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Port Draw Comfort as Thunder Castle Falls: Port FC 2-2 Samut Prakan FC

 

 

With Port’s League season effectively ending last Sunday, in acrimonious circumstances at the Thunder Castle, yesterday’s match had somewhat of a pre-season friendly atmosphere. I can’t ever recall entering Zone B feeling so relaxed or, so late, missing the national anthem and finding my usual spot, about ten steps up and directly in line with the left hand post, already taken. After a polite bit of shuffling along, normal service was resumed and the match was underway.

 

Port, third place secured for the second successive season, rested nine of their most likely starting eleven for next Saturday; Dolah being the only ‘cert’ to take the field. The mellow atmosphere on the terraces, most of Zone B was actually sitting down throughout the first half, was reflected on the pitch and apart from the goals, I cannot recall too many moments of excitement. 

 

Even with a severely weakened team, Port fans must have been anticipating a goal fest after Blackburn neatly converted a pinpoint Steuble cross with a firm header across the keeper and into the corner on six minutes. Steuble has performed consistently well for Port this season since his arrival and must be pushing Kevin for a place in the Cup Final line-up. Samut Prakan were neat and tidy without really threatening Port at the back, although Watchara had to be alert on a few occasions when Port’s high line was breached; Dolah being booked on 26 minutes to prevent another break. It was not to last; in the 32nd minute, a delightful move from the away team set Milo (71) free in the box to pull the ball out of the air with a neat piece of control before planting it beyond a despairing Watchara. 1-1, but there was scarcely a groan to be heard at Port’s setback. Josimar came close with a header before half time and that was the end of the first half ‘action’. 

 

The snooze fest continued in the second half with most interest centred around a potential upset at Chiang Mai with Buriram holding a slender lead while Chiang Rai were gradually wearing down a possibly, relegation bound Suphanburi. Blackburn came close early on but it was no real surprise when, on the hour, the Samut Dons franchise took the lead through Teeraphol (19). In retaliation, Blackburn and Nurul, hitting the post with a header, both came close. Go, Kevin and Chanayat (?) all came on during the course of the half and Port subsequently were able to exert a bit more pressure, leading, eventually, to another headed equalizer from Blackburn in the 87th minute. This sparked a flurry of action from Port during the final minutes but the visitors were well worth their point and, to be honest, no-one really cared, because news was coming through of Chiang Mai miraculously holding villainous Buriram to a draw, handing the title to the equally despicable Chiang Rai. 

 

Thank you Chiang Mai!

 

Last week’s defeat at the Thunder Castle by a referee assisted Buriram had left a sour taste in the mouths of most Port fans. Personally, I have rarely felt so dispirited after watching a top-tier Thai football match, even to extent of questioning the point of following it any more, if, at the end of a momentous season, the result of your most important game is almost pre-determined. Apparently, the referee’s performance caused a shit-storm on Thai media and it was largely disappointing that the club did not lodge an official complaint, if only to highlight an aspect of Thai football that, although we are certainly aware of, is entirely unacceptable. Not that Port themselves have not benefited from ‘homer’ referees, a notorious game against Chonburi in recent years the most obvious. 

 

The celebrations in the Sandpit at Buriram’s downfall were heartfelt and genuine and reflected the pain of a wrong done. Over 1,500 fans made the trip to Buriram last week and were fantastic in their support of the club, as always, but they were badly let down by Thai officialdom and, in Port’s refusal to even lodge some kind of protest or ask for certain decisions of the referee to be closely scrutinized, they were further let down by the club. 

 

Now, we must put this behind us. Although this season promised so much more, maintaining third place and reaching our first Cup Final in eight years is progress maintained. With Chiang Rai showing there is life beyond Buriram, it will be interesting to see what moves Port make during the close season to go that two steps further. 

 

Coiffure by Le Sandpit

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Rolando Blackburn

I cannot recall anyone being particularly outstanding so I would have to go for Rolando Blackburn, whose two headers were expertly placed and at least put him the running for the FA Cup Final squad.  It’s what strikers should do. 

 

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Panama ‘Kinell! Port Sign Striker Blackburn

 

As a chaotic week at Port FC draws to a close, the club have confirmed the signing of Panamanian international striker Rolando Blackburn on loan from Bolivian Primera Division side The Strongest. And if anyone thinks that’s an amusing name, note that they’re not alone – the Bolivian top division also features teams called Sport Boys, Always Ready, Blooming, and best of all, Jorge Wilstermann. The Strongest were runners-up in the 2019 Apertura (like many South American leagues, Bolivia awards a title for the team winning the first leg of the season – the Apertura – and the second leg – the Clausura – with each winner playing off for the ultimate title), and Blackburn was third highest scorer. He also figured for the Panama national side in the recent CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Apart from a spell in the Slovakian league, where he scored 20 goals in 53 games for FC Senica, the 29-yr old has spent most of his career in Panama, Guatemala and Bolivia, and has scored goals wherever he’s played, most recently banging in 20 in 26 for The Strongest, suggesting that if he can do it on a wet Wednesday night in La Paz he should be able to do it in Thailand.

Blackburn joins on loan until the end of the 2019 season, with no indication whether there’s an option to make the deal permanent. Welcome to Port Rolando, and all of us at The Sandpit wish you a successful spell in the blue & orange shirt!

Where this leaves Port’s other foreign strikers, Boskovic and Josimar, remains to be seen, but for Blackburn to be registered one of them – or indeed one of Rochela or Suarez – will have to make way. More news on that as soon as we get it.

 

 

Tom’s Transfer Talk: Chenropping and Changing

 

Port have once again decided their mid-season transfer business is incomplete, reportedly making moves to bring in two further strikers. Yes, that’s two more strikers. One of the deals is more or less confirmed, so let’s look at that first.

I have given a short, unbiased and objective account of Chenrop Samphaodi’s career to date in his player profile, but Transfer Talk is where I say what I think, and I honestly think he’s pretty much the worst striker in the league. And that’s really saying something. How can a player so bad have 25 caps for the Thai under 23 team? And how can he already have 84 T1 appearances under his belt at the age of 24? I have absolutely no idea, particularly in light of the fact that he averages a T1 goal every 8.4 games. He makes Emile Heskey look like Ronaldo. Let’s be absurdly charitable to him, and compare this season – his best to date – with Arthit, who he’ll be competing with for a place in the team. Arthit has 3 goals in 9 appearances at the superb rate of a goal every 58 minutes, whereas Chenrop has 3 goals in 12 appearances at the very Chenrop rate of a goal every 325 minutes.

 

 

Even leaving stats aside though, I think there’s a reason he’s so bad. I think it probably stems from being the ‘striker’ in Thailand youth teams’ 4-5-1 system, when he spent most of his games playing against Timorese teenagers. Competing against other ASEAN nations Chenrop was taught to hold the ball up and basically play as a target man, despite being 1.79m or 5 ft. 10 and change. That’s all well and good when you’re playing against South East Asian boys, but put the poor lad up against Victor or Dolah and he’s not going to get a sniff, and so it’s turned out. He’s the big man who never grew up.

There is a young Thai forward who has grown up to be quite a strapping, powerful fella who still may well reach his considerable potential, though. Buriram youngster Supachai Jaided has also been linked with a move to Port, although both our common sense and The Sandpit’s sources tell us the deal is most definitely not happening, as it also didn’t when the same rumour cropped up a couple of seasons back. This would be a fantastic signing if we could pull it off, but it would also be ludicrously expensive and, again, it’s not going to happen.

 

 

Finally, the striker that it looks very much as though Port will be signing. This is mental We heard rumours that this Panamanian striker’s name was in the frame to replace Josimar, who has already replaced Boskovic. In fact, the deal for Rolando Blackburn is apparently just a medical away from being signed and sealed, meaning that Josimar will have had just one start before being unceremoniously dumped. That’s if it happens, of course. Don’t count anything out. We could bring Boskovic back in, as we did with Kaludjerovic in 2016, or we could sign the Panamanian, sit him on his arse for 6 months and put Josimar on the bench while Chenrop blasts balls in to the Loxley car park and Boskovic and Arthit dance around shaking pom poms. Nothing is outside the realms of possibility.

 

 

Having said that, there’s also a chance that Blackburn could be an excellent signing. The 29 year old ought to be near his prime, and indeed his scoring record indicated that he is in the form of his life, banging in 20 goals in 26 games for superbly names Bolivian side The Strongest, managed by none other than Pablo Escobar. I’m not even kidding. Predicting how things are going to work out for strikers at Port is a fool’s errand though (unless they’re Chenrop), so I’ll reserve my predictions until I’ve seen the guy play. Apparently if the paper work can be rushed through, that could be as soon Saturday. Blimey. Strap in.

Purely for the sake of being thorough, the names Nicolas Orsini and Jose Fajardo have also been mentioned, although there doesn’t appear to be anything to these rumours.