Top of the Lake: Sukhothai FC vs Port FC Match Preview

 

Sukothai head into this game as only one of four teams unbeaten this season. To nicely balance things out, they are also one of only four teams not to have won this season, their four draws producing, on average, a goal a game, so whatever we get at the picturesque, lake-side Thalay Luang Stadium (Capacity 9,500) will be well earned.

Sukothai F.C. have only been in existence for ten years and in that time have had a remarkable rise from the Northern Regional League to be now competing at the highest level. They even had a dip into the AFC Champions League play-offs when they ‘won’ the F.A. Cup in 2016, by virtue of being drawn out of the hat ahead of two other semi-finalists, the competition having been cancelled due to the late King’s passing. Chonburi, the fourth semi-finalist, either in a fit of pique or protest, had earlier withdrawn from the lucky dip.

Today’s opponents met at a similar stage last season when the Fire Bats shared a top three place with Port but they faltered badly mid-season and, for a while, with five teams due for the drop, slipped into the relegation zone. They rallied to finish a respectable 11th, largely on the back of Nelson Bonilla’s 25 goals. Port, in particular, will be glad to see Bonilla shifted off to Bangkok Utd – he put 4 past us in League and Cup games last season.

Having watched highlights of Sukothai’s two home games, it is clear they will not be easy to beat, particularly backed by their usual, large and loud, partisan home crowd.

 

John Baggio

 

With Bonilla gone, the spotlight quite rightly falls onto their diminutive captain, John Baggio, or to give him his full title, John Baggio Rakotonomenjanarahy (10), a name, in length at least, reminiscent of some of those picturesque, rural Welsh railway stations, and not one to be included in any terrace chants, or on the back of your shirt for that matter. Baggio was also a thorn in Port’s side last year and this year he seems to have developed a good understanding with tall Montenegrin striker, Petar Orlandic (9). Bosko’s fellow countryman has good pedigree, having spent 3 seasons at Red Star Belgrade where he enjoyed a promising partnership with Serbian international, Luka Jovic. He certainly looks menacing: strong and powerful in the air, with quick feet, yet, despite getting on the end of numerous chances, he has yet to score. Philippine international, Iain Ramsay (7), makes up the front three while Joel Sami (3), Congolese international, acquired from Ratchaburi in the close season, should provide some physical presence at the back.

Port will look to come back from a disappointing and frustrating draw with PTT last week. Jadet’s experiment with his two full back clones operating down the left wing didn’t really work for me and it was only when Bodin came on in the second half and started to run at the retreating PTT defence that we started to create genuine chances. Our attacks now follow the familiar pattern of getting it out to the wings followed by a cross, which is fine as long as the crosses clear the first defender or actually end up in the box, and not sail into the crowd or over the opposite touch line for a throw-in. Kevin’s crosses of late have been particularly overshot, although to be fair, two nearly led to goals last week thanks to good retrieval work from Suarez and Dolah. On the other side, Nitipong invariably turns on to his weaker left foot giving defences that vital few seconds to re-organize. Bosko has become the great ditherer and should really have converted at least one chance last week.

However, luck was not on our side, with the PTT penalty box at times looking like the Alamo, with Victor, in full-blown John Wayne mode, repelling all-comers and, at one point, having denied yet another attack, standing in the box letting out a full throated roar of triumph like King Kong about to bite the cockpit off a passing plane.

On the positive side, we are still unbeaten, nobody is really setting a pace, although Buriram’s win over Bangkok Utd will have sent a warning, and a win at Sukothai should consolidate a top three spot.

Port will also be hoping that the injury jinx which has hit them since the beginning of the season will soon pass. Rochela and Nurul will most likely be missing but Sumanya is fit again and will be very useful against a solid Fire Bats team. It will also be good to see Kevin restored to full back duties. The defence picks itself really but there are numerous options ahead of them. Siwakorn has impressed so far this season while Go adds stability and a delightful range of passing. Bodin added much needed penetration last week but Jadet is likely to go for Pakorn, so Port may line up like this in a formation of Jadet’s choice.

Worawut: Nitipong, Todsapol, Dolah, Kevin; Pakorn, Go, Sumanya, Siwakorn; Suarez, Boskovic.

Subs: Watchara, Worawut, Panpanpong, Athibordee, Adisorn, Anon, Pinyo, Bodin, Arthit; but I’m just guessing now.

Prediction: A gritty 2-1 win for Port, surviving a last 5 minute blitz.

 

Sukhothai FC vs Port FC

Saturday 30 March 18:00

If you can’t join us in Sukhothai, please support our sponsors and watch at The Sportsman on Sukhumvit soi 13. Big screen, sound, and drink discounts for all Port FC fans!

 

Peter Hockley

Peter Hockley

Peter 'Hockers' Hockley is currently the School Librarian at St Andrews International School, Sathorn and has lived in Thailand since 1992. He has followed Port home and away since 2010, with unbridled devotion and his famous woolly hat. He is a co-founder member of the Sivakorn (is a football genius) Appreciation Society (SAS). At present, the Society boasts a membership of, well, two. Peter has written travel articles for The Nation and Sawaddi magazine, and once had a letter published in Charles Buchan's Football Monthly which won him 5 guineas.

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