Getting in the mood for tonight's game. (photo credit: Go2 Photo Stock)
So, it's Chonburi at home and a fixture from last year that has painful memories?
I've often referred to it as the game that changed our season. The record books show that we won the match 1-0 and in truth, we battered Chonburi that evening. However, we lost two crucial players in Captain Peeradol and goalkeeper Pathiwat to long-term injuries (both were taken to hospital in separate ambulances) and our season seemed to go downhill from there.
How are Chonburi doing this season?
Chonburi are currently 7th in the premier league, four places above Samut Prakan, and with three points more. Their 13 games in this campaign have yielded six wins, six defeats and a solitary draw.
They don't travel particularly well. The Sharks have picked up just four points from six away games, and their four defeats on the road include a 4-0 thumping at Buriram as well as a 1-0 reverse at struggling PT Prachuap.
Let me turn, as usual, to one of my great friends and Chonburi fanatic, Dale Farrington. How would Dale summarize Chonburi's season so far?
"It's been pretty much as I expected. We're an adequate mid-table team who occasionally hit the heights of mediocrity. We've had a couple of decent results in the league - the wins over Bangkok Utd and Ratchaburi - and have overcome two tricky FA Cup ties against lower league opposition, but have struggled to find any sort of consistency.
It's hard to put my finger on exactly where it's all going wrong. However I do feel that many of our players aren't good enough and the coach appears to lack any real plan or have much idea of the style of play he wants us to adopt. We are roughly where we deserve to be.
In addition, I feel I can't ignore the astonishing decision to allow striker Teeratep Winothai to miss a league match - away at BG Pathum Utd - in order to prepare for a celebrity boxing match. To my mind, this is absolutely ridiculous. He's a full time professional footballer for Chonburi FC - on a decent wage - and that's where his loyalties lie.
I've no problem with him doing whatever he wants in his spare time - within reason! - but no way should he be absent from football matches in order to self promote - and risk injury - like this. The fact the club revelled in his eventual victory and plastered photos all over social media, just rubbed salt into the wounds for me.
They need to take a good hard look at themselves. It's hard to take them seriously after this. And don't get me started on the official Twitter feed..!"
Thanks Dale. Yes, I'd forgotten about the celebrity boxing match. Even by Thai league standards, where anything can happen, that was hard to believe. And yet on Twitter, it felt like Thais fans really didn't feel there was anything wrong with it. Amazing!
Care to make a score prediction?
I'm confident about this one. A 2-1 win to Samut Prakan, which would actually take us above Chonburi in the table.
Let's get straight to the match action
A disappointing attendance of just 1,345 (well below the 50% capacity allowance) saw this one, and the many fans that arrived late for kick off missed a bright start from the visitors, playing in a smart all-white strip reminiscent of Leeds United in the 1970s. With barely a minute on the clock, Chonburi striker, Caion, takes advantage of a hesitant Jarifovic, but with just the keeper to beat, puts his shot wide. Caion looks up to the heavens; he knows what a glorious chance that was. At the other end, Teerapon Yoyei is denied by an outstretched hand in what became a lively opening ten minutes.
Another latecomer to the W2 stand was Mrs Tardelli and her two young children, but in truth they had timed things perfectly, just in time to see hubby score the opening goal of the evening. Ernesto does well to outwit two Chonburi defenders on the left flank and set up Tardelli, whose delightful swivel turn and shot applies the finishing touch.
Midway through the half, Chonburi score the second of what would be three disallowed goals on the night. All three decisions go upstairs to the VAR room but the linesman is adjudged to have got them all right. It's becoming a frustrating evening for the Chonburi attack as they go in search of an equalizer. Kroekrit blazes over the bar and Caion heads inches past the upright. For Samut Prakan, Captain Peeradol stings the keeper's hands with a shot from distance. It's an end to end match is this one.
However, it's the home side who add to their lead on the stroke of half-time. Yuto Ono (rapidly turning into the Paul Scholes of the team) plays a glorious ball over the defence and Tardelli makes no mistake slotting it past Sinthaweechai, the Chonburi custodian. Tardelli performs an overhead somersault in celebration. He's beginning to relish life in a Samut Prakan shirt and going a long way to filling the boots of the departed Ibson Melo.
A two-goal lead at the break feels slightly flattering but we'll take it.
The crowd in good voice. (photo credit: Go2 Photo Stock)
Chakkit Laptrakul is brought on for the second 45 ('Jack' is one of Samut Prakan's best players, Lord knows why he didn't start the game) Always in the thick of any forward play, he fizzes a shot just wide of the post as Samut Prakan go in search of a killer third goal. But it's the men in white who grab a lifeline as a smart one-two ends with the lively Channarong smashing the ball home with the outside of his left foot. Make no mistake; Chonburi are back in this.
But just four minutes pass before Samut Prakan's two-goal cushion is restored and it's that man 'Jack', latching on to an Ernesto throw-in, darting into the box and side-footing it under the keeper. Chonburi fan, Dale (who wrote part of the blog above) was quick to tweet me at the end of the match to point out the third and decisive goal was the result of a foul throw.
I guess Dale has every right to feel aggrieved but I wonder how many foul throws go unpunished in the course of a 90-minute Thai league match? I'm also guessing that from wherever Dale was watching on TV, his head went down as that third goal went in, because we certainly saw the same reaction from the Chonburi players. To haul themselves back into the game and then concede again before managing to capitalize on the momentum was a cruel blow. Although there were still twenty minutes on the clock, the energy and fight seemed to drain from every Chonburi player.
Samut Prakan's fourth and final goal comes as no surprise then as Tardelli completes his hat-trick with a downward header direct from a Jakkapan corner. There's even time for Samut Prakan goalkeeper Pathiwat, to pull off a terrific save from Worachit and Tardelli to spurn the chance of a fourth goal with an acrobatic bicycle kick. 4-1 it ends. (watch the match highlights)
4-1 it finishes. (photo credit: Go2 Photo Stock)
You'll never hear me complain about a 4-1 home win but yes, the final score-line probably flattered us and yes, we beat an ordinary Chonburi side tonight, without I feel ever being at our best.
The main thing is that we are now in the top half of the table and looking at the teams above us rather than those below. If we can go on a good run of results from here, then a place in the top five is not beyond us.
A word about the attendance. 1,345 was a huge disappointment. Why do we seem to have lost so many hardcore fans? (but perhaps it's the same at a number of clubs)
Tardelli on his way to a hat-trick. (photo credit: Go2 Photo Stock)
Who's up next?
We make the long journey to Trat, near the Cambodian border (even on a good day, a six-hour drive from Bangkok)
It's a long way and it's the weekend before Christmas, but yes. Bus tickets and a couple of nights hotel already booked.