Here Comes the Fear Again: Ratchaburi FC 1-1 Port FC

 

Pulp’s underrated 1997 single ‘The Fear‘ is an exercise in paranoia, loss of confidence, sexual impotence, the sound of a man who made it to the top but found it impossible to stay there. Watching Port’s fragile, overly-defensive performance at Ratchaburi on Saturday was to see Jarvis Cocker’s words made flesh – back in April/May, Port would’ve swaggered into the Mitr Phol and breezed past these piss-poor relegation strugglers without so much as breaking sweat; July’s Port just looked terrified. And as for the line about having a monkey on your back, Dom knows exactly what that means.

 


 

This was, once again, one of those enjoyable weekends away that was somewhat ruined by having to watch Port. Ratchaburi may not be a destination for hedonists and thrill-seekers – it makes Sukhothai look like Las Vegas – but its locals are friendly far beyond the call of duty, its temples are suitably photogenic, its market is stuffed to the gills with cheap food and cold Leo, its dogs are spectacularly well-endowed, and its monkeys are up for a laugh as monkeys generally are. Unfortunately on Saturday night we had to tear ourselves away from this canine/simian bacchanalia and attend a football game, and even medically inadvisable quantities of Chang couldn’t put a positive spin on what we saw.

Our biggest complaint this season has been that Port have spent most games playing a 4-6-0 formation, due to Boskovic’s increasing reluctance to play as a centre-forward. But of course Port addressed that by bringing in Josimar (30), a man who likes to do exactly that. So we were looking forward to seeing Josi tearing Ratchaburi’s defence a new one, only for him to start on the bench, and Port going with, yes you guessed it, 4-6-0. Well, I guess technically it was meant to be a 4-5-1, but just because Suarez (5) scores goals doesn’t mean he can play as a lone striker, and clearly noone gave him the memo anyway as he spent most of his time in midfield looking for someone to pass to in the box, only to realise it was supposed to be him. This isn’t a criticism of Sergio by the way, but a criticism of those who bring in a new striker then bench him for a game against relegation strugglers and set out a team to defend rather than attack.

So Port began timidly, as did their opponents who, despite having quality attackers in Boli & Langil, were clearly as nervous as Port were and, despite Philip ‘Flock of Seagulls’ Roller trying the Ronaldo stepovers down the right, they created little. Roller’s shenanigans drew the ire of Dom, who wittily insulted him with the Oscar Wildean “Captain Roller?! Captain….SHIT more like“. Bons mots of the season for sure. No, it was a desperately poor game between two teams bereft of confidence, fight and any sort of gameplan, and it was clear the only way Port were going to score was from a penalty or set-piece, and on the half-hour mark Ratchaburi duly obliged, when a sublime through-ball from Sumanya (11) put Suarez through, only for him to be scythed down in the box. Rochela (22) stepped up this week, and whilst his shot wasn’t the best and the keeper got a hand to it, it hit the back of the net to give Port a lead they barely deserved.

Despite their lead, Port’s 4-6-0 was clearly not working and such limited opposition surely begged a bit more ambition, and we thoroughly expected Josi to appear in the second half. Sadly he didn’t, and within 10 minutes of the restart Port were almost punished for their negativity. A long ball found Boli in the area, and as Dolah (4) tried to shepherd the former PSG man away from goal, he threw himself dramatically to the ground in laughable fashion. Sadly the only person in the stadium who thought it looked anything like a penalty was the ref who pointed to the spot. Comedy then ensued as Boli’s spot-kick was saved by Rattanai (17)’s face, followed by Panpanpanpanpanpanpanpanpong (19) giving the already dazed keeper a congratulatory slap on the back of the head which sent him crumbling to the turf for lengthy treatment.

But Boli got his goal 10 minutes later. Port yet again failed to deal with a set-piece from the right and a Ratchaburi defender was left with a free header, which Rattanai parried spectacularly only for Boli to fire home the rebound to level the scores. Port belatedly brought on Josi in the 75th minute but failed to get the ball to him, and the match fizzled out into a draw which seemed to satisfy both coaches, but certainly not the away fans.

The usual Ratchaburi carpark party ensued with even several farang fans throwing some shapes in front of the Port disco bus, before we tuk-tukked our way back to the hotel, shuffling back to Bangkok on the Pinklao bus on Sunday morning with shocking Changovers.

Definitely a case of two points dropped then – Port, who are still title contenders on paper at least, should be coming to places like Ratchaburi and going for the jugular, not playing for a point. But all is clearly not well at Port. Panic seems to have set in, there seems to be no logic applied to player selection or match tactics, and players who were performing a few weeks ago now look lost. A confidence-boosting win at Chonburi on Saturday is sorely needed, but if Port play like this, I can’t see it happening. ‘Here we go again…

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: David Rochela

Reports of El Captain’s demise were, as usual, premature. Yes, he may have had a shocker against Chiang Rai last week but Saturday saw the classy Spaniard back to his schmoooooove best, with a goal the cherry on the cake. Honourable mentions to Nitipong (34) and Panpanpanpanpanpanpanpanpanpanpanpanpanpong in defence; to Suarez, who put in a good shift despite being asked to play totally out of position; and Tanaboon (71), who had a very solid debut, doing the simple stuff in midfield very well.

 

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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