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Port to Maintain the New Normal? Port FC vs. Muangthong Utd Preview

 

No, this is not a Covid-19 reference, nor some pessimistic speculation on Port’s relatively indifferent form since the re-start continuing, but, rather, a welcome nod to the Lions’ satisfying habit of regularly beating their much-loathed rivals in recent seasons. Resounding home and away victories have brought unbridled joy to the Klongtoey faithful, and some eagerly taken dressing-room photographic opportunities for the players. This happy sequence has only been marred by a 3-2, 2018 home loss in a game notable for four goals in seven minutes of Toby time after the interval and a cruelly ruled out, ‘offside’ equalizer.

As with all games between Port and the Kirins, this one will be eagerly anticipated, but the absence of a rabid, baying Port crowd thirsting for blood (metaphorically of course, as away fans have not been admitted in recent years) definitely dampens the enthusiasm. Games between these teams have led to heated debates amongst the fans, to say the least, and this rivalry has given the games a certain edge, with success often measured in the emergency room as much as the goalmouth.

With football in the UK played against an uninspiring soundtrack of canned cheering and audible player cursing, we should really be grateful that at least we can get to see live football again and have a few beers with our mates. All that is missing are the Korean sex-dolls. I will bring some along next time.

 

 

To be truthful, the atmosphere has been rather sterile in the first two home matches with somewhat muted cheers greeting the goals and occasional moments of artistry. In fact, the loudest outburst of meaningful noise was when the floodlights failed, plus the raucous howls of derision when Tunez tried to pick a fight with Heberty. It just showed what sort of delicious malice might be generated by a real crowd. To be fair, it is hard to get excited sitting down and with the luxurious space afforded by Port’s social distance seating (we knew they would come in handy some time) plus the uninterrupted views, it does seem rather a waste of energy getting to your feet, except at Zone B corners and then it’s often just to stretch the legs.

Then there is the lengthy wait while, it seems, every goal, yes, every goal, is subject to VAR regardless of its obvious validity. I am waiting for someone to score direct from a rolled-back kick-off only for the referee to check if the player had put his shin-pads in correctly.

Port’s re-start has been riddled with a predictable mixture of farce and folly: the floodlight fiasco, yet another Jadet sacking and the Bonilla injury saga, not to mention Madame Pang’s ostentatious footwear. It has been commented by some Sand-Pitters that this is not a club you can fully love at the moment and the back room in The Sportsman on Saturday night was a Viper’s pit of vitriol, most of the venom directed at Heberty, who is clearly this season’s pantomime villain. I am certainly irritated by his selfishness and wayward shooting but he’s no Pol Pot.

So, I’m going to look on the bright side. While it has not been the re-start we might have craved, a quick look at the table today shows us just three points behind leaders Bangkok Glass, to whom we lost narrowly, with only one ‘actual’ defeat, the same as Bangkok Utd. Last week’s win was decidedly un-pretty and somewhat desperate, like a closing time carry-out from Thermae, but the pitch looked like a rice paddy and it was our 4th different starting eleven in four games.

We have been hit by injuries and suspensions as well as haunted by missed chances. We now have a run of 3 ‘winnable’ game, which should maintain our strong position. This, I believe, will be a season where the top six teams take points off each other and it is likely to be a much more competitive title race than in previous campaigns. It used to be that you had to beat Buriram twice to even stand a chance of winning the League, as they would invariably mop up everyone else. Buriram will no doubt re-enter the fray at some point, which will make for a fascinating season. We have a squad able to compete at this level; it just needs a bit of inspired direction. Rumour has it that Madame Pang is lining up more foreign coaches than the harbour-master at Calais so maybe, just maybe. I prefer my glass half-full.

Our opponents this week had a decent win against 5th place Ratchaburi in their last run-out, which, unfortunately, might give them some renewed confidence. They have a number of foreign players in their ranks with an interesting pedigree. Brazilian, Vanderley Dias Marinho (87), or Derley for short, once had a spell with Benfica, signed after a 16-goal breakthrough season with Maritimo in 2014. One of his earliest moments after joining was to score a goal against Valencia in the Emirates Cup that season. He was only to score once more in 15 appearances with The Eagles. He has 11 goals in 20 appearances for Muang Thong, so is likely be a threat.

 

 

Russian born, Vietnamese national goalkeeper, Dang Van Lam (1) was signed from Haiphong, Leandro’s former club. A giant of a keeper with an arm span of two metres, we will need to keep it low. His Russian name, Lev, is contributed to his mother’s (a former ballet dancer) passionate admiration for the legendary Soviet goalkeeper Lev Yashin.

Daisuke Caumanday Sato (66) has an exotic name to match the other two and is one of more than a dozen Filipino players to be playing in the Thai League at the moment, although many, like Sato, are of dual nationality. His one claim to fame is being the first Filipino footballer to play in Romania, for Politehnica against Dinamo Bucharest in 2016. Something to boast about in the watering holes on P. Burgos.

 

 

It has been three years since MTU last won a trophy and four since they won the League; long may that continue. It seems that their only recent, notable statistic is the number of players they have out on loan: 37 at the last count, most of them at Udon Thani and Bang Pa-In Ayuthaya.

With a victory under their belt, Port need a settled spell so, if everyone is fit, I wouldn’t activate many changes unless it would be to bring back Siwakorn to accompany Go and Heberty/Suarez in midfield.

 

Possible Team

 

 

Prediction

Port to win 3-1.

 


 

The match will be shown on True4U and True Sports HD1 at 18:00 on Sunday 4th September, 2020. For the many of you who won’t be able to get your hands on tickets, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match on a big screen with sound. Don’t forget to wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount on drinks.

 

Trat-gedy Avoided: Trat FC 2-3 Port FC

 

 

Seven months. That’s the amount of time since I’ve last taken any football photos as I was in Hong Kong for Port’s last game (away at Buriram, and watched online from there) before Covid threw a spanner into the new Thai League season as well as the rest of the world. The September restart back then seemed like an eternity away, so when it did eventually roll around suffice to say things have not gone to plan so far. Having frustratingly been denied access to the PAT pitch two weeks in a row due to reduced capacity – and therefore reduced (well, zero) atmosphere – in line with social distancing overkill guidelines along with below-par performances from the team and general drama (because it wouldn’t be Thai football without some), apathy was setting in going into the game against Trat FC, a good 6 hour drive away from the capital. Yet one of the best things about being a football fan is the opportunity to engage in some groundhopping and visit places around the country that you have yet been/rarely go to – and of course any excuse to get out of the Bangkok bubble every now and again, even if it’s a bit of a trek across the eastern seaboard just to fundamentally watch 22 guys kick a ball for 90 minutes. If the pandemic has taught us anything it is that nothing should be taken for granted, including the freedom to travel, and with knowing friends around the world are currently under lockdown where they are would absolutely jump at the chance of a road trip right now, I eventually decided to rock up to Ekkamai Bus Station at the crack of dawn. Carpe diem and all of that.

 

 

With the appointment of the affable Coach Oud as the new Team Manager, the prospect of the players bouncing back against a Trat side yet to register any points after 6 rounds appealed to the hundred-or-so other Tarua faithful that also made the long early-morning journey on the disco fan bus. After confirming a place (so I thought) in the media quota for this match with Trat FC’s media team earlier, when I arrived at the stadium all the extremely limited pitchside slots were already filled up (and they were super apologetic about it and tried to find a solution for me and another regular Port photographer, which was appreciated) so decided to go into the away end and try to make the most of it.

 

 

The game itself ended up being quite the rollercoaster with all its dips, peaks, and twists. Adding to the dazy feel was the extremely muggy air that weighed down around the stadium, in which the high humidity levels kept fogging up the camera lenses. After a cagey first half an hour in which both sides had several pops at goal each, Port made the breakthrough with Heberty (37), having already had a couple of attempts, in the 34th minute as he slid in on a cross from Kevin (23) on the left. Trat however quickly hit back minutes later, as they took control of the midfield with Paso (44) latching on to a defense-splitting through ball from Jarunai (29) and emphatically lobbing the ball over Rattanai (18). The fact that he looked substantially offside only further deflated the mood in the away stand.

 

 

Nevertheless, the Klong Toey Army were boisterous again right after the break as Nitipong (34) put Port back in front while they were still re-entering the terraces with their halftime beers. He combined well with Heberty from the halfway line, as they quickly shifted the ball down the pitch before unleashing a right-footer from the penalty arc. Afterwards Trat continued to cause problems for our central defenders, while at the other end Go (8), Adisak (9), and Suarez (5) – wearing the captain’s armband tonight – found themselves thwarted by theirs. Those missed opportunities were rued in the 68th minute when Trat equalised again through a corner, as Rattanai – who was having a solid game with several top saves – lost out in the air to the head of Azadzoy (7). Cue much cursing. Tanasith (11) was subbed on to inject more pace and creativity while Rattanai redeemed himself by denying Azadzoy a second goal with a flying save.

It was a nervy final 10 minutes as both the crowd and the players were getting increasingly agitated, with Go picking up a yellow for kicking the ball away. It was the proverbial kitchen sink time trying to find that elusive winner as the minutes ticked away. Suarez, in true El Mago style as we often see him do so many times, managed to conjure up the goods when it mattered most as he nodded in Tanasith’s whipped cross from close range half a minute before the end of normal time. Cue pandemonium (after a VAR check).

Performance wise it was a very mixed bag overall with plenty to work on in training, but when your team scores a winner right at the very end of an oscillating scoreline and after such a long day, all is well in the moment. And of course, in true Port style, the booming sound system of the disco fan bus filled the night sky immediately afterwards.

 


 

Man of the Match: Heberty Fernandes

A tricky choice as no one really stood out in particular, though Heberty applied himself more effectively this week after much criticism not so much for his ability but his dedication to the cause. Can’t really argue with a goal and an assist, though I know some may disagree. Special mention to Rattanai for pulling off some superb saves yet again.

 

Who’s Trat? Trat FC vs. Port FC Preview

 

Another game, another manager.

It might not seem like it, what with the long break and the familiar figure of Jadet having been back at the helm, but by kick-off on Saturday Port will be on their third manager in just 7 games. And once again, new coach Sarawut’s tenure is unlikely to be a long one, with rumours already circulating about talks with Alexandre Gama, Jose Borges, Scott Cooper and just about anyone willing to wear a t-shirt with Madame Pang’s latest slogan on it.

Yes, Port’s enigmatic owner seems to have come full circle, returning to the wild early months of her tenure where she hired and fired 5 bosses in a single season. Assuming Sarawut, who incidentally was the assistant of the first manager Pang fired this season, is only intended to be in place until Pang finds a bigger name, we will soon be at 4 and in touching distance of Pang’s record.

So why was Jadet once again moved upstairs? Well, clearly Port weren’t performing well, despite having what many are saying is the best squad in T1. The problem is certainly not the talent available, so it must be the manager, right?

No. Whilst I’ve never been Jadet’s number one fan, limited as he is in terms of tactical nous and match preparation, he isn’t making signings, and he isn’t even picking the team. So what do you expect him to do? Give any manager in the league this surly, selfish, want-away incarnation of Heberty, a broken Bonilla, an injury-ravaged defence and the inability to do anything with them other then what they’re told, and see how much better they’d do. Also, let’s not forget that Port lost 0-2 in Jadet’s first match in charge because of floodlight maintenance, and were beaten by one of the top contenders (in my opinion) for the title in the other. What a shit-show.

Anyway, that’s my rant for this preview out of the way. Fortunately for Sarawut, our opponents on Saturday are just who you’d want to face in your first game in charge.

 

Trat FC

 

Rooted to the bottom of the table on zero points, and with an even worse goal difference than most people’s pick for last place Rayong FC, Trat look pretty hopeless this year.

It’s not all their fault though, with the club apparently facing severe financial difficulties over the last few months and having to let go some of their best players. There are even reports of the owner putting land up for sale to keep the club in business. There’s been a messy dispute over the contractual situation of their former winger Adefolarin Durosinmi, in which Trat look very much like the side in the wrong, and the contract of Wellington Priori has also been terminated, meaning that Trat are left with just one foreign quota player – Brazilian striker Ricardo Santos (11). A decent foreign striker by all accounts, capable of giving centre backs a tough evening and popping up with the odd goal, Santos will be the main man for Port to watch out for. Their Asian quota player is Mustafa Azadzoy (7) is also a handy attacker.

 

 

Combative former Muangthong and Thailand winger Mongkol Tossakrai (23) is a shrewd loan signing, and young forward Sittichok Paso (44) also comes with something of a reputation, despite failing to score goals almost everywhere he’s been. He’s young and he’s a forward, you see.

 

 

Their goalkeeper, Todsaporn Sri-reung (81) is a capable T1-standard stopper, and in front of him Amani Aguinaldo (12) looks half decent albeit with a pretty poor defence around him and little protection from midfield.

Bottom line is, if we get beat by this lot, we’re in real trouble.

 

Port FC

 

Did I say I was done ranting earlier? Sorry, I lied.

In my opinion Port’s main problem last Saturday was poor individual performances. There is also something missing from the team as a whole, but I’ll get to that later. In a game like this, it will probably just take a couple of decent performances from our forward players to get the job done.

Heberty (37) was, for me, the worst of Port’s forwards last week, and I honestly don’t hold any hope of him turning his form around. He just doesn’t look like he wants to be here, and seems to be playing badly as a protest. He’s that good that he can’t be this bad. I detest his attitude, and I wouldn’t be sad to see us just de-register him and send him back to where he came from.

 

 

Suarez (5) was also having his second consecutive off-day, but we’ve seen enough of the Spaniard to know that his poor form isn’t through lack of effort, and I’m sure he’ll turn it around soon enough. He invariably does.

Pakorn (7) wasn’t great, but he was mostly a victim of Heberty being more Pakorn than Pakorn. Credit to anyone who understood that. As we’ve said ad nauseum Pakorn is too lazy and too selfish, but last Saturday he consistently found himself in good positions only for Heberty to refuse to pass him the ball, preferring instead to take 30 yard pot-shots or using his weaker foot when he could have played Pakorn in on his stronger foot. Please never play them together again, and I know which one I’d pick given the choice.

Bordin (10) was excellent again when he came off the bench. God knows whose idea it was to put him there after being Port’s best player last time out. Starting Kevin (97) on the wing is a workable option against certain opposition, but I prefer to see it employed late on against teams with a tiring full back where Kevin’s pace can stretch the defence.

 

 

Go (8) and Kanarin (31) were uninspiring in midfield, but I have faith they’ll improve with match sharpness. The same can be said of the defence. Todsapol (6) and Dolah (4) both made blunders that we shouldn’t be seeing at a club with ambitions of winning the title, and those errors have to be cut out.

Rattanai (18) was excellent, and without him between the sticks we would surely have lost by more.

 


 

So what can we expect from new coach Sarawut? Well, I assume his remit is to bring back the boring but functional style that Choke employed, but doing so with a believable smile and a ‘Trust Pang’ shirt. Expect less attacking from the full backs, more discipline from the wingers and less fluid changes of position up top. It worked for Choke in the first four games, and against limited opposition, I can see us getting a win here, although I think it might just be by the one goal.

 


 

The match will be shown on True Visions 357 at 19:00 on Saturday 26 September, 2020. With it being a long away trip, we’re expecting out first big crowd since the restart in The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13, who will show the match with sound and a 10% discount on drinks for Port fans. See you there!

 

The Sandpit’s Player of the Month for February is…

 

Finally, it’s back! Port Player of the Month features are returning to the Sandpit this year, with a new and improved formula.

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Drawbridge Lowered at Thunder Castle: Buriram Utd 1-1 Port FC

With a return flight and accommodation paid in full to travel to Buriram, I was forced to make the reluctantly adult decision to forfeit any sunk costs and remain in Hua Hin as the preparations for my impending move back to the cold Baltic shores of my native Sweden left me strapped for time in a way that didn’t allow for dedicating two full days to attending what suddenly became the final game for Port fans to see our beloved lions in action before the great eastern beer virus of 2020 reduces human society to its final post-apocalyptic state. Despite the promising start to the season I took comfort in the fact that we usually don’t come close to beating Buriram anyway, especially away from home where having the audacity to even threaten to do so is likely to be resolutely dealt with by the officials. Instead I sat down in front of a screen to watch it in the same manner as most working stiffs unable to take a Monday off even for a game of this stature.

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A Moment’s Silence: Port FC vs. Nakhon Ratchasima FC Preview

 

Port kick off their 2020 campaign with what looks to be the ideal kind of fixture. A home match against Korat, who are expected to finish mid to bottom half this season, may well allow an under-performing Port to still eke out victory, which is what we need after a less than promising pre-season. Rather than labouring this point once again, I will point you towards Dom’s, Tim’s and my 2020 Previews, which examined our off-season shortcomings in excruciating detail.

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Chairfree PAT Of Dreams: Tom’s 2020 Season Preview

 

Port move in to 2020 with a major trophy victory from last season still fresh in the memory, as well as a pre-season trophy that’s even fresher. We’ve also made arguably the biggest signing of the window, bring in our rivals’ best player for a big pot of cash. So we should be looking at more silverware this year right, and maybe even that coveted T1 title?

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Port FC 2-0 Police Tero: Five Things We Learned

 

 

Port beat Police Tero in their first home pre-season friendly last night, thanks to spectacular free-kicks from Pakorn (9) and new signing Heberty (TBC). It was a comfortable workout for Choke’s team against eager but limited opposition who rarely troubled Port’s defence and look a good bet to go straight back down to T2 this season. Port looked lively and raring to go and and if Ceres Negros were watching they’ll be cancelling those Tokyo hotel reservations today. Here are five things we took away from the game…

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Tom’s Transfer Talk: New Year Transfer Roundup

 

We’ve had a lot of comings and goings this transfer window, and it’s not even 2020 yet. By my count there have been 14 arrivals (7 permanent signings, 2 loan signings and 5 players returning from loans) and 9 departures (6 permanent departures, 1 loan departure and 2 players returning to their parent club after loans).

Quite a busy window then, although most arrivals and departures haven’t done much to effect the first choice XI that will take to the pitch most weeks.

The most notable arrival is of course Heberty, who joins on loan from Muangthong, and is expected to be Port’s key player next year. Tanasith may also threaten to break in to the first XI, although he’ll have to dislodge Pakorn first, which is no mean feat. Adisak will likely see significant playing time from the bench, and Jaturapat has an outside chance of challenging for a berth at left back, although if there is no more transfer activity in that position, he will likely remain down the pecking order.

There are players capable of making a contribution returning from loan too, but the fact that they were loaned out in the first place tells you all you need to know about the regard they are held in at Port. Things don’t look good then for Arthit, who made a big contribution from the bench last season, Yossawat, who had a successful loan at Nongbua, and Sansern, a highly rated youngster outside of PAT Stadium.

Notable exits include some big name players. Boskovic was released from Port some time ago, and has been spotted training with Chonburi recently, although no deal has been announced yet. 2018 Thai League MVP Sumanya has been snapped up by BG Pathum Thani, and Port’s marquee Thai arrival from 2017 Nurul has been loaned to Ratchaburi after struggling for form in 2019. One of Port’s vice-captains Adisorn Daeng-rueng has been released, while fellow defensive midfielder Anon has finally been let go after being continually overlooked by multiple Port managers.

Striker Rolando Blackburn, who will be remembered for some key goals and some terrible performances, has returned to his parent club after his 6 month loan spell, as has Piyachanok Darit, who made a solitary league appearance for Port.

Here are all the moves in full.

 

Ins

Tanasith Sripala (Suphanburi)

Nattawut Sombatyotha (Ratchaburi)

Kanarin Thawornsak (Ratchaburi)

Tanakorn Dangthong (Army)

Heberty Fernandes (loan from Muangthong)

Chatmongkol Thongkiri (Chainat)

Jaturaphat Satham (Chainat)

Patchara Chainarong (Debsirin School)

Adisak Kraisorn (loan from Muangthong – pending confirmation)

 

Returning from Loan

Chakrit Rawanprakone (loan to Customs complete)

Yossawat Montha (loan to Nongbua complete)

Arthit Boodjinda (loan to Chonburi complete)

Pinyo Inpinit (loan to Nongbua complete)

Sansern Limwattana (loan to Ayutthaya complete)

 

Outs

Sumanya Purisai (BG Pathum Thani)

Adisorn Daeng-rueng (released)

Panpanpong Pinkong (released)

Anon Samakorn (Nakhon Ratchasima)

Jirattikan Vapilai (released)

Dragan Boskovic (released)

Nurul Sriyankem (loan to Ratchaburi)

 

Loan Expired

Piyachanok Darit (loan from BG complete)

Rolando Blackburn (loan from The Strongest complete)

 

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‘Berty? Mee! Striker Joins Port

 

As we predicted in yesterday’s Transfer Talk, Brazilian-Timorese (cough) forward Heberty Fernandes was officially announced as a Port player last night. Heberty joins on a season-long loan from rivals Muangthong where he has spent the last three seasons. It’s somewhat unusual that a T1 team would loan their star player to a rival for a season, but this is Thai football and stranger things will no doubt happen before the 2020 season begins.

As we observed yesterday, Heberty has an absolutely stellar scoring record in Thai football, hitting 65 in 90 appearances for Ratchaburi from 2014-16, and a further 51 in 79 for Muangthong from 2017-19. Ironically he was on Port’s radar at the start of the 2017 season but Pang baulked at his wage demands; now, with the T1 title a much more realistic target than it was back then, she’s decided to splash the cash on T1’s probable top earner.

So welcome to Port Heberty! We wish you all the best and hope that you can break the curse that seems to afflict any previously prolific strikers as soon as they run out at the PAT.

Heberty Player Bio