Posts

,

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.