Posts

Trat! That Was Liquid Football: Port Face White Elephants in FA Cup R3

 

Having comfortably seen off T2 leaders PTT Rayong in R2 of the 2018 Chang FA Cup, Port face the second-placed team in the division next week when they travel down the eastern seaboard to Roy Hodgson’s favourite beach resort, Trat.

The White Elephants have proved anything but superfluous this season and are in with a very good shout of making the surprise jump to T1, and with former Muangthong/Pattaya goal machine Milan Bubalo up front, Port could be in for a tricky evening. Will Trat go for it, or will they cast the cup aside as Rayong did in order to focus on their promotion bid? Let’s hope it’s the latter, and that Port will have a comfortable passage to the quarter finals in what is, barring a 1996 Newcastle-esque collapse from Buriram, their last chance of silverware this season.

Trat FC vs Port FC

Wednesday 25 July 2018, 18:00 at Trat Stadium

See Spiderming for fan bus bookings

 

Josi’s Back! Port to Face PTT Rayong in Chang FA Cup

 

The draw for round 2 (last 32) of the Chang FA Cup has been made, and Port have been drawn at home to T2 side PTT Rayong. This means a reunion with 2017 top scorer and Sandpit favourite Josimar Rodrigues, who joined PTT in the June transfer window. PTT currently lie 3rd in T2, 2 points off the top spot with a game in hand, so Port won’t be taking the game lightly and we can expect Jadet to put out – or at least be told to put out – a strong XI for the game.

The match will take place on Wednesday 4 July, 19:00.

 

Livin’ it Up at the Hotel Kanchanaburia: Thamuang FC 1-5 Port FC (Chang FA Cup R1)

 

 

“I’m going to stay up & watch Argentina v Nigeria” Linny tells me the night before. “I’ll be OK, I can sleep in the van”. Ten minutes into the van journey, with ‘Singh Chao Ta’ blasting out of the speakers and the Thai fans in good voice after a Full Khlongthoey Breakfast (two big Leos), sleep is clearly an impossibility. There are 16 people crammed into the van (along with several iceboxes full of Leo and a drumkit), most of whom started drinking before they brushed their teeth this morning, and as the Port songs are replaced by Blondie, The Clash, The Scorpions and three different versions of ‘Hotel bastard California’, there’s little alternative other than to crack open a bottle and sing along, which we do (and Linny even manages to get some sleep, further proving that the Vietnamese can sleep literally anywhere).

 

The Party Bus in full swing

 

Yes, we’re on the Port Fanclub bus to Kanchanaburi to watch Port take on T5 minnows Thamuang FC in round 1 of the Chang FA Cup, and spirits are high. Toilet stops are frequent (we make four in two hours, beating the now infamous Saraburi farang van in 2015), and even being pulled over by the traffic police fails to dampen the mood; it seems our van is missing its number plates, and when questioned as to their whereabouts, our driver – a man who has already shown that he cares little for traffic laws – produces one from behind his seat and makes an excuse about having to respray it and the paint still being wet, whilst the rest of us chant “WE ARE TARUA!” behind him. The cop sensibly decides that a bullshitting driver and a van full of drunk Port fans are the last things he needs to be dealing with on a quiet stretch of road at 11am on a Wednesday morning, and waves us on.

We arrive in Kanchanaburi and head straight to the Bridge over the River Kwai, one of the biggest con jobs in Thai tourism (albeit a very scenic one) for group photos and a visit to the nearby pagoda (even walking around the temple I can hear chants of “TARUA!” from the bridge above). Tim and I have a chat with the local tourist police, whose leader speaks excellent English, asking me “May I ask why you have come to Kanchanaburi to watch football?” and, upon hearing that I’m from Coventry, informs me “Your team was in the Premiership for many years, but they are now in the third divsion I believe”. Truly a credit to the force.

 

 

After an underwhelming lunch by the river, we head to Kanchanaburi Sports Stadium which, if you stand at a considerable distance and squint, looks a little like the old Wembley and has clearly been spruced up for the arrival of footballing royalty (apart from the gents’ toilets, which don’t appear to have received any attention since the Japanese bailed out in 1945). Tickets are a bargain 50BHT, beers are allowed inside, around 50-60 Port fans have made the trip, and the local fans are clearly treating this like their own cup final.

Port are taking it pretty seriously too, starting with a strong XI including Boskovic, Pakorn, Bodin, Nitipong and Dolah. But they sit back for the first 15 minutes, letting a very young Thamuang side (apart from the keeper who looks about 70) have the ball, sizing them up & seeing just how good they are. “Not very” quickly becomes the obvious answer and so Port release the handbrake, and are 3-0 up within 15 minutes thanks to the quickest – and easiest – hat-trick that Boskovic (23) will ever score, with two tap-ins and a penalty. Port, clearly intent on despatching this game with a minimum of effort, then sit back and even manage to concede a goal, when a speculative Thamuang shot deflects off Todsapol (6) and loops over the keeper’s head into the goal, to ironic cheers from the away end.

 

 

3-1 at half-time, and after braving the swamp that is the gents we bump into our old friends the tourist police again who, intrigued by our talk of Port FC, have decided to come & check out the game themselves, their leader greeting me with a Bond villain-esque “We meet again! It is, as they say, a small world”, before launching into a lament about his love life. “This lady you see here” he says, indicating a female colleague, “has broken my heart. Many times I have pledged my love to her, but she rejects me. I believe her heart is promised to another, and I am sad.” Quite why he’s decided a random Leo’d-up farang football fan is the shoulder to cry on he’s been looking for is beyond me, but I make sympathetic noises and give him a manly hug before returning to the away end for what is a fairly uneventful second half. Pakorn (7), who has looked uninterested throughout, scores 6 minutes in and then promptly sits down and makes it clear he wants to come off, and is replaced by Terens (28), who runs about a lot but fails to make much of an impression (note to Pakorn: when 50 people – who’ve taken a day off work to travel for 3 hours to watch you – chant your name, you might at least acknowledge them). On the hour mark Todsapol taps in a 5th from close range, and from then on it’s an exercise in damage limitation for the hosts and energy saving for the visitors.

 

Caught by the tourist fuzz

 

5-1 it finishes, face saved by both sides, and after the whistle Boskovic, clearly the big draw for the local fans, stays out on the pitch for a good half an hour posing for pictures & signing everything that’s proffered to him (apart from Tim Walker’s sweaty sock, which gets thrown back at him – at least it wasn’t Tim’s blue underpants, which everyone got a good view of just before half-time). The Port fans hand over scarves and flags to the local kids, winning hearts & minds; and we also chant tributes to the Moo Paa kids and hope for their safe return.

We make a quick beer stop and then head home, and the big difference between Thai & farang away trips becomes apparent – whilst we’re usually quiet on the way to games the Thais are boisterous, on the return journey the opposites apply and it is a very quiet van that arrives back at the PAT, just in time for us to get home to watch South Korea dump Germany out of the World Cup and provide the perfect end to a wonderful day. Big, big thanks to Spiderming & friends for their wonderful hospitality and beer service, and to all at Thamuang FC for the warm welcome.

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match – Dragan Boskovic

A hat-trick and a one-man diplomatic mission for Port FC – there can be only one. Hats off to Bosko. He even gave Linny her pen back.

 

Bosko signs his 785th autograph of the day

 

Magical Mystery Tour: Thamuang FC vs Port FC Preview (Chang FA Cup R1)

 

Ahh… the magic of the FA Cup. Minnows against giants isn’t it? Shocks. Surprise. Last minute winners hmm? Reassuring.

Port’s chase for silverware now begins on two fronts (three if the outrageously optimistic/bonkers amongst you believe we have any sort of shout in the league) with a trip to Kanchanaburi to face Thamuang FC. They are an amateur side plying their trade in some corner of T5 and as you can probably imagine, information on them is scarcer than a blemish on The Radiant She of Pang’s porcelain, milk-bathed skin. (The team picture above suggests they have Nick Cave playing at right-back – Ed)

Sadly then, there is little I can tell you. Their Facebook page is awash with impressive photos of the tickets for Wednesday’s clash, and seemingly photos of the players giving these tickets to school children – lots of school children each one individually photographed at the handing over of the ticket ceremony. The club, or some local Del Boy, has also rattled up quantities of merchandise for the game which have limited runs – hopefully much like their cup run this year. Place your orders now! It is understood that the match will be played at Kanchanaburi Municipal Sports Stadium, which has an ambitious capacity of 13,000. The stadium also looks nearly fully roofed for those seeking shade or shelter.

 

 

How about Port? Well, we do want to take these cups rather seriously as they are the most likely route to seeing a return of silver for all of Pang’s gold she laid out at the start of the season. Playing a T5 side should allow some of the less used players to get a run out, and given this, I am loath to try to second guess any line up (and it is fair to say, a touch ‘tired and emotional’ from England’s show against Panama, and therefore lazy). This should be a stroll in the park for Port, so expect a 1-0 loss. I still can’t shake the feeling of imminent destruction, despite the season we are having so far.

Seriously though, this should be double figures regardless of who we put out.

All this without a single railway, bridge or river pun. Things are improving.

 

Say Hello to the Angels: Port to Face Bangkok Utd in FA Cup

 

The draw for round 3 of the 2017 Chang FA Cup was made just a few minutes ago, with Port being handed a very tough test – away at high flying Bangkok Utd. Tough for the fans, facing a midweek trek out to Rangsit to endure one of the worst views in Thai football; and tough on the players, facing opponents who have already handed out two spankings this season, scoring 9 goals in the process.

That said, with Port’s T1 season limping to a fairly miserable conclusion, coach Zico seems to be taking the cups seriously as his only chance of glory this campaign, and with BUFC’s recent stellar winning run having come to an end at Pattaya over the weekend, a cheeky win isn’t entirely out of the question. With Port also still in the League Cup, there are still a few reasons for excitement in what remains of this stop-start season.

The game will be played on Wednesday 27 September, KO time 18:00. To whet your appetite for what should be a pulsating Bangkok derby, check out my interview with BUFC coach Mano Polking from earlier this season.

Here are the other fixtures, with Glass v Buriram standing out…

 

 

 

 

Ayu the Win That I’ve Been Waiting For: Port FC 2-0 Ayutthaya Utd

 

As expected, Port dispatched T3 high-flyers Ayutthaya Utd at the PAT last night to take their place in the last 16 of the Chang FA Cup, with a dynamic attacking performance which, had the finishing been more clinical, could and should have produced a hatful of goals.

 


 

August 2nd is my dad’s birthday and were he still with us, he would’ve been 77 yesterday. So what better way to celebrate the birthday of the man responsible for so many of my formative footballing – and drinking – experiences by having a few beers and watching Port? It might’ve lacked the glamour and significance of our most memorable game together – Coventry v Spurs in the 1987 FA Cup Final – but as a man who played and refereed Coventry Sunday league football for over 30 years, I’m sure he’d have appreciated the earthiness of the surroundings, and the coldness of the Leo. I know I did.

Anyway onto the football. Zico once again showed that he’s up for the cups by picking a full-strength team, the only change from Sunday’s lineup v Chiang Rai being the return of Adisorn (13) for Ittipol (7). Ayutthaya, on the other hand, seem to be more focused on their T3 promotion battle so whilst star player Noah Chivuta started – and put in a performance that showed he truly belongs at the top level – last weeks MOTMs Jirawat and Kendall were rested. The sight of Ayutthaya’s team sheet led to excited predictions of 4-0 and 5-0 amongst the farang faithful, and in the first half Port did their best to make those dreams reality.

Because for the first 45 minutes, Port absolutely battered their opponents, with Suarez (5) and Siwakorn (16) bossing the midfield, Genki (18) charging down the left with his socks down a la Peter Barnes, and Pakorn (9) & Nitipong (34) rampaging down the right. Chance after chance was created, with pretty much every outfield player having a shot at some point without a single one hitting the target. Josi (30) in particular was having a right mare, missing an open goal midway through the first half and generally still looking out of sorts since his return from injury.

Ayutthaya did have a few chances, normally due to Panpanpong (19) once again not bothering to do his defensive duties and leaving acres of space down Port’s left. When will Zico realise that he simply isn’t good enough to play as a wing-back and replace him with Yossawat? With Chivuta pulling the strings in midfield and lively Brazilian forward Maraba keeping Port’s defenders on their toes, they frequently threatened an opening goal which, given Port’s wastefulness, could’ve been fatal to the home side.

 

 

Thankfully, 13 minutes into the second half Port got the goal their sparkling attacking play deserved. Nitipong fed Pakorn with a somewhat overhit pass down the right – a pass which, pre-monastery, the no9 might well have given up on. But the Midfield Monk is a player reborn and he kept the ball in, steamed down the right, and pinged in an inch-perfect cross right onto the head of Josi, who showed he can head the ball after all and buried it into the Ayutthaya onion bag for 1-0.

But any thoughts that this might open the floodgates were somewhat misplaced, as Port, seemingly torn as to whether to park the bus or go for a second, found themselves on the back foot for much of the last 20 minutes, with Worawut making a couple of smart saves and Ayutthaya grazing the crossbar on a couple of occasions.

On 90 minutes however, Ayutthaya, as they did last week, found themselves down to 10 men when one of their midfielders put the boot in on Prawinwat long after the ball had gone and was given his marching orders. A couple of minutes later, in the last meaningful action of the game, that man Pakorn skipped past two defenders and once again found Josi in the box, and the Brazilian had time to round the keeper and a defender before sticking it in the net for 2-0.

So, as with the Chiang Rai game on Sunday, Port looked very lively and played some wonderful attacking football, only to be let down by poor finishing. You can get away with that against T3 teams, but we’ll need to take any chances we get against Glass on Saturday. Still, we’re now into the last 16 of the FA Cup and have as good a chance as anyone of going further. With the team looking faster, fitter and more motivated under Zico, Josi finding his scoring boots again, and players like Pakorn and Suarez finally finding some consistency, the rest of the season should be a lot of fun to watch.

 

Man of the Match – Pakorn

There were a few contenders for the coveted Sandpit MOTM award last night. Suarez managed his third impressive performance in a row – a record for him; Genki put in one of those balls-out left wing shifts that made us all love him in the first place; Nitipong complemented Pakorn beautifully down the right; and Adisorn was the usual Tasmanian Devil-esque whirlwind of energy and tackling in midfield.

 

 

But once again, and for the third game in a row, the award goes to Pakorn. Whether it’s the influence of Zico or some higher power, the right-winger is finally fulfilling his potential and becoming the star player he’s always hinted he could be. Once again he provided both assists, and at one point he even got straight up after being tackled and carried on running, and you’d have got pretty long odds on that earlier in the season. The big question is – can he do it at Bangkok Glass on Saturday? He’ll need to if Port are to stand any chance of getting something out of the game.

 

Photos by Tim Russell

 
 


 

Ayu Again! Port Face Ayutthaya in FA Cup 2nd Round

 

Last year, Port beat BEC Tero twice in 7 days in the two different cup competitions, and this season they’ve been handed the chance of doing a similar double.

On 26 July Port travel to Ayutthaya Utd in the League Cup 2nd round, and in today’s Chang FA Cup 2nd round draw they were drawn against the Warriors again, this time at home. A chance for one of the teams to either do the double or get quick revenge.

The game takes place at the PAT on Wednesday 2nd August (my late dad’s birthday – an excuse for a few pre – and post – match Leos if ever there was one), with the time TBC.