In a game that was already forgotten by the time we were halfway through our post-match Leos, Port got back to winning ways against a decent Tero side who had clearly looked at Port’s current form and fancied their chances of a win. It wasn’t pretty, and the goal came courtesy of some highly dubious refereeing, but we’ll happily take the 3 points which, coupled with the 2018 version of the Muangthong Meltdown continuing at Bangkok Glass, gives Port a 6pt cushion in third.
In 1970, legendary jazz musician Miles Davis ditched his long-established band, hired a new trio of musicians and released the experimental jazz/rock fusion album Bitches Brew. It was a radical move but also a surprisingly successful one, with the album going on to sell over a million copies. Port coach Jadet, clearly a disciple of the late trumpet maestro, took a similar approach to Port’s lineup last night. Late on Friday night, sitting in the corner of a smoky dive, wearing a black polo neck and smoking a Gauloise, Sir Det suddenly thinks “What if we play two left-backs? And what if we play a left-winger on the right? And in defensive midfield, HOW ABOUT WE PLAY A GUY WHO’S NEVER PLAYED A SINGLE MINUTE OF COMPETITIVE PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL IN HIS ENTIRE LIFE???” An atonal saxophone solo squawks its approval, and Jadet submits his team sheet to the kind of astonishment and outrage that greeted the first performance of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring in Paris in 1913.
Indeed there were so many raised eyebrows in the Sandpit when the team news came through that it looked like we’d all been to some cheap Trendy Condo beauty salon for Botox treatment. Panpangpong (19) AND Kevin (97) down the left? Bodin (10) on the right? Ex-Leicester trainee Anon (20) making his debut in midfield? For a coach who changes his teams about as often as I used to change my sheets when I was a student (once a term, unless I had a girlfriend at the time. So once a term basically) this was truly radical stuff, that could either end in glorious triumph or car-crash disaster.
Tero, with their coaching staff clad in stripey shirts making them look like 1970s cartoon burglars, were intent on leaving the PAT with a swag bag of 3 points, and with Port’s former tormentors Aung Thu & N’Dri up front, and ex-Port defender Niran Hansson in defence, it was clear from the start they were to be no pushovers. And it was the visitors who had the best of the opening exchanges, though both N’Dri and Pathompol opted to dive rather than compete for the ball when fed chances in the box. Yellow cards were sadly not forthcoming, as the ref showed early on that he did not have one single fucking clue about what he was supposed to be doing. But Tero did almost take the lead on 16 minutes when a 30-yard THRIKER from Korean midfielder Lee narrowly shaved Rattanai’s (17) crossbar – the first time the words “Rattanai” and “shaved” have ever appeared in the same sentence.
It took 25 minutes for Port to carve out anything resembling a chance, when a peach of a Panpanpong free-kick was almost nodded in by a diving Todsapol (6). With Pakorn (7) finally benched, it was refreshing to see players actually trying to create chances from free kicks rather than seeing how high over the bar they could blast the ball. Suarez (5) was the next to trouble Tero keeper Nont when put through by a lovely ball from Boskovic (23), but his first touch was poor and he stumbled on the second; then Bodin stung the young Franco-Thai keeper’s palms with a rasping 20-yard drive minutes later, as Port started to exert some control over the game. A squeaky bum moment at the other end – when an Aung Thu shot deflected off Rochela (22) over a despairing Rattanai but also thankfully over the bar – was followed by a penalty shout for Port when Bodin was apparently brought down in the area, though protests were halfhearted and the video shows that it would have been harsh against Tero if it had been awarded.
The second half at least started in somewhat livelier fashion, with both teams – as has often been the case this season – intent on punishing the tardy half-time beer drinkers (Sandpit writer Toby Knight has now missed a total of 13 goals this season, such is his passion for the ale). In the first minute, Panpanpong desperately scrambled the ball away when it looked like Tero were nailed in to score; then a couple of minutes later Bodin almost raised the roof when he picked the ball up on the edge of the Port box, ran the length of the pitch and unleashed a 20-yard thunderbastard which beat Nont but not the crossbar. Goal of the decade if it went in. Two minutes after that, N’Dri broke clear into the box but his firm shot was saved by Rattanai’s face, potentially damaging those boyish good looks.
Finally, on the hour mark, the scoreboard operator, who hitherto had been about as busy as Kang Soo-Il’s electric razor, was called into action as Port broke the deadlock. With the Panpanpong/Kevin experiment proving to be a shambles, the former went off to be replaced by Pakorn and straight away Port looked a better side. Chakrit (9) chased a through ball and, although the ball was so far out of play it may as well have been outside ordering a Leo, the linesman’s flag didn’t stir. He found Pakorn, whose weak shot was parried by Nont into the path of Bodin, but the Fresh Prince could only scuff it in the direction of Bosko, who had the awareness to pass it back to Suarez who buried it in the corner. 1-0, and whilst it wasn’t exactly deserved, who really gives a shit eh?
The remaining half an hour was possibly the worst we’ve seen all season, with Port’s ‘game management’ consisting largely of Rattanai feigning injury every time he made a save. Debut boy Anon (20) showed that, despite his MOTM performance he’s not quite the finished article yet with a comedy dive to try and win a penalty, but otherwise there was little of note, and there was relief all round when the ref finally blew up.
So Port showed again that they are capable of winning when not playing well, and with an experimental lineup featuring no fewer than 3 debutants (Danish-Thai Sammy Slot (11) and another ex-Leicester trainee Somprasong (14) both came on late in the game), that showed our squad is maybe a little deeper than we thought. But with tough games against the top two coming up, worries remain. Boskovic and Suarez both seem intent on playing deep, leaving Port without a spearhead for long periods last night; Nurul’s trickery is sorely missed; and Nitipong is suspended for both games, with Chakrit a barely adequate replacement. Still, the influx of talented new players – Anon in particular – the future looks bright for Port and a top 3 finish is become more and more of a probability rather than a possibility.
The Sandpit Man of the Match: Anon
No, that’s not ‘Anonymous’ – it’s our new no20, defensive midfielder Anon Samakorn. Despite spells in Leicester & OH Leuven’s U23 sides, this was actually Anon’s first ever competitive game of football, but you wouldn’t have known it – big, physical, alert and calm on the ball, he was an absolute revelation, and has surely already leapfrogged Adisorn in the Port pecking order by simple virtue of the fact that he can actually pass the ball. “I love him” said Tom last night. “His head’s always spinning round”. The same could be said of Linda Blair in The Exorcist or the average owl, and you wouldn’t want either of them sitting in front of your defence, but I see Tom’s point – it was clear that he has been properly coached in a professional environment. The future’s bright – the future’s Anon.