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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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Walking on Broken Glass: Port FC 3-2 Bangkok Glass

 

“It’s a funny old game, Saint” Jimmy Greaves would opine to his co-presenter Ian St. John in almost every show of their longing running football programme “Saint & Greavsie” during the 1980s and early 90s on British TV. Saint would flash one of his trademark grins and with a light chuckle concur “Sure is Greavsie, sure is.” This classic exchange got me thinking during Port’s match with Bangkok Glass; here I am standing on the terraces of PAT Stadium in Bangkok watching a feisty and chaotic football match while thinking about obscure 80s television and another football match being played thousands of kilometres away in Russia.

 

 

Every 4 years we are blessed to experience what is essentially a second Christmas with the family bollocks replaced with glorious football, and in the midst of this the Thai football season is in full swing. So with a vibrant Port enjoying a thrilling season and England kicking off later, the pre-match atmosphere was especially enthusiastic. The news of Bodin (10) replacing the banned Boskovic (23)  greeted well and there was very little concern about our bogey team opposition who are going through an tortuous season in the relegation zone.

 

Credit: Nig Dammusig

 

Port started brightly and Pakorn (7), realising that Glass are a bottom half team this season, decided to go on the offensive and terrorise his markers from the off. In the fourth minute Suarez (5) sent over a great cross and Bodin forced a sharp save from Narit (1). Glass resorted to some crunching tackles to break up our play and cling onto the game but it was only a matter of time until the next chance. Kim (8), much better in an advanced role, dinked the ball wide to Kevin (97) and forced Narit to come off his line. Kevin expertly squared the ball to Nurul (31) but his shot was not fierce enough and Glass captain Matt Smith (4) calmly headed to ball back to Narit. A lucky escape.

Then confusion reigned, with the referee using VAR to award Port a penalty for handball off a Pakorn freekick. Chalermsak (3) was the culprit, with his arm raised to around head when he made the block. He saw yellow, but Rochela (22) stepped up and crashed the spot kick against the post. Port, to their credit, didn’t let their heads drop and continued to work hard. Their tenacity was rewarded in the 26th minute. Bodin, receiving the ball from Kevin, powered across his marker and unleashed a speculative low shot towards the bottom left hand corner. Narit got himself behind the ball but inexplicably allowed it to pass through him and into the net. Bodin respectfully didn’t break out the Fresh Prince moves against his former club, but he must have been delighted to have doubled his tally for the season!

 

 

As if the match wasn’t chaotic enough already, it then descended into farce in the final 5 minutes of the half. Nurul, played clean through on goal by Suarez, was clattered by Chalermsak, who received his second yellow and the following free kick lead to an unmarked Suarez slotting the ball into the net only for it to be unfairly ruled out for offside. Suarez, raging from this injustice, insisted the ref check with VAR but even after consulting the television and viewing a clearly onside goal he decided to stand by the linesman’s decision. Several farang fans, clearly dismayed by this and with the lure of England kicking off in 20 minutes, decided to vote with their feet and bugger off. Justice was finally served seconds later in first half injury time; Bodin seemed to have over-complicated his running into the box, but the ball broke loose and a lucky flick from Kim found Nurul, who made no mistake from a few yards out.

 

 

As is customary, your intrepid reporter missed Glass’ comeback goal at the start of the second half, too busy enjoying his halftime Leo (this season’s total currently stands at 8 goals missed). Glass moved the ball forward quickly and Ariel Rodriguez (7) took advantage of Port’s lack of concentration, making his way into the box and squaring the ball to Anon (27) who couldn’t miss from just outside the 6 yard box. These slips in concentration are something that needs to be worked on during training (as does my drinking speed) as more teams are becoming aware of how fragile we can be from the restart.

Port then edged closer to victory with a pearler of a free kick from Suarez over a less-than-10-yard wall into the top right hand of the goal in front of the Zone B faithful. El Mago is clearly brimming with confidence, ignoring Pakorn to sweep the ball into the net, after which the Midfield Monk had a quiet word with with captain Rochela. We can only speculate as to what as said! The second half continued to be a scrappy affair, punctuated with some hard work from Todsapol (6) and Kevin. Nurul kept making a nuisance of himself but it was obvious Bodin was struggling with his fitness, and Glass tried to take advantage of our fatigue and lack of shape. Their second goal in the 67th minute was scored with ease; Pichit (19) with time and space sent a cross into the box and new signing David Bala (10) sent a header into the bottom corner. Rattanai (17) slipped while trying to readjust his body shape but Bala’s header was too good to keep out.

Jadet sensibly sent on Dolah (4) and Arthit (19) to add some steel in the back line and up front, but Arthit wasted a glorious opportunity in the 80th minute, justifying his non-selection to the starting line up. Port continued fighting up to the final whistle and held on to the three precious points. By now the English contingent was buzzing with news that the Three Lions were 5-0 up and, with the inaugural Rat Bar Dash cancelled due to lack of facilities, we then embarked on a Wacky Races style race to The Sportsman (sponsors of this fine match report, folks). Sadly my car was more Slag Brother’s Boulder Mobile than Peter Perfect’s Turbo Terrific but we managed to make it for the final 20 minutes.

 

The author makes his way to The Sportsman

 

So what to make of Port’s performance? It was workmanlike and full of endeavour, but the goals conceded were terribly sloppy and the opposition should have been played off the park in the first half. Nevertheless, to Port’s credit they hung on and the improbable dream continues. Jadet clearly favours skill over power but in the second half several of our team were suffering from fatigue and this, plus the concentration issues, needs to be addressed swiftly. Also, while VAR may be effective at the world cup finals with an elite team of officials in a TV room with multiple screens and all the technology available at their fingertips, the Thai equivalent is clearly not working and as the level of officiating is still dire I can’t see this being a success anytime soon. Anyway, let’s not worry about this and instead bask in a glory of a wonderful day of football and the joyfulness of sleep deprivation and hangovers at work.

 

Man of the Match: Kevin Deeromram

 

 

In an ugly encounter punctuated with brief moments of skill it would be unfair to give the award to the attackers, although Nurul gave the Glass defenders a torrid evening and almost nicked the award. Honourable mentions must go to Nitipong (34), Siwakorn (16) and Kim but they all faded as their legs became leaden. Kevin’s workrate and quality has been questionable over the last few months but his performance against Glass was of the highest order and one of the main factors in getting his team over the line.

 

The Portlist 2: Deadline Day Defensive Shake-Up

 

Deadline Day is as good an excuse as any to publish our second Portlist. Port’s two arrivals, two departures and news of injuries and recoveries slightly reshape the Portlist in the week before the T1 season finally restarts!

 


 

1 (1) Dragan Boskovic

If anything, the decision to keep Suarez over Nebihi just makes Boskovic even more important. Whereas Nebihi would have been able to function passably as a back-up front man, Suarez is clearly not cut out for that role, meaning that at any given time Port are one injury away from the completely unproven Arthit leading the line.

2 (2) David Rochela

El Capitan will have been happy with Kevin Deeromram’s arrival, as he should now be spending more time where he belongs in the centre of defence, and less time covering for errant full backs.

3 (3) Kim Sung Hwan

There are suggestions that the knock Kim picked up in last week’s friendly could keep him out of the opening day clash with Pattaya. What’s Korean for ‘get well soon’?

4 (7) Sergio Suarez

Suarez finally overcame Nebihi and kept hold of his place in the squad, but the big German being loaned out to Chiang Rai will create an interesting opportunity to compare their relative performances this season. Regardless, Suarez now has to focus on trying to perform as well as he did in the second half of last season for the whole of this season. If he can do that he will move still higher up the Portlist.

5 (4) Pakorn Prempak

Little changed for Pakorn on deadline day, although Kevin Deeromram will provide a left-footed option from corners and free kicks that could decrease Pakorn’s stock a little.

6 (5) Siwakorn Jakkuprasart

Kim’s potential injury just reminds us how much we rely on Siwakorn to move the ball around in midfield.

7 (6) Nurul Sriyankem

Nurul’s job on the left wing will hopefully have been made a little easier by the arrival of Kevin Deeromram. If these two can strike up the kind of productive partnership that Pakorn and Nitipong had last season, then Port will have significantly strengthened their first XI on deadline day.

8 (9) Nitipong Selanon

There is now a legitimate argument against Nitipong being Port’s best fullback.

9 (NE) Kevin Deeromram

But Kevin’s got some work to do. First he’s got to be picked ahead of Panpanpong, and then he’s got to do what Panpanpong couldn’t and find the right balance between defence and attack to keep Port tight at the back, and provide a useful attacking option. If he does this he will quickly lock down a place in the team.

10 (10) Rattanai Songsangchan

Video of Rattanai bouncing around the goal in training suggests that Port’s stopper is at or very near full fitness. Good, timely news!

11 (11) Todsapol Lated

In deadline day signing Worawut, Todsapol now has one more competitor with a legitimate chance of taking his place in the team. A clean sheet on Sunday would go a very long way to securing his place in what is now Port’s most competitive defence in some years.

12 (13) Bodin Phala

Bodin can expect a run-out off the bench in Port’s season opener, but he will have to deliver goals and assists in order to break in to the first XI.

13 (16) Adisorn Daeng-rueng

The prospect of an injury to Kim reminds us how big a role Adisorn could still play this season.

14 (17) Arthit Butjinda

Arthit is now the man Port will turn to in case of an injury to Boskovic. He could have very little to do, or he could find himself carrying enormous responsibility for this ambitious Port team.

15 (14) Elias Dolah

Dolah should still be starting on the bench come Sunday, but he now faces an even tougher challenge to fight his way in to the Port team after the arrival of Thai under 23 star Worawut.

16 (15) Worawut Srisupha

The fitter Rattanai gets the less we have to think about Worawut throwing his fists at crosses this season.

17 (18) Terens Puhiri

His off-field antics just make him more and more likeable by the day.

18 (19) Meechok Marhasaranukun

The final spot on the bench, where Meechok can expect to spend a lot of time in 2018.

19 (12) Panpanpong Pinkong

The biggest loser on deadline day, and the biggest Portlist faller. If you spend 40 million baht on a full back, surely you intend to play him ahead of your weakest link!

20 (NE) Worawut Namvech

An exciting loan signing for Port, who will hope to fight his way on to the bench and then in to the first XI. If his SEA Games performance was any indication, he’s got a decent chance.

21 (22) Athibordee Atirat

If Kim’s injury rules him out on Sunday that should mean a spot on the bench for Athibordee.

22 (23) Pummared Kladkleep

Or Pummared.

23 (25) Chakrit Rawanprakone

Still fifth choice winger, and unlikely to displace either Bodin or Terens on the bench any time soon.

24 (20) Jetjinn Sriprach

On deadline day Jetjinn went from being second choice left back with a decent chance of breaking in to the first team to third choice with little hope of getting anywhere near the first team save an injury crisis.

25 (26) Watchara Buathong

Third choice goalkeeper, with both number 1 and 2 looking fit.

26 (24) Thanakorn Saipanya

As yet unregistered in Port’s T1 squad, Thanakorn might be sent to add a bit of experience to Port’s B team, rather than wasting his time as back-up to the back-up’s back-up.

27 (27) Chanayut Jejue

With Port’s paucity of strikers it is possible albeit unlikely that Chanayut will be called on at some point this season.

28 (28) Sarawin Phakdeekan

With Worawut’s arrival Sarawin went from having almost no chance of seeing any first team action in 2018 to having actually no chance of seeing any first team action in 2018.

99 (99) Tana Chanabut

Number 11 on paper; number 99 in our hearts. But there’s more than just my instinctive distaste for mustachioed moochers that goes in to these Portlist placings. They’re calculated by maths and stuff.

Bear with me while I struggle through some simple addition. Firstly, the Portlist tells us that there are 26 players in the first team squad. Port B, the u16s and the u14s ought to have average squad sizes of about 24 (because it’s convenient for my calculations) which means a total of 72 youth players. 26 first teamers plus 72 youth teamers makes a total of 98. And who better to bring up the rear than that bloke who doesn’t even turn up to training because he’s doing a 4 month police training course?

 

Tana Chanabhut