a few new signings and players who have risen to prominence since our last clash.

Osvaldo (17), a Brazilian forward with four caps for the most successful nation in world football history, was the mid-season signing who was supposed to put the league well and truly to bed. Buriram have pulled 9 points clear at the top, but that has very little to do with their new signing, who has yet to get on the scoresheet and has notched just 2 assists in 7 appearances. He’s clearly a player with some pedigree, but he’s far from the show-stopper we feared, and has yet to adapt effectively to Thai football.

 

 

Another mid-season arrival was returning forward Javier Patino (20). Buriram’s ASEAN player scored 35 goals in 54 games for The Thunder Castle between 2013 and 2015, but has struggled with injuries, playing just 4 times since his return. He has just one goal in the League Cup. He did play 20 minutes on the weekend though, so expect him to make an appearance off the bench.

 

 

This fella has been at Buriram all season, but has found himself playing a more important role of late. That role? Could be bloody anywhere. The only positions he hasn’t played have been wing back and goalie. I’m talking about Korean ‘midfielder’ Yoo Jun-soo (16), who throughout the season has played in central defence, central midfield, on the wing and up front. He’s a big unit who is very useful in the air, and has 4 goals and 7 assists to his name in all competitions. The only league game he didn’t start was the shock 0-1 defeat to Chainat.

 

 

Back in April, Buriram decided to start trolling the rest of the league. We’ve all seen teams bringing on youngsters when they’ve got a comfortable lead, but those youngsters aren’t usually sodding Mathayom 4 students. Suphanat Mueanta (54) is just 15 years old and already has 2 T1 goals to his name, although to be fair they came in a 5-0 victory against Air Force when Diogo and his big brother (the relatively prehistoric 19 year old Suphachok) were both just trying to put chances on a plate for him rather than score themselves. Still, score he did, and his international record at youth level suggests that he doesn’t always need a babysitter to find the back of the net. He’s scored 15 goals in 13 games at under 16 level and has recently been fast-tracked to the under 19s, for whom he has scored 2 in 4. Mind you, it would be cheeky even for Buriram to throw him on against Port in the PAT cauldron.

 

 

And I can’t do a players to watch segment without mentioning the divine mop, can I? He hasn’t exactly risen to prominence in the second half of the season, rather he has maintained his altitude 30 thousand fucking feet above everyone else. Diogo (40) is still the most effective striker in the league with 24 goals and 8 assists in 24 league games. Dragan Boskovic and Jaja Coelho may have usurped him as T1 top scorers last year, but you just knew he’d be back with a vengeance, and right now he has a 4 goal lead atop the scoring charts, 10 more than Port’s top-scorer Suarez. He also has 9 yellows and a red in all competitions though, which is what should interest Port defenders. The back line, and particularly hard-man Elias Dolah would do well to remember Port’s 0-0 home draw against the Thunder Castle in 2017, when Diogo received his marching orders on 70 minutes and Port almost snatched a memorable win. Annoy him, get in his face and in a rocking PAT Stadium there’s no knowing how the divine mop will react. He might score a hattrick, or he might throw his toys out of the pram. Either way, it will be entertaining.

 

 

Form

 

Erm, wins wins and more wins. Since their 1-0 loss to Chainat in mid-June Buriram have won 6 on the bounce in the league, and have been unbeaten in both cup competitions. They have had some struggles though, needing extra time to get past both Trang FC in the League Cup and Nakhonpathom United in the FA Cup. Port can only hope that these struggles have led to some fatigue, although with a bigger, stronger squad than Port they are more than capable of shuffling their pack and still putting out a team that will be favourites to win.

 

Port FC

The PAT Factor

 

Arguably, whichever team Jadet picks on Sunday, the most important influence will come from the Khlong Toei Army. T1’s best fans must make PAT Stadium hell on earth for Buriram, inspiring the boys on the pitch and bringing the worst out in their opponents. Last season’s 0-0 draw was a textbook case, when Zone B was so vocal that I barely heard the thousand plus Buriram fans on the other side of the stadium and Diogo ended up seeing red after being tilted by the boisterous Khlong Toei faithful. I’m feeling more confident than I probably should about this game, and that’s why.

Having said that, Jadet still has to not drop a clanger with his team selection. Will he stick with Sunday’s experimental 3-5-2? Maybe, but maybe not. It’s a system which seemed tailor-made to deal with Bangkok United’s exceptional midfield, but might be less effective against the champions in waiting, who have a less dangerous midfield three and rely mostly on the creative brilliance of Diogo.

If Jadet does stick with the same system, he’ll be thankful to be able to welcome Nitipong (34) back in both the league and cup, meaning that we won’t be exposed to Adisorn’s (13) god-awful attempts at attacking again anytime soon. Will Jadet stick with Kim (8), Siwakorn (16) and Anon (20) in midfield or will one of them make way for Port’s little destroyer? Over to you, Sir Det. The rest of the team really pick themselves, meaning that all Jadet has to do if we somehow take the lead again is not sub off key defensive players and bring on luxury attackers like Pakorn (7) and Bodin (10), who are fundamentally unsuited to this formation.

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 


 

This is normally where I’d tell you how to watch the game on TV and direct you towards The Sportsman if you can’t make it to PAT Stadium at 19:00, but this week there are no excuses. Be there. It’s an FA Cup Quarter Final, the biggest club in Thailand are in town and the boys are going to need our vocal support. Tarua Woi!

 

Trat’s Entertainment! Trat FC 2-3 Port FC (Chang FA Cup R3)

 

 

A one-day trip to Trat with Spiderming and the Thai fans? 10 hours in the bus? It was going to be a long trip, but what the hell, I decided to go anyway.

 

Almost 40 people joined the big Tarua bus leaving the PAT at 9:30 AM and after 4 hours, 4 LEO boxes and 5 whisky bottles we got to Chanthaburi where we stopped for lunch in a touristy spot with a food court and loads of shops. After an hour stop for lunch we headed to the Taksin Camp and the King of Thonburi memorial for of course a praying session while I hung around those handsome soldiers.

 

 

OK, have a look at the outside of our bus – you can see those massive speakers and that was the reason why people stared at us when we arrived at the Trat FC stadium. WE ARE TARUA so we gotta make some noise wherever we go. After a warm welcome from the Trat FC fans and free tickets from our Tarua staff, we were ready for the game. Port started with strong team but how poor they played for the first 20 minutes! After some bad defending by Kevin (97) and Rochela (22), Trat scored their first goal via Tardeli at minute 21.

The second half began with an apparently long way offside goal by Trat striker Tardeli (though I saw he was onside when I watched the video) – more bad defence from our defenders, and a bad bad bad feeling for us so far and we started to regret to take such a long trip to come to support our players when they didn’t look like they cared about the game.

 

 

Then Jadet made a big change, Panpanpong (19) for Bodin (10) and Kevin moved forward which worked almost immediately as Kim (8) scored from a Boskovic headed assist – 2-1 and there was still hope.

Then our fans ran out of whisky as they been caught by Trat security, so the other guy decided to go out during the game and buy more; when he came into the stadium with a glass of ice, people start shouting at him but he quickly calmed them down and took out the whiskey bottle out of his anus (are you quite sure about this? Ed). Hopefully the taste didnt change after the long time hidden in his arse to go through security.

Adisorn (13) got the ball near the Trat goal but was tackled by…hang on, that was Suarez (5), thought he played for Port? What the hell is going on down there? Anon (20) then came on for  Adisorn and the team played much better and we got the second goal at minute 81 – Panphanphong with a nice cross to Kim, who headed to Suarez and he didnt’ make any mistake to score our second goal to equal the score. What a great header from Kim though.

 

 

4 into minutes extra time, a flick back from Suarez, Kim took it nicely and passed to Kevin, who finished beautifully. What is more exciting than a late winning goal? Port won 3-2 and Trat went out of the FA Cup, along with Muangthong who lost to Chiang Rai on penalties – we won, that’s great, but even greater when you know your enemy has lost!

End of the game and it was time to stop at 7-11 to buy some more alcohol for the way back home, followed by a late dinner by the road at Chanthaburi. We got back to PAT Stadium at 2am and I headed home with 3kg of mangosteen from Chanthaburi at the end of a long away trip with our great fans. I need a good sleep now!

 

Tim’s Sandpit Man of the Match – Kim Sung Hwan

Make no mistake, Port got out of jail here after a first half that was as poor as the Chainat game. With Port’s big beasts failing to show up, Kim took the game by the scruff of the neck and almost single-handedly dragged Port into the quarter-finals with probably his finest performance in a Port shirt so far. A goal, two assists, and the kind of on-pitch leadership that the team so badly needed at 2-0 down. He needs to play like this more often.

 

Jadet’s Big Bogey: Bangkok Utd vs Port FC Match Preview

 

After getting their season back on track against Police Tero last Saturday (albeit slightly fortuitously), Port travel to Rangsit this Sunday to face bogey team Bangkok Utd in a game with potentially huge ramifications in the race for the second AFC spot. Mano Polking’s side sit in second, just 3 points above Port after a recent dip in form. Not that form really matters in this one – Port habitually get battered by Mano’s team, having lost the home game this season 3-0 and having shipped 15 goals in 3 games against the Angels last season. My first away Port away game was at Bangkok Utd in 2015; we lost 1-0, and little did I know that that would be as good as it got.

 

The Form Guide (Last 5 T1 Games)

BANGKOK UTD: WDLLD

PORT FC: WLDWW

After a slow start, BU hit a purple patch of form and stormed up the table, topping it at one point. But their recent form has not been great, with defeats against Pattaya in the league and minnows Ranong in the League Cup proving particularly disappointing. However, they got back in the groove on Saturday with an impressive win against Chiang Rai, and on their day they’re by far the best footballing side in the division. Port, wracked by injuries & suspensions and no doubt mindful of their recent appalling record against the Angels, will not be looking forward to this one at all.

 

The Opposition

To get the lowdown on Port’s opponents this Sunday, I had a chat to one of BUFC’s few farang followers, Matt Jenkins…

How did you become a Bangkok Utd fan?

When I arrived in Bangkok 5 years ago, I was getting a fix of EPL on Saturday nights at a great time, in a good bar somewhere. But I missed the buzz of the buildup on the day, travelling to the ground, discussing with mates team selections and possible outcomes , a dodgy burger somewhere, and a read of the programme, and sticking a couple of bets on etc. I just missed ‘going’ to the football.

A mate suggested going to a game in Bangkok and I jumped at the chance – he’d been to watch Bangkok United FC play before (when they were playing at Thai Japan), so I joined him and another pal for the match… he rest is history!If I had done a bit more research, I’d have realised that Port FC was 10 mins from my home and had a big expat following. In fact even Dave Barraclough was trying to tempt me down early days. Though I’ve come to enjoy being only one of a small number of farangs that go to Bangkok United.

Tell us about Bangkok Utd’s season so far. Are you unhappy or unhappy with the way it’s gone? What would you consider to be a successful season?

Absolutely – Impossible not to be unhappy with the start to the season, breaking records for winning streaks, and playing some great football. The last few weeks have been tough, but was to be expected once the run had come to an end. Frustrating thing is, that we haven’t been ‘well beaten’ in games since then. We have just played poorly with an unbalanced / non settled side due to injuries. I think during our winning streak we made about 3 changes only to the starting line up. A successful for season for us will be holding second place now – it does feel funny that 3 weeks ago we were top of the league and in both cups, and that small blip has hurt morale. We hopefully turned the corner after the weekend, with one of the best team performances I have seen from us in a while. New players seem to be finding their feet.

Like Port, you’ve hit a bit of a slump recently. How do you account for this?

Injuries , not getting decisions our way, the week in Buriram where we went out on pens in the cup, and then lost 2-1 in the league game, in what was possibly the most biased refereeing display I have ever seen, a couple of our more creative players seemingly downing tools for a bit, playing needless passes, and pointing at others when they are the ones that need to create a bit of magic for us. Our back 4 changed more than a Nana short time hotel’s bedsheets in the last month, injuries to Mika, then suspensions for Everton, and trying to get the balance with Puttinan/Ekkachai on the left.

Which Bangkok Utd players should we be worried about?

For me , Everton has probably been our player of the season so far. Vander Luis is still very dangerous on the ball and can go past players in a flash. And depending which Dechmitr turns up, there is also a threat there. He probably put the best performance of any BUFC player I have seen this season in again Port at your place, but he’s way too inconsistent and doesn’t decide to control enough games.

Hoping our back 4 starts to get settled again soon, we looked so good and in control when they are all fit and available. We also have a keeper that will be pumped from his last game against you guys.

…and who are your weak links, if any?

Can’t tell you guys that 🙂 What I do like is that Mano brought in some good players mid season, and 100% will provide competition and cover for our weaker areas.

Most fans of other clubs have a bit of manager envy when it comes to Mano Polking. Do BU fans feel the love too?

Yup 100%. Settled, honest, communicative on Twitter with fans. His new contract couldn’t have come soon enough for me, and the club have done well to sign him on for a long term contract. For me also, the back room staff deserve a lot of credit, his team behind him are absolutely superb and engaging, and it’s that unity I think that allows Mano to focus on the team.

On the reverse, you mentioned on Twitter once that you have a bit of stadium envy when you visit Port. How hard is it to watch your team in a largely empty Thammasat? What more can your club do to get bigger crowds?

Ha…I remember writing that. That envy still applies (from a getting to the ground perspective, and the actual ground itself). Look I was probably a bit hard on Thammasat when I wrote that, we moved seats a few times, and tried different areas, and the view is better (but by no means great).
Its just too big for our fan base. I’m baffled why they open all 4 sides of the ground…putting the away fans in one of the sides (segregated) would create a better atmosphere.

I’ve been to a fair few away games this season (with some huge ground envy! Bangkok Glass & Ubon Ratchathani in particular) and we have some of the best and most loyal fans I have ever seen anywhere…we just dont have many of them. For an area the size of Rangsit/Thammasat I’m baffled as to why more people don’t attend to be honest. We do a good job on social media to promote the games and update news in both English and Thai.
The natural thing to want is a return the city, and a new ground, but we have to be realistic, attendances of 3000-4000 aren’t going to justify that.

Maybe if the club could scoop a decent EPL pre season friendly opponent it would raise some overseas following/awareness, that would hopefully trickle down to the locals.

How do you rate Port’s 2018 side? Which players are you most worried about?

You’ve crept up out of nowhere in the last few weeks, with some solid results.
I’ll be honest when we played you at your place, I wasn’t that blown away with your side, I though Terens looked good when he came on, and Nurul was clearly a good player.

But now Sergio is finding goals, and Boskovic is up against his old side, we will have some worry with your front line for sure. Will be a very different story from the last game.

Ex-BU striker Dragan Boskovic hasn’t scored as many goals for Port as he did for you guys last season. Why do you think we’re not quite getting the best out of him?

I was gutted and surprised when Boskovic left BUFC to be honest – he was so brilliant for us. He was a target man with good service, but could also create goals from nothing. He was the number 9 up there alone almost. I think he’s sharing that front line now at Port FC, and that’s become a little more difficult to adapt to perhaps? He’s always a threat, and I can 99% guarantee he’ll pop up with a goal on Sunday!

First half of the season , I looked back and thought – We got good money for him, and maybe it was his time to leave. The last few games we have played, I’ve reconsidered and actually feel he may have thrived in this current BUFC team.

Please share your recommendations for visiting fans on Sunday – pre-match food, drinks etc.

University area – so beers are limited (BYO) , the area out the front of the stadium (opposite side to the away fans) , is always good pre-game, with some decent food vendors, and drink sellers willing to sell some ice for those carried-in beers. I’ll be there on Sunday, so 100% come and say hello.

And finally, score prediction please?

Predicting a game full of goals as you try to chase us down, and we try to cement that second place. (Also depends on which colour shirt we go with)

Bangkok United. (Vander Luis, Everton, Pokklaw) 3-2 Port FC (Boskovic (no celebration) & Nurul) (Nurul’s injured, so guess that makes it 3-1! Ed)

 

Port Lineup

Injuries, suspensions and cup-related fixture congestion are forcing Jadet, never normally one to fiddle with his players (as it were), to dig deep into his squad at the moment. Saturday’s win over Police Tero saw three players making their Port debuts, and Sunday’s game could see a similarly unfamiliar lineup with Nitipong suspended, and Nurul (and possibly Dolah) still injured. Luckily though Port came through the tricky trip to Trat unscathed. Top league scorer Suarez limped off in the latter stages of the Tero win but played the full 90 minutes at Trat so will almost certainly start. Having recovered from his exhaustion (and has there ever been a less likely candidate for exhaustion at Port?) Pakorn should take his place on the right, meaning Bodin can move to the left and the Panpanpong/Kevin experiment can be consigned to the dustbin of footballing history where it belongs. The only uncertainty is in midfield – with Siwakorn and Adisorn available, will Jadet bring one or both of them back, or will he stick with Anon, who made a very impressive debut on Saturday? Adisorn started the cup win at Trat but was replaced in the second half with Anon, which proved the spark to Port’s spectacular comeback, so I suspect the youngster will keep his place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sandpit Predicts

Port are just not playing well at the moment and so, given our missing stars and our history against Bangkok Utd, I can only see more of the same this Sunday. 3-1 to BU.

 

Bangkok Utd vs Port FC, Sunday 29 July 19:00. If you can’t go to the game, or prefer watching football without the aid of a telescope, it’ll be shown on True, or you can join us at The Sportsman to watch on a big screen with beer discounts for anyone wearing a Port shirt.

 

Pang to Rights! Chairwoman Charged for Air Force Rampage

 

Following her recent meltdown at Port’s defeat at Air Force, the FAT have thrown the book at fragrant Port chairwoman Madam Pang. With the game at 2-2 after Port had recovered from a 2-0 deficit, the ref awarded Air Force a late penalty after Pakorn was adjudged to have fouled striker Greg Houla in the area. La Pang was decidedly unhappy with his decision and stormed off the bench with the intention of tearing the linesman a new one, and had to be physically restrained by an extremely courageous Dragan Boskovic.

The upshot is that Pang has been hit with a two-game touchline ban and a fine of 50,000BHT – 10,000 for leaving the technical area – 40,000 for criticising and using ‘rude words’ to the match officials. Not her most expensive ‘handbags’ of the year for sure, but still a sizeable sum. Her faithful assistant Joh has also received a 2-game ban.

Of course, there are those, myself included, who would argue that the owner of the club shouldn’t be anywhere near the bench in the first place; let’s just say that, in a season when Port fans have been banned from going to Muangthong lest fines and points deductions should ensue, it’s ironic that our only fine so far this season has been incurred by our esteemed chairwoman. On the positive side, at least it shows she cares as much as we do.

 

Trat’s the Way: Trat FC vs. Port FC Preview, 25 July 2018

 

Port travel to Thailand’s eastern border this Wednesday trying to avoid another disastrous cup shock and keep their FA Cup dream alive. The game sets up very similarly to Port’s last 32 victory over PTT Rayong. Trat are also engaged in the same tight race towards the top of the T2 table, and seem likely to put league before cup, potentially resting some key players with Sunday’s clash against in-form Army United in mind. They sit just 2 points above fifth placed team Chiang Mai. Meanwhile, Port are still struggling with injuries, although with main man Sergio Suarez back in the side and the emergence of some rather useful talent in Port’s ranks last week, these worries are not as serious as they have been of late.

 

Trat FC

Players to Watch

 

Former Scummer and Thai league veteran Milan Bubalo (7) is the most eye-catching name, but it turns out that Brazilian striker Barros Tardeli (37) is the key man. Tardeli, top-scorer for Trat last season with 18, has already equalled that total in 2018, making him T2’s top scorer by a cool 5 goals. Don’t take your eyes off former T1 star Bubalo, though. After spending just shy of 2 months with Trat, he has already notched 7 goals in the league. And 4 yellow cards. Typical. Quite the forward line.

 

Barros Tardeli and Milan Bubalo

 

Behind them, Japanese midfielder Yuki Bamba (23) has 5 goals, whilst centre back and captain Hiromichi Katano (4) has many years of experience, including 2 seasons with T1 Sukhothai behind him. There are no Thai players who particularly catch the eye, although with a strong foreign spine, and under the stewardship of former Port favourite Dusit Chalermsan, Trat will be no pushovers.

 

Form

 

This lot love a goal-fest. They’ve scored 19 in their last 6 league games and conceded 12. In just 6 games! They really, really love a goal-fest. The pick of the bunch was a 7-5 victory over Kasetsart, and in total they have won three, drawn two and lost just the one: a 5-2 defeat against league leaders PTT Rayong.

 

Port FC

Options

 

Worawut (36) will probably continue in goal after playing most of Port’s cup games in both FA and League Cups, although with the stakes getting higher each round and Rattanai (17) turning in two spectacular performances in recent weeks, it could go either way.

Port will be happy to welcome Nitipong (34) back in to the fold, after stand-in right back Chakrit (9) put in a less than convincing performance in his absence. Nitipong still has two more games to sit out in the league, but is available in the cup. Dolah (4) is also returning to fitness, and although it would certainly be nice to have back in the side with certified big bastard Bubalo leading the Trat line, Todsapol (6) is surely the best option on Wednesday.

In midfield, Anon (20) announced his arrival in Khlongtoei with a picture-perfect midfield performance. Calm, solid and intelligent with and without the ball, this 20 year old is a much more technically proficient defensive midfielder than Adisorn (13), and is a less creative but more dependable option than Siwakorn (16). The Thin White Duke is likely still out with a mystery injury, meaning that Jadet will have to choose between Adisorn and Anon to partner Kim (8). With Buriram and Bangkok United coming up in the league, whoever plays against Trat is probably the one Jadet sees as less important.

Going forward, Jadet engaged in a bit of creative team selection last week by picking Kevin (97) on the left wing and dropping Panpanpong (19) in to defence in his place. After the two had stepped on eachother’s toes to 45 minutes however, normality was restored. Expect two wingers to be playing on the wings on Wednesday, with Bodin (10) a dead cert, and Terens (28) probably his most likely partner. Pakorn (7) really should be rested after his recent bout of exhaustion, with Chakrit (9) and Somprasong (14) providing alternative options. The latter, another former Leicester and OH Leuven trainee, is the dark horse by virtue of Anon’s impressive debut. Who knew that training with top flight European teams for years makes you a rather useful player?

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 


 

The TV situation for the last round was a complete disaster. An official stream was promised but it never materialized, so I ended up watching most of it on the Facebook live stream of a fan in Zone B. This time it’s apparently on True Sport 6 and True Sport HD 4 and kickoff is at 18:00. The Sportsman will show it on a big screen if you ask them, and wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount. 

 

Kind of Blue (& Orange): Port FC 1-0 Police Tero FC

 

 

In a game that was already forgotten by the time we were halfway through our post-match Leos, Port got back to winning ways against a decent Tero side who had clearly looked at Port’s current form and fancied their chances of a win. It wasn’t pretty, and the goal came courtesy of some highly dubious refereeing, but we’ll happily take the 3 points which, coupled with the 2018 version of the Muangthong Meltdown continuing at Bangkok Glass, gives Port a 6pt cushion in third.


In 1970, legendary jazz musician Miles Davis ditched his long-established band, hired a new trio of musicians and released the experimental jazz/rock fusion album Bitches Brew. It was a radical move but also a surprisingly successful one, with the album going on to sell over a million copies. Port coach Jadet, clearly a disciple of the late trumpet maestro, took a similar approach to Port’s lineup last night. Late on Friday night, sitting in the corner of a smoky dive, wearing a black polo neck and smoking a Gauloise, Sir Det suddenly thinks “What if we play two left-backs? And what if we play a left-winger on the right? And in defensive midfield, HOW ABOUT WE PLAY A GUY WHO’S NEVER PLAYED A SINGLE MINUTE OF COMPETITIVE PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL IN HIS ENTIRE LIFE???” An atonal saxophone solo squawks its approval, and Jadet submits his team sheet to the kind of astonishment and outrage that greeted the first performance of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring in Paris in 1913.

Indeed there were so many raised eyebrows in the Sandpit when the team news came through that it looked like we’d all been to some cheap Trendy Condo beauty salon for Botox treatment. Panpangpong (19) AND Kevin (97) down the left? Bodin (10) on the right? Ex-Leicester trainee Anon (20) making his debut in midfield? For a coach who changes his teams about as often as I used to change my sheets when I was a student (once a term, unless I had a girlfriend at the time. So once a term basically) this was truly radical stuff, that could either end in glorious triumph or car-crash disaster.

Tero, with their coaching staff clad in stripey shirts making them look like 1970s cartoon burglars, were intent on leaving the PAT with a swag bag of 3 points, and with Port’s former tormentors Aung Thu & N’Dri up front, and ex-Port defender Niran Hansson in defence, it was clear from the start they were to be no pushovers. And it was the visitors who had the best of the opening exchanges, though both N’Dri and Pathompol opted to dive rather than compete for the ball when fed chances in the box. Yellow cards were sadly not forthcoming, as the ref showed early on that he did not have one single fucking clue about what he was supposed to be doing. But Tero did almost take the lead on 16 minutes when a 30-yard THRIKER from Korean midfielder Lee narrowly shaved Rattanai’s (17) crossbar – the first time the words “Rattanai” and “shaved” have ever appeared in the same sentence.

It took 25 minutes for Port to carve out anything resembling a chance, when a peach of a Panpanpong free-kick was almost nodded in by a diving Todsapol (6). With Pakorn (7) finally benched, it was refreshing to see players actually trying to create chances from free kicks rather than seeing how high over the bar they could blast the ball. Suarez (5) was the next to trouble Tero keeper Nont when put through by a lovely ball from Boskovic (23), but his first touch was poor and he stumbled on the second; then Bodin stung the young Franco-Thai keeper’s palms with a rasping 20-yard drive minutes later, as Port started to exert some control over the game. A squeaky bum moment at the other end – when an Aung Thu shot deflected off Rochela (22) over a despairing Rattanai but also thankfully over the bar – was followed by a penalty shout for Port when Bodin was apparently brought down in the area, though protests were halfhearted and the video shows that it would have been harsh against Tero if it had been awarded.

The second half at least started in somewhat livelier fashion, with both teams – as has often been the case this season – intent on punishing the tardy half-time beer drinkers (Sandpit writer Toby Knight has now missed a total of 13 goals this season, such is his passion for the ale). In the first minute, Panpanpong desperately scrambled the ball away when it looked like Tero were nailed in to score; then a couple of minutes later Bodin almost raised the roof when he picked the ball up on the edge of the Port box, ran the length of the pitch and unleashed a 20-yard thunderbastard which beat Nont but not the crossbar. Goal of the decade if it went in. Two minutes after that, N’Dri broke clear into the box but his firm shot was saved by Rattanai’s face, potentially damaging those boyish good looks.

Finally, on the hour mark, the scoreboard operator, who hitherto had been about as busy as Kang Soo-Il’s electric razor, was called into action as Port broke the deadlock. With the Panpanpong/Kevin experiment proving to be a shambles, the former went off to be replaced by Pakorn and straight away Port looked a better side. Chakrit (9) chased a through ball and, although the ball was so far out of play it may as well have been outside ordering a Leo, the linesman’s flag didn’t stir. He found Pakorn, whose weak shot was parried by Nont into the path of Bodin, but the Fresh Prince could only scuff it in the direction of Bosko, who had the awareness to pass it back to Suarez who buried it in the corner. 1-0, and whilst it wasn’t exactly deserved, who really gives a shit eh?

 

 

The remaining half an hour was possibly the worst we’ve seen all season, with Port’s ‘game management’ consisting largely of Rattanai feigning injury every time he made a save. Debut boy Anon (20) showed that, despite his MOTM performance he’s not quite the finished article yet with a comedy dive to try and win a penalty, but otherwise there was little of note, and there was relief all round when the ref finally blew up.

So Port showed again that they are capable of winning when not playing well, and with an experimental lineup featuring no fewer than 3 debutants (Danish-Thai Sammy Slot (11) and another ex-Leicester trainee Somprasong (14) both came on late in the game), that showed our squad is maybe a little deeper than we thought. But with tough games against the top two coming up, worries remain. Boskovic and Suarez both seem intent on playing deep, leaving Port without a spearhead for long periods last night; Nurul’s trickery is sorely missed; and Nitipong is suspended for both games, with Chakrit a barely adequate replacement. Still, the influx of talented new players – Anon in particular – the future looks bright for Port and a top 3 finish is become more and more of a probability rather than a possibility.

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Anon

No, that’s not ‘Anonymous’ – it’s our new no20, defensive midfielder Anon Samakorn. Despite spells in Leicester & OH Leuven’s U23 sides, this was actually Anon’s first ever competitive game of football, but you wouldn’t have known it – big, physical, alert and calm on the ball, he was an absolute revelation, and has surely already leapfrogged Adisorn in the Port pecking order by simple virtue of the fact that he can actually pass the ball. “I love him” said Tom last night. “His head’s always spinning round”. The same could be said of Linda Blair in The Exorcist or the average owl, and you wouldn’t want either of them sitting in front of your defence, but I see Tom’s point – it was clear that he has been properly coached in a professional environment. The future’s bright – the future’s Anon.

 

Don’t Look Now it’s the Police: Port FC vs. Police Tero FC, 21 July 2018

 

7.00 p.m. Saturday 21st July

True Sports 6

Port are coming off two of their worst performances this season, injuries and changing the team around didn’t help, but back to back losses against a team who previously only had 5 points in 2018 is alarming. Who do we face? One of the teams Port had a nightmare against in the first half of the season. We find ourselves saying. “Oh shit, it’s the Police.”

Police are in joint 13th place with Sukhothai, both are desperately trying to stay up in a season where five teams face the drop. Two losses and two draws in the last four doesn’t scream great form, but Port’s last two matches don’t inspire much confidence either.

Dangerous Policemen

Michaël N’dri (9) the police captain has lead from the front with 12 goals along with the most successful Asean quota player Aung Thu (10) with 10 goals, they will be a major threat. They won’t be joined by Marcus Vinicius (91) as I think he is busy fighting Asterix the Gaul with a cohort of centurions. He’s another attacking player with 10 goals this season, he also has 4 yellow cards so is suspended on Saturday. Ex Port player Niran Hasson (8) was in and out of the Police squad at the beginning on 2018, but has gone on to take up a regular position in the middle of Police’s defence. If he’d stuck around at Port he may have finally got a chance to play right back this weekend. Probably better for him he moved on and has a regular place in the centre of the police line up.

 

Michaël N’Dri, Aung Thu and Niran Hansson

 

Ex Muangthong manager “Ban” Totchtawan Sripan took over Police at the beginning of July. I’m sure he is well aware of the pressure for points. Could he face the sack if results don’t pick up soon? Maybe, Police is yet another manager’s graveyard. I think if they stick with him he might well just keep them alive.

Port Problems all over the place

Two players are suspended this Saturday, Adisorn (13) is out after collecting a 4th yellow and Nitipong (34) is out after his straight red. Pakorn (went straight to hospital and hasn’t been training so no chance of him starting. Siwakorn (16) wasn’t on the bench at Air Force suggesting another injury.

The Likely Lads

This is what Port could look like.

 

 

I had no idea who would replace Nitipong, I couldn’t think of any other possible right back, so I asked Tom. He reliably informs me that Chakrit has been used there in training and friendlies, so is probably Jadet’s favoured option in that position . Pummared (41)? Yes, just about the only central midfielder I can think of we have left. New arrival Anon (20) is also an outside possibility in that position, while winger and fellow new arrival Somprasong (14) seems likely to make another appearance off the bench, coming on for either Terens or Bodin in the latter stages.

Match Up-set

N’dri and Aung Thu vs. Rochela and Todsapol is a scary proposition, but I’d rather not think about that any more than I have to.

Battle of the Comebacks

It might not be the key match-up but Suarez finally back after injury and Hansson finally back at PAT with a point to prove will be interesting to see.  We will have to see, who is the king of the comeback.

Reasons to be Cheerful

Umm not many, Jadet has won 3 out of his last 4 vs “Ban” while he was at Muangthong (any excuse to mention those). Suarez is finally back, he should be linking up with Boskovic, so hopefully we won’t see Bosko having to trawl back trying to pick up the ball in midfield. It’s a Home Match, it’s a Saturday evening 7 .00 pm ideal kick off time. No world cup matches that need to be factored into the Saturday schedule just Pure Port. Whether it’s going to be pure class or pure something else I’m not sure.

 


 

The match will be shown live on True Sport 6 at 19:00 on Saturday 21 July, 2018. For those who can’t make it to PAT Stadium, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match on a big screen with sound. Don’t forget to wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount on drinks.

 

The Portlist 7: New Blood

 

With Port’s two debutants, and a very fresh-faced bench on Sunday, it must be time for another Portlist.

 


 

1 (1) Sergio Suarez

Suarez has been out of action for a few weeks now, and my word does it show. Without him in the side, no other player is capable of linking midfield and attack, making Port look disjointed and impotent going forward. Even having missed several games now, Suarez is still Port’s top T1 scorer with 13, although Boskovic has now overtaken him in all competitions.

2 (2) Dragan Boskovic

Ever since that fateful Chainat away clash, we’ve seen a completely different Dragan. He works harder, he links up play better and he has far more confidence in front of goal. That last fact means that he now has 19 goals in all competitions. That’s what he was signed to do.

3 (3) David Rochela

El Capitan continues to be a crucial figure in Port’s team, especially with injuries and suspensions meaning that changes in personnel are now weekly occurrences at the back. Crucially, Rochela’s calming presence helps those who play alongside him.

4 (4) Kevin Deeromram

He flew up the last Portlist, and I see no reason why he doesn’t deserve to stay at number four. Always full of energy, contributing wholeheartedly to the attack and making key defensive contributions too, you couldn’t hope for a better full back in Thai football.

5 (7) Kim Sung Hwan

Kim regains a couple of spots, having slowly but surely settled in to the rhythm of Thai football. He makes fewer errors, adds another dimension to Port’s play with his vision and long passing, and has popped up with the odd goal from midfield, too. We certainly miss him when he’s not in the side. Having said that, the feeling has to be that Port could do more with their Asian quota spot, and it’s hard to imagine former Buriram star Go Seul Ki, who is rumoured to be in talks with Port, not doing a better job than Kim.

6 (5) Nitipong Selanon

There’s no direct competition for Nitipong in this Port squad. Setting aside for a moment how absurd that is, it means that even when he gets sent off and suspended, his importance to Port is just further underlined. With Adisorn suspended, will they use a left back out of position, or deploy a winger like Chakrit or Terens there? One thing is for sure, Port will miss Nitipong on Saturday.

7 (9) Elias Dolah

The second half of the season has gone well for Dolah. He has missed some games with injury and suspension of late, but his performance levels have been consistently good, and it really feels like Port are missing something when he’s not on the field. Todsapol is still a viable alternative, but Dolah does seem to have taken a lengthy stride ahead of him for now.

8 (13) Adisorn Daeng-rueng

He seems to be the answer to just about every question, and he doesn’t seem to do injuries. Whether it’s Suarez, Kim, Siwakorn or Nitipong that’s unavailable, you can be sure Jadet’s solution will involve the little terrier. His performance level rarely changes (for better or worse), and the energy he brings to the team is undeniably a big positive. On Sunday he gave the ball away then won it back twice in the space of 15 seconds. Typical Adisorn.

9 (14) Rattanai Songsangchan

He has cemented his place in the team, and he put in one the best Port goalkeeping performances of the season to give us a fighting chance against Air Force. His distribution is still a constant source of frustration, though. It may have improved significantly from when he first broke in to the team, but he still insists on aiming the ball at Pakorn or Nurul rather than Suarez or Boskovic.

10 (8) Siwakorn Jakkuprasart

Siwakorn continues to drift down the list. He still makes the odd important contribution, but the frustration at his final ball continues to overshadow the neat linkup play he provides in midfield. Last season, I couldn’t have imagined putting Adisorn above Siwakorn, but on the basis of their performance levels throughout 2018, it feels justified.

11 (10) Pakorn Prempak

I just can’t bring myself to drop him lower than eleven, even though I’m monumentally annoyed by his attitude and work rate of late. Why not? Well, he’s the top provider in the entire league for one thing. Yes, he may be just about as frustrating as could be, but he continually, consistently provides chances for his teammates in a way that other wingers like Nurul, Bodin and Terens just don’t. On merit, I’m sorry to say he has to stay in the first XI.

12 (12) Bodin Phala

Bodin is probably closer than he’s been at any point this season to changing that, though. His forced move in to midfield against Sukhothai was the revelation that most of us thought it would be, but with Nurul injured he will be occupying Port’s left wing for the foreseeable future. It’s time to add goals and assists to all that clever one-touch nutmegging stuff now, fella.

13 (15) Todsapol Lated

His goalscoring record for the last two seasons stands at 6 goals in 20 starts. Most Thai strikers would be proud of that strike-rate! Nevertheless, Todsapol has rightly slipped below Dolah in the defensive pecking order, although it’s still a close run thing, and Jadet may well call on him when more mobility is required.

14 (11) Worawut Srisupha

An excellent second choice goalkeeper, and getting plenty of minutes in cup games.

15 (17) Terens Puhiri

Finally, he started a game! In keeping with Terens’ frustrating season though, the red card meant he was asked to play right wing back for the majority of the game and was unable to show the pace and attacking ability Port fans are so clamouring to see.

16 (16) Arthit Butjinda

He’s had a fair few chances this season, but really hasn’t made a convincing argument that he brings much to the team. Yes he can win the ball in the air against most Thai defenders, but more is required in front of goal for Arthit to be anything other than a squad player at Port. Having said all that, experience tells me that as far as Thai strikers go, he’s really no worse than most teams have on their bench.

17 (21) Chakrit Rawanprakone

Is he Port’s second choice right-back as well as fifth choice winger? We will know on Saturday when the first XI is named.

18 (19) Panpanpong Pinkong

Gains a spot based on the fact that Kevin must be bloody knackered, and Panpanpong will be required to actually play some football at some point.

19 (20) Worawut Namvech

Injury and suspension have finally given him a first team chance, and the results are… inconclusive. Worawut was hooked at half time in a tactical switch in his first start, but played 90 minutes in his second. He looked good in the air, solid in the tackle but has to be partially at fault for Air Force’s first goal, where he let Air Force’s only striker have far too much room. Still definitely fourth choice.

20 (NE) Somprasong Promsorn

Somprasong was the first of the three new arrivals from Europe to make a match day squad, and against Air Force he became the first to make an appearance. Looks quick, lively and Jadet must quite like him.

21 (6) Nurul Sriyankem

Poor old Nurul fought his way up to sixth in the Portlist, but his long-term injury and the raft of young wingers chomping at the bit to take his place mean that The Penguin will do well to get back on to the pitch this season. Get well soon, little guy.

22 (26) Pummared Kladkleep

Named in several successive match-day squads due to injuries, although he hasn’t seen a minute of action so far in 2018.

23 (NE) Sammy Slot

I think young Sammy may well move up this list in coming weeks, although that will require Jadet to take something of a leap in faith in a young player, which would be rather out of character.

24 (22) Watchara Buathong

Still third choice goalie, and has even made the odd first team squad, as well as getting a few games for Port B. Is he the most unambitious man in Thai football? Quite possibly.

25 (24) Chanayut Jejue

Chanayut made his first match day squad against Air Force. He impressed in a friendly a couple of months ago, but he really looks like he needs to bulk up in order to make an impact in T1. Should be having daily appointments with Rod Pellegrino!

26 (NE) Anon Samakorn

The final arrival from Europe and the youngest of the three has made one matchday squad, but was not sent to warm up. Don’t expect to see him on the pitch in 2018.

27 (RE) Sarawin Phakdeekan

Reentering the Portlist, having been absent from the last four. The defensive injury crisis looks short-lived though, as will be Sarawin’s time on this list.

28 (23) Chaowala Sriarwut

Poor old Chaowala – Port B’s top scorer despite playing in central midfield – must be wondering if he’s ever going to be given a whiff of hope of first team involvement with the likes of Pummared and now Anon being favoured.

29 (25) Jetjinn Sriprach

Third choice left back behind two left backs who don’t get injured.

30 (27) Anipong Kijkam

With Watchara expected to move on, Anipong was in line for a promotion. Now he’s back where he started, which is still at the head of the Port B queue. Not bad for a young ‘keeper.

99 (99) Tana Chanabut

 

 

What’s that? You thought with Tana leaving Port he would lose his place in the Portlist? What you fail to consider is that Tana is doing far more for Port in a Nongbua Pitchaya shirt than he ever did when he was actually with the club. Promotion hopefuls when the crooner arrived, they have slipped down the T2 table with just one win in six since his arrival. His contribution so far? A yellow card. His shirt number? 69. Lulz

 

 

Trat! That Was Liquid Football: Port Face White Elephants in FA Cup R3

 

Having comfortably seen off T2 leaders PTT Rayong in R2 of the 2018 Chang FA Cup, Port face the second-placed team in the division next week when they travel down the eastern seaboard to Roy Hodgson’s favourite beach resort, Trat.

The White Elephants have proved anything but superfluous this season and are in with a very good shout of making the surprise jump to T1, and with former Muangthong/Pattaya goal machine Milan Bubalo up front, Port could be in for a tricky evening. Will Trat go for it, or will they cast the cup aside as Rayong did in order to focus on their promotion bid? Let’s hope it’s the latter, and that Port will have a comfortable passage to the quarter finals in what is, barring a 1996 Newcastle-esque collapse from Buriram, their last chance of silverware this season.

Trat FC vs Port FC

Wednesday 25 July 2018, 18:00 at Trat Stadium

See Spiderming for fan bus bookings

 

Wednesday Night & the Gates Are Low: Crunching Port’s Attendance Figures

The atmosphere at the PAT Stadium is widely considered to be amongst the best the league has to offer. Despite there being six clubs with greater average attendances than Port, the unique and vibrant crowd in Khlongtoey still remains a highlight of the Thai League.

While players such as Dragan Boskovic and Nurul Sriyankem have made headlines for their efforts in improving Port’s performances on the pitch, those in the stands also have a seemingly huge impact on Port’s fortunes.

As such, after having done a feature on the Thai League’s average attendances for the Chonburi FC Club website (available here courtesy of shameless self-promotion), I thought it would be useful exercise to run the numbers for Port and take a look at the trends that have occurred over the past few years.

As we can see, this graph has the same aesthetically pleasing curve which can often be found on Pakorn corners or Suarez free kicks – save of course for that slightly bothersome 2016 relegation. Note, however, that Port’s attendance figures for their 2013 season in the second division are unavailable, but judging by the general trend, it did little to reduce the growth the club had already been facing.

What may come as a slight surprise is the fact that average attendances have not improved as a result of this season’s high investment – but that is not necessarily a negative thing. Unlikely Chiang Rai United, who pulled a similar stunt last season to attract fans of the local area, Port had arguably already “maximized” the support of the Klongtoey faithful even before this season’s spending spree. As such, the intention of Madame Pang’s shopping is to be successful and win trophies – something that it appears to be succeeding in – and attendance figures should in no way dampen that achievement.

However, the season-by-season attendance graphs are slightly more telling.

Port FC Average Attendances 2017

A random table to show how I had to painstakingly extract and compile information

Orange = Saturday, Green = Sunday, Pink = Midweek. Match number refers only to home matches

Looking over Port’s 2017 attendances, it appears that there is little difference in attendance between Saturday and Sunday games, but hosting games in midweek is clearly detrimental to the strength of the crowd. Attendances appear to go up and down every other game, and sometimes quite drastically, with noticeable but predictable peaks against the bigger sides – Buriram United, Bangkok United and Chiang Rai.

 

However, Port’s 2018 season looks slightly different than one would expect:

 

Orange = Saturday, Green = Sunday, Pink = Midweek. Match number refers only to home matches

Firstly comes the expected peak against Muangthong United, with the PAT Stadium being packed to capacity whenever the (*insert expletive here*) come to town. Additionally, the up-down pattern seems to have continued and the mean average attendance has improved as there have been no games with a crowd smaller than 2,000 this season.

However, where the surprise comes when looking at the specific teams in question. The worst attended league game this season came against Chiang Rai, which comes as a surprise both because the game was played on a Saturday and because Chiang Rai boast one of the strongest lineups in the division (it followed Port’s worst performance of the season at Chainat so there’s your answer – Ed). Additionally, a Saturday clash against Bangkok United was attended by fewer people than a Sunday meeting with Ubon, which is an absolute travesty purely from an entertainment standpoint.

Ignoring the more extreme peaks and troughs, it appears that the attendances may be on a downward spiral, which is something that should not be the case given how well the side have been doing this season.

While this may be slightly concerning, it is in no way atypical for the Thai League. Early season enthusiasm tends to fade out over the course of the season, and attendances are highly depending on current form – much more so than in many other countries. These figures are in no way an indictment of Port FC or their loyal fanbase – rather, they are indicative of systemic problems that are seen across the league.

As Port’s brand continues to grow and their style of play gets more refined, good things could come of the side in the future. But, as it appears now, that improvement must come alongside league-wide changes in order for the club to reach its full potential.

Header image courtesy of John Parbury