Diary of a Thai football season

2023/24 Chainat Hornbill v Samut Prakan

Three away games left in the season, starting with a comfortable road trip to Chainat


(Chainat probably has the best selection of pre-match food that we have ever seen at a Thai football ground... including fresh strawberries. Win, lose or draw, you'll certainly be well fed)

How are Chainat Hornbill doing this season?

They've had an almost identical season to Samut Prakan. The two clubs are currently in 13th and 14th positions, and seperated by just one point.

Worryingly for us, Chainat's home form has been decent of late, unbeaten in their last six home matches in fact.  

What's the history between these two fine clubs?

Samut Prakan and Chainat Hornbill have met five times. 

In 2019 - Samut Prakan's first season - we did the 'double' over them, winning 1-0 at home (on my birthday) and edging a five-goal thriller at the Khao Plong Stadium. Sadly at the end of that season Chainat finished 15th in the premier league and were relegated to T2, where they've been ever since. 

The two clubs renewed acquaintances in the 2022/23 season after Samut Prakan themselves had been relegated from the top flight. Both games ended in score draws. 

This season, Chainat's 2-1 win at our place back on a rainy night in early December was their first ever victory against us.

Any player connections?

Plenty. Defender Apichok Srirawong and forwards Kritsada and Kitsarin all joined Samut Prakan from Chainat at the start of this season.

Apichok made just 7 starts before moving up in the world and joining Uthai Thani in the premier league (a brave move for a player who didn't get many games for us) 

Kritsada and Kitsarin are still at the club but have found it difficult to nail down a regular place in the starting line-up. Over half of Kritsada's 21 appearances have been as a late impact sub and Kitsarin has started just 5 times.

Samut Prakan's Japanese midfielder Sho Shimoji spent a successful season up in Chainat back in 2016, banging in 9 goals in 29 appearances. I'm sure he's fondly remembered and in fact they've still got his photograph on a fading poster at the Chainat Bird Park.

Journey and digs

The three-hour drive to Chainat skirts the central region cities of Ayutthaya, Angthong and Singhburi. We had never stopped off in Singhburi before so we made it part of the day's itinerary. First port of call was Wat Phra Non, a temple which boasts the largest reclining Buddha in Thailand.

Singhburi has plenty of coffee shops to keep the Instagram / blogger crowd happy. Season Story was literally in the middle of rice fields but in today's social media age, location doesn't matter. A steady stream of thirsty punters will always find you if your establishment is cute enough and offers drinks at reasonable prices.

Seeing the chance to tick off another football ground, we stopped off at the Singhburi Provincial Stadium, home of Singhburi Bangrajun FC. We had a bit of difficulty locating the main entrance but once inside we were free to wander around.

Apparently the club was relegated from Thailand's third division around five years ago and have languished in the amateur leagues ever since. The stadium was functional but tidy and well kept, and the pitch looked in excellent nick.

After an extremely late lunch at a lovely place called La Passarin (they did a wonderful chicken salad for just 119 baht) we drove to our accommodation at Baan Ton Jaeng in Chainat. We stayed at the same bungalow resort last year and it was interesting to note that the room rate per night had come down from 950 baht to just 800 baht including breakfast. The boxy rooms were still decent enough for a two-night stay but the surrounding complex looked a bit tired.     

The resort is in a delightful location though, opposite miles of rice fields that are just perfect for an early evening stroll and to take in the sunset... especially if you have one of the resident pooches to keep you company.

It's match day!

With the game not starting until 7pm, we were able to take the morning and afternoon at a very leisurely pace. We drove down to the riverside community of Sapphaya, where the star attraction is the old police station, or at least it would be if someone could be bothered to take care of it. We came to Sapphaya last season when Samut Prakan were in town - and herein lies the problem; we are just going over old ground and revisiting tourist attractions that seriously don't merit a second look. However, there just isn't anything else to do that doesn't involve eating or drinking. It's getting rather dispiriting. 

To the match itself

It was an unbearably humid evening with not a hint of a breeze around when we got to the Khao Plong Stadium. The first disappointment was that the pre-match food selection that we had so looked forward to had halved in size since our last visit... and no strawberries! We took some photos in front of the main stand, chatted with our Myanmar star Si Thung An (who was as baffled as we were as to why he wasn't even on the subs bench let alone the starting eleven) bought our 150 baht match tickets and slowly made our way to the away enclosure, where a group of around 40-50 Samut Prakan supporters had already congregated.

Much of the banter was about bottom three club Kasetsart FC announcing that they were going to call time on their 35-year existence and not even going to fulfill their remaining five fixtures. What would the implications be for all the clubs who took points off them this season? Thankfully the Thai FA now seems to have talked Kasetsart out of shutting up shop until at least the end of the season, so the show will go on for now. 

The game kicked off at 7pm in front of what looked like a poor crowd by Chainat standards and not only did we have the vile humidity to put up with but thousands of swarming insects. Thankfully they were not the biting kind.

I'm not going to give you a match report because frankly there isn't one to give. It was an absolute shocker of a game. I'll quote a tweet from my friend Russ, who is a Nakhon Ratchisima supporter who was watching on TV - "If you want to know why Thai football crowds are dwindling, then Chainat v Samut Prakan tells you everything you need to know. The entertainment value was absolutely zero" Russ, I can't disagree with that. I don't think I've ever been more relieved to hear a final whistle. Kudos to the video editor who managed to get four and a half minutes of highlights out of it.  

Full-time score: Chainat Hornbill 0 Samut Prakan 0

Watch the match highlights

Overall thoughts?

If we were awful, I think Chainat were even worse. But that was a thoroughly disappointing performance given how well we played in our last game against Nongbua. Judging by the looks on the faces of my fellow Samut Prakan fans at the final whistle, they weren't too impressed with their team's display either. "There was just no spirit there tonight" remarked one fan to me. 

Oh well, just four games to go and then we can all have a nice break. 

Who's up next?

It's our last long distance trip of the season - to the hot, polluted northern city of Lampang for a game on Sunday 31st March.

Going?

Yes, we are doing the return journey by daytime train (not overnight sleeper) so should be interesting. Journey time is around 8-9 hours.


Samut Prakan fixtures 2023/2024




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