Saturday, June 27, 2009


Thai Port v Chonburi 1-2

They say that even the greatest journeys start with just a single step. Well, on Saturday, mine started with a lot of sitting around and looking anxiously at my watch. The normally reliable supporter’s club coach had failed to show at the designated time of 1:00pm and by 2:45pm the hastily arranged alternatives still hadn’t materialised. I was just about to revert to PlanB, a couple of hours in the pub followed by SriRacha v Osotspa, when two mini-buses came screeching around the corner. With a great deal of relief we all scrambled aboard and were finally off on our travels. Next stop, the hitherto unexplored grandeur of the PAT Stadium, Klong Tuey.

Apart from being grilled by a visiting journo from Jakarta, and swapping horror stories of dismal away days, the trip was fairly un-eventful but rather pleasant. On arrival at our destination I had plenty of time to spare before kick off so headed for the Port Authority club shop and cafe. What a smashing little facility this is. A brand new building stocked to the rafters with good quality merchandise and staffed by very friendly and helpful people: one gripe, costing more than a replica shirt I thought the scarves were ridiculously over-priced. There was even the added attraction of a topless PAT fan standing in the corner. You can always expect the unexpected in Thailand but I was ill prepared for the bare torso of a pasty Scouser greeting me as I walked through the door! Once I’d recovered my composure and made my purchase (a TPA home shirt, since you ask) I felt it prudent to make my way to the ground as I could see that the stands were quickly filling up.

The throng outside the stadium was reminiscent of an old fashioned English crowd and childhood memories were further evoked when I took my place on the terraces. The Port Authority of Thailand Stadium is a tight little ground with the fans close to the pitch. Just the sort of environment I’d grown up watching football in. The famed “temporary” stand behind the goal to my left was already packed with home and away fans and the other two permanent stands were also pretty full. There was a real buzz about the place as everyone prepared for the match to start. Both sets of supporters were in good voice and a great roar greeted the two teams as they entered the field. So frantic was the opening that I completely missed the kick off and only realised that the match was under way when I heard the home support screaming for a free kick.

The pace was fairly unrelenting as the game swayed first one way and then the other with both teams having, and wasting, a few opportunities to score. The deadlock was broken midway through the first half when the diminutive Pipob rose unchallenged to nod home a trademark Arthit free kick. As “Mo” wheeled away to celebrate with the visiting fans gathered behind the goal the home defenders stood looking at each other in the same pose that they had adopted when the ball had been swung into the box.

With the home crowd momentarily silenced, Chonburi seized the initiative and went in search of a second ; Kone heading tamely straight at the keeper from about eight yards out. However, it wasn’t long before the Port players responded by launching a series of threatening attacks of their own – threatening, that is, until they caught sight of the goalposts. It seemed like a case of same old, same old as a lack of composure from the forwards continued to let them down after some pretty impressive approach play. Although, to be fair, they did hit the woodwork and force Kosin to claw away a speculative cross come shot during this spell. But, when the half time whistle blew, the visitors were still a goal to the good and l munched on my imaginery Wagon Wheel feeling fairly contented.

The second half picked up where the first had left off with both teams trying to pass the ball and get it forward quickly. Some of the flowing football that has been missing from Chonburi’s recent games had returned and Kone was having one of his better days. In midfield, Adul was his usual industrious self and revelling in the fact that he’d been allowed to start (Zico must read my reports). TPA were playing some pretty tidy stuff themselves and it came as no particular surprise when they equalised. A hopeful long ball sent panic through the Chonburi back line and, as the defenders dithered, a cross was whipped in from the right to be turned in by a the on rushing Pipat.

With just over thirty minutes left the game was now wide open and events on the field seemed to mirror themselves – Chonburi hit the post, TPA hit the post. Chonburi had a certain penalty appeal turned down, TPA had a certain penalty appeal turned down. Chonburi scored a second, TPA didn’t. And the visitors held out for a hard fought victory. In all honesty I couldn’t have complained if the match had ended level. TPA certainly gave as good as they got and if it hadn’t have been for some silliness at the end when their keeper tripped up the ref in the opposing penalty area they would have been able to claim the moral high ground as well because, once again (shakes head in embarrassment) we resorted to trotting out the stretcher at every possible opportunity. (If you’re still reading, Zico, please, please, please stop this irritating tactic now!!)

Overall it was a good day out. A rollicking good game. Two passionate groups of supporters getting behind their teams and (sorry, Marco) the right result. So, at the halfway stage The Sharks find themselves at the top of the pile. A big cup came on Tuesday and then a break from domestic duties but no rest for a lot of the players as they join up with the national squad for more training. We’ll have to find a bit more consistency in the second half of the season if we want to regain our title. We certainly have the personnel but do we have the bottle?

Stretcher Count
(Oh, if I must!) TPA 0 Chonburi 6 (Six)

Ref Watch
He seemed a bit card happy and, along with his assistants he failed to give two cast iron penalties. He must have got the shock of his life when the home goalkeeper tripped him up in the Chonburi area just before full time!

Cheers to Dale for this!

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