(Decent travelling support for the 'home' match against Chiang Mai United. Photo: the official Samut Prakan Facebook page)
So what's happened since the last blog?
I returned to England to see family for the first time in several years so missed a total of three games - the away trip to Krabi and home games against Chiang Mai United and close neighbors Customs United. Let's take each one in turn.
Still in search of their first win of the season, Samut Prakan made the long journey to Krabi in southern Thailand, to take on another side struggling at the foot of the table. Although I would love to have been there, frankly it felt like I dodged a bullet. The weather in Krabi was atrocious on the day of the match and even though the game went ahead, the waterlogged pitch simply wasn't fit for football. A crowd of just 309 watched the two teams battle out a 1-1 draw, with Pardsakorn giving the visitors the lead after 50 minutes but Krabi restoring parity with a 95th minute penalty - so honours even and that first win remained elusive. Match highlights.
The home game against Customs United was always going to be tough, with the men from nearby Latkrabang riding high in the second division having collected three victories from their opening four fixtures. Just 232 fans (Samut Prakan City's all-time lowest crowd) witnessed a dreadful second half performance from the home side and Customs ran out comfortable 3-0 winners, though there was news of a new president taking over at Samut Prakan and promising to turn things around. He's certainly got his work cut out. Match highlights.
Finally, we 'hosted' Chiang Mai United in a fixture that was originally scheduled to take place in Chiang Mai, however their 700th Anniversary Stadium was being prepared for King's Cup matches in late September and thus unavailable. There was just another small problem to consider; Samut Prakan's stadium wasn't available either. So in a season that gets frustratingly more bizarre by the week, the match was switched to the UTA Stadium in Chonburi, effectively making it an 'away match' for both clubs.
Perhaps we should think about changing stadiums more often as Samut Prakan ran out 2-0 winners with second half goals from Pardsakorn and Yatsakorn to record our first win of the season. The three points were not enough to lift us out of the relegation zone but will surely give a welcome boost to all associated with the club. Match highlights
(After the Chiang Mai game, the new club president presented all the travelling fans with free club shirts. A nice gesture from the club. Photo: the official Samut Prakan Facebook page)
Oh hang about; we've all got to schlep down to Chonburi again?
Be careful what you wish for. Yes folks, it was announced in the Thai football media on Wednesday afternoon that Samut Prakan had requested the game be switched to the Chonburi stadium yet again.
Was the fixture switched because the pitch at Samut Prakan was deemed unplayable? That's beside the point. The game should've been postponed to a later date or at the very least, played at a venue which was easy for Samut Prakan fans to get to (somewhere in Samut Prakan Province perhaps). This arrangement of using the Chonburi Stadium is simply unfair to fans (particularly season ticket holders) who for whatever reason can't make the journey.
I can already sense the growing frustration on the Samut Prakan fan forums, where the over-riding sentiment seems to be 'we'll tolerate this once but now the club is pushing its luck a bit'
But Tun is far more positive about the situation
"For us, it's only 20 mins further than driving to the Samut Prakan Stadium and it's a much nicer area with lots of great cafes and restaurants, a better stadium (if you're sitting in the main stand)...and roll into town early enough, you can even go to the beach!"
Let's get to today's visitors Phrae United. Some club background?
The Horsemen were founded in 2009 and started life in the third division north, where they remained for a decade, eventually winning promotion to the second tier in 2019. Their Hua Mai Stadium is one of the smallest in this division, with a capacity of just 2,500.
Their contingent of foreign players includes Brazilian striker Rodrigo Maranhao, who netted almost 20 goals last season, and Japanese midfielder Taku Ito.
How has their season been so far?
This is definitely a club with play-off aspirations and they've made a solid start to the campaign. They currently lie in 8th place having lost just a couple of their opening six games. Ominously, they are yet to lose on their travels, with draws at Rajpracha and Nakhon Pathom and a 2-1 win at Chainat Hornbill.
Tun did her usual excellent job of scouring Facebook for local eateries and we enjoyed a late lunch at Cafe Bon Saphan, just a few kilometres from the Chonburi Stadium. Being Saturday afternoon the place was heaving, but we managed to secure a couple of seats overlooking the bay and both the service and food were top-notch.
On arrival at the ground, we said a quick hello to the travelling Samut Prakan fans who were enjoying a picnic in the adjoining park, took a photo with the splendid Phrae team bus (and of course the famous Chonburi shark) then made our way into the main stand, our season tickets giving us access to all areas.
To the match itself
Samut Prakan handed a debut to defender Pongsakorn Trisart, another player from the Chonburi academy, and this was possibly the first time I've seen a Samut Prakan starting line-up without a single foreigner in its ranks. Regular starters Petru Lueca and Renan Costa are both currently struggling with injuries although I did get chance to chat with Renan at the end of the match and he told me he's hopeful of making a return for next Sunday's game at Rayong.
Tonight's match was barely five minutes old when midfielder Ratchata was shown a yellow card for both a foul and dissent. The incident lit the touchpaper for what was a niggly first half of late tackles and lengthy stoppages as various players rolled around on the floor waiting for stretchers.
Rapidly making a name for himself as Samut Prakan's star man, Padsakorn should have given the home side the lead on 12 minutes but sidefooted wide with the goal gaping. Minutes later the Phrae keeper did well to keep out a Nititorn shot.
Phrae's only real threat came from the busy Taku Ito but the peroxide blonde forward's final delivery into the box too often let him down.
Padsakorn made up for his glaring miss earlier by beaking the deadlock and giving Samut Prakan the lead after 35 minutes. Jinking into the penalty area, Karn Jorates showed a cool head to provide a neat assist and put Padsakorn's 4th goal of the season on a plate.
Half-time: Samut Prakan City 1 Phrae United 0
Phrae enjoyed their best period of the match at the beginning of the second half and you felt that Samut Prakan desperately needed a second goal and that two-goal cushion. The small but noisy section of home fans had to wait until the 70th minute to get it, defender Sampan Kesi outmuscling a couple of Phrae defenders and slipping a through ball to Panthamit. There was a touch of fortune about the decisive second goal as Panthamit's shot squirmed under the keeper.
Karn Jorates was then unlucky not to put the game out of sight but saw his neat swivel and shot well saved.
It should've been a comfortable game to see out, however it became anything but on 86 minutes as Samut Prakan's midfield was caught napping, allowing Phrae's Brazilian danger man Rodrigo to latch on to a punt upfield and chip over the keeper for a cool finish. The remaining minutes plus five minutes of injury time felt like forever and we were indebted to Captain Saksit for a magnificent last ditch block as we clung on for the three points and a result that pushes us up towards mid-table security.
Full-time: Samut Prakan City 2 Phrae United 1
I say this quietly but for the first time this season, I began to feel a connection to the club again. I enjoyed my chat with the very friendly Renan Costa at full-time but more significantly, I got the opportunity to talk to the new chairman / owner 'Khun Big', whose spoken English, it must be said is phenomenally good.
Naturally, I quizzed him on the reasons why the club is playing its home games in Chonburi instead of in Samut Prakan. Apparently, there is a problem with the electrical system (floodlighting?) that's going to take almost a millon Baht to fix. But before that's done, quotations or whatever documentation is needed, has to be submitted to a local government department or something. Thai red tape, being what it is, means that this could take a couple of months if not longer.
I was grateful for the explanation but still can't fathom why this isn't being announced on official media channels instead of '' disappointing fans match by match' (many of whom I'm sure we have lost already)
But back to tonight's game and another very welcome three points. This squad of players may not have the 'glamour' of past Samut Prakan squads but what they lack in quality, they more than make up for in committment and effort. You can see what the win meant to them by the wild celebrations upon the final whistle.
I'm not saying for a moment everything in the garden is rosy. This schlepping back and forth to Chonburi is far from an ideal situation, but it is what it is I guess. I'm certainly willing to give things longer for the club to hopefully sort itself out.
Who's up next?
Games come thick and fast in October and we turn our attention to the FA Cup qualifying round as we take on Maejo United from the third division north at the Chonburi stadium this Wednesday.