It promises to be an incredibly nail-biting final day as the T2 season comes to a close. Let's take a look at all nine fixtures taking place on Sunday 30th April and what's at stake in each.
Chiang Mai FC v Grand Andaman Ranong
This is one of only two championship fixtures on Sunday that has nothing riding on it. Chiang Mai FC are guaranteed a comfortable mid-table finish while Ranong are already relegated and presumably preparing for life down in the third tier.
Krabi FC v Chainat Hornbill
Their situations may have looked a tad precarious a month or so ago, but with both clubs now safe in lower mid-table positions, this is the second fixture with nothing to play for except pride and to finish the season on a high.
Nakhon Pathom v Samut Prakan City
So here's where it gets interesting, not to mention complicated.
Nakhon Pathom almost certainly need to win to be guaranteed automatic promotion and to go up as champions. If they finish on the same number of total points as Trat FC, they will still be crowned champions on account of a better head-to-head record between the two clubs. And that's how things are decided in Thai football.
A draw however, could mean Nakhon Pathom losing out on automatic promotion if other results go against them, but they will surely be supremely confident of getting maximum points at home to a struggling Samut Prakan.
As for Samut Prakan City, just one point will guarantee T2 football at the SAT Stadium next season. The only way Samut Prakan can be relegated is if they lose against Nakhon Pathom and Kasetsart FC and Rajpracha get a win and a draw in their respective matches (I told you it was complicated)
The only thing worrying this nervy Samut Prakan supporter is that this doesn't seem like an implausible set of results.
Nakhonsi United v Chiang Mai United
Occupying 8th and 9th positions, it's now or never for Nakhonsi and Chiang Mai United. Both teams need to go in search of a win and the three points that will give them an outside chance of scraping into the play offs. Even the win might not be enough if the teams above them collect enough points.
At least one of either Nakhonsi United or Chiang Mai United will be in T2 next season. I'm putting my money on both.
Trat FC v Rayong FC
When it comes to the championship crown, Trat FC might well get pipped at the post by Nakhon Pathom but a win at home to Rayong will see Trat FC achieve automatic promotion and a return to the top flight at the second attempt.
5th place Rayong have a whole slew of clubs just below them, just waiting for them to slip up. Something tells me Rayong are going to need at least a draw at Trat if they are going to have any hopes of making the play offs.
Uthai Thani FC v Udon Thani FC
Lying in wait for the top two teams to fall at the final hurdle, third place Uthai Thani FC have undoubtedly the most enviable Sunday fixture - at home to already relegated, bottom club Udon Thani.
Although anything can happen in Thai second division football, you'd be hard pushed to predict anything other than a home win as the final outcome here. It's whether or not Trat or Nakhon Pathom slip up that's going to keep home fans glued to smartphones for the duration.
Customs United v Suphanburi
It's sure to be a very tense affair down at the 54 Latkrabang Stadium with Customs United, already guaranteed a play-off place, looking for a win and a minor miracle that could secure them automatic promotion. For wobbling, out of form Suphanburi, who were top of the pile several months ago, they'll be in search of a win to achieve a play-off position that will go part way to rescuing a season that has gone horribly pear-shaped.
Kasetsart FC v Ayutthaya
This could well be the point where I lose you completely, but please bear with me.
Home side Kasetsart FC need a win if they are going to survive. No other result will do. They also need to hope either Samut Prakan or Rajpracha lose their final game.
If Kasetsart FC and Samut Prakan finish on the same number of points, head to head is of no use because both games between the two clubs finished in goalless draws. We would then turn to overall goal difference to decide matters and the scales would tip in Kasetsart's favour.
If Kasetsart and Rajpracha finish on the same number of points, once again head to head records are identical. It would all come down to overall goal difference.
I haven't even talked about Ayutthaya United yet. Let's just say a nice away win would give them a terrific chance of making the top six.
Phrae United v Rajpracha FC
Safe as a marshmallow, Phrae United have absolutely nothing to play for. They can't make the play-offs and they're nowhere near the relegation zone (what a glorious position to be in!) It's all eyes on Rajpracha, who need just a point to secure their second division status.
The outcome of finishing level on points with either Samut Prakan or Kasetsart, I've already explained above (I think) - and I'm not bloody explaining it again! LOL
So how do you see this all panning out?
I'm going to let my head rule my heart here if only because it's how I've always rolled. I really can't see Samut Prakan getting anything at Nakhon Pathom. With a good crowd behind them, I can't see past Nakhon Pathom going up as champions. Samut Prakan are probably going to have to rely on results elsewhere and I think our best chance will be Phrae beating Rajpracha.
So in conclusion, I'm going for Samut Prakan to survive...but only just. If they do survive, frankly I don't care who gets relegated.
As for the other end of the table, I'll go for Nakhon Pathom and Trat for automatic promotion, with Uthai Thani, Customs United, Ayutthaya and surprise package Chiang Mai United contesting the play-offs.
Journey and digs
We woke up to torrential rain and flooding that wouldn't have looked out of place in peak rainy season but managed to leave Samut Prakan around 10.00 am once the weather became slightly more agreeable.
Normally Tun would be in charge of choosing our lunch venue, but the responsibility was mine today and I chose wisely. About 25 minutes before you hit the town of Nakhon Pathom is Jardin de Chaisri, a restaurant and coffee shop set in an old-style wooden house and surrounded by lush greenery and lakes. The food was excellent and very reasonably priced to boot. Tun awarded it 10/10 so no doubt I'll get the job of choosing eateries again in future.
Although it would only have taken us an hour or so to get back to Samut Prakan after the match, Tun isn't keen on driving in the dark these days, so we booked a night at The Museum Hotel, which is about a 6-minute drive from the stadium. Nakhom Pathom certainly isn't short of places to stay but most accommodation tends to be of the lower budget variety. We thought The Museum Hotel was great value for money, but they could do with turning on the aircon in the lobby.
By coincidence, when we arrived at the hotel, we saw several Samut Prakan City backroom staff milling along and then a few of the players. The club had chosen to take this final match seriously and cough up for the luxury of a night's hotel instead of making the players journey to and fro by bus on the day of the game.
As always, these chance encounters are great opportunities for hardcore fans, so Tun and I loitered around in the hotel lobby and were able to take a few photos, chat with Kun Big the owner, who is always very generous with his time, and wish the manager good luck.
(Khun Big, the Samut Prakan club owner, put a post up on his personal Facebook page and said something along the lines of 'I can guarantee to every Samut Prakan fan that next season will not be a repeat of this season's struggle')
We decided to get to the ground about two hours before kick off and mighty glad we did. A terrific atmosphere was already building; this felt like the football match that everyone in Nakhon Pathom wanted to see. Although I had no trouble buying tickets for the away section, I heard an announcement that all home sections of the stadium had now sold out.
About 30 minutes before kick off, the stadium management ended up arranging barriers to create some 'standing only' areas to accommodate those home fans who had earlier been turned away. There's nothing quite like a promotion decider to get the fans in!
(You can see from the photo above, those makeshift 'standing only' sections starting to fill up. Although everything seemed calm, orderly and relatively organised, I always worry about having some sort of stadium disaster on our hands)
With a number of regulars missing through international duty, injury or compassionate leave, it was good to see 'Mike' Sakesit get his first start for months in the Samut Prakan team line-up. OK, let's do this!
A drum-beating, flag-waving, healthy Samut Prakan away following of around 150-200 did a fine job of drowning out the home crowd noise as the match got under way, some fans watching the action, others staring at smartphones to keep up-to-date with events at Phrae and Kasetsart.
A neutral would have no trouble working out which team was at which end of the table as Nakhon Pathom twice threaten to take the lead in the opening ten minutes but thankfully Nattanan's strike sails just over the crossbar and Thatpicha conjures up a fine save to keep the blue-shirted onslaught at bay. Samut Prakan struggle to get any kind of foothold in the contest, while Peter Nergaard has another chance for the home side but puts his header straight at the Prakan keeper.
Score flash! - 26 minutes. You little beauty! Phrae have taken the lead at home to Rajpracha
Score flash - 33 minutes. Ayutthaya are leading 1-0 at Kasetsart. This is all going rather well. Bollocks! Kasetsart have gone down the other end and scored an equaliser. Oh this is unbearable.
It's backs to the wall, defending in numbers for Samut Prakan though as Nakhon Pathom hit the woodwork and the rebound is somehow scrambled to safety. I've never been more relieved to hear a half-time whistle and not sure how we're still in the game. Not wishing to take anything away from Nakhon Pathom but we've been awful.
Half-time: Nakhon Pathom 0 Samut Prakan 0
The breakthrough comes just six minutes into the second period. Nakhon Pathom are awarded a penalty. Handball perhaps? Well, I've watched the reply at least two dozen times and still can't work out what it's for. Midfielder Kitsada puts the spot kick just out of Thatpicha's reach and it's advantage Nakhon Pathom. Dubious decision or not, the goal had been coming.
Score flash - 64 minutes. Ayutthaya are back in front at Kasetsart and lead 2-1. Kasetsart need to win to have any chance of survival. They're not going to score twice in 26 minutes against a promotion-chasing Ayutthaya side...are they?
It's taken 66 long minutes for Samut Prakan to carve out their first chance of the match but Karn Jorates shoots tamely at the keeper. We're not coming away with anything from this game. You can feel it.
Scoreflash - 79 minutes. Kasetsart have levelled against Ayutthaya. If Kasetsart can grab a winner and Rajpracha can force an equaliser at Phrae (it's still 1-0 there) in what time remains, Samut Prakan are going down.
We're into the 83rd minute of what's been a pretty horrific watch if you're a Samut Prakan fan. It's about to get a whole lot worse as Nakhon Pathom are awarded a second penalty...but there's little doubt about this one. Sampan Kesi bundles over an attacker in full flight from behind and gets his marching orders for a second yellow. It doesn't really matter as the penalty is despatched to put the home side two goals up. Now the promotion party can truly begin.
Scoreflash - 92 minutes. Kasetsart 3 Ayutthaya 2. Unbelievable. Three weeks ago Kasetsart needed a miracle. They've gone and done it with back to back wins in their last two games.
Samut Prakan fans glance anxiously at their watches. We need something to take away the pain.
Scoreflash - 94 minutes. Phrae 2 Rajpracha 0. That'll do! Samut Prakan have survived and Rajpracha are relegated. In the end, it all came down to a piffling head to head record.
(Please don't put us through this again)
I was as relieved as any other Samut Prakan supporter come the final whistle, but there were no tears of joy or hugs with those around me. As I predicted, we had survived...but only just.
My thoughts quickly turned to what a disappointing season it had been, following a team that if truth be told, had barely been good enough to compete in the second tier. The final table doesn't lie.
Tun summed up things perfectly on our drive back to the hotel - "we've probably played well in about 5-6 games this season, all the other games have been just 11 kids running around"
If we are to do better next time out, we need to invest heavily to improve that squad. We need to bring in some better quality foreign players. Otherwise, we could well be next season's Udon Thani. We can't go into what will probably be an even more competitive second division, with 'just 11 kids running around'.
But for now, let's just savour the fact that we are still in it.
2023 Samut Prakan first team appearances / substitute appearances
37 matches (34 league, 2 FA Cup, 1 League Cup)
Start / (Substitute appearances)
1 Suppawat Yokakul 10 (1)
18 Thatpicha Auksonsri 26
80 Ratchaphon Namthong 1 (2)
2 Sirapop Saardeim 4 (1)
3 Tirapon Thanachartkul 12 (2)
4 Makan Diawara 11 (1)
5 Nattapong Pephat 10 (5)
16 Sirakorn Pimbaotham 10 (6)
31 Sampan Kesi 26 (5)
32 Saksit Jitvijan 18 (4)
33 Renan Costa 6
43 Wanchat Choosong 27 (2)
49 Shindanai Limprayoon (1)
51 Adisorn Thimkiang (2)
91 Pongsakorn Trisart (6)
3 Kriangkrai Pimrat 12 (5)
4 Decha Sa-ardchom 9 (2)
6 Rachata Moraksa 29 (7)
8 Karn Jorates 18 (8)
10 Sho Shimoji 18 (11)
14 Phanthamit Praphanth 16 (13)
15 Evans Damian Aneni 8 (13)
17 Nititorn Sripramarn 15 (8)
19 Pichitphong Choeichiu (1)
23 Kitikai Jantaruksa 13 (1)
24 Kasadit Kalasin 3 (2)
30 Panudech Maiwong 9 (8)
42 Nonthaphut Panaimthon 4 (9)
50 Pokpong Pombhubpa (1)
9 Mahamane Toure 3 (2)
11 Padsakorn Sripudpong 20 (6)
13 Warakorn Thongbai 5 (10)
19 Sakunchai Saengthopo 8 (4)
27 Yotsakorn Burapha 18 (12)
29 Petru Lueca 7 (8)
33 Akkharadet Yodjumpa (1)
81 Kirati Keawsombut (Assumption United) 5 (3)