(Hopefully today's match will be a bit more exciting than Wednesday's damp, poorly attended FA Cup game in Chonburi)
The bookies would probably make Rayong FC favourites for this one?
Rayong FC have had a solid start to the season and currently lie in 7th place having lost just one of their opening seven matches - a 4-1 defeat at Nakhon Pathom.
Samut Prakan City are way below them in 14th but should go into this game full of confidence on the back of two successive league wins. But yes, Rayong must be favourites. Their problem however seems to be scoring goals and they've hit the net just three times in four home games.
Have the two clubs met before?
Yes, they played each other home and away two seasons ago when both clubs were in the Premier League. It's not a fixture known for its goal action though, with both of those past meetings ending in slim 1-0 victories for Samut Prakan. But I'll certainly take another 1-0 to keep that 100% record intact today.
How about some club background?
Not to be confused with PTT Rayong, who folded a couple of seasons ago after PTT withdrew their sponsorship and support, Rayong FC (nickname: The Dragon Horses) were founded in 2009 and spent over a decade in Thailand's second tier before winning promotion to the top flight in 2019. The joy was unfortunately short-lived as with a squad ill-equipped to compete with the big boys, they finished bottom of the league and went straight back down. The club plays its home games at the 7,500 capacity Rayong Provincial Stadium.
Any star players we should know about?
I'm struggling a bit here. Cameroonian defender Florent Obama began life in Thailand at Buriram and has been around the Thai league for over ten years. Anto Okamura and Seiya Sugishita are two Japanese players at the club, the latter is a 34-year-old striker who once hit 24 goals in a golden season at Khon Kaen back in 2019.
Journey and digs
It's no more than a two-hour drive down to Rayong but mile after mile of soulless grey highway has you counting every minute. Traffic gets particularly heavy in the last stretch with daytrippers heading to nearby Pattaya.
We enjoyed a seafood lunch at the very pleasant Mar Sea Suchada, which is on a stretch of fairly unattractive coastline just along from the imposing Maptha Phut Sea Terminal.
There are plenty of hotels within easy reach of the Rayong Provincial Stadium and we opted for the large, modern-looking Phavina Hotel on the main Sukhumwit Road for 960 Baht a night. Interestingly, when we checked in, the Rayong FC players were enjoying a pre-match lunch in the ground floor restaurant. I was tempted to ask for a photo with a few of them while holding aloft my Samut Prakan scarf but whilst I was sorting out the room payment, the opportunity passed.
The room was decidedly spartan but good enough for the money. However, it did lose points for having no kettle, a wobbly shower spray, and the fact I had to call reception to get housekeeping to replenish the shower gel.
With still hours to kill before an evening 7pm kick off, we sat in the room to watch the storm clouds gather and the rain come down heavily. Tonight's game could be a wet one for those of us in an uncovered away enclosure. We might well need our waterproofs.
Thoughts on the Rayong Provincial Stadium?
We arrived at the ground about an hour before kick off and were instantly smitten. The interior is tidy and well-maintained but its big selling point is outside, where there is a public running track that circles the stadium, plenty of food and drink vendors and one of the most impressive outdoor gyms I've seen. You could feel the pride that the local community have for their stadium.
The view from the away end was pretty crappy it must be said, but by moving to the corner of the enclosure, it was possible to get significantly closer to the pitch.
(It was certainly a night for rainwear but thankfully the scattered showers never got heavy enough to truly spoil the enjoyment)
To the match itself
I wonder how many first or second division Thai teams begin a match without a single foreigner in their starting line-up, but it seems to be becoming a regular thing for Samut Prakan. Renan Costa is presumably still out injured while our other three overseas players; Shimoji, Petru and Evans, were all benched for this one, although they all played a part at some stage. Perhaps the management just doesn't feel our foreign contingent is up to the required standard, I really don't know.
Let's get to the action and there was a scare for Samut Prakan inside the first minute as goalkeeper Thatpicha was caught by a striker's high boot, but after a lengthy delay he was fit to continue.
Anuwat should have opened the scoring for the home side but seemed to slip and lose his balance at the vital moment and ended up shooting straight at the goalkeeper. At the other end a couple of chances for the visitors, Yotsakorn forcing an acrobatic save from the Rayong keeper and an audacious long range free-kick almost creeping in under the crossbar, but chances remained at a premium in an even and hard-fought first half.
Half time: Rayong FC 0 Samut Prakan 0
(Grilled footy snacks)
The second half belonged to Samut Prakan. So much so that I would have been extremely disappointed not to have returned home with the three points. While the men in orange played some lovely passing football in midfield, using the full width of the pitch, Rayong offered very little in return. The Samut Prakan winner on 77 minutes came as no surprise, with Pardsakorn latching on to an inswinging corner and whacking home his fourth goal of the season.
Final score: Rayong FC 0 Samut Prakan 1
That second division table is looking a good deal healthier with Samut Prakan moving up to 9th place following this result, our third league win in a row. We played some nice football tonight. That one-week training camp in north-east Thailand a few weeks ago seems to have done everyone the power of good. We look a completely different team. We're playing full of confidence and with an almost frightening physical edge to our game...not dirty, just physical. If the boss is demanding 100% committment, then he's certainly getting it. No one out there is shirking 50/50 tackles.
From a personal point of view, that was another very enjoyable football trip. It's not too long a journey and we were well impressed with Rayong FC's set-up. Actually, we had planned to spend a bit longer in Rayong on the Monday morning but the weather was so awful, we decided to drive home right after breakfast.
(Tun enjoying a pre-match workout at the stadium's splendid outdoor gym)
Who's up next? A home game against the current league leaders, newly promoted Nakhonsi United, on Saturday 15th October. Word is that we may be moving back to the Samut Prakan Stadium for this match onwards. A victory in this game will surely make a few more people sit up and take notice.