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Toby Time Wins: Port FC 1-0 Sukhothai FC

The pioneering 20th century social anthropologist E.E. Evans-Pritchard conducted most of his early research on the Azande, an indigenous African tribe living primarily in what is modern-day Democratic Republic of Congo. His fieldwork formed the basis of his classic text Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic Among the Azande. Published in 1937, the book champions the relativist theory of psychological attribution. Are you still following me? Well here’s a good example from the book; 8 Azande people die when a termite infested door frame causes a house to collapse. Evans-Pritchard clearly sees evidence of termites in several areas but the Azande dismiss this notion and conclude that it was caused by witchcraft and start conducting elaborate ceremonies and rituals to regain the favour of the spirits and deities they worshipped. So who is right? Rational thought would automatically conclude that the termites caused it, but what if some higher power could control or effect them to carry out this whole episode that we know nothing about? Evans-Pritchard concluded that both were right; if your personal belief system convinces you it is true then it is true.

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Bats in the PAT: Port FC vs. Sukhothai FC Preview

 

Port’s woeful run of form continued last Saturday with PTT Rayong snatching a victory against a team who looked flat, unconfident and lacked ideas. Jadet’s final throw of the dice as Port coach was a midfield diamond system which, despite a fortuitous win against Muangthong, didn’t click at all in the two games in which it was tried.

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SukhoCupTie: Port FC vs. Sukhothai FA Cup Preview

 

Over the years as a Port fan I’ve been so used to saying that Port’s best chance of a trophy is in one of the cups that it’s been a disorienting season. Until the weekend, Port had enjoyed a healthy lead atop the T1 table. Consensus was slowly forming, not just among the Port faithful but the wider Thai football community, that Port were really in with a shout of toppling the Thunder Castle. Many were even calling us favourites, and by the time we kicked off on Sunday the bookies had us the more likely to win on the day. Then there’s the cups. We’d already made a low-key exit from the League Cup, with a team of second stringers going down to Nongbua Pitchaya, and there are still 32 teams in the FA Cup.

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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.

 

Release the Bats! Port FC vs Sukhothai FC Match Preview

 

When I signed up to write this preview, the plan was simple. With months to go, I’d have an excuse to re-watch the Batman movies, pick out a few lines that could be used to vaguely reference football, Port or Sukhothai to quote, and get the juices flowing on the bat/batman puns front. Throw in a bit of “You don’t know how lucky you are not spending months away from Thai football!” Job done.  So, with less 72 hours ‘til I get on a plane to Bangkok, I’ve not watched a minute of any Batman film. There’s a moan about Thai football coming and the small matter of some Brazilian fella who used to make the odd appearance for Port back when we were a second-tier team, who recently blagged a gig at Sukhothai (aka the Fire Bats) in their battle to avoid the drop.

Firstly, the moan.  If you spend any time reading about Thai football online, as with most things in Thailand, it isn’t too hard to find a foreigner complaining about how much better it is back where they came from or just that it simply isn’t very good in Thailand. Since I started following Port in 2015 the knockers have collectively covered… well, I think I’ve now seen pretty much every facet of Thai football criticized. Everyone has the right to an opinion, and Thai football gets a lot of things wrong, but it’s not a European league and never will be. Expecting it to live up to that standard is setting yourself up for disappointment. Nor personally do I have any desire for it to mirror the overpriced, over policed, corporate anti-fun day out that attending sport in England has become.  That said, on Sunday football returns for the first round of league games in 5 weeks (6 weeks for a Port home game) which is a just plain rubbish. In the 10 weeks prior, there have been just 5 league matches and a single round played in each of the cups. Again, not good enough. You don’t have to go too much further back and you hit the mid-season break on top of that.

Now that its back, the football comes thick and fast. There are 10 weeks of the season left, and in that time Port will play 9 league matches and at least 2 cup matches (potentially 8 were we to make both finals). Great, but the flow of the season has been destroyed. How fit are players? Where have they been? Have we had a mini preseason? Whilst I expect it will have little effect on the level of attendance at the PAT, for other teams in a similar ‘nothing to play for’ situation, will the fans bother to come back? It makes maintaining interest from the public you’ve got hard, let alone building on it. And the reason for these gaps? A friendly international cup which hardly captured the imagination, and would have been better served if it or the mid-season break were moved to occur simultaneously. All the latest month off taught us was that the Thai national teams are a bit too good for the rest of South East Asia and not quite good enough for the big boys on the continent. I think we all knew that already. Hopefully someone organizing the league realizes this and from next season we can have a real singular season rather than several mini ones. It also makes it hard to sell you a tale of woe at not having seen a Port game in months when half the people reading this need a map to find their way back to the stadium after so long without a home game. So, with that out the way…

 

Sukhothai FC

Port welcome Sukhothai to the PAT on Sunday evening. A relatively young team, even by Thai standards Sukhothai were only formed in 2009, taking up a position in the Northern regional league, they spent the first 6 years of their existence in the lower league as the kind of club that goes unnoticed till drawn in a cup fixture, at which point they tick all the boxes of interesting cup away day. Based in a location worthy of a trip away (ancient Buddhist kingdom in this case) with an oddball badge, kit and nickname. 2014 saw them win their league and fun away day was elevated to potential banana skin as they entered the second tier, however they didn’t hang round at that level and in their first season were promoted to the top league. At which point they set about making some major waves. They finished a more-than-respectable 7th and with the season ending before the FA Cup semi-finals could be played they were deemed joint winners. Which meant they were entered in a draw against Chainat and Ratchaburi for the play-off spot in the AFC Champions League. Their luck was in, and they were rewarded with a fixture against the champions of Myanmar Yadanarbon, who were dispatched 5-0. Which meant that just 3 seasons after playing third tier football they were off to face the mega stars of Shanghai SIPG, managed by former Chelsea and Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas and featuring Oscar, Hulk and a host of others assembled with little regard for the price tag.  The fire bats had visa troubles which meant the team didn’t arrive together, and the weather didn’t favour them much either. The chances of anything but a heavily defeat looked slim, yet they came away with pride intact despite a 3-0 defeat that saw Oscar bag his first goal following his move from Chelsea to China.

That looks like the high point of the season, as their domestic campaign started poorly maybe due to second season syndrome (they also decided to sack former Port player and 2015 managerial merry go round rider Somchai Chuayboonchum, who led them last season). A poor start saw them settle in 16th for the majority of the first half of the season, climbing one spot to the safety of 15th with a solid mid-season run, which has given them a 7 points cushion over Sisaket in 16th.   With a relatively tough run-in they’ll be hoping for 3 points on Sunday to increase their hopes of staying up. Whilst 3 points for Port would put them 9 points clear of Sukhothai and realistically 13 clear of Sisaket (assuming they beat Super Power), if those numbers become 3 and 10 respectively with a Sukhothai win and BEC were to beat Thai Honda, things start to look a little worrying for Port.

 

Players to Watch

Realistically there is only one.

I’ve barely mentioned thus far in this preview. Maranhao (29). The former Port player’s stock rose though the first half of the season without him even setting foot on the pitch. As attacking options available proved workmanlike, when they could be bothered to work, the idea of a player capable of scoring spectacular goals and beating the odd player (especially as both were seldom occurring) was always going to appeal. With the team at that point regularly picking up points, there seemed little worry of a relegation battle, while the top teams were clearly beyond our pay grade.

Then come the start of the second leg of the season it appeared Maranhao was back in favour as he started the first game away at Suphanburi, the situation that followed was comical. The end result, just as hope of the mercurial Brazilian bringing a bit of showmanship to the season seemed realistic, he was moved on to Sukhothai. At his new home, he has operated as more of a central attacker than a wide man. In 6 games for his new club he’s managed to score twice. He replaced Admir Adrovic who returned to his native Montenegro, finding navigating his path back to the Balkans somewhat easier than others who have recently left Thai football to undertake a similar journey. He had scored 9 goals before departing.

They also have Baggio (10) pulling the strings in midfield, although like the Tot(t)i at Bangkok Glass this one is also a knock off, in this case Jhon “Baggio” Rakotonomenjanahar. I think I’ll be sticking with “Baggio” after a couple of Leos on Sunday!

The final foreign starter is likely to be Ivorian Bireme Diouf (27). At just 5ft 7, with Maranhao the same height and Baggio standing at an incredible 5ft2, it means Sukhothai will likely start with neither the ‘Scary Foreign Striker’ or centre-back so favoured by most Thai teams. Bireme is somewhat of a journeyman of Thai football having arrived to play for M****Thong  in 2006 and remained here for all but one season (spent at Yadanarbon). He has scored 8 goals this season.

 

John Baggio, Rodrigo Maranhao and Bireme Diouf

 

The Fan’s View

Here’s Sukhothai fan Henry Kittikul Musa with his thoughts on the game…

Since both our teams last met, it’s been an uphill struggle to keep ourselves above the relegation zone, but so far we are doing exactly that. We’re currently only 1 place above the relegation zone but with that being said, we’re 7 points ahead of Sisaket who are a place below us. Before our loss to Bangkok United, we had gone 7 matches undefeated and things were starting to look quite good. After that, we did hit a bit of a slump with 3 straight losses to the likes of Bangkok United, Chiang Rai and Navy. Thankfully, we recorded a 1-0 win over Thai Honda just before the break.

One player who has played an influential role in our battle for survival is Ex-Port player, Maranhão. He’s been a game changer since the moment he arrived, scoring on his debut at home against Sisaket. He’s formed a strong relationship with Baggio and they seem to be able to read each others runs quite well. If it’s any consolation to Port fans, we had the exact same thing happen to us with Renan Marques. We sold him to Chonburi at the end of last season, as during his tenure at the club, his performance was largely overshadowed by other players such as Baggio and Bireme. This season alone, he’s put 22 goals behind the net for Chonburi and is currently the 3rd highest scorer in the league.

Coming back to Sunday’s match, it’ll be an important one for Sukhothai. At this late stage of the season, with only 9 matches remaining, every point is crucial. If we could come away from Sunday’s match with a point, I think everyone in the Sukhothai camp would be pleased. On paper, we haven’t had such a great run away from home with 2 wins, 3 draws and 6 losses. Our 2 away wins were against Thai Honda and Super Power. Whilst we managed to take a point away from some crucial matches against the likes of Bangkok Glass and Ratchaburi.

My prediction for Sunday’s match is, Thai Port 1-1 Sukhothai.

It looks to be a good match and I’ll be sure to make it to the game. The atmosphere at PAT Stadium never disappoints. Hopefully both teams put on their best performance and no matter which way the result ends up, I hope it’s an enjoyable match for all

 

Port FC

Tom’s Starting XI  – Two Question Marks

With Jim having missed the mid-mid-season friendlies, I thought I’d weigh in with my thoughts on team selection. It seems Zico is close to settling on his First XI, but he isn’t quite there yet. Defensive midfield and left back are still very much up for grabs.

In defensive midfield Zico has shown little love for Adisorn (13), phasing him out of the team and trying a few different options in his place. Ittipol (7) and Pummared (41) are the shortlisted candidates. Ittipol provides a cool, disciplined head in midfield, and is a technically superior footballer to both of his rivals. He is, however, 33 years of age and doesn’t seem anywhere near capable of playing a full 90 minutes. Pummared, on the other hand, is still in his mid-twenties and has no problem with his fitness. His positional discipline looked good against Bangkok Glass – his only competitive appearance for Port – so in the absence of enough evidence to really form an opinion, I’ll just say that I really hope he holds his position and covers his full-backs better than Adisorn. The jury is still out on his passing, too. Tim thinks he’s alright and I think he’s desperately lacking. He looks set to get the nod, anyway. Only time will tell!

At left back, it’s a three way battle between Panpanpong (19), Yossawat (28) and Jetjinn (51). You have to feel for Jetjinn, who appears to be coming third in a three man race despite performing excellently whenever called on so far. He scored a superb goal in the friendly against Suphanburi, too, surging forward from left-back, playing a neat one-two and finding the bottom corner with a calm right-footed finish. With Jetjinn very unlikely to get the nod, it’s between Panpanpong and Yossawat. Yossawat debuted in the clean-sheet against Bangkok Glass, putting in a positionally sound performance which didn’t offer much going forward, but kept things tight at the back. We know from what we’ve seen of him so far that Yossawat does have the attacking play in his arsenal, but is just a bit more selective of when to use it. Clearly he’s been watching Panpanpong bomb up the left wing, misplace simple passes and then jog back towards goal while his teammates – usually Rochela – try and rescue the situation. It seems like a no-brainer for me that Yossawat starts, but Zico has kept his cards close to the chest by giving them a start apiece in Port’s two friendlies. I’m plumping for Yossawat, and I really hope Zico does too.

In a forced change, Worawut is likely going to continue deputizing for Rattanai (17), who seems to have struggled more than expected recovering from the shoulder injury he picked up against Ubon.

 

Predicted Starting XI

 

 

 

 

 

Fire Bats Extinguished: Sukhothai 2-3 Port FC

 

The Trip

I should preface this little adventure with a disclaimer… Most of my expat Bangkok acquaintances  seem to be retired amateur beer sommeliers or slightly dodgy teachers; frankly a somewhat lo-so crowd. Which is how I like it.

However, there are one or two exceptions. Up-market folk who own a motorbike or 2 pairs of shoes. It was with one of the latter I journeyed to Sunday’s game – flying up to Phitsanulok, just the 2 of us in his plane. In Sukhothai things got even better. In search of dinner we followed some twinkling lights into a lovely family restaurant that seemed to be having a birthday party BBQ. After the familiar ‘Blimey, it’s a farang!’ stares we were told to help ourselves to anything. A dozen prawns and a couple of crabs  later we  asked for the bill, only to be told  it was free as we’d hardly eaten anything.

 

The Stadium

Now, to the stadium. The Thung Thalay Luang stadium is a neat 8,000 all-seater job, but the location is like nothing I’ve ever seen. The nearest building must be over 3 miles away and it sits beside a lake. On arrival, I realized I’d left my specs in the hotel, so everything was a bit blurry. And that was before the Chang.

 

The Game

Port’s relationship with Brazilian strikers seems to be characterized by blind faith over reality. When I first saw Port it was the tail end of Leandro’s reign.I remember him showboating with the ball at his feet doing the Grobbelar Wobbly knees routine to the delight of those around. The problem was there were 10 minutes to go and we were 1-3 down. In that moment I realized the Thai league was not like home, where such a display would ensure you’d played your last game.

Then last season we were all  aghast at Thiago Cunha – a man who appeared to have bet on himself to get the quickest red card  in history. I remember what I think was his last appearance, when he seemed to be having some kind of mental breakdown on the pitch. It was clear to all (except the coach) where things were heading, so much so that Madame had to leave her seat and pull him off herself (so to speak).

Now its Josimar (30). Already derided by some as lacking skill, speed, heart etc. but showing a talent for being in the right place and applying the vital touch. It took him 10 minutes to put Port 1-0 up, heading in an inch-perfect cross from Pakorn (9), who turned smartly on the right hand side and showed impressive accuracy with his weaker foot to curl the ball in to the corridor of uncertainty where Josimar was lurking. Then our tactics became unfathomable, and the Brazilian was left stranded up field as we elected to run the clock down, relying heavily on the Fire Bats incompetence and Worawut’s (36) excellence. About half an hour into the game Port had a free kick on the halfway line, and we kept 6 (honestly – 6) players behind the ball.

In the second half Josimar struck again, pouncing on a mistake from the keeper, who failed to gather Tana’s (99) cross from the left hand side. Josimar applied the simplest of finishes, but he was outshone just minutes later by Sukhothai defender Hiromichi Katano (4) who spectacularly smashed the ball in to the back of his own net in a way Josimar could only have dreamed of. 3-0! Time to relax & have fun… well not quite . 2 goals in 2 minutes got the home fans cheering and our time wasting tactics came to the fore again. We survived. Just about!

There’s nothing better than seeing 2 coach loads of Port fans pull into the car park, making more noise than the home crowd having set off from PAT at 08:30. What a great bunch – my men of the match!

 

The Sandpit’s Port FC Man of the Match

 

Josimar’s goals may have both come from inside the 6 yard box, but that’s where you want your striker! Josimar found space to nod in a simple header from Pakorn’s cross in the first half, then smartly followed in Tana’s cross and capitalized on the keeper’s error in the second half.

An honourable mention must also go to goalkeeper Worawut, who preserved Port’s lead with some outstanding reaction saves. What a man to have as second choice ‘keeper!

 

MATCH REPORT: Port FC 3 – 1 Sukhothai

 

Port ran out 3-1 winners against Sukhothai in Thursday’s friendly at PAT Stadium. Port went 1-0 down early on, but equalized before half time and put in an excellent second half performance to secure a comfortable win.

Port started with Weera (1) in goal, Rochela (22) and Dolah (40) in central defence and Meechok (20) and Panpanpong (19) as full backs. Siwakorn (16) and Piyachat (28) operated in central midfield, with Suarez (4) tucking in behind striker Asdrubal(24). Both Genki (18) and Nitipong (34) were surprise selections on the wing, although Jadet is of course still experimenting with his team.

Sukhothai looked lively going forward in the early stages, but new signing Elias Dolah showed that he will be a force to be reckoned with this season with with some strong, fearless challenges in the air and on the ground. It was surprising, then, when Sukothai took the lead from a corner. Dolah was beaten – for the only time in the half – to a near post header, and the ball flashed past Weera into the Port goal.

Port responded with a sustained assault on the Sukothai goal. Genki, who is rumoured to be leaving the club when a suitable replacement can be found, missed three chances that he would have expected to do better with. If we was trying to convince Jadet to keep hold of him in 2017, he wasn’t going about it the right way.

Asdrubal, making his first appearance for Port, looked strong on the ball despite his diminutive stature. He turned a hopeful punt up the right wing in to an attack by out-muscling the opposing defenders and playing a smart pass inside when it looked like he had nowhere to go. He didn’t make the most of a good shooting chance from the edge of the area, but we’ll let him off as the playing surface was problematic for everyone.

Port looked a little lop-sided at times, with most of the good play coming through the middle of the park or the right hand side. Meechok got forward well from right back and made some dangerous overlapping runs past Nitipong, but on the left hand side Panpanpong and Genki showed little in the way of attacking intent.

Port’s equalizer came just before half time from a set-piece. Piyachat whipped a dangerous ball in, and Dolah stuck out a long leg to divert the ball goalwards. The ‘keeper managed to block the shot,but Dolah was on hand to bundle the ball in to the net and draw Port level.

 

An auspicious full moon over the PAT

 

As we’re used to seeing in friendlies, there were several changes made at half time, from both Port and Sukhothai. Worawut (36) came on for Weera in goal, and in defence Todsapol (6) and Piyachart (23) replaced Dolah and Panpanpong. New young signing Tatchanon (27) replaced Piyachat in the centre of midfield, while Pakorn (9) and Ekkapoom (8) took over from Nitipong and Genki on the wings. Maranhao (29), no longer a Port player but still training with the club, came on for Asdrubal in attack. Rochela, Meechok, Siwakorn and Suarez stayed out for the second period, but were all substituted later in the half.

Port’s left hand side looked much improved in the second period. Piyachart offered much more going forward than the more defensively-minded Panpanpong, and Ekkapoom played in his usual energetic and direct style.

It was to be Maranhao and Pakorn who would really turn the game in Port’s favour, though. Pakorn, looking slightly more slender than last season, was a constant menace down the right. He curled in a couple of fantastic shots which missed by just a few inches, and provided a trademark cross which Maranhao narrowly failed to connect with.

On the hour mark, though, Maranhao put Port in to the lead. He made a clever run in behind the defence, collected a through ball from midfield and side-footed a composed finish in to the bottom corner. Maranhao saluted the fans behind the goal,who were pleased to see him rediscover his early-2016 form. He may not be playing for us next season, but we wish him all the best wherever he goes.

Maranhao turned provider for Pakorn in the 78th minute. He twisted, turned and beat his defender on the left before showing excellent awareness to find Pakorn, who was in space on the right hand side. Pakorn powered his shot past the Sukhothai ‘keeper in to the bottom left corner, getting the goal that his second half performance deserved.

The pace dropped in the final 10 minutes, but Port comfortably held on for a well-deserved 3-1 win. Sukhothai finished 8th in the TPL last season and knocked Port out of the FA Cup with a convincing 4-0 win. Although this was only a friendly, a comfortable win represents a step in the right direction for a Port side aiming for a top half finish this season.

Lineups

1st half

Weera, Meechok, Rochela, Dolah, Pinkong, Siwakorn, Piyachat, Suarez, Genki, Nitipong, Asdrubal

2nd half

Worawut, Meechok (Pakasit, 76), Todsapol, Rochela (Anisong, 81), Piyachart, Tatchanon, Siwakorn (Siwapong, 72), Suarez (Wuttichai, 67), Ekkapoom, Pakorn, Maranhao