Sandpit Songs of the Season Week 19: Ratchaburi

 

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

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

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

 


 

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

 

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

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

Dragging Along

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

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

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

Port Life

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

Port’s Starting XI

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

LINEUP

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

Terens Trouble

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

Matchups?

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

Prediction

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

 

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

 

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.

 

 

I Will Follow: The Port FC Instagram League Table

 

Back in the old days of Bovril, half-time oranges and jockstraps, we rated footballers using such vague, inaccurate criteria as goals scored, medals won, international caps and so on. Thankfully in the digital age we have a much more precise metric to assess just how good footballers are – Instagram followers. So with the assistance of my lovely wife (and keen Instagrammer) Linny, I’ve ranked Port’s players based on how many people are following them on Instagram (with the exceptions of Kim and Chakrit, neither of whom appear to be on Instagram).

Note that all of these figures are dwarfed by our fragrant chairwoman Madam Pang, who has over 350,000 followers.

 

Nurul – 176,195

The wee fella has clearly benefitted from national team action, and is by far the most-followed Port star with over twice as many followers as his nearest challenger. Here he is celebrating with the time-honoured cunnilingus gesture.

 

Pakorn – 81,893

The Midfield Monk may not be a national team player yet but he’s Port’s second most followed player. Here he is with his mum. Awwwww.

 

Siwakorn – 72,476

Completing Port’s top 3 is yellow card collector and unlikely midfield hard man Siwakorn. He may put it about on the pitch but his Instagram feed is pure kawaii.

 

Terens – 59,781

Bodin – 17,761

Boskovic – 15,604

Put them away Dragan

 

Nitipong – 14,949

Todsapol – 10,573

Kevin – 10,359

Rochela – 8,637

Nope, me neither

 

Worawut (defender) – 5,317

Worawut (goalkeeper) – 4,487

Arthit – 4,156

Suarez – 3,614

Jetjinn – 3,298

Dolah – 3,153

“BEEFCAKE! BEEFCAKE!”

 

Rattanai – 2,306

Pummared – 1,069

Midfield Monk II

 

Adisorn – 795

Panpanpong – 646

 

Big thanks to Linny Russell for collating the stats for this piece.

 

 

Jumpers for Goalposts: Port Travel to Thamuang in FA Cup

 

The draw for the first round of the Chang FA Cup was made last week, but we held off writing about it because we didn’t know where the game would be played. Anyway, Port have been drawn away at T5 (Central West) amateurs Thamuang FC, who play in Kanchanaburi Province. And that is pretty much all we have been able to find out about the club, other than that they play in a rather swanky purple & gold kit, and have an elephant on their badge. We really hope their nickname is the Purple Elephants, as we often see those after several pre-match Leos. They have no website, but they do have a Facebook page, whence we nicked the image for this article.

Being a T5 club, facilities at Thamuang are pretty basic and their budget does not run to the provision of floodlights, so the game will be kicking off at 16:00. This is about as grassroots as it gets and should be a fun day out for the more intrepid fans amongst us.

Here’s the rest of the R1 draw:

27 June 2018 Samut Prakan (T4) v Ubon UMT United (T1) Samut Prakan
27 June 2018 Sing Ubon (T5) v BGC (T4) Bangkok
27 June 2018 Bankhai United (T4) v Muangkrung (T5) Rayong
27 June 2018 Naresuan (T5) v Bangkok Glass (T1) Phitsanulok
27 June 2018 Samutsongkhram (T4) v Army United (T2) Samut Songkhram
27 June 2018 Royal Thai Fleet (T4) v Sakaeo (T3) Chonburi
27 June 2018 Petpittayakom Alumni (T5) v Pattaya United (T1) Phetchabun
27 June 2018 Royal Thai Army (T3) v Udon Thani (T2) Bangkok
27 June 2018 Chainat United (T4) v Thai Honda (T2) Chainat
27 June 2018 Rajamangala University Of Technology Rattanakosin (T5) v Vongchavalitkul University (T5) Bangkok
27 June 2018 Ubon Kids City (T5) v PTT Rayong (T2) Ubon Ratchathani
27 June 2018 Nara United (T3) v Rayong (T2) Narathiwat
27 June 2018 NBN Kanthararom United (T5) v JL Chiangmai United (T3) Sisaket
27 June 2018 PT Prachuap (T1) v Sukhothai (T1) Prachuap Khiri Khan
27 June 2018 Uttaradit (T4) v Pualand (T5) Uttaradit
27 June 2018 Buriram United (T1) v Bangkok United (T1) Buriram
27 June 2018 Chonburi (T1) v Pibulsongkram Rajabhat University (T5) Chonburi
27 June 2018 Chiangmai (T2) v Air Force Central (T1) Chiang Mai
27 June 2018 Khonkaen (T2) v Bangkok (T3) Khon Kaen
27 June 2018 Nakhon Ratchasima (T1) v Chiangrai United (T1) Nakhon Ratchasima
27 June 2018 Suphanburi (T1) v Ratchaburi Mitr Phol (T1) Suphanburi
27 June 2018 Nonthaburi (T4) v Kasetsart (T2) Nonthaburi
27 June 2018 Trat (T2) v Phitsanulok (T4) Trat
27 June 2018 Phrae United (T3) v Kohkwang Subdistrict Municipality (T5) Phrae
27 June 2018 Nakhon Mae Sot United (T4) v Krabi (T2) Tak
27 June 2018 SCG Muangthong United (T1) v Nongbua Pitchaya (T2) Nonthaburi
27 June 2018 Navy (T1) v Muang Loei United (T4) Chonburi
27 June 2018 Lampang (T2) v Salaeng Subdistrict Municipality (T5) Lampang
27 June 2018 Army Welfare Department (T5) v Sisaket (T2) TBD
27 June 2018 Tamuang (T5) v Port (T1) TBD
27 June 2018 Kranuan (T5) v Nakhon Pathom United (T4) TBD

 

Seven Minutes of Madness: Port FC 2-3 Muangthong Utd

 

 

Last season Port went to Muangthong, banged in 3 goals in 5 minutes, and spent the rest of the game clinging on by their fingernails. Last night the Kirins returned the favour, in one of the most thrilling games I’ve ever seen at the PAT – goals, controversy, shenanigans and one hell of an atmosphere. Football, bloody hell.


Port v Muangthong is undoubtedly the biggest rivalry in Thai football and queues began forming at the stadium around lunchtime. I arrived around 4pm to find the Sandpit already packed, and met up with understandably nervous Muangthong blogger Gian, doing his best to cover up his MTU staff shirt while he interviewed me.

 

The editor with a slightly nervous Muangthong blogger

 

Port lined up as per usual, whilst Muangthong, with Jaja up front and professional model/Instagrammer Chappuis in midfield, were clearly trying to set a new T1 average player weight record.

This was a whole new level for a Port-MTU fixture, finally a clash of equals with Port in 3rd & the visitors in 4th, and as a result the first half was a cagey affair, with Heberty having the first shot on goal after 12 minutes, and Kevin (97) waiting until the 22nd minute to return fire for Port with a rasping shot/cross that MTU keeper Prasit, who let’s face it is certainly no Kawin, ineffectually slapped over the bar.

On 28 minutes, Port were gifted a free-kick just outside the box, but Pakorn (7) fired it straight at the wall then blasted the rebound over the bar, with several teammates in good positions. The winger’s selfishness around the box is becoming a serious issue for Port and Jadet needs to address it – time & again last night he opted to shoot, even from corners, instead of picking out a better-placed teammate, and anyone wondering why he’s not getting national team callups can take last night’s game as exhibit A.

But Port were having much the better of things, and after Nurul (31) tested Prasit with a fairly tame shot from the edge of the box, Port almost took the lead on the stroke of half-time. Nitipong played a long ball up to Suarez whose delicious flick found Boskovic on the right; the big Montenegrin played a perfect pass into the box back to the Spaniard but his shot was spectacularly turned away by Prasit.

0-0 at half-time then, and MTU would’ve been the happier team going into the changing rooms, relieved at having stayed level despite Port bossing the game. They were certainly the happier team within a few minutes of the restart, as they flew out of the traps and stunned Port with 3 goals in the first 7 minutes of the half, leading to a lot of baffled fans returning from their HT beer to find they’d missed 3 goals (or in Toby’s case, 5).

The first went in a mere 30 seconds in, with that man Tristan Do (who indisputably won his much-hyped battle with Kevin) putting in a deep cross which was nodded in by Sanukran, with Rattanai (17) out of position and Port’s defence as a whole still sucking on their oranges. Assuming players still eat oranges at half-time. Probably not. Probably some kind of energy pods or something. Ah, the good old days. Jumpers for goalposts. Isn’t it?

Things got worse 2 minutes later when Heberty skinned Kevin, having by far his worst game for Port, on the edge of the box and picked out Sarach on the 18-yard line, who slotted it into the corner for 2-0. Muangthong’s blood was clearly up and on 49 minutes a pass from the left found Sanukran totally unmarked in the Port area, but luckily his shot went wide of the post. But with Port’s defence in utter disarray, a third goal looked inevitable and it came on 51 minutes when Heberty broke clear, was briefly held up by Dolah (4), and then returned passes with Jaja to create enough space to get a shot past Rattanai.

This was a return to the darker days of 2017, when Port’s defence was leakier than a Welshman’s vegetable drawer; but the 2018 Port side are made of sterner stuff and, spurred on by a crowd whose already considerable loathing for the Pathum Thani bumpkins had just reached new heights, they set about clawing their way back into the game.

And it took them all of a minute, when a blocked Boskovic (23) shot found its way back to Suarez (5), who volleyed it emphatically into the back of the net. The game was well and truly back on and Port set about their opponents in an atmosphere of pure unbridled hysteria. On 55 minutes Pakorn found himself in a great position on the right of the area but, as per usual, elected to shoot rather than pass to a teammate. But 2 minutes later the Midfield Monk finally turned provider when his peach of a free-kick was flicked on by Rochela (22) for Boskovic to nod home. 2-3, and had there been a roof on Zone B, it would well & truly have been blown off by now. And on the hour mark, pure mayhem broke out when a Suarez shot deflected off a defender and found its way onto the boot of Boskovic. 3-3, or so we thought, until we spotted the lineman’s flag aloft. No goal. Bosko stomped over to the touchline, presumably to tell the official exactly what he thought of his flag and make some suggestions as to where it might most effectively be stored, and watching the video afterwards it was clear that Bosko had every right to be aggrieved as he was clearly onside.

The PAT was now in absolute uproar and a match that had started out as a cagey tactical battle descended into the pure chaos of an U11s game, with no pause for breath as both teams, realising that neither could defend, attacked relentlessly. Port almost got their equaliser on 68 minutes when a spectacular Suarez header hit the crossbar; theb on 80 minutes a rasping drive from Kim (8) was parried into the path of Boskovic by Prasit, but the Port striker, faced with an open goal, fired over the bar, his blushes fortunately spared by another incorrect offside flag, and his miss sparing the linesman a difficult exit from the stadium. On 84 minutes an almighty scramble erupted in the MTU box which, in 20 glorious seconds, included a two-footed tackle on Kim that should’ve been a penalty, 2 shots on goal, a spot of Sunday league head tennis, Kim trying to head the ball out of Prasit’s hands, resulting in the keeper indulging in an extended display of injury-feigning right in front of Zone B (his post-game attempt to salute said stand was not well received and I doubt he’ll do it again), and Chappuis rather laughably trying to square up to his equally chunky Korean counterpart during the ensuing handbags. This was exactly what a Port v Muangthong game should be all about and the fans were absolutely lapping it up.

 

Heberty feigns injury; stretcher bearers dump him right in front of Zone C; gets welcome he deserves (pic by Nig Dammusig)

 

Port had one more chance on 88 minutes, with Arthit (29) heading over at the far post when it would’ve been easier to score, but thanks to a combination of canny game management, balls to the wall defending and increasingly desperate shithousery (Heberty, take a bow), the visitors held on for an ill-deserved win. Despite the result, we all partied in the Sandpit like we’d won the league with the result that I have now almost completely lost my voice. I’m exhausted just writing about it, and have lost all feeling in my middle finger (thanks Prasit).

So a first defeat in 6 games for Port but a performance that deserved much better. But for that insane 7 minutes at the start of the second half they defended superbly, attacked relentlessly and bossed the midfield, and really should be celebrating 3 points now. Once again we’re left ruing a lack of streetwiseness, and the absence of some really big, nasty exponents of the footballing dark arts, though Kim showed flashes of it in the game’s later stages. Muangthong played the old Ali rope-a-dope game to perfection, and left Port with just a little bit too much to do in the last 35 minutes, but Port will certainly play worse than this and win.

 

Panpanpong Fanclub AGM

 

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match: Sergio Suarez

Whilst this was a good Port performance, there weren’t many standout individuals. Apart from that crazy 7 minutes, Rochela & Dolah had Heberty & Jaja in their pockets (and you’d need pretty big 1970s flares to find a pocket big enough for the latter), and Kim had his best game at the PAT so far.

But the standout man for me was Suarez. There’s nothing the Spaniard loves more than a sense of injustice and trying to drag his team back into the game, and the way he set about Muangthong in the second half was a joy to behold. Yes, as usual he gave the ball away far more than a player of his ability should, but when you’re playing at such a pitch of intensity you can’t always place passes on a sixpence (or a 1-baht). With just a bit more luck he’d have had a hat-trick and an assist to his name.

 

Sandpit Songs of the Season: Week 18 – Muangthong Utd

 

Ah Muangthong we meet again. Choosing songs for this fixture is probably easier than any other. Whilst it’s hard to find fitting songs for, say, Suphanburi or Sukhothai, when it comes to our old friends from the Ballardian wastelands of northern Bangkok we’re spoilt for choice.

For the away fixture I picked the rather obvious choice of ‘Scum’ by Nick Cave. This time round the song is a lot cheesier but no less appropriate, as we head back to the early 90s for a bit of grunge-lite vitriol from the long forgotten Ugly Kid Joe…

Port FC vs Muangthong: The View from the (Empty) Away End

 

With North and South Korean relations starting to thaw, we decided that it was time to follow their example and reach a truce, albeit temporary, with the auld enemy. So I pulled off my helmet, put down my weapon and strode out into no man’s land, where I met Muangthong fan and occasional English language correspondent Gian Chansrichawla, to get his thoughts on Saturday’s hotly anticipated clash at the PAT…


Tell us the story of MTU’s season so far. Are you happy or unhappy with the way it’s gone?

Muangthong’s 2018 season was always going to be incredibly difficult. Losing Theerathon, Teerasil and Kawin has decimated the spine of the team, and we have massively regressed from the peaks we hit during the start of Totchtawan’s second season.

We have finally emerged from mid-table with the appointment of Radovan Curcic, but I don’t think he can overturn the massive lead that Buriram and Bangkok United have at the top of the table.

Seeing the inner workings of the club for the first time makes the experience of this season totally incomparable to the previous ones. I disagree with some of the players we’ve sold and some that we’ve signed, but overall I wouldn’t call the campaign a disaster.

 

You’re one of 10 clubs to change coach so far this season. Has the change helped?

I think our situation is slightly different than the other nine teams. The club hierarchy wanted to keep Totchtawan, who brought stability to the club. Whether he “jumped before he was pushed” or simply didn’t think he could rebuild the squad after the mass exodus during the off-season will probably remain a mystery.

We stuck with caretaker coach Santi Chaiyaphuak for a while, which I think was a good decision. He experimented tactically and tried to freshen things up, but his inexperience showed and he wasn’t able to fully exert his authority over the team.

Radovan Curcic’s arrival has brought new hope to the team. He clearly sees Muangthong as a stepping stone in his career and has publicly mentioned how he hopes to follow in the footsteps of Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic, who won the Thai League with Muangthong in 2012. We don’t have the best style in the league, but we are certainly playing with more discipline, which seems like the natural product of having a giant Yugoslav staring you down from the touchline.

The best part of having him has been the three-way translation that goes on in the press-room, from Serbian to English courtesy of Radovan’s assistant, then from English to Thai from Santi. Seeing words being slowly lost in translation is at least amusing if not decidedly worrying.

 

Which players should we be looking out for? Who’s most likely to do the damage?

Heberty dropping deep and Jaja running in behind has been the clutch for Muangthong this campaign. It’s predictable but almost unstoppable. Additionally, Tristan Do has been moved from right-back to right-wing under Radovan, and has been incredibly effective.

 

And which players are your weak links?

Our defense has been atrocious all season, and I don’t expect it to get better unless we make some major signings. I’m not a big fan of Charyl Chappuis but he is supposedly a good footballer so we’ll just leave it at that.

 

Where do you think MTU will finish in the league?

I think where we are now, in fourth place, is where we will end up. I don’t see us closing the gap on either of the top two, and Port just have too much firepower. Maybe Radovan will pleasantly surprise me, but as of now, I don’t see that happening.

 

How do you rate this 2018 Port team? Which players are you most worried about?

Port are fantastic to watch this year, and I think they could have a very strong finish in the league. With a stronger defense, they could be genuine title competitors this term.

I really worry about the three attacking midfielders Nurul, Pakorn, and Suarez. Seeing how Sukhothai tore us apart in our last home game, I don’t want to think about how much fun these guys are going to have on Saturday. It could genuinely end up being a  knife-through-butter situation, which is something I don’t want to think about.

 

Port v MTU is probably the most intense rivalry in Thai football, and the atmosphere at the PAT on Saturday will be pretty insane. Do you think the MTU players will be intimidated? And do you agree with the decision to ban away fans this season?

Some of the players might be affected, particularly those in defensive positions. Small mistakes will get amplified in that cauldron, which could definitely harm certain players. I think the atmosphere would be greatly elevated with a vibrant away section, but I also understand the safety risk involved. It may come at the detriment to the players, but an intangible factor going against us is a far better alternative to a points deduction.

 

Finally, give us your score prediction.

Port’s attack is fantastic and I think Heberty and Jaja will have to pull us out of a sticky situation again. I’ll go with a 2-2 draw.

 

Big thanks to Gian for his contribution! You can read Dave’s somewhat less balanced, some might say unhinged, preview here

 

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Your Name’s Not Down, You’re Not Coming In: Port FC vs Muangthong Utd Preview

 

Port take on another team on Saturday, with both coming into the game in absolutely flying form. Port you don’t need telling about I imagine – needless to say 5 straight wins have seen an unusual sense of buoyancy, free from crisis or a sense of impending implosion. The other team have themselves constructed (probably by fluke or bribe) a 3 match unbeaten streak in which they have notched 10 goals, and came from 3-1 down to secure a 4-3 win against unstable fence owners Sukhothai. This comparatively inferior winning run to our own shining path of victories followed a total 4-0 drubbing by the farmhands out at Buriram.

So before we bathe in adulation of Port players and try to figure out what tactical nuances Jadet the Hutt (I can say that, I’m fat too) will employ on the battlefield, I suppose we should take a minute or two to consider the opposition.

The Opposition

10 goals in three games is no mean feat for a bunch of triers from the conference hub of north Bangkok. Obviously it pales into insignificance against Port’s blitzkrieg of…er…10 goals in three games, although ours will certainly have all been a result of free-flowing football played with gay abandon, whereas they probably pinged them in off the goalkeeper’s arse after a goalmouth scramble, or some hopeful toe poke or some other such nonsense.

I thought I’d approach a quick rundown of this other team by way of attack, defence, weaknesses, tactics and ‘any other business’, before then moving on to Port.

Attack

Heberty Fernandes De Andrade (7) is the man of the moment for the under-the-flyover, corrugated-tin shack dwellers, bagging an outrageous – yet certainly undeserved – 16 goals in 19 games. He probably nicked half of them from his team mates as the ball was rolling over the line anyway. See how flukey he was with his efforts here (https://youtu.be/BbjIqeTDeLE?t=82) and here (https://youtu.be/BbjIqeTDeLE?t=108). He’s also chipped in with 7 assists. The boy from Brazil or Timor, depending on which fake baptism documents you wish to believe (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heberty_Fernandes_de_Andrade#Eligibility_Controversy ), is undoubtedly the danger man for Rochela to have in his pocket for this game.

 

 

Thankfully the Timorese wannabe isn’t really being ably assisted by anyone; you need to go a long way down the goals tally before you’ll find Do (19) (6 goals; 5 assists), Jaja (50) (4 goals; 1 assist) and Samphaodi (4 goals; 0 assists) who are the other main ‘threats’. Admittedly, Samphaodi has got his 4 in 8 games but injured at the moment. Haha! So, do we just need to keep ol’ Hebbers quiet?

Tristan Do (19), the French-Thai right winger, has provided much of the impetus and creative menace for the team we play on Saturday. He’s certainly one to contain and we need to press his defensive duties into action more than allow him to release his attacking capabilities. Somewhat confusingly he is listed as a right back, but this team’s line ups show that this is patently not the position he’s been put into lately.

Looking amongst the rest of the squad, danger does not seemingly lurk in the shadows.

Defence

These lot shipped goals early on in the season, and are still figuring out how to plug leaks. Sukhothai put three past them at the Rusty Tin Shed only 3 weeks ago. Who can forget that Prachuap game when they were hit for six? They also had an affinity for the 2-2 draw which they seem to have shaken off lately. Seven goals against in the last 4 games suggests a defence that is still not at its peak, should they actually have a peak to find. Bosko and Suarez may be in for rich pickings.

One of their regular centre backs – Promrak – is suspended for this game having got himself sent off inside 15 minutes of the game against Pattaya. I can only assume some VD-riddled skank from the night before showed up and he had to leg it posthaste (is that libel editor?), as there is no video evidence of the game to be found. His card was nominally for violent conduct.

Tactics

They tend to flip-flop between 4-5-1 and a more traditional 4-3-3, and much like a 70 year old retiree flip-flops between hating continental Europe or dark-skinned folk, they can’t seem to settle on one or the other. Even the 4-5-1 could be a 4-3-3 depending on where you draw the line. In short if they come to attack you will see Do and Thinjom pushed on, and if they come defensively (fnarr, fnarr) then you will see one or both of Yooyen and Chappuis dropped back from centre midfield to defensive midfield.

Weaknesses

Weighing up the above comments it looks on paper that their weaknesses are an over-reliance on Heberty and Do, and an inability to shore up their defence with any consistency. Although when someone has put away 16 absolute, undeniable flukes, you can nearly be forgiven for relying on him. Providing Port can shackle Heberty, and Kolossal Kev™ and Nurul can keep Do pressed back down that flank, I feel we are in with a good shout of seeing victory.

Likely line up, assuming some sort of 4-5-1

GK: Padungchok

Def (L-R): Notchalya, Auyamo, Inthanee, Plainum

Mid (L-R): Panthong, Yooyen, Chappuis, Thinjom, Do

Att: Heberty

It’s worth noting than Thinjom has played across all midfield positions except right-wing in recent weeks.

Any Other Business

Let’s tackle it. This is them lot. This is the biggest grudge match in Thai football by some distance. The voluntary ‘stay away’ by away fans on both sides robs Thailand of one of its most boisterous and colourful nights. Sure, PAT will still be rocking, but who can we gloat at and gesture to as Bosko dances his way through the massed ranks of utter c*nts (dear editor, you are lucky it took this long) to leather the ball into the top right corner to cap a glorious victory? Well, it will now all be directed at the players.

Given the…ahem…’heritage’ of the game, what would it take for one of those players to do something stupid (or measured) to incite reaction from the home crowd? We are going to have to police ourselves seeing as the Royal Thai Police cannot give a single flying f*ck about deploying their crowd control unit in any meaningful way.

The longer this frankly ridiculous lack of away fans goes on, the longer it takes for the pressure to mount and the release, when it eventually happens, will only be greater. You see it the world over when two old enemies meet after time apart. By ducking their responsibilities for an extended period of time, the authorities (in which I include the Police, FAT, and – to some extent – fan representatives) are only exacerbating the eventual problem.

Anyway, off the soapbox now, and to look at the kings of Khlong Toei.

Port Lineup

Is there a need to change anything? Five wins on the bounce, a tight defence, goal-happy strikers. It’s almost impossible to see Jadet swapping anyone out, despite individual performances against Air Force. So bollocks to it. I can’t be arsed to trawl through all our players and heap praise upon praise on them (see recent articles ad nauseum).

What I will say is that Kim and Siwakorn need to pull up their socks a touch in order to make midfield a tough place for Chappuis et al. Kevin might have a need to be a little more defensive given Do’s threat, although as previously noted, with Nurul running the same flank I think the other team will have their hands full. Bosko and/or Suarez will certainly find the net, with a depleted central defence hopefully being run ragged.

Rochela and Dolah need to be alert to anything Heberty tries on and keep a lid on secondary threats wherever they may emerge from given the lack of likely candidates.

Likely Port Lineup

 

 

 

 

Pangwatch

Personally I’d love to see her in her iridescent spangly jeans again, they really caught the eye on that steamy night against whoever it was. I forget, as I was too busy looking longingly across to the soul of the club perched like a bird of paradise on the end of the bench. This coupled with a sheer white blouse perhaps. Her hair loose, with a shine that confirms both her fine health and burning inner fire. Divine. However, this is likely to be a blood and thunder encounter and she will want to look like she means business. If I was to dare second-guess our most benign and splendid maharishi, I believe she will opt for a pastel tracksuit, possibly eggshell blue or baby pink, with a filigree baseball cap – simultaneously implying “I’m hard me, but you can feel my feminine warmth before I smash this plant pot over your head, you mug”. Footwear – not a night for heels, probably all white K-Swiss.

A prediction to finish with

We’ll win 3-1, get thoroughly smashed on Leos and roll home in the early morning.

 

Port FC vs Muangthong Utd, Saturday 9 June, 17:45 at the PAT. If you can’t make it, the game will be shown on True4U.