BG’s Saturday Night Fever: Port FC vs. Ratchaburi (FA Cup Final Preview)

 

It has been a season of thirds. A triple layer hamburger, topped and bottomed by a light and fluffy, expertly toasted bap, laced with a tasty, tangy sauce and garnished with an innovative leafy salad, seasoned with a hint of balsamic. In the middle, though, an unappealing, flavourless patty, stodgy in places and miserably failing to satisfy that initial promise. This has been Port’s season in a cardboard box. An explosive start, a laboured, clueless middle, redeemed by a late, often thrilling bid for a first League title. And now comes the dessert, a dish to sweeten the Port season and one which they must devour with gusto.

Port certainly have the history behind them. Founded in 1967 and one of the oldest teams in the country, from 1968 to 1993 Port won 14 Cups of various sorts. There was to be a 16 year gap before three successive finals saw FA and League Cup wins and a League Cup runners-up. Another long wait at a tilt for glory ends on Saturday.

 

 

Ratchaburi

 

Ratchaburi, founded in 2004 but only figuring in the ‘top’ flights since 2007, have actually ‘won’ the FA Cup; the postponement of the 2016 season following the long lamented passing of the late King meaning the competition was cancelled before the semi-finals, leaving the unlikely quartet of Chonburi, Chainat, Sukothai and Ratchaburi to slice up the trophy between them. Ratchaburi got the plinth.

 

 

The Dragons go into this game on the back of a decent enough 8th place finish and a faintly ludicrous 48-48 goal record (almost equaled by Trat on 47-47). In their last two games they have fought back from 2-0 deficits to draw, with late goals from largely contrasting strikers: French/Ivorian Yannick Boli (94) and Spanish/Filipino Buriram loanee Javier Patino (20). Boli is tall and powerful with pace to burn and scored the winner in the 2-1 semi-final win over Buriram. The well-traveled Patino is a striker of greater subtlety, but no less deadly, given a sniff of goal. With Patino cup-tied though, the goal-scoring burden will fall on Boli. He rose to the occasion in July when Port visited Mitr Phol Stadium, netting the equalizer in a 1-1 draw.

 

 

Other foreign players of note include French/Martinique winger Steeven Langil (11) and Korean centre back Yoo Jun-Soo (16), a powerful force at corners, judging from recent video replays.  More locally, the team is captained by Thai International defender Philip Roller (33), while Kittipong Phuthawchueak (46), a goalkeeper on loan from Bangkok Utd, has been in outstanding form in recent games.

 

 

Port

 

Port, after fielding a virtual second string in Saturday’s largely uninspiring 2-2 draw with Samut Prakarn, should have no injury worries, just Captain Siwakorn missing out after his sending off in the semi-final. There is no doubt we will miss the Thin White Duke’s energy in midfield and his ability to keep the ball turning over and the switching of the focal point of attack.

However, we should have enough to see off Ratchaburi.  In spite of a narrow victory and a draw against Saturday’s opponents this season, our relative league positions strongly suggest that we have a better, deeper squad, and, unless coach Choke has a selection brain-fart, a stronger starting eleven, which largely picks itself, apart from one or two conundrums.

Worawut (36) should start in goal with the ever consistent Nitipong (34) and the newly restored Kevin (97) occupying the full back positions. In spite of some serious ball watching on Saturday leading to opposing forwards sneaking behind him to score, Dolah (4) will fill one of the central defensive positions, his aerial presence and physicality will be needed against Boli, while his defensive partner lies between Todsapol (6) and Rochela (22), who would assume the captaincy for what could be his last game for the club. He will also be useful in any, heaven forbid, penalty shootout.

With Siwakorn missing, Choke might go for the extra defensive security of Tanaboon (71), with Sumanya (11) to add the attacking options. Ratchaburi’s defence looked slow and laboured in highlights of recent games, John Baggio giving them a particular roasting, so Bodin (10) should, if he is in the mood, have some fun. Will Choke fancy an ‘out and out’ striker and go for Blackburn (99) to feed off Suarez (5) or ask the often unfancied but experienced Pakorn (7) to stretch play down the opposite wing to Bodin.

It is difficult to second-guess the Boss but I imagine a starting line-up of:

 

 

Now, for the prediction. This is a game Port just have to win, it is no more than the club and its wonderful fans have earned and deserve. Put simply, they cannot fail. And win they should, for no other reason than they are the better team and need something tangible to show for their progress over the last two seasons.

If Port approach the game with the correct mindset and players like Suarez, Bodin, Go and Dolah perform to their previously high standards, we will win. The fans have been shafted by the unfathomable decision to play the match at a stadium Port could fill on their own (and some), so for the sake of those inside the ground and, no doubt, the thousands cheering outside the ground, let’s do it. One positive thing for sure, is that the venue will give the players a PAT Stadium feeling with the fans’ close proximity to the pitch and, apart from the Empty Quarter, it should be a Port friendly atmosphere. Come on Ta Rua! Make us Happy!

 

 

Port to win 3-1.

 


 

Postscript: There was much heated debate in the semi-final about the grammatical correctness of the Port banner, ‘No-one escaped the Lion’s Claw’ the pedants arguing that the present tense with plural, ‘No-one escapes the Lion’s claws’ should have been more fitting. At least the debate took the mind off a numbingly boring first half. However, in some circumstances this version would be correct; had there been in Port’s mythical history, a particularly impressive lion with an abnormally large claw, rather like the Fiddler Crab, and this was recollecting a famous Klong Toey battle where this claw was the deciding factor, this version would be appropriate. It is not historically unfeasible either– Rangers fans are still celebrating the Battle of the Boyne which took place in 1690.

Perhaps with the money donated, there will be a new, less controversial banner and the game will be the main point of interest.

 


 

The big game kicks off at 19:00 on Saturday 2 November, 2019. For those who were unable to get tickets, 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.

 

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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