(We took some decent away support to Chonburi last season)
So it's Chonburi away. One of our favourite teams?
Oh, we love playing these guys! Samut Prakan and Chonburi have met four times in the Thai Premier League and they are yet to take a single point off us. It's been four wins out of four for the Sea Fang, including 2-0 victories on both occasions that the clubs have met at Chonburi Stadium. It's certainly what you'd call a happy hunting ground and hopefully that run will continue.
Chonburi FC announced on Thursday that the provincial governor of Chonburi had given the green light to increase the stadium allowance from 25% to 50% of the capacity. That's certainly a step in the right direction and should hopefully make for a better atmosphere.
(Arguably the worst away view in the Thai Premier League?)
It's a nice away trip?
Yes, if you ignore the terrible view from the away end and the somewhat convoluted ticket system.
It's a relatively straightforward one-hour drive from Samut Prakan (if you have your wife and chaffeuse coming with you), the ground's perimiter and surroundings are well-maintained and pleasant to walk around, there's always a good choice of hot food and snacks on offer, and the natives are friendly. Oh, and there's a nice big 7-11 opposite the main stand.
Last season my wife wasn't available so I had to make my own way to Chonburi by public transport and ended up booking a hotel for the night. Looking back, it was a slightly crazy decision considering the number of Samut Prakan fans who offered me a lift home after the game. But I wasn't going to forego a night in a hotel that I'd already paid for!
Now a third of the way through the league season, how have Chonburi done so far?
They are doing quite nicely and at the time of writing, occupy 5th position in the league table. The Sharks started the season with a golden September - taking a point from both BG Pathum and Muangthong before beating new boys Nongbua Pichaya 3-1 at home and thumping Khon Kaen 7-0 on the road. Finding themselves at the top of the table, perhaps it was a bit premature to consider Chonburi as 'potential champions', but things were certainly looking up. This wasn't the lethargic and rudderless outfit that Chonburi fans had sadly got used to in the previous couple of seasons.
The campaign started to go off the rails in October with defeats against Chiang Rai. Police Tero and Bangkok United but could last weekend's thrilling 2-1 victory at Port FC be a turning point?
Chonburi players to watch?
Dennis Murillo, a big Summer signing from Nakhon Ratchisima, is probably the star of the show and has already banged in 7 league goals this season. The 29-year-old Brazilian has been around the Thai League for quite a while and has scored at a goal-every-two-games ratio (or better) wherever he's played. His 21-goal haul for Nakhon Ratchisima last season was second only to Samut Prakan's Barros Tardelli in the Golden Boot stakes.
Interestingly, in 2016, Dennis made a dozen appearances for Samut Prakan Super Power (Samut Prakan's main club at the time) whilst on loan from Chiang Rai United. I'm sure that seems like a very long time ago.
Attacking midfielder Gidi Kanyuk is another foreign player I quite admire and he too came from Nakhon Ratchisima last summer. The 28-year-old Israeli's football career includes almost 200 games for Maccabi Petah Tikva back in his native homeland. He started his Thai football career with Buriram in 2020 but made only ten appearances before moving on.
Thai midfielder Worachit Danitsribampen is another decent, eye-catching player and has racked up well over a hundred appearances for the Sharks, beginning his career there as a 16-year-old. He has also represented his country at U-23 and U-21 levels.
Any player/club connections?
Eliandro made just over a dozen appearances for The Sharks at the tail end of last season so this will be a swift return to a former club for Samut Prakan's Brazilian target man. Hopefully, we'll get to see one or two muted goal celebrations.
Samut Prakan team news
In the worst possible news, it was announced on Tuesday that Jaroensak would be out for the rest of the season with a serious knee injury. Heartbreaking for both the player and the fans. We wish him a speedy recovery.
This fantastic run of league wins against Chonburi surely can't continue and I have a gut feeling that Chonburi might just nick this one. However, I'd be delighted with a point so I'll go for a 1-1 draw.
Tun and I deliberately set off early to enjoy a pre-match meal near the ground. The Chonburi weather forecast was for scattered thunderstorms and the sky opened up right on cue the minute we hit town. We sought shelter from the storm in the excellent Huge Cafe and Bistro (desserts a bit pricey mind) which is just a kilometre from Chonburi Stadium. Thankfully, the rain ceased well before kick off at 7pm.
(There were some impressive shiny new sharks dotted around the stadium grounds)
To the match itself and first half?
With Chonburi's fan allowance increased to 50% and Samut Prakan's away following of around a hundred making plenty of noise, it was a decent atmosphere that greeted the two teams.
Aris Jarifovic, so far my Samut Prakan player of the season, joined Noppon Phonkam on the naughty boy step and Captain Chayawat and Yuto Ono were both still on the injury list. In other words, Samut Prakan were missing at least five regular starters if you include Jaroensak.
(Great gesture by the players to hold up Jaroensak's shirt before kick off. Photo: the official Samut Prakan Facebook page)
Chonburi open the scoring in the 14th minute with Renato Kelić, a Croatian centre-back on loan from Buriram, planting a powerful header into the corner of the net from a short corner routine. Barely five minutes later and the home side find themselves two up. A long goal-kick and a deft flick from a Chonburi midfielder puts veteran captain Kroekrit Thaweekarn clean through on goal, and the fan favourite with almost 200 appearances under his belt, makes no mistake with a cool side-footed finish.
As the home fans roar their approval, Samut Prakan supporters in the distant away end look at each other tentatively. This suddenly has all the makings of a very long evening.
But step forward Jiraaut Wingwon, making only his second start of the season, to connect beautifully with a low shot from the edge of the box just before the half hour mark - an absolute screamer to pull Samut Prakan back into the match. Patiwat Khammai then does his bit at the other end, the Samut Prakan keeper saving a header from point blank range to keep the deficit down to just one goal.
Half-time: Chonburi 2 Samut Prakan 1
Samut Prakan approach the second period like a team who realises that if they keep their composure, there could well be a point in this. The visitors turn in a superb second half showing but a well-saved Eliandro shot is about the best we can conjure up before the game ticks well into its final stages.
Then on 78 minutes, Samut Prakan experience the full agony and ecstacy of competitive football. Defender Kittipong Sansanit, on as a 75th minute substitute, feeds Phatsaphon in the box and the Sea Fang striker is left with an easy tap-in. Eliandro drops to his knees to praise the heavens. There'll be no muted goal celebrations in these here parts tonight. Alas, the dreaded VAR enters stage right and Phatsaphon's headline-grabbing equaliser is cruelly snatched away.
Full-time: Chonburi 2 Samut Prakan 1
(Good away support. Photo: Go2 Photo Stock)
I thought we played ever so well tonight and deserved at least a point, especially considering the number of first-teamers we had out. But on the plus side, some of those fringe players are getting great match experience. Two thumbs way up to the Samut Prakan travelling support who cheered and encouraged the team loudly throughout but a giant raspberry to the Chonburi Stadium security staff who I thought were a little heavy-handed and officious in the manner they inspected tickets and vaccine certificates and ordered fans to social distance and wear masks. Disappointing that because Chonburi is normally such a gentle and hassle-free away trip.
Samut Prakan drop to 11th in the premier league and are now just four points above the relegation zone, but I'm not duly concerned. This is still a side that can beat any other Thai team on their day and there's enough in the locker and hopefully enough players in the squad to avoid any notion of being involved in a relegation scrap. Three points on Wednesday would be nice though.
Who's up next?
The games come thick and fast in the rest of November starting on Wednesday evening with a home match against Muangthong.
(Photo: Go2 Photo Stock)