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Zico Promises Hell For Angels: Port FC vs. Bangkok Utd, 25 June 2017

 

New Port manager Zico will take charge of his first game on Sunday as Bangkok United travel to PAT Stadium, and he has promised to make Port’s home patch hell for the visiting Angels. The side who put six past Port in the first half of the season are formidable opponents, but Port have made a habit of saving some of their best performances for the toughest opponents this season. With the fabled new manager effect also in play, what we have on Sunday is a highly unpredictable encounter between two sides who have shown both brilliant and dire performances in up-and-down seasons.

 

Bangkok United

Key Players

 

In the first half of the season I highlighted Mario Gjurovski (20), Dragan Boskovic (7), Jaycee John (22) and Sanrawat (29) as my key players, but in a shock move by manager Mano Polking Mario, Boskovic and John were dropped, and it was Thai National Team striker Teeratep (14) who took centre stage, netting four goals, and Brazilian trickster Gilberto Macena (10) who provided most of the ammunition.

Of the key protagonists in the tragedy at Thammasat Stadium, Mario and Boskovic have gone on to net a truly outrageous combined tally of 29 goals, whereas John and Macena have not made the cut for the second half of the season. Replacing them are German winger Chinedu Ede (17) and Iranian midfielder Mehrdad Pooladi (9).

 

 

Ede (17) is a former German Under 21 player who has spent his career to date in Europe, most recently scoring 6 goals in 48 games for Dutch club FC Twente. He has not yet played for The Angels, with his signing only being confirmed last week, but it seems likely that the German will make his debut on Sunday, whether he starts or comes off the bench.

Pooladi (9) is an Iranian centre midfielder who has been capped 28 times by his country. He started in The Angels last two games, but with Ede now in contention for a place, it would seem that Pooladi is most likely of the foreigners to drop out of the starting XI.

Teeratep Winothai (14) was Bangkok United’s star as he put four goals past Port in the 6-2 thrashing, although he has only managed one other league goal in the rest of the season. Fresh off putting another hattrick past Chiang Rai city in the FA Cup on Wednesday, many fans are calling for Teeratep to regain his starting spot against Port, although I think it’s more likely that he will start on the bench.

For my views on Mario – including a rather raunchy picture – Boskovic and Sanrawat check out my preview from the first half of the season.

 

Form

The Angels are on fire at the moment, winning 5 of their last 6 games and scoring a pretty scary total of 22 goals. They had an outrageous 9 goal thriller against Honda last week where despite leading 5-2 they almost managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, conceding 2 late goals and just about hanging on for a 5-4 win. Their only loss in the last 6 games came away at Buriram, where they succumbed to a 2-1 defeat. Impressive home wins against and Suphanburi and Sisaket, and a hard-fought 2-1 away win at Ratchaburi are the rest of The Angels’ recent results. All things considered, if there’s one thing we can say with relative certainty, it’s that there are likely to be goals in this one!

 

Port FC

Starting XI

 

Zico has a tricky first game on his hands, with suspensions ruling out Dolah (4) and Siwakorn (16), whilst Panpanpong (19) is unavailable due to the terms of his loan agreement with United. It seems that Pravinwat (55) is a straightforward replacement for Dolah at the back. With Zico having picked him in numerous national team squads, we know that he rates Port’s new centre half. In centre midfield, Piyachat (88) seems to be first in line to replace Siwakorn, although Zico could also go with Ittipol (7) or Tatchanon (39) if he decides to take a more defensive approach. At left back, Yossawat (28) may be unavailable after a family tragedy, so fellow new left back Jetjinn (51) could make his debut filling in for Panpanpong.

The truth is, though, that we have no idea what Zico plans to do with this team. Players who unexpectedly found themselves in the starting XI this season like Adisorn (13) and Nitipong (34) could well find less favour from Port’s new manager, with younger players like Tatchanon (39) and Meechok (20) possible replacements. With Zico only having had a couple of days training with his new players, it really is mystery what he will do.

In terms of Port’s foreigners, it really has been a messy affair. Just as Port announced the arrival of their new much-heralded manager, news of Maranhao’s departure was quietly making the rounds. The Brazilian forward, who had finally fought his way back in to the reckoning with an excellent performance in Port’s 0-2 defeat at Suphanburi, has been allowed to go to Sukhothai in a bizarre move which could see Suarez (5) and Kaludjerovic (10) hang on to their places in the squad, whilst new arrival Jadue (32) will likely only be available for cup action. The status of Spanish winger Asdrubal (27) is also unknown, both in terms of his fitness and his contract. We can only hope that Zico acts decisively, ending the period of uncertainty which can’t be much good for the players and looks very much like a farce to the fans. One way or another, a decision has to be made.

 

Predicted Starting XI

 

 

Key Battle

 

 

It’s 18 goals and 4 assists in 17 games so far for Boskovic (7). Bloody hell. Rochela (22) is sure going to have his hands full with the Montenegrin forward, and can only hope that the rest of the defence isn’t too busy being bamboozled by Mario (20), Teeratep (14), Ede (17), Jakkapan (77) et al. and have time to give him a hand.

 

The match will be shown live on True Sports 2 HD at 19:00 on Sunday 25 June, 2017.

 

Livin’ on a Kouprayer! Sisaket FC vs. Port FC, 27 May 2017

 

Whooaah, we’re half way there!

Nearly, anyway. On Saturday, Port will round off the first half of the season with a tricky away trip to the home of the Dangerous Koupreys.

“A kouprey is a little-known, forest-dwelling, wild bovine species from South East Asia. Kouprey form small herds led by a female, and graze on grasses.”

Sounds like a Port pre-game huddle.

“They are affected by degradation of their habitat and are hunted for their meat, horns and skull.”

By Lions?

“There are thought to be few, if any, kouprey left in existence. The last confirmed sighting was in 1988.”

So, you would be pretty hard pushed to find a dangerous one, then…

Sisaket, much like the kouprey, are struggling for survival in 2017. In what is likely to be a close game, players from both sides will be trying to seize the final opportunity to impress their managers and ensure their places in the squad for the second half of the season. Whilst Port are deservedly favourites, arguably Sisaket have more at stake. With Port sitting pretty in 7th and Sisaket languishing in 16th, it’s clear who needs the 3 points more. The question is, who will want them more on the day?

 

Sisaket

Key Player

 

Usually this segment is used to look at a few of the opponents more dangerous players. In the case of Sisaket, though, I thought it more appropriate to look at just one. There’s only really been one. Leandro Assumpção (37) was linked with Port in pre-season, but a move to Klong Toei never materialized. Instead, Assumpção has been banging in the goals up North. Ten of them, although bizarrely those 10 goals have come in just 4 games, three of which were hattricks. When he’s good, he’s really good!

So important is Assumpção to Sisaket that 11 of their 14 points have come in games where he has scored or assisted. The other 3 were from Super Power, and as they give 4 goal head-starts, they don’t really count.

Curiously, it’s been reported in recent days that Assumpção has agreed to join a team who have lost their last 5 games in a row, including 3 against promoted teams. Why on earth he wants to go from a team who has won 2 on the bounce to this mob of ne’er-do-wells I don’t quite understand. Nevertheless, this development could have important repercussions for Saturday. Although Sisaket manager Velizar Popov has said that Assumpção will be starting, having one foot out the door may mean he will not be as focused or motivated as usual.

 

Assumpção bags his third match ball of the season

 

Form

Sisaket have only won 2 of their last 6 games, but those 2 wins came last week, with a 3-2 win at relegation rivals Honda following an impressive 4-2 victory over Navy. Sisaket are pretty decent at home too, picking up 11 points at the Sri Nakhon Lamduan Stadium. With famously devoted fans who turn out in large numbers to support their team, the home side will probably think they’re in with a good chance of picking up a point or more again Port. You get the feeling that Port would probably take a point on the road, too.

 

Port

Starting XI

 

There are no suspensions for Port this week, but one injury to report. Serial substitute Tana (99) is out of action, having played a part in every game for which he has been available so far this season. In 5 starts and 10 substitute appearances, Tana has contributed 2 goals and 2 assists. With his form having fluctuated between meh, bad and worse throughout the season, Port fans probably won’t be shedding too many tears.

The starting lineup seems very unlikely to change, so expect to see the usual suspects in the usual formation.

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 

Key Battle

 

 

Josimar (30) is exactly halfway to what he told The Sandpit was his goal target for the season (equaling the 16 he scored at Army in 2016), with one game remaining before the mid-season break. The Brazilian fired in two absolute scorchers against Muangthong, then bundled one over the line against Super Power, so confidence should be high.

His main opponent is likely to be Brazilian defender Denis Silva (2). The tall centre half played in Brazil, Albania and Sweden before finding his way to Sisaket, but has been part of the second worst T1 defence in 2017. 42 goals conceded in 16 games. That’s ugly. I have a feeling Josi will fancy his chances in this one…

 

The match will be shown live on True Sport 2 at 20:00 on Saturday 27 May, 2017. For those who can’t make it out to Sisaket, feel free to pop over to The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13, where the match will be shown on a big screen with full sound. 

 

A Loki Affair: Port FC vs. Super Power FC, 21 May 2017

 

Having won the mid week “war of heroes” against the villainous Muangthong United, the Port super heroes will return to fortress PAT, on Sunday, with the distinct possibility of finding a Batmobile or two parked up outside, as they welcome Super Power Samut Prakan. Whilst the name may allude to powers above that of mere mortals, the start to the season for Super Power has been more of a Loki affair for the team previously working under the alias Osotspa, as they’ve collected just one point after 15 rounds.

So, a game that in preseason jumped out as potentially the first genuine relegation six pointer feels significantly less important, with Super Power appearing to be close to a reunion with former sponsors M150, who now sponsor the lower leagues. Port are closing in on enough points to stay up, two rounds short of mid-season and on the back of beating the reigning champions and league leaders. Surely a simple 3 points for the home team?  Yet it’s never certain which Port will emerge from the metaphorical phone booth come kick off. Supermen or meek Clark Kents? As our own Josimar pointed out in his interview with the Sandpit, against smaller teams often something hasn’t quite clicked like it does when facing a gang of oddballs in ugly costumes and vague animal links (beetles, lizards etc.), funded by megalomaniacs with designs on world domination (I like to think such characters run each and every Thai club). Our boys march into their evil den, give them a lead before firing off 3 goals and victory in the name of truth, justice and the Khlong Toei way.

 

Form

While Port won the Bangkok el khlas iik-o, Super Power were playing in the “surely this can’t still be Bangkok” derby in front of only slightly larger crowd, as 722 people saw them go down to Thai Honda by a single goal, scored by the Bane of Port that infamous night in Ladrabang: Rafinha. In a scrappy game on a cut up pitch, Super Power in fact were handed a chance to double their points tally and secure an injury time equalizer via a penalty for handball, but Komenan’s spot kick was nowhere near the corner and became a routine save with keeper Natchanon Jothavon guessing the right way.

The season as whole has been a slog for Super Power and holy defence statman the numbers don’t look good for them. Their sole point came in round two from a somewhat unexpected source as they held Bangkok Glass to a 0-0 draw. Since when things have Gotham bad to worse with 13 straight defeats.

So, there really aren’t a lot of high points to point out or variations on ‘turned up and lost,’ sadly. All season they’ve scored just 10 goals and conceded at an average of over 3 a game (46 in all). Away is slightly worse (having played 8), scoring an average of a goal every other game and conceding an average of 3.25 (26 in total). Only once have they scored more than 1 goal in a game, which occurred when they bagged 2 v Bangkok United, however they were already 5-0 down when they started their mini fight back.   The only teams they’ve managed to stop scoring twice were fellow basement dwellers Sisaket and Thai Honda who have recently moved out of the relegation zone thanks to back to back wins over Muanthong and the 1-0 win mentioned above. So, things look tough for the team from the SAT stadium, such that even manager Jason Withe told the Sandpit a result on Sunday would count as a surprise.

 

Players to Watch

Korean defender/midfielder Lee Keon Pil (33) had played every game until recently but a red card and suspension for massing 5 over yellows have seen him miss 2 matches. Expect to see him back in the team and charged with trying to stop Suárez.

At the back Withe has taken to pairing Thai Tanapol Udomlap (99) with Bulgarian Lyuben Nikolov (5) a product of Levski Sofia who came to Thailand 3 years ago via Belarus. He started his time in the Land of smiles with Sisaket, making it into the Thai league’s top 11 transfers of 2015 in his first season. The only time they’ve not started recently was when Nikolov was serving a suspension for a red card and can expect to have their work cut out handling Josimar.

Up front they have one of those enigmas you find in Thai football in the Namibian Sadney Urikhob (10), who arrived into Thai football with Saraburi scored 3 great goals almost immediately, one of which was in a 2-2 draw with Port (Ed – I remember that vividly, he was electric!) and another the only goal in a 1-0 win away to Suphanburi. Come the end of the season Port were relegated with 33 points while Saraburi stayed up on 35 only then to resign from the league and fold. How different it could have been for Port without Sadney’s goals. Last season he moved on to Super Power scoring 10 goals in 22 games. This season has been much more of an in and out affair (with more out recently) and his only goal came back in February, in the form of a last minute consolation away to Sukhothai with the score 5-0 to the home team but if decides to be the player of 2015 he could cause a few problems at the back.

However, the more regular start up front is Ivorian Anthony Moura Komenan (11), who has been with Super Power in their various guises and bases since 2012. A man who received a standing ovation whilst on trial at Huddersfield for his performance in a reserve game, however despite some glowing comments from then manager Lee Clark the move to Yorkshire never materialized and Komenan return to France for a few years before heading to Thailand. Not much of a big scary foreign striker, he’s a mixed bag of tricks and pace. Who hopefully isn’t inspired to inflict revenge for that penalty miss and can be handled by mister fantastic and rest of the fantastic four (the barrel is being scraped for a super hero pun).

Christmas Sompen (3) sadly wasn’t born on the 25th of December and has been limited to just 3 appearances this season but if nothing else he has a wonderful name.

 

Port Line up

It appears that unless any vocal cords went down strained or hands broken banging on the walls at the Lego Stadium post match, Professor Jadet Xavier has a full rota of Xmen to pick from. Wishful thinking has him going all out attack with a partner for Josimar but realistically he’ll probably go with his standard 4-5-1.

 

The match will be shown live on True Sport 2 at 19:00 on Sunday 20 May, 2017

 

Can Lions Roar Behind Closed Doors? Muangthong United vs. Port FC, 17 May 2017

 

Port take on fierce rivals Muangthong United behind closed doors on Wednesday, hoping to make some noise by securing a shock victory in the eerie silence of SCG Stadium. With the normal feuding between the Yamaha Ultras and the Khlong Toei Army set to be put to one side for a year, we might even be able to talk about the football for once!

 

Muangthong United

Players to Watch

 

I’ve had to be extremely selective here, as pretty much the entire starting XI plus a couple of substitutes would be players to watch in any other team in the league.

Even with the abundance of quality on display though, the number one threat has to be Chanathip Songkrasin (18). The 5 foot 2 (yes, you read that right) attacking midfielder has been running rings around and through the legs of defenders across the continent this season. Almost certainly the most talented Thai player of all time, Jay (as he is known by Thai fans) has lightning-quick feet and a football brain to match. He will be playing one of his last games in Thailand before he heads off to Consadole Sapporo in the Japanese top-tier for the next year and a half, so expect the mini maestro to put on a show before his departure.

Theerathon Bunmathan (3), or “Heea Um” – as he is not-so-affectionately known in the Port terraces – is a wing back and dead-ball specialist with one of the best left feet in Asia. He already his nine assists to his name in 2017. From left back. Bloody hell. Um’s ability to land a cross on his teammate’s forehead is unerring, although in recent games against Port Um has let the crowd get to him and performed well below his usual level. He’s probably over the moon that he can get on with his job in peace and quiet on Wednesday!

Teerasil Dangda(10) has his critics (including me, after some of his recent performances for the national team) but his record speaks for itself. When he’s on his game, his finishing is second to none in Thai football, although his work-rate can at times be questionable. If given half a chance in or around the area, Port will just have to pray he has his boots on the wrong feet!

This fella is an absolute brute of a centre half. Celio Santos (29) stands a full foot above Chanathip (6 foot 2) and at times seems almost as wide as he is tall. Celio is a formidable barrier on his own, and his defensive partner – experienced Japanese defender Naoaki Aoyama (5) – isn’t bad either. Muangthong have yet to concede a single goal at home in the league, and most of the credit has to go to Celio who has been outstanding week in week out.

 

Chanathip, Theerathon, Teerasil and Celio Santos

 

Form

 

10 wins out of 13 isn’t too shabby, is it? The only glimmer of home for Port fans is Muangthong’s loss last week to specialist giant-killers Thai Honda. Honda took an early lead to Muangthong, and showed incredible resilience to hang on for a win against a barrage of late attacks. If Port can channel the spirit of their exceptional performances against Chiang Rai and Buriram, they too could spring a surprise at the SCG against opponents who have been busy both at home and abroad in the League and Asian Champions League this season. The catch is, that without their 12th man, the Port players will feel very alone indeed in the SCG.

 

Port FC

Starting XI

 

With the mid-season break nearly upon us, it’s time for players to really play for their places. With weaknesses in the squad likely (hopefully) to be addressed in the upcoming transfer window, big performances are needed from several players to ensure that they’re not replaced or lose their position in the starting XI. With that in mind, here are some of the people I think should probably be looking over their shoulder.

With Rattanai (17) now back in training after his injury and Watchara (37) returning the club after BBCU went out of business, Worawut (36) has a big few weeks ahead of him. Rattanai looks odds-on to replace him in the Starting XI when he is back to full fitness, but Worawut still has three games to prove that he belongs ahead of Watchara in the squad. If he continues to look vulnerable under the high ball with his punching (flapping) and distribution very much hit and miss, he could be usurped by Watchara and loaned out if he’s not careful.

Panpanpong (19) has had a decent season to date, but is far from the complete full back. With 21 year old Buriram defender Yossawat being the first arrival, it is clear Jadet is seeking to bolster his options in that area of the pitch, so Panpanpong is going to have to step up his game to stay ahead of his younger teammate in the pecking order.

Adisorn (13) has been a surprising hit this season, performing well in big games and forcing his way in to the first XI. Nevertheless, defensive midfield is a position that Jadet may look to address, as he has shown very little faith in his other options, Tatchanon (39), Wanchalerm (40) and Ittipol (7). Adisorn’s performances in the next few weeks could determine whether or not Jadet will look for another option in the transfer market.

Neither Genki (18) nor Tana (99) has been quite able to make the left wing spot their own so far this season, and that makes them vulnerable. Jadet has already brought in a left sided midfielder in the transfer window, so we know he is looking to add depth in that area of the pitch. The question is, will he be looking to replace either of the two, or supplement them?

Pakorn (9) has been utterly abysmal at times this season. His performance at Korat last week was a prime example of just how bad he can be when his head is not in the game, and it’s a risky time to be at your worst with the window approaching. It’s absolutely infuriating watching a player of his talent blow mostly cold and rarely hot, as he could and should be such a huge asset to Port. If Jadet does look to give himself another option on the right, I would be far from shocked.

Suarez (5) hasn’t quite lived up to the early promise he showed in pre-season. He has had some great games, but has also gone missing at times too. With Maranhao (92) itching to get in to the squad and challenge for a place in the side, Suarez has to put his best foot forward in the coming games to be sure he retains his place.

Josimar (30) has had his moments this season, but he could certainly be more consistent. With Kaludjerovic (10) surely out of the door after being left off the bench against Korat, either Maranhao (92), Asdrubal (27) or another forward will be coming in to the squad and challenging Josimar for his place up front. Josi has three games to prove that he is the man to lead the line for Port in the second leg.

With probably only Nitipong (34), Rochela (22), Dolah (4) and Siwakorn (16) really able to say they are sure their place isn’t under threat, a lot of players have a lot to prove against Muangthong.

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 

Weak Link?

 

 

My usual ‘Key Battle’ segment seems a bit redundant here, as Port have 11 Key Battles against 11 excellent players. Instead I’m going to focus on perhaps Muangthong’s weakest player. Premier League fans may remember Xisco Jimenez from his ill-fated move to Newcastle in 2008. With a transfer fee of £5.7 million and £50,000 per week wages, Newcastle were less than impressed with the 1 goal in 9 games Xisco managed before being shipped back to Spain.

Despite his failure to light up the Premier League, Xisco would still be expected to be a dominant force in T1, but as it is the Spaniard has found the net 5 times so far this season (the same as Josimar). The main reason I think Xisco could be Muangthong’s weak link today is that his aerial prowess – his main threat – could amount to little if he is well-marshalled by Port defender Dolah (4). Dolah has looked increasingly confident at the heart of the Port defence, earning The Sandpit’s Man of the Match awards against both Chonburi and Korat, and will be relishing the chance to dominate a big name like Xisco in a physical battle.

I may be clutching at straws calling Xisco a weak link, but it’s all I’ve got!

 

The match will be shown live on True4U at 18:00 on Wednesday 17 May, but we recommend you join us upstairs at The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13, where a group of Port fans will be watching on a big screen.

 

Korat What Cats? Nakhon Ratchasima FC vs. Port FC, 14 April 2017

 

The Port Lions prowl in to Korat on Sunday seeking to devour their rather less threatening feline cousins the Swatcats. True to nature, the Lions have been in ferocious form this season, scoffing up The Beetles in Chiang Rai and sending the Thunder back to their Castle with their tails between their legs after their visit to the Lion’s Den. As nature intended, the Swatcats have been rather meeker, recording 3 wins (against 3 of the bottom 4), 7 draws (against the mid table sides) and 3 losses (to 2 of the top 3, plus Suphanburi). There’s a good pussy cat! Will Port be King of the Korat Jungle or will the Swatcats pounce on Port’s recent lackluster form?

 

Nakhon Ratchasima

Key Players

 

Adiyiah left his mark on Rochela

Port fans won’t have particularly fond memories of Korat forward Dominic Adiyiah (10), after he bicycle-kicked a golf ball sized bruise on to David Rochela’s forehead when the two sides met in pre-season. Port went on to record a 2-0 win that day, but Adiyiah was a constant menace, providing the Swatcats’ spark going forward and using his devastating pace to good effect down the channels. The Ghanaian international has performed well, but has only one goal and two assists to his name in 2017, suggesting that perhaps his meow is worse than his bite.

Thai forward Kirati Kaewsombat (99) proves that over-the-hill former Thai national team strikers like the number 99 *cough cough, Tana, cough cough*. I’ve got Kirati down as a key player more for his illustrious past than his current form. The bulky target man played 27 times for Thailand and enjoyed stints at Buriram and Chonburi, but is yet to find the net in 6 appearances for Korat this season.

Korat have been pretty solid at the back this season (17 goals conceded, to Port’s 25), and much of the credit to this must go to centre half Victor Igbonefo (15). Born in Nigeria but now an Indonesian citizen, the 6 foot 1 centre half is a strong ever-present figure at the heart of the defence. Josimar (30) will have his work cut out in what will be a tough, physical contest between the two.

 

 

The Russ Report

We like to get perspectives from fans of the opposition as well as our own, so we asked Nakhon Ratchasima fan, and writer of the excellent Swatcat Blog – Russ John – to give us his take on Sunday’s clash. Here’s what he sent us…

It’s great to have Port back where they belong in the top tier and their fans will receive a generous welcome back to the 80th Anniversary Stadium this weekend

I think this weekend’s matchup is a difficult one to analyze. The Swatcats have become the draw specialists with 7/13 draws so far – converting a couple of these draws into wins would see them well up the table, but my honest opinion is that the team is pretty ordinary and will struggle to make the top ten. Scoring goals has been a problem, and although Dominic Adiyiah (10, my Port fans man to watch) is a real talent he needs a big target man to feed off his work.

The Swatcats defence has looked vulnerable at times against the higher ranked teams – particularly down the flanks and if Josimar can break forward quickly he could be amongst the goals on Sunday.

An inconsistent start to the campaign for Port, producing euphoria then despair amongst their fans. This suggests to me that no real system has been planned or is being employed and that the team is relying too heavily on individuals having exceptional games. As we all know, very few players produce the goods week in, week out and exceptional performances cannot be relied on. It only needs a couple of defeats to plunge the team into mid table obscurity…or worse!!

So its dull old Swatcats verses enigmatic Port – a difficult one to call – if Port’s stars turn up on the day, an away win is possible but with the Swatcats being the draw specialists, one is tempted to suggest that a draw may be on the cards.

I am going to stick my rather fragile neck out and go for a home win.

 

Port FC

Starting XI

 

Suspensions are once again the issue, with Adisorn (13) and Suarez (5) both having picked up their fourth yellow card against Pattaya United. Whilst finding the right players to replace these two presents a challenge for Jadet, it could also be an opportunity to switch up the system against a team who – much like Pattaya on Saturday – will be difficult to break down.

After watching the friendly against Nakhon Pathom on Wednesday, it seems very likely that Jadet will switch to a 4-4-2, bringing in Tatchanon (39) for Adisorn, and Kaludjerovic (10) for Suarez. The addition of Tatchanon could bring the best out of Siwakorn (16), as he will have more freedom to attack with a disciplined defensive midfielder alongside him. Kaludjerovic may not have impressed with his early season form, or indeed in Wednesday’s friendly, but the man knows where the goal is. With Josimar (30) winning most balls in the air, there will be more scraps for Kalu to feed off than when he struggled in Port’s first few games. Alternatively, Tana (99) may get the nod up front, although he too is far from his best at the moment. It may not be ideal, but I think against bottom-half teams, Port need to come in to the game with a plan to win, and this system hopefully represents that kind of plan.

Other news from Wednesday’s friendly was that neither Worawut (36) nor Siwakorn (16) played any part, with Weera (1) and Ittipol (7) deputizing. We really hope they were rested rather than injured, and will be fully fit to take on the Swacats on Sunday!

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 

Key Battle

 

 

 

Adiyiah (10) operates mostly on the right, meaning that Port left back Panpanpong (19) will have his work cut out for him. Panpanpong will need his usual discipline and solid defensive play to keep Adiyiah in check, but with the Ghanaian being quite a bit quicker than him, he will also need some help from left winger Genki (18) and his centre halves, Rochela (22) and Dolah (4).

 

Korat What Cats?

 

A Sisawat – or ‘Swat’ – Cat

 

For those of you wondering what on earth a Swatcat is, click here to see our Crystal Balls feature on Nakhon Ratchasima FC.

 

The match will be shown live on True Sport 7 at 18:00 on Sunday 14 May, 2017. For those who can’t make it out to Nakhon Ratchasima, feel free to join us upstairs at The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13, where a group of Port fans will be watching on a big screen.

 

Police On My Back: Port FC vs. Police Tero, 30 April 2017

 

Port welcome Police Tero to PAT Stadium on Sunday in a clash between two of this season’s surprise packages. Neither side were expected to be in the top 6 after 10 games, but that’s where they both find themselves. With Tero on 18 points in 5th place, and Port on 17 points in 6th, expect a close and hard-fought game, with home advantage probably making Port slight favourites.

 

Police Tero

Players to Watch

 

Cheeky rascal that I am, I was intent on doing two separate ‘Players to Watch’ lists. One for players acquired from Muangthong since 2016, and one for Tero’s other players. By presenting these lists as such, I thought, I would subtly undermine the reliance of The Fire Dragons on Muangthong cast-offs, reducing them to the status of a mere feeder team without stooping to the level of direct criticism. Unfortunately, in my sweet naiveté, I hadn’t bargained on just how many of the bastards there would be, and so with my dreams of an indirect yet stinging criticism in tatters, I thought “Sod that. Let’s just get stuck in!”

So, first on the list of former Muangscum is former national team captain Datsakorn Thonglao (7). Probably one of the top 5 most talented Thai players of all time, the 33 year old central midfielder has enjoyed stints in Germany with Kaiserslautern Reserves, and Vietnam with Hoàng Anh Gia Lai. After realizing that his best days were behind him, Muangthong put him out to pasture at Tero where he will likely score some spectacular free-kicks, pick up a boatload of cards and generally saunter about the place exhibiting the gratuitous hot-headed arrogance he could only really get away with while he was still good.

Mario Abrante (6) is the second over-the-hill former Muangscummer on the list. The Spaniard has one hell of a resume, littered with spells at a few La Liga teams, as well as representing Spain at all youth levels. Last season most fans at the SCG were impressed by his strong but calm leadership at the back, although management didn’t think highly enough of him to keep him on in 2017. Think of him as an older, less talented and less good-looking Rochela.

Michael N’Dri (9) makes the third thirty plus on my list, but this Muangthong failure still seems to be somewhere near the peak of his powers. Unfortunately for him, it’s not a particularly high peak. Brought in to challenge Cleiton Silva for a starting berth at the SCG, N’Dri never came close to making the Brazilian sweat. 8 goals in 27 games are the kind of numbers that will see you shipped straight off to Tero, and so it went. However, since becoming a Fire Dragon, N’Dri has racked up 6 goals in 9 games, indicating that perhaps he has found his level in a top-half but not title-challenging side. N’Dri is quick, skillful and good in the air, but seems to need an awful lot of chances to score.

Stop the press. It’ a miracle! I’ve found a Tero player who isn’t a former Muangscummer. After wading through Datsakorn (7), Mario (6) and N’Dri (9) I then encountered goalkeeper Witsanusak (1), defenders Suporn (3) and Weerawut (11), and midfielders Kasidech (24), Seksit (17) and Atit (8), who you may remember from his loan spell at Port last season. But I’ve finally found one who, against the odds, has never played for Muangthong. He’s hard to miss, to be fair. Kalifa Cisse (20) is a beast of a central midfielder who at his peak represented Reading 75 times in the Premier League. Moves to the MLS and then the Championship preceded the 6 foot 2 Malian’s move to Bangkok, where he has played for United, Glass and now Tero. On his game he’s practically unplayable, dominating the midfield with Vieira-like strides and Keane-like strength. OK, so maybe I’m giving him a little too much credit, although the comparison to the former destroyers stands up more on the disciplinary side. 3 yellows and a red card so far this season for Cisse indicate that he likes to get stuck in a little too much. With Siwakorn (16) fresh back from suspension, expect a foul-off in midfield. Maybe if he and Adisorn (13) go for one leg each, they might be able to bring him down!

 

Datsakorn Thonglao, Mario Abrante, Michael N’Dri and Kalifa Cisse

 

Form

 

Tero have a lot of quality in their squad, and uniquely with so many new arrivals they have gelled quickly largely based on the fact that they’ve almost all played together at the SCG. It’s not a complete surprise to see them in 5th place in the league table, although most would have had them a few places further down.

This is probably mostly because they’ve had a relatively easy time to date, facing just 2 teams in the top 9, and 8 teams in the bottom 9. Port, by contrast, are just a point and a place behind Tero, but have played 5 of the top 9, and 5 of the bottom 9.

In more potentially positive news for Port, Tero are poor on the road, having managed just a solitary victory away at Super Power so far in 2017. In terms of their recent form, The Fire Dragons are unbeaten in April, with wins against Bangkok United and Honda and draws with Navy and Suphanburi.

 

Port

Starting XI

 

The only change since Sunday’s away win at Sukhothai is the return of midfield maestro Siwakorn (16) from suspension. In an unexpected tactical maneuver, Jadet chose to replace Siwakorn by shifting Genki (18) to central midfield, with Tana (99) coming into the side on the left wing. Whilst Port got the 3 points, it’s unlikely that this system will be employed against The Fire Dragons, although it is possible that Tana will be preferred to Genki on the left after impressing in the second half against Bangkok Glass and having a hand in 2 of Port’s 3 goals against Sukhothai.

I expect to see the same XI who have performed so well in recent weeks with the possibility of Tana being given a start in place of Genki.

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 

Potential Suspensions

 

I’m not going to lie; this is getting scary. Currently on 3 yellow cards – one away from suspension – are Rochela (22), Dolah (4), Nitipong (34), Adisorn (13), Suarez (5) and Tana (99). Whilst these suspensions will inevitably happen at some point, Port are in the precarious position of 3 of the back 4 potentially being ruled out simultaneously. Don’t all get booked at once, chaps! With a tricky away trip to Chonburi on the horizon, we’ll need our defence as intact as possible.

 

Key Battle

 

 

The midfield is set to be the key battleground on Sunday. Kalifa Cisse (20) will be tasked with doing the dirty work for Tero, whilst Datsakorn (7) will – if selected – take up the creative burden. Interestingly, Datsakorn was on the bench for The Fire Dragon’s 3-2 win against Honda, although it seems more likely that the veteran was being rested rather than dropped.

For Port, Adisorn (13) will try to use his high-energy pressing to make life difficult for Datsakorn, whilst Siwakorn (16) will attempt to move the ball through midfield and start Port attacks. Whether or not the skinny wizard will be able to do that could depend on how much help he gets from Sergio Suarez (5). The more robust Spaniard will have to harry and disrupt Cisse to give Siwakorn a chance, as the Malian man-mountain will simply dominate the tiny Thai if they are left to slug it out one on one.

Teamwork is the name of the game for Port. They will need to stick together and fight for every ball in midfield if they are going to overcome their stronger and more experienced opponents.

 

The match will be shown live on True Sport 6 at 18:00 on Sunday 30 April, 2017

 

A Journey into Fire Bat Country : Sukhothai vs. Port FC, 23 April 2017

 

Port travel to Sukhothai – “The Fire Bats” – this Sunday looking to bounce back after the 3-0 thrashing by Bangkok Glass. On Tuesday I was ready to write about a poor Sukhothai with 4 points and not many prospects. Unfortunately for Port, Sukhothai managed a 1-0 win away at Thai Honda. When you know Honda had a player sent off in the 45th minute, the win against 10 men is slightly less impressive. Still we can all remember how we got on at Honda, no wait I don’t want to remember that. So the Bats will be lifted by their second win of the season.

 

Sukhothai

In 2016 Sukhothai were guided through a great season by Somchai Chuayboonchum “Naa Chuai”, an Ex-Port Player (1976–1983) and briefly Port Manager (November 2014–April 2015). In the 2016 season they managed to finish 7th and technically win the F.A. Cup. Sukhothai made it to the semi finals of the F.A. Cup, but the competition was abandoned due to the death of King Rama IX Bhumibol Adulyadej. So the winner was decided by the drawing of lots and Sukhothai were the lucky ones. In the F.A. Cup quarter finals Sukhothai dispatched a Port team 4-0 at the Thung Thalay Luang Stadium. However, this result was against a team made up of 50% first team and 50% reserve players. After this result Port went on the beat Ubon UMT and secure promotion. 4-0 is a bitter pill to swallow, but it did help us win promotion.

After their great showing last year Sukhothai sacked “Naa Chuai” for no discernible reason. And following this unfair sacking they have imploded this year, 6 losses in the first 7 games is a terminal start to any season. With a draw and a win in the last two matches have Sukhothai now turned the corner? Let’s hope not. They have creative midfielder J. Rakotonomenjanahary or “Baggio” (10) for short, and he is quite short! He came to Port as a trialist before the 2015 season and I was one of the people who said he was too small to make it, and having a midget as a foreign player is a waste. He has proved me wrong, being the creative heart of a decent Sukhothai side in 2016. Sukhothai’s two foreign strikers have both knocked in 2 goals this year. Ivory coast forward Bireme Diouf (27) started the last game on the left wing with Admir Adrović (9) playing as a target man, so we are likely to be looking at two scary foreign strikers on Sunday. With only 4 goals between them, hopefully they won’t prove too scary.

 

Port’s Prospects

So is this a possible banana skin for Port? Yes, but not just because Sukhothai have some confidence now. The official Thai League website (90% reliable) says Siwakorn (16) picked up his fourth yellow card on Wednesday. So Port will be away from home and without Siwakorn. Siwakorn isn’t just a sublime passing genius, he works hard every game and plugs any gaps that need to be filled. He has a phenomenal love of yellow cards, he had a collection of at least 12 last year. Early in his career he had a habit of diving in for silly challenges just because he’d lost possession, now he’s calmed down a bit. He’s channeled this anger into a defensive strategy. If a dangerous player is free or looking likely to cause Port a problem Siwakorn will tackle with all the aggression of a young Graham Souness. Port get a respite from the attack, Siwakorn gets a yellow. Hence his large card collection.

 

So Port without Siwakorn(16) is the big talking point of the weekend. I think Jadet will bring in Piyachat (88) and he will attempt to play him in similar role to Siwakorn. Port’s line up is fairly settled now. Jadet did play around with the line up at Honda away, the last time we had two matches close together, but we all know what happened then. I hope we’ll see a similar set of players to Wednesday night and they’ll get a chance to regain some form.

 

Likely Line Up

 

 

 

Key Match ups

 

Baggio vs. Everyone else

Baggio (10)  is a great little player and if he’s given the freedom to play the ball around he can really cause Port some problems. If Port close him down they can close Sukhothai down. He is Sukhothai’s one creative driving force. Port’s midfield need to single him out, having one person man marking him and other players looking to close down his options.

He should start on Sunday, but away against Thai Honda he was brought on as a sub. Could be a new way to use Baggio, or it could be he was subbed on because it was a more defensive set up for an away match.

 

Diouf vs. Meechok

Mechook (20) has proved himself a quality right back, but if Sukhothai put Diouf (27) on the left wing the 32 year old wily striker will be another top level test for the 19 year old right back. Mechook is ready for it, but I think it will be a long day for the young man.

 

Key match up for Port vs.  BEC Tero

 

Dolah (4), Suarez (5), Nitipong (34) vs. The Ref.

Dolah(4), Suarez(5), and Nitipong (34) all find themselves on 3 yellow cards. Another entry in the book will see them miss a tough game next week. Next weekend Port face a half decent BEC Tero side currently sitting in 5th place.

 

Precious Points

We really need to take 6 points off the bottom teams this year. Sukhothai, Sisaket and Samut Prakan should be among those teams. Port have a habit of under-performing against lower league opposition, I just hope this trend stops on Sunday.

 

My Prediction

3-1 win for Port.

“Sukhotired: A View from Sukhothai” by Henry Musa

Where to begin, the season started with 6 losses out of 7, changing coaches twice and going from finishing 7th last year to now being in the relegation zone. It’s an understatement to say it’s been a disappointing start to the season for Sukhothai fans. After finally ending our 5 game winless streak on Wednesday, thanks to a 1-0 win over Thai Honda and being only 1 point away from safety, Sukhothai will definitely be hungry for the 3 points this Sunday. It’s unlikely that Coach Bae will change his starting 11 from Wednesday’s match. Whilst Sukhothai has slightly improved in both defence and midfield since the beginning of Coach Bae’s reign, 2 weeks ago, the team is still lacking the firepower and creativity we saw last season. Thankfully our goalkeeper, “Art” Pairote Eiam-mak (35) is in good form and has been keeping out the goals (most of them) and both Baggio (10) and Diouf (27) are also starting to pick up their game. Baggio seems to be the only play-maker on the pitch this season but Diouf does have his occasional spurts of brilliance. Thankfully Baggio walked away unscathed by that dangerous high tackle on him on Wednesday. Our two new foreign players, Anton Zemlianukhin (20) and Admir Adrović (9) also look hungry to prove themselves and have steadily been adjusting themselves to fit in with Coach Bae’s style of play. Sunday definitely looks to be an exciting match which everybody in the Sukhothai camp is looking forward to. It’s probably safe to say that Sunday’s match will most likely be a lot more competitive than Sukhothai’s last encounter with Port.

My prediction is a 2-1 win to Sukhothai.

For any Port fans travelling to Sukhothai, I wish you all a very pleasant stay in the nation’s historical first capital. For those of you who haven’t visited the ruins, it’s definitely a must see. Our two clubs have a very strong relationship and you can look forward to being greeted with hospitality at Talae Luang Stadium.”

Henry Musa is a long time Sukhothai fan now based in Rayong. He runs and regularly updates the Sukhothai English Facebook page, “Sukhothai F.C. English Fanzone”. While chatting to Henry, he told me he has a Thai Port connection. As a nipper Henry would come along to games at PAT stadium with his Dad and the Sandpit’s very own Peter Hockley A.K.A. “Hockers”. Henry sends his regards Hockers. 

 

The match will be shown live on True Sport 7 at 18:00 on Sunday 23rd April, 2017

 

Breaking Glass: Port FC vs. Bangkok Glass, 19 April 2017

 

Port will aim to continue their unbeaten run at home when they entertain Bangkok Glass on Wednesday. With Port flying high after a hard-fought draw with Buriram, a solid win against Ubon and then last week’s astonishing away victory at table-topping Chiang Rai, Port Coach Jadet will likely be trying to manage expectations both from his players and the fans. In-form striker Josimar told The Sandpit (interview coming later in the week!) that he and his teammates thrive when they are the David to their opponent’s Goliath, so despite the positive results and the surprising points total, expect a battling underdog’s performance from Port. It’s worked pretty well in the last few games, so let’s hope for more of the same!

 

Bangkok Glass

Players to Watch

 

There are only a handful of defenders as good as Port captain Rochela (22) in T1, and one of them is 34 year old Bangkok Glass captain Matt Smith (4). He’s strong, good in the air, reads the game well and never shuts up. Constantly organizing his back four and driving his team on, Smith is an invaluable asset to the Glass Rabbits. In what is set to be a key match-up, he will be tasked with keeping Josimar (30) quiet on Wednesday. With Josimar having scored 2 in this last 2 outings, Smith will need to use all of his experience to stop the Brazilian.

Ariel Rodriguez (7) is a speedy forward who has scored 22 goals in 31 games since signing for Glass in 2016. The diminutive forward won’t be winning much in the air, but his darting runs in behind will stretch the Port defence, who will have to be constantly vigilant in order to keep track of him. Ominously, the Costa Rican international has 4 goals to his name already this season. Port will have to be on top of their game to contain him.

Sarawut Masuk (14) may have been preferred to Jakkapan Pornsai (10) lately in Thai National Team squads, but I think Jakkapan is an absolute nightmare to deal with when he’s on his game. When he played for Suphanburi in 2015 he scored 13 goals and provided 14 assists, putting him in the TPL team of the season. He possesses a cultured right foot and has the ability to pass, cross or shoot with real quality from anywhere in the final third. Think of him as the opposition’s Pakorn, only a bit more consistent!

 

Matt Smith, Ariel Rodriguez and Jakkapan Pornsai

 

Form

The Glass Rabbits have been hopping all over the place so far this season as far as their form is concerned. A crushing 0-4 home defeat against Muangthong on the opening day of the season was followed up by a disappointing 0-0 away draw at Super Power, who picked up their only point so far this season against Glass. Glass finally got off the mark at home in their third game, and made up for lost time by putting 6 past an admittedly awful Sisaket side. Impressive 3-2 home wins against Ratchaburi and Bangkok Utd sandwiched a 1-1 way draw at Suphanburi, after which Glass claimed an incredible third 3-2 win in four games to take all three points away at Navy. Just as they looked to be building up a head of steam at Leo Stadium, Glass suffered probably their worst result of the season so far, slumping to a 0-1 defeat at home to Thai Honda last week.

All I can say about Glass’ form is that it’s unpredictable! They’re unbeaten away from home, although they have played three teams in the bottom half, and they’ve had a huge win, a huge loss and a few dramatic 3-2s at home. Compared to the legitimately scary mob from up North who Port turned over last week, there’s certainly less to fear from Glass, although they are still a quality side who will be expected to be in the top 5 or 6 come the business end of the season.

 

Port FC

Starting XI – Getting Predictable

 

Jadet seems to have found a formula he likes, and the Port lineups are getting quite a bit easier to predict!

In goal will be Worawut (36) who – if he keeps up the heroic penalty-saving goalkeeping performances – could well make it difficult for Rattanai (17) to come back in to the team once he returns to fitness. A nice problem to have!

At the back there could well be a change, but only because of injury concerns. Panpanpong (19) picked up a knock and had to be substituted after the poor challenge that gifted Chiang Rai the penalty last week, and Jadet chose to bring on Meechok (20) at right back, shifting Nitipong (34) over to the left. If Panpanpong is fit I expect him to start, but if not then we will probably see Meechok and Nitipong again.

Rochela (22) and Dolah (4) seem set to continue at the back, although if Todsapol (6) has returned to full fitness, he could well be preferred to Dolah. Against a team who likes to play the ball on the floor and utilize the pace and trickery of Rodriguez up front, it may be wise to choose pace over power, but again it all depends on Todsapol’s fitness.

Midfield and attack now look to be very settled. After I called for Pakorn (9) to either be given a good talking to or dropped last week, he stepped up and won our Man of the Match award for a vastly improved display against Chiang Rai. It seems almost certain that Genki (18), Adisorn (13), Siwakorn (16), and Suarez (5) will join him in midfield, with a confident Josimar (30) leading the line after scoring twice in his last two games.

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 

Key Battle

Josimar vs. Matt Smith

 

 

I expect a lot of important duels to be going on all over the pitch between two quite well-matched sides, but the most intriguing one for me is Josimar vs. Smith. At 34 years old Smith, despite his experience, isn’t at the peak of his powers, whereas in-form Josimar looks like a real handful. Can Josimar make it three goal-scoring games in a row or will Smith keep the Brazilian under wraps?

 

The match will be shown live on True Sport HD 3 at 18:00 on Wednesday 19 April, 2017

 

Ticket to Rai – Port Head North to Face Beetles: Chiang Rai vs. Port FC, 9 April 2017

 

Port travel to Chiang Rai on the back of two clean sheets and fantastic performances against Buriram and Ubon. It really seems as if Port can compete with the very best in the league at PAT Stadium, but unfortunately the same can’t be said when they travel. Port have only played twice away from home in 2017, deservedly losing 6-2 against Bangkok Utd and 5-1 at Thai Honda. If Port are to hold on to their place in the top half of the table, they will need to stop the rot away from home. Unbeaten Chiang Rai would be a good place to start!

Chiang Rai

Players to Watch

 

I’ve never quite believed the hype about the ‘Thai Busquets’ Tanaboon Kesarat (17), but the fact is that he is a national team regular and the highest paid Thai player in the league. Reportedly earning an eye-watering B700,000 a month after being signed from Muangthong, Tanaboon plays at defensive midfield for Chiang Rai, although he has been used almost exclusively as a centre back for Thailand. Personally, I have always thought that he is too weak to be a centre half and not skillful enough to play in midfield, but the majority of the Thai football community seems to disagree with me, so… Yeah, I guess he must be pretty decent.

Thitipan Puangchan (8) is another former Muangthong player who has thrived at Chiang Rai. Often picked as captain of what is thought of as the golden generation of Thai players at under 23 level, Thitipan’s career stalled at Muangthong where he couldn’t find his way in to the First XI regularly. He has had a new lease of life at Chiang Rai though, where he has started to fulfil his early promise as a box-to-box midfielder who offers something going forwards and defending. He even scored a hattrick against Super Power on the opening week of the season.

The Brazilians. It must be said I don’t know much about this lot, but they look pretty damn good. Rafael Coelho (9) is joint top scorer in the league with 6 goals, and with 2 of Vander Souza (10), Felipe Azevedo (11) and dual-nationality Brazilian-Australian Henrique Silva (15) contributing to the attack, the Port defence will have plenty to think about. Then at the back there is Everton Saturnino (28) who seems fairly solid alongside Thai national team player Prathum Chuthong (5), although if Chiang Rai do have a weakness, it is likely to be in defence.

 

Tanaboon (17), Thitipan (8) and Rafael Coelho (9)

 

Form

19 points from a possible 21 with a +15 goal difference tells you all you need to know! Chiang Rai have been on fire so far in 2017, with their only draw coming away at Ratchaburi. They were very fortunate to come away with a win at Navy before the international break – going two goals down and scoring three (all from set-pieces) in the second half – but bounced back with a comfortable 3-0 win away at Thai Honda last week. I’m trying my hardest to be positive here, but with their home form flawless, and our away form what it is, you would have to be pretty mental to predict a Port win here!

Port FC

Starting XI – Dropping the Dead Wood

 

Things have changed a lot with regards to Port’s best XI since the beginning of the season.

Our excellent young goalkeeper Rattanai (17) has picked up a serious injury on international duty and is expected to be out of action for a month and a half. Whilst in normal circumstances this would not be a big problem as second choice Worawut (36) would step in and get a run in the team, there are reports that Worawut himself may have picked up a knock and is now doubtful for Saturday’s game. Whilst most Port fans would be quite happy to see Worawut between the sticks – particularly after his encouraging (if slightly too punchy) performance against Ubon – third choice ‘keeper Weera (1) is a walking disaster. He showed a staggering level of ineptitude in his only appearance of the season, and quite frankly I wouldn’t trust him to clean Rattanai’s boots without dropping them, let alone keep goal for the First XI. Please be fit, Worawut. Please!

In defence, Dolah (4) – despite a couple of quality performances – has not adapted to T1 as quickly as we might have hoped, meaning that Todsapol (6) could well come in to the starting XI when fit. However, as Todsapol did not even make the bench at Ubon, it seems likely that Dolah will continue to partner captain Rochela (22) against Chiang Rai. After excellent performances against Navy and Ubon, Dolah needs to keep up the good form if he is going to keep his place.

Panpanpong (19) has been looking more and more a T1 left back with every passing game, proving to those who didn’t think he would make the grade at Port that he is indeed a player who can attack as well as defend. As one of his pre-season doubters, I’m happy to be proven wrong!

Nitipong (34) has been a revelation at right back, usurping the younger Meechok (20) with some fabulous displays. A goal and two assists for a right back is quite something after just 7 games, although he has also picked up 3 yellow cards, which points to the fact that he can struggle defensively against the better teams in the league.

Defensive midfield has been the most contentious spot in the team, and to my surprise erstwhile utility man Adisorn (13) has come in and really put a claim on the spot. His displays against Buriram and Ubon have been top-notch, exhibiting an exemplary work rate and tenacious tackling. As an advocate for the ridiculously under-used Tatchanon (39) in midfield, I still believe the youngster is the right man in the long term, although I will no longer feel worried seeing Adisorn’s name on the team sheet. As long as he’s playing well, the spot should be his.

Adisorn will of course partner The Sandpit’s Player of the Month for March Siwakorn (16), whose place in the side is as assured as his consistent performances. Suarez (5) will very likely continue in attacking midfield, despite arguably failing to live up to the promise he showed in pre-season. I believe improved performances from the skillful Spaniard will come, as he undoubtedly has the ability to thrive in T1.

Up top, Josimar (30) still divides opinion despite getting off the mark by scoring the winner against Ubon. Personally, I think the Brazilian brings a lot to the team with his aerial challenges and his hold-up play, and if the goals continue to come now that Josimar has got the ball rolling, he could be the striker Port have been after for years.

After two seriously lackluster performances in the last two home games, Port’s weakest link at the moment has to be right-winger Pakorn (9). With the ability he has we should never be talking about dropping Pakorn, but if he doesn’t step up and put in 100% every week, something has to be done. The rest of the team can’t prop up lazy players in T1, so unless Pakorn can carry his own weight the bench should be doing it for him. Against top of the table Chiang Rai, I would play Nitipong (34) in his more natural position at right wing, and bring Meechok (20) in at right back, with Suarez (5) taking over set-piece duties. Whether or not this is the best permanent solution, it will serve as a wake-up call for Pakorn. Go hard or go home!

At left wing once again will be Pakorn’s polar opposite. Genki (18) works as hard as any player in the league, and when he was replaced by Tana (99) on Monday, Port really missed their Japanese terrier. Whilst Tana is always a goal threat, he belongs at centre forward not out on the left wing where he is too far away to utilize his goal-poaching prowess. Genki does an important job for the team, and in one of Port’s toughest away fixtures of the season his hard work will be more important than ever.

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 

Key Battle

Rochela vs. Rafael Coelho

 

 

 

With 6 goals to his name in 2017, Rafael is going to take some stopping. Fortunately, Port have El Capitan David Rochela at the back. If anyone can keep the Brazilian and his teammates shackled, it’s Rochela. Lest you doubt the raw ability of either player, Rafael has represented Brazil at under 18 level, whilst Rochela was an under 17 World Cup runner up with Spain. Let battle commence!

 

The match will be shown live on True Sports 6 at 18:00 on Sunday 9 April, 2017.

 

The Eagles Are Landing: Port FC vs. Ubon UMT, 3 April 2017

 

In my five years supporting Thai Port, 2017 is consistent with following this fantastic football club. The sheer level of apprehension in not knowing which eleven players will take to the park and what levels they will perform to. We have had the heroics of Buriram, what a performance, to a good old-fashion spanking at the hands of our friends from Thai Honda, a team who have been our menaces for two years now. To be totally honest we wouldn’t have it any other way. Supporting this club is about the experience, making friends, enjoying a few beers and witnessing at first hand the passion displayed by the Khlong Toei Army. Hockers’ hat, Ackhim’s Brummie accent (he is German), Linny’s smile when we score, Keith’s iron man adventures, and Tom’s in depth knowledge of the Thai game, we are certainly never bored!

Our summer signings definitely brought a wave of optimism and discussion amongst the Sandpit faithful, whether Mr. Meelarp has any control over these remains a mystery but one thing for sure is it has been a mixed bag. Tana (99) has gone from being a Thai international to a bit part player at Port due to the arrivals of Josimar (30) and Kalu (10), although I am far from convinced by both of them! Sergio Suarez (5) (he even sounds class) looks the deal and I am convinced he will come into his own and establish himself in our Captain Fantastic’s league. Then we had their compatriot Asdrubal who vanished (Ed – Are you sure?), along with our young Patrick Bentley (29). I was excited as he sounded Irish and had freckles. Then, to my utter disgust – as the boys in the supporters club will know – we lost Maranhao (92) who had looked head and shoulders above everyone else in pre-season. I just hope he doesn’t come back to haunt us! Dolah (4) has a presence and a bit of class but he has had a dip in form and is still young so I am hoping optimistically he will become a Virgil Van Dyke.

Nitipong (34) has looked like a full back who could become an established and accomplished member of the team in a position we notoriously sign donkeys in and Todsapol (6) has come into the centre and looked every bit of the player we know he can be. Adisorn (13) looked the real deal against the Thunder Castle, his tenacity and commitment is what we as fans thrive on, and we are crying out for those performances more consistently. If we can get the Pakman (9) from drifting in and out of games we have the makings of an awesome midfield.

The Eagles

Our visitors today are Thai Premier league virgins Ubon UMT and by Jaysus they have made an incredible introduction in their short history sitting in fourth place, five points shy of The Smelly Thongs with only one defeat so far that being an away defeat by the odd goal at Navy. Their foreign legion have delivered and with their Thai talisman Siroch (35) they look a formidable proposition.

Siroch (left), Kenta Yamazaki (right)

The have made just short of one hundred signings in close season (joke, but not far off) and managing to keep hold of Siroch was a massive coup. I attended three international games last year and he was the stand out player in all three apart from Tana’s cameo seven minute appearance. In the Suzuki cup final he bullied and harassed the Indonesian defence. Right, forget about international football as I don’t want to talk about that **** Neil Taylor!

This is a team we beat 3-1 last season in one of our last home games before unforeseen circumstances brought the league to a premature halt. To be honest I vaguely remember it as I went to London Pie at 09:30 and arrived at the Port via Herrity’s, The Kiwi, Hanrahan’s and then Stood in the Sandpit for two hours with Keith and Del. This season their team is virtually unrecognizable and they have an Albanian claiming to be German banging them in from midfield called Nebihi who is getting rave reviews and played at a very decent level in Germany. He is joined in Midfield by an uncompromising Japanese player called Yamazaki – every team should have one – and Argie Berriex, who played most of his career in Chile playing for a team called Rangers, hopefully this one didn’t pledge loyalty to a monarch and then proceed to forget about HRMC rules and regulations!

Anyway it will be great to be back after three weeks of spending Saturdays with my eight week old daughter and as much as I love Tarua it just isn’t that good.

Slan go feoil

For those going to PAT Stadium, the game kicks off at the unusually early time of 17:45, and for those who can’t make it it will be shown live on True Sport 2.