Thai domestic football returned after its annual midseason unnecessary bullshit break, with Port making the journey south to take on Prachuap. The good news, Prachuap aren’t going anywhere soon. The bad news nor are Port, as we were defeated 2-1 in a match that had that a familiar feel of Port defeats that have come before.
The hope was that the tail end of the season would see Port put together a run of victories that would push for an ACL place, either via catching and surpassing Bangkok United for second place or the somewhat less assured route of Buriram adding cup success, to the now seemingly inevitable league title and a third ACL spot being awarded on league position. On last night’s evidence it is Prachuap who will have a greater interested in this battle. Bangkok United, had by the time we kicked off, already won the Rangsit derby 3-2, giving them a 9 point cushion. Come the final whistle it would remain intact, while victory for the Killer Wasp and the forces of footballing evil Legoland branch, means that Port remain in third spot on goal difference (or whatever FAI are using this week) over the lizards, with Prachuap now a mere point behind.
That Prachuap are where they are says a lot about the state of Thai football, this isn’t a team that does more that be well organised and exploit the ability of its front men. The sum is considerably greater than its parts. In essence they are the opposite of Port. Find the right players for your system and play to their strengths. No square pegs in round holes, you want a target man you go and sign a Guianese SFS, who is about the biggest and scariest in the league, rather than signing the leagues top scorer and asking him to morph into a targetman, when its clearly the last thing he is. It seems a simple ideology yet it’s well beyond the brains trust at the PAT, along with most other clubs in Thailand. Prachuap do it wonderful and should be applauded, with owners and managers across the land looking to replicating it. Least we forget that this collection of journeymen Thais and unheralded foreigners were tipped by every preseason prediction article I read to make a swift return to the second tier. That they won’t and if they keep doing their thing will be a fixture in league one is great news, not only because it is a victory for an underdog but also because it means the opportunity to return to this excellent small Thai seaside resort. The ground is neat, well positioned in town, the home fans are noisy, passionate and friendly, to the point of visiting the away end for a prematch love in (who amongst couldn’t enjoy Ming and a 6ft killer Wasp having a dance). They buck the trend of over charging visitors with tickets at 100TBH. It also has the finest away end toilet l’ve seen in the league. Its not perfect our stand had a massive scoreboard in front of it (good thinking stadium design people, might I suggest the back of the stand next time). It also features a running track, which wasn’t quite wide enough to obscure the calamity at the far end that unfolded just a minute into the game.
Port had kicked off and looked ok for a good 50 seconds, when the ball was given away and a hopeful ball forward was collected by Kevin. Whilst Jonathan Reis(10) was pursuing, it should have been a simple back pass, however it was woefully underhit. Allowing Reis to nip in, the advancing Worawut manages to get to something on the attempted shot but only succeeds in playing back into Reis, off whom the ball rebounded into the goal. Not an ideal start but still plenty of time to turn things round. Except it was to be one of those nights where Port never really got going. Inside the first 7 minutes Prachuap would add two decent shots from outside the box, it amounted to more threat on goal that Port would offer over the entire evening.
As the half wore on Port would come to have the majority of possession but it was always lacking an sense of any cutting edge. Generally, the same trick. Our wide players, Pakorn and the returning Nurul would get the ball and be supported by the full backs, at which point it would be utterly predictable, balls failed to beat the first defender or were easily cleared by the centre backs due to the lack of a target man. I can’t blame Boskovic for not getting on the end of any of the service he was offered, its hit and hope as often as not and he’s just not the type of player to feed off that sort of service. Not once do l recall a ball into space for him. On one occasion he managed to get the ball at his feet, he beat 3 defenders before his attempted pass resulted in a scramble and no attempt on goal. Nurul at least tried to create something different with the occasional dribble and was on his return was subjected to endless fouls the ref had little interest in stopping. Seldom did we try and create though the middle, on the two occasions someone went crazy and didn’t just pop the ball out wide, penalty shouts resulted. The first when Suarez burst though only to be tugged back and the second in first half injury time when Nurul made the most of contact by the keeper, both were deemed offside, having seen the Nurul call it looked an error from the officials.
The second half started in the same manner. Then after 57 mins Kevin fired a ball to the box and having drifted inside Nurul collects and has a shot blocked. It rebounds and is fired into the goal in a bit of a scramble, from my vantage point at the far end and judging from the celebrations, I thought he had fired his second attempt into the net. The official league website has awarded the goal to Boskovic but from my viewing of the highlights appears to be former Port player Piyachart Tamaphan (99) with a bizarre attempted clearance towards goal (and maybe the merest of contact with Bosko). However it went in, it was a scrappy goal and hardly validation for the “tactics” on show. A more reasonable team would at this point dig in and make sure they take at least a point for a match away against a team close to them in the league. So it was no surprise when five minutes later Reis had put the Wasps ahead again. Cutting in from the right flank unchallenged he shoots from the middle, his first effort blocked the ball falls to him again and he curls it past Worawut into the top corner. This attacking using the middle and taking the odd shot from range thing really seems to work.
Port then pushed the full backs even further forward (yep I know I told you’d seen this one before at the start), leaving the now seemingly back two of Rochela (22) and Dolah (4) ever more exposed. Prachuap brought Doubouya(21) who instantly set about causing havoc, I can only presume he wasn’t fully fit as 90 mins of his muscular battling would surely have seen the margin of victory increase. He had the ball in the back of the net in the 83rd minute only for it ruled out for offside, it wasn’t. Nobody should be more grateful than, the otherwise excellent, Dolah who had been picking up the Guinean before leaving him to drift to the near post and play him onside. And then it ended. As meekly and limply as Port in attack though out the match. See you all at the PAT for Chainat, it can’t be any worse than this or the last time we played them…can it?
The Sandpit Man of the Match: Nurul
The guy who signed off the away end toilets was getting a place on the podium till the 78th minute. At which point Anon (20) surpassed him. Doumbouya had since coming on been involved in a war both physical and verbal with any Port player in his vicinity. With 12 minutes to go he attempted to break past the Port midfield only to be met by a perfect body check from the former Leicester man. Not only did he flatten the Scariest SFS he remained on his feet. For that alone he should be applauded. However he offered far more than the once again invisible Siwakorn who he replaced. The only other Port player to excel where the centre backs and Kim. That said there was only one contender for the award, Nurul. His running caused more issues for Prachuap than the combined output of his teammates. He won endless free kicks, got in the faces of the opposition, deserved a penalty and wound up the home fans, including giving a few thousand people flack as he walked off. Its great to have the little fella back.