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A Season In The Sun Or Another False Dawn? Port FC vs. Pattaya Utd, 11 Feb 2018

 

Anticipation (n): A feeling of excitement about something which is going to happen.

Delusional (adj): characterized by, or holding idiosyncratic beliefs or impressions that are contradicted by reality or rational argument, typically as a symptom of mental disorder.

 


 

Anyone who has followed Port over the past few seasons will recognize both states of mind, and, as the new season approaches, will no doubt be embracing the first, while waiting anxiously for the alternative to rapidly kick-in. You have to be mental to follow Port at times.

And, to be honest, there does seem something not quite right about the coming season. It all started when news of Port’s new signings filtered through. Boskovic? Didn’t he score 38 goals last season for Bangkok Utd, the same Utd who stuck 11 goals past us without breaking sweat? Then, to follow: an imperious Korean midfielder, a 2010 AFC Champions League winner to boot. More impressive signings followed, amongst them, Nurul, a budding Thai International winger. Then, this week, came the bombshell; we had pinched Kevin Deeromram right from underneath the noses of the MuangScum to solve our problem left-back slot. What started off as a worrying trend had become a full-blown epidemic.

 

Kevin Deeromram

 

Even more significant for denizens of Zone B, we now have a ready-made song to replace the popular, and ever so catchy, “Gen-ki Na-ga-sa-ko.” This new one is inspired by a 1963 Crystals hit, ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’. Sometimes it pays to be old.

 


 

Dee Rom Rom, Ram, Ram, Dee Rom Rom Ram

 

Saw him on a Sunday; my heart missed a rev

Dee Rom Rom, Ram, Ram, De Rom Rom Ram

Someboy told me that his name was Kev

Dee Rom Rom, Ram, Ram, Dee Rom Rom Ram

 

Yeh, his name was Kev,

Yeh, and it rhymes with Trev

He said F**k Off Muang Thong

Dee Rom Rom, Ram Ram, De Rom Rom Ram.

 

It needs a bit of work. Here’s the original.

 


 

Then, with Port in the throes of building up a decent team, it got really weird. The fixtures for the whole season were released in one go. Altogether. At once. February to October, with seemingly minimal interruptions. 7, A4 size pages. No shit.

Imagining this was all a bad dream, I wandered down to Port for a couple of friendlies and I was IMPRESSED. For the first time, in my now nine years as a Port fan, I thought I might be witnessing something special. This was confirmed this morning with a Bangkok Post article proclaiming Port as potential title contenders. Next thing we know, the season tickets and new strip will be available for collection on Sunday!

And this set me thinking about what this might mean for me, and my fellow Sandpit correspondents.

 

WTF are we going to write about now that we might actually be good?

 

Will our pens be dipped in sickly honey rather than essence of deadly nightshade? Will our bitter barbs become sycophantic superlatives? Surely, they couldn’t do it to us. Then I noticed that Tana was still on the teamlist, at 11. That’s not 99, in numerical pecking order somewhere down the Sukhumvit Road towards the Cambodian border, but 11, about as close to the first 11 that 11 can get. And then it dawned on me; this was Madame Pang’s comic gift to the Sandpit. The venerable bard, Shakespeare, had moments of comic relief in his tensest dramas, so why shouldn’t we? Tana could be the Falstaff to Rochella’s Prince Hal, the Malvolio to Boscovic’s Duke Orsino. He might even take to the pitch in a pair of yellow stockings or one of those floppy hats with bells on to confirm the analogy.  When we are 6-0 up against Muang Thong in yet another, crushing, processional victory and yawns are spreading across Zone B like a blanket of fog, on will come Tana to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and all will once again be well in Klong Toey. Pencils sharpened, the words will flow in a venomous stream of invective. So, to the game.

 

Things That Have Impressed Me

 

Dragan Boscovic has added pace and power and will be a go-to man to relieve pressure through the occasional long ball, expertly delivered by the impressive, classy Kim.  Josimar was at his best with his back to the goal, spreading it wide and getting in the middle to knock in the resultant cross (sometimes). ‘For a big man’, Boskovic is quick and will chase the ball down, at the same time scaring the shit out of most Thai defenders, as he did with Bangkok Utd. Backing him up will be Suarez and Siwakorn, who bring different strengths to the game, but both looked sharp pre-season, with Suarez always capable of goals.

 

Dragan Boskovic

 

On the flanks, Nurul (and Terens) look tasty, whilst I confess a growing admiration for Pakorn, now that he has improved his decision-making. I hope I’m not being delusional when I say that I think we will score goals.

 

Pakorn and Nurul

 

At the back, Worawut is in mostly by default; the full backs and Rochela pick themselves, while I feel Todsapol is solid on the ground and in the air and can sneak a goal at set-pieces.

So, my preferred starting eleven in 4-2-3-1 formation is:

 

 

Dolah, Terens, Bodin amongst the subs.

 

The Dolphins

 

Our opponents, Pattaya Utd, enjoyed an excellent 2nd season back in TI finishing a respectable 8th, just one place above Port after losing only 3 games of the final 17, the most memorable from our point of view being our ‘phoenix from the ashes’ 5-2 victory heralding Jadet’s welcome return.

Pattaya’s Sandpit correspondent Robin Lennon, optimistically predicts a top six finish, an accomplishment widely associated with Port in these heady, pre-season days. A key battle will no doubt be between the Dolphins’ twin Brazilian strikers Lukian and Rafinha and Todsapol/Rochela. The Samba strikers are a bit of an unknown quantity even for Pattaya fans but they are Brazilians for Chrissakes so it’s sure to be fun. Siwakorn’s battle with Peeradol Chamratsamee, who after a 6-way swap period with Muang Thong is now a Dolphin player, should also be interesting. Boscovic’s tussle with the Dolphins’ Korean captain, Lee Won-yeong could be bruising.

 

Lukian (9) and Rafinha (10)

 

This will be my eighth full season as a Port fan and the excitement as match day approaches never really diminishes. Last year I wrote a personal reflection on the opening day and I am hoping this year will be much the same, apart from the result!

 


 

The match will be shown live on True 4U and True Sport HD2 at 19:00 on Sunday 11 February, 2018. For those who can’t make it to PAT Stadium, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match on a big screen with sound if you ask them nicely. Mention the Sandpit or wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount. For those who are coming along, remember to get there early as we’re expecting a full house!

 

Can Port Score in Sin City? Pattaya Utd vs. Port FC, 24 September 2017

 

Port return to action on Sunday away against Pattaya United, one of the form teams in the country. Port will be desperately hoping for the famed ‘new manager bounce’, although I’m not sure if that applies as Jadet never left in the first place! The big man’s beaming smile has been the subject of many hilarious memes over the last couple of months, while Zico has repeatedly failed to find his feet at PAT Stadium. With Zico having resigned as promised after the home defeat to Chonburi, Jadet is now back in the hot-seat and we will likely see that care-free semi-retired grin he has been sporting turn more serious, as he tries to push a stalling Port side back up the table. That will not be an easy task against Sunday’s opponents, though.

 

 

Pattaya Utd

Players to Watch

 

Wellington Priori (6) is a tall, rangy central midfielder who had a superb game against Port in the first leg of the season. Strong in the tackle and skillful on the ball, Wellington had it all his way against Port’s diminutive midfield. If Port are going to get the better of Pattaya this time out, thwarting the big Brazilian should be the first order of business.

The Serbs up front. Milos Stojanovic (18) has scored 11 goals and provided 6 assists in 2017. There’s not much to say about him other than he’s very good in the air, and has a half decent shot on him. Most of his goals have come from headers, and most of his assists from knock-downs to his attacking midfielders. I assume. Stats for that kind of thing don’t exist in Thai football, but I would be shocked if it wasn’t the case. His partner in crime – new arrival Aleksander Jevtic (30) – is the same nationality, the same age and just a few centimeters shorter than his teammate. Did Pattaya just try to sign the closest thing they could to Stojanovic? Probably. He’s scored 3 in 6 since arriving, a similar scoring rate to… yeah, you get the picture.

 

Wellington, Stojanovic and Jevtic

 

Picha U-Tra (37) was Port’s tormentor in chief in the 2-0 defeat at PAT Stadium. I’d never heard of this little attacking midfielder before 2017, but he announced himself on the big stage with a brace against Port, before becoming a mainstay in the Thai under 23 team which won the SEA Games last month. He bagged a couple of important goals, too. Picha is very much from the Park Ji-Sung school of attacking midfield. Not particularly skillful or creative, but a constant thorn in the side, and he just never bloody stops running. His two second half goals against Port underline how much he likes to harass tiring defenders in the closing stages of the game. Port’s rear guard must stay alert for the full 90 minutes with Picha around.

Peeradon Chamratsamee (8) is another youngish Thai player to have had a break-through year in 2017. Having had a successful loan spell at Pattaya in 2015 he returned to parent club Muangthong in 2016 where he kicked his heels for a year, before Pattaya secured the 24 year old once again in 2017. Since moving back to the Blue Dolphins, Peeradon has notched 6 goals, 2 assists and even a couple of call ups to the full National Team. Well, he is technically still a Muangthong player after all! With Picha providing the running, Peeradon provides a bit of quality in central midfield.

 

Picha and Peeradon

 

Mongkol Tossakrai (9), as we reported in the mid-season transfer window, was widely thought to have agreed a move to Port, but changed his mind at the last minute and moved to Pattaya instead. Maybe it was the pristine beaches and the promise of a quiet, tranquil life by the sea that persuaded him. Regardless, Mongkol has started all 6 games since his arrival on the coast, including a goal on his debut. Full disclosure, it was 1 of 9 that Pattaya put past Super Power, so shouldn’t really count. Whilst his personal stats haven’t been anything to write home about, Pattaya have enjoyed a stellar run of form since the national team star arrived, scoring 19 goals and conceding just 4. Maybe he knew what he was doing when he spurned Port after all…

I wanted to mention Surachet Ngamtip (77), because he was another player who was on the verge of signing on the dotted line at Port, before moving to Pattaya. Whilst the 26 year old looked like a good signing on paper, apparently Port turned him down based on his medical results. Wait, Port do medicals?! Well, after 4 appearances Surachet suffered a meniscal laceration (or in English, he knackered his knee) and spent the better part of 3 months on the sidelines. The upshot of this was that 6 months later Port ended up signing promising youngster Yossawat (28) from Buriram in his position instead. So… Port made a sensible transfer decision? Knock me down with a feather. Surachet could still make an appearance on Sunday, but he certainly hasn’t had the impact he or Pattaya would have wanted this season.

 

Wellington, Surachet and Mongkol

 

Form

 

Put simply, Pattaya are on fire right now. So much fire that one might even call it a red-light district. 5 league wins from 6 and a goal difference of +16 in the second leg of the season mean that The Blue Dolphins have leaped far ahead of Port in the table. A routine home victory against Not-So-Super Power was followed by a 2-0 win away at Sisaket, where Port discovered that 2 goal leads are not so easy to hang on to. 3-0 wins against Buri’s Ratcha (home) and Suphan (away) rounded off a barn-storming July, before Pattaya came storming back from the break, ending Bangkok Utd’s winning run by condemning them to a 1-0 defeat. Pattaya stuttered a little last week, drawing 2-2 with Navy on the weekend, before Honda held them to a 0-0 draw on Wednesday. Nevertheless, over the last 7 games, this is the second best team in the league versus the second worst.

 

Port

Starting XI – Jadet’s Right Hand Men

 

With Nitipong seeing red against Chonburi and Pakorn (9) hobbling around on crutches after going off injured, Jadet has a selection dilemma on the right hand side.

Last time Port started with a right winger who wasn’t Pakorn, they slumped to a 5-1 loss against Honda, with the one goal coming from substitute… yep, Pakorn. Oh dear. That day, Meechok (20) came in at right back, with Nitipong (34) playing on the wing. Ah. So, on to plan C, then.

It seems most likely that Jadet will shift Genki (18) over to the right, with either Tana (99), Jetjinn (51) or Ekkapoom (8) on the left. Having been frozen out under Zico, Port’s crowd favourite Ekkapoom must be absolutely dying for a run-out!

A return to action for young right back Meechok seems certain, but who Jadet picks on the left is anybody’s guess. I can see the value of bringing in Ekkapoom, whose energy and direct play might be just what Port need to lift their spirits after their horrific run of form. Jetjinn has also looked useful going forward, but having not seen him play on the wing yet, it’s tough to say if he’s in with a shout. What I can’t see the value in is any game time whatsoever for Tana. Ergo, he will almost certainly be the man that Pang, I mean Jadet, turns to.

In other areas of the pitch, it will be interesting to see if Jadet brings Adisorn (13) back in to midfield in favour of Pummared (41). Pummared has been playing pretty well, but Jadet could hardly be blamed for trying to return to the winning formula that served him well in the first half of the season. That will probably also mean that Panpapong (19) keeps his place on the left once again, with Yossawat (28) having to settle for picking splinters out of his arse on the bench. Any other changes are unlikely, with Port’s squad offering the manager very little in the way of options.

 

Predicted Starting XI

 

 

The match will be shown live on True Sport 6 at 19:00 on Sunday 24 September, 2017. For those who can’t make it to Dolphin Stadium, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will be showing the match on a big screen with sound.

 

MATCH REPORT: Port FC 3-1 Pattaya United

 

Port secured a comfortable 3 – 1 win against Pattaya United, thanks to a clinical first half performance. New signing Kaluderovic looked the business, notching his first two goals on his debut. Pattaya struck back, before Genki added a third goal late in the first half to seal Port’s second consecutive friendly victory against T1 opponents.

Port started with Worawut (36) in goal, and the same back four that has started the last few friendlies: Rochela (22), Dolah (4), Meechok (20) and Panpanpong (19). Suarez (15) played in an advanced role just behind striker Kaluderovic (10), with Siwakorn (16) and Tatchanon (27) anchoring the midfield. Pakorn (9) played on the right wing, and Genki (18) on the left.

Pattaya looked lively in the early going, but had no real bite to their attack. Rochela and Dolah were fairly busy, but did what was asked of them with relative ease.

20 year old new signing Tatchanon had his best game to date at the base of the midfield, keeping the ball moving without ever looking like losing possession, and spreading the play with a couple of excellent long balls out to the flanks.

The even younger Meechok was also a revelation down the right. At times in the first half, the right back seemed to be playing a more advanced role than right winger Pakorn, so it was no surprise when his good work led to the opening goal. Meechok’s run down the right was expertly picked out by a lofted Siwakorn pass, and the right back played the ball across the six yard box where Kaluderovic swept home with ease from close range.

Spot the scoreboard #fail

Just a few minutes later, the same three combined to score a second. Meechok, pressing high up the pitch, intercepted a pass in midfield and the ball broke to Siwakorn who played a well-weighted through-ball for Kaluderovic to run on to. The Serbian made no mistake with a classy outside-of-the-boot finish to make it 2 debut goals and 2-0 to Port. Whilst neither goal was particularly special, the way they were taken seemed effortless. We don’t want to jinx it, but this might be the first time since the legendary Leandro that Port have had a foreign striker who makes scoring goals look easy!

Pattaya soon got themselves back in to the game, though. After a fortuitous richochet on the edge of the area, a Pattaya forward reacted quicker than the Port defence and managed to force the ball past an onrushing Worawut to bring Pattaya back within a goal.

Port were still playing the better football of the two sides, though, so it was probably a fair reflection of the first half that they went in 3-1 up. Kaluderovic was once again involved, this time turning well under pressure in the middle of the park before releasing Suarez down the left with a pinpoint pass. Suarez could easily have gone for goal himself, but unselfishly squared the ball to Genki who got ahead of his marker to score the tap-in.

It was an important goal for the Japanese player, who few have been expecting to stay with Port in 2017. Nevertheless, with less than a month to go he finds himself starting with Jadet’s first choice side, whilst no rumours of an AFC replacement are anywhere to be seen. It’s looking increasingly likely that Genki could retain his place in the squad, although there is of course still time for that to change.

The liveliest player of an otherwise pretty dour second half was Port’s other left winger, Ekkapoom (8). Port, once again, brought out an almost entirely different XI. Rattanai (17) came on in goal, and Nitipong (34), Anisong (31) and Piyachart (23) joined Dolah – the only player to stay out – in defence. Wanchalerm (35) and Piyachat (28) played in central midfield, with Ekkapoom wide left and Maranhao (29) wide right. Wuttichai (14) partnered (5) Tana, playing his first game after a lengthy spell out injured, in a conventional front two.

Whilst the two strikers both looked a little off the pace, the wingers looked busy and dangerous. Ekkapoom and Maranhao both hit the post after creating excellent chances for themselves, but neither could add to Port’s lead.

Midway trough the second period, left back Piyachart picked up a knock and was replaced by Suchon (11), but the substitution that got everyone talking was the introduction of Pinyo (21) late on in the half. Pinyo was injured for almost the whole of last season, but now finally seems to be getting an opportunity to prove his fitness. He came on for Ekkapoom in the 80th minute, and looked enthusiastic, although understandably short of match-sharpness.

Little else of interest happened in the second half, meaning Port claimed another confidence boosting victory against top-tier opposition. If they can secure another victory against Nakhon Ratchasima on Sunday, Port will be heading in to their opening game of the season against Rachaburi full of belief that they can cause an upset.