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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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Port Adopt Stray Swatcats: Port FC 2-0 Nakhon Ratchasima FC

 

Port bounced back from Tuesday’s disappointing loss against Ceres Negros by easing past a pretty poor Korat side 2-0 in the Leo Cup. Well, as long as we win the ones that matter!

Port started with a mixed XI including mostly recognized starters with a few lesser known faces thrown in. Rattanai (18) took over from Worawut (36) in the Port goal, Rochela (22) returned to the defence at Dolah’s (4) expense and Steuble (15) was given a run-out in place of Kevin (23). In midfield, Kannarin (31) was given a first start in Siwakorn’s (16) usual position, and up front Adisak (9) was given a chance to impress through the middle with Bordin (10) sitting out, and Heberty (37) switching nominally to the wing.

 

 

This lineup was almost more interesting than the game itself for me, as it gives some insight as to what else Choke has in store for us besides the dross that was served up on Tuesday.

Rather than the more typical blow-by-blow match-report, I’m going to go player by player today and talk a little about their performance and their standing in the squad.

 


 

Rattanai (18)

He made some decent saves, notably hanging on the ball when Port’s other goalkeepers might parry or punch. On the other hand, his distribution was awful. Same old story for Rattanai, he’s good but he’s not quite a complete ‘keeper. Port’s management are a simple bunch though, and the fact that Rattanai kept a clean sheet and Worawut’s mistake is still fresh in the memory probably means that Port have a new/old main man between the sticks. Until he gets injured.

Nitipong (34)

My only bone with Niti in the last couple of games has been that his final ball has been a bit wild. He needs to practice his crossing, forget about shooting altogether and keep doing everything else he’s doing. Solid and high-energy as always.

Tanaboon (71)

It seems that I was wrong to assume it was a question of who was going to be starting alongside Dolah. In Choke’s eyes, Tanaboon may well be the first choice, with Rochela and Dolah battling it out for the right to partner him. He didn’t have a great deal to do at the back, but at least he didn’t make any mistakes today.

Rochela (22)

Given a chance to re-assert a claim to a starting berth, Rochela also had a solid game. And a clean sheet. How that effects the competition for starting places I have no idea. Dolah’s still my number one, but that means nothing.

Steuble (15) -> Jaturapat (81)

Steuble was facing a quick, lively winger and very effectively shut him down. A good defensive performance, showcasing the part of his game that is arguably stronger than Kevin’s. He’s unlikely to have catapulted himself in to the first team, though.

Jaturapat only played a few minutes, so all we learned is that he’s third choice.

Go (8)

Gave away possession a bit more than I’m used to seeing, but never mind. We know he can turn it on when the serious stuff starts. He might fancy the opportunity to impress against top Asian opposition on Sunday.

Kannarin (31) -> Sansern (69)

A very lively performance from Kannarin. He’s lively, he tackles and he makes dangerous forward runs. A box to box midfielder with a bit of everything. He played a couple of stray passes, but he did more than enough right to overlook that. Looks like and he could well provide Siwakorn with a real challenge to keep his place alongside Go this season, which has to be a good thing. On the early evidence this is a shrewd signing.

Sansern was peak Sansern. He only played a few minutes, and in that time he gave the ball away trying to do something simple before playing one beautiful pass which only he would have even thought to try. Great ability, probably not going to get in to the team.

Pakorn (7) -> Bordin (10)

He’s now in the unfortunate predicament that Nurul found himself in a couple of seasons ago. A bigger name wants to play right wing, so he’s is shunted out on to the left where he’s less effective. Pakorn still did pretty well, but predictable was substituted early. Choke really doesn’t rate him, even when he’s on his game, which could be a big oversight on his part.

Bordin got rid of the awful blonde mop which apparently infected his brain on Tuesday, and he didn’t do much wrong today after coming on for Pakorn. Hit the post from a good chance when he should have scored, but his link up play was nearer the level we’ve come to expect.

Heberty (37)

Much better than Tuesday, although that’s not saying much. He caught some strikes cleanly, showcasing his incredible power, and he played a part in both goals. His assist for the second was gorgeous, showing the damage he can do when he gets his head up and looks for a pass. Moving in the right direction after a poor debut.

Suarez (5) -> Nattawut (45)

Another very Suarez performance, doing all the good things we’ve come to expect. The Spaniard rediscovered his scoring touch this time, making the difference and securing the Man of the Match award. His first goal was scrappy, but the second was sublime. We’ll take them both ways thanks, Sergio.

 

 

Nattawut was only on the pitch for a few minutes, and I didn’t notice him.

Adisak (9) -> Chenrop (39)

Adisak showed again that he’s willing to play like a proper striker, just without the goals. To be fair he’s only played one and a bit games, so there’s plenty of time, but he hasn’t hit the ground running. The fact that Suarez prospered in his more natural position is probably the best thing about Adisak being on the pitch.

Chenrop had his best moment when Heberty pointed where he should run and delivered him a lovely through ball. He was only on the pitch for a few minutes, so not much to report.

 


 

Port’s victory means they face a big challenge in the form of J1 team Cerezo Osaka in the next round. Maybe seeing as we’re playing a Japanese team we can wear those hideous new shirts we released for that explicit purpose.

The next round will kick off on Sunday at 19:00 at PAT Stadium, and the game will be broadcast on True4U.

 

Kicking Off With a Leo: Port FC vs. Nakhon Ratchasima FC Preview

 

I’m still reeling from Port’s disappointing AFC Champions League exit at the hands of Ceres Negros on Tuesday, so you’ll excuse me if I let a particularly virulent strand of pessimism colour this preview. Whisperings from the Port camp had already set alarm bells ringing in my head, and now having had a chance to look at Choke’s boys in action I’m exponentially more concerned.

I’m previewing the Leo Cup Clash with Korat here, but I’m also talking about the trajectory Port are taking with 2020 in mind.

Before I lose my mind and let loose though, here’s a brief (I promise) look at the opposition.

 

Nakhon Ratchasima FC

Players to watch

 

Not too much has changed for Korat in 2020. Key attacking duo Leandro Assumpcao (7) and Amadou Outtara (81) have remained. Leandro is a dead ball specialist and a deadly finisher in and around the box. Port defenders will want to keep the ball away from his left boot when he’s within striking range. Amadou Outtara is a winger with devastating pace who has always impressed me when I’ve seen him, although he’s hasn’t quite managed to deliver as many goals as one might expect given how dangerous he looks. He’s good, but perhaps his end product could be better.

 

 

They will likely be joined in the attack by Chitchanok Xaysensourinthone (10), a Thai-Laotian winger born in Switzerland, who has been kicking around Thailand for a few years but never quite nailed down a starting spot and been able to make his mark at a T1 club. He’s one of those who has always had potential, but as yet hasn’t quite delivered as much as he could. He’s a strong, physical presence in the forward line though, and shouldn’t be underestimated.

Straight in to Korat’s XI in their Leo Cup opener was a little-known midfielder who has been kicking his heels at one of Thailand’s top clubs for a couple of years now. The short-sighted assessment of the aforementioned club meant that the player received far less playing time than his early contributions warranted, but now the shackles are off and he’s straight in to a T1 side’s prospective XI for the coming season. Well done Anon Samakorn (99), us Port fans hope you get a real go at it this year with the Swatcats.

 

 

Then there’s Samuel Cunningham (88). A player Port fans love to wind up, he can expect his devoted followers to say hello from Zones B and D in a quiet PAT Stadium this Thursday. We’ve missed you, Sam.

 

Form

 

They drew their first round match with T2 side Khon Kaen FC, before edging the tie on penalties.

 

Port FC

Ajax My Ass

 

Right, I’m done delaying the inevitable. It’s colonoscopy time, boys, and this one is not going to be brief.

Let’s start from the back. We’ve always said that Worawut (36) is too flappy and punchy from crosses, so his blunder against Ceres wasn’t a surprise. It shouldn’t really effect our judgment of Port’s first choice between the sticks, as everyone makes mistakes, so we’re left saying once again that Port have three decent ‘keepers by T1 standards, but none quite feel like T1 winners. I’ve advocated in the past for Port to spend big and bring in one of these 5 ASEAN goalkeepers, who would all represent an improvement on Port’s stoppers, and that message hasn’t changed. Either that or a really top Thai goalkeeper.

Then there’s the defence. Nitipong’s (34) end product was poor, and Kevin (23) didn’t seem to be on it at all on Tuesday, but we know they’ll be back as Port’s first choice full backs in 2020, and rightly so. In central defence is where I have issues. The Rochela (22) question is back once again. He looked sluggish to say the least against Police, and Choke chose to drop him altogether against Ceres, opting for Dolah (4) and Tanaboon (71) in the middle. For the most part (I missed the first 10 minutes of the second half) they did well, but I’ve had the chance to watch the highlights now, and it’s a terrible error from Tanaboon that led to the corner from which Ceres got the decisive goal. Dolah’s solid performance only served to further underline that the only question should be who partners him at the back.

 

 

My thoughts on this: if your foreign centre back isn’t even getting in the XI, you need a different foreign centre back. Simple as that. On Tanaboon, I thought he looked good in general, but the mistake was typical of a player for whom decisiveness has never been a strong point. A couple of decent performances – one at DM in the FA Cup Final – are not going to assuage my doubts. Same old problems here.

In midfield, Port didn’t do anything ostensibly wrong. Go (8) moved the ball around beautifully as usual, but we were outmatched for intensity. Schrock (12) and his boys wanted it more than us, and that’s a shame to see in such a big game. Still, losing this battle isn’t the end of the world, and we know Go and Siwakorn (16) will be back stronger.

I would normally differentiate between players who played different positions across the forward line at this point, but since Choke has decided Port will be T1’s Ajax there’s really no knowing who is supposed to be playing where. Pakorn (7), Bordin (10), Heberty (37) and Suarez (5) were the forwards, but none seemed to have much idea where they should be or what they should do.

 

 

Pakorn was spotted at right back, right wing, left wing and even centre forward. Pakorn. You know, the chunky lad whose only skills are freekicks, corners and playing right wing. Pakorn was probably the most threatening of the front line, so obviously he was the first to be substituted. Bordin looked like he’d had a lobotomy gone wrong over the break, in which both his brain and hair were accidentally swapped with the least talented member of a Korean boy band. His decline since the mid-way point of 2019 is ever more concerning. Heberty had a shocker, looking far too concerned with doing everything himself, despite being unable to actually do anything himself. His freekicks were shocking, his shooting was shocking, and his selfishness was the cherry on top. He has to fit in to this team, rather than bend it to his will. Suarez played pretty well in all, trying to stick to the task he has once again been stuck with, despite the fact that playing up front is nowhere near his best position. He did miss a headed chance you’d expect him to stick away, but he was far from the only one guilty of that.

 

 

The substitutes did improve Port going forward, but not enough to make the breakthrough. Adisak (9) gave the attack a focal point when he came on, but his finishing was predictably lackluster. He had two chances, with a tricky headed opportunity which went narrowly wide and a big chance clear through on the ‘keeper which he wasted through being painfully indecisive.

 

 

Tanasith (11) was a breath of fresh air on the left, hugging the touchline and making darting runs in behind, but his finishing was also found wanting at the crucial moment, when he shot through a crowd of bodies, only to pick out the man on the line.

 


 

So, the areas that we are really going to learn something from in this Leo Cup tie are the centre of defence and the attack. A decision must be made on whether Rochela or Tanaboon is going to partner Dolah. If it’s Rochela then hopefuly he’s still up to the task, but if it’s Tanaboon, then a new defender must be signed. A foreign centre back would be preferable, but Port could also opt to bring in a top Thai centre back and use their foreign player elsewhere.

Speaking of which, the one thing this team needs, and indeed has needed for a very long time, is a striker. A foreign striker. Josimar (30) is still on the books. Injured, but on the books. Maybe bringing him at Rochela’s expense in is once again an option worth considering. As long as we don’t play him out wide again. Looking further afield is another option, but at this point in the transfer window we’d likely be looking at another risky signing, which could easily go the way of Rolando Blackburn, and no one wants to see that again. Adisak could make a case for himself if he bangs in a few goals today, but let’s face it, that’s not a likely scenario. Does anyone know if Pele has gone to Police yet?

 


 

Kickoff is at 18:00 at PAT Stadium, and the game will also be broadcast live on True4U.

 

Leo? Say Yeah! Port Face Swatcats in Preseason Tournament

 

Forget Mickey Mouse competitions like the ACL – this month there’s only one cup that counts, and that’s the annual preseason Leo Cup! Port kick off their Leo Cup campaign this Thursday against T1 opening day opponents Nakhon Ratchasima, with the winners to face Japanese club Cerezo Osaka at home on Sunday.

Previously it had been announced that, with Port hoping/expecting to travel to Tokyo next week in the 3rd qualifying round of the ACL (in a staggering display of hubris, they were already selling limited edition shirts in the club shop last night), the reserves would be playing in the Leo Cup. But following last night’s defeat to Ceres Negros, one suspects they will now use the tournament to prepare for the T1 campaign. After last night’s 247 missed chances, a bit of shooting practice seems sorely needed.

You can follow all the Leo Cup action on True4U and of course The Sandpit will be reporting on all Port’s games – let’s hope there’s more than one of them this time!

Leo Cup 2020

Port FC vs Nakhon Ratchasima FC

Thursday 23 January 18:00 at PAT Stadium

 

TGIF – Port Ponder the Impossible Dream: Port FC 3-0 Nakhon Ratchasima FC

We will open with a Pub Quiz Trivia Question: “When did a professional football match start with a corner?”

Just when you thoughts matters in Thailand couldn’t get any zanier, with the clock starting at 3 minutes, Pakorn (7) was sent to the corner spot in front of Zone B to set the game in motion.

All this, in a week in La-La Land that saw:

  • A serious debate on whether a Minister of Parliament, convicted and sentenced to death for arranging the murder of a rival, should be allowed to retain his MP status
  • Being a ‘Pretty’ deemed a legitimate job title (where I come from, being called a ‘Pretty’ would see you conferred with a National Trust preservation order).
  • A large group of Thai students photographed, sitting an exam, wearing full-face crash helmets.
  • Thailand’s deputy public health minister suggesting a way to alleviate the devastating haze blanketing the south of Thailand is by using shorter or smaller joss-sticks.
  • General Prime Minister Prayut proclaiming that Thailand is a “Fully functioning Democracy”.

This could actually be a first for Thailand. I have googled similar situations with obscure questions such as, “Has a football match ever started with a corner?” or “Does a replayed, abandoned match need to start with the same situation with which it ended?” Games have often been re-started in the exact minute in which they were aborted but I can find no evidence of anything similar to the Port re-start. This is great news for our beleaguered nation; it could become the Regional Hub of Abandoned Football Games. Thailand likes Hubs.

What was evident was that both teams had to start with as close to the original starting eleven as possible, which meant that Dolah (4), although currently suspended, played, as he wasn’t suspended for the original game.

For a Friday night it was a decent crowd that welcomed the clear skies and the start of a run of five games that could make this a truly memorable season in the history of our beloved club. Port started the game reveling in playing on a dry, firm surface while Korat plodded hesitantly as though they were still knee deep in flood water. It should be noted that, from that first corner, Pakorn’s centre/shot had been parried, thereby sadly ending any speculation that this could be the quickest ‘unofficial’ goal in footballing history.

Port totally dominated play in the first half with some standout performances: Suarez was in his, ‘catch me if you can’ mode: twisting, turning, linking play with some delightful, audacious touches; Siwakorn (16) and Go (8) supplying the more functional but equally effective range of passes. Josi (30) led the line superbly, making himself available as a target man, and posing a constant threat to a Korat defence, which was in disarray from the start.  At the back, Dolah and Todsapol (6) looked generally comfortable, apart from one almost costly Dolah pass across the box, while Worawut (36) pulled off key saves at key moments to deny Korat any kind of foothold in the game.

After close efforts from Pakorn and Josimar, Port opened the scoring in the 22nd minute when a deliciously floated cross from Nitipong (34) was met by a header by Josi that defined the word, ‘towering’; the Brazilian somehow almost climbing above the rising ball to power home past the outstretched fingers of the Swat Cats’ Thai-American keeper, Samuel Cunningham (89). More on him later.

Six minutes later, Josimar eluded two dozing Swat Cat defenders to latch on to a Siwakorn through ball to set himself free for a one-on-one with Cunningham, calmly dispatching the ball in front of a rabid Zone B to double Port’s lead. In a frantic, remaining 15 minutes, Pakorn, Bodin (10) and Josimar all went close to extending Port’s lead before Cunningham thwarted two more one-on-ones with Josimar and Bodin, saving from the latter with his legs after a delightful exchange of passes in the box. The Swat Cats slunk off to lick their wounds but Port should really have been out of sight. The only injury scare of any note during the first half was when your correspondent was wrestled to the ground by the over-exuberant celebrations of his fellow Sand-Pitters. Fortunately, his lucky woolly hat softened any contact with the terracing.

 

 

The unfortunate Cunningham had been subjected to a constant tirade of ‘good natured’ abuse from the foreign fans behind the goal (must be some kind of goal-keeper baiting British tradition) so he must have been mightily relieved to take up his spot in front of Zone D, only to find that his fan club had followed him, only now within earshot. You have to admire him though – he took it all (this time) without response, and produced one or two decent saves that kept the score down to a reasonable figure. It was not his fault he had a train-wreck of a defence in front of him.

Port continued to pile on the pressure but without seriously threatening Cunningham’s goal: Go firing wide from outside the box and Suarez tamely lifting the ball into the keeper’s arms from close range after the keeper had parried Bodin’s rasping drive. On 57 minutes, Kevin (97) replaced Pakorn, with Bodin switching to the right wing. Korat were finally making inroads into the heart of Port’s defence, forcing two fine saves from Worawut. Then, in the 73rd minute, Dolah was somewhat harshly adjudged to have brought down Henry (11) in the box and, suddenly, a game that we should have been winning comfortably was under threat. However, this time it was Worawut who emerged as our penalty hero, diving low to his right to keep out Henry’s somewhat under-hit spot-kick. Port were reprieved.

Nurul (31) came on for a largely disappointing Bodin in the 76th minute. He had often over-run the ball and his final pass or shot selection was not always the quality we had seen earlier in the season. He remains, however, a huge talent.  The final change was made after 82 minutes: Rolando Blackburn (99) replacing Steuble (15), the classy Filipino/Swiss player once again demonstrating what a very fine footballer he is.

Two minutes earlier Korat had been reduced to ten men after Kitsada Hempivat’s (33) reckless lunge at Nitipong saw him deservedly receive a second yellow card.

On 84 minutes, Suarez, much to the relief of an increasingly frustrated crowd, put the game beyond reach with an accomplished finish after Cunningham had parried Nitipong’s cross cum shot. It was a victory well earned but one which should have been sealed much earlier. Never mind, it edges Port closer to what could be a climactic finish to the season.

 

 

The Sandpit had been in fine form all night, displaying a heady blend of culture and philistinism, from this writer’s erudite pre-match conversation with Tim on the life of French poet Arthur Rimbaud (see Korat abandoned match report) and his sojourn in the historic Ethiopian city of Harar, to Cunningham’s bear-baiting on the terraces.

Not wishing to be outdone by his Colonial cousins, John Spittal, in a moment of cultural and artistic enlightenment (for a Canadian anyway, it seems) likened the symphonic harmony between Go and Suarez to a violin and a cello, though obviously not in that order. John was later to downgrade from Renaissance Man to Caveman when he promised (or should that be threatened) to streak naked across the pitch should Port secure the T1 title with a victory in their last home game against Samut Prakarn.  This introduced a slightly homo-erotic atmosphere into the Sandpit, further enhanced with Tommy Duncan’s admiring evaluation of Jim’s beautifully shaped nipples.

Friday Night Football – don’t you just f**king love it!

 

Man of the Match

As the report suggests, there were several contenders but I am going to go for Josimar. His early goals put Port on the road to victory and he led the line superbly in the first half, coming so close to a well deserved hat-trick on several occasions.

 

Pussycats Swatted in Second Half Clawing: Port FC 4-0 Nakhon Ratchasima FC

 

 

“Well, that was good, that was good” – a post match mantra I seemed to have repeated ad nauseam, according to Tim: on the terraces, in the Sandpit and probably while going for a piss. After not witnessing a Port win since I flew off to East Timor on July 3rd, it was certainly, for want of a better word, good. Mind you, my repetitive endorsement didn’t quite match that of the English translated, official Port FC website headline, “The Dock back to form a cataclysm, cataclysm, cataclysm.”

Port went into this game knowing that they would probably need to win all of their remaining 5 matches and hope that Muangthong dropped points against, most likely, Buriram and Bangkok United to secure that third place. With Dolah suspended and Pakorn (7) returning, Port lined up with what, for once, was a reasonably discernible formation: 4-3-3 with emerging Sandpit cult hero Arthit (29) leading the line. And lead it he did, doing the things a centre forward should be doing, that is, occupying a forward position, mostly in the centre. Bosko (23)take note.

Having previously compared him to a poor man’s Wuttichai, I am warming to Arthit. I grew up next to a farm and the lambing season was a highlight of the agricultural year. It was charmingly endearing to see the lambs emerge bleating from the womb, staring dazed and bleary eyed, not quite sure where they were, then suddenly discovering that they had legs, but unsure what to do with them. They would then gambol off, albeit unsteadily, and seemingly in several directions at once. It was this image that always came to mind when I watched Arthit. His 1980’s short shorts only exaggerated his enthusiastic, but barely co-ordinated leg pumping. I was prepared to give him a second chance.

Although the little lamb failed to score he didn’t disappoint. In a one-sided first half, Port laboured to break down a stubborn SwatCat defence. I’m not sure how many numbers Dominick was able to cross off on his Korat absentee bingo card but they certainly seemed to have their midweek cup-tie on their minds, displaying very little attacking ambition, with their only shot comfortably clearing Zone B.

At the other end, Suarez (5) and Boskovic had shots blocked from close range while Nitipong (34) tested goalkeeper Cunningham with a rare left foot shot after a good run across the box. On 31 minutes Arthit, who had linked up well with Pakorn and Bosko, made a smart turn in the box, skipped past the next defender only to place his shot straight at Cunningham. This was the perfect chance to achieve hero status and he slightly blew it. However, this did not seem to deter him as minutes later he met a Suarez cross with a clever, outside foot bender, again well saved by Cunningham with an athletic tip over the bar.

Scoring goals has been a struggle in recent matches and Port fans would have pondered over their half-time Leos whether or not this was going to be another frustrating evening. Then Nitipong, spotting that Toby had failed to return to the terraces after his half-time beer, burst into the box to chase a lofted clearance and was brought down by a lunging Chanatphon. It was a clear penalty in spite of the shameful, pathetic protestations by a few Korat defenders, led by soon to become arch-villain American/Thai Cunningham. Why referees cannot, in these instances, book the very first protester to send a strong message is beyond me.

The only debate now on Zone B was, Bosko or Rochela (22)? Bosko’s last attempt was pathetic but he is bigger than Rochela so it was a question as to whether the armband topped the arm-wrestle. There was a brief and seemingly amicable discussion on the edge of the box before El Capitan placed the ball on the spot and dispatched it into the corner with the minimum of fuss, as he always used to.

On 62 minutes, the spurned Montenegrin worked the ball cleverly on the left hand side of the box before sending over an inch perfect cross to an unmarked Suarez who elected to side-foot volley rather than attempt a simple, stooping header. It was an unfortunate choice as the volley inexplicably cleared the crossbar to send Zone B into gasps of exasperation. A minute later the fragility of Port’s single goal lead was exposed when a Swat Cat free kick into the box just eluded the flailing leg of marauding defender Kantapot.

Port continued to attack; Nurul (31) replaced Boskovic on 70 minutes before the first of three stunning goals lit up the night. Siwakorn (16) played a forward pass, Kim (8) dummied, being fouled in the process, to allow the ball through to Suarez who turned and worked his way past a bevy of retreating defenders before hammering a right-foot screamer past a hapless Cunningham.

Bodin (10) replaced Arthit, whose first half promise had faded, and then it all got a bit silly. My beloved Siwakorn, whose shooting prowess had been ridiculed at every wide and scuffed goal attempt, picked up the ball to the left of the box, worked himself into a shooting position and sent a beautiful curler inside the keeper’s left hand post. His look of disbelief mirrored our own.

There was still time for the game to slip into the realms of childhood fantasy with the insertion of Sammy Slot (11). Just twenty-one, Sammy is a Danish Thai with a proper surname as well – Christensen. Sammy, whose name is reminiscent of a character from children’s cartoons Trumpton, Camberwick Green or Captain Pugwash, is a headline writer’s dream and Sandpit correspondents will be preparing their puns as I type. ‘Sammy Slots In Seamlessly’ can kick you off.

He was not on for long enough to affect the game (he provided the assist for Siwakorn’s goal actually – Ed). That was left to Bodin, who finished a glorious sequence of one-twos with Nurul to cap a fine second half performance by Port.

Four goals, a clean sheet – just what we needed. In fact, that was good.

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Arthit

There were no real stand-out players, but several decent performances against a poor Nakhon Ratchasima team. Port play well when Suarez plays well and he had one of his better games today. Siwakorn worked himself back into a bit of form, capped off with a superb goal. However, I started with him so I’ll stick with him. My Man of the Match – Arthit, for turning me into a Believer.

 

Editor’s Note: This result marked an historic moment for Port, as it took them to 52 points – their highest ever total in the top flight of Thai football.

 

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.

 

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Crystal Balls 2018: Nakhon Ratchasima FC

 

In our second 2018 season preview, Nakhon Ratchasima fan Russ John looks at what the season may hold for the Swatcats. Having only narrowly avoided relegation in 2017, it may be another season of struggle for the Isaan side, especially with 5 teams facing the drop…

 


What was your highlight of the 2017 season?

Avoiding relegation

How will your team fare in 2018?

Hopefully finish above bottom 5

Who is your most exciting new signing?

Nothing too exciting but Yayah Kunath looks a decent acquisition

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

Victor Igbonefo was a high profile departure but due to his lack of pace and marking ability glad to see the back of him. Port picked up a couple of players from us, Chakrit Rawanprakone and Athibordee Arirat who will make decent squad players for Port.

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

Like all fans of all clubs, I would like the club to show more ambition, but I am generally happy to be a fan of the club as it is. My only expectation and hope is that they can become established as a TPL team and perhaps creep into the top ten.

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

The way Muang Thong and Bangkok United are heading, I think the way is wide open for Buriram to dominate. I am of the opinion that spending loads does not guarantee success – too many big names in a club can lead to friction, so although Port and Chang Rai will be there or thereabouts, I do not think they will challenge Buriram.

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

The 3 newcomers especially Prachuap will inevitably struggle. Navy, Tero, Swatcats,and Ubon will be in the relegation mix. I think Si Saket may come back up. Unlikely I know but the TPL needs more Isaan teams so Konkaen and Udon Thani.

Which fixtures are you most looking forward to in 2018?

Buriram home and away and Pattaya and Chonburi away.

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?

Everyone has lots of ideas on this one (as have I), but the simple and unpalatable truth is that the product is substandard and does not appeal to average “fringe fans”. Sure us diehards will always turn up but most Thais do not seem to be interested. Thus there is no easy answer – I think we are going to have to live with the fact that most teams will attract sub 5000 gates.

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

1. The Swatcats avoid the drop.
2. No more bloody dramas.
3. A continuous season with minimal breaks


Thanks Russ! Want to preview 2018 for your team? Just fill out our handy questionnaire! 

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!

 

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.