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Shameonya: Sukhothai FC 3-1 Port FC

 

 

Port travelled north to face another unbeaten side in the form of Sukhothai FC yesterday, in a game which, on paper, should have been an opportunity for 3 valuable points. Sadly a combination of dubious refereeing, some appalling behaviour from certain Port players, and a bizarre second half substitution from Jadet handed Sukhothai one of the easiest wins they’ll have all season.

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Top of the Lake: Sukhothai FC vs Port FC Match Preview

 

Sukothai head into this game as only one of four teams unbeaten this season. To nicely balance things out, they are also one of only four teams not to have won this season, their four draws producing, on average, a goal a game, so whatever we get at the picturesque, lake-side Thalay Luang Stadium (Capacity 9,500) will be well earned.

Sukothai F.C. have only been in existence for ten years and in that time have had a remarkable rise from the Northern Regional League to be now competing at the highest level. They even had a dip into the AFC Champions League play-offs when they ‘won’ the F.A. Cup in 2016, by virtue of being drawn out of the hat ahead of two other semi-finalists, the competition having been cancelled due to the late King’s passing. Chonburi, the fourth semi-finalist, either in a fit of pique or protest, had earlier withdrawn from the lucky dip.

Today’s opponents met at a similar stage last season when the Fire Bats shared a top three place with Port but they faltered badly mid-season and, for a while, with five teams due for the drop, slipped into the relegation zone. They rallied to finish a respectable 11th, largely on the back of Nelson Bonilla’s 25 goals. Port, in particular, will be glad to see Bonilla shifted off to Bangkok Utd – he put 4 past us in League and Cup games last season.

Having watched highlights of Sukothai’s two home games, it is clear they will not be easy to beat, particularly backed by their usual, large and loud, partisan home crowd.

 

John Baggio

 

With Bonilla gone, the spotlight quite rightly falls onto their diminutive captain, John Baggio, or to give him his full title, John Baggio Rakotonomenjanarahy (10), a name, in length at least, reminiscent of some of those picturesque, rural Welsh railway stations, and not one to be included in any terrace chants, or on the back of your shirt for that matter. Baggio was also a thorn in Port’s side last year and this year he seems to have developed a good understanding with tall Montenegrin striker, Petar Orlandic (9). Bosko’s fellow countryman has good pedigree, having spent 3 seasons at Red Star Belgrade where he enjoyed a promising partnership with Serbian international, Luka Jovic. He certainly looks menacing: strong and powerful in the air, with quick feet, yet, despite getting on the end of numerous chances, he has yet to score. Philippine international, Iain Ramsay (7), makes up the front three while Joel Sami (3), Congolese international, acquired from Ratchaburi in the close season, should provide some physical presence at the back.

Port will look to come back from a disappointing and frustrating draw with PTT last week. Jadet’s experiment with his two full back clones operating down the left wing didn’t really work for me and it was only when Bodin came on in the second half and started to run at the retreating PTT defence that we started to create genuine chances. Our attacks now follow the familiar pattern of getting it out to the wings followed by a cross, which is fine as long as the crosses clear the first defender or actually end up in the box, and not sail into the crowd or over the opposite touch line for a throw-in. Kevin’s crosses of late have been particularly overshot, although to be fair, two nearly led to goals last week thanks to good retrieval work from Suarez and Dolah. On the other side, Nitipong invariably turns on to his weaker left foot giving defences that vital few seconds to re-organize. Bosko has become the great ditherer and should really have converted at least one chance last week.

However, luck was not on our side, with the PTT penalty box at times looking like the Alamo, with Victor, in full-blown John Wayne mode, repelling all-comers and, at one point, having denied yet another attack, standing in the box letting out a full throated roar of triumph like King Kong about to bite the cockpit off a passing plane.

On the positive side, we are still unbeaten, nobody is really setting a pace, although Buriram’s win over Bangkok Utd will have sent a warning, and a win at Sukothai should consolidate a top three spot.

Port will also be hoping that the injury jinx which has hit them since the beginning of the season will soon pass. Rochela and Nurul will most likely be missing but Sumanya is fit again and will be very useful against a solid Fire Bats team. It will also be good to see Kevin restored to full back duties. The defence picks itself really but there are numerous options ahead of them. Siwakorn has impressed so far this season while Go adds stability and a delightful range of passing. Bodin added much needed penetration last week but Jadet is likely to go for Pakorn, so Port may line up like this in a formation of Jadet’s choice.

Worawut: Nitipong, Todsapol, Dolah, Kevin; Pakorn, Go, Sumanya, Siwakorn; Suarez, Boskovic.

Subs: Watchara, Worawut, Panpanpong, Athibordee, Adisorn, Anon, Pinyo, Bodin, Arthit; but I’m just guessing now.

Prediction: A gritty 2-1 win for Port, surviving a last 5 minute blitz.

 

Sukhothai FC vs Port FC

Saturday 30 March 18:00

If you can’t join us in Sukhothai, please support our sponsors and watch at The Sportsman on Sukhumvit soi 13. Big screen, sound, and drink discounts for all Port FC fans!

 

Jeepers Keepers! Port FC 2-2 Sukhothai FC

 

On a typically chaotic night at the PAT, Port rather fortunately earned a point against 10-man Sukhothai, in a game decided by goalkeeping that went from the ridiculous to the sublime and back again. Before the game a draw would’ve been seen as two points dropped, but in reality Port were lucky not to lose a game that exposed how shallow the squad is.


Thanks to some surprise results on Saturday night, Port went into the game knowing that a win would take them above Bangkok Utd into second and also put them six points above the Forces of Evil; however we also knew that, with Suarez still injured, Kim suspended and Sukhothai’s forward pairing of Bonilla & Baggio no doubt looking forward to running rings around Port’s defence as per usual, this would not be as easy an encounter as the league table might suggest – and so it proved.

Port have had enough previous warnings about Bonilla’s threat in & around the box, so it was very surprising when, after just 4 minutes, a pass found him unmarked in the area, and he had all the time in the world to curl a peach of a shot past a despairing Rattanai (17) into the far corner to give the Fire Bats a shock lead. Sukhothai were clearly here for the win and were passing the ball around beautifully, testing Rattanai on a couple more occasions with Port’s defenders alarmingly static. Things were little better up front, with Siwakorn (16) and Nitipong (34) blazing good chances over the bar, Pakorn (7) having one of his all too frequent off nights, and Boskovic (23) unable to impose himself on the game. The best chance of the half fell to Dolah (4) on the half hour mark, but his cheeky backheel was saved by Sukhothai’s keeper Pairote, whilst the excellent Bodin (10), revelling in his attacking midfield role, tested the keeper on a couple of occasions and found him up to the job.

Port finally got the better of Pairote in the 39th minute, when a delicious ball over the top from Siwakorn left Boskovic in a one-on-one, only for Pairote to hack him down on the edge of the box. The ref, after needlessly consulting VAR, rightly produced a red card, which was the spark for around 7 minutes of protests from Sukhothai who, despite their recent change of coach, still show little respect for the laws of the game and should have seen a few more cards. Once order was restored, Pakorn stepped up and selfishly fired the free-kick into the side-netting. We say it every week – his selfishness is hurting the team and in my opinion it’s time to cash in and move him on.

At half-time Jadet brought in Todsapol (6) for the ineffective Adisorn (13) and moved cap’n Rochela (22) into midfield, as Port set about getting back into the game. And it nearly paid off in the first minute of the second half when Kevin (97) put the ball on a plate for Boskovic some 10 yards out but inexplicably he shot wide of the goal when you’d have put your shirt on him to score. For the next 30 minutes a familiar pattern took hold, with Port launching attack after attack, and Sukhothai trying to catch them on the break, with both Baggio and Bonilla coming close to making it 2-0, the latter only denied by a superb save from Rattanai.

Eventually however Port’s relentless pressure finally told, when Arthit (29) fed Siwakorn, whose wonderful cross eluded Sukhothai’s reserve keeper Kittikun and was accidentally turned into his own net by a defender. 1-1, and the momentum was most definitely with Port, with Kittikun making point-blank saves from Nurul (31) and Arthit. But the Bats were still dangerous on the break and with just 2 minutes remaining Madagascan midfielder Nijva broke into the box, provoking an insane charge off his line from Rattanai who brought him down for a clear penalty. Quite why the Port keeper saw fit to come out so far is a mystery, but it looked like costing Port the game as that man Bonilla stepped up to give Sukhothai the lead.

But the late cave-ins of 2017 are a thing of the past and the 2018 Port are made of sterner stuff, and they came right back at Sukhothai. In the very last minute, a speculative Siwakorn shot from outside the box was inexplicably ushered into the net by Kittikun, who looked like he was allowing Port to score. It definitely had a very fishy smell to it, though I hope that was just the dried squid seller setting up his stall in the sandpit.

2-2 it finished, after a thrilling second half from two teams intent on playing good attacking football. Port were poor, with little to offer from the bench (though you can’t help thinking we could’ve used Terens’ pace late on); Sukhothai looked much better than their league position and will stay up if they keep playing like this. An opportunity missed to go second, but in the end a lucky escape.

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Bodin

MOTM contenders were pretty thin on the ground tonight. Siwakorn with an assist and a goal should get a mention but he squandered too many chances and misplaced too many passes to get the nod. So the award goes to the Fresh Prince himself Bodin, who showed just how wrong Jadet has been to leave him on the bench so often. His passing was sublime and his workrate was unusually intense, and he staked a very strong claim to being the future of Port’s midfield.

 

 

Dire Bats: Port FC vs. Sukhothai FC, 8 July 2018

Looks like I’m on Sukhothai duty again.

Last time Port were set to face the “Fire Bats,” I raved about this weekend’s opponents, and more specifically their foreign attacking trinity who have 27 league goals and 63 name-letters between them. Since then, my “pundits curse” has hit them where it hurts and they have sunk into the relegation zone, and are already on their third manager of the season. Thank goodness I’m not old enough to gamble.

 

Baggio Rakotonomenjanahary, Nelson Bonilla and Njiva Rakotoharimalala

 

In their previous encounter, both teams didn’t get the memo that the League Cup is irrelevant and went full throttle at each other’s throats, ending in a 4-3 victory for the home side. The game will be remembered for the amount of time wasted by the Sukhothai players as they rolled on the floor (despite being a goal down), and of course the slightly odd attempts at Spanish swearing directed at Salvadoran striker Nelson Bonilla.

Bodin Phala (10) starred in the last game in an attempt to impress Jadet and earn a starting place, and may once again get the chance to do so as Nurul (31) could potentially move into the middle to compensate for the injured Sergio Suarez (5). The Spaniard was crucial in that last game, playing through balls from deep to beat Sukhothai’s high defensive line. His eye for a pass and fluid movement are something rarely found in the Thai League, and will surely be missed in this game.

I would like to think that, given the valuable three points at stake, Sukhothai would approach the game a little more rationally, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. It seems as if the provincial side have already accepted that their defense is an incurable mess, and intend to rely solely on their forwards, who appear to have the combined height of the angry white man screaming on Port’s touchline (who I am told is the goalkeeping coach, which makes the situation even funnier).

In doing my research for this game (which includes at least seven different Wikipedia pages), I came across a description of Sukhothai’s new manager, Chalermwoot Sa-ngapol, which claimed he was the “Glenn Hoddle of Thai Football.” My hopes were quickly deflated when it became apparent that the comment was a reference to his playing style and not his management, which makes me even more confused as to why Glenn Hoddle is the first man to come to mind to demonstrate a player capable of “precise passes.”

 

 

Regardless, Khun Hoddle’s CV isn’t entirely horrible. He did impressively to lead Osotspa to 7th in 2013 keep Sisaket from the drop in 2014 and 2015, but he was somehow involved with both Sisaket and Super Power Samut Prakan in their abysmal 2017 campaigns which saw them both relegated. His last managerial job was Muangthong United B’s…I mean, Udon Thani’s T3 promotion campaign.

In terms of how Port can get at Sukhothai, it seems very clear that this weekend’s visitors are lacking defensive cover. Neither of their center-backs looks particularly impressive; no surprise given that the Fire Bats have the third worst defensive record in the league. Malaysian/Australian midfielder Curran Ferns, who debuted in Sukhothai’s last visit to the PAT Stadium, was supposedly brought in to reinforce the midfield.

In fact, none of their local contingent can really be considered to have any real quality. Nelson Bonilla has won more international caps with El Salvador than all of his Thai teammates have with their nation combined, which speaks volumes at the team’s reliance on foreign players.

However, on their day, the 63-letter forward line can be devastating. 3 goals at PAT Stadium, 3 goals at the SCG, wins over Chiang Rai, Chonburi and even Buriram United – they are a side that shouldn’t be underestimated. Port will need to be on their guard if they want to continue their chase of an AFC Champions League berth, and fans should probably expect a goal-fest once again.

 


 

The match will be shown live on True4U and True Sport 2 at 19:00 on Sunday 8 July, 2018. For those who can’t make it to PAT Stadium, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match on a big screen with sound. Don’t forget to wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount on drinks.

 

Cats vs Twats: Port FC 4-3 Sukhothai FC (League Cup R1)

 

On another night of thrills at the PAT, Port booked their place in the last 16 of this season’s League Cup with a dramatic win against a Sukhothai side who combined eye-catching forward play with a level of cynical shithousery not seen since Ubon stank the place out in March.


Despite rumours to the contrary, Port started with a near-first XI after La Pang told Jadet in no uncertain terms that she wants some silverware this season. Panpanpong came in for Kevin, Worawut started instead of Rattanai, Todsapol replaced Dolah, and Bodin got a rare start at the expense of Nurul; otherwise it was the same team that dominated Muangthong at the weekend.

Since their surprising start to the season, Sukhothai have been in freefall and Port started the game with understandable confidence, and with two early goals it looked like a rout was on the cards. The first came in the 9th minute when a lovely pass from Kim found Siwakorn (16) down the left, and he fed the ball to Boskovic (23), who calmly slotted the ball into the far corner. A couple of months ago the big striker would probably have looked for a pass and it’s great to see he’s got his mojo back.

Six minutes later Bodin (10), who had an excellent game, found Suarez (5) in the box. The Spaniard tried to chip the ball past his marker and clearly had his shirt pulled but the ref, who was awful throughout, wasn’t having any of it.

But Suarez didn’t have to wait long to get his goal, and on 18 minutes a lovely cross from Nitipong (34) on the right landed right on his head, and his header looped into the far corner.

So, 2-0 within 20 minutes and it should’ve been game over, but this week we’ve seen some of 2017’s lack of concentration start to creep back into Port’s game and with our old scourge John Baggio pulling the strings for the Firetwats, Port’s grip on the game loosened alarmingly quickly. It was the Microscopic Madagascan who set up Sukhothai’s first on 36 minutes, crossing to the far post where Nelson Bonilla rose unchallenged to nod in. The Malgasy Midget was at it again 7 minutes into the second half, crossing from the right and Korean midfielder  Jung Myung Oh nodding home he equaliser. And 10 minutes later Port’s defensive collapse continued when Bonilla left Todsapol (6) for dead and his shot deflected off Rochela and over Worawut into the back of the net.

This was the queue for Sukhothai to embark on an extended campaign of diving, fouling and feigning injury, their goalkeeper being the worst offender, staying down for 5 minutes after Suarez’ boot came within a foot of his head. But needless to say Port had the last laugh. On came Nurul (31), and within minutes of his arrival he was hacked down just inside the box, Boskovic stepping up to convert the penalty. 3-3, and suddenly the Direbats were regretting wasting so much time – even more so in the 81st minute when a Pakorn (7) corner was headed home by an unmarked Todsapol to make it 4-3.

The ref rubbed salt in the Fireprats’ wounds by only adding on 4 minutes of injury time (when there should have been at least 10), and they spent most of it acting like spoiled toddlers, a free-kick having to be taken 3 times due to some penalty area handbags involving Boskovic and assorted Sukhothai forwards. The handbags continued at the final whistle, and when the Bats wandered over to Zone B for the traditional wai the foreign contingent let them know the error of their ways.

Far from Port’s best performance of the season, and it’s worrying that the defensive chaos of 2017 is starting to rear its ugly head again; but nevertheless a deserved win against truly horrible opposition and Port will go into the last 16 confident of progressing further.

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Dragan Boskovic

Suarez was his usual busy self; Kim’s passing was a joy to behold; and Bodin staked a claim for a regular start. But for me Boskovic was last night’s MOTM. The big fella is back to his best, finishing with aplomb, grabbing the ball to take a penalty, and generally being a massive irritant to Sukhothai’s defenders. If he continues this form throughout the rest of the season, he’ll surpass the 20-goal mark with room to spare.

Cats vs Bats: Port FC vs Sukhothai FC (Toyota League Cup R1) Match Preview

 

While Tottenham Hotspur coach Mauricio Pochettino may not think very highly of the League Cup, silverware is silverware, and Port’s potentially “rotated” lineup belies their true ambition to win the competition. It is certainly true that the FA Cup holds more significance in that it comes with the added bonus of Champions League qualification, but the Klongtoey side will be looking for something to fill the trophy cabinet as soon as possible to vindicate Madame Pang’s winter shopping.

Port’s opposition, however, are likely to make no secret of their desire for a good cup run. Sukhothai sat in the Champions League places after matchday five, and were looking to put together their best ever Thai League season…before everything collapsed around them and their coach was obviously and inevitably scapegoated with an unjustified sacking.

That being said, Sukhothai still present a threat, especially going forward. Witnessing them recently in an enthralling 7-goal encounter at the SCG Stadium, it is clear that the Bats’ (is that what they’re called?) biggest strength lies in their ability to beat defenses at breakneck speed, soaking up pressure and counter-attacking to devastating effect.

Their front three, which consists of Malagasy forwards Njiva Rakotoharimalala and John Baggio (whose actual name is Baggio Rakotonomenjanahary, for those already having trouble), as well as El Salvadorian striker Nelson Bonilla. It’s a forward line that is very unique, and not just because of where the players hail from. Aged 26, 25 and 27 respectively, Sukhothai’s foreign contingent are amongst the youngest in the league and are reaching the prime of their careers, not helplessly sliding past it on the way to obscurity.

As for how Port should deal with this, their experience from approximately 96 hours before kickoff should help them greatly. While Jaja has struggled to hit a barn door this season, and continued that woeful struggle at the PAT Stadium, Heberty’s constant runs stretched the Port defense in a similar way to how the three forwards with a combined 63 letters in their names might do. Despite racing to a lead in their recent encounter with Muangthong, they eventually ran out of steam and surrendered all three points.

Under previous coach Pairoj Borwonwatanadilok (just when you thought surnames couldn’t get any more complicated), Sukhothai aim to play a high defensive line, as they did at the SCG Stadium, closing the spaces for the opposition’s creative players and making it easier to play long, sweeping out-balls to the pacey forwards. Assuming they do this again, this could be a good tactic to frustrate Port’s creative talents in advanced midfield positions. However, this relies on high pressing midfielders and defenders who can track back at pace, something that will take a toll on the team by the time the second half rolls around.

As such, this probably isn’t a game where Suarez, Pakorn or Nurul are likely to have a happy outing. In a move that could double as an energy-saver for Saturday’s trip to Ratchaburi, Port should instead opt to fight fire with fire by deploying pacy wingers Terens Puhiri and Bodin Phala, with only one of the “creative trinity” (have Port fans ever called them that?) needed to drop deep and pick up the ball when the forwards’ desire to press begins to wane.

Unfortunately, the side may have very little option but to play Dragan Boskovic down the middle, given the lack of viable backup options. Port should have considered keeping ahold of Bajram Nebihi, even if only for cup games, as he could offer coach Jadet a very different approach, in order to catch teams off-guard in these crucial one-off matches.

In terms of defense, Nitipong tucking in alongside Rochela and Elias Dolah should be enough to contain the three forwards, with Kim Sung-Hwan shielding the area between them. Kevin was cancelled out at the weekend by Tristan Do, but with Njiva playing on his left and Baggio habitually drifting into the middle, he should have very little hindrance in bombing up the field as he does on his best days.

In action, Port’s formation could look a little something like this…

 

Solid Line = Runs

Dotted Line = Passes

Circle = Occupy Defenders

Tim’s description of Port’s most recent game against Muangthong as a match that “had started out as a cagey tactical battle descended into the pure chaos of an U11s game,” may also apply to their next encounter…but this time, that breakdown may be something Port can ill-afford.

If they play their cards right, Port should have enough quality to sweep Sukhothai away. However, the attacking talent the visitors possess absolutely can’t be underestimated, even by the strongest teams in the division.

 

Port FC vs Sukhothai FC, Toyota League Cup R1 – Wednesday 13 June, 19:00 at PAT Stadium. Televised on True Sport 6.

 

 

Balls & Bats: Port Draw Sukhothai in League Cup R1

 

The draw for round 1 of the Toyota League Cup was made this afternoon, and the balls have dictated that Port will host fellow T1 side Sukhothai FC. A few weeks ago this might’ve been a somewhat tricky fixture, with Sukhothai getting off to a flyer, but times have changed since then and after a poor run that has seen them slip from 3rd to 10th, the Fire Bats became the 10th T1 club to part company with their coach yesterday.

With Buriram & Bangkok Utd looking like they’ve already made the top two spots their own, the cups are Port’s best hope of silverware this season, especially if the top two prioritise the league (and AFC qualification) over cup competitions.

The game will take place at the PAT on Wednesday 13 June, KO 19:00. You can see the rest of the R1 draw below:

Krabi FC vs Police Tero

Ranong United vs Ratchaburi FC

Trat FC vs Bangkok Glass

Nakhon Pathom FC vs Navy FC

Rayong FC vs Pattaya FC

Samut Sakhon FC vs Bangkok United

Nong Bua Pitchaya FC vs Ubon UMT United

Prachuap FC vs Suphanburi FC

Kasetsart FC vs Airforce FC

Port FC vs Sukhothai FC

Sisaket FC vs Nakhon Ratchasima FC

Trang FC vs Chainat FC

Army United vs Chiang Rai Utd

Udon Thani FC vs Muangthong

Lampang FC vs Buriram United

Khon Kaen FC vs Chonburi FC

 

 

Fencegate, Fetishes and Marauding Malagasy: Sukhothai FC 2-2 Port FC

 

 

Two of the surprise packages of the T1 League season met at the picturesque, lakeside Thung Thalay Luang Stadium on Saturday for a game that turned out to be anything but placid, especially on the terraces. Port, still smarting from a dismal first half away display at Bangkok Glass knew that they would have to dredge up all of their reservoirs of strength and shore up the defence if they were to navigate their way out of this one.

The first half demonstrated just why these two teams have started so well. Both played pacey, incisive, neat football with the Fire Bats looking to release 6 goal Salvadorian striker Bonilla, while Port were relying heavily on Nurul (31) and Pakorn (7) setting up the chances for Boskovic (23) to use his superior height and power against the Bats’ classy captain Yuttapong, who spent most of the game with his head heavily bandaged after a nasty collision following a corner. Whether Bosko was the culprit was difficult to tell. It was unlikely to be Nurul.

With Bonilla generally well shackled by Rochela (22) and Aithbodee (35), it was left to the diminutive Madagascar international John Baggio to torment the Port defence with his trickery and pace, ably supported by fellow Malagasy, Njiva Rakotoharimalala (try getting that on the back of your shirt). As early as the 8th minute, Baggio whipped a left foot shot narrowly wide of the post, while Boskovic had the ball whipped off his feet at the other end just as he was about to pull the trigger.

Then, just before half-time, it all kicked off. The ball had gone out for a Port throw and was retrieved by a Firebat player who was reluctant to hand it over to Kim, who was equally keen to get the game going. Kim tried to wrestle the ball from his opponent, with what seemed like minimum force, but it was enough for virtually the entire white-shirted Sukothai bench to surround Kim in what can only be describe as an aggressive manner. The nearest Port players came to Kim’s rescue, quickly followed by a few home players intent on rescuing the coaches. It was vaguely reminiscent of the fall-out from a drunken stag party picking a fight with a motor-cycle taxi driver. Calm was eventually restored and at least two Sukothai coaches were banished to the stand. All spiffing fun really.

(Editor’s note: a combination of beer & distance have led to Hockers’ confused view of the incident. Actually it was Sukhothai’s head coach who came on the pitch to angrily hit the ball with his hand, at which point Kim quite reasonably pushed him out of the way so he could get on with the game, at which point it all went off, and the Sukhothai coach was quite rightly sent to the stand…)

However, up in the away end, this was all a bit too much for some of the watching Sandpit contingent, who looked for the nearest defenceless object on which to vent their spleen, which, oddly enough, was actually a fence, one of two separating Port fans from the ‘enemy’. One fan who shall remain nameless, no doubt testing to see if it was made of real Sheffield steel, was the first to give it a rattle; the Brit, followed, as always in a battle, by an American who had to go one better with a more vigorous shake, just to prove once again that although we may start things, they will saunter in when it is nearly all over to claim victory. This commotion did not go unnoticed by the Sukothai supporters sitting next door and an ugly confrontation was only averted by the swift action of the Port mediators and security guards. All a storm in a teacup really but it was to have a severe impact on what was unfolding on the pitch at the time.

Inexplicably, while we were distracted by all this wire-mesh excitement, Sukothai had somehow worked the ball from our bust-up throw-in to a threatening position to the left of our box. Whether the Port defenders were distracted by what was going in the stands behind remains to be seen but it clearly upset Rochela enough to see his clearance ricochet off Bonilla into the path of the one player we did not want anywhere near the ball at this stage, Baggio. The next few seconds seem to take place in slow-motion, with an extended Nooooooooo! screaming inside your head as Baggio prepared to pull the trigger. 1-0. Minutes later, another thrilling run by Baggio finished with a lofted pass to Bonilla who fired over. At the other end, Siwakorn (16) should have done better with a header on the edge of the six-yard box or taken the better option of control and shoot. Possibly the most exciting 5 minutes, for all sorts of reasons, of the season!

An analysis of the exciting action was conducted over yet more beers at half-time and somebody also brought up the football.

Njiva went close for the Fire Bats early in the second half before, on 59 minutes, a mistimed headed back-pass in the Sukothai box was chased down by Boskovic on the touchline, to flick back to Suarez (5), who turned it in past the flailing keeper – an excellent opportunistic goal which inspired a flurry of Port action, culminating, ten minutes later, in one of the most bizarre but quite thrilling goals you will ever see and will need a whole paragraph to itself.

 

At last! Bosk doubles his tally for the season – Nurul shows his, er, appreciation

Nurul, cutting in from the left, hits a fairly harmless, speculative shot, which the keeper spills at the feet of Boskovic, who works the ball free for a shot. In quick succession, shots or headers from Suarez (3 times), Nurul and Boskovic are blocked, cleared off the line or hit the bar, before Boskovic finally lashes home. It was reminiscent of those mass games in the school playground when both teams are kicking into the same goal. The Port fans go wild but the fence remains intact.

Two minutes later Fire Bat Ekkasit was sent off for a wild kick at Kevin and Port seemed to have all the omens in their favour for a famed away win. This illusion was to last 5 minutes; Bonilla ghosting past a static Nitipong (34), no doubt overly keen not to give away yet another penalty, and passing to Njiva whose shot was in turn palmed by Worawut (36) straight to Baggio, who gleefully volleyed it home. The home crowd roared, the away crowd wailed, and the fence cowered.

There was still time for Siwakorn to miss another sitter, blasting over from inside the box with Boskovic better placed. He really does need to stay behind after school for some shooting practice.

All in all, it was a cracking day out. An action-packed match played in a proper football stadium, friendly home fans, in spite of the fence rattling, a fantastic atmosphere, enriched by the impressive Port contingent, and probably a fair result.

The evening was spent in convivial chat, covering such topics as travel stories about navigating the Pacific Rim; cooking tips on the best way to stuff a chicken, and creative ways of using a straw, although some were a bit hard to swallow. Keith, Phil and Mike shared pictures of their pets on the way home and a bloody good time was had by all! Away Days – you can’t beat ‘em. Thanks to all of you for your company.

Port remain in third place, level on points with Sukothai, just three points behind perennial leaders Buriram. Prachuap Khiri Khan and Nakhon Ratchasima make up a rather unusual top 5. Next up for Port are Air Force and Police Tero, games that should consolidate our position before a difficult run of three top 6 challengers.

Sandpit Man of the Match: Sergio Suarez

The consensus was Suarez, scoring again and coordinating the line well. Pity he hadn’t still been on the pitch to take the late chance that fell to Siwakorn.

 

Contenders or Pretenders? Port FC vs Sukhothai FC, 17 March 2018

 

Saturday 17th March 2018
7.00 p.m. Live on True Sports 6

It’s 2nd vs 3rd this week. You would’ve got fairly long odds if you’d suggested this fixture would be 2nd vs 3rd at the start of the season. Both teams splashed some cash pre-season, but so did Air Force and they are rooted to the bottom of the table with 0 points. Port and Sukhothai have managed to turn their purchases into points. Both sides have managed to do it scoring goals, averaging two goals per game. So we should see a game full of goals this Saturday (cue a 0-0 draw).

The Fire Bats’ Form
Sukhothai have beaten Chiang Rai 2-0 in this season so their 12 points haven’t all come easy. Their only loss came last week against 4th placed Korat in Korat. In Nelson Bonilla (a real number 9 with 6 goals) they have the T1 top scorer, which has to be a bit of a worry for Port. Everyone is talking about the top goalscoring sensation. However Port must understand Sukhothai are far from being a one man band. The left winger Njiva (7) has 4 goals, and match him up with Baggio (10) coming in on the right and Sukhothai have a scary foreign trio.  The whole defence will need to keep one eye on Nelson, and still have an eye on Njiva and Baggio. Effectively the Port defence needs to have 3 eyes each. Is their a Triclops available in the mid season transfer window?

Both teams have shown good form then lost away to a decent side. Form would suggest a home win and an away loss..

What do Port need to do to change this on Saturday ?

I still have a lot of faith in this team, I don’t think there needs to be any changes; we just need to convert more of the opportunities we create. Kevin needs to forget about being bogged down in Bangkok Glass and remember the battling performance he put in against Ratchaburi. Boskovic (23) needs to remember as long as the team is scoring he’s doing well. He showed this putting Suarez (5) through on goal. You get the feeling Dragan is linking up well with his team mates, but missing the free flowing football and free flowing goals of 2017 Bangkok United.

I’d like to see a bit of variation occasionally trying out two strikers at some point in 2018. But we all know Jadet; he is not likely to change his 4-5-1 system away, or at home, or ever in his life. With this team playing 4-5-1 I still think we have a good side. With Nurul (31) we will always have chances; we just need to be more clinical when the opposition are being cynical. Yes Ubon, I’m looking at you. I think Sukhothai will be after 3 points from this game. Port have to take the chances they will be given by an attacking team. Athibodee (35) had a good game in central defence last week and I think he did enough to stay in the starting lineup. Unfortunately Port will face a tougher test than 11 men lying down glancing at the clock this week.

Worawut (36)

Nittipong (34) Aithbodee(35) Rochella(22) Kevin (97)

Nurul(31) Suarez (5) Kim(8) Siwakorn(16) Pakorn (7)

Boskovic(23)

Key match up
Bonilla v Rochella ? This would suggest itself as the key match up. However all the more dangerous is Njiva coming in from the left wing being picked up by Athibodee (or Dolah 4) or Todsapol (3).

Bonilla celebrating, but don’t forget Njiva.

Njiva v Athibodee
If Port focus too much on Bonilla they could get caught out. I like Athibodee but this Saturday will test his defending credentials.  We have seen Port go down early away from home. The Fire Bats need to be kept in check early doors. If Port can do that then they can exploit the space that should come their way.

Prediction: Sukhothai 2-3 Thai Port (All goals scored in the first half, so myself and the other Port fans with Doug Stanhope tickets can enjoy the goals then nip off to see some top quality standup.)

The Sportsman on Sukhumvit Soi 13 will be showing the match live on Saturday.

 

Sandpit Songs of the Season 2018: Week 6

 

Apologies for the absence of a Song of the Season for last week’s Ubon game as I was freezing my wuttichais off in Berlin. But this week normal service is resumed as Port face a crucial game away at fellow second-placers Sukhothai FC, aka The Fire Bats.

Hopefully Port will follow Captain Beefheart’s advice and pull the chain on the Bats’ title ambitions, consigning them to the watery U-bend of T1 along with other turds like Muangthong & Ratchaburi.