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Sharks & Recreation: Port FC 5-0 Chonburi FC

 

 

In the end, a rousing climax to the home season; just a pity there wasn’t a bigger crowd to witness it. Chonburi proved to be the perfect fall guys as Port racked up their second 5-0 win in a row – surely unprecedented; certainly since I’ve been watching the club anyway.

 

On a heavy, draining surface, Port aimed to carry on where they left off on Saturday with some neat link-up play, with the stylish Suarez at the heart of most of what was good. The silky Spaniard has been a bit of an enigma this season; at his best he is unplayable, making things tick and bringing out the beast in Boskovic; at his worst, he is a moody, argumentative, unproductive hole in the middle, like a Polo without the mint.

 

Kevin, who for most of the evening seemed bent on picking out every single Chonburi defender with his crosses, actually got it right on eleven minutes to set Nurul up with an unmissable chance on the penalty spot. He missed, skying his shot over the bar and probably Zone D as well. Minutes later, Suarez burst into the box only to slightly over-run the ball into goalkeeper Chanin’s legs, with Boskovic in a good position to his right. Nurul’s follow up shot was well saved by former Port keeper Chanin, who at this point had done enough to provoke fears of another heroic goalkeeping performance frustrating the home team before the inevitable breakaway goal.  It was not to last.

 

Chonburi at this stage were reduced to some long-range efforts, although one decent cross from the right was expertly guided over the bar by Dolah.

 

The game was becoming a bit scrappy with both teams finding the conditions  unconducive to intricate, flowing football, at which point Kim took the most sensible option, sending a route one ball over the top for Boskovic to pursue. Chanin had a rush of blood, charging out of his box and missing the ball completely, leaving Bosko with a virtually empty net to aim at. 1-0.  At the other end, Watchara had a similar panic, flailing at a left wing cross but his resultant weak punch was not punished. One disallowed Port goal later, it was half time.

 

Watchara, apart from that one moment of indecision, was catching the eye with his handling, distribution, defensive cover and general tomfoolery, like a Thai Bruce Grobbelaar. One particular save on 53 minutes, turning a fierce shot around his near post, would have made Bruce proud. With that mild fright over, Port were to extend their lead when Pakorn’s cut back from the right was met by Kim, arriving late in the box to send a perfectly timed header into the net off Chanin’s legs.

 

Bodin replaced Nurul in the 69th minute and two minutes later was brought down in the box after a nifty side step. There was some consternation on Zone B that Bosko might be taking the pen after his horror show last time out but Captain Rochela did indeed give him the thumbs-up. This time, there was to be no mistake, his stop-start run-up sending the hapless Chanin the wrong way, with the ball calmly dispatched into the opposite corner for what turned out to be, apparently, his 100th goal in the Thai League, thereby explaining Rochela’s selfless decision. Well done, Dragan, or Darius, as he seemed to be called by Madame Pang in her post-match tribute.

 

Port were on a roll now and ten minutes later were awarded a free kick in a perfect Pakorn spot after an unfortunate reflex handball by defender Kritsada Kaman resulted in a rather harsh red card. Pakorn delicately curled his shot to Chanin’s left; placement instead of power for once. Chanin was having a bit of a nightmare on his return to PAT, sad for a keeper who figured so prominently in our excellent 2014 season in the TPL, fondly remembered for his creative time-wasting in a 1-0 home victory over Champions, Buriram. The scorer of Port’s goal that day, Kroekrit, was also in Chonburi’s by now well-defeated ranks.

 

There was still time left though for a moment of pure theatre, involving Port’s best loved small person, Terens Puhiri. With Chonburi in total disarray, the ball was pushed forward to Terens, who found himself alone in the Chonburi half with a clear run on goal. The ball was dispatched ahead for himself to chase, like a dog in pursuit of a bus disappearing round the corner, with Boskovic, Bodin and Adisorn trailing in his wake but hoping to pick up some scraps. Zone B held its breath for a moment before urging Tiny Tot Terens to deliver us the goal we had been waiting for all season. Then, inexplicably, the diminutive dunderhead got all lovey-dovey and team-matey, unselfishly picking out Bodin at the far post to slot home, by-passing a now hat-trick, 101 goal-less Bosko on the way. The disappointment from the Port faithful was palpable – a moment frozen in time forever.

 

At the final whistle there was a nerve-wracking wait to get the final score from an insane match at the SCG, which at one point had Pattaya leading Muangthong by 4-1, only to be pulled back more than once for a final score of 5-5. Madness.

 

That draw to savour moved Port ahead of Muangthong on the head-to-head rule: a win each but 4-3 to Port in goals scored. Port now go to our most hated venue, after the SCG – the 72 years anniversary stadium in Minburi, home of Thai Honda and a ground on which none of us, I believe, have seen Port win or even play well. It would take another page to debate the ineptitude of the Thai League in allowing this late change to be made from Pattaya and the sorry choice of alternative venue but the positive side is we are on the back of two 5-0 wins and if that does not give the team the confidence and the momentum to grasp the chance of a third place finish and possible entry into the ACL, we will only have ourselves to blame. Plus, Muangthong are playing Bangkok Utd. There’s always hope.

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Watchara

Man of the Match is a tricky one as once again there were many good performances but no outstanding ones so, wishing to spread it around, I am going to nominate Watchara; a confident, eye-catching show – where have you been all season?

 

Not Today, Desmond Ray: Chonburi FC 0-1 Port FC

 

 

Port extended their winning run to 5 with a hard-fought win at a rainy Chonburi Stadium (their first here since 2006) last night, to cement 3rd place and finish the first leg of the 2018 season in some style. If last week’s 7-1 scuttling of Navy was champagne football, this was more Carlsberg Special Brew – rough, gritty, and not particularly pleasant, but it got us where we wanted to go.


Chonburi on a Saturday night – there are few more welcome away fixtures in Thai football and we decided to make the most of it, by leaving Bangkok at 1pm & heading for Bang Saen beach for a few pre-match snifters. Our van driver was clearly also in a holiday mood (as was his wife, who knocked back more Leos in the van than any of us farangs), and decided to take us on a one-hour sightseeing trip around Ramkamhaeng and Rama 3 before finally getting us on the motorway east, much to the delight of Hockers.

 

The Sandpit, with actual sand

 

Once we finally arrived in Bang Saen, we located a toilet (which seemed to be housed in a short-time hotel) and then hit the beach for a few cold beers and snacks. Terens’ minder Bayu had made the trip with us and he confirmed that the petite Papuan will be staying for the rest of the season and should be seeing more action once the cups get underway. Meanwhile Machar ‘The Beerhunter’ Smith had located a craft beer bar not far away so we headed off there, and as we did the deckchair renter told us “Tarua – desmolee!” We had no idea what he was on about but our resident master of the Thai tongue Tom Earls tells us that he was actually saying “Desmond Ray”. Desmond was apparently a US soldier who died in Thailand and, obviously being the only person ever in the history of the world to have actually died, the Thais now use his name when they want to tell you that you’re dead meat. I can’t go into any more detail as there’s nothing about him online and I suspect Tom may have been making it all up. With the deckchairman’s warning ringing in our ears, we were in urgent need of something stronger than Leo, and Hops Addict bar duly obliged. I can heartily recommend the Stone Tangerine Express IPA.

We arrived to find a stadium rather lacking in atmosphere, as Dale had predicted in his preview, with only a large, raucous Port contingent behind the way end to indicate that there was a top-flight football match about to take place. Just before kick-off the heavens opened and we entered the away end to find it even more substandard than usual, with several inches of water on the terracing adding to the cracked seating and poor views.

 

 

Therefore, given the fact that most of the significant action took place at the far end of the pitch (and as such may as well have been taking place on the moon for all we could see of it)  and that note-taking isn’t in the spirit of The Sandpit, most of this report is based on video highlights of the match.

After Chonburi fired a first-minute warning shot across Port’s bows, with striker Naphat heading narrowly wide, Port began bossing the game in the usual fashion, with Kim (8) pulling the strings in midfield, and Pakorn (7), Suarez (5) and Nurul (31) probing at the Sharks’ admittedly very solid defence. Indeed Nurul, on his return to his former club, was clearly a marked man, with Chonburi players hacking him down at every available opportunity and racking up 4 yellow cards in the first half alone for their troubles. Pakorn came close on 20 minutes with his free kick just shaving the Sharks’ crossbar, but Port didn’t have long to wait to make the breakthrough. On 23 minutes, Pakorn chipped in a cross from the right which Chonburi keeper Chanin failed to read with Suarez (5) getting in before him to deftly chip it into the back of the net off the outside of his left boot for 1-0. Chanin, realising he’d been done up like a kipper, added a comical little Weera-esque dive after the event to make it look like he’d been making some kind of effort to stop it.

And that, as far as Port were concerned, was it. After taking the lead they seemed to figure that, given Chonburi’s lack of decent striking options, they may as well let them have the ball and sit back while they wore themselves out. It was a strategy that almost cost Port dear as quickly as the 30th minute when Naphat got away from the typically poor Athibordee (35, once again being played out of position), only to fire straight at the impressive Rattanai (17); then again on 40 minutes when Chonburi’s otherwise comically bad winger Ciro put in a lovely far post cross which was narrowly headed over by Phanuphong.

 

 

After a brief 15-minute respite from what was rapidly becoming a real nerve-shredder of a game for Port fans, during which we calmed said nerves with Leo and other intoxicating substances, the second half was more of the same, with Port seemingly content to let Chonburi have the ball (even passing it to them on numerous occasions) and the Sharks launching wave after wave of attacks without having anyone with the guile or creativity to convert the numerous chances created. When they did get shots away, Port were throwing bodies at them with Kevin (97), Rochela (22) and the Rat all making heroic stops. Port simply weren’t in it, and had the Sharks had a couple of decent strikers, they would have won comfortably.

Thankfully they don’t, and despite the ref adding on a surprisingly generous 5 minutes of stoppage time, Port held on for, as I predicted, an ugly win against a limited but very robust and well-organised side. That is, as I said, Port’s 5th win in a row (3 of them away from home), and since the Chainat debacle Port’s record has been outstanding – 5 games, 5 wins, 16 goals scored, 3 conceded. That is title-winning form and come the end of the season those dropped points against the likes of Chainat and Police Tero could come back to haunt us; but keep this form up, and if Buriram and Bangkok Utd hit rough patches of their own, it might just turn into a 3-horse race. Next up? 4th-placed Muangthong on 9 June, for by far the biggest game played at the PAT for a couple of years at least.

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: David Rochela

There were some huge performances in Port’s defence last night, with Rattanai, Nitipong, Kevin and Kim all sweating blood for the shirt. But cometh the hour, cometh the man, and it was cap’n Rochela who took this week’s award with a performance that mixed classy, visionary defending with down & dirty blocks & tackles. It’s actually David’s first MOTM award this season, which is less of a reflection on his form and more a reflection on how much more quality there is in the team these days, that they are no longer quite so reliant on the schmooooove Spaniard. But of course, when needed, he’s always there, and last night was a match-winning performance.

 

Sandpit Songs of the Season: Week 17 – Chonburi FC

 

The first half of what’s been a thrilling 2018 season comes to an end tomorrow with a nice trip to our old friends Chonburi FC. The Sharks have had an up & down season but are as tight as the proverbial gnat’s chuff at the back and so it’s likely to be a tough game for Port’s buzzing strikers.

As for us fans, we’ll be turning up with binoculars and telescopes, because when you’re in the away end at Chonburi the pitch is…

 

 

Smile You Son of a Bitch: Chonburi FC vs Port FC Match Preview

 

Port make the short trip down the coast to Chonburi on Saturday for one of T1’s most amicable fixtures. Fans of the Lions & the Sharks have a long-standing entente cordiale that makes our matches a friendly affair, though last year Port were a little bit too friendly, going down 2-1 away and losing 3-1 at home in what turned out to be the last game of the disastrous Zico Experiment. With much-loved former Chonburi coach Jadet now firmly ensconced on the Port bench, and ex-Shark Nurul a permanent fixture in our attack, there are further reasons for the Sharks to extend the usual warm welcome to those of us making the trip on Saturday.

 

The Form Guide (last 5 games)

CHONBURI: WDLWW

PORT: WWWWL

Chonburi’s form has been all over the place like a madwoman’s shit this season, whilst Port (apart from a brief blip culminating in the airing of grievances that was Chainat) have been banging in the goals & playing some superb football. Port go into the game on the back of 4 consecutive wins (including 2 consecutive away wins) and, with the Sharks struggling to find the net this season (only 20 goals in 16 games), Jadet & co will surely be targeting 3 points from this one, though Chonburi’s miserly defence (only 18 conceded in 16 games) will almost certainly be harder to break down than that of Navy.

And the history of this fixture certainly doesn’t make encouraging reading for Port fans. The two clubs have played each other 20 times, with Chonburi winning 14 to Port’s measly 3.

So will Port be dealing with the Pathetic Sharks on Saturday, or are we gonna need a bigger boat?

 

 

The Opposition

Chonburi fan Dale Farrington is a legend in expat football circles, having set up what is believed to be the longest-established English-language club website in Thailand. I asked him for his thoughts on Sunday’s game…

Tell us the story of Chonburi’s season so far. Are you happy or unhappy with the way it’s gone?
It’s been quite painful so far. There’s very little to feel excited or happy about. Sadly, this is unlikely to change, as long as certain individuals remain at the club. And, realistically, they’re going nowhere. We’re doomed to an eternity of mediocrity.

 

You’re one of 10 clubs to change coach so far this season. Has the change helped?
If you look at this purely in terms of results then the answer would appear to be ‘yes’. However, performances – with the odd exception – have actually been worse. We could see that Goran was trying to build something and was making steady progress. Unfortunately, those who employed him in the first place, seemingly didn’t have the patience to wait for all the hard work to pay off. I’m privy to a lot of what went on during the run up to his resignation (it was 100% his decision to leave) and, I’m afraid, the club doesn’t come out of it very well.

Which players should we be looking out for? Who’s most likely to do us some damage?
Worachit is on a good scoring run – three in three, I believe – but he often flatters to deceive. Other than that, our centre back pairing of Gyeong-Min and Nattphol have been the stand out performers so far this season. Which tells you all you need to know. However, if you’re looking for comedy…

Who are the weakest links in your team?
The goalkeeper, the full backs, the midfield, the so called strikers and everyone on the bench.

You’re just above the relegation zone but only a couple of wins off the top 4. Where do you think the Sharks will finish?
It’s been a strange season, with most teams being unable to find any sort of consistency, and we definitely fall into that category. Therefore, anywhere between 6th and 13th is a possibility.

How do you rate this 2018 Port side? Which players are you most concerned about?
They certainly seem to have hit a rich vein of form just lately. If you can keep that up there’s no reason why you won’t finish in the top three and possibly bag a cup. Your coach – a Chonburi legend – has plenty of experience in winning things and I’m so pleased it’s working out for him, although, I hope he has a miserable time on Saturday. As for individuals, I think most of us are looking forward to seeing Nurul return – and have a stinker!

We have a few Chonburi virgins on the bus this week. Give us a quick guide to your stadium and its facilities.
Don’t bother going anywhere near the ground until ten minutes before kick off. It’s like the stadium at the end of the world on match days. In fact there’s more life – and entertainment – there during the week. I’d suggest heading to Bang Saen pre match. However, it is a long weekend for many people and is likely to be packed full of Bangkokians. So give yourselves plenty of time and grab the first parking space you can find!

Finally, score prediction please.
I’ll be extremely optimistic and go for 1-1.

 

Port Lineup

Whatever the opposite of a Tinkerman is, that’s Jadet. The Globular Guru knows his best XI and only changes it when circumstances such as injuries or suspensions dictate. So whilst we may bemoan the fact that we don’t get to see as much of Terens or Bodin as we may wish, 4 wins in a row suggests that the Obese Oberleutnant has hit on a winning formula and sees no reason to change things up. In a season that has seen 18 managerial changes across 10 clubs, the Corpulent Capo somehow manages to dodge the slings & arrows of Thai footballing fortune and remains the highest-placed Thai coach in T1, and long may it continue.

This week the only change is going to come in defence where Elias Dolah (4), who has supplanted Todsapol (6) in the heart of Port’s defence of late, is suspended, meaning Tossa will almost certainly be the man to replace him. With Chonburi relying more on pace than brawn up front, that’s probably no bad thing.

Elsewhere, Rattanai (17) should continue in goal after very solid performances against Navy & Suphanburi. In midfield, it’s likely to be as-you-were with Kim (8) scoring his first goal of the season against Navy and Siwakorn (16) looking back to his old self, although Adisorn (13) may be called upon to add a bit of bite to Port’s midfield. Pakorn (7) took a bit of a pounding from the sailors on Sunday and went off injured late in the game; if he’s deemed unfit to face Chonburi then expect Bodin (10) to replace him. The Flying Marmoset, Nurul (31), will almost certainly be called upon to face his old club.

Up front, the Boskovic (23) & Suarez (5) bromance is blossoming nicely, with 17 goals & 9 assists between them already this season, so it’s highly likely that both will start on Sunday. Bosko’s sudden rediscovery of form (6 goals in his last 3 games) and Suarez’ return from injury have revitalised Port’s season and Chonburi certainly won’t be looking forward to facing them – it’s a long time since we had such a sphincter-loosening forward line.

Tim’s XI

 

The Stadium

Chonburi Municipality Stadium has been home to The Sharks since 2012. Whilst it’s in pretty good shape for a Thai stadium, it does have the dreaded running track and, with away fans shoved behind one of the goals on a low-rise terrace, the view is one of the worst in Thai football. Factor in the lack of atmosphere (home crowds have been declining in the last few years and they were very quiet on our last visit), the total food/drink ban inside the stadium, and the 200BHT away ticket cost, and you have one of the least agreeable away fan experiences in T1. But on the plus side, the Chonburi fans are a friendly lot, there’s plenty of food & beer available outside the ground (the Muslim Fried Chicken stall won The Sandpit’s Best Away Ground Food Award 2018), and the beaches of Bang Saen are just a short drive away, and that’s where we’ll be spending the afternoon prior to the game.

 

 

 

Chonburi FC vs Port FC, Saturday 26 May 19:00 at Chonburi Stadium. The game will be shown live on True, and on the big screen at our sponsors The Sportsman.

 

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Crystal Balls 2018: Chonburi FC

 

In our final Crystal Balls for the 2018 season, we hear from long-time Chonburi fan Dale Farrington, who is fully forgiven for handing in his homework late as he’s been busy organising The Wedding Present’s first ever Bangkok gig (19 April). Dale, we salute you.

Despite not having the greatest of seasons, Chonburi managed to finish in 7th place and also did the double over Port (booooo). But they appear to have done little to strengthen their squad during the break and with Port, Chiang Rai, Glass and even Police improving their squads, they may find it difficult to reach those heights in 2018. Dale is certainly less than enthusiastic about the new season…

 


 

What was your highlight of the 2017 season?

Aside from the performance against Buriram Utd in the League Cup, there was very little for us Chonburi fans to get excited about. Therefore, the highlight was when it ended and we could look forward to our weekends again.

How will your team fare in 2018?

With a new (unknown and untried) coach, a whole host of new players and many others leaving, it’s difficult to say. I’d like to think we’ll improve on last season’s performance, but I’m not holding my breath.

Who is your most exciting new signing?

Centre half, Kim Gyeong-Min is the only one who has really featured in pre season and he looks to be a very solid addition at the back. I can’t really comment on the rest, as I haven’t seen enough of them.

Which departed players from 2017 will you miss the most? Who are you glad to see the back of?

Nurul will be the biggest miss. He had his best season for a while last year – so we sold him! No-one in particular from the second category. Apart from the aforementioned Nurul, all the other departees are pretty much of a muchness.

What changes would you like to see at your club? Or are you happy with the way things are going?

Far too many to mention here. The management has really lost touch with the fans – which is a shame, as we used to be a pretty tight knit club. Maybe if this issue was addressed, then things could start to improve generally.

Which teams will be in contention for the T1 title, and who will win?

Buriram Utd and Muang Thong Utd. The former, if they aren’t too distracted by the AFC Champions League. The latter if their rivals take their eye of the ball domestically to chase continental honours.

Which 5 – yes 5 – teams will go down to T2, and which 3 will come up to T1?

Down: Air Force, Nakorn Ratchasima, Navy, Prachuap and Sukhothai.
Up: Khon Kaen, PTT Rayong and Udon Thani.

Which fixtures are you most looking forward to in 2018?

Prachuap away. A new ground and the chance for a weekend break.

Thai football crowds are declining year on year. Why do you think this is, and what can be done to make the game more popular?

I think it was always going to be difficult to maintain the high crowds we saw during the boom period and, to a large extent, they have plateaued. I prefer to come at from the angle that attendances are much higher throughout the leagues than they were ten years ago. When you’ve sat in grounds watching top flight football in front of a few dozen people, anything else is a bonus.

Finally, give us your three wishes for the 2018 season.

Entertaining football.
No injury faking or time wasting.
No-one will buy our new THB2,200 shirt and the club will realise the folly of its deal with Nike.

 

Big thanks to Dale for sharing his thoughts with us, and you can follow Chonburi’s 2018 season on his website, which we believe to be the oldest English language fan website in Thailand. 

 

Friendly News: Port Catch Buri-Buri

 

The Port squad reconvened for pre-season training last week, and the first two friendlies have just been announced. On Wednesday 13 December at 17:00, Port entertain Krung Thonburi FC, aka The Knight (just one of them), who despite their name play their football in Nakhon Pathom and are currently in T3 Lower.

Then on Saturday 16 December at 15:30, Port travel to Chonburi to take on the Sharks in what is likely to be a much more competitive game, given that both sides have already strengthened considerably during the window. As it’s a friendly you’ll probably be able to sit in the decent seats rather than 7km away behind the goal, and you’ll be able to sample the wares of The Sandpit’s 2017 Best Away Ground Food Award winner, the Muslim fried chicken lady.

FOOTBALL’S BACK!!!

 

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Jaws 2 (Lions 1): Chonburi FC 2-1 Port FC Match Report

 

“The shark does not love. It feels no empathy. It trusts nothing. It lives in perfect harmony with its environment because it has no aspirations or desires. And no pity. A shark feels no sorrow, no remorse, hopes for nothing, dreams of nothing, has no illusions about itself or anything beyond itself.” (Rick Yancey)

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat. I mean van”. So we told Keith when upwards of 15 people signed up for the Sandpit’s Wednesday shark hunt to Chonburi. Eventually 12 of us – still a good turnout for a Wednesday evening game outside Bangkok – arrive at Pattana decked in the blue & orange, and board the buses for a short and fairly uneventful hop down the coast, which Strunk fails to enliven by playing Supertramp on his phone.

On arrival at the stadium, our first task is to get hold of tickets. Remarkably (actually, not remarkably at all – this is Thai football) despite the presence of only 30-odd Port fans, they’ve already run out of away tickets and we have to wait whilst someone runs off to fetch more. Who would’ve thought that Port fans might turn up to an away game AND have the temerity to actually go in and watch the game eh?

 

A warm welcome from the home fans. Muangthong, look and learn

 

Tickets duly purchased, beer & food are next on the agenda (for some of us – both Keith and myself are untypically on the wagon), and whilst the former is easy to locate, finding some decent nosh other than rather chewy battered quail eggs proves more difficult. But eventually we find a Muslim lady who is selling fried chicken of such extraordinary succulence it’s almost enough to make me grab the nearest Koran, work out the direction of Mecca, and drop to my knees shouting “ALLAHU AKBAR”. An early leader in the 2017 Sandpit T1 Football Ground Food Awards.

 

CFC – Chonburi Fried Chicken

 

Fed & watered, we make our way into the stadium to find that, for a club of Chonburi’s stature, it’s surprisingly shit – the usual Thai running track affair with decent stands on either side and the away fans shoved behind one of the goals, with the Hubble Telescope required to be able to get a decent view of the pitch. Note to the Thai FA – if clubs will persist in playing in stadiums not designed for football, make it a legal requirement that the away fans get an area on the side of the pitch rather than behind the goal, especially if you’re charging 200BHT a ticket.

Anyway rant over, and it’s time for kickoff…

The Match

With Rochela & Tana suspended, Anisong (15), aka John Denver (“Annie’s Song” – thanks Dom) and Genki (18) come into the team; otherwise it’s the same lineup who pulled out their truncheons and gave Police six of the best, trousers down on Sunday night.

Port, as is their habit these days, kick off at a furious pace and dominate the first 20 minutes or so, with Dolah (4), Suarez (5) and Genki all spurning good opportunities to take the lead. On 21 minutes the ball falls to Suarez – who otherwise had a bit of a stinker – on the halfway line, and seeing Chonburi’s keeper off his line, he attempts an outrageous lob which just clears the crossbar. Had it gone in, we would’ve handed out the Sandpit Goal of the Season award there & then.

Unfortunately Port can’t make their pressure tell and are punished on 23 minutes when John Denver clumsily challenges a Chonburi player in the area and concedes yet another Port penalty, though in his defence it was a challenge that had to be made. Up steps Chonburi’s SFS Renan Marques who buries the penalty to give the Sharks a somewhat undeserved – at this stage – lead.

The large Port following continue to sing, as we did throughout the entire game, regardless, and our loyalty is rewarded on the half hour mark when Genki beautifully chips the ball over a defender Gazza-style and then sidefoots the ball to Suarez, and just when you’re thinking it’s a bad pass, in comes Pakorn (9) to smash it into the Chonburi net, sparking ecstatic scenes in the away end.

Chonburi spend the remaining 15 minutes of the half laying siege to the Port goal but thanks to some solid defending from the increasingly impressive Dolah and the solid John Denver, the score remains 1-1 at half time.

The second half begins in comedy fashion with the first tumble of the night, as Mike Strunk (to be known henceforth as Mike’s Drunk) gets into an argument with a carelessly placed megaphone. The megaphone, not having spent the previous four hours knocking back cans of Leo, predictably wins, and the big American ends up sprawling over two rows of seats. One of my Sandpit colleagues will later top this by falling into a pond, but more on that later.

On 47 minutes Suarez sends Pakorn free down the right but as he so often does, the mercurial winger sends his shot into row Z, should such a thing exist in the Chonburi home end. From that point it becomes increasingly clear that Jadet, on his old stomping ground, has told his players that a draw will suffice, and Port sit back and do their best to soak up wave after wave of Shark attacks. Dolah and Adisorn (13) are on particularly fine and defiant form, throwing themselves into blocks and tackles with gusto, whilst keeper Worawut (36) even manages to catch a few crosses rather than punching them.

On the hour mark a notable event occurs, as John Denver leaves (not on a jet plane, but with Rochela’s suspension over, we don’t know when he’ll be back again. But we’re happy to tell him that, whilst we’ll smile at him, and wait for him, no way are we kissing him) to be replaced by young Niran Hansson (33), at last making his Port debut alongside fellow Thai-Swede Dolah in the heart of the Port defence. Niran puts in a good solid half hour and looks well at home, and certainly helps his cause.

 

The Khlongthoey Army out in force as usual

 

Despite their negative approach, on 78 minutes it looks briefly as if Port have snatched a possible winner. Pakorn crosses into the box, Josimar (30) nods it goalwards, and Genki turns it into the back of the net, only for the linesman – erroneously, as video will later show – to flag for either offside or a foul on the keeper. And 11 minutes later the inevitable happens as Port are punished for their lack of ambition. Chonburi swing a free kick into the box, Worawut comes out waving to his mother, as Big Ron once so memorably put it, a Chonburi boot sends it back goalwards and Pinkong manages to block it, but the ball loops into the air and unfortunately lands on the head of sexy MF Prince who bundles it into the Port net and then parties like it’s 1999.

Port have one more opportunity in the 93rd minute when Suarez find Josimar on the edge of the Chonburi area, but under pressure from a defender the big Brazilian’s shot flies over the bar, to the despair of the Port fans (and Josi’s army of tech-savvy fans in Brazil) and to the relief of the pitifully small home crowd.

2-1 it finishes then, and given Port’s lack of adventure in the second half, it’s probably no more than we deserved. Chonburi had clearly done their homework on Port and realised that, if you stifle the midfield engine room of Siwakorn, Adisorn and Suarez, you stop Port doing what they’ve done to so many top half teams this season. The midfield battle was often brutal and attritional but always compelling, and unfortunately Chonburi won it and thus the game, with Josimar starved of service.

But hey, you can’t win ’em all and Port will play worse than this and win before the season is over. With the team lying 7th in the table, and with 4 of our remaining 5 games before the break against teams in the bottom 6, things are still looking bright for Jadet’s men. Time to forget this defeat, move on, and take it out on Pattaya on Saturday. Dolphins are, after all, gentler creatures than sharks.

As for we Sandpitters, after the game we split into two groups, with the sober, mature, responsible members of the group taking the early bus home, where we discuss such varied and pertinent issues as midfield formations, the Thai education system and urban poverty in Khlong Thoey; whilst the alcoholic degenerates hang around the stadium consuming the Devil’s brew and, in my esteemed colleague Dominick Cartwright’s case, apparently falling into ponds. Unfortunately, as Arsene Wenger would put it, I did not see ze incident.

 

Man of the Match – Elias Dolah

MOTM performances were pretty thin on the ground tonight, with the usual contenders – Siwakorn, Suarez, Josi – well marshalled by an organised Chonburi side, and keeper Worawut having a Weera Duckworth moment for the second Chonburi goal.

But in the absence of David Rochela, young Dolah stepped up and put in another energetic, inspirational and defiant performance, showing just how he’s grown in stature and confidence since his nervy early performances for Port. If he continues playing like this, Port will have arguably the best centre-back pairing in T1 and future Rochela absences will not be quite as feared.

 

Photos by Tim & Linny Russell. Big thanks as ever to Keith Wright for organising the vans, and to the Chonburi fans, thin on the ground though they were, for a warm welcome.

 

FIN.

 

Shark Week! Chonburi FC vs Port FC Match Preview

 

One of Thai football’s oldest – and friendliest – rivalries resumes this Wednesday as Port travel down the coast to play Chonburi. With both teams somewhat unexpectedly sunning themselves on the upper slopes of T1, it should be a hard fought game between two sides whose original ambitions have been somewhat revised in the light of very encouraging starts to the season. Port will be playing to hold onto their 5th place, or even move up into 4th; Chonburi will be aiming to leapfrog them into the top 6.

After two poor away performances Port have won twice on the road – including THAT win at Chiang Rai – and are starting to play like a team who believe they belong in the top 6. They’ll need to show all that confidence in what is likely to be a tough test.

With both teams scoring – and conceding – plenty of goals in their first 11 games, entertainment is most definitely on the cards, though given Chonburi’s dwindling home crowds, and the difficulty for Port fans of getting there & back on a Wednesday night, there may not be a huge crowd there to see it. However, the Sandpit will be there so look out for a dozen or so farangs piling out of two minivans and come & have a beer with us!

Port Lineup

Imagine The Smiths without Morrissey. Or Fawlty Towers without John Cleese. Or a bacon sarnie without the bacon. That will give you an idea of the prospect we Port fans are facing on Wednesday because – and you may want to sit down when you read this bit – David Rochela will not be playing. The captain – a pretty much permanent fixture in the Port starting XI since he joined from Buriram in June 2015 – picked up a ridiculous yellow card against Police Tero on Sunday, and as it was his 4th of the season, he’s suspended for one game. Ohhhh the humanity.

The Sandpit’s sources at the club (yes, we do have sources, and not just the ones we put on our pre-match chips) suggest that young Thai-Swede Niran Hansson will be called on to replace Rochela and make his first competitive start for Port alongside his compatriot and best mate Elias Dolah. Niran looked very impressive in the one friendly appearance he’s made so far and his pace would be very useful in dealing with Chonburi’s livewire striker Renan Marques (9 goals already this season), though there is still a nagging feeling that the somewhat conservative Jadet may go for the more experienced Anisong.

 

Will young Niran finally make his Port debut on Wednesday?

 

Elsewhere, Elsie Tana is also suspended, and whilst he had one of his better games against Police, in a game like this, where Port will likely be doing more defending, it will be reassuring to see Genki take his place. Tana’s attitude towards tracking back is rather like my own towards doing the washing up – I’m aware of the basic concept, but I certainly don’t intend to get involved in it & would rather leave it for others – whereas Genki’s balls-out (not literally, I hasten to add) energetic wing play would make Port a lot more resilient.

 

Elsie Tana celebrates Sunday’s win with Jadet

 

Reliable LB Pinpanpong Pinkong Pingpong was stretchered off against Police so if he is unfit to play tomorrow, expect Nitipong to switch to LB and Meechok to come in at RB.

Otherwise I expect the lineup to remain the same, with Siwakorn and Adisorn harrassing Chonburi’s midfield like a pair of Jack Russell (no relation) terriers, Suarez hopefully playing like he did on Sunday, and Josimar continuing his run of 5 goals in his last 5 games.

 

 

The Opposition

For a look at Chonburi FC, who better than the legendary Dale Farrington, founder of one of the original English-language Thai football sites? Take it away Dale!

Chonburi v Port or Port Authority of Thailand or Thai Port or Singhtarua or any variation on the above, will always be a fixture that resonates with older Chonburi fans, as this was our first ever game in the top flight, way back in 2006. Much has changed for both clubs since that historic occasion – which was then a local derby and cost B30 to get in – and, even though Wednesday’s match isn’t as eagerly as anticipated as our TPL debut all those years ago, there’s still plenty surrounding it to pique our interest. Most notably, the return of our most successful head coach.

The current Port boss, Jadet Meelarp, has had three spells in charge of the Sharks (and would anybody rule out another return at some point in the future?) during which he delivered the League title (2007), the FA Cup (2010) and the Kor Royal Cup (2008). He also led us to a second place TPL finish in 2008. “Sir Ded” is still very highly regarded by the local fans and will receive a tremendous welcome when he takes his seat in the dugout, or his standing position in the technical area – I’m not really sure which he favours these days – before kick off (Ded is definitely a dugout guy these days and leaves the touchline stuff to others – Ed).

On the flip side of the coin, the home team’s ranks will probably include two former Port favourites – Chonburi loanees, goalkeeper Chanin Sae-Ear and midfielder Kroerkrit Taweekarn – both of whom are still very fondly remembered at their old club. However, as regular readers of my website or my Twitter account will know, I’m not a fan of either of them, and would gladly drive them back to Klong Toey myself, at the earliest opportunity – I wouldn’t even charge them for petrol. The former is too small to be a keeper and is prone to making silly mistakes – his distribution is generally terrible too. Whilst the latter has to rank as one of the most over rated footballers I have ever seen in over fifty years of following the sport. He offers nothing to the team – other than a pretty face for the girls to scream at/squeal over – and how he is an established Thailand international will remain a mystery to me as long as I live – hopefully another fifty years! You can guarantee that I will be paying particular attention to both their performances (if selected) tomorrow night.

Whilst history is most certainly on our side – since that opening day 3-1 defeat over a decade ago, Chonburi have won six and drawn two of the eight subsequent meetings – this match isn’t easy to call. Both teams have had an erratic start to the 2017 campaign and it would take a brave pundit to forecast Wednesday’s result. However, the two sides go into the match on the back of impressive weekend victories, which should see the Sharks and the Lions (who are currently sitting 5th) brimming with confidence. In fact, I’m reminded of Alan Partridge holding a hot apple pie and threatening to squeeze it when confronted by a rival; “A jet of molten Bramley apple will squirt out. Could go your way; could go mine. Either way, one of us is going down”. 0-0 draw, anyone?

On a final note, I will be keeping a close eye on the attendance at this game. Our crowds have dropped alarmingly in recent weeks and the club appears unwilling or unable to address the slide. There was a token effort at the last home match, with tickets being issued to a group of about 25 schoolchildren, but this isn’t enough. Traditionally, Port don’t bring that many fans, and midweek turnouts are generally low, so the onus is on the Chonburi management to try and fill the home stands. I wonder what they’re doing to put things right? No. Don’t bother trying to answer that. I know exactly what they’re (not) doing! Another sub 3,000 turnout will be an embarrassment – it looks particularly cringeworthy on  TV – and it will now be very hard to attract those stay away supporters back to Chonburi Stadium. Worrying times indeed.

 

Matchday programme from the first ever top-flight meeting between Chonburi & Port in 2006

 

 

Crystal Balls 2017: Chonburi FC

 

The Sandpit will soon be publishing an in-depth preview of Port FC’s 2017 season. In the meantime, we asked fans of other T1 clubs to share their thoughts and predictions for the new season, and we begin with Chonburi FC fan Dale Farrington, the brains behind Chonburi’s English language fan website.

 

How will your team fare in 2017?

Hard to say. We offloaded most (all!) of our influential players from last season, and are left with a paper thin squad, made up of youngsters and players who are well past their prime. As things stand, I’d settle for a top ten finish.

Who is your most exciting new signing?

None of our new signings particularly excite me. Renan Marques could prove to be the best of a bad bunch.

Which departed 2016 players will you miss the most?

How long have you got?! Adul, Leandro, dos Santos, Jong Pil all went. They were the first four names on most fans’ “to keep” list at the end of last season. That tells you a lot about our club’s current (lack of) ambition.

What changes would you like to see at your club?

Being allowed to eat and drink inside the ground would be a start. Other than, for the current owners to sell up and let someone else have a go.

Which teams will finish at the top of T1?

In no particular order:
Muang Thong Utd (Boooooo! Ed)
Bangkok Utd
Buriram Utd

Which teams will go down to T2?

Osotspa (Super Power)
Tero if they move to Udon (that would amuse me)
and – hopefully – P*ttaya U*d

Which fixtures are you most looking forward to in 2017?

None. I’m dreading it!
But, if pushed, I always enjoy Ratchaburi and Sukhothai away. Plus I’m looking forward to visiting any grounds I haven’t been to before.

Finally, if you could change one thing about Thai football, what would it be?

I’d leave it exactly as it is. If it wasn’t for all the off field shenanigans, we’d only be left with the football – and that’s nowhere near entertaining enough to sustain interest.

 

End of Term Report: Jadet Meelarp

After a great start to the season Port faltered. The early form was built on very good individual performances saving a disjointed team. Coming up to mid-season Port stuttered throwing away a two goal lead at Bangkok F.C. and losing to Prachuap at home. The 2016 season that was meant to be a procession turned into a promotion battle. Another old shark Masahiro Wada, did a fair job at the end of last year nearly saving Port. He just wasn’t able to gel a squad of very good individual players together.

 

The Jadet Meelarp appointment wasn’t met with much approval, most fans wanted to see our old coach Dusit tempted away from a mid-table Prajuap F.C. Jadet’s poor record at PTT didn’t inspire any confidence. The 2016 PTT team picked up a bit after Jadet left, only to slip back with a criminally poor run at the end of their season. Suggesting he might have been managing to hold a poor team together.

 

The new manager effect helped out Jadet he came in with a couple of good wins. Then away to a strong Thai Honda team Jadet had fans shaking their heads when our Japanese winger was played in defence. The schoolboy error had no real logic to it, Gengki isn’t that good even playing where he should be. Out of position he was all over the place. Port lost, Thai Honda and Ubon UMT started to cement the top two spots and things looked difficult for Port.

 

After this hiccup Jadet took a bit more control and with a couple more wins, we were back on track. Port were playing a less disjointed game but still fighting for promotion. Misfiring Thiago wasn’t happy and attacking midfielder Pakorn often Port’s saviour with winning free kicks was intent on never passing the ball after he made 5 yards. The height of Pakorn’s arrogance and poor temper came when he booted the ball into Zone A in reaction to getting subbed. This tantrum lost possession for Port. Jadet came out in the press saying he needed to stop throwing his toys out of the pram if he wanted to stay in the team. Fair comment and he seemed to calm down the situation.

 

One reason to expect good things from Jadet was his history of managing Thiago, but he was used to Thiago 2015. However the new model 2016 Thiago expected to get played even without the goals. Thiago probably ended up doing the best thing he could do, helping his old friend Jadet by walking out the broken door. Was this a masterstroke from Jadet? I doubt it. I think it was probably just a result of Thiago threatening to leave, and Jadet not caving in to his demands to start every game. This exit gave us the chance to bring back another foreign player. The replacement was a holding midfielder Wagner. He added a bit of back bone to the team and rescued a bit of team spirit. Wagner was exactly the player Port needed. Why we got rid of him mid-season no one knows.

 

Jadet binned off the FA Cup Game against Sukothai playing a team of subs. I never like seeing this, but it did pay off. The next game saw Port win 2-1 home against a recently promoted Ubon UMT team. This left Port only needing one point from the last two games. Jadet has a record he can be happy with. It wasn’t his team but he came in and did a decent job.

 

Jadet has just been confirmed as Port’s new coach for 2017. Will he get to build a team? I doubt it. Madam Pang’s management group will probably search out a group of marquee names again, rather than building a team. Under the new Madam Pang regime, I’m not sure the Coach has that much control over who they bring in. And most coaches aren’t normally around long enough to find out how to put a team together. I think he’s a fair choice for 2017. We are better off with someone who is used to the set up under Pang. He will have to make it to Songkran next year to equal the longest serving manager of the Pang era, Masahiro Wada’s lengthy ten month spell. I’m interested to see if Chonburi have a new coach down the line. Considering Port’s hiring policy maybe Therdsak will come along to replace Jadet in 2018.