Halfway to Paradise? Port’s 2019 Season So Far

 

With last night’s defeat at MK Dons marking the end of the first leg of 2019 T1 fixtures, it’s time to look back at the first half of the season and share our best (and worst) moments. Port led T1 for much of the season but the recent, and entirely expected, mid-season slump has seen them win only 1 in the last 5 games and slump to 4th, 4 points behind leaders Buriram who are looking ominously like champions again. Port have been good at bullying weaker sides and grinding out wins against half-decent ones, but have shown their usual inability to beat the top teams, losing to Buriram and Samut Prakan and drawing with Bangkok Utd and Chiang Rai. They are, once again, a collection of very talented players who look like they’re being thrown onto the pitch without a plan and told to get on with it, and whilst that will get you 3 points most of the time in Thailand, things fall apart against better prepared, better organised teams. Playing 4-6-0 every week due to Boskovic’s refusal to play as a striker doesn’t help either, but we bang on about this every week. Clearly noone at the club can see it.

Anyway, despite the above moaning it’s been a thrilling season so far with Port playing some swaggering, often breathtaking football, scoring some great goals and winning some exciting games. Here are our team’s picks of the best – and worst – of the season so far…

 

Best Game

Tim Russell

The 3-2 win over Suphanburi was a thriller with an ecstatic finish, and the 1-1 draw with Bangkok Utd was quality mixed with some fine displays of the dark arts from both teams. But the pick of the season so far for me is the 3-2 win at Chonburi. It was a gritty, determined performance in which Port, roared on by the noisiest away following I can remember, came from behind twice to win the game. The look on Arthit’s face when he scored the winner will live long in the memory.

 

Shenanigans in the away end at Chonburi

 

Tom Earls

We’ve won some impressive games this season, but I’m not going to go for the 6-0 cup win against Samut Sakhon, the 5-0 thrashing of Prachuap or the 4-1 drubbing of Trat. Close games are what really get the blood flowing, and the 3-2 away win at Chonburi was as close as they get. Plus, any game featuring a late winner from Arthit is always going to be up there for me.

Dominick Cartwright

Chonburi Away has never been a happy hunting ground for us so even with us off to a great start and Chonburi looking average I wasn’t that confident. Possibly our first ever Friday away day? Definitely the only one in the last 8 years, Friday Football a good way to finish to the week. Go scored a cracker showing us he’s not just a great passer of the ball, he knows where the goal is too. Equaliser at 2-2 was picked out the net and run back to the centre circle, Port with all the momentum are not settling for the point today. There’s something nerve wracking and brilliant about falling behind twice then coming back and winning the game 3-2..…. And I managed to avoid falling in the shark infested pond.

 

Best Goal

Tim Russell

Only one contender here – Suarez’ sublime first-time chip against Trat. An absolute masterpiece of a goal, had Messi done it it would’ve reverberated around the globe in minutes. Honourable mentions for Boskovic’s late winner against Suphanburi and Bodin’s THRIKER at Muangthong.

Tom Earls

Am I going to play favourites on every single answer? Quite possibly. It may not have had any of the technical mastery of Suarez and Nurul’s chips, Pakorn’s dead ball strikes or Bodin’s thunderbastards, but Dolah’s glancing header against Bangkok United, immediately dedicated to the Port fans who had tragically passed away earlier in the week, was one of the more emotional PAT Stadium moments in recent memory. It also put us up 1-0 against a team we never beat. Shame we switched off about a minute later and allowed them to draw level. Still, the most meaningful goal of the season when it went in.

Dominick Cartwright

After crowd silencing thunder strike from Trat back to make it 1-1, Port are looking a bit quiet so is the crowd. But wait what’s this ……..Is it going ? It’s over the bar surely. He’s never just, oh yes he has. Suarez has chipped the keeper from the edge of the area. Toby created the platform for the move by going for  beer, then a lovely quick pass from Nittipong, no question of Suarez fluking it, he was only trying to do one thing. Zone B in shock and awe behind the goal and everyone goes nuts, back to 2-1 normal home service resumed Port back in the lead.

 

Best Player

Tim Russell

A few contenders here. Bodin has been a revelation, Go Seul-Ki has been the DM we’ve been crying out for for so long, and Dolah continues to impress everyone apart from Thai national team coaches. But the star for me so far as been Siwakorn. After a poor 2018 season for him, and with the arrivals of Go and Sumanya, I fully expected to see very little of the Marlboro Man this year. But he’s risen to the challenge, put in 110% week in week out, and been Port’s most valuable player. And he’s even cut down on the yellow cards too.

Tom Earls

This is really tricky. Suarez has weighed in with a more than decent number of goals and assists, as always. Bodin has been a revelation on Port’s left hand side, and finally put to bed worries about his ability to produce in terms of stats. Both Go and Siwakorn have been excellent in the centre of midfield, with their consistency in particular standing out. But never mind, I’ve decided to play favourites again. Dolah has been a rock for Port, providing leadership from the back, and notably making it in to practically every single team of the week this season. The loss to Samut Prakan City was perhaps the moment when it really became clear how much weaker the defence is without him in it.

 

Elias Dolah

 

Dominick Cartwright

For me Go has been the big difference between Port 2018 and Port 2019. Port have always needed a solid midfield player to link up from defence and to tidy up the loose ball. Go is this and then a whole lot more. He does this role and then provides the platform for Bodin, Pakorn and Nurul to supply what we need. Port have a stack of talent in this side Go has been the catalyst for this talent to challenge for the top spot. Before the Buriram game I was more worried about us not having Go than us facing Buriram, that says it all.

Most Improved Player

Tim Russell

Without a doubt, Bodin. A player who had lost his way last season came back into the team in week 2 due to Nurul’s injury, and hasn’t looked back. He looks fitter, more confident, and just…better, and is playing his way back into Thai NT consideration. Watchara also deserves a mention – after 3 seasons in which Rattanai and Worawut unconvincingly fought it out for the GK position, the answer was under our noses all the time, and W-Hot made the leap from T4 to T1 with consummate ease to become indisputably Port’s first choice keeper.

Tom Earls

With Dolah’s improvement probably mostly happening in the second half of last season, this is a battle between Watchara and Bodin. Watchara was barely an afterthought until he was charitably given three games at the end of last season to strut his stuff. Since then, he’s proved himself to be the most complete player among Port’s three goalkeepers, and has deservedly nailed down the number 1 shirt. It’s not enough to get him the award ahead of Bodin, though. This lad has been an absolute revelation. Having shown potential but failed to really reach the highest level at Bangkok Glass, Chiang Rai, Buriram and then in his first season at Port, it was looking like Bodin would never quite become the player he should be. Well, those worries have been assuaged with 7 goals and 2 assists, as well as countless moments of exceptionally smooth Bodinness.

Dominick Cartwright

Difficult one here Dolah has made big improvements in his game. He’s now the definite first choice to partner Rochela in the centre . Siwakorn has taken a step up this season getting the captaincy has provided a bit of a spur for him and he’s been rewarded with a national team call up. But I’d have to give it to Bodin, not sure what he did pre season but he’s looking like a different player this year.

Best Away Trip

Tim Russell

My first trip to Sukhothai in March wins it for me. The game may have been awful (see below), but we had a fantastic weekend biking around the Historical Park, drinking in Chopper Bar and meeting the locals, who were so friendly & welcoming that Port’s defeat quickly ceased to matter. Already planning next year’s trip, if they stay up.

Tom Earls

 Chonburi away, without a doubt. Ratchaburi away is coming up though and that’s always a cracker, so expect to have some competition for away trip of the season.

Dominick Cartwright

This is very much the trip not the game. Sukhothai somewhere I’ve been meaning to get to for ages. Nice old city ruins more than enough to do for the weekend. 10 or so of us up there piling into a Songteaw. There’s no running track at the ground, they have an ok away section. What could possibly go wrong? Sumanya decides to hit the ref all downhill from there. Great away would recommend it, bring your own points because you are unlikely to get too many from Baggio n Co.

 

All smiles despite the worst performance of the season

 

Worst Game

Tim Russell

See above. As is so often the case a great away trip was ruined by the football, as Port behaved like spoiled brats, Sumanya getting an early red for hitting out at the referee. You know it’s a bad day when Petr Orlandic, one of the worst foreign strikers ever to appear in T1, scores against you. Twice.

Tom Earls

Probably the 1-1 away draw with Korat. A very long rain delay, not much in the way of quality, and we threw away a win. Poor old Arthit missed a great chance late on, then we compounded his misery by conceding a late equalizer. Awful.

Dominick Cartwright

Has to be Samut Prakan the recipe for all that’s wrong with Port, giving up cheap goals Boskovic was all over the park. Suarez decides this is the day to start taking penalties. Port were playing against a team that wasn’t gifting them anything, this was really telling. Most teams in the Thai league will give you something in any given match and Port can punish them not today Port. This match has thrown us back into one of the chasing pack with Chiang Rai, Samut Prakan and Bangkok United looking like it will be yet again a battle for second.

Biggest Disappointment

Tim Russell

The expensive signing of Sumanya seemed strange at the time and a string of very average performances haven’t solved the mystery of why Port paid so much money for a 32-year old. But the ‘winner’ here has to be Boskovic. After a late run of goals in 2018 Bosko looked back to his best, but that form hasn’t continued into 2019 and he looks a shadow of his former self. His performance against Buriram summed up his season – no shots on target, and drifting from left wing to right wing instead of playing up front where he’s most needed. Josimar can’t arrive soon enough.

 

A rarely-seen sight this season

 

Tom Earls

I let him know my feelings last Sunday with some pretty colourful expressions of disgust hurled at him from the stand behind the goal. Boskovic was absolutely awful on that day, and he’s barely (if at all) produced a decent 90 minutes all season. The late winner against Suphanburi was his only redeeming moment, and that just isn’t enough for a player making as much as he’s making.

Dominick Cartwright

I think we need to even up the question, compared to most seasons at Port this has been a great start.

Highlight

A SIX game winning streak outscoring the opposition 23 goals to 4, ending with a 3-0 away win at Chainat putting all the Chainat demons to rest. Surely it’s a triple trophy season for this Port side?… Well maybe not.

Lowlight

Seeing the players crowding round the ref after Sumanya had just shoved him, he didn’t deck the ref but there was shove there. Come on boys he’s just shoved the ref he’s got to go off for that. Calm down a bit and get on with the game.

Where Will Port Finish?

Tim Russell

I said that if Port were to win the league they’d need to take at least 4 points from the games with Buriram & Samut Prakan. They took 0. With Buriram and Bangkok Utd hitting peak form, the title already looks lost and Port are now battling it out for third with Samut Prakan, which is where I suspect they will finish. IF Josimar can bring his T2 form into T1, and IF Tanaboon can form a good relationship with Dolah at CB, Port can still turn things around; but T1’s top teams already have Jadet’s number and you really can’t see this team going to the two BUs and getting 6 points, which is what they need to do to win the league. The FA Cup is a more realistic target, but again, on current form do you see this team winning at a revitalised Muangthong?

Tom Earls

I think we’ll finish third. Buriram will do the business and clinch the league as usual, Bangkok United will probably find enough form to finish second and we’ll be the best of the rest. I was never convinced we had a shot at the title this season, and whilst I was caught off guard by how poor Bangkok United were, I’m now willing to retract my previous prediction that we looked good enough to take second place ahead of them. I’ll be more than happy with third. And the FA Cup.

Dominick Cartwright

When Go is playing well linking up with attacking players we look like a great team. I still think we have a good team, with some wrinkles shown up by a well drilled side last week. Will the Josimar experiment work? This is the big question. If Suarez pushes up to provide some support between the Josimar as the target man and the midfield it can work.

 

A welcome sight?

 

So where will we finish?…. 1st, The Josimar experiment will work, Port players will finally have a target to hit. Kevin, Nittipong, Bodin, Pakorn and Nurul will all be blasting balls into him all day long, he will look like a man in the middle of a pinball machine, he will rack up 20 goals. Pakorn will track back. Suarez’s arm will finally heal. Jadet will start jogging. Port will be champions and all will be well with the world.

 

Tim Russell

Tim Russell

The founder and editor of The Sandpit, Tim has been in SE Asia since 2003 and in Bangkok since 2012, where he runs a travel tech business. Tim has followed Port FC since 2014, and is also a fan of his hometown club Coventry City, and French club AS St-Etienne. He has written for the likes of Football365, ITV.com, NME and The Quietus, and is a regular contributor to God Is In the TV. He's a keen photographer and his work can be seen on his website.

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