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Where Eagles Daren’t Score: Ubon UMT Utd 0-1 Port FC

 

The fixture computer had not been kind this year, in terms of away trips anyway. Before the season started I’d made a list of stadiums I was hoping to cover off this season and also make a weekend of at the same time, Chiang Rai and Sukhothai were quickly crossed out after being put on Sunday nights. Weekends in two polar opposite Thai seaside resorts, Prachuap and Pattaya, were both on the cards until they got moved due to the impending U19 Tiddlywinks championship that will decimate the August program. Luckily, Ubon was still being played on a Saturday night so I went ahead and booked it up. The return flight was just shy of 1500 baht and thanks to striking lucky on Agoda, I got a voucher which meant I was able to get 2 nights at Ubons 4 star Sunee Hotel for a total of 300 baht cash. The team stayed here last year if I recall correctly as I saw the team bus parked up at the shopping mall which sits under the hotel.

When I checked in, the staff clocked my Port shirt and asked me if I was one of the players checking in. I know Thailand attracts some veteran journeymen players during the twilights of their careers, but alas, my fleeting substitute appearances for Cockney Lokomotiv in the Sceptre Sunday League over 15 years ago, may not be quite enough for me to nail down a starting spot in 2018 Thai Premier League.

I spent an enjoyable Friday evening at a Mexican restaurant near the airport with the Sandpits Ubon correspondent, Gary Jones and a few of the Thai Ubon fans. Over dinner it seemed there was still optimism of beating the drop but please, please, please, could Port roll over for them tomorrow? Stranger things have happened in Thai football. My secondary mission for the evening was to scope out a bar to watch the World Cup action on Saturday night with the France v Argentina game kicking off an hour after the Ubon – Port fixture finished.

 

 

“If found, please return to PAT Stadium”

 

Coming down for my morning swim, I got in the lift to find myself surrounded by Ubon players who got out at the same floor as me, as I passed through the gym reception on the way to the pool I inadvertently walked in on their morning team meeting. I began pondering if I should try and listen in, but dressed in a wife beater and neon orange swim shorts, I wasn’t exactly inconspicuous. Bumping into staff and players was the theme for the rest of the morning. Over lunch I saw Nurul and Siwakorn walking around the mall, it was the most I’d seen Siwakorn move without picking up a yellow card. My next trip down the lift shaft our own Rod Pellegrino got in. As he got out I joked that he might catch the end of the Ubon team meeting if he’s lucky, he advised both squads were having lunch on this floor. Sure enough when I reached Starbucks in the mall a bit later, there was Jadet sat with a few of the Ubon guys. While our only true heated rivalry is Muangthong, it was still a bit jarring and fourth wall breaking, to see both sets of players and staff all chummy chummy with the game a few hours away.

 

“We’re going to play Four-Four-F**king Two!”

My next mission for the day was to secure some proper beer for the game. My memory of Ubon last year was that they were locked into a supply from Chang, pet peeve #28 in following Thai football. Apart from Chiang Rai and Bangkok Glass, Leo and Singha need to up their game in controlling the beer supplies. Any lingering ideas from the hotel staff that I was on the Port playing staff must have finally been quashed, when I came back through hotel reception carrying a slab of Leos to the lifts.

 

 

Arriving at the stadium just over an hour before kick off, the Port party bus was already here quickly followed by Del, AC and the two Tims (that isn’t the name of an act you’ll see at Edinburgh fringe this year). The Chang tents did a roaring trade out of the Sandpit contingent ….in cups of ice. They seemed perplexed we didn’t want to buy any of the Devil’s Piss that they were promoting. In true American style we tailgated from the case of Leo in Gary’s car boot.

 

“You’ve seen the Rat Bar, now welcome to the Boot Bar”

 

Checking the team news on twitter, there was no Dolah or Suarez, their places going to Todsapol and Bordin. Entering the stadium, attendance looked very, very low, although it did fill up a bit as the game wore on. After so many away trips to <Thai city name> municipal athletics stadiums, it was nice to finally visit a purpose built football stadium again. The UMT Stadium is reminiscent of some League Two or non-League stadiums in the UK. Ticket prices seemed a bit steep with even home fans paying upwards of 200 baht for some sections, maybe a reason why attendances have slid, the ground was definitely fuller last for the match last season.

 

 

Ubon started very brightly, belying their lowly league position. After some decent performances on the road, it looked like Port were slipping back to the lethargic apathy shown at Chainat. Were some of the team still a bit leggy from having to play in the cup game on Wednesday? In Suarez’s absence, Bordin, Nurul and Pakorn seemed to be rotating, and taking it in turns to unsuccessfully audition for the part of “number 10”. Ubon had showed more attacking intent in the opening exchanges than they did for the entire 95+ minutes at the PAT earlier this season. On the 11th minute their Serbian midfielder Dimitrov connected with a diving header that was tipped onto the crossbar. From the resulting corner, large Brazilian defender (Yul) Brinner wriggled free from the attentions of Todsapol to get a free header which was over the bar. As highlighted in the preview, their direct replacement for Victor hasn’t quite filled his shoes in the goal scoring stakes. Compared to last season, Brinner aside, Ubon now had a much smaller team.

Ports highlight of the opening 25 minutes was Kevin making a low drive from outside the box, it took a deflection after clipping the heels of an Ubon player but the keeper managed to recover his footing and gather it safely. Ubon were still causing Port problems but were lacking a finisher to put them away. On the 26th minute, DImitrov had a low drive which was spilled by Rattanai into the path Apiwat who did tuck it in, only to find the offside flag was (correctly) raised with two Ubon players offside when the initial shot was drilled in. In the last 10 minutes of the first half, Port finally began to maintain some possession and pressure in the Ubon half for a couple of minutes, but Ubon quickly snuffed it out and were back in control.

 

 

Somewhat against the run of play, Port took the lead a couple of minutes before the break. Bosko finally found himself with the ball in their area and won a corner. Pakorn, who had been sluggish all game whipped in the corner which El Capitan flicked on at the near post and into the net. Totally undeserved, but as Toby said in his most recent report “It’s a funny old game”. David pointed and looked up towards the heavens as he returned to the halfway line. A poignant moment for the captain after a recent family bereavement.

Jadet made a much needed change at half time with Adisorn replacing Bordin to protect our back four a bit better. This had an instant effect as Port started the second half much more positively. Nitipong collected the ball and made a run to the Ubon byline, cutting the ball back for Nurul to blaze his shot out of the stadium. On the 55th minute, Boskovic was wrestled to the ground in the box but nothing was given. On the hour Tossapol was replaced with Dolah to add more defensive grit and to counter-balance the threat of Brinners height at set pieces. While Port were now starting to threaten a lot more, Ubon were still carving out chances which somehow were not being put away. On the 66th minute, an Ubon freekick found Dimitrov at the near post, who acrobatically did an overhead kick towards the back post where Brinner was charging in, but he didn’t connect.

A rare lapse from Nitipong saw him take an airshot on the edge of his own box, which let in the Ubon winger Jedsadakorn, his low cross-come-shot couldn’t connect with the sliding Apiwat who was trying to connect at the back post.

To try and solidify Ports defensive position further, Pakorn was then swapped for Chakrit to help Port see this out. It turned out to be an astute move as he offered more defensively on the right hand side, Pakorn had looked out of sorts all game, aside from delivering the corner onto Davids head.

The final whistle came with a sense of relief, a definite smash and grab for Port today. A better team would have carved us a new one on this form but it was “Heartache Tonight” for the Eagles fans, who slip deeper into the relegation mire and are now 12 points adrift of 15th placed Tero, with their next two games at home to Muangthong and away to Buriram.

There were joyous scenes in the car park after the game, and even a little bit of rain couldn’t dampen the spirit of the party bus, or the extinguish the flare that had been lit up.

 

 

I don’t think the Crocodile Dundee test is needed here

 

After the game we moved on to “Take Care” bar to watch what turned out to be a great match between France and Argentina. The Ubon fans, including Gary had laid on a spread for us and we also took great advantage through the evening of their “5 (large) Leos for 299” offer. The hospitality in Ubon from Gary and the Thai Ubon contingent was fantastic all weekend.

 

 

On other matchdays, it has been known that the owner takes their group out to the local Tawan Daeng, he was also a visible presence around Ubon’s “sandpit” before the game greeting and talking to fans, with no minders or staff around him. I wonder if Madam will ever try such an approach at the PAT???

Next up for Port, PTT Rayong visit on Wednesday in the Cup and then John Baggio and the Firebats are at the PAT on Sunday, in desperate need of 3 points to lift themselves out of the relegation battle.

 

The Sandpit MOTM: David Rochela

It wasn’t a great team performance today, but it was the captain who did stand out with some great last ditch blocks and tackles to keep us from embarrassment in the first half, capped off with heading in the winning goal to seal all three points.

 

Sandpit Songs of the Season: Week 21 – Ubon UMT Utd (A)

 

Port make the long trip to Ubon this weekend for an away clash against a team who already look doomed to relegation. They’re 11 points from safety with 14 games to play, and with 5 teams going down the writing would appear to be on the wall for the Eagles. Port meanwhile are on a run of 4 consecutive away T1 wins and will surely be hoping to extend that sequence.

Following their performance at the PAT earlier this season, few Port fans will have much sympathy with their opponents, with the mighty Elvis Costello succinctly summing up the Eagles’ tactics that night.

 

Ubon…and On and On? Ubon UMT Utd vs Port FC Match Preview

 

What a difference a year makes in 2017 Ubon and Port were trading blows in the middle of the T1 table challenging each other to be the best of the promoted teams. 2018 sees a dramatic shift in fortunes. While Pang has splashed the cash Ubon’s owners have slashed their budget.

The View from Ubon

Things looked so bright in 2017, with Scott Cooper at the helm and a new stand built. So what has happened? I asked Ubon Fan Gary Jones, What’s up, up country?

What we are seeing this season is the aftermath of Scott Cooper leaving. We had a shambles of a pre-season where we didn’t know who was taking over. Mixu arrived three weeks before the start and although we started off well, our form quickly deteriorated. Poor recruitment (although as I understand some of these players were sanctioned by Scott prior to his leaving) is also significant. Defensively we’re not good enough, often unable to deal with high balls into the box. The void left by Victor and his headed goals hasn’t been filled by Brinner. We’ve been good in patches, but switching off at the end of games has cost us. This combined with poor decision making, being unable to manage games when in winning positions.  

Having spoken with the owner of the club on several occasions his commitment and desire to keep the club up and see the club progress is clear, but a lack of organisation and preparation going in to the 2018 season has made this extremely difficult. Scott Cooper wasn’t just the coach, he pretty much ran the club and thus his departure has caused chaos. Staying up is possible but I think it’s becoming more and more unlikely.

50% Rested

Port did rest Rattanai, Rochela, Kim, Suarez, Nurul and Kevin for the FA Cup game on Wednesday. But still the other half of the team might well be flagging come the last 20 minutes of this game. The bad news is Arthit Boodjinda (29) looked poor even against weak midweek opposition. In other positions it would to bring in a back up player, but we are really missing another centre forward. Suarez has had a great season getting goals from midfield, but that’s where we need him, attacking from midfield. With Boskovic suspended for the Bangkok Glass game you would think we’d have brought in our other centre forward in. It shows how little Jadet thinks of him that Suarez was pushed up front and Arthit Boodjinda was only brought on in the last third of the Bangkok Glass game. When he came on you can see why he was on the bench, he was largely ineffective and he looks out of place in T1. The transfer window closes on the 9th July and I really hope someone breaks into the safe at Madam Pang Mansion and rushes out to buy us another Thai striker. It is difficult to find a striker in the transfer window, but surely we can do a bit better than this.

Hold the line

The Starting 11 for Ubon Away should revert to type. I might have suggested Bodin starting but he started on Wednesday so Jadet Me“Like”Larb is unlikely to break up the status quo this weekend.

 

 

Ubon’s Key Weapon

As we well know from the game at PAT Stadium, if Ubon get their noses in front the most dangerous weapon they have is a lot of shoelaces that come undone very quickly.

The Best of a Bad Bunch

Brazilian, Brinner Henrique dos Santos Souza, let’s call him Brinner (6) is a competent central defender who has ended up in Thai football by way of the Turkish 2nd Division here to do a job but not likely to stay much longer.

Antonio Verzura (16), 26 year old Italian/Thai player has made the step up from Jumpasri last year. He’s become a fixture in Ubon’s midfield and has captained the team in the last 4 league matches. With one win, two draws and a loss while he has been in charge he could make an argument for inspiring a bit of form.

Time to face the Musik

Somsak Musikaphan (17) Thai centre forward has just come in on loan from Ratchaburi. With 6 goals and 2 assists in 4 matches he looks like he’s on fire at Ubon. But we have to remember 5 of those 6 came in the cups and vs an ailing Air Force team. Although not as dangerous as stats might suggest, you have to worry about a player who has been banging in goals for fun in his first four outings for his new club. As he’s shaping to take a shot one thought that may comfort you is this player was being kept out of the side and even on the bench by our old friend Sompong at Ratchaburi.

More New Faces

Ubon have also brought in Serbian/Bulgarian attacking midfielder Srdjan Dimitrov from Birkirkara F.C. Yes Birkirkara! This was the fellow who scored a hat-trick against Senglea Athletic F.C. this year. Anyone ? No ? Birkirkara are in the top tier of…… Maltese football.

Athatcha Rahongthong (71) Ubon’s new left back is in on loan from Bangkok United B. He came straight into the starting 11 and off the pitch in the 80th minute. Athatcha managed to pick up two yellow cards in Ubon’s recent win against Air Force. But I’m not sure whether the yellow cards ensured the win or jeopardised it.

In Summary

They don’t look that impressive but together with Antonio taking over as captain and a few new faces Ubon do have a bit of momentum going into Saturday’s match. I still think Port have too much going forward for Ubon to handle. Port need to take control of the game early and snuff out any growing confidence this improving Ubon side are showing. Although they were very frustrating on their visit to PAT it would be a pity to lose Ubon to T2. Ubon Away is one of the best trips of the season.

Gary’s View

Just controlling your forward line and midfield threat will be a handful. I think Ubon will be able to frustrate Port for large periods, but I can see Port getting late goals to win it.

And Also… Gary’s Ubon Beer Trip Advisor

Near the stadium it’s pretty much Thai style. Behind Big C is a large entertainment area (football screens, food and music). These are the easiest options as they are nearby. “Take Care Ubon” behind Big C is good, there will be live music there, not necessarily great music but live music, possibly Hotel California live. There’s good selection of beer and Thai food with 1 large screen and a smaller TV. (Do we get a free beer for that plug?) The Irish Pub, N-Joy Bar and Wrong Way are the farang options if you are heading into town.

 

5.45 p.m. Saturday 30th June 2018, live on True Sports 2 and True 4U. If you can’t make it up to Ubon the game will be shown live as always at The Sportsman on Sukumvit Soi 13.

 

Crystal Balls 2018: Ubon UMT Utd

 

The 2018 season will soon be upon us, so it’s time for The Sandpit to take out our crystal balls, give them a good polish, and proudly display them to our readership. We kick off this year’s previews with Erick Ombuya Kiyondi (aka Waka) telling us what he thinks the season has in store for his beloved Ubon UMT Utd…

 

What was your highlight of the 2017 season?

Beating Muangthong both home and away.

 

How will your team fare in 2018?

Top 10.

 

Who is your most exciting new signing?

Our new boss, Mixu Patalaainen.

 

Which departed players from 2017 will you miss the most? Who are you glad to see the back of?

I will dearly miss Victor Cardozo but glad Nebihi left to join Port. (So are we! – Ed)

 

What changes would you like to see at your club? Or are you happy with the way things are going?

We need strikers, and we need NEW full backs since all our guys were either sold to other clubs or went with our coach (Scott Cooper) to Tero.

 

Which teams will be in contention for the T1 title, and who will win?

Though its early to tell, I can bet on Buriram, Chiangrai and Bangkok United, I can surely say 1st to 3rd spot goes to these teams. Muangthong is done now, it is an average club, they have lost many good players.

 

Which 5 – yes 5 – teams will go down to T2, and which 3 will come up to T1?

Again too early to tell but my predictions: 1.Sukhothai 2.Prachuap 3.Chainat 4.Navy 5.Nakhonratchasima(Suphanburi)

COMING UP TO T1: 1.PTT Rayong ( sure bet) 2. Lampang or Sisaket 3.Angtong (sure bet)

 

Which fixtures are you most looking forward to in 2018?

Ubon UMT vs
1.Police Tero (half of our players moved there with Scott Cooper)
2. Port FC ( we never win at PAT) (Get used to it Erick! – Ed)
3. Muang-shit Utd

Thai football crowds are declining year on year. Why do you think this is, and what can be done to make the game more popular?

Football timing and schedule in Thai league is a joke, games on Wednesday and kick off is 17:00, how the hell can a working fan travel from Rangsit to PAT Stadium with the traffic in Bangkok? So fans end up taking the better and easier option of watching on TV. Another thing THE BREAK is too long, if THAI FA could listen then they should not interrupt games for weeks or even a month as we have seen in the past. It should be continuous that makes fans to keep talking about football and the next game. This year being the year for World Cup I don’t see this to be better anymore, we might end up having games on Mondays even Fridays. Thai FA should sit down and see what they can do about this.

Finally, give us your three wishes for the 2018 season.

1. God help Ubon UMT not to go down.And finish top 10.(dreams are valid)
2. Win both home and away against Muang-shit
3. Beat Port FC at PAT. I won’t care if you beat us at Ubon.

 

Big thanks to Erick for sharing his thoughts with us and good luck to Ubon in 2018! If you want to tell us about your team’s hopes for 2018, then all you have to do is complete this questionnaire.

Stuck In The Middle With Ubon: Ubon UMT United 2-1 Port FC

“Monks, these two extremes ought not to be practiced by one who has gone forth from the household life. (What are the two?) There is addiction to indulgence of sense-pleasures, which is low, coarse, the way of ordinary people, unworthy, and unprofitable; and there is addiction to self-mortification, which is painful, unworthy, and unprofitable.
Avoiding both these extremes, the Tathagata (the Perfect One) has realized the Middle Path; it gives vision, gives knowledge, and leads to calm, to insight, to enlightenment and to Nibbana” – Buddhist Teaching



This weekend saw the start of Buddhist lent. A time for all Buddhists to reflect on Buddhist teachings while the monks hide out from the rain and hibernate. Buddhist teaching is centred on following the central path; the middle way. It cautions against extremity in action and in thought. And so it was in Ubon Ratchantani yesterday as two great proponents of the middle way battled it out in attempting to be the most average, centre of the road team.



Ubon UMT United have some great credentials when it comes to being average. They play their football nestled between Cambodia below and Laos above. We all know they are somewhere over there but they remain very much off the radar, much like a secret US army base. They sat last week in tenth place in an eighteen team league. BEC Tero Sasana for now holding the most envious league postion of ninth. But Ubon have their eyes on becoming that most plain Jane before the rains stop in November. The wonderful and safe space found only in the middle ground, unburdened as it is by feast or famine. They do other things medicore teams do to ensure their continued unexceptional existence, like selling their best player from the first half of the season lest they might look vainglorious and finish in the top half of the table. That would be low, going so high. Having purged themselves of national team striker Siroch Chatthong and all thoughts of glory, Ubon have bedded comfortably in as snug  as a bug in a discounted rug. Like most average Thai teams Ubon have a big foreign centre-half and a Brazilian named Thiago.  They are not adverse to sharing two points rather than gorging alone on three having drawn six games this year. Their win and loss balance was in perfect equilibrium at eight each before kick off yesterday. They like their rice porridge not too hot and not too cold.



Port FC are no slouches when it comes to table slouching themselves, although their eightfold path to encentrement manifests itself in other ways too. They have some wonderfully average players of course. But that alone is not enough to temper extremist tendencies. The season started in a greedy fashion as Port somehow managed to elbow their way to the top five buffet table like a maniacal Chinese tourist coming off hunger strike. They took more than their fill from the big boys. The dressing room became more instagrammed than The Emirates in London. There was decadent ripped jeans and self-assured selfies galore down at PAT. The old mad dame might have even blushed. Home crowds were consistently boisterous and are proudly the one aspect of Port FC that never follows the middle way. (Perhaps closer to the middle finger.) Long may that last. But in the context of mediocrity, they’d become dangerously out of sync. They’d lost their way, the middle way. But small sample size gave way to reality check with a little help from tactical naivety and questionable player choice. We have some consistently useful release valves at Port to insure we keep ourselves humdrum. Average goals conceded is one such lever. It is hard to keep your head above seasonal floodwater when you concede two goals every ninety minutes. We also like to have a new manager at the start of every season, be it of the rainy or football variety. We’ve also tried a new severe austerity technique by denying ourselves of our best player and captain for an entire game (Rochela). Either rainy season sniffles got him or Zico did. Lets hope that whatever the root cause was soon ceases to hold sway.



Buddhist ascetics or recovering addicts to sense pleasures need not have worried about any such temptations last night in a game so middle way it felt like your brain was being dissected by its ordinariness. Two average teams playing average football. After the fifth time the ball got stuck in a puddle on the pitch it was easy to relax about the threat of excessive excitement. Indian-era Beatles encouraged us to turn off your mind, relax and float down stream, this is not dying. But its not exactly living either. Simple passes were over played. Passable would have been a welcome relief. Players bunched in bee hives on the sideline without lifting their heads. Kalu (10) can be singled out for his exceedingly poor finishing. Missing easy opportunities early in the game marks you out as extreme and not in a good way. Two goals for Ubon in the first twenty-eight minutes was seen as immoderate by any one watching and not exactly reflective of the game as a whole. Ubon also saw it as such and decided that they had taken as much as they could take in any average alms bowl. No sense in being accused of gluttony. They waded back through the Ubon rice paddy and sat out the game with lententidinal patience. Port FC made a game of it when Kalu made merit in the forty-eighth minute. It was to prove the last major incident of note. Rather than single out many players for their poor decision making, woeful crossing and lethargic movement lets just say the players looked happy for the break in fixtures now imminent. The game veered much the nearer to self mortification than to self indulgence and the reality of what middle of the road in the Thai Premier league looks like was made painfully evident. The equaliser that seemed so fitting never came and it was Ubon’s sporadic counter attacks that looked most likely to unbalance this petering out. Port’s substitutions in the second half only reminded us of the paucity of quality on show. This mid-year, mid-season, middling affair in muddy waters, mired in maudlin performances had come to an end. The journey to the centre of inadequacy was over with much for us all to reflect on. Thank Buddhist teachings for small mercies. Thai Port FC now sit in ninth place in the Thai Premier league standings.


Dom’s Man of the Match: Adisorn




Thaigo – not not that one, another Thiago – Ferreira Dos Santos – scored the first goal and looked a constant threat to a shaky Port defence. Ubon looked a bit more relaxed in the second half but Thiago had opportunities. If I had to pick the best Port player I’d say Adisorn (13) was as industrious as ever and seemed to relish the captain’s role. Tana(99) took over as captain for the second half but the armband should’ve stayed where it was.