(The last time the two clubs met at the Latkrabang 54 Stadium was at the end of January, when Customs United ran out 1-0 winners)
What's our record like against Customs United?
Played two, lost two.
Not only did Customs beat us 1-0 on their own patch last season, they thumped us 3-0 at the Samut Prakan Stadium. Thankfully, I was in England for that game and it was one of the few matches I missed. We owe them a beating.
How have they started this season?
They are currently in 14th place having taken just four points from their opening four games.
Things got off to a poor start. After a 3-1 home defeat to Chiang Mai United on the opening weekend, they then travelled to Nongbua Pichaya and were handed a 6-0 thrashing. Those pundits who had singled out Customs as 'relegation certainties' started to adopt an 'I told you so' expression even at this early stage. Since then though, the men from Latkrabang gained their first point in a 0-0 stalemate at home to Chainat (also a popular tip for the drop) and grabbed a surprise 1-0 victory at Kasetsart.
Customs haven't been convincing at all so far though. In his excellent T2 pre-season preview, Rob Scott says that now Premier League Port FC has stopped bankrolling the club and effectively ended their partnership, the 'star players' have moved on. The Customs supporter base is so small that there are no inquisitive fan pages and information is always difficult to find. Then Rob really puts the boot in. "If Customs are relegated come the end of season, they will not be missed. There are many better supported clubs in T3 that could replace them"
Rob tips Customs United to finish 17th, ending what would be a five-year stay in the second division.
I have to admit that I feel the same way Rob does. I've been to the Latkrabang 54 Stadium several times, both as an away follower and as a neutral fan, and the whole set-up there has a distinctly third division, lower league feel to it. They strike me as a club that's somewhat fortunate to still be enjoying second tier status.
(You certainly can't grumble at 100 baht a ticket though. Cheapest away seat in the second division surely?)
But any Customs players worth a mention?
Boubacar Koné, a 39-year-old midfielder from Mali, certainly merits an entry based purely on how long he's played in Thailand. He started his Thai football career with Krung Thonburi in 2012 (now playing in the Thai amateur leagues) and his decade plus in the kingdom has seen him move to at least seven different clubs, including Rajpracha and Kasetsart FC (where he made almost 150 appearances) Incredibly, this is his third spell with Customs United. Boubacar also turned out for the Mali national team 14 times between 2012 and 2016.
You sound confident of three points?
I'm going to stick my neck out and go for a 3-1 away win. If we are to have any aspirations of a top six finish, we need to be battering the likes of Customs United. We should also be taking between 150 to 200 fans there and if we can make our usual noise, it'll feel almost like a home game. I'm confident we can lift the players to greatness.
Any player connections?
Yes, attacking midfielder Warakorn Thongbai made five starts for Samut Prakan last season while on loan from Chonburi, as well as a number of substitute appearances. He has now gone on loan to Customs where he appears to be a regular starter.
Prakan defender and U-23 international Kittichai Yaidee is returning to his old stomping ground. He made almost 30 league appearances for Customs last season.
(In the words of KC and The Sunshine Band - Please Don't Go!)
You need to mention another black cloud hovering over the club?
It's probably more a shade of grey, but our brilliant club owner Samrit Bunditkitsada (Khun Big), who has done so much for the club in the past 12 months, has gone public to say that he's been feeling the strain. The recent birth of a second child, family health issues, ever increasing workloads, and plenty more, have all combined to force Khun Big to re-evaluate things. Is it time to walk away and hand over the reins to an interested party from abroad? As always, only time will tell. But there's never a dull moment as a Samut Prakan supporter.
To the match itself
(The official attendance for tonight's game was reported as 350. At least half that number were Samut Prakan fans. Terrific away support!)
Despite its lower league, low key feel, the Latkrabang 54 Stadium does have its plus points. There's a tasty selection of snacks on offer, plus cheap away tickets, ample parking and laid-back security. There always seems to be a welcome cool breeze blowing around the stadium as well - perfect conditions for football if the September rain stays away, as it did this evening.
The first half remained goalless, with Samut Prakan's impressive first quarter of an hour quickly forgotten as the flow of the contest becomes constantly interrupted by injuries. Prakan midfielder Panudech Maiwong is stretchered off on the half hour and takes no further part. It will be a disaster if we lose the diminutive playmaker and one of our star performers to a long-term injury.
The biggest first half talking point however was undoubtedly the situation that developed around the Customs goalkeeper Theerawat Prinpradub.
Anyone who has been an away fan at the Customs United Stadium will be familiar with the short walk from the refreshment zone and ticket booth to the away seating, a walk that takes you directly past one of the penalty areas, with barely a few metres and a wire mesh fence separating a passing away fan from a home goalkeeper. It's a situation that's ripe for some jovial banter or perhaps even some serious goading. Anyway, a comment or two has been thrown at Theerawat, which sparks a furious confrontation through the fencing. As the offending supporter continues on to the away end, the Customs keeper starts screaming at stadium security to arrest or block the fan's entry. It all turns very unsavoury and seems to have a negative effect on the player for the rest of the evening. Whenever there's some argy-bargy between the outfield players or the referee makes a contestable decision, Theerawat rushes out of his goalmouth to get needlessly involved.
Half-time: Customs United 0 Samut Prakan 0
(Hopefully this injury isn't too serious. Photo credit: Official Samut Prakan Facebook page )
Into the second half and after some patient build-up play, Samut Prakan score their opener on the hour mark. Fernando scoops the ball into the area to Kritsada, whose tame shot looks to be heading safely into the goalkeeper's grasp, however, Supawit has other ideas, nicking the ball from under the keeper's nose and slotting home from an acute angle. The Customs defenders - believing Theerawat had possession of the ball - can't quite believe the goal has been allowed to stand, and to be honest, I wonder what VAR would've made of that one.
There's no disputing Samut Prakan's second goal though, as Sho Shimoji latches on to another Fernando trademark scoop and with a cool finish, the Japanese midfielder scores his first of the season.
If that wasn't the killer goal, the third certainly was, as Supawit gets on the end of a left-wing cross to nod in his second goal of the evening with fewer than ten minutes remaing. An unlikely but thoroughly well-deserved brace for the likeable defender and it caps a terrific team performance.
Customs were not without their chances in the second period but they came up against Itthipon in fine form. The Samut Prakan 'second choice keeper', who played 23 games for Sisaket United in T3 last season, did his first team chances no harm at all with a clean sheet and an excellent display.
Full-time: Customs United 0 Samut Prakan 3
A slightly flattering final scoreline but all in all, an excellent result from what was often a bad-tempered and difficult encounter. In the first half especially, there were holes in the Samut Prakan defence you could've driven a bus through, but thankfully, the Customs forward line were guilty of over-thinking and over-passing. A better second division attack would surely have taken at least one of those chances. The second half was a different story. We kept our heads, ignored the personal niggles going on all over the pitch, and got the job done. And for a weekend at least, Samut Prakan are in the top six.
Who's up next?
A very tough home game against Nakhon Ratchisima on Saturday 23rd September (kick off 6.00 pm) That will be my last Samut Prakan game for a while as I fly to England for a family visit two days afterwards.