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(The Day After) Boxing Day Massacre – Samut Prakan Dons 6 -3 Port

 

There is a tendency when teams at the top of the table lose to less fancied opposition for the reporting to focus on the failures of the title chasers and ignore the efforts of the victor. Well, strap in because this report won’t be breaking with tradition. This was a defeat purely of Port’s own making.

Having gone over two months without conceding a league goal from open play, yesterday was the day that everything went wrong. As 5 goals were gifted from open play alongside one of the most needless penalties seen in a long time. A total implosion, the kind of thing that could easily be summed up with a one word match report, it’s just hard to know which expletive to use. All that tactical awareness, planning, shape, maturity stuff you’ve been hearing about under Oud, simply disappeared. This was very much a worst of Port performance. There were spells where a pass was as likely appear intended for an opponent as a player in yellow.

 

Bonilla sums up the prevailing mood

 

There was a sense of déjà vu to the game as Port:

“….concede 2 goals in the first 10 minutes…… and generally play without any cohesive game plan. The absence of Dolah from the back four spoke volumes…….”

The quote is taken from the report of our trip to Samut Prakan last season. The difference was this was much worse. Firstly we got ourselves two down quicker, as 4 minutes in Jaroensak (11) collected the ball out wide, he’d already beaten Kevin (23) once and this time the fullback couldn’t get close enough to impede his cross which was swung over to the far post where all 5ft 9 ½ inches of Teeraphol (19) was able to head home. Tanaboon (71) is neither in the right area to clear or picking up the player. Its not a great header and Worawut (36) should really do better than to just palm it into the side netting.  The second, 2 minutes later is scored by Jaroensak, as he finds himself with acres of space on the edge of the box and unleashes a thunder bolt shot into the top corner. Its one of those goals, you can argue Kevin should have given him less space and that more often than not they go into orbit but when they come off it’s a goal of the season contender.

So with a two goal cushion the tone of the game was established, the Dons could sit back and hit on the break. Jaroensak was giving Kevin a torrid time. Port would have more of the ball (60% possession) but often appeared toothless, while the dangerous opportunity count would be somewhat more heavily stacked in favour of the hosts. Yet, after 20 minutes a lifeline was offered as Pakorn (7), stretching for his own miss control, challenges Suphanan (4) and the ball hits the defenders arm. As with Worawut (24) vs. Ratchaburi, it really would be better if this wasn’t a penalty but the (current bad) rule is clear and there really shouldn’t be the prolonged VAR review. Here, the narrative deviates from last season as Suarez (5), just shy of 4 minutes after the incident occurs puts the penalty away to give Port hope, if they can start playing to their ability they might get back into the game.

 

That face you pull when your new team concede 6.

 

A theory sadly dispelled by the defence who, if they started the game looking hungover, spent the latter part of the half looking like they’d used the VAR review to down shots of sherry. That’s one way to make the game interesting. Not to be outdone, Siwakorn (16 units and counting) then gives away a penalty as Yuto (23) collected Tanaboon’s clearance (or more a pass to the opposition) and the deity of the sandpit, takes what appears to be a drunkard tumble into the back of the Japanese player just inside the box. After a 2 minute VAR review, the only reasons l can guess that it took more than 15 seconds were A) the VAR team were in on the drinking game or B) like everyone else they needed a few looks to try and figure out what Siwakorn thought he was attempting (I still don’t have a clue and I’m into double digit views). 3-1. Things weren’t so bad at the other end as Bonilla (99) headed an opportunity a little too well into the ground and it sailed over the bar. Then midway through the 2 minutes stoppage time, because with over 6 minutes of time lost to VAR alone, 2 minutes is the logical amount of time to add on, Pakorn sends a good cross in for Adisak (9) to head home. 3-2. Hope springs eternal and all that, if Oud just bashes some heads and breaks out the black coffee maybe we can still nick something from this car crash.

Except things really don’t get any better in the second half. After 55 minutes there’s more shambolic defending before the ball is laid off for Suphanan, who’s tame shot l’d back myself to save, even after a few bottles of Baileys, Worawut somehow manages to dive over the ball and it rolls into the bottom corner to re-establish the two goal cushion. Which last 15 minutes, in which time Adisak manages to fluff a one on one before Patiwat (1) and Aris (27) decide to join in with the gift giving or maybe just found Ports sherry stash from the first half and present Bonilla the ball a couple of yards out, who can’t fail to score.

So 4-3, time for a famous come back that will be spoken about for years and glosses over the substandard performance. Not a chance, Port have Boli (94) (who must wonder what he’s signed up to) and Tanasith (11) on for Pakorn and Siwakorn and go all gung ho. A little too gung ho, as the move the sums the game up leads to a Dons fifth, Tanaboon stands on the ball before playing it to Bonilla who’s back heel isn’t within 10ft of a Port player. A couple of quick passes reveal that Port have pushed everyone at least 15 yards into the attacking half and Jaroensak, finding himself well clear of the defence, flies into the Port area before squaring the ball to Tardeli (37) who scores. Aris then adds the sixth with a textbook headed corner, you’d hope Santa or another Nordic type might have stopped him had they been on the field, but neither were.

Thankfully it was over. 6-3, and frankly enough to drive you to drink.

Any lingering hopes of a title challenge are all but gone, with Port now 10 points behind BG with a game in hand: away to Chiangrai on the 5th January (assuming all their players remember their kit, don’t have doctors notes about ingrowing toenails etc). Even with a win its hard to imagine a 7 point gap being made up.

 

Man of the Match

Adisak. A tough choice, given how bad it was. However the goal machine gets it, not because he scored but for one moment, after 67 minutes Samut Prakan were again breaking through the lines and there was one player determinedly tracking the ball carrier deep into our half before putting a big challenge. I expected to see Go’s number 8 shirt when the tackler rose but instead it was Adisak. When all was going to the dogs around him, 4-2 down, the striker was still there giving 100%. On a grim evening, it was about as good as it got for Port.

 

Goalscorer, tackler, trier.

 

I Think We’re Alone Now: Samut Prakan City vs. Port FC Preview

 

In the hunt to keep within screaming distance of the relentless “nearly Bangkok” rabbits of BG Pathum United, the Lions of Klongtoey, nearly as relentless of late, make the trip to another “nearly Bangkok” side, the club formerly known as Pattaya United, now Samut Prakan City, or with a wink to the most beloved organisation in the English game, the SP Dons. It will be a short trip into the epicentre of one recent outbreak of COVID-19 that has put the entire league in empty stadium-mode and ruined what was possibly a great away day for many of our readers. Mask up lads!

 

Not sure that counts as a mask, boss.

 

Samut Prakan Dons

 

The new boys did well in their first ever season of football. Especially in the first half of the season, during which we found ourselves with the corresponding fixture right on a great run and lost 2-1. Going 2 down within 10 minutes and only able to pull one back right at the end. They have since seen star striker Ibson Melo move to Sukhothai and aptly replaced him with fellow Brazilian Tardeli, who’s already netted 8 goals thus far in his loan spell from BG and will be joined by another BG loanee in midfielder Toti for the second half of the season. As the league leaders brought in Diogo there was no room for the Spaniard. He’s not the greatest foreign player in the league, but he will definitely strengthen his new team.

 

Toti looking to help his former club on debut for his new one?

 

The Dons are currently sitting pretty in 6th place in T1, the very same spot as they finished in 2019. I must admit I have not seen enough of SP to make any in-depth analysis of their strengths and weaknesses, but looking at last season and what I have managed to catch this year, consistency is key to a side that can put up a fight to any team in the country. The only full game I remember getting into since the league started back up was the 4-1 thrashing of Chonburi two weeks ago. Although the score doesn’t really tell the story of the fairly tight margins I saw on the pitch that night, it is still an impressive win and it came right after travelling to Buriram and winning 3-1, and just before travelling to Trat and winning 4-0, so it’s safe to say we’ll be facing a side that’s in form and full of confidence.

 

Tardeli tries out for the next Zoolander film

 

Port

 

Since BG visited the PAT and Chenrop produced his only decent performance, ever, at his former home to hand us our second defeat of the season, we’ve been unstoppable and the random throwing of money at the most expensive players in the league is bearing fruit with an impressive 8 consecutive wins so SP will not be the only ones in form and full of confidence. The big thing will be to see how our latest big name signing, Ratchaburi top scorer Yannick Boli (94) , fits into the team. As Toby pointed out in his requiem to Heberty’s short time at the club, he may have only been playing for himself but he did back it up with some nice numbers and we all hope Boli will contribute goals without being completely useless otherwise.

 

Boli scores goals and runs about.

 

We’re free of suspension and only Bordin (10) seems ruled out with injury so Oud will have a nearly full squad to, theoretically, pick from. That means Pakorn (7) is likely to be the domestic addition to our otherwise foreign front line and the only question mark left to straighten out being whether Dolah (4) or Tanaboon (71) joins Worawut (24) at CB. I’ll go for Dolah as I not only hold him in higher regard myself, but also want to see the Swedish contingency remain regular starters. Writing this while looking out the window at a winter wonderland covered in the only two days of snow it seems my part of Sweden will see this month, I’m filled with an extra dose of Christmas cheer that leaves me convinced that the last present of the season, will be the one we get from Port tomorrow. 3-1, a brace for Boli and another goal from substitute Adisak (9) wrap up both the match and 2020, means we bring home 3 points to stay in the race when the much awaited 2021 finally rolls around.

 

Predicted lineup:

 

Too much striking talent?

 

As no fans are allowed to attend the game, we’re all watching on TV, the game is on NBT2 in Thailand and 1play around the world, kicking off at 1830 local time.

 

 

Finally The End In Sight – Final Fixtures 2020/21 Season

The best and brightest over at League HQ finally got round to publishing the remaining fixtures, for this seemingly endless season. Highlights include, back to back home games against Buriram in mid-January, with a Wednesday last 16 FA Cup game followed by a league fixture on Saturday. A potential “title decider” when the current top two meet on Wednesday 27th January as Port travel to occasional home, The Leo Stadium. The second derby of the season, along with the fun of big screens comes around again on Saturday 6th February as a (fanless) Port travel to Nonthaburi. Sadly lovers of beachside fixtures and nice stadiums will be disappointed to see that the trips to Prachuap and Ratchaburi have both been scheduled for midweek. The season ends with a trip to Korat on Saturday 20th March, with the possibility of both clubs having some to play for at different ends of the table, it could be quite the finale.

 

Current Known Fixtures

 

Chiangrai United Away Tue. 22rd Dec.

Samut Prakan City Away Sun. 27th Dec.

Sukhothai Home Sun. 10th Jan.

FA Cup Buriram United Home Wed. 13th Jan.

Buriram United Home Sat. 16th Jan.

Police Tero Away Sat. 23rd Jan.

BG Pathum United Away Wed. 27th Jan.

Trat Home Sun. 31st Jan.

Muangthong United Away Sat. 6th Feb.

Rayong Home Sat. 13th Feb.

Prachuap away Thu. 18th Feb.

Bangkok United Home Sun. 21st Feb.

Suphanburi Away Sat. 27th Feb.

Chonburi Home Sun. 7th March.

Ratchaburi away Wed. 10th March.

Chiangrai Home Sat. 13th March.

Korat Away Sat. 20th March.

 

With those 6(SIX) Champions League fixtures to be added and potentially another 3 FA Cup matches (the final is slated for 3rd April), it looks like a busy few months for everyone at Port.

 

Busy times for Port means busy times for The Sandpit, so if there are any games you’d like to write a preview or match report for get in touch. It’s also nice to hear new voices and opinions and it stops us from repeating ourselves quite as often.

Thunder Forecast for Round of 16

 

The draw for the last 16 of the Chang FA Cup was made earlier this afternoon, with Port landing a home tie vs. Buriram. With the former serial winners (of everything) from Isan well off the pace in the league and the League Cup having a fallow year, due to COVID, the FA Cup looks like Buriram’s only realistic chance of silverware. So expect them to come to the game fully committed. Port have thus far used their FA Cup defence as an opportunity to rest the majority of regular league starters, a policy that might not be continued against higher calibre opposition than in the previous rounds.

The game takes place on Wednesday 13th January.

 


 

The other fixtures in the round are:

  • Muang Loei vs. Chiang Rai or Sukhothai
  • Chonburi vs. Suphanburi
  • Udon United vs. Bangkok United
  • Muangthong vs. Samut Prakan City
  • Songkhla vs. Ratchaburi
  • Trat vs. Chiangmai
  • Muangkan vs. Nongbua Pitchaya

 

On The (ACL) Road Again: Port FC 3-1 Ratchaburi

 

The billing had this as a Champions League decider, second vs. third in a slugfest, as the division’s two most prolific sides met to decide who would bag a place in the group stage. Except it didn’t work out that way, if the expectations were for Hagler v Hearns, what we got was something closer to Floyd Mayweather Jr. Port out thought Ratchaburi, with the Dragons barely able to land a blow of note over the course of the contest. Admittedly the opposition was greatly weakened as an attacking force, due to the suspension of winger Steeven Langil (11) and leading scorer Yannick Boli (10) being benched. With Boli’s transfer to Port supposedly already a done deal, there had been much discussion regarding what role, if any, he’d take against his future employers. Yet, even with an injury to striker Patino (20) forcing their final substitution after 65 minutes and the game drifting away from them, the Ratchaburi bench turned to local striker Sittichok (24) rather than Boli. Statement made, l guess.

Port themselves made a number of changes, with Kevin (23) suspended Steuble (15) came in. While an injury to Bordin (10) meant that Adisak (9) would start wide on the left. Also out was Dolah (4), replaced by Sandpit favourite (and surely soon to lose that tag) Tanaboon (71), who was actually rather good.

 

Tanaboon, back from injury and looking sharp. pic Allie Suwanrumpha

 

To continue the boxing analogy, Port in recent years have tactically been a slugger happy to simply stand toe to toe with the opposition and trade blows, in the knowledge that more often than not their attacking prowess would deliver a knockout. However, since Oud took over, slowly a new Port has emerged; one with tactics and a game plan seemingly designed for each opponent’s style and key men. No longer a collection of individuals lacking a system to excel, slowly they’ve morphed into a team, more about the system and collective hard work than individual flair. It’s all very strange and most unPorty.

 

Port finally a team with a system pic Allie Suwanrumpha

 

The rhythm of the match was soon established, Port would dominate possession, happy to probe at the opposition (who seemed equally happy to risk little and try and hit on the break). There were long periods of both teams feeling each other out before occasional the game would spring to life, typified by Port’s two first half goals. Firstly Nitipong (34) played a ball to Pakorn (7) and there’s a quick one-two with Suarez (5) that leaves Roller (33) and Yeo (5) out of position. Pakorn beats a defender creating an area of space for Adisak, who gets a couple of yards on Pawee (39) and with the goal machine bearing down on the keeper, there is only one outcome. 1-0 Port. The second comes at the conclusion of a spell of Port possession as the ball was moved repeatedly across the backline. Throughout the match Suarez, Go (8) and Siwakorn (16) would drop back to play as a libero, attempting to draw an extra opposition player out and allow the quick break. Here over more than twenty passes each of the three would at different points be the deepest and most advanced midfielder. With Suarez deepest, and after a minute of possession,  the break out occurs quickly down the left, leading to a ball infield to Adisak, who exchanges touches with Bonilla, after 27 passes a Ratchaburi player finally gets to the ball but only succeeds in returning it to Bonilla and Freeeeeeeeeeeeeeee of his marker the El Salvadorian makes it 2-0 with a smart finish.

The second half continues in the same vein as the first, Port have more of the ball but aren’t creating more than the odd long shot. For Ratchaburi Karaboue (18) is busy, but without Boli and Langil there is seldom an outlet for him, as the away team struggle to create an opening of note, reduced to their own hopeful long shots and crosses to a striker stuck on the bench. Adisak and Steuble have the better of Roller and Nurul (35), who’s return to Port was pretty uneventful and saw him subbed off inside the hour.

 

 

Go advances with the ball pic Allie Suwanrumpha

 

The comfortable mood however is broken after 73 mins. Karaboue plays in Eakkaluck (17) who attempts to cut the ball back from the touchline 10 yards wide of goal. Worawut/Baresi (24) makes a sliding block and seemingly puts the ball out for a corner. However, in so doing the ball has bounced off his leg and into his arm. There’s zero intent but its undeniably a penalty under the current laws. A terrible rule, enforced by an even worse system of investigation. However, right now we are stuck with both. What we shouldn’t be stuck with is a process that takes over 3 minutes to award the penalty. One view of the incident is all it should have taken, 15 seconds to make the decision and be done with VAR. Instead some 4 ½ minutes after the incident, Roller finally stepped up to send Worawut/keeper (36) the wrong way and bring the game back to life. In days past this would be the moment Port’s self-sabotaging tendencies came to the fore and we’d be lucky to escape with a draw. Ratchaburi ears pricked, did they up their game or was it the lingering fear of times past, tricking us that every Ratchaburi touch was about to lead to the equalizer. Murmers of worry could be heard from the terraces “operation…… something?” But Oud’s Port is made of stronger stuff and rode out the temporary storm and set about finding a third.

Substitutes Tanasith (11) and Nattawut (45) came close before in the last minute Siwakorn’s shot across goal received the merest of touches from Nattawut to send the ball past the keeper and though Yeo’s legs to seal the win against his former club. There was still time for Ratchaburi to create a great chance for Karaboue but Worawut/keeper was able to pull off a wonder save. That it was their first major chance from open play, sums up Port’s efforts. A 3-1 win against a team that is a worthy third. Who given the chance plays some of the nicest attacking football in the league but here were made to look ordinary. The defence was again solid, the run of clean sheets is over but they haven’t conceded a goal from open play since just after half time in the game at Rayong, nearly 600 minutes of league football has pasted since. Playing against several teams in and around the champions leagues places and a derby, to have won them all has been a fantastic effort.


Man of the Match

 

Always dependable and always puts a shift in MOTM Steuble

 

This was the epitome of a team performance, the system and tactics were a 10, individually nobody really excelled, and nobody had a poor game, 7s and 8s across the board. So, the award goes to Steuble, not often a fullback gets the award but off the back next to no game time, he came in shut down Roller, did everything that was asked of him and contributed going forward and had a hand in the second goal.

 

WE ARE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE (group stage)

 

Heberty: You Can’t Always Get What You Want

 

 

So farewell, Heberty Fernandes de Andrade. Another foreign player disappears (up to Pathum Thani) and, among the foreign contingent of Port fans, it seems to be a cause for celebration. I was hardly his biggest fan but I’m also slightly disappointed to see him leave after so short a contribution. After an anonymous writer’s critique was published on this fine website recently, I decided to break cover and write a counter argument but if I’m honest I will spend a lot of my time deconstructing the negative aspects of his short time at Port as much as talking up the positives.

 

Leaving at the same time as cult hero Josimar, it’s clear to see two very different levels of appreciation. Josi’s dedication to the club was true and, over two periods he applied himself and his efforts and goals garnered the fan’s love. Herberty’s loan period has been a victim of COVID but this is hardly an excuse to base the article around. The transfer wasn’t his ideal choice and the only thing that interested him was an extortionate salary the club chose to give him and subsequently realised was a ridiculous figure. He did turn up for matches and I won’t just rely on his stats (played 9, 7 goals & 2 assists) which are more decent than most. His contribution helped us to bag vital points in the title race in matches such as Trat and Buriram away. He also can’t be blamed for the lights going out against BEC Police Tero and he wasn’t on the pitch for the defeat at home to Bangkok Glass. We have just qualified for the ACL group stages for the first time and he is one of the players responsible for achieving this.

 

Let’s analyze the makings of a poorly thought out transfer and start with the club’s recruitment policy. Heberty was this season’s Sumanya or Kaluderovic; a signing who was disinterested or a poor fit for the club. Port has very little clue when it comes to the acquisition of players; basically an agent bends Madame’s ear or we buy someone totally unnecessary (the Aksornsri twins spring to mind currently). Muangthong needed to unload a raft of players due to financial instability and Port saw an opportunity to acquire talent. Adisak was required; Heberty, Adisorn and Chappuis weren’t. Returning to my original point, both Sumanya and Kaluderovic didn’t last long so it’s no surprise Heberty was moved on once his loan contract expired.

 

The annual this glamour signing will be different photo-shoot

 

Lets also touch on his former club; they’re our biggest rivals and originally this felt like a transfer coup similar to Sol Campbell to Arsenal but very quickly became clear it was far from that. To make matters worse he returned to watch his teammates not long after making the switch. Maybe for Thai fans this is acceptable but not for foreign fans; your allegiances are with your new club. And it’s perhaps this attitude which translated itself onto the pitch and supplanted his undoubted ability. A speculative 40 yarder instead of a short ball to a better positioned player, a mazy dribble with no end product instead of an early cross. Heberty’s play was hampered by his selfishness and over-confidence, and although he formed a good understanding with Suarez it was clear they were too similar to be in the same team. He’s been one of best players in the Thai league in recent years but he certainly isn’t a player who brings balance to a team. Who knows, maybe Oud could have gotten more out of him over time?

 

Most football fans are fickle and their opinions at the end of the day count for very little, and sadly also amplified in this social media age. Players come to teams from time to time and you wonder what’s the point of them or why are they even there? Many will soon struggle to remember the pedestrian Panamanian striker Rolando “Tony” Blackburn who also joined us on loan, and those who do are quick to criticise his contribution, but in his short time he scored crucial goals and helped us on our winning FA Cup run. Part of football are these fleeting cameos and sure they might not do exactly what you want in every game but they do contribute something to the bigger picture. I know many of you won’t change your opinion but that’s fine, it’s part of football, and the post-match debate can be just as enthralling as the actual match, but there have been much worse players to put on the hallowed Port shirt and someone else will be in the firing line for our criticism soon enough.

 

So cheers for what you helped us achieve Heberty, but don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

 

All smiles, the peak of his time with Port.

 

Next Week: Tanaboon – A Modern Day Matthias Sammer

 

Bizarre Love(less) Triangle – Port, Heberty and The Sandpit

 

It was a move that generated a lot of buzz in the pre-season, and I’m not going to lie: I was quite excited initially when Brazilian attacker Heberty was signed. That being said, my initial excitement then became “wait, how will we fit him in!?” to “oh, for goodness sake, he’s killing our attacking movement.” The early signs courtesy of the Leo Pre-season Cup weren’t too good, but despite us not looking all that convincing, we still managed to pick up a [completely pointless] piece of silverware. More silverware beckoned surely!?

What I saw during pre-season from Heberty wasn’t good. He looked moody, somewhat disinterested, and to me, he was disruptive to the team. The incessant shots from 40-yards that didn’t stand a chance of hitting the back of the net, his unwillingness to make a simple 5-yard pass to a teammate in favour of spraying a 40-yard pass that was intercepted or lacked direction: he frustrated me to no end. It’s been blatantly obvious for years that we’d needed a ‘scary foreign striker’ and let’s be honest: Heberty isn’t that. He’s an attacking midfielder, and we already had a brilliant attacking-midfielder in the form of one Sergio Suarez. Whilst it’s probably fair (to some) to say that Heberty is a better player, there’s something that Suarez is far better at: working with his teammates! Shock, horror, exactly the thing you’d expect from someone playing that position.

Don’t get me wrong, the statistics attached to Heberty’s time in Thailand are impressive prior to arriving in Klong Toei:

 

 

 

When you factor in the 29 assists that he’s credited with for the 2018 and 2019 seasons for Muangthong, it’s obvious that his [statistical] output was phenomenal.

During his two 2 spells in Thailand, he won a solitary Thai League Cup in 2017 with Muangthong, as well as the Mekong Club Championship in 2017: a moment that would surely be the pinnacle of any player’s career.

 

A surly celebration after scoring away at Trat. Presumably shhhhing some home fans.

 

It goes to show how statistics don’t show the whole truth. For all of his stat-padding, he’s never truly achieved any measure of success in his career, and the way he plays (for himself, not for his team) is the very reason that he’s stuck playing in Thailand, and not still playing in Japan or the Middle-East.

 

Heberty looking miserable playing for Ratchaburi

 

During his time at the club, Heberty scored 7 goals in 11 appearances, in his latest showing of blatant stat-padding. He was a part of our disastrous Asian Champions League campaign that ended before it was able to start, and he was also credited with 2 assists on Transfermarkt, so I’ll mention that too.

What I felt of his performances for the club was this:

The goals and assists may suggest he had a huge role for the team, but our attack was disjointed, and it was 100% because of him. His insistence that everything had to go through him meant we missed out on plenty of goal-scoring opportunities. That said, there was moments against Trat and Rayong where I thought he was quite fantastic, possibly even turning things around, before being disappointed by him the next time he stepped onto the pitch for us.

 

I thought he liked them? Seemingly forlorn at signing for Muangthong.

 

It’s no secret that we’ve looked a much better side without him in the line-up, with it appearing that we’re now much more balanced. Bordin is now giving every fullback in Thailand nightmares, and is certainly benefiting from receiving the ball a bit more often. Every member of the squad is pulling their weight during the game, nobody is shirking their defensive duties, and our performances can almost be described as ‘workmanlike’ at times under Coach Oink.

I don’t think for a single second that this would’ve been possible with Heberty still at the club. You know what they say, though: one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. After departing Port, there was supposed interest from China (I’m calling bollocks on that one), before perennial under-achievers Bangkok United decided to sign him. Considering he looked miserable to be playing for a club with a stadium atmosphere that’s almost unrivaled in Thailand, at least there’ll be no fans at the Thammasat Stadium to be disappointed with his apparent lack of enthusiasm to be at their club.

Also, with the way that their players behave on matchday, he should fit right in, but in a completely different way, which I guess will make a nice change for neutral viewers that are searching for new reasons to not like Bangkok United. Just watch the way they attempt to intimidate the referee, scream bloody murder when they dive and don’t receive a penalty: you’ll be given plenty of reasons to not like them within the first 30-minutes.

 

This one I can understand. I’d have a bit of a strop on too, if I’d just had to take a big pay cut.

 

Shopping Boli

With the departure confirmed, a foreign spot has opened up, and the rumours say practically unanimously that it will be filled by Ivorian striker Yannick Boli. If Boli is to arrive it’ll be interesting to see what happens with Nelson Bonilla, who has looked incredible since his return from injury. If we’re to sign Boli, and keep Bonilla, I’m honestly excited by the goal-scoring options that we’d have on our books. Throw Adisak into the equation (sorry Tom) and there’s depth that is probably unrivaled league-wide.

Also departing the club, as mentioned in a previous article, is the incredibly likeable and all round good guy Josimar. I’ll never forget his goal last season against the Scum, as I was on an eight hour ferry ride back home. I’m surprised that I didn’t wake anyone with my celebrations of the goal, and I envy every person that was in Zone B for that special moment. I hope he’s picked up by a fellow T1 side, so that we can give him a proper send-off and express our gratitude.

 

Dolah In The Bank

In much brighter news: Elias has re-signed with the club! I was quite concerned that we were going to lose him, and I’m pleased that we’ve locked him in for the next two-and-a-half years. That goal-line save in the derby on Wednesday was a nice reminder of just how important he is to us and may be the catalyst for inspiring a big second-leg for him. If Nishino wants to win a few things with Thailand, he’d be wise to drop the ticking time-bomb Manuel Bihr and start Dolah ahead of him. Just my two cents!

With the mid-season window ahead of us, I’m sure there’s plenty of excitement [and possibly a cluster-youknowwhat] around the corner that will have us all scratching our heads. With the team looking fantastic at the moment, I’d like to see minimal changes, though I expect we may see a few of the fringe players depart on loan-deals at the very least.

With vendors allowed back at PAT for the recent FA Cup game, and performances on the pitch consistently good: there’s plenty of reasons to be excited.

 

Note From The Editor

We know plenty of you liked Heberty, so if you’d like to write a riposte with a different opinion on his time at Port, get in touch. If you like you can do it without your name appearing, as this author did.

 

see ya grumpy

 

Sandpit contributor John Spittal asks a Lions superfan if this season’s Port FC squad is the best ever?

Ho hum, we beat the Scum.

The referee blows the whistle to conclude another slum vs scum classic…er hold off on that word ‘classic.’ How about just another routine Tarua FC win? Bangkok’s most bitter football rivalry has become just another ho hum 3 points in the standings for the slummers. I have been a Port FC supporter since 2013 and I thought I would not live to see the day that a 2-0 thumping of the mighty Muangthong United would be met with no red flares going off in the sandpit and no crazy farangs dancing like um…crazy farangs. It was a mild, laid back celebration by the PAT stadium faithful. A ‘been there, done that’ type of thing. Wow. Are we, Port FC Lions now that good?

We are THAT good.

This current edition of Thai Port FC has 7 straight wins in league play!  back to back to back clean sheets!  undefeated on the road! Defending champions of the Chang FA Cup and in the round of 16 this season. Surely, all these numbers add up to this 2020-2021 squad being considered the best ever Port FC side?

Nattawuth Boonsorn owner of LAAB 38 restaurant

Well, no, not for one superfan…and stop calling him Shirley. His name is Nattawuth Boonsorn and his Thai food restaurant on Sathupradit soi 38 in Yan Nawa is a shrine in tribute to his beloved Port FC. LAAB 38 loosely translated in English is ‘Fortune 38’. It has Port Lions memorabilia adorning every wall in this six table eatery. Port FC players of the past are displayed above the dining tables. In my home country of Canada, Nattawuth would be considered a superfan; maybe even a superduper fan. He and his family attend most home matches and he has been known to close the doors to his popular LAAB 38 for one to two days because a Port FC away trip beckons. Nattawuth fell in love with the Lions the moment he attended his first match in 2009. When I ask him what year was the best ever Port squad he points to a framed team picture of the 2019 Chang FA Cup champions…

2019 Chang FA Cup Champions

but wait…hold on,  that’s his third place winners.

Second place goes to the team picture right next door..the current 2020-21 squad. His favourite player on this year’s Lions…#10 Bordin Phala.

And the winner is….

First place goes to….he points all the way down his wall of fame to a framed team picture of the 2009-10 Port FC Lions.

Huh? Really? A team that finished 4th in league standings, lost twice to the hated rivals MTU? Nattawuth nods and says “yes, but they won the League Cup for the first time and the 2010 Lions, for the first time, qualified for “The AFC Cup” The Asian Football Confederation Cup then a stepping stone for clubs to get into the AFC Champions League. It was a big deal for Thai football squads to qualify for the AFC Cup. Thai port FC was eliminated from the final 8 teams in the 2010 AFC Cup tournament.

Sompong Soleb forward Thai Port FC Lions 2010-11.

Nattawuth points down to a player photo which is in the centre of his wall. “He is why the 2010 club is my favourite.” The emergence of a true Thai football superstar took place on that side. #24 Sompong Soleb (forward) scored 12 goals in 37 appearances for Thai Port FC in 2010-11. He was instrumental in carrying this rag tag bunch from Klong Toei and making them trophy winners and AFC Cup qualifiers. Many long time club supporters still name Sompong as their all time favourite. Sompong Soleb now plays for Chamchuri United in Bangkok.

2010 Thai Port FC AFC Cup qualifiers. Sompong Soleb is circled.

 

Panache minus the Pang

Nattawuth Boonsorn

Nattawuth Boonsorn says he doesn’t know if the current squad can overtake his 2010 side on his favourite list. He thinks there was something very special with that club of 2010. He says they
played with abandon, care free up front but a disciplined defence. A group of ‘nobody believes in us’ football swashbucklers. Nattawuth smiles slyly when I suggest his 2010 squad had “panache minus the Pang”.

Customs Check – Port FC vs. MOF Customs, FA Cup Round of 32 Preview

 

Port continue their FA Cup defence with a home tie against MOF Customs United on Sunday at 6 pm. With the opposition being from the second tier, l was off to the wonderful world of Wikipedia, Transfermkt and the roulette wheel of Thai club website and Facebook pages. Which couldn’t be better summed up than by the first Customs page l found having a total of two posts, including this.

 

Not a clue

 

Add to the mix that contracts signed for the original 2020 season calendar ran till the end of November and there’s a fair chance one or two players who have been Customs first-teamers will have moved on, so apologies if anyone mentioned doesn’t appear.

 

MOF Customs – What We Know

 

Their full name is Ministry of Finance Customs United Football Club. They are based in Lad Krabang, just over the fence from Suvarnabhumi airport. Their ground has two sides and the away stand has one of the best sunsets views in Thai football. So we messed up not warm balling ourselves an away tie.

 

Told you it was nice

 

They’ve managed a solitary season in the top flight in 2008 and finished rock bottom, having been champions of the second tier in 2007. They were coached by our own Sarawut Treephan in 2014. Kayne Vincent was their top scorer last season. We’ve loaned them a few players, Tom will know them all, nobody else will.

 

Easy on the sponsors lads.

 

This Season

 

Customs are currently 12th in the M150 championship. Unbeaten in 3 games and have back to back wins v the middliest of middle table pair Navy and Ranong in their last two matches. Away from home their record is 3-1-3 scoring 10 and conceding 12. Against the top 8 sides in the division, their record is a somewhat disappointing 0-1-5. Conceding an average of 2.5 goals a game. Against those below 8th, it’s a different story with just 5 goals allowed in 9 games (0.56 per game). So, it appears they can handle teams to a level and then it all gets a bit much. Also, 9 of their 15 league games have reached half time scoreless.

They were among the teams from the Championship who had to enter the FA Cup in the Qualification round, drawing fellow second tier club Uthai Thani, in a game that didn’t just get to halftime at 0-0 but remained scoreless to the end of 120 minutes before Customs advanced on penalties. In the last round, they faced the rather wonderfully named Nakhonratchasima Municipal Sport School and made like playground bullies making off with all the lunch money and a place in the next round, 3-0.

 

Who Plays for them?

 

Japanese attacking midfielder, Kenzo Nambu (7) leads the scoring with 7 leagues including a brace against Ranong and one in the previous match v Navy. He’s spent most of his career in the Japanese regional leagues and J3. Before moving to Thailand to join Kasetsart last season.

 

Kenzo scoring against Ranong United

 

Second, on the scoring charts is Brazilian left winger Deyvision (27) who has 4 goals from 11 starts and arrived from Port feeder club Songkhla, he has one of those epically nomadic Brazilian journeyman career history’s appearing to have made 15 transfers in an 8 year career.

 

Deyvison making shapes

 

Not playing for them is South Korean Yoo Byung-soo who moved to Ayutthaya after the pre-COVID part of the season but his nickname of “Ronaldo of Wolmido” is getting him a mention. He’s also currently the second top scorer in the division, maybe we’re better off not know which Ronaldo his moniker is derived from.

To stick to the Thai football stereotype, the defence appears to be marshaled by an overseas player in Swede Viktor Lovgren, who’s a vegan and had a pretty solid career in Sweden before heading over to Customs at the start of the year.

 

Imagine how buff this fella could be if was banging back bacon sandwiches.

 

Back up keeper Pisan Dorkmaikaew (35) has started the two previous rounds of the cup over league first choice Nutchanon (26). Pisan’s Wikipedia page has him down as retired, however, it seems a bit of pressure from Customs officials got him to retract his initial statement. Seemingly one of the better keepers in Thailand at his peak he was called up to the national team squad twice, eight years apart but never capped.

 

You’re going nowhere, son

 

In January, Thai Italian defensive midfielder Antonio Verzura (4) decided to call it a day at the ripe old age of 27 having spent the first half of the 2019 season at Prachuap and the second half at Sukhothai. Yet between the two and being involved in nearly 50% of matchday squads, the only appearance he made on the field came as Port thumped Prachuap 5-0. These Customs fellas are clearly pretty persuasive when they get you in a little room and start explaining the situation you’ve got yourself into. As they pulled the same unretiring stunt and Antonio found himself back warming the bench come the first day of the season. Maybe he makes a superb half time cuppa. His twin brother Gionato is at Chiangmai this season and has never retired.

The Wikipedia fun continues as diminutive midfielder Wasan Samarnsin (22) is deemed a 2016 title winner with that team we hammered 2-0 on Wednesday, for playing a grand total of 9 minutes. While Nattapon Woratayanan (9) was part of the Thai to Everton exchange in 2004 before winning the title with PEA in 2008. He would go on to be part of the Buriram team promoted to the top tier in 2011, before doing the same with Ratchaburi the following season and PTT Rayong in 2013. PTT broke his talismanic run by letting play in the top tier again for the 2014 season. Come 2017 he made a double return to PTT Rayong and the second tier but sadly the magic had gone and promotion has eluded him since.

We finish with the obligatory ex Port players, Jirattikan Vapilai (30) was part of the Foxhunt scheme spending time with both Leicester City and OH Leuven, before returning to Thailand for a spell at Port that didn’t work out, he’s been involved in every Customs game since mid October. Nattakit Fongwitoo (24) made 6 appearances for us in 2016 and l can’t say recall one moment of them, he’s only start came in the last round of the cup. Remarkably, despite having the best pedigree of the three, Tanakorn Dangthong (11) is our only former player at Customs to have registered zero appearances for Port. In our infinite wisdom, we signed the striker off the back of a stellar T2 season in which he was the division’s top Thai scorer, before realizing we had more than enough options up top and letting him go on a free. Classic Port.

 

AND NOW FOR THE KIRIN SLAYERS

 

Whilst it didn’t work out well against Bangkok FC in the last round, I’d expect an almost fully changed starting elven from that seen on Wednesday. With Ratchaburi next weekend and the possibility of a rearranged fixture against Chiangrai leaving little time for rest, it’s time to protect our starters and give the squad some match time. So I’d expect Suarez (5), Pakorn (7), Go (8), Bordin (10), Siwakorn (16), Nitipong (34) Worawut/goalkeeper (36) and Bonilla (99) to be rested. At centre back we have such depth you can give both recent starters Dolah (4) and Worarut/Baresi (24) a day off, not use either* that I’ve selected and still have several decent pairings available. Kevin (23) is suspended for the Ratchaburi game, so I’ve play him. I’d opted for Steuble (15) at right back, although if he’s the go to man to replace Kevin next week then an alternative might be considered. As much as Chappius (17) and Kanarin (31) didn’t work well in the first half at Bangkok FC, I felt they started to take the midfield over in the second half before Suarez and Bordin came on to turn the game and merit a second chance. Even if MOF Customs add to their lengthy lists of scoreless first halves we can stack the bench with players to take the game away from them in the second half. A decent side that struggles against second tier flair players isn’t going to enjoy the sight of a Suarez and Bordin double substitution as they try to hold on for the last 20 minutes. That said, hopefully we get a goal early and cruise to the next round.

*The club this morning put out a promo for the game featuring Pang (of course) along with Rochela and Tanaboon.

 

The Port official page has put out the banner below so hopefully, the game will be on AIS.

 

 

Tom’s Transfer Talk – For Sale: Unwanted Talent

 

Credible Rumours are starting to emerge linking some of Port’s bit-part players with moves away from PAT Stadium. After investing huge sums of money in a horde of players who are clearly second, third or even fourth choice in their positions, Port’s scattergun recruitment policy now puts us in a position where a lot of promising talent will either be stagnating on the bench, loaned out or sold.

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