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The Sandpit 2021/22 Big Guess Up – PT Prachuap

I’ve always quite liked PT Prachuap since their arrival in Thai League 1 in 2018, with their strike force of Jonatan Reis and Lonsana Doumbouya shaking things up and capturing my attention. They didn’t hang around too long, and it was no surprise that in their 2ND season in the league they dropped 3-places on the table, but they did manage to bring the Thai League Cup back to the seaside. The recruitment for season 2020-21 had appeared so promising, with the likes of William Henrique, and Bruno Mezenga definitely having me think “they’re going to try and challenge for a top-4 place this time around.” They complemented the Brazilian duo with the likes of Yoo Jun-soo, Baihakki Khaizan, and Iain Ramsay, with only the signing of Ramsay going on to be a success.

I think it’s fair to say that William Henrique was a disappointment for the club last season, and this time around: they’ve taken a bit more of a backseat approach. In my opinion, I feel like they’re going to see how they fare in the first-leg with the players that they have, and if things aren’t going as well as they’d hoped: they’ll ring in the changes during the mid-season window to ensure that they preserve their status in the league. I’m genuinely quite intrigued by them, but I’m not expecting much from the at the same time.

All I ask is that they do well enough to stay up, as an away day in Prachuap is one I haven’t been able to do yet, and I’d rather head there than to say… Suphanburi! I wish them the best of luck, but I think they’re going to have their work cut out for them.

 

The killa wasp – scary nickname lovely fans

 

Head Coach – Masami Taki

Prachuap moved on from Thawatchai Damrong-Ongtrakul at the end of last season, which was a bit of a surprise to me, as he’d been at the club for quite a while, but they’ve got themselves a solid replacement in Masami Taki. He’s got a bit about him, having had the Chiangrai United job at the start of the season, so it was astonishing to see him land at Rayong in November, 2020. I bet he couldn’t believe his luck [or lack of it] when he arrived at Rayong, and although he managed to get a few solid results for the club: there was no chance that they were ever going to secure survival. With that being said, he did do quite well with some of the young Thai players at the club, and I’m quite pleased to see that he’ll be working with Mehti Sarakham again.

Below are his stats from the 2020-21 season:

GAMESWINSDRAWSLOSSESWIN %
321051731.25

 

Obviously, the win column is helped by his short spell with Chiangrai United, but I’ll cut him some slack: the Rayong team he inherited was undoubtedly one of the worst Thai League 1 teams that I’ve seen in recent years. It’s a concern when your foreign players are genuinely worse than your local players, and bar Goshi Okubo: the foreign players at Rayong last season were abysmal.

Masami Taki – keeping it seaside as he moves from Rayong to Prachuap

Key Player – Adnan Orahovac

I’d been quite tempted to go with Willen Mota as the key player for Prachuap this season, as his goals were crucial in their survival last season, but I feel that it’ll be defensively that’ll decide whether or not the club secures Thai League 1 survival again. It must be a relief for Masami Taki that he can call upon a competent foreign central-defender this time around, and not one that spends half his time on social media trying to convince people that he’s a quality player. Here’s a tip: if you have to tell people you’re great, there’s a good chance that you’re completely useless.

Getting back to Orahovac, his influence on the team was clear for all to see upon his return to the starting-11 in the second-leg last season, with him featuring in 14-games: his team winning half of them, and drawing two. There were a couple of games that finished as blowouts, but honestly: Prachuap were a bit all over the shop last season. I actually thought they’d challenge for a top-4 finish in pre-season, due to their off-season signings, but obviously… we know how that ended!

 

Adnan Orahovac league cup winner

 

My Prediction – Lower table

I think this squad is solid enough, but not spectacular in the slightest, and considering how their ‘glamour’ signings fared last season: maybe this is the new direction the club is headed. Willen Mota showed that he can score goals, and plenty of them, so I think it’s a case of the club seeing if lightning will strike twice with the signing of Tauã dos Santos. He was fantastic for Nakhon Pathom last season, and if he can find the back of the net at a similar rate: watch out! He’s also a very handy penalty taker, so don’t be too surprised if the Prachuap players are falling over in the box at a rapid rate over the course of the season.

Taki is a solid hire for the club, and by giving him a squad with considerably more talent than the Rayong squad that he inherited: the results he gets should be quite a lot better too. With that being said, I don’t think the club will be able to mount a push for the top-half of the table, but they could pick up a few results that make us sit up and take notice.

 

The Tony Blackburn Late Show: PT Prachuap FC 1-1 Port FC

 

 

The Journey

With the game scheduled for a Sunday kick-off and the stadium being approximately 300 KM from Bangkok, there was not the usual demand for the the away day mini-bus trip. With this in mind, I decided to combine two of my favourite passions, watching live football and riding motorcycles. My wife and a mate set off on Saturday, with a one night stop over near Sangkhlaburi and then headed south to Prachuap Khiri Khan.

The Stadium

This was my first trip to Prachuap and we were all highly impressed by the scenic bay, with its calm waves and limestone outcrop as we rode along the beach front to our hotel. What struck us immediately was how friendly everyone was. The hotel manager couldn’t do enough to help and promptly booked us a motorbike for our journey to the stadium, which was situated about 3KM from where we were staying. When she asked, ‘Did i want a motorbike with a side car’, visions of Wallace and Grommit ‘entered my head. However, thankfully it wasn’t quite what I imagined and we grabbed a Heineken and headed to the ground.

 

 

The friendly nature of the Prachuap locals continued inside the ground as we headed to buy tickets and grab another beer. The two ladies selling the tickets offered us free coconut ice cream with sticky rice with proud gleaming smiles, a welcome which was most appreciated.

 

Small gestures like this go a long way and significantly enhances the away day experience. The Port faithful had travelled in two disco buses and in the background you could hear the usual pre-match chants, sung along to the rhythmic beat of the drums.

Unfortunately, Prachuap’s stadium has a running track, so it’s difficult to see what’s happening at the far end of the pitch, but more annoying is the huge scoreboard which stands directly in front of the away supporters (see main image). This truly baffled us, as there is an open space to the side of the away end – I guess logic is seriously lacking in some people. On the plus side, beer can be taken into the stadium and as there were only approximately 150-200 Port supporters at the match, we could position ourselves to the side of the hideous scoreboard.

 

Expectations

Following the poor run of form, Port gaining just 2 league points from 6 games and Madam’s irrational panic buying, Port have managed to win their last two league games, but hardly in a convincing manner. Most of us would generally agree that during ‘Leg 1’, we’d seen the most exciting Port team since the likes of Leandro and Saruta graced the pitch. With the fast paced attack, now a distant memory, even though Prachuap were just above the relegation zone, I expected no more than a draw from this game.

The Match

With Suarez banned for a stupid yellow in the last match away at Trat, Port lined up with the same team, that was on the pitch after the Spaniard’s early exit (Chenrop starting up front). Why Rolando Blackburn (AKA Tony), didn’t start was a mystery to most of us. If you are going to replace your foreign players in the mid season transfer window, then at least ensure they are good enough to start games (The mind boggles). However, despite the rather damp pitch Port got off to a promising start with several shots on goal in the opening minutes. As early as the third minute, Josimar played a delightful long ball from the right wing, which fell perfectly for Bodin, who hesitated as Ratchapol (2), Prachuap’s keeper smothered the ball. Maybe it was just too early in the game and our contender for player of the season was half asleep, or he thought the linesman’s flag had gone up, but this was a great early chance. Prachuap followed this effort with a few half chances of their own inside the first 6 minutes, but nothing to bother the ever dependable Worawut. Whilst the football wasn’t exactly Tiki-Taka, it was end to end stuff at times. In the 14th minute, Sivakorn played a ball towards Steuble (15), but his shot, which was directed towards the post was pushed away by their keeper.

In order to remember the action, I decided to record my comments into my phone. Unfortunately, when I played them back the next day, all I could hear was the sound of loud drums and the Port faithful singing along – so much for that bright idea (Doh). However, somewhere around the 20 minute mark, Port had an attack which resembled a game of tennis, with Josimar and Bodin firing in crosses from the left and right wings, missing all the players that had been bothered to get forward for the attack.

Chenrop was looking lively and appeared to be inter-changing with Josimar who was playing on the right of a front three. A good chance came on 16 minutes, when Bodin put in a cross from the left, towards Josimar who was lingering just in front of goal, but his header looped over the crossbar. On 28 minutes, Port were awarded a free kick just outside the 18 yard box. This is where Pakorn earns his money and if he had been on the pitch I would have put money on the back of the net bulging. However, he was on the bench, so it was down to Sumanya who’s effort looped over the top right corner of the cross bar. I’m not a fan of Sumanya, but thought he was having one of his better games.

Prachuap had been fairly awful in the first half and it was clear why they are in a relegation battle this season. However, on 34 minutes, they had a rare shot on goal as Supot (9) struck a long range shot just wide of the target. Towards the end of the first half an inswinging corner almost caught Worawut out, but thankfully, he managed to tip the ball over the bar. With heart planted firmly in mouth, we headed for half time drinks.

Having somewhat enjoyed the first half, the second half was a huge disappointment. If anyone thinks we can beat Chang Rai this coming Wednesday, then can you must be listening to Dolly Parton.

Port made three substitutions early in the second half, with Pakorn, Tony and Narul coming on for Bodin, Chenrop and Sumanya. Prachuap definitely had the better of the second half and broke the deadlock in the 74th minute in a fashion which summed up the game. Sirod played a ball into the box, only for Tanabon (71) to slide in and slot the ball into his own net – Great, another top transfer from Madam!!!! Port did battle on, but looked unlikely to score, even though Tony and Josi were attempting to form a partnership up front. Tony spawned a good chance in the 88th minute and one can’t be blamed for wondering why he had replaced Boscovic. Then, in the dying seconds of the game, Josimar’s long range effort was deflected by Ratchapol and who was there to stick in the rebound, none other than the famous Grange Hill Radio One D.J. himself. That’s now 2 goals in 4 games for the man who’s come from Panama to play for Ta Rua (lyrical credit to Tim R.) Bosco is probably a better player, but the fact is Tony plays as a striker whereas Bosco always wanted to play left side. If he had lead the line, he probably would still be playing at Port today.

Final Thoughts

Despite the poor second half, it was a very enjoyable day out and I would highly recommend a trip to Prachuap, if they do not get relegated this year. The atmosphere was great, nice supporters and an aesthetically pleasing location to watch football. As the famous Jimmy Greaves once said, ‘It’s a game of two halves’, and whilst Port probably had the better of the first half, Prachuap were the better team in the second. With results generally going our way, Port are still in third place, four points from the top.

When we left the stadium three young Prachuap fans came up to me to shake my hand, then one asked me to sign his shirt. No idea why, maybe they thought he thought I was a retired football player. He’s obviously never seen me kick a ball.

On another random note, when we headed out for Pizza later, some weird form of ballroom dancing was taking place. The streets were teeming with life in a mini carnival type atmosphere.

 

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match:

None other that the football genius himself Sivakorn!

 

Killer Wasps to Ruin Walk in the Park?: PT Prachuap FC vs Port FC Preview

 

Greetings from Milton Keynes, the Samut Prakan of EFL One! Well, Bletchley actually, a town best known for being the home of the Codebreakers, that sterling group of men and women who cracked the German Enigma and Lorenz codes, effectively shortening the Second World War by several years. On a less earth-shattering note, their Bletchley Park home was also the site of my teacher training college, although none of us, at the time, studying in the Bletchley Girls’ Nissan huts on how to administer corporal punishment without drawing blood, were aware of its weighty history. 

Today, Bletchley is a pale shadow of its former, glorious past. The main street, Queensway, named after a royal visit in 1966, has more charity outlets than an Oxfam convention, while the most notable cultural event in the town in recent years was the opening of a new Weatherspoons, ostentatiously named, ‘Captain Ridley’s Shooting Party’, a reference to the first, secret gathering of MI6 operatives at the Park, none of whom had a spot of poaching in mind. 

This brief history lesson is actually just a delaying tactic before I have to embark on  the painful task of analyzing Port’s dismal form since my departure, a demise which I have watched with growing alarm and more than a little sense of guilt. As far as I can recall, Port have repeatedly had a July slump, coinciding with my Summer travels.  Last year it was the exits from both Cups in a week. I am not being bold enough to suggest that I personally might have any influence over the results but it just might be the absence of the woolly hat, always a comforting and inspirational sight to the players attacking Zone B, that is at the root of the problem. Maybe I should have just stuck it on a pole behind the goal for the duration of my travels. Anyway, sincere apologies for any inconvenience caused. 

I have naturally followed the discourses on the Sandpit and, whatever the reasons: team selection, tactics, hapless transfer shenanigans, injuries, loss of form, lack of confidence; it has made for painful reading.  And yet, amazingly, due to the seemingly, equal incompetence of the other challengers, we are still just three points behind an AFC qualifying spot, although the 5 points deficit from Buriram at the top will be tough to make up. Dolah’s vital header on Sunday brought much needed relief to what I imagine has been an increasingly frustrated Port faithful and hopefully will provide a springboard to a revival. Due to travel commitments this week, I am writing this preview before the tricky away visit to Trat, but the Killer Wasps’ recent form gives Port some kind of optimism that their sting can continue to be drawn. 

After a promising start, Prachuap have tumbled at a more alarming rate than Port, with their last League win at Ratchaburi on June 22nd and now find themselves firmly in the relegation zone, after another home reversal v Chonburi at the weekend.  Port may also draw comfort from their 5-0 victory in the reverse fixture. 

With Brazilian top scorer Caion, on loan to Chonburi, Prachuap have recruited another Brazilian, Maurinho (30), straight from the Samba Shores, as well as French-Senegalese, Jean-Philippe Mendy (14). Mendy seems to have had a fascinating career, once scoring for Dinamo Bucharest against Tottenham Hotspur in the EUFA Cup, as well as being a bit of a clever git, speaking 5 languages: English, Italian, French, Romanian and Wolof.  Naturally, he is a bit of globetrotter, formerly playing in Romania, Croatia, Abu Dhabi, Slovenia and China. For those interested, ‘Go Away’ in Wolof is ‘Deemal Waay!’ The Wasps’ international contingent is completed by the slightly more dour Eastern European combo of Artyom Filiposyan (16)(Amernia-Uzbekhistan) and Adnan Orahova (22) (Montenegro). Pity Bosko is not around to wind them up. Siroch (35), a good, old fashioned, battering ram striker will be familiar to most Port fans but his appearances have been largely from the bench. 

Port’s win over Sukothai was their first in the League since May 29th  so it might be wise to stick with the same starting eleven, although I hardly feel qualified to comment on this from afar, having only seen brief clips of the new arrivals. So I will go with the predicted line-up against Trat in the hope that a rousing victory is achieved and we go into the next game with a settled, winning team.

Worawut; Nitipong, Tanaboon, Dolah, Steuble; Siwakorn, Go, Sumanya; Pakorn, Suarez, Bodin.

(Editor’s note: Suarez managed to get booked for dissent yet again at Trat so will miss Sunday’s game through suspension)

I will look forward to my return on August 5th, just in time for the FA Cup quarter-final against Chiang Rai. It will be good to be back. The woolly hat thinks so too!