(It was a rather injury-hit Samut Prakan that took to the field against Chonburi at the weekend. Hopefully some of those absent players will back in action against Muangthong. Photo: the official Samut Prakan Facebook page)
So it's a Wednesday night in November and we're at home to Muangthong United. What's Samut Prakan's record like against them?
Although Muangthong knocked us out of the FA Cup last season at the last 16 stage (definitely a blot on the copy book) our league record against them is pretty damn good.
On the four occasions the clubs have met in the premier league, it's three wins for Samut Prakan and a best forgotten goalless draw. The standout game would probably be the 3-0 away win in Samut Prakan's first season.
How has Muangthong's season been so far?
They've had a decent campaign up to now and currently lie 5th in the table having lost just three of their 11 games to date. Those three losses have all come against strong teams, namely Buriram, BG Pathum and Port FC (are we still lumping Port in that category?) Their biggest win was a 3-1 home victory over Khon Kaen in early October.
And we're welcoming back a few old friends?
We are indeed. Teerapol Yoyei made over 70 appearances for Samut Prakan before joining Muangthong at the start of this season. Like all Samut Prakan fans, I was heartbroken to see him leave so often check in on him whenever Muangthong are on TV. Recently used as mainly a late impact substitute, it saddens me to see him being played in some weird deep midfield role where he just runs around and no one passes to him. I don't know what goes on in the background, but his transfer doesn't appear to have been a good career move so far.
Picha Autra and Phumin Kaewta both left Samut Prakan in 2020 to join Muangthong at the same time and were big losses to the Sea Fang in my opinion. Picha made over a hundred appearances for Samut Prakan and Pattaya United combined and although the attacking midfielder can be a hot-headed little bugger (I still refer to him as 'a red card waiting to happen') sometimes you need a player who'll run through a brick wall for the team.
But it's Phumin Kaewta who I would have back at Samut Prakan in a heartbeat. He never got enough first team opportunities down at Bang Plee, but I always loved what I saw. He's a player who oozes confidence on the ball and is never afraid to take defenders on. He went on loan to Prachuap last season (just the kind of 'smaller' club where he could make a name for himself) but now back at Muangthong, he's barely kicked a ball. It's criminal to see a player of his talent become an unused benchwarmer.
(Checking the team line-ups before the match. Photo: Go2 Photo Stock)
Well, we need a win tonight because the gap between ourselves and 14th place is now down to just four points. As a fellow Samut Prakan supporter said to me at Chonburi "we seem to win one game in every three or four just to keep us in mid-table or thereabouts". With those words still ringing in my ears, I'll therefore go for a 3-1 win to Samut Prakan.
For the first time this season, the Samut Prakan Stadium capacity will be increased from 25% to 50%. It's certainly a welcome step but it doesn't matter that much with us struggling to fill even 25%. Chatting with a few fans at Chonburi and asking about familiar faces I hadn't seen for a while, it still appears that a good number of people are yet to be fully vaccinated so can't go to games right now.
Samut Prakan line-up
Japanese midfielder Yuto Ono was deemed fit to play and made a return to the starting eleven as well as Aris Jarifovic and Nopphon Ponkam. Captain Chayawat was again ruled out with his ongoing hamstring problem.
To the match itself. First half?
A crowd of 963 turned up for this one, boosted by a sizeable away following wearing the red of Muangthong, but neither set of fans had much to cheer in the way of goalmouth action during the first period. It's often the case in Thai football that games don't really get going until the second half.
Eliandro should have taken advantage of a nervy start from the Muangthong defence done but spurned a glorious chance to add to his season's three-goal tally after just six minutes. Midway through the half, Daisuke Sakai fizzed a shot straight at the Muangthong keeper and for the visitors, lively Brazilian striker William Popp had a shot blocked by Srayut Somphim. But overall, for both sides, it was a case of no one being able to conjure up that killer final pass or deliver an accurate cross.
Yuto Ono's comeback lasted just 20 minutes as the Japanese playmaker trudged off the field to be replaced by our man from Laos Phoutthasay Kochalern.
Half time: Samut Prakan City 0 Muangthong United 0
(The Muangthong away support turned up in impressive numbers tonight Photo: Go2 Photo Stock)
The Samut Prakan expat supporter ranks increased by a factor of one as a middle-aged gentleman named Bruce came over to introduce himself and tell us how much he was enjoying his first visit to the stadium. Bruce would've certainly enjoyed the second half as it got off to a blistering start. In the opening minutes, Eliandro was a whisker away from opening the scoring, while at the other end, a terrific long range shot from William Popp cannoned off the Samut Prakan upright.
For all the attacking intent from both sides, it was clear that one goal would probably be enough to claim all three points. Australian midfielder Jesse Curran, a 66th minute substitute for the visitors, puts a shot just wide of the post; Kochalerm for Samut Prakan blazes his effort over the bar and another gilt-edged chance goes begging.
Coach Ishii introduces some fresh legs for the final assault, throwing on both Yuthapichai Lertlum and youngster Chitipat Kaewyot for his very first minutes of the season. The much loved and much missed Teerapon Yoyei comes on for Muangthong for the last quarter hour and gets a great reception from the Samut Prakan faithful.
As the game enters the final minute of injury time, a Samut Prakan player is brought down in the box. Alas, the VAR check rules out any possibilty of last gasp penalty drama but it was certainly worth a shout.
Final score: Samut Prakan 0 Muangthong 0
In a moving post-match gesture, Teerapol Yoyei drops to his knees in front of the popular stand and gives the home supporters his best wai. We return the gesture by singing his name. He's truly one of our own and he always will be.
(Reflecting on two points dropped? Photo: Go2 Photo Stock)
A point apiece and with Muangthong trying to keep pace with the leaders and Samut Prakan looking to establish mid-table security, probably the draw neither side wanted. I felt Samut Prakan probably did just enough to win but any right to all three points was marginal. The real takeaway from the evening was the atmosphere. Even though there were under a thousand there, it felt like a lot more. It felt like a return to seasons gone by. Perhaps as the Covid situation improves, Thai football is slowly healing.
Who's up next?
We have just a couple of days to recover before travelling to the in-form BG Pathum on Saturday 13th November.