Posts

Prachuap Khiri Can’t: Port FC 1-0 PT Prachuap FC

 

 

After a run of three defeats in a row, Port got their season back on track with a hard-fought win over the high-flying Killer Wasps of Prachuap. It wasn’t pretty – Port rode their luck on several occasions and could’ve had no complaints if PT had sneaked a draw or even a win – and it wasn’t enough to hide the fact that Port’s chronic weaknesses are still present, but when you’re on a run like that, grinding out an ugly 1-0 is exactly what is required.


Before the game I had the honour of spending some time with Thailand’s No1 Expat Football Fan (The Big Chilli), Peter ‘Hockers’ Hockley. It is a measure of the man’s humility and modesty that he is still happy to spend time with us lesser mortals in the Sandpit, and to impart his footballing knowledge to those who sit at his feet, and I think I speak for all of us when I say how privileged we felt to be able to bask in the glow of his magnificence.

 

“Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

 

After the Adoration of St Hockers we had a football match to watch, and a very important one at that. With Port on a run of three defeats, the season – and Mme Pang’s expensive project – was in danger of going up in smoke, and coach Jadet staring down the barrel of a very stylish, limited edition diamond-encrusted gun (assuming Central Embassy has a firearms boutique). A win was required, and the Spherical Supremo (c Tom Earls) went back to his side’s last win (against Air Force) for inspiration, with Kim (8) taking the Suarez role in midfield. Otherwise it was as-you-were, Jadet keeping faith with the likes of Pakorn (7) & Boskovic (23) despite neither of them offering much in those last three matches. Jadet’s loyalty to certain players may well prove to be his undoing this season.

Port almost got off to a dream start on 3 minutes when a Pakorn (now sporting a Beatles-style moptop) free kick forced a spectacular save from the Wasps’ keeper (makes a change from beekeepers I guess). Despite the ball dropping at least 2 feet behind the goalline, the referee inexplicably awarded a goal kick, much to the Midfield Monk’s rage.

As is often the case (ie every bloody week) Port failed to turn their early pressure into goals and Prachuap got into the game. Whilst they’re a very fit, physical, well-organised side, they’re somewhat lacking in creativity, their sole tactic being to get the ball forward to foreign strikers Reis (big, skillful) and Doumbouya (very big, rubbish). Doumbouya was competing for and winning every aerial ball that was flung in his direction (Boskovic please take note), but thankfully he is a real 50p Head and his headers were flying off in all directions apart from Port’s goal. The big Frenchman’s diving is even worse than his heading as he showed on 20 minutes, earning not even a glance of derision from the ref for his efforts.

 

 

Five minutes later Port almost took the lead when Kevin (97) pinged a sublime cross into the heart of the Prachuap area. To the amazement of all of us, Brent McGrath, oops sorry I mean Boskovic, dived into a 50-50 challenge with the keeper and both ended up in a heap, which led to the Benny Hill-esque spectacle of nurses running around on the pitch. All that was missing was Jadet repeatedly slapping an old bald man on the head (and there were plenty of those in Zone B).

The game restarted, and on 32 minutes Port broke the deadlock. A sublime long pass from Kim, having his best game at the PAT so far, found Pakorn on the left, and the Bangkok Beatle skipped past Prachuap’s full-back and laid the ball on a plate for Siwakorn (16), who couldn’t miss from 8 yards out.

As any entomologist will tell you, wasps are at their most dangerous after, er, conceding a goal (I’ve not really thought this through), and Prachuap laid siege to the Port goal for the rest of the half, Reis almost taking out a couple of Sandpit regulars in Zone B with some wild long shots, and Doumbouya being denied by a heroic block from Todsapol (6) after Rattanai (17) spilled a shot he should’ve saved.

The Wasps came out for the second half like they’d caught a whiff of a jam sarnie or a Raspberry Mivvi, and continued to swarm around the Port penalty area as if it was an English pub beer garden in August. Doumbouya tested the Rat on 47 minutes, and then clattered into him a minute later, forcing Jadet to make a tactical change, taking off Todsapol and replacing him with the bigger Dolah (4). It is somewhat bizarre that it took Jadet 50 minutes to notice that Doumbouya is a big bastard – we pointed it out in our match preview two days ago, and it makes you wonder how much research Port’s coaching team do into the opposition.

 

“Deep pan Italian Sausage, extra cheese please”

 

The change made Port look a bit more solid at the back and they started to get back into the game, and on 67 minutes Nitipong (34) nearly raised the roof (if there was a roof) with a 30-yard thunderbastard which was acrobatically tipped over bar by the PT keeper.

Five minutes later it was real brown trouser time in the Port defence, the kind of moment where you can almost believe that some higher force (St Hockers perhaps) had Port in its divine protection. Some nice work down the right by a PT winger found Doumbouya in the box. His low shot beat Rattanai but bounced back off the post to Dolah, whose hurried attempt at a clearance bounced back off the crossbar. Prachuap are probably still wondering how the hell they didn’t score; Dolah is probably apologising to Port’s laundry staff for the state of his shorts.

After this very squeakiest of squeaky bum moments, Port settled back and closed out the rest of the game, and the final whistle was greeted with the kind of exhausted relief you feel when that wasp that got into your office or classroom has finally been guided out through a window or twatted with a rolled up newspaper. No, it wasn’t the kind of swaggering, swashbuckling win we like to see at the PAT, but Prachuap, as their record this season shows, are a very good side. Port’s old weaknesses remain, particularly up front where Boskovic is clearly struggling and needs to be replaced by Arthit ASAP, but the win takes them up to equal 3rd and, with a very winnable away game against struggling Chainat coming up on Wednesday, the season could just be getting back on the rails.

 

Rediscovering that winning feeling

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Adisorn

There were a few contenders for the hallowed Sandpit MOTM award. Kim had his best game at the PAT so far, looking fitter and more up for it than he has all season; Rattanai was unbeatable at the back and caught everything that was thrown at him; Rochela looked back to his best; and Siwakorn rounded off an impressive performance with his first goal of the season.

But this week’s award goes to the little man you just can’t keep down, Adisorn (13). His running battle against Reis, who is almost twice as big, was one of the most entertaining features of the game. Adisorn was ironically more wasp-like than any of his opponents, buzzing around them and stinging their ankles and not giving any of them a moment’s peace, and for his efforts he’s this week’s MOTM.

 

Stuck In The Middle With Ubon: Ubon UMT United 2-1 Port FC

“Monks, these two extremes ought not to be practiced by one who has gone forth from the household life. (What are the two?) There is addiction to indulgence of sense-pleasures, which is low, coarse, the way of ordinary people, unworthy, and unprofitable; and there is addiction to self-mortification, which is painful, unworthy, and unprofitable.
Avoiding both these extremes, the Tathagata (the Perfect One) has realized the Middle Path; it gives vision, gives knowledge, and leads to calm, to insight, to enlightenment and to Nibbana” – Buddhist Teaching



This weekend saw the start of Buddhist lent. A time for all Buddhists to reflect on Buddhist teachings while the monks hide out from the rain and hibernate. Buddhist teaching is centred on following the central path; the middle way. It cautions against extremity in action and in thought. And so it was in Ubon Ratchantani yesterday as two great proponents of the middle way battled it out in attempting to be the most average, centre of the road team.



Ubon UMT United have some great credentials when it comes to being average. They play their football nestled between Cambodia below and Laos above. We all know they are somewhere over there but they remain very much off the radar, much like a secret US army base. They sat last week in tenth place in an eighteen team league. BEC Tero Sasana for now holding the most envious league postion of ninth. But Ubon have their eyes on becoming that most plain Jane before the rains stop in November. The wonderful and safe space found only in the middle ground, unburdened as it is by feast or famine. They do other things medicore teams do to ensure their continued unexceptional existence, like selling their best player from the first half of the season lest they might look vainglorious and finish in the top half of the table. That would be low, going so high. Having purged themselves of national team striker Siroch Chatthong and all thoughts of glory, Ubon have bedded comfortably in as snug  as a bug in a discounted rug. Like most average Thai teams Ubon have a big foreign centre-half and a Brazilian named Thiago.  They are not adverse to sharing two points rather than gorging alone on three having drawn six games this year. Their win and loss balance was in perfect equilibrium at eight each before kick off yesterday. They like their rice porridge not too hot and not too cold.



Port FC are no slouches when it comes to table slouching themselves, although their eightfold path to encentrement manifests itself in other ways too. They have some wonderfully average players of course. But that alone is not enough to temper extremist tendencies. The season started in a greedy fashion as Port somehow managed to elbow their way to the top five buffet table like a maniacal Chinese tourist coming off hunger strike. They took more than their fill from the big boys. The dressing room became more instagrammed than The Emirates in London. There was decadent ripped jeans and self-assured selfies galore down at PAT. The old mad dame might have even blushed. Home crowds were consistently boisterous and are proudly the one aspect of Port FC that never follows the middle way. (Perhaps closer to the middle finger.) Long may that last. But in the context of mediocrity, they’d become dangerously out of sync. They’d lost their way, the middle way. But small sample size gave way to reality check with a little help from tactical naivety and questionable player choice. We have some consistently useful release valves at Port to insure we keep ourselves humdrum. Average goals conceded is one such lever. It is hard to keep your head above seasonal floodwater when you concede two goals every ninety minutes. We also like to have a new manager at the start of every season, be it of the rainy or football variety. We’ve also tried a new severe austerity technique by denying ourselves of our best player and captain for an entire game (Rochela). Either rainy season sniffles got him or Zico did. Lets hope that whatever the root cause was soon ceases to hold sway.



Buddhist ascetics or recovering addicts to sense pleasures need not have worried about any such temptations last night in a game so middle way it felt like your brain was being dissected by its ordinariness. Two average teams playing average football. After the fifth time the ball got stuck in a puddle on the pitch it was easy to relax about the threat of excessive excitement. Indian-era Beatles encouraged us to turn off your mind, relax and float down stream, this is not dying. But its not exactly living either. Simple passes were over played. Passable would have been a welcome relief. Players bunched in bee hives on the sideline without lifting their heads. Kalu (10) can be singled out for his exceedingly poor finishing. Missing easy opportunities early in the game marks you out as extreme and not in a good way. Two goals for Ubon in the first twenty-eight minutes was seen as immoderate by any one watching and not exactly reflective of the game as a whole. Ubon also saw it as such and decided that they had taken as much as they could take in any average alms bowl. No sense in being accused of gluttony. They waded back through the Ubon rice paddy and sat out the game with lententidinal patience. Port FC made a game of it when Kalu made merit in the forty-eighth minute. It was to prove the last major incident of note. Rather than single out many players for their poor decision making, woeful crossing and lethargic movement lets just say the players looked happy for the break in fixtures now imminent. The game veered much the nearer to self mortification than to self indulgence and the reality of what middle of the road in the Thai Premier league looks like was made painfully evident. The equaliser that seemed so fitting never came and it was Ubon’s sporadic counter attacks that looked most likely to unbalance this petering out. Port’s substitutions in the second half only reminded us of the paucity of quality on show. This mid-year, mid-season, middling affair in muddy waters, mired in maudlin performances had come to an end. The journey to the centre of inadequacy was over with much for us all to reflect on. Thank Buddhist teachings for small mercies. Thai Port FC now sit in ninth place in the Thai Premier league standings.


Dom’s Man of the Match: Adisorn




Thaigo – not not that one, another Thiago – Ferreira Dos Santos – scored the first goal and looked a constant threat to a shaky Port defence. Ubon looked a bit more relaxed in the second half but Thiago had opportunities. If I had to pick the best Port player I’d say Adisorn (13) was as industrious as ever and seemed to relish the captain’s role. Tana(99) took over as captain for the second half but the armband should’ve stayed where it was.


Don’t Mention the War Elephant! Suphanburi FC 2-0 Port FC

 

Football is back! And for the first game of the second half of the season, Port made the short trip north to take on the War Elephant, AKA Suphanburi FC. Before the game I nailed my colours to the mast(odon), and predicted that an away win would be a mammoth task. Sadly I was to be proved correct…

As is usual on Port away trips, the van was abuzz with intelligent and erudite discussion of the latest burning issues. Monster Munch – are they crisps or snacks? Jaffa Cakes – cakes or biscuits? Ultimately no consensus was reached on either issue but when James Powell announced emphatically that “If it says ‘McVities’ on the packet, you can be pretty fucking sure it’s a biscuit”, dissenting voices were few.

Otherwise the journey passed fairly unremarkably, apart from messrs Hockley & Spittal having an argument over who originally recorded I’m Henry VIII I Am, Hockers angrily retorting “Don’t ask a question if you don’t know the bloody answer” – a statement that would come back to haunt him on the return journey.

 

Al fresco fine dining at Suphanburi Stadium

 

We arrived at Suphanburi’s very well-appointed stadium with plenty of time to spare, so tickets duly purchased, we sought refreshments and victuals, which – gawd bless ‘im – the War Elephant provided in abundance. I was delighted to find a stall selling that veritable Ambrosia of the Gods, Hainan chicken rice, and worked my way through two plates of the stuff. The only black mark on the F&B front was that only the Devil’s Piss, aka Chang, was available, but needs must and when loaded up with ice it was just about drinkable, and by half time the usual Khlong Thoey entrepreneurs had set up a stall in the carpark to provide thirsty Port fans with the amber elixir itself, Leo.

As kickoff time approached, we discovered that Suphanburi is possibly the last sporting organisation on the planet that still plays kiddie-fiddling glam rocker Gary Glitter’s classic Rock & Roll Pt 1 before games (some reprobates later suggested that I entitle this report ‘Port Taken Up the Gary Glitter‘, but that would be totally inappropriate for a family website such as The Sandpit).

 

Nice ground, no fans

 

Inside the stadium we found a decent away following in what is, despite the running track, a very smart stadium with a good pitch, decent views, and the biggest scoreboard in Thailand. A shame so few home fans had bothered to turn out, but I guess the Chappuis fanclub have shifted their loyalties elsewhere. Anyway, KO time.

 

The Team

First, the good news – Maranhao is back! The star of 2016 sat out the first half of the season but has been named in the matchday squad for the second half, which is great news. Mazza took up his usual place on the right, with Suarez nowhere to be seen, which suggests we’ve seen the last of the consistently underwhelming Spaniard at Port.

The bad news – Wuttichai started, and as captain. Quite how he is still anywhere near the first team is beyond me. And Pakorn is still apparently on monk leave. Now, I know this is Thailand and one has to make allowances, but letting one of your best players skip games so he can play at being a monk is utterly ridiculous. The no9 may, like a surprising number of Thai males, have his knockers, but his stats show he’s our most productive player and we struggled without his dead-ball excellence.

Otherwise, it was normal service: Worawut; Pinkong, Dolah, Rochela, Nitipong; Genki, Adisorn, Siwakorn, Maranhao; Josimar, Wuttichai.

 

The Match

This was the classic game of two halves with Port tearing the Elephant a new arsehole (imagine that – an elephant with two arseholes. I pity the zookeeper charged with looking after that particular beast) for much of the first 45 minutes. Continuing the theme of hideously deformed animals, Maranhao (92) came out onto the pitch like a dog with two dicks and, despite being kicked by Suphanburi defenders every time he got the ball, caused all manner of problems, with Josimar (30) finally getting the service he’s been craving.

The bombardment began in the 4th minute when Josi narrowly headed a Nitipong (34) free kick over the bar. On 11 minutes, Maranhao skinned the Suphan left-back and crossed for Josi who, despite the attention of several defenders, managed to get a shot away but found the keeper rather than the net. Seconds later Josi returned the favour, feeding his fellow Brazilian on the edge of the box, but the latter’s curled shot was easily saved by the keeper. Two minutes later a peach of a cross from Nitipong found Josi on the far post, only for his first-time shot to be brilliantly parried by the keeper, and then minutes after that Maranhao fed a delicious through ball to Genki (18), whose shot ricocheted off the post. And on the stroke of halftime, a truly sumptuous chip from Rochela (22) found Josi in the area, but again his shot crashed back off the crossbar.

We sipped our halftime beers wondering how on earth Port had failed to score, and worrying that our wasteful finishing would come back to bite us on our collective arse. Our worries were confirmed as the War Elephant laid siege to the Port defence right from the restart. Maranhao had for some reason moved onto the left, encouraging Nitipong, who frequently forgets he’s supposed to be a defender, to get forward, leaving acres of space down Port’s right-hand side.

 

Port fans watch as the game slips away

 

Had Suphan been 3-0 up within the first 10 minutes of the half, noone could’ve complained, with Worawut, the post and Rochela (22) all keeping the ball out on various occasions. Seeing the game slipping away, Jadet rang the changes by taking off Wuttichai (14) who, despite having done absolutely nothing during the game but point at various people, had the temerity to remonstrate with the bench when his number came up – rather like when my dog takes a shit in the kitchen and has the nerve to growl at me when I kick her out into the garden. He was replaced by Tana (99), which is rather like taking a Nickelback CD out of the player only to replace it with a Limp Bizkit one, but after Wuttichai’s utterly pathetic performance I was actually quite pleased to see the Moustachioed Assassin and he did briefly liven up Port’s increasingly moribund attack.

But the game was now clearly Suphanburi’s to win and on 78 minutes they took the lead. The otherwise excellent Adisorn (13) was muscled off the ball in midfield and the ball found its way out to Port’s right (where Nitipong wasn’t) and to our old friend Dellatorre, who rifled an angled shot past Worawut into the Port net. Five minutes later it was game over when a chipped through ball found Velez, and the Port defence got in an awful mess trying – and failing – to stop the Argentinian striker who blasted past Worawut for 2-0.

And that, basically, was that. A game Port should’ve wrapped up by half-time but which they lost due to a combination of a lack of finishing and some utterly dreadful second-half defending. However, Port will almost certainly play worse than this and win this season. Once Maranhao gets up to full match fitness, Pakorn ditches the orange robes for the orange & blue stripes, and either Jadue or Asdrubal join the group, Port should be much more lethal in attack. It’s in defence where the problems lie. Port have conceded 34 goals in 18 games so far and, as much as we praise Dolah (4) and Rochela, something is clearly wrong defensively. Rattanai’s return should shore things up a little, and hopefully Yossawat will replace Pinkong before too long, because if Port continue to defend like they did in the second half tonight, bottom half obscurity beckons.

The journey home was initially somewhat sombre, the silence punctuated occasionally by AC swearing in impeccable West Midlands English; but by the time we made a beer stop spirits lightened and Hockers’ football team name quiz had us gripped for a good 45 minutes, even though he later revealed he didn’t know the answers himself. What was that about not asking questions you don’t know the answers to….? It seems that Dom’s journey back to his hotel in Suphanburi was much more eventful, with the bespectacled Sangsom-soaked Sandpitter fighting off the amorous advances of a smitten taxi driver. Anyway another great away trip and thanks as usual to Keith for organising the van.

 

Man of the Match – Adisorn

Despite the result, there were a few contenders for the coveted Sandpit MOTM award. It was a sheer joy to see Maranhao in a Port shirt again and he clearly enjoyed it as much as we did, despite tiring in the second half. Dolah had a truly magnificent first half but was far less imposing in the second. And Siwakorn was his usual destructive and constructive self, picking up his usual yellow card in the 3rd minute.

But Adisorn, the Pocket Rocket, gets the nod this week. Other than losing the ball for Suphan’s first goal, the little no13 had an absolute stormer of a game, harrying Suphan’s forwards and popping up with the ball over the pitch, even – unusually for him – making some good passes too. With Siwakorn suspended for the Bangkok Utd game, a similar performance will be needed next weekend.

 

Not Waving but Drawing: Port FC 0-0 Buriram Utd

“Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.”

– Stevie Smith

That has got your attention now hasn’t it? Doing a modern day match report is a thing of desperate ugliness. Like when you live in an isolated place with a dying pet. It is a task nobody wants to do and yet it needs to be done. And when the deed is done it carries little thanks, acquires little thoughtful scrutiny and at best encourages a response of “well, yeah, obviously”. Everybody knows the result. They’ve seen it all before. They’ve even seen the replays. Tweets have been twittered to death and the hivemind has already spoken as you plonk yourself down to take aim at the sorry carcass. You can’t shock, inform or even blag your way to any great extent. We’re all fucking experts now.

And so there remains the scraps of a game to report on. The macros are all covered. (It was 0-0 by the way if this looks like it might imminently veer off into tangents.) What is left is the minutiae. So what do you give the football fan in your life that has everything?

This match report will thus come at you through the prism of the word “wave”. Much like a Sesame Street episode near the end of a tired season, run out of letters, it is the best we could come up with. Put up with it.

Ostensibly the most important wave of the night was from the dead king. His hand raised out and up over PAT stadium giving us permission to wear the colours we all shouldn’t be wearing. And his own yellow robes were a foreshadowing of things to come.

Buriram started confidently and had the best of the opening exchanges. The more familiar looking line up at PAT Stadium today soon matched them after some early jitters and some sky-rise clearances. Todsapol replaced Dolah in central defence. Even if Dolah has unfairly been labelled as a scapegoat for the midweek disaster at Thai Honda, the decision to bring Todsapol in looked the right one as he played a crucial role in holding the Buriram attack at bay. Rattanai reclaimed his entirely rightful place in goal and lets never speak about how he didn’t play last Wednesday night again. Although clear-cut chances were few and far between for Port they weren’t without some genuine goal threats. Josimar had an excellent shot from distance saved late in first half. Adisorn was a ball of energy and surely must have inspired all Port shirts around him. He certainly did in Zone B. He only improved as the game went on.

But this was a game of waves, lest we forget. The referee in the opening minutes had cause to wave a card or two but chose not to in the spirit of “not in the first wave”. Following his waving on of play, a wave of aggression seemed to flow over both teams. His lack of disciplinary action was a waving red flag to a bull and tackles began to fly in. A wave of yellow cards then followed and half time sandpit talk broached the beloved topic of Thai referees’ extreme temperance in showing more than one yellow card per player. Half time talk does what it often does and finds itself completely wrong mid way through the second half as Buriram’s star striker found himself on the receiving end of a second wave of the yellow. The travelling team lost the services of one of their most potent threats in Diogo. His long cross-field walk was met with appropriate shock and of course, delight. Wave off.

It was like the second half was reset and this time we were the favourites. A wave of a wand and the 6,900 strong crowd were suddenly louder and lighter on their feet. Thai Port’s intermittent counter attacks from the opening hour became, simply, attacks. Zone D first suggested, then exampled and finally imposed a Mexican wave on Zone C and so it flowed round the stadium in reverse alphabetical order. Even Madam Big Bird must have been impressed with this orchestrated spontaneity. In the last twenty minutes Port played with abandon and Buriram, now playing on the counter, could have stolen it but for some great last ditch defending. Rochela back to his usual self at the heart of the defence. Much time wasting and the new wave of yellow in the yellow-uniformed medical staff carried them to the final result everyone didn’t see coming; a victorious draw for Thai Port.

At full time in the far far away away section the away fans tragically waved confetti in the air. Futile. Too much, too early. Their sweaty anticipating palms unburdened of their presumptuous load. They had waited 94 minutes to see a goal that never came. Fifteen times in five games they had already seen their team score this season. But not at PAT Stadium. Not tonight. No fucking wave.

 

Man of the Match – Adisorn

Even amongst plenty of good performances, Adisorn was a clear man of the match. Often seemingly outnumbered in midfield on the ball, he rarely lost it, won it back more than he had a right to expect to and generally drove the team on with his energy. A welcome show of professionalism in midfield.