Posts

Dragan’s Boys Crush Dragons: Ratchaburi FC 1-4 Port FC

 

After consecutive defensive collapses against Muangthong and Sukhothai, Port responded in the best way possible by turning on the style and absolutely destroying Ratchaburi at the Mitr Phol last night. Solid in defence, dominant in midfield and absolutely unplayable in attack, this was by far the best Port performance I’ve seen in 4 years of following the club – and by far the best away following too.


The Sandpit crew rolled up to Ratchaburi to find that things have definitely improved since our last visit. No, the Dragon Bar still isn’t open, but they’ve added a new food & drink zone, and the chicken & chips immediately took pole position in the Sandpit Best Away Ground Food Awards for 2018. The scene was further enlivened by the presence of two leather-clad dancing girls, one of whom immediately endeared herself to us for two particular reasons. Never let it be said that the Sandpit doesn’t keep you abreast of the important matchday incidents, and this is one that will live long in the mammary memory.

 

“They’re real…and they’re spectacular”

 

This was potentially a banana skin for Port, with Ratchaburi just 5 points behind in the league and Rochela & Siwakorn both suspended. In came Todsapol (6) and Jack Russell Adisorn (13), and, in an inspired move, the captain’s armband was given to Boskovic (23), who provided the on-pitch leadership & motivation Port so often lack.

Banana skin? Bollocks to that said Bosko, and after just 45 seconds the big striker dodged a  Ratchaburi midfielder and floated a delicious ball up to Nurul (31) which was just a little bit too quick for the Midfield Marmoset to latch onto. But Ratchaburi had been warned, and on 8 minutes the floodgates opened. Kim (8), enjoying playing in a more forward role in the absence of Siwakorn, set Kevin (97) free down the left, and the young defender, inspired by the boos of his former fans at Ratchaburi, skinned a defender with some lovely footwork before driving the ball into the box where it was met by the inrushing Suarez (5), who couldn’t miss.

 

The best stadium in Thailand

 

Port were happy to let Ratchaburi have the ball for long periods, comfortable in the knowledge that they didn’t have the strikers to hurt Port’s defence. New signing Mark Hartmann is a real Brent McGrath of a striker, whilst big new Lithuanian striker Nerijus Valskis is so wooden and immobile one can only assume they picked him up at IKEA. Surprisingly, failed moustache grower Kang Soo-Il, who has already scored 10 goals this season, was left on the bench. Even when they did break through, they found Todsapol and particularly Dolah (4) in defiant form.

Port doubled their lead on 33 minutes with one of the best team goals you’ll see all season. In a move that started on the edge of their own box, Port worked the ball out to Boskovic, who left Ratchaburi’s left-back on his arse and fed a lovely through ball to Suarez; the Spaniard crossed into the box for Nurul whose sublime first touch took out the one remaining defender and left him with an easy chip into the far corner. We’re not used to seeing Port play on the counter-attack but they’re seriously bloody good at it, and Ratchaburi just couldn’t handle them.

It could’ve got much worse for the Dragons before half-time, with Suarez volleying wide when picked out by a lovely cross from Kevin, and a Pakorn (7) free-kick stinging the keeper’s palms; but 2-0 was a pretty fair reflection of the first half and it was a very happy bunch of Port fans who headed down to the concourse for half-time beers.

If the first half was good, the second half was simply stellar. Once in a blue moon teams suddenly get in the zone and reach a level of football previously thought impossible (England’s 4-1 win over Holland at Euro 96 for example), and that’s what Port delivered. Ratchaburi simply couldn’t get near them and it was as good a display of attacking football as you’ll see in Thailand this season. Kim shaved the post after being nicely teed up by Cap’n Bosko, and then fired narrowly over from 20 yards; A Nurul cross/shot was almost turned in by Suarez; a superb Nitipong (34) cross was almost headed in by Boskovic.

It was only a matter of time until Port went further ahead and on 76 minutes it was that man Suarez again, picking up the ball on the halfway line, running unchallenged into the box & smashing it in off the crossbar for 3-0, sparking mayhem in the away end. And it got even better 9 minutes later – Bodin robbed a Ratchaburi attacker deep in his own half, ran the ball up to the edge of the box and fed Boskovic, who curled a sublime shot into the top corner. The best goal of the night, and cause of some ecstatic scenes in the away end, including a certain Port fan waving a seat in the air.

 

Throw ya seats in the air/Wave ’em around like ya just don’t care

 

It wouldn’t be Port without a bit of late drama of course, and a defensive mix-up between Port debutant Worawut (24) and keeper Rattanai (17) allowed Ratchaburi’s MOTM Yannick Djalo to tap in a consolation goal. Clean sheets? Who needs ’em.

Understandably, the drive home was 2 hours of drinking, singing (including a couple of ditties for absent friends who had inexplicably chosen to go to Chonburi for the futsal) and improving Anglo-German relations – “I just want you to know I don’t mean any harm” said a well-oiled Keith to the backseat German contingent, after a chorus of ‘Two World Wars & One World Cup’. “I’M A GLOBAL CITIZEN!!!” Hands down the best away trip I’ve done in 3 years of travelling with Port.

As for the football, what can I say? This was a stunning win for Jadet’s team, and one of those nights when everything comes together. Dolah & Todsapol made a mockery of our worries over Rochela’s absence; Adisorn & Kim are a much better midfield pairing than Kim & Siwakorn; Nurul & Kevin tore the full-backs so many new arseholes that the proctologists of Ratchaburi will be doing a roaring trade for weeks to come; and Bosko & Suarez were just unplayable, their race for the Port golden boot becoming increasingly fascinating viewing. This wasn’t a 7-1 win against a joke team like Navy; this was a composed, organised, dominant dismissal of serious top 6 contenders, and sets Port up nicely for what should be a thrilling second half of the season. And a special note about the Khlong Thoey Army who turned up en masse tonight, filling the away end and creating a deafening din throughout. “Absolutely amazing support today!” Dolah messaged to me after the game, commenting that they couldn’t hear the Ratchaburi fans at all. One of those nights when being a Port fan is simply the greatest feeling in the world.

 

THIS IS KHLONG THOEY!

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Sergio Suarez

So many excellent performances I hardly know where to start. So let’s do a top 5 (with honours also going to Adisorn, Dolah & Todsapol). In 5th place, Kevin, who shoved the home fans’ boos right back up their arses with a fantastic performance. In 4th, Nurul – the little winger was at his cheeky best and scored a lovely goal. In 3rd, Boskovic, clearly revelling in his role as captain and scoring one of the goals of the season. In 2nd, Kim, who is a much better CM than he is a DM, and one can only hope that the Adisorn-Kim pairing becomes Jadet’s default setting.

 

Men of the match

 

And in 1st, yet again, it’s Suarez. The Spaniard has had his critics this season and last, myself amongst them, but when he focuses on playing football he’s one of the best players in T1 and tonight Ratchaburi just couldn’t get near him. I had a very tasty serving of humble pie on the bus home.

 

Sandpit Songs of the Season Week 19: Ratchaburi

 

Port travel to the Sugardome tomorrow to face Ratchaburi, and after a couple of emotionally exhausting matches at the PAT (thanks to the wonders of the smartwatch I can report that my wife’s heart rate was up to 138 during Wednesday’s second half), fans will be hoping for a more comfortable win this time – especially with Ratchaburi having exited the League Cup on Wednesday to T3 side Ranong Utd.

Previous visitors to the Mitr Phol stadium will have been impressed with its stunning design, its well-appointed away end and its beautiful sunset views over the hills. But we were less impressed with its catering facilities, with little food available, just a couple of beer vendors (selling that foul secretion from Satan’s anal glands, Chang), and a much-anticipated stadium pub which turned out to be closed.

So this week’s song pays tribute to said pub, in the hope that we might actually be able to get a pint there this time round. “There’s nothing so lonesome or morbid or drear/Than to stand on the roof of a pub with no beer“, as the song almost goes.

 


 

Dragons’ Lair or Sweet Shop? Ratchaburi FC vs Port FC Preview

 

Port head off to Ratchaburi this Saturday looking for another three points in T1. With two wins and a draw over the last two seasons we can be fairly confident of getting something from the Dragons. Before we get too cocky, both of the Port wins have been hard fought 3-2 victories which could have gone either way. Port and the Port faithful have to be on a high after Wednesday night’s 4-3 display of what can only be called fantasy football.

Ratchaburi’s new stadium is purpose built – no running track nonsense just football here my friend. For me it’s one of the better away trips because of the stadium – it’s even got a dragon shaped into the corner of the ground. Rather disappointingly it’s call the “Mitr Phol Stadium” after the sugar sponsor, when it should be called something like the “Dragon’s Lair” or the “Fire Nest”. It will be interesting to see if they’ve finally finished the promised “Dragons’ Bar”, which was a roof top bar without the bar at the end of last season. Ratchaburi like the Thunderdome is a Chang-only zone so stopping off to stock up with Leos or high quality Amaretto is advisable. Its newbuild look is not to everyone’s taste – the shell of the ground looks a bit plastic, and I think it was Gareth who said it looks like the local Giant Kwik Fit store has screwed a Dragon and this is their bastard stadium of a son.

Dragging Along

Ratchaburi have had a half decent season – they sit in 7th place looking like a side that will comfortably be in the top ten this year. They’ve had a similar budget to last year and put together a solid team. Kang Soo Il (10), Chutiporn (7) and Sami (3) all impressed me last time out. There’s quality through the spine of this team but they are lacking the all-round depth to put them in the top tier of T1 teams. Ex-Port player Sompong Solep (24) is still getting a game there so they can’t be that good (see Tom’s Frankenstein’s worst player comments).

This transfer window has seen a few changes down Ratchaburi way. Big Brazilian “Bill” has gone off to Chiang Rai. It’s being reported that the Thai/German Phillip Roller is not back training with the team after the international break. To make up for this and other losses they have brought in a clutch of new players. Praweenwat Boonyong, a Buriram regular in the first half of 2018 has come in and is being played as a defensive midfielder to offer a bit of protection for the reasonable but leaky back four. Nerijus Valskis is their new Lithuanian striker who comes from the Israeli League where he got 6 goals and 3 assists in 19 starts. Doesn’t look like he’s going to set the game on fire, but he might well get his first start on Saturday so he’ll be looking to impress fans on his debut. They’ve also brought in Yanick Djalo on the right wing from Guinea Bissau, and as their new Asean quota player Philippine/English striker Mark Hartmann. Hartmann has just come from Ubon where he got 5 goals 2 assists in 14 matches so he’s not just there to make up the numbers.

Difficult to know exactly what Ratchaburi 2.0 will be like. A slightly weakened squad were put out of the League cup on penalties by the sharks of Ranong F.C. on Wednesday night, so things are not looking good for the new bunch. Saturday will see them trying to make up for their loss in front of their loyal home support. Remember the old saying “Beware of a Dragon that’s just been screwed over by a Shark”. I think we’ve all heard that so many times before.

Port Life

Well Wednesday, what can you say? There was everything – goals, drama, revenge, comically poor refereeing…it was all there. One thing it did show is this team looks a bit more confident, unfortunately at 2-0 up a bit too bloody confident. Port’s form has been top notch of late, but an inability to put a game to bed reared its ugly head again. 7 minutes vs Muangthong and letting Sukhothai back into the game on Wednesday show Port need to be more clinical when they are on top. Muangthong and Sukhothai are decent sides and we can’t give teams like that chances.

Port’s Starting XI

With four games in two weeks we might see some variation from our friend the ultra-consistent commissar of the cream pies. Jadet might give a couple of first team players a rest but I can’t see too much change happening. Rattanai, Kevin and Dolah should be back in the squad after a rest on Wednesday. Port have got four games in two weeks but the 4th match is against a T5 side Tha Muang, a team who shouldn’t put up that much resistance (famous last words).

LINEUP

Rattanai
Kevin, Rochela, Dolah, Nittipong
Nurul, Siwakorn, Kim, Suarez, Pakorn
Boskovic

Terens Trouble

Yet again Terens was passed over for a place on Wednesday. I really can’t see him staying if he’s not playing in the Cups. He’s shown he does have the skill to play in T1 at least in bursts. It would be a shame to see him head back to Borneo without really being given a chance to shine. If he’s not getting regular time on the pitch at Port I can see him heading home. He needs to be playing regularly for 10-15 minutes as an impact substitute to make his time in Thailand worthwhile.

Matchups?

Boonyong may well be told to shepard Suarez out of the game. It’s exactly the role he’s been brought in to do and he has the quality to trouble Suarez. Which of these midfield minders will stamp their authority on the game? We will see. Sami vs Boskovic could see a few fun tussles in the box, a bit of elbow fencing and arm wrestling. I like this matchup – both tough but not dirty players and both with a bit to prove to set themselves up as top T1 players in 2018.

Prediction

2-1 win for Port with Dragan defeating the Dragons.

 

Ratchaburi FC vs Port FC. Saturday 16 June 17:45 at Mitr Phol Stadium and on TrueSport 2. 

 

Run Christian, Run! Port FC vs. Ratchaburi, 24 February 2018

 

There is a bible story that talks of a young German Christian (Ziege) manager taking the first steps on his assent to the footballing promised land, who traveled far to the lands east, for a fat bag of gold coins (one suspects) to lead a mythical sugar dragon and is confronted by a league full of strange beasts, disorganisation and interfering megalomaniac owners. In this very strange league lived a mighty lion who once was shabby and downbeat, even taking on at times the form of a horse and a rather camp dolphin but had recently risen to the top of the local footballing mountain. With the help of its sidekicks the dragon, the flash, the grumpy Spaniard, the calm happy Spaniard and 1990’s Will Smith, the lion had set about slaying all who dared to cross its path. The strange footballing land also had a bunny, a bat, a beetle, a horrible lizard, a shark, a not so camp dolphin, and an elephant amongst others. However, it was the mighty Lion that had recently come to be most feared. First it met the dolphin and with three blows the dolphin was slain. Next was its sworn enemy the lizard. The lion had waited a long time for this moment and savoured his victory, he had won victories over the lizard before but they were bruising affair, this was to be a total victory, tearing the helpless lizard limb from limb, even toying with the poor little lizard as the life faded from it on a glorious Saturday, and the howls of the lion’s famous followers did ring around its den, for although the battle did occur at the lizards dwelling, it was a place no wise man was permitted to visit. Some say that with the battle won and the followers of the lizard falling silent, as they realized that the lion had risen and was again undeniably mightier than their lizard, the roars of the lion’s followers could be heard even though the two dens are many miles apart and even if they couldn’t, it’s on YouTube.

The young manager was filled with fear having seen the lion slaughter the lizard and began to question if this really was the place for him. So, with just days to go before his dragons (none of whom were as mighty as the lion’s dragon, who was the mightiest dragon in the kingdom), were due to face the lion in its den, the young manager asked the lord to help him escape the mighty lion and his now ultra-professional sidekicks. “Save me from the lion’s mouth; From the horns of the wild oxen You answer me.” (Psalms 22.21). (The oxen had been cast out by the other animals for being a bit crap at football and told to spend 40 fixtures and 40 weeks trying to prove itself). The young manger decided to further ponder his position whilst listening to some banging tunes. Luckily being a very modern god, Spotify is the savior’s current go to medium of communication, so the lord did answer the young manager at a crossroads and via shuffle the lord did declare: “dreaming of that perfect home by the sun…Run, Christian run,” for the lord was wise and chose the finest Welsh psychedelic band to have ever walked the earth* to inform the former left back who had traveled as far as Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Milan and some of footballs smaller missionary stations before heading east,  that it was time to high tail it to Suvarnabhumi and see how quickly Lufthansa could get him back to the Fatherland. Thus ends the story of the Christian and the sugar dragon.

Its one of the lesser known bible stories due mainly to having been entirely made up by me in an attempt to make up for having to bin nearly all of the preview I’d finished yesterday. So a series of poor Christian and lions jokes will live forever unused alongside the excellent Captain (playa de las) Americas pun that, given the slim chances of a return to Klong Toey for Asdrubal combining with Super Power making like the son of God at Easter for a game I preview, will never see the light of day in any useful way.

 


 

Or in plain language, Port play Ratchaburi on Saturday at the PAT, 20:00 kick off or if you can’t make it’s on True 4U, True Sport HD2 and various dodgy streams. Ratchaburi had appointed Christan Ziege to be their manager in the close season, however, at some point this week, having already left once, it was decided by the club and/or him that things weren’t working out and his contract with the club was terminated. Oh, and we’re top of the league, having played Muangthong off LEGOLAND Park. We’re also yet to concede a goal this season, and we’re eight games unbeaten in the league including the finish of last season. The last time Jadet took charge of a home defeat was the 6th of May 2017 when Pattaya beat us two nil. So we have nothing to fear. Kinda like being two nil up with ten minutes to go, and we know how that generally turns out for Port!

Ratchaburi

 

Its hard enough to draw any conclusions about teams two games into the season; it’s even harder when they’ve changed manager and when that manager leaves the club, you’re pretty much at a total loss.

 

Christian Ziege

 

Sooooo, Ratchaburi started the season with the least desirable fixture on offer, away at Buriram on a Friday night. Giving a good account of themselves, they kept the scores level ’til the hour mark, before two goals in seven minutes took the points for the champions, despite a consolation penalty scored by Felipe Mendez (20).  Round two saw Air Force Central visit Ratchaburi, again the game was scoreless well into the second half before an own goal was awarded to Chutipol Thongthae (7) for being vaguely nearby when the ball was sent goalward by the Air Force player, securing the win for Ratchaburi.

The Ratchaburi squad underwent somewhat of an overhaul in the closed season as Marcel Essombe moved to Port, who sent him to the BEC Police home for unwanted players and from there he has moved to pastures as yet unknown. Thai national team left back Kevin Deeromram made the same move on deadline day.

They have been replaced by “Bill” (90) a striker from Brazil who has spent the last four years (transferring each season) in the second tier at home, scoring 9, 15, 2 and 10 goals (the 2 occurred while only making 9 appearances). On two occasions he’s been with the champions, only to be moved on without getting the opportunity to play in the top tier. He’s yet to score in the Thai league, but appears to possess a powerful shot. South Korean Soo-il Kang (10) also arrived in the closed season, from Thespakusatsu Gunma who were relegated from the second tier of the Japanese league. A skilled dribbler, he had the most fruitful season of his career last season, scoring 10 goals. Kang too has drawn a blank in his time at Ratchaburi playing on the right, hopefully Deeromram learnt enough in the time they spent together in preseason to keep him in check.

 

Bill and Kang

 

Further attacking options are offered by two half Thai players, Thai-German Phillip Roller (33) who has been used further up the field as a right winger than full back where he started and Thai-Italian Gionata Verzura (16) who arrived from Super Power via Ubon, they’ve started one game each this season. The final foreigner in the group is another Brazilian Felipe Menezes (20) who scored the penalty at Buriram. He will look to exploit the space between Port’s defence and midfield.

 

Roller and Verzura

 

Also arriving was keeper Kittipong (1) on loan for the season from Bangkok United. He was first choice for the Angels last season, but has been moved on in the post cup final shake up. He’ good at getting himself to shots and crosses but somewhat questionable at collecting them. Whilst Pakorn may not enjoy much joy with his shoot on sight policy, others may following up.

The back four has been fairly stable for some time with Wattayuchutikul, (35) who was involved 19 times last season being asked to replace Deeromram at left back. Congolese centre back Joel Sami is captain. He seems a competent foreign leader of a defence, but hopefully we be found wanting against Boskovic and his many helpers.

Port

 

I can see only two spots in the team where a change is possible. Firstly in goal, whilst the decision to make Worawut (36) man of the match last weekend was somewhat of an overstatement of his performance, he was in great form out at LEGOLAND. Combined with a solid performance in the opener, it seems implausible that he’ll be dropped. So even if Rattanai (17) is back to full fitness, I expect his fragile frame will be spending a few more weeks toughening itself up on the bench.

Which brings us to Port’s other man made of biscuits. Todsapol (6) was carried off with what has been reported as a muscle injury, that early in the week was reportedly not serious enough to stop him starting come Saturday or would keep in out for two weeks according to another source midweek.  Dolah (4) came on for the last hour and coped well with all that Herberty and Jaja asked of him. I suspect the weekend comes to soon for Todsapol to start. Thereafter I expect it to be the same team as last week.  Nitipong (34) and Kevin Deeromram (97) have been excellent at the back and equally impressive going forward, Deeromram looked more at ease for a second week of training with the club and enjoyed exploiting the space offered by our out of position right wingers, cutting in. Nitipong (34) thankfully appears to have figured out that defensive side of the game he used to struggle with against all but the weakest of opponents.

 The foreign spine of the team appears to be the real strength of the set up. We know what we get from El Capitan David Rochela (22) and in front of him is Kim Sung Hwan (8), who was superb in the Slum vs. Scum derby, not just with his play but with his organisation. Along with Boskovic (23), these players offer more than just their ability as individual players, as they organise and encourage those around them. The sight of Jadet in discussion with Kim and Deeromram over the tactics board bodes well. We now have players with knowledge and the strength of character to put their thoughts out there mid match.

As noted above Ratchaburi have made it to the hour mark in each of their games this season scoreless. This might be the game when the strength of the Port bench is called to turn the game in our favour late on.

Predicted Lineup

 

 


 

*The Super Furry Animals for the heathens amongst the readership

 


 

The match will be shown live on True 4U, True Sport HD2 at 20:00 on Saturday 24 February, 2018. For those who can’t make it to PAT Stadium, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match with sound if you ask them nicely. Mention the Sandpit or wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount.

 

Sandpit Songs of the Season 2018: Week 3

 

Port take on Ratchaburi Mitr Phol FC at the PAT this Saturday. Now what with them hiring German legend Christian Ziege as coach we were looking forward to making lots of Christian/Lions jokes, however in what is surely the least surprising news this season, apart from Todsapol getting injured again, Ziege has buggered off home to the Fatherland after just two games in charge. Do the people behind these decisions give no thought to pun-hungry football websites? Bastards.

Anyway, this week we had to resort to plan B, so what with Ratchaburi’s nickname being The Dragons, here’s a (pretty shit) song about something we will hopefully be seeing just before 10pm on Saturday…

 

 

How to Train Your Dragons: Ratchaburi Mitr Phol FC 2-3 Port FC

 

“We were somewhere around Samut Sakhon, on the edge of the desert, when the Amaretto began to take hold…”

 

I began following Port FC in the summer of 2014, yet due to some curse put on me by a vengeful Burmese gypsy in Khlong Thoey market after I refused to buy her kumquats, as yesterday dawned I had still to see my team win an away league game. Such was the gravity of the Russell jinx that there was widespread relief that I was out of the country for the recent trip to Super Power (though that may have just been relief at the fact that I was out of the country full stop), and I headed to Ratchaburi in hope (with Port on a run of 5 unbeaten games) rather than expectation.

 

The Farang Army

 

Ratchaburi is a short 2-hour journey away, and we pass the time with the usual erudite discussions on Port-related matters as well as the varying quality of hotel pillows, Japanese psychedelia and the health-giving properties of Amaretto, which for some reason Dom is passing around the bus. Possibly the first Amaretto-fuelled football away trip in history. Certainly in Thai history anyway.

Ratchaburi’s new Mitr Phol Stadium is, at first glance at least, very impressive: a modern, running-track free ground with a bloody great orange dragon covering the main stand. Up close it’s still suffering teething troubles though – there’s very little food or beer available, the beer at the away end runs out before kick-off, there’s only one ticket office, and the long-anticipated stadium pub is closed.

But once we’re in the away end, with comfortable seats and excellent views, and the sun sets spectacularly behind the main stand, it’s pretty clear that we’re in probably the best stadium in Thailand – it’s just a shame there are so few home fans in it. But the away end is packed and in good voice, and as the game kicks off Port tear into their opponents with the vigour we’ve come to expect in recent weeks, and take a mere 10 minutes to take the lead. Ratchaburi’s keeper makes a mess of a corner, his attempted punch as limp as one of the stadium sausages; the ball is swung back across the area, to be nodded into the centre by Rochela (22), and once again the keeper comes out waving to his mother (c Big Ron) and misses the ball, allowing Todsapol (6) to nod it into an empty net. It’s a great start and no more than Port deserve.

 

The beautiful Mitr Phol Stadium

 

Port continue to dominate for the next 20 minutes or so, with both Josimar (30) and Pakorn (9) coming close with long-range screamers. But on the half-hour mark Ratchaburi’s quality starts to show and they boss the remainder of the half. And right on the 45-minute mark their pressure tells, with big Congolese defender Joel Sami, a living monument to the fortifying effects of Um Bongo, muscling Rochela out of the way and nodding in a corner at the near post to make it 1-1.

Over half-time Changs (note to Mitr Phol: you can’t build a sexy new stadium and then stock it with the Devil’s Piss. You just can’t) the consensus is that 1-1 is pretty much fair. Ratchaburi have more quality throughout the squad than Port do, but Port have the team spirit and the intensity, and so in the second half it could go either way.

And what a second half it turns out to be, a fitting final 45 minutes of an enjoyable and often batshit mental 2017 season. Port are on top for most of it – I can hardly remember young Rattanai (17) having to make a save – and get the lead back on 66 minutes, when Josimar (yes, Josimar) skins a Ratchaburi defender, bursts into the box and unleashes a fierce left-foot shot which the keeper can only parry onto the foot of Suarez (5), who taps it in for 2-1.

 

Amaretto & cigars – who said Port fans were all hooligans?

 

Port continue to dominate and on 85 minutes get the third goal their pressure deserves, with Pakorn cheekily taking out three Ratch defenders and putting in a cross which skims off Josi’s boot onto the head of a defender and into the net for 3-1.

But just as I’m taking pats on the back from my colleagues in celebration of the lifting of the Gypsy’s Curse, Operation Fuckup briefly rears its ugly head on 90 minutes as Dragons’ striker Nattawut manages to calmly wander past six static Port defenders to get on the end of a pass and stick it past Rattanai. When the ref adds on 4 minutes’ stoppage time, the gypsy begins to rub her gnarled, wrinkled hands together and cackle over her kumquats, but luckily Port manage to play out the remaining time with a combination of possession and feigning injury, and finally, after over three years, the curse is lifted and I get to celebrate an away league win.

But tonight is all about Port ending a successful season on a high, with 16 points taken out of the last 18 and a top-half finish secured, in front of one of the biggest and most boisterous away crowds of the season. One of those nights when you forget the away drubbing at Honda, the home defeat to Pattaya, the existence of Tana, and the Zico Experiment, and just thank your lucky stars that you support this team and are surrounded by these wonderful, wonderful fans. We sing ourselves hoarse, Genki (18) sheds a few tears as he says farewell, and we head to the disco tuk-tuk to carry on the party in the car park.

 

 

Due to logistical issues our journey home is beer-free, which makes it somewhat less fun but also means we get home in 2 hours without having to make multiple toilet stops, and we bid sad farewells at Bang Chak and promise to meet again in 3 months’ time. Well, apart from the Thai FA Cup Final next Saturday of course. Oh, and there’s the futsal too. Football – and friendship – never stop.

 

Man of the Match: Josimar Rodrigues

Fittingly for his last game in a Port shirt, Josi put in one of his best performances of the season today, adding a few bursts of pace to his usual hard graft in the lone striker role, setting up the second goal for Suarez, and – possibly – staking a claim to the third. Whether he touched it or not, he’s beaten his 2016 goal tally and become the highest-scoring Port striker since Leandro, and tonight’s bustling, productive performance was a great way to bow out after a great season.

 

Some Friendlies

 

Starved of football during the international break? Help is at hand, as the club have just announced three friendly games against Bangkok Utd (hopefully not a repeat of the recent 6-2 away drubbing), Ratchaburi, and our old friends the Raging Mackerels of Samut Songkhram. Hopefully a good chance for Jadet to have a good look at the likes of Tatchanon, Pinyo, Meechok and Hansson, all players who should in my opinion be getting more game time than they have so far.

All games are, as far as we know, free to attend, and you can see the full details below:

 

Weds 22 March 17:00: Port FC vs Bangok Utd (H)

Sat 25 March 17:00: Pattaya vs Port FC (A)

Weds 29 March 18:00: Port FC vs Samut Songkhram FC (H)

 

Due to work commitments I’ll be unable to attend any of these so if anyone wants to write reports, please let us know!

 

 

Spit in the Sandpit: Opening Day Notes

 

Warning…I am about to tell you about many of my observations of the season opener last Saturday night and I don’t mention or sing Genki’s name even once. So all you Genki fan boys move on, nothing to see here.

Close to a sell out, which warmed my heart, and as I looked out upon the sea of Port support I noticed hey, where are the black shirts in Zone D known as the Ultras? Have they been banned because of last season’s shenanigans? I miss having them there. Sort of a security blanket…like The Hell’s Angels providing security for a Rolling Stones concert, though that didn’t turn out all that great.

The new 50th Anniversary home kit is meh. I prefer last season’s white sleeves to the black and where’s the badge commemorating 50 years? The black away kit is sharp looking.

Wow. The pace in TPL (or do they call it Thai League 1 now?) is so much quicker. The ball is moving around a lot faster and I think our players had trouble adjusting for the first half hour. It’s so nice to see fast paced football return to PAT and of course the obligatory poor officiating. Ha ha ha.

Hey, I like our new foreign players. I thought after a slow start Spaniard Sergio Suarez #5 and Serbian striker #10 Andrija Kaluderovic provided Port with a dangerous one/two punch up front. Swedish-Thai defender Elias Dolah #4 is pretty slow but solid in the back and he seems to make right decisions when opposition is threatening. I give the new players a B+ grade.

I am disappointed with our new electronic scoreboard. It’s boring. It cost a lot of baht to install it and I’ve seen it display things other than score & time. I know league rules prevents it from showing replays but how about crowd shots or scores from other matches when there’s a break in the action? You can accuse of me of being a typical North American sports fan needing lots of bells and whistles on the scoreboard to keep me entertained but come on, can we have a little bit more than score and time?

My final observation of the night – Madame Pang is a rock star. The supporters just wanted to touch her as she came up to greet them in Zone C. I think she is a great asset to Port FC. I really do. I’m sorry all you negative Nellie’s. But just one bit of advice for the Madame, it’s weird watching the owner of the team lead the cheer in the players’ pre-match huddle.

 

Arigato Genki-San! Port FC 1-1 Ratchaburi FC

 

Football came home yesterday as Port opened their season at the PAT against Ratchaburi in front of what looked like a full house. An evening of great football, controversy, excitement and heavy drinking. Ah, we’ve missed you.

What’s that? Heavy drinking? Wasn’t it a dry day due to the Makha Bucha holiday? In theory, yes. But it’s a brave man who tells Port fans they can’t get leathered, particularly after 5 months without football. I was just about to pack some cold Leos into my backpack before heading to the stadium when my wife, who had gone down to the PAT earlier, broke the joyous news that the beer stalls were serving as per normal. It’s a Makha Bucha miracle!

Patrick Bentley models the 2017 Port shirt

The new season’s shirts were also revealed, modelled by friend of the Sandpit Patrick Bentley, to mixed reviews. The home shirt looks better on the pitch than it does close up, though the Leo logo proved popular and the black away shirt is very tasty.

We had no firm idea of what the lineup would be, with further confusion sowed the previous evening when Brazilian striker Josimar confirmed that he’d passed his medical and signed for Port, and then Ratchaburi’s Armenian striker Edgar Manucharyan was pictured wearing Port kit, with Ratchaburi confirming on Twitter the morning of the game that he had indeed signed for Port. That makes seven foreigners, so quite what is going on is a mystery.

Eyebrows were raised when the lineup was revealed, with Jadet paying virtually no attention to player performances in pre-season friendlies and picking Piyachart at LB, Piyachat as DM and Nitipong at RB. Heads were scratched when Piyachat went off injured in the first half and was replaced not by Wanchalerm or Tatchanon, but the long-forgotten Adisorn.

 

 

And in the first half Port’s play was as disjointed as Jadet’s thinking, as Ratchaburi, looking stronger, fitter and better organised, and blessed with the obligatory Scary Foreign Strikers that Port continually refuse to sign, threatened to run away with the game in the first 15 minutes, with only some heroic defending from Rochela keeping the score at 0-0. After weathering the storm, Port started to get more into the game and during a good spell of pressure Suarez shaved the crossbar with a diagonal shot from the right. But as the half-time whistle blew, there was general relief that we were still on level terms.

The second half began in a much more lively fashion, the excellent Rattanai making a superb stop from point blank range before Essombe fired over the bar. Then Port took hold of the game for the next 10 minutes, launching wave after wave of attacks with the otherwise unimpressive Kaludjerovic almost scoring from a header.

But it was the visitors who took the lead in the 77th minute, when a corner was headed back into the area where the excellent Santos, man of the match for me, headed in at the post. A bit harsh on Port who had had the best of the half but, and I can’t believe we’re still saying this, completely lacked any kind of goal threat.

 

Ten minutes later chaos reigned, when we were reminded of just how bad top flight refereeing is in Thailand. A Tana ball into the box was blocked by a defender, with a hand claimed Port, and the ref initially appeared to give a penalty which, after consultation with both his assistants and a lot of handbaggery from both sets of players, was amended to a free kick, despite the offence clearly taking place inside the area. Repeat viewing suggests it hit the defender’s leg rather than his hand, but if the referee thought there had been an offence, it should’ve been a penalty.

In front of an aggrieved Zone B, Pakorn curled the resulting free kick towards the far corner but was denied by an excellent save. But Port didn’t have to wait long to get their deserved equaliser. In the 5th minute of injury time a free kick was awarded on the edge of the Ratchaburi box. Pakorn pinged it into the box and right onto the head of Genki, who rose majestically from the melee like the snow-capped peak of Mount Fuji to nod it past the keeper and into the net, sparking ecstatic scenes on the terraces as five months of frustration, and several hours of heavy drinking, caused an explosion of joy. Grown men hugged, women wept, and two weirdos started singing a Human League song.

So, a creditable first result against a very good side, but there is much work to do with Jadet clearly having no idea what his best side is, and some very good players sitting on the bench watching some very average ones. On the plus side, Suarez made a busy, combative debut, Siwakhorn and Genki’s workrate inspired their colleagues, Pakorn looked well up for it, and Rochela was majestic. On the minus, Kalu didn’t look like the SFS we’ve been waiting for, Dolah seems to lack pace, and until Pinkong came on, our full-backs were simply awful. A decent result from a poor performance, with much improvement needed if that top half place is going to be a reality.

 

PORT MAN OF THE MATCH – David Rochela

A typically classy, authoritative performance from the captain. Spent the first half having to cover for Piyachart at LB as well as doing his own job, yet still stopped Ratchaburi’s strikers from having a sniff. Apparently he had his pocket picked on the way home – the thieves got away with 2000BHT, his phone, and Marcel Essombe.

 

 

Ratch of the Day: Port Kick Off 2017 Season vs the Dragons

 

Like a burlesque dancer slowly removing garment after garment, in front of an audience baying to see the full monty, the Thai FA revealed the first 3 weeks of T1 games yesterday. Oh, you saucy old teases you.

As you can see on our Fixtures page, which we intend to be THE most up-to-date and informative Port FC fixture list on the web (in a not particularly competitive field), Port kick off the T1 season at the bizarre but acceptable time of 5.45pm on Saturday 11 Feb at the PAT. The game was originally scheduled to be played at the Sugardome, aka the Mitr Phol Stadium in Ratchaburi, but the club have been unable to complete their erection on time, so the game has been switched to the hallowed turf of Khlong Thoey. It’s also the very first game of the T1 season so if we win, we’ll go straight to the top of the league.

Port then have another home game on Sunday 19 Feb at 7pm against Suphanburi, before making the epic journey to Rangsit on 25 Feb to take on Bangkok Utd.

In a similar vein, Port released a teaser video of the 2017 shirt yesterday. From what little we can see, the shirt appears to have a grandad collar (which will suit various Sandpit readers), simple orange & blue stripes, and a sexy black trim & sleeves. Check out the header image to get a taste of what Khlong Thoey’s fashionistas will be wearing this April, when the shirt will no doubt finally be available in the club shop.