Diary of a Thai football season

2023/24 Ayutthaya United v Samut Prakan

A short trip from Samut Prakan to take on play-off hopefuls Ayutthaya United

(The last time the two clubs met at the Ayutthaya Provincial Stadium was in November 2022. Ayutthaya ran out 2-1 winners in a good contest that also saw a little bit of crowd trouble)  

What's the travel plan?

The 6,000 capacity Ayutthaya Provincial Stadium is about a 75-minute drive from Samut Prakan so it's one of the easier T2 destinations for Samut Prakan fans to get to. We took pretty good away support there last season but given the team's current form and it being a Saturday, which is a working day for many, I'm not sure that will be the case this time.

Stop press: the club are laying on a bus to Ayutthaya and back, with a temple tour thrown in, for just 100 baht a person.  

From a personal point of view, Tun and I have seen virtually all there is to see in the old Thai capital and I hate Ayutthaya's heavy traffic and confusing road system, so we'll just make it a one-night stop this time around. We'll drive up on Saturday morning, take in the game that evening, and then return on Sunday.

Journey and digs

The drive from Samut Prakan to Ayutthaya may only be an hour or so, but you're counting every minute. On a holiday weekend Saturday, the traffic was horrible, not helped by the sat nav seemingly sending us on a tour of every Bangkok neighborhood. However, we rewarded ourselves with a fine lunch at Upper Taste, the pasta and pizza restaurant attached to Pastry Architect. The menu and pricing was very similar to The Wine Connection chain that people might be familiar with in Bangkok. Quality food and great service!

For accommodation we booked a night at the Mayuu Hotel, a newish place on the outskirts of town that saves you the job of having to negotiate the busy town centre when driving from hotel to stadium. Its spotlessly clean rooms (some would say bland) go for 1200 baht a night, but worth mentioning that there was no breakfast option and the only outside restaurant within walking distance was Vietnamese, which isn't to everyone's taste, including mine. There was a nearby 7-11 though and a well-stocked vending machine in the lobby. 

Let's get to the football. How are Ayutthaya United doing this season?

The Ayutthaya Warriors still have play-off aspirations but there's some catching up to do. They are currently in 8th place and trailing the top six by seven points. Come-what-may, they should improve on last season's 10th place finish. Their home form has been somewhat inconsistent this season and they've won just four of their 12 games on home soil.  

What about their squad?

Ayutthaya United are almost a Bangkok United B team, with at least ten of their playing squad on loan from the table-topping premier league club.

Top scorer with 8 goals is veteran Brazilian striker Andre Luis. The 38-year-old had a spell in the second division with Chainat but it's in the third division where he really filled his boots, scoring almost a goal a game for MH Nakhonsi United.  

Also playing for Ayutthaya and with five goals this season is Moussa Sanoh. Moussa is a winger who has represented the Liberia International team but most interestingly, he played a dozen or so games for Crawley Town in the English football league around five years ago. Since his Crawley days, he's arrived in Thailand via Romania, The Netherlands and Malta.

(At an ambitious 200 baht a ticket, Ayutthaya is still one of the priciest T2 grounds for away supporters)

Any player connections?

Defender Chakrit Wasprasertsuk will be making a return to his old club. He made 17 appearances for Ayutthaya United last season and has now become a fairly regular starter for Samut Prakan. 

Anusit Termee is currently Ayutthaya's reserve goalkeeper. He played a couple of games for Samut Prakan back in the 2021/22 season but was never going to get the gloves off a goalkeeper of Pattiwat Khammai's standard on a regular basis. Anusit did however play in a cup tie for Samut Prakan at Buriram...and saved a penalty!

Score prediction?

Despite Ayutthaya being on an awful run of four successive defeats, I'm going to go for a repeat of last season's 2-1 scoreline. Frankly speaking, I just don't see where a point is coming from in our final five away matches. This game against Ayutthaya is tough, ditto trips to Lampang, Rayong and Chainat. I think even the local derby at bottom three Kasetsart won't be easy. 

We're also keeping an eye on the T3 play-offs

It's always interesting to know which teams have a chance of being promoted to T2 at the end of the season and which new clubs Samut Prakan fans might be travelling to. 

This is the final weekend of the T3 season with SEVEN of the 12 play-off contenders already confirmed. They are; Saimit Kabin, Songkhla FC, Sisaket United, Mahasarakham SBT, Bangkok FC, Angthong FC and Phitsanaloke Unity 

I'll cover the T3 play-off teams in more detail once we know all 12 participants.

To the match itself

We arrived at the ground about an hour and a half before kick off, but whereas last season, we had numerous hugs and requests for selfies from opposing fans, this time around the occasion felt much more low key. The official attendance was announced as around 3,500, but to the naked eye it was nowhere near that number.

Samut Prakan went into the match without their two main goal threats of Si Thu Aung and Fernando, the forward pair joining an ever-increasing and worrying injury list. The good news however was that Korean midfielder Sangjin Lee was named a starter.  

Samut Prakan enjoy most of the possession in the first twenty minutes but it's a familiar story of a side looking to have no game plan when they get into the final third. The home side strike the first blow midway through the half as Kitphom Bunsan curls in a direct free kick just out of Jirunpong's reach.

Ronnachai Rangsiyo will be disappointed with only two goals to his name this season but he's unlucky to not make it three when his looping shot from outside the box brushes the upright.

Disaster strikes five minutes before the interval as Ayutthaya's top marksman Andre Luis scores his 9th of the campaign, chasing down a long ball and deftly lobbing it over Jirunpong, who has committed himself to closing the angle but finds himself in no man's land. There's surely no way back now for the visitors and their impressive but dejected away following of around 70-80 fans. 

Half-time: Ayutthaya United 2 Samut Prakan 0 

(I think this was my half-time 'what the hell is going on?' gesture)

Despite the two-goal deficit, Samut Prakan aren't giving the contest up just yet. Jesada fires over the bar and Sangjin Lee hits the side-netting as the visitors show a bit more composure in front of goal. The lively Andre Luis is at it again with twenty minutes remaining, weaving past defenders and unleashing a powerful strike on target, but Jirunpong saves well and what would be Ayuthaya's killer third goal remains elusive. 

The third official indicates seven minutes of stoppage time and Samut Prakan supporters start to contemplate the weary journey home, but Sanjing Lee is determined to send us all back with smiles on our faces. There is 94 minutes and 37 seconds on the clock as the Korean maestro ghosts in behind the left back, and following a mazy run, he plants a firm shot under the keeper for arguably one of our goals of the season. Too little, too late? A mere consolation? Believe it or not (and I for one certainly can't) we are not done yet. Sangjin Lee goes on one final raid and is shoved off the ball by an Ayutthaya defender. The referee immediately points to the spot; our Brazilian central defender Neto, who hasn't scored since away at Pattaya on the opening day of the season, steps up and completes what's been an amazing comeback.

Full-time: Ayutthaya United 2 Samut Prakan 2     

Watch the match highlights

Overall thoughts?

After 97, 98 or however many minutes of play it was, Samut Prakan fans around me celebrated like we had won the world cup. I savoured the moment too - it's not often you claw back a two-goal deficit with a brace deep into injury time - but you can't conveniently gloss over the first uninspiring 95 minutes when we simply looked bereft of ideas. Truthfully, Ayutthaya United should have killed the game off way before the end and perhaps we took advantage of a team who took their eye off the ball right at the death. The shellshocked and disbelieving looks on the Ayutthaya player's faces as they came over to applaud the Samut Prakan fans would certainly back that theory up.  

(Terrific away support tonight)

Who's up next?

We have a home game against Chantaburi on Saturday 3rd March, and an early evening 5.30 pm kick off.

Samut Prakan fixtures 2023/2024


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