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The Decline of Thai Sea Power: Navy FC 0-5 Port FC

 

The headline for this report is derived from the title of the debut album of British indie rockers British Sea Power. A band with more than a passing similarity to Port, at its best a night spent with BSP is a near riotous evening of beautiful noise, with a band of likeminded souls. Its noisy, oddball (random stuffed animals replace Japanese guys in fancy dress) and you’re left with the sense that all those who have forgone the show to consume more mainstream fare (be it Coldplay or Man United at West Ham) have missed out. At their worst you know the people you are watching are professionals, you know they’ve performed together numerous times before, its just you question if since the last time you saw them if they’ve bothered to get together and maybe give it a run though and discuss how the 90mins they’ll be stood in front of their crowd should unfold. Saturday in Sattahip Port put in a performance very much in the former category. As the swagger the team played with though out May and June returned and Navy were gunned down 5-0.

Navy’s recent relegation, alongside Air Force having fallen though the trap door some time previous and Army finishing mid table in the second tier, means next season there will be no military representation in top level Thai football for the first time since records began (well as far back as Wikipedia goes and Hockers remembers, which is good enough for me). However, the weekend’s news from the second tier was generally good as PTT Rayong were crowded champions and Trat and Chang Mai took the other two promotion spots. So, three good away trips should the fixture computer be kind next season. PTT’s arrival will be applauded by the culture vultures who will had feared that the loss of the Navy away trip would mean the end of the annual cultural exchange to Bang Chang. Thankfully it is equally well positioned to act as a base for matches in Rayong as Sattahip so will remain on the calendar.

And it was from Bang Chang that the Sandpit representation arrived, thanks to that rarest of things an honest taxi driver who asked for less than the quoted fare. We made our way around the stadium past what looks like a great little bar overlooking some water that could be worth a visit should Navy return to the big time or draw us in a cup game with an early kick off. And moved past a boule pit similar to our own sandpit, now I’m not saying Navy lack fans, but this place was still being used to play weird French games an hour before kick off rather than as a make shift pub garden. Before reaching the away end where we were met with, thanks to the various thunderstorms of the past few days, a mud pit to enjoy prematch refreshments. The afternoons tour and cultural debate had moved on to when a chain of events is just a series of random events involving a pleasant end and when those events are “serendipitous”. (I think we may have imbibed a little too much holy water whilst on the pre match tour of temples in Bang Chang). Before this debate could be concluded however Ming’s party buses arrived, blasting their theme tune and those who piled off showed us what arriving at the game after one too many really looks like. The majority of those on board had attended the futsal earlier in the day and seemingly drank at a pace more suited to only seeing Port play once in the day.

The Navy stadium is a classic Thai affair with a running track leaving the away fans positioned in a corner about as far from the pitch as possible. Thankfully it does have a roof so had the thunderstorm that put on a more than impressive show of lighting passed over. Jadet made two changes to the starting line up with Dolah (4) replacing Todsapol (6) and Pakorn (7) in for the suspended Bodin (10). Meaning what is generally considered Jadet’s default outfield selections started. What followed was brutal, had It been a sea battle (come on they’re called Navy) the capitulation of the home forces would have taken much less than the 90 mins this one sided affair was drawn out for. You knew something was afoot when within a minute Pakorn had made a run, attempted to beat someone and reacted to being tackled by not sulking for a few minutes but rather making himself available to receive a pass from Boskovic (23), who the ball had broken too, who himself having made the pass darted into the box looking for a return ball. However the midfield monk decided to play the ball to Siwakorn (16) who had taken up a position on the edge of the box and unleashed a shot that was neither high or wide nor was it handsome but at least he had a go, inside 3 minutes Pakorn had rattled the cross bar from a fair distance with a free kick, Suarez (5) was also looking somewhat back to the level we saw a few months ago. Port were buzzing and it was the players who have been most blamed for the dip in form who seemed to have upped their game. Pakorn would show his ability to strike a ball like few in this league in the 13th minute, playing a ball from just inside our half perfectly for Suarez to run onto in the opposition box, the Spaniard played a first time ball across goal to the on coming Boskovic who finished from 3 yards. 1-0 Port and realistically game over. Pakorn would strike the post with a further free kick (which looked more likely to have been diverted by the keeper than the wood work) before the second duly arrived via Siwakorn who beat a man before firing from the edge of the box into the corner of the goal and beyond the hapless Navy keeper. Five minutes later a third was added as Siwakorn, who again looked great against the fodder at the bottom of the table, played a neat though ball for Nural (31) that dissected the heart of the Navy defence and the little man dinked the ball past the on coming keeper from near the penalty spot. There was still time for a fourth before half time as Boskovic found an unmarked Pakorn in an ocean of space who made his way into box and cutback for Kevin (97) to finish from a similar spot to Nural just moments before.

The second half was played out with a sense of merely going though the motions, the little dots at the far end had chances here and there but with the result assured the intensity of the game faded. Suarez was denied the goal his efforts deserved as a small dot in white a few kilometres from the away end cleared off the line. By this stage it was more entertaining to watch trainer Rod warm up Adisorn (13), Terens (28) and “Digger” Arthit (29), who in that order, were one by one recalled to the bench and sent on. It was particularly pleasing to see Terens “running around like a Labrador getting a first taste of the beach after a two hundred mile car journey, turning somersaults, biting his own tail, chasing squirrels up trees”, as Barney Ronay of The Guardian once wrote of David Luiz. With a little more than 10 minutes to go the biggest dot in orange and blue (Dolah (4)) met a near post corner and flicked the ball inside the far post for a fifth. There was time for Vitor Junior (10) to clip the Port cross bar before the end. However even with Port well clear it would have been more than this poor Navy team deserved. As they were seen off across the season 12-1 on aggregate. It’s hard to place the value of playing that well against a team as weak as Navy. However, it was considerably better than the recent showings and with both Chonburi and Pattaya more than safe, hopefully if we can find the same level twice more we’ll have done all we can to take third spot.

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Sergio Suarez

A tough one. Most of the team played well but Suarez gets the nod for a welcome return to form.

 

Port Float into Navy to Sink or Swim: Navy FC vs. Port FC Preview

We’re hanging on in there. Just when we thought we were out of it, Muang Thong prove once again that they are just as shit as we are when it comes to sealing 3rd place, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory at Chainat, which makes Saturday’s humbling defeat at the hands of a resilient Suphanburi even more galling.

 

 

This fan-torment from Jadet’s Jesters is almost Shakespearean, “As flies to wanton boys, are we to th’ Port, they kill us for their sport”.  And so, with spirits raised and brimful of eternal optimism, we work out the permutations once again: three ‘winnable’ games while Muang Thong face tricky Sukothai and Bangkok Utd in their closing run.

Talking of which, Sukothai’s 3-2 win at  Bangkok Utd featured a classic hat-trick from Salvadorean international Nelson Bonilla, the first from a seemingly impossible angle and well worth watching – the other two the kind of finishes we have come to expect from the League’s second highest scorer: 24 to Diogo’s 29, but in a much inferior team. Now this is a proper centre forward and one I would willingly swap for our currently flailing Montenegrin. You can see Bonilla’s hat-trick here – it helped to brighten up my Sunday, anyway.

 

Sattahip Stadium

 

So what are our chances at Navy? Our record at the Sattahip Stadium is poor; in fact I don’t recall ever witnessing a victory there in the League, with last season’s fixture ending in a disappointing 2-2 draw, after Port went in at half-time 2-0 up. And I seemed to have written so many Navy previews and match reports that I have run out of nautical puns and quips, so this will just be a straightforward assessment – even the delights of nearby Ban Chang, featured so prominently in last season’s preview, will have to take a back seat.

 

Ban Chang Cheerleaders

 

The corresponding home fixture ending in a pulsating 7-1 victory but this was in the middle of a run of 11 wins in 12 games with only the freakish, mad 3 minutes at home to Muang Thong spoiling the fun. We now go into Saturday off 3 wins in 13, one of those against lowly Trat in the F.A. Cup. The reasons for this slump are discussed ad-nauseum in the Sandpit: lack of fitness, the International break, injuries and suspensions, poor coaching and selection (what has happened to Anon?), lack of motivation, loss of key players’ form; maybe it’s a bit of all of these.

But football matches hang on such fine margins and Saturday was a good example. Port were actually not that bad in the first half, having more of the lion’s share of the game and creating several good chances, some of which would have been converted had it not been for some astounding saves from the Suphanburi keeper. The second half opened in the same way and Cleiton Silva’s headed goal was so out of the blue and against the run of play that it left everyone in stunned silence. The second, shortly after, came as a result of the War Elephants’ new found buoyancy and Port’s sudden deflation.  In fact, the first half was scarily similar to recent ones against Chainat and Nakhon Ratchasima, but in the latter we were gifted an early second half penalty which turned the game in our favour.

There was to be no second half redemption this time. Plus, we had brought on Pakorn, who, after early promise, became, well, Pakorn. It didn’t help either that players who had such an impact early in the season were poor – Kevin being a prime example.

I have just become one of the 63% that want to see Jadet gone at the end of the season and I firmly believe, at last, that the time is right. Even if he now ‘inspires’ us to a third place finish, it will be more down to other teams’ failings than our own brilliance.  A top four finish, although not our best ever (we actually came second in the top flight in 1999) should satisfy even the most pessimistic pundit after the recent yo-yo years, and should prompt further investment, especially if next season is the Madame’s final fling and she wants to go out with a bang, as it were. But I don’t think Jadet is the man to take us that further step.

Back to Saturday: Navy are down already, but with consecutive draws against Port’s top six rivals Prachuap and Chiang Rai, they will be no pushovers. Sailors do have some pride, even if the only young tars present will be those watching from the free seats.

Port, and Jadet, have three games left to make some kind of statement – will it all end in a bang or a whimper?

I am not highlighting any Navy players to watch because I won’t be watching them; this week, I am only interested in how Port perform, although Amadou Ouattara (81) looks to stand out from the crowd with 11 goals and 6 assists. I don’t even have the enthusiasm to poke duck orientated fun at Gabriel Quak (22), who incidentally got the only goal at Port – hopefully he won’t be ruffling our feathers this week. Oh dear, I’ve gone and done it.

 

Amadou (81) and Athibordee (63), who is on loan from Port so should be ineligible against his parent club.

 

For my Port line-up I have gone for the eleven (injuries and suspensions willing) that I sense that the Sandpit would like to see:

Rattanai (is he fit?) [Ed – he’s been back in training this week, but probably not match fit.]; Nitipong, Dolah, Rochela, Kevin; Anon, Kim, Siwakorn (or Adisorn – it’s a toss-up); Nurul, Suarez, Boskovic.

It would be great to see Terens and Sammy Slot on the bench with Arthit. Let’s have a bit of fun at least – Navy is a long way back when you’ve lost. [Ed – Bodin is suspended having picked up his 4th yellow card last week, so there’s a good chance we’ll see at least 2 of these fellas come off the bench.]

 

 


 

The match will be shown live on True4U, True Sports 2 and True Sports HD2 at 20:00 on Saturday 29 September, 2018. For those who can’t make it to Sattahip 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.

 

Magnificent: Port FC 7 (Seven) – 1 Royal Thai Navy FC

 

The Lions of Khlong Toey roared to their fourth successive victory, ruthlessly dispatching a woeful excuse of a Navy team, playing the type of football we know we are capable of, but rarely get to see. The result also keeps us at the head of the chasing pack in 3rd, standing us in good stead for the second half of the season. If Bangkok United or Buriram have a dip in form, an on-form Port could well pounce and push on up the table.

This was my first game as a paying supporter since the Chainat 10 incident when I decided to use my GCSE in Spanish to tell Rochela what I truly thought of his and the team’s performance. Since then Port have responded to the criticism with the maximum possible total of points, with certain players putting decent shifts in and not letting their heads drop once they concede. I’ve been on a brief sojourn in Europe since then so it got me wondering if I was the Jonah in the situation and maybe I should stay away from the PAT just in case?

 

 

 

Well, the first 45 minutes truly dispelled the notion that I was cursed with an assured display of attacking football that somehow only finished 3-1 at half time. Within 10 seconds Pakorn (7) was driving towards the full back, who clearly thought defending was optional, setting up Suarez (5) for a tame effort. Minutes later Suarez and Nurul (31) again conspired to miss before Rochela (22) scared everyone by almost putting the ball into his own net. Then in the ninth minute Nurul went for his customary dive when he clearly could have got a shot away. Very quickly it was becoming clear that Navy were lambs to the slaughter, with Pakorn and Suarez dancing around their midfield like they didn’t exist and Siwakorn (16) indulging in a little jogo bonito more than once.

The goals were inevitable and the first came in the 22nd minute with some good work between Nitipong (34) and Pakorn on the right flank. Pakorn’s cross was inch perfect for Suarez to nod in at the near post with the hapless Intharat (19) jumping too late. Navy then started to show a little initiative, especially Amadou (81) and Vitor Junior (10) who asked questions of our defence, leading to a few speculative long ranges efforts, the third forcing a smart tip over from Rattanai. Then came the controversy; a Pakorn free kick from deep found Rochela, who got a bullet header on target but straight at Intharat. Now, to say that Intharat was already having a bit of a stinker would be an understatement, and true to form he spilled the shot under him, but did he manage to get both or one hand on the ball on the goal line before Dolah (4) stabbed it in? TV replays suggest both hands but from my viewpoint, and only 2 Leos deep, I saw only one but you know what? Fuck ‘em; they then proceeded to throw all their toys out of their pram complaining and remonstrating to the referee and his assistant. Chief toy-thrower Intharat then had to suffer the indignity of returning to his besieged goal to receive some choice words from the Zone B crowd.

 

Dodgy ‘keeper number one

 

Port continued to pile on the pressure and were rewarded with a third goal in the 42nd minute from flat track bully Pakorn. Buzzing down the left flank, he cut inside part time full back Chalitpon (35), looked up at goal and fired a lofted shot that looped over the hapless Intharat from 20 yards out. Hold on – have I used hapless already? Ah yes, so let’s go with doomed. There was still time for Navy to pull one back to their credit; Amadou cut into the Port area and worked his way to the byline and delivered a fine cut back across goal that Quak (22) could not miss. So, halftime and with almost all the momentum with Port the half time chatter was more about how many we would score rather than if Navy could pull level.

Now your intrepid reporter was too busy discussing the finer points of the first half outside the stadium to witness the first goal of the second half and Port’s fourth. Kim (8), clearly fancying his chances of getting on the scoresheet, advanced into the box and forced a corner. Pakorn’s delivery found Nurul, whose dangerous flick on flashed across the goal and was volleyed in from inches by Boskovic (23), who up until then had shown a lot of effort but little end product. Sadly, the inept Intharat had been hauled off at half time after his less than stellar performance and was replaced by the equally underwhelming Wanlop (27) who like his predecessor was a mere bystander. Port by now knew that they could make this very ugly for Navy and adjusted their team shape accordingly; as a unit they played 10 yards further upfield, Kim and Siwakorn joining the attack at will, with Boskovic floating deep and out on the wings and Suarez operating as a false 9. The next goal was only 5 minutes away; Siwakorn robbed the ball in midfield and powered forward, releasing Suarez who strode into the box unchallenged and cut back for Boskovic to fire into the net.

Then a profound moment; my American companion with her scant football knowledge asked me if the Navy players are actually sailors or real footballers. It certainly gave me food for thought; maybe these players would be better if they jacked in their day jobs and sailed off to the high seas? Maybe the club should sign some actual sailors? Would they do a better job than this bunch? Navy are easily the poorest team I have witnessed as a relative newbie and many veteran supporters were inclined to agree. One fellow supporter described them as a team of mannequins but I think that’s doing a disservice to all hard working mannequins around the world. For me it was like watching a cemetery but the bodies hadn’t been buried yet. Ubon and Air Force Central should hang their heads in shame for being below this rabble too, and that question was probably my Navy highlight of the second half.

And there was more to come. Pakorn lost possession out wide but won the ball back with very little pressure and sent a cross to the far post which found Rochela, clearly done with his defensive duties for the day, and nodded it in past the flapping Wanlop. By now it was wave after wave of port pressure, with Bodin (10) putting in an impressive 30 minute appearance. He looks a great player and hopefully Jadet will use him more often over the coming months as he’s wasted on the bench. Pakorn, who was substituted soon after, clearly dines out on weaker teams and is a Jadet favourite but Bodin has the skill and talent to become a more complete footballer. Then came the champagne moment that will definitely be among the candidates for goal of the season. Kim, still with an eye for goal, played two one twos (two one twos FFS! You couldn’t make it up) with Suarez, bamboozling the Navy back line and bursting into the box to calmly dispatch the ball into the bottom right hand corner. It was a goal of great simplicity and beauty and a fitting way to wrap up such an exemplary performance.

 

A rare sighting of Thailand’s no1 expat football fan amongst the riff raff

 

So that was that and it was time to the return from Zone D (very nice atmosphere there in my opinion) to the sandpit for the celebrations. Of course there were drums, flares, leo (AKA Khlong Toey champagne), and a rendition of my favourite song (Muangthong hua kuay) but this time there was a bonus moshpit for those inclined to throw themselves about.

So it’s happy days right now. The recent return to form has vindicated Jadet, who has cut out the drastic tactical measures and fine-tuned the shape of the team and the positioning of individual players to get the best out of them. Kim slots into a 3 man central defence with ease and pushes the team higher up the field so Nitipong and Kevin can join the attack without having to worry about defensive duties, giving Pakorn and Nurul more options. The midfield 3 are more comfortable with their positioning, especially with Siwakorn playing a little more to the right of central midfield to allow Kim to surge forward when he feels like it and not crowd out Boskovic and Suarez. Suarez is now thriving as a false 9 and I’m sure bigger clubs will come knocking at some point, plus Boskovic (née Russell) has had a magnificent run of goals with 6 in the last 3 games. He isn’t the number 9 we were expecting and I’m always shouting at him to get into the box but if he continues this form I’ll keep schtum. So next up is a trip to Chonburi, followed but The Scum at home; 2 games we must view as winnable to keep up the chase, and you can guarantee the PAT will be rocking come derby day.

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Sergio Suarez

 

 

A lot of fine performances; Siwakorn’s industry, Pakorn’s tormenting and Bosko’s quickfire double but the man who gave Navy the most nightmares during the match and probably for the coming weeks in their sleep was Sergio Gustavo Suarez Arteaga. Relishing his role as a false 9 and understanding the positioning of his strike partner, Suarez has developed into a player of great quality in recent months, destroying Navy’s defensive set up time and time again, plus two one twos!

 

Sandpit Songs of the Season: Week 16 – Navy FC

 

A revitalised Port FC, stung into action by some reasoned, constructive criticism from the Sandpit pundits at Chainat recently, entertain struggling Navy FC at the PAT tonight. Port have won 3 in a row; Navy just got scuttled 6-3 at home to Chiang Rai. Whilst as Port fans we can never be too optimistic, I can only see one winner here.

This week’s song? No digging in the crates for obscure 80s indie songs this time; I’m going for the obvious. All together now, “In the Navy, you can come to PAT/In the Navy, you can lose to Port FC/In the Navy, get insulted by Zone B…..”

 

 

Man the Lifeboats! Navy Sail into Port with Sinking Feeling: Port FC vs Navy FC Preview

 

I had planned to start writing this last night but by the time I had got to the third volume, second part, seventh chapter, 85th page of James’s epic Suphanburi report, it was three o’clock in the morning, and so, here I am, a day later, about to embark on my Navy preview, fortified by a stiff drink (rum, naturally). The words of Polonius (Hamlet: Act 2, Scene 2), “Brevity is the soul of wit”, will be my watchwords.

Having had nothing of note befalling me (rather like James and Tim) on the way to my laptop in terms of transportation, accommodation, nutritional sustenance and lesbian-based entertainment (strictly reserved for weekends), I’ll slip anchor and steam into the preview.

 

The Opposition

Navy, under various guises, are even older than Port, founded, according to which Wikipedia account you prefer to disbelieve, in 1937 or 1956, so only a small margin of disagreement there. They have won a few Cups (only once) and were League runners-up in 2006. In recent years, the only thing about Navy that has tingled the senses (for me anyway) is their ground’s proximity to the cultural high-spots of Ban Chang. So, their current League position and the real possibility that they might be relegated, has left me in a cold sweat, only slightly relieved by seeing Ban Chang’s other neighbours, PTT Rayong, at the top of League Two.

This season, with 5 relegation places, ‘up for grabs’, as it were, Navy have steered a course into troubled waters indeed. Their 6-3 home defeat to Chiang Rai last weekend was just the tip of the iceberg and, with the Ta Han Nam sitting 10 points off the safety zone, it will require a Titanic effort to avoid plunging into the depths. They are the League’s second lowest scorers (12) and have conceded a whopping 35 goals. So what, if anything, can they provide in the way of a threat?

Given their goals tally to date, their foreign strikers seem somewhat less than scary, although I suppose three goals against a rampant Chiang Rai was at least creditable. Long-term Navy stalwart, Brazilian Rodrigo Vergilio (23), in his second spell after a temporary hiatus at Chonburi, has netted 3 times, equaling his ‘striking’ partner Chusana Numkanitsorn (11). They are likely to line up in a staggered, attacking four with another Brazilian, Vitor Junior (10) and Ivorian, Amadou Ouattara (81). Vitor’s nickname is Careca, giving birth to a possibly now well-jaded, Frank Carsonesque, shout every time he scores of, “It’s a Careca”. Unfortunately, another absolute gift for a few cheap ribald catcalls from the terraces, Singaporean Gabriel Quak (22 – fittingly, two little ducks in Bingo parlance), has not been in beak form recently and won’t ruffle many feathers from his likely perch on the bench (do ducks perch?). He will be hoping to fit the bill later on. Defender Jantakul (35) starts the game with the unfortunate burden of carrying on his back the number of goals he and his fellow defenders have conceded, although hopefully Port will quickly help relieve him of that embarrassment.

 

Vitor Junior

 

Rodrigo

 

Gabriel Quak

 

Port fans of long-standing will be hoping to see the return of goalkeeper Wanlop Saechio (27), who, after last week’s drubbing, may return at the expense of Apinyakul (19). Wanlop is still fondly remembered from 2012, mainly for lending his name to a terrace song based on Bob Marley’s, “One Love”. You know the rest. He is not so fondly remembered for letting in a shitload of goals that season as we were relegated. Hopefully, we can nostalgically serenade him from Zone B as he picks the ball out of the back of the net with alarming regularity. I think this is the team from that year pictured below, featuring crowd favourite Robbo and a 12 year old Siwakorn. I will be giving out a free, signed copy of April’s Big Chilli magazine featuring, ‘Thailand’s Number One Expat Football Fan’, to anybody who can name the full eleven. Answers on a postcard.

 

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Port Lineup

As for Port, well, the watershed continues.  Can a watershed continue or is it a single moment frozen in time, never to be seen again, like a goal from Tana? Does anybody really care? What is important is that Port seem to have woken up from their April slumber – the ‘cruellest’ month (T.S. Eliot) and now look like a proper, facking team again. Away victories at both Nakhon Ratchasima and Suphanburi have been won with a combination of grit and determination, some nifty teamwork, opportunistic finishing and the occasional stroke of luck. Players like Boskovic and Kim are beginning to impose themselves again, while Kevin, Nitipong, Nurul and Rochella remain consistently solid.

However, it pains me to say that, recently, my hero Siwakorn has let the team down badly with his decision making, both in his finishing and tackling – not good enough for someone who is a Rochela injury or suspension away from being Captain. He needs to be left out this week to cool his heels or practice his shooting, along with an off-the boil Pakorn, replaced by Bodin and Adisorn. If Bodin shows the same adventurous energy as he did against Chiang Rai, and Suarez and Boskovic continue their renewed, effective understanding, Navy could be in for a bombardment. This attacking line-up below should guarantee at least a 2-3 goal victory, although I am always loathe to make predictions about Port’s fortunes, but is this a new Port?

To be the old Port or not to be the old Port, that is the question (T1 2018; Act 1 Scene 16).

My lineup:

 

 

Port FC vs Navy FC, Sunday 20 May 2018, KO 18:00 at PAT Stadium.

 

IN THE NAVY! You Can Come to PAT; IN THE NAVY! You Can Lose to Port FC: Port 1-0 Navy FC

 

Shiver me timbers! The salty Sattahip seadogs of Navy FC sailed into Khlong Thoey on Saturday night in search of booty, but were sent to a watery grave by a disciplined, well-organised Port side who delivered their most solid performance of the season so far to win 1-0. The victory takes Port to the heady heights of 6th in T1. Yo ho ho and a bottle of Leo!

 

The Team

After the Terror of Thammasat, Jadet rang the changes and finally introduced Tachanon (39) in midfield, something he should really have done from day 1. The increasingly impressive Pinkong (19) was restored at left-back. Up front, Brazilian striker Josimar (30) was handed his first start, whilst Tana (99) started, somewhat bizarrely, on the left.

 

The Match

Having flown in from London on the morning of the match, nursing jetlag, a hangover and a heavy cold, your reporter was rather more dazed & confused than usual during last night’s game, and a cocktail of Lemsip Max and Leo didn’t exactly help matters. I didn’t even make it out of the stadium for a half-time bevvy. Unprecedented.

Port flew out of the blocks, clearly intent on consigning last week’s debacle to history, and tore into Navy from the start. And on 4 minutes, Nitipong skipped down the right, tried to cross the ball, and instead somehow managed to slice it into the far corner of the net for 1-0. A fortunate goal perhaps but it was certainly just reward for Port’s early attacking enthusiasm.

Port continued to dominate the first half, Suarez (5) and Josimar both being denied by the Navy netminder, with the scurvy seadogs over-reliant on an ageing and misfiring Bjorn Lindemann on the few occasions they got forward. Navy were frequently sitting so deep that Rochela (22), who once again put in so good a performance one gets tired talking about it, often found himself starting attacking moves from the halfway line.

 

 

Port emerged early for the second half, keen to put the game to bed, but whilst the midfield axis of Sivakhorn (16) & Tachanon were bossing the centre of the park, Port’s wingers were struggling – Pakorn (9) was having an off day, and Tana’s lack of energy and stamina were predictably exposed, which meant the excellent Josimar was getting very little service. It was no surprise when Tana was replaced by the more vibrant Genki later in the half.

The balance of the game shifted around the 70-minute mark when Port seemed to tire and their nautical nemeses started to get back into it, and for the remaining 24 minutes it was squeaky bum time as Navy bombarded Port, helped by Sivakhorn and Pinkong giving away sphincter-tightening free kicks around the box with alarming regularity. Dolah (4) and Rochela will have headaches this morning from clearing so many crosses, and on those rare occasions when they were bypassed, young Rattanai (17) was resolute in goal.

Port had a couple of chances to kill the game late on. Nitipong (34) shaved the crossbar when a pass to Josimar would’ve been a better option, and then in the last action of the game, the same two players found themselves 2 v 1 on Navy’s keeper, but Nitipong’s pass was just behind the burly Brazilian and, having to halt his run, he slipped and fell on the ball. At which point, to the relief of another big PAT crowd, the ref, who must’ve had an excellent game as I don’t remember shouting abuse at him even once, blew the whistle.

All in all, probably Port’s best overall performance of the season, helped by Jadet finally having the courage to pick his best players. Port were largely solid at the back and in midfield, and only the wings let the side down this time round. Had Jadet started with Genki or Ekkapoom on the left rather than the creaking Tana, those last 20 minutes might not have been so agonising. But 3 points are 3 points, and with tough games coming up away at Honda and home to Buriram, it was a game that Port simply had to win, and they did.

 

Man of the Match – Josimar Rodrigues

Refreshingly there were several candidates for the coveted Sandpit MOTM award. Dolah had his best game in a Port shirt so far, and his defensive partner Rochela was classy as ever. Tachanon showed why we’ve been calling for his inclusion since the opening game with a superb performance in midfield, Pinkong pretty much made the LB slot his own, and Nitipong was excellent coming forward, particularly when freed up by the late arrival of Meechok (20).

But for me, it came down to the typically industrious, constructive and destructive Sivakhorn, and debut boy Josimar, with the Brazilian just shading it. Josimar looks like he could well be the striker Port have been missing for the last 2 seasons – fast, strong, a lovely first touch, accurate passing and an obvious eye for goal, he didn’t give Navy’s defenders one second of peace. But his real value, particularly during those nervy last 20 minutes, was as an outlet when Port were under the cosh, controlling long balls, holding up the play and bringing teammates into the game. He reminded me of my favourite Coventry player of all time, the mighty Cyrille Regis, and from me there is no higher praise than that. Chapéu senhor!