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Robopussies: Nakhon Ratchasima FC vs. Port FC, 6 May 2018

 

Port travel to Nakhon Ratchasima on Sunday looking for something – anything – to banish their persistent away jinx. Statistically our chances look slim. If only away games were counted Port would be in the relegation zone, whereas Korat have won 4 of 6 of their home encounters. Whilst Siwakorn (16) returns from the first of his 3 annual suspensions and Suarez (5) looks set to slot back in to the starting XI, Korat welcome Dominic Adiyiah (10) back to fitness, with their key creative player having missed 5 of the last 6 games through injury.

Manager Jadet has lived to fight another day in the Port hot seat after his side put in a much improved performance last week to take all 3 points from Chiang Rai, although they needed a late penalty to seal the deal. On the other hand Korat coach Milos Joksic – the most spherical of supremos – can be very happy with the form of his side so far in 2018. Having made no big name signings in the off-season, Korat fans could have been forgiven for thinking that their side was under the very real threat of a relegation battle. Instead they find themselves in 6th position just a point behind Port, and the fans haven’t had to suffer through bore draws week after week like last season, either. Indeed the Swat Cats are the only team in the league yet to record a draw, having won 7 and lost 6 in their first 13 games. With Port also having just a single draw to date, we are unlikely to see a repeat of last season’s dour 0-0 borefest in Isaan.

 

Nakhon Ratchasima

Robopussy

 

Before I get on to the usual business of looking at the players, I thought I would take a moment to appreciate the badge of Port’s opponents. We’ve written about their bizarre nickname before, but just look at how The Swatcats’ logo has evolved.

We start of course with an actual Sisawat cat.

 

A Sisawat – or ‘Swat’ – Cat

 

Timid. Then there’s Korat’s first logo, a rather ferocious take on what is just quite a cute little kitty.

 

 

Then shit gets real. The Swat Cat is moving in to the modern age. With its’ straight lines and flawless symmetry this puss-puss is starting to look equally capable of scratching your eyes out and hacking in to your Amazon account to order itself a lifetime supply of Friskies.

 

 

Then there’s the 2018 version. Gone are the sharp fangs and the intimidating glare, replaced instead by robowhiskers and what I can only assume are its’ paws performing some kind of J-Pop pose. It’s most certainly lost its’ menacing edge, but now I’m getting concerned that the 2018 Swat Cat is going to pass the Feline Turing Test and end the world as we know it.

 

 

Players to Watch

 

Right, back to business. Korat’s key man is fresh off scoring a perfect hattrick in just 15 first half minutes last week. Paulo Rangel (9) hasn’t had the most prolific of seasons, but he’s always a threat with his clinical finishing, aerial ability and all around filth. No Paulo, we still haven’t forgiven you for that stamp on Rattanai (17) right in front of Zone B last season. In order to best deal with the big man, Port ought to be starting with Dolah (4) and counting on the big man to win the aerial duels that are Rangel’s bread and butter.

Returning after a month-long injury layoff is former Under 20 World Cup Golden Ball and Golden Shoe winner Dominic Adiyiah (10). The Ghanaian winger who was signed by Milan as a youngster has, as you may have guessed, failed to live up to his potential in a big way. A few loan spells and underwhelming Eastern European stints after being signed by one of the world’s leading clubs, Dominic found himself in Isaan, and is now in his fourth season with Korat. As much as Dominic’s dynamism looks threatening, the end product is rarely realized. This is illustrated perfectly by his performances to date in 2018, in which he has just one goal and no assists in eight starts.

 

Rangel and Dominic

 

Doing a rather better job in the goal department is Thai winger Ekkachai Rittipan (20). This 27 year old winger looks very much like a journeyman squad player, but has managed to notch four goals so far this season, putting him just one behind leading scorer Rangel. He’s not a player I’ve seen before, but on current form he’s one for Ports full-backs to watch out for.

 

Ekkachai Rittipan

 

This lot love a dodgy ‘keeper. Last season it was former Port cheat Weera Koedpudsa who has been banned for life for match fixing, and this season it’s Thai-American Samuel Cunningham (11). What sort of goalkeeper wears the number 11 shirt? Well, maybe I’m being a bit harsh on Cunningham – Korat have one of the better defensive records in the league – but he put in a laughably inept goalkeeping performance when his old team Sisaket visited Port in 2016 when the Zone B crowd laid in to him for a good portion of the match. Fortunately for Cunningham the away fans in the 80th Anniversary Stadium are roughly a mile and half away from the pitch, so he won’t have to worry about them this time around.

 

Samuel Cunningham

 

Other players of note are Korat captain and national team regular Chalermpong Kerdkaew (4), a consistent if unspectacular centre half, and Brazilian central midfielder Antonia Pina (7) who can be a threat from set-pieces.

 

Port FC

Away Blues

 

What on earth are Port going to do about their away form? Well, first and foremost they have to up the intensity. Regardless of what team Jadet picks, the players on the pitch need to show the same desire and commitment that was on display against Chiang Rai last week, as opposed to the dross we were assaulted with the previous Wednesday in Chainat.

Jadet does have some interesting decisions to attend to on the personnel front, though. Bodin (10) put in a superb performance in Suarez’ (5) usual position, while Adisorn (13), Kim (8) and Siwakorn (16) are back to fighting for two positions in central midfield. Dolah (4) and Todsapol (6) are also both in contention in defence, although Dolah ought to have held on to his place with a dominant performance last week.

I expect Jadet will return to what was his favoured attacking formula at the start of the season, which will mean a front two of Boskovic (23) and Suarez with Pakorn (7) and Nurul (31) on the wings.

 

Predicted Lineup

 

OK, so I’ve calmed down a bit after my last effort, in which I dropped half the team and replaced them with youth players. We’re back to a Port team we very well recognize this week.

 

 


 

The match will be shown live on True Sport HD 3 at 18:00 on Sunday 6 May, 2018. For those who can’t make it to the 80th Anniversary Stadium, 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.

 

Cat Fight! Port FC vs. Nakhon Ratchasima FC, 14 October 2017

 

Port’s penultimate home game of 2017 (that we’re allowed to go to, anyway) is an all-feline duel with the Korat Swatcats. Both sides appeared to have retracted their claws and enjoyed a good long nap when Port traveled up to Nakhon Ratchasima, but with any luck the claws will be back out in the Lion’s Den. Port could once again break in to the hallowed Top 9 with a win, whilst a loss would see Korat slink past them in the table.

 

Korat FC

Players to Watch

 

Korat’s star of the second half of the season has undoubtedly been new arrival Paulo Rangel (9). He’s been positively purring! Some of you may remember Rangel from his 2012-13 stint with Muangthong, when he knocked in 12 goals in 24 games. Well, Rangel has already equaled his total from that season, knocking in 12 goals in just 14 games since his arrival in Nakhon Ratchasima. He’s done it in a team that had been chronically struggling to find the net before his arrival, too. The Brazilian stands at an imposing 6 foot 2, and will be relishing the chance to pick on Port’s smaller back line in the absence of suspended Elias Dolah (4).

Rangel’s partner in crime will be the rather more diminutive Dominic Adiyiah (10). Whether or not Dominic starts up front or on the wing, Korat’s main threat will likely come from the link-up play between these two. Dominic was probably more thrilled than anyone at the arrival of a big man he can play off, and the stats bear this out. He found the net just twice as a lone striker in the first half of the season, but has bagged five since Rangel arrived.

 

Rangel and Dominic

 

Korat have had a solid back line in 2017, so it’s unsurprising that the two main men at the back look rather useful. Captain Chalermpong Kerdkaew (4) has been at the club from 2014, but it took him until this season at the age of 30 to finally break in to the Thai national team, where new coach Rajevac has put him straight in to the starting XI. I haven’t seen much of him for Korat, but have been impressed with him at international level. He’s not the most eye-catching defender in the world, but is solid, dependable and rarely puts a foot wrong.

His fellow centre half is Indonesian-Nigerian Victor Igbonefo (15). Victor has played every single minute for which he’s been available in 2017, missing just one game due to suspension. He’s the taller and stronger of the two, and can be a nuisance in the opposition area too, as he showed by bagging the winner with a towering header against Thai Honda in Korat’s last outing. The Swatcats’ final foreign player is midfielder Antonio Pina (27), who is suspended having picked up his fourth yellow card against Honda.

 

Victor and Chalermpong

 

ROFLMAO Player to Watch

 

Yes, the rumours are true. He’s back. Port’s former parody of a goalkeeper Weera Koedpudsa (1) was released mid-season, when he was presumably expected to end up as third choice in T4. Alas no, Weera went straight in to the Korat first team, where his arrival has shockingly coincided with a dip in defensive form. Who’da thunk it? The first half of the season saw Korat shut out their opponents an impressive 7 times, conceding an average of 1.1 goals per game. Since Weera arrived, he has kept 2 clean sheets, and has conceded an average of 1.6 goals per game. That’s the excuse for a professional footballer we know and love!

Shoot on sight, lads. Shoot. On . Sight.

 

Stop! Clanger time…

 

Form Guide

 

Korat aren’t in particular stellar league form, but then you don’t have be if you’re playing Port at the moment. Korat have won two, drawn two and lost two in their last six. The wins came against soon-to-be relegated Honda and Sisaket, the draws against Navy and Suphanburi and the losses to Ratchaburi and Bangkok United. Port on the other hand have just the one win, two draws and three losses. And that’s not counting the Cups! The win came in Jadet’s triumphant return away at Pattaya, the draws were with Bangkok Glass and Sukothai, and the losses to Chonburi, Police Tero and Chiang Rai. As if you needed reminding!

 

Port FC

Dolah-less

 

The main team-news is that Dolah (4) will miss out after picking up his 8th yellow card, thanks to some farcical diving by Pattaya. This means the Rochela (22) midfield experiment will have to take a back seat for now, with El Capitan and Todsapol (6) hopefully reviving last season’s rather useful partnership in the centre of defense. Useful by Port standards, anyway.

Pakorn (9) is set to return to the starting XI after recovering from his injury quicker than expected, meaning that Nitipong (34) should drop back to right back while Meechok (20) will once again return to the bench after his excursions with the Thai under 20s during the break. Speaking of Port defenders on international duty, Yossawat’s run-out for the under 23s once again raises the question ‘why the hell doesn’t he ever play for us?!’ We know he’s fit now, and with Panpanpong (19) returning to Bangkok United at the end of his loan spell soon, it must be about time to give young Yossa some game time.

As usual, defensive midfield is anyone’s guess, with my hunch being that Jadet favourite Adisorn (13) will get the nod ahead of Pummared (41). The transfer window can’t come soon enough!

 

Predicted XI

 

 

 

The Russ Report

 

Thanks to Korat fan Russ John – the man behind the excellent Swatcat Blog – who has kindly sent us this to add on to our preview.

The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea but the poor old Owl drowned and the pussycat docked at Port.

In this mid to lower table encounter on which nothing depends, maybe both sides will let their hair down and let it all hang out – or maybe (and thankfully) they will all keep their shorts on!!

Seriously I see two sides that have arguably underachieved this season. Swatcats however have been consistently mediocre – stand out and only decent performance Chonburi at home 5-2 (sorry Dale) whereas at least Port, in an up and down season, have shown on occasions, that they can mix it with the best.

The departure of Zico saw a bump at Patters but disappointing cup results have blunted Port’s end of season aspirations. One has to ask which Port will take on the Swatcats, the Port whose attacking prowess destroyed Pattaya or the Port whose pitiful defending has cost the team places in two cup draws.

Port must beware of giving too much room to Adiyiah. If he is allowed to get crosses in, Paulo Rangel will be lurking in the box – and Port fans watch out for Pina’s dead ball skills, he hits a mean free kick – anything up to 30 yards and he’ll trouble the keeper. [Ed – not from the bench he won’t!]

Only regular Port fans will know why their team has lacked consistency in a season where emotions have ranged from sky high to as low as a snakes belly. As an outsider however I do wonder whether too many changes too soon in search of instant glory have been the wrong strategy and ultimately could be a recipe for disaster.

All things considered, mid table or thereabouts is no mean feat for a promoted side – next season with 5 down might represent a real challenge.

My money is either a draw either a 0-0 or a high scoring draw. It doesn’t take much to beat the current Swatcat team but Port can be vulnerable at home. The Swatcat’s defence is weak, especially down the flanks so there could be a goals bonanza.

So 4-4 is my prediction and a real goal fest for the Klong Toey Army and the visiting fans from Korat.

 

The match will be shown live on True Spark Jump at 18:00 on Saturday 14 October, 2017. For those who can’t make it to the stadium, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match on a big screen with sound if you ask them nicely. Mention the Sandpit or wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount while you’re at it!

 

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Pop-corn, Piss-poor Port and a Proliferation of Pongs: Swatcats 0-0 Port FC

 

“There are lies, damned lies and then there are statistics” (origin unknown, attributed to many).

 

This particular statistic, 0-0, does, indeed, not lie. A more depressing, turgid exhibition of vacuous nothingness it would be hard to find outside of a Jose Mourinho press conference.

At least, for most of us, it had been a welcome chance to visit a new ground. The stadium, built for the late King’s 80th birthday anniversary, was completed in 2007 and, along with the surrounding sports complex, was used to host the South-East Asian Games that same year. Situated just outside the main city, it has a fairly pleasant aspect, impressive floodlights and the inevitable running track, although the elevated view, for one of at least eagle vision, is not a significant drawback.

 

 

On a quiet Sunday though there was little gastronomic fare to appease the appetites  of the decent away crowd. I did manage to pick up a reasonably acceptable Pork laap with rice, only to find that my fellow farang travellers were munching on pop-corn on the stadium steps. Popcorn?! Popcorn?! FFS lads – this is a football match, not a bleeding Pixar movie! Hang your collective heads in Bovril soaked shame. Just try asking for a bag at Wigan Athletic!

Once inside the mostly uncovered, all-seater ground, with an official capacity of  24,641, we were disappointed to see the sparse home crowd dotted like a scatter graph of rainfall in the Sahara Desert. This is a club who, only a few years ago, were one of the best and most passionately supported clubs in the country, boasting the highest ever home attendance in the Premier League when they hosted Buriram in July 2015. The crowd that day was a rib-breaking 34,689 (official capacity 24,641). More on this and other Thai grounds in the Sandpit next month.

As implied, the view was unimpaired and the pattern of play fairly easy to follow, even if, with my gradually deteriorating eyesight, individual players could not. I can confidently say that both teams started with eleven men; one lot were dressed in black shirts (who must have been Port because I was wearing one as well) and the other in orange. Some Port players were instantly recognizable by their size and stature: Dolah is tall and Tana is not; Siwakorn is skinny but talented whilst Pakorn…

 

Pakorn does have a left foot!

 

The numbers on their backs also gave somewhat of a clue, their linear form being just discernibly visible from a distance of 150 metres, and provoked memories from days ill-spent in local Bingo halls: Piyachat 88 (two fat ladies); Rochela 22 (two little ducks) were the most distinctive, while Josimar 30 (Burlington Bertie), quickly established his particular identity with a couple of ballooned shots over the bar.

 

Josimar aims for the popcorn bag

 

At one time we had, so I believed, an assortment of players whose names ended in Pong. What we would have given for one of our ill-directed shots to have Pinged off a Pong and into the net. Not only would it have had a certain rhythmic assonance, but the victory that would have surely ensued would have lightened up the four hour journey home. I’m not quite sure what the real collective name is for a group of Pongs – probably a ‘Putridity’ given their overall performance.

The journey up had had its moments of light relief. John had cunningly adapted Dominic’s legendary Chiang Rai ditty, ‘A win away, a win away’, adding a few words of his own and proceeded to sing it in a voice suggestive of John Denver on nitrous oxide. Linny had tried to drag us out of the culinary gutter (I had started the day with a full English) by diverting the bus to a posh restaurant and winery on the outskirts of Khao Yai National Park. Whilst nobody had a ‘Sideways’ moment and swigged down a whole bottle of Pinot Noir, it did add a certain touch of class to the journey, although, back where I come from, the only wine regularly enjoyed by the locals has an ‘h’ in it. The restaurant certainly seemed to be encouraging a bit of drunkenness; even the menu was leathered.

 

 

Oh, before I forget, there was a football match.  I knew we had gone there for something. However, there were really few incidents of note to report. The Port Lions started promisingly, getting their claws into the Swat Cats, who seemed to be suffering from a night on the tiles, but the home team gradually started feline their way into the game, slinging in a few airballs to test Worawut’s (36) handling and the pattern of  play was set. Port scratched around for a few chances without finding the purrfect rhythm to upset their hosts.

At times, Port played the ball neatly out to the wings, only to cross it into the nearest defender, the stand (no mean feat), the long jump pit or a stray popcorn bag. There were a few goalmouth scrambles at both ends, Tana (99) missed another 6 yarder, Worawut dropped the ball with alarming regularity and Siwakorn (16) collected his obligatory yellow card, thereby, once again, curbing his enthusiasm for decisive tackling later on. No-one loves Siwakorn more as a player than me (or Keith) but his recklessness is damaging not only to him but the team. Most of his tackles are in the opponent’s half where any danger is minimal. Personally, I would haul him off after the next inevitable yellow as a warning – he is not a teenager any more.

Genki (18) ‘ran abaht a bit’, Tana and Pakorn (9) didn’t; Josimar (30) looked like he was running through treacle (although to be fair, the playing surface was sodden and challenging, to say the least); only Dolah (4) and Captain Fantastic (22) came out with any real credit – Dolah, my MOM.

 

Our Man of the Match – Elias Dolah

 

I think the whole game was summed up when the Swat Cat right back sent the ball ballooning towards the corner flag to his right with an attempted cross to the left. One didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Did we have a great time, though? Yes, we bloody well did! See you all in Sisaket!

 

Korat What Cats? Nakhon Ratchasima FC vs. Port FC, 14 April 2017

 

The Port Lions prowl in to Korat on Sunday seeking to devour their rather less threatening feline cousins the Swatcats. True to nature, the Lions have been in ferocious form this season, scoffing up The Beetles in Chiang Rai and sending the Thunder back to their Castle with their tails between their legs after their visit to the Lion’s Den. As nature intended, the Swatcats have been rather meeker, recording 3 wins (against 3 of the bottom 4), 7 draws (against the mid table sides) and 3 losses (to 2 of the top 3, plus Suphanburi). There’s a good pussy cat! Will Port be King of the Korat Jungle or will the Swatcats pounce on Port’s recent lackluster form?

 

Nakhon Ratchasima

Key Players

 

Adiyiah left his mark on Rochela

Port fans won’t have particularly fond memories of Korat forward Dominic Adiyiah (10), after he bicycle-kicked a golf ball sized bruise on to David Rochela’s forehead when the two sides met in pre-season. Port went on to record a 2-0 win that day, but Adiyiah was a constant menace, providing the Swatcats’ spark going forward and using his devastating pace to good effect down the channels. The Ghanaian international has performed well, but has only one goal and two assists to his name in 2017, suggesting that perhaps his meow is worse than his bite.

Thai forward Kirati Kaewsombat (99) proves that over-the-hill former Thai national team strikers like the number 99 *cough cough, Tana, cough cough*. I’ve got Kirati down as a key player more for his illustrious past than his current form. The bulky target man played 27 times for Thailand and enjoyed stints at Buriram and Chonburi, but is yet to find the net in 6 appearances for Korat this season.

Korat have been pretty solid at the back this season (17 goals conceded, to Port’s 25), and much of the credit to this must go to centre half Victor Igbonefo (15). Born in Nigeria but now an Indonesian citizen, the 6 foot 1 centre half is a strong ever-present figure at the heart of the defence. Josimar (30) will have his work cut out in what will be a tough, physical contest between the two.

 

 

The Russ Report

We like to get perspectives from fans of the opposition as well as our own, so we asked Nakhon Ratchasima fan, and writer of the excellent Swatcat Blog – Russ John – to give us his take on Sunday’s clash. Here’s what he sent us…

It’s great to have Port back where they belong in the top tier and their fans will receive a generous welcome back to the 80th Anniversary Stadium this weekend

I think this weekend’s matchup is a difficult one to analyze. The Swatcats have become the draw specialists with 7/13 draws so far – converting a couple of these draws into wins would see them well up the table, but my honest opinion is that the team is pretty ordinary and will struggle to make the top ten. Scoring goals has been a problem, and although Dominic Adiyiah (10, my Port fans man to watch) is a real talent he needs a big target man to feed off his work.

The Swatcats defence has looked vulnerable at times against the higher ranked teams – particularly down the flanks and if Josimar can break forward quickly he could be amongst the goals on Sunday.

An inconsistent start to the campaign for Port, producing euphoria then despair amongst their fans. This suggests to me that no real system has been planned or is being employed and that the team is relying too heavily on individuals having exceptional games. As we all know, very few players produce the goods week in, week out and exceptional performances cannot be relied on. It only needs a couple of defeats to plunge the team into mid table obscurity…or worse!!

So its dull old Swatcats verses enigmatic Port – a difficult one to call – if Port’s stars turn up on the day, an away win is possible but with the Swatcats being the draw specialists, one is tempted to suggest that a draw may be on the cards.

I am going to stick my rather fragile neck out and go for a home win.

 

Port FC

Starting XI

 

Suspensions are once again the issue, with Adisorn (13) and Suarez (5) both having picked up their fourth yellow card against Pattaya United. Whilst finding the right players to replace these two presents a challenge for Jadet, it could also be an opportunity to switch up the system against a team who – much like Pattaya on Saturday – will be difficult to break down.

After watching the friendly against Nakhon Pathom on Wednesday, it seems very likely that Jadet will switch to a 4-4-2, bringing in Tatchanon (39) for Adisorn, and Kaludjerovic (10) for Suarez. The addition of Tatchanon could bring the best out of Siwakorn (16), as he will have more freedom to attack with a disciplined defensive midfielder alongside him. Kaludjerovic may not have impressed with his early season form, or indeed in Wednesday’s friendly, but the man knows where the goal is. With Josimar (30) winning most balls in the air, there will be more scraps for Kalu to feed off than when he struggled in Port’s first few games. Alternatively, Tana (99) may get the nod up front, although he too is far from his best at the moment. It may not be ideal, but I think against bottom-half teams, Port need to come in to the game with a plan to win, and this system hopefully represents that kind of plan.

Other news from Wednesday’s friendly was that neither Worawut (36) nor Siwakorn (16) played any part, with Weera (1) and Ittipol (7) deputizing. We really hope they were rested rather than injured, and will be fully fit to take on the Swacats on Sunday!

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 

Key Battle

 

 

 

Adiyiah (10) operates mostly on the right, meaning that Port left back Panpanpong (19) will have his work cut out for him. Panpanpong will need his usual discipline and solid defensive play to keep Adiyiah in check, but with the Ghanaian being quite a bit quicker than him, he will also need some help from left winger Genki (18) and his centre halves, Rochela (22) and Dolah (4).

 

Korat What Cats?

 

A Sisawat – or ‘Swat’ – Cat

 

For those of you wondering what on earth a Swatcat is, click here to see our Crystal Balls feature on Nakhon Ratchasima FC.

 

The match will be shown live on True Sport 7 at 18:00 on Sunday 14 May, 2017. For those who can’t make it out to Nakhon Ratchasima, feel free to join us upstairs at The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13, where a group of Port fans will be watching on a big screen.