Posts

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.

 

,

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.

 

MATCH REPORT: Port FC 2-0 Nakhon Ratchasima

Port overcame Nakhon Ratchasima 2-0 on Sunday to extend their pre-season winning streak to three games. Port endured a tough first half, suffering numerous injury scares, but came back strongly in the second half to win the game with two goals from a red-hot Maranhao.

Port lined up with Rattanai (17) in goal and a back four of Rochela (22), Dolah (40), Meechok (20) and Suchon (11). Piyachat (28) was given a start alongside Siwakorn (16) in central midfield, with Suarez (4) once again playing a more advanced role just behind striker Kaluderovic (10). Pakorn (9) and Genki (18) took their usual places on the wings.

Korat started brightly, with Ghanaian international forward Dominic Adiyiah (10) causing Port all sorts of problems with his pace and skill. Port’s defence held firm, but the midfield was caught out a few times trying to do too much with the ball and losing possession in dangerous areas.

Siwakorn Is Carried Off

Korat couldn’t find a way through, with Rochela and Dolah martialling a strong back line, but after 9 minutes of sustained pressure Port suffered a blow potentially much more serious than conceding a goal. Midfield maestro Siwakorn picked up a nasty-looking injury to his right leg and was piggy-backed off the pitch, unable to even limp. Young midfielder Tatchanon (27) came on in his place. Port will be hoping the injury isn’t as serious as it looked, as Siwakorn is set to play a key role in Port’s starting XI this season.

Just 10 minutes later, disaster seemed to have struck again. Rochela went for a brave header just as Adiyiah was attempting a bicycle kick, but beating Adiyiah to the ball came at the price of taking a brutal boot full to the face. Rochela seemed to be out cold for a few moments, but with the help of both the Port and Korat physios, he regained consciousness and walked gingerly off the pitch, being replaced by Todsapol (6). Port’s captain should be back to full fitness for the opening game of the season, but he will be carrying a battle scar with him when he meets The Sandpit on Monday for our very first exclusive interview!

Rochel-Ouch!

Port still weren’t done with injuries yet, though. Both Meechok and Kaluderovic were replaced before half time, although neither looked to be particularly serious. Nitipong (34) came on for Meechok at right back, while Maranhao (29) replaced Kaluderovic up front.

The one bright spot in an otherwise disappointing first half was goalkeeper Rattanai. The youngster made some good saves, claimed a couple of tricky crosses and looked more comfortable with the ball at his feet than he did last season.

Port held out to go in 0-0 at half time, but they probably deserved to be a goal or two down against an impressive-looking Korat.

The second half brought with it another round of substitutions, and the tide began to turn in Port’s favour. Pakorn was inches away from the top corner with a sweetly-struck free kick, and Ekkapoom (8), who has had a bright pre-season, once again looked lively after replacing Genki. Maranhao was to be the one who really made the difference, though

His first goal came in the 66th minute after a long spell of possession. Port worked the ball out to the right hand side, where Pakorn laid the ball back to Nitipong, who fizzed in a dangerous cross. Maranhao got ahead of his marker and glanced his header past the Korat ‘keeper in to the far corner. He received a booking for his hilarious celebration – taking his shirt off and showing Zone B some choice dance moves – but Maranhao didn’t care.

Minutes later he added a second goal, this time of his own making. Maranhao ran at the Korat left-back, who tried to stop him with a desperate lunge. The referee pointed to the spot, and the confident Brazilian took the penalty himself, calmly sending the ‘keeper the wrong way.

Maranhao – not for the first time this pre-season – looked like Port’s best player when was brought on, prompting questions as to why he hasn’t yet found another club. Surely a player of his ability should be in high demand if not in T1 then at least in T2. Is there another reason he’s still here? With new striker Asdrubal on the bench but not featuring at all for the last two games, some fans have been speculating that the door could could still be open for Maranhao to make a shock return, but at this stage with the foreign player quota filled, that is just speculation.

Port continued to look dangerous throughout the final 20 minutes, but Maranhao could not complete his hattrick with a tricky half-chance from the edge of the area.

Port can be happy with the 2 – 0 win and their first clean sheet of the year, although the first half performance and the injuries were both causes for concern. They will continue their preparation with an away game on Saturday 28th January at PTT Rayong, where Port will hope to extend their winning streak to four games and avoid further injuries.

Crystal Balls 2017: Nakhon Ratchasima FC

 

Time for another 2017 season preview, and today’s contributor is Swat Cat (see editor’s footnote) fan Russ John.

 

How will your team fare in 2017?

Nakhon Ratchasima has the stadium, a huge fan base and now has survived two seasons in the Premier League. Each season from now on, my hope is that the club can maintain its Premier League status, however cementing its place as a top ten team would be a real bonus.

I do not think that the Swatcats will be able to compete with the big boys in the near future. The team needs to develop the ability to attract top Thai players to the club – it would appear that present financial constraints preclude this from happening.

I have great confidence in Milos Joksic. When he took over last season, the team was in a mess, struggling on the brink of potential relegation. His introduction had an immediate effect on the attitude and tactics of the team. In my view the team was playing better in the latter half of the season than they were in the previous campaign when they finished a very creditable 8th place

Who is your most exciting new signing?

Victor Igbonefo, Antonio Pina and Krste Velkoski have all been recently signed. Of the three, I am most looking forward to seeing Igbonefo.

Which departed 2016 players will you miss the most?

Milos has ditched Tagbajumi, Nagano,Lindemann and Chivuta (a mistake in my mind regarding the latter two) and has begun to mould the team into HIS team with some astute signings. The only foreign player retained has been Dominic Adiyeah. Of these football wise Bjorn Lindemann will be missed. Personality and effort wise Noah Chivuta will be a great loss.

What changes would you like to see at your club?

I am pretty happy with the way things are going. People are continually suggesting that the club is badly run (as are many Thai clubs) but as a mere supporter, I see that the club has risen from tier 3 and has initially cemented itself as a mid table team. In the future I would like to see the club to have real ambition and aim for top 5 – everything is in place. 20k attendances would be the norm if the Swatcats were successful.

Which teams will finish at the top of T1?

Bangkok United but with a massive challenge from Muangthong United

Which teams will go down to T2?

Pattaya, Superpower and Navy will be battling to avoid relegation. I think Thai Honda, Ubon and Port will all, for various reasons, survive.

Which fixtures are you most looking forward to in 2017?

Buriram United of course, but all of the Isaan games will draw big crowds. I would like to think that the Swatcats could emerge as the top team in Isaan.

Finally, if you could change one thing about Thai football, what would it be?

Many things need change. Decisions made at the top in recent years have turned the TPL into a bit of a circus but as we have recently got a new crop of chiefs in, I don’t see much hope of change. The league needs stability and strong leadership to avoid continual name changes, location changes and teams just dropping out of the league. I would also like to see more professional behaviour on the pitch by players and of course better standards of refereeing.

 

Editor’s Footnote: What Is a Swat Cat?

Whenever we post anything about Nakhon Ratchasima, someone always asks us “WHAT IN GOD’S NAME IS A SWAT CAT?” And it’s a very good question. ‘Swat Cat’ may not be the silliest team nickname in Thailand, far from it, but it is one of the most mysterious. I know exactly what a Raging Mackerel is (I’ve seen a few in my time), and I can even get my head around the concept of a Glass Rabbit. But finding out what a Swat Cat is took me a considerable amount of research (OK, 30 seconds on Google).

Far from the snarling, sabre-toothed bastard of the NRFC badge, a Swat Cat – actually Si Sawat Cat to give it its correct name – is a cute & cuddly pedigree cat breed from Korat.

 

GRRRRRR!!!

 

My research would appear to indicate that they are popular amongst connoisseurs of the feline form, and there is even a Korat Cat Conservation Club, which, if this picture is anything to go by, looks like a whole load of fun:

 

 

Anyone wanting to dive into the sordid, Bacchanalian world of Si Sawat cat appreciation can find out more on the somewhat worryingly named Cat Fanciers’ Association website.

 

Friendly Announced; Season Tickets On Sale

 

Port will be playing fellow T1 (that’s going to take some getting used to) side Nakhon Ratchasima in a warm-up game on January 22nd. It’s the first friendly to be announced this year, but it seems very likely that Port will be playing other friendlies before then, although with this being Thai football they will probably be announced via emoji 5 minutes after kick-off.

The receipt, in all it’s glory

In other news, season tickets are on sale at PAT Stadium from today until January 20th The club shop will be open from 10:00 until 17:00, and you will need to provide your passport and your address. I dropped in earlier today to renew my Titanium Card, and it all went very smoothly. I filled in the online form before I went, which only took a minute because after entering my name all of the details from last season’s application popped straight up. The online form is in Thai, but if you don’t do it before you go that’s absolutely fine. As long as you have your passport and your address the staff will fill it out for you, which only takes a few minutes. Unfortunately, when all is said, done and paid for, you only get a receipt rather than the actual ticket. Hang on to the receipt, and The Sandpit will update you when the club announces that the season tickets are ready to collect. Last season it was after the season started, so don’t be too shocked if the same thing happens again. This is Thailand, after all!