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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!