Diary of a Thai football season

2023/24 Rayong FC v Samut Prakan

Our last away game of the season - or will it be simply our last ever away game?

(Hopefully the weather will be drier than on our last visit to the Rayong Provincial Stadium in October 2022. No doubt it'll be the same crappy view from the away end though)

A tough away game to finish?

Very much so. Rayong FC are currently in third place and need just a point from their final two games to guarantee a T2 play-off place. They'll be looking for all three points from this one for sure.

Rayong's home record looks decent enough on paper but they've actually drawn all four of their last four games at the Rayong Provincial Stadium. 

Who are the players to watch?

Brazilian right-back Rafael Galhardo - now in his second season at Rayong FC - is always a man who catches my eye. I think he's a super player. 

Top scorer with 17 goals for The Dragon Horses is Tiago Chulapa, a Brazilian forward who has been playing in Thailand since 2017 and has a whole host of clubs under his belt including Lamphun and Nongbua Pichaya. Tiago is also enjoying a second prolific spell at Rayong (or is it his third?) 

Japanese midfielder Ryoma Ito has also hit double figures for the season, but there are goal threats from everywhere with this set of players. 

The last time the two clubs met in Rayong?

Back in October 2022. Samut Prakan edged the game with a late winner from the much-missed Mos Padsakorn, but it was a well-deserved victory.

And there be rumours?

Oh there be rumours alright. Rumours that unless an investor with deep pockets steps in to save us, Samut Prakan City will fold at the end of the season. I'm not going to dwell on it at this stage. It would be sad but certainly not unexpected. Regardless of the result, let's savour the occasion and enjoy what might be our last ever away game.   

Journey and digs

We only did a one-night stopover in Rayong last season but thought we'd make a weekend of it this time and booked a couple of nights at The Hotel Fuse, a four-star joint about a 10-minute drive from the stadium. We booked direct with the hotel rather than through the portals and paid 1,300 baht a night, including breakfast.  

We stopped a couple of times on the way down to Rayong, but the weather was so unbearably hot and humid, nowhere outside was any fun.

The King Kong Hill Coffee Shop and Restaurant was a strange place indeed. It was a combination of fairly modern coffee shop and two-star rural hotel that had fallen on hard times. You wondered what theme the owner had set out to achieve with cheap cuddly toys plonked on faux French period furniture and the tired-looking King Kongs outside to provide customers with photo opportunities. Nothing quite matched or gave the restaurant an identity. But the food and drinks were OK.

The main attractions at Wat Khao Tabaek are the bridge of coloured ribbons and the recently-opened glass skywalk. Given the stiflling humidity, those who were willing to walk the steep path up to the latter were far braver than us. We turned back at the halfway point.    

It's match day!

We spent most of the morning looking around Rayong old town, which is basically just one street but includes a couple of gaudy Chinese temples, a small museum, some interesting street art and a selection of vintage coffee shops.

A shame that once again, the weather was far too hot to do anything other than dodge from one air-conditioned establishment to another. 

Much of the street art looked as if it had been done fairly recently.

To the match itself

Samut Prakan aren't perhaps the most glamourous of opposition but despite Rayong being a team in the thick of the play-offs, it looked to be a disappointing turnout from the home fans as the match got underway at 6pm. It was very much another 'patched-up' starting eleven for the visitors, with a sprinkling of youngsters and no Bianor Neto taking his regular place in the centre of defence. However, win or lose, the 60-70 strong contingent of travelling Prakan fans were determined to savour their last away trip of the season.

Any thoughts of Rayong taking their foot off the gas in preparation for the last lap of what's been an excellent season, were quickly dismissed as they raced into a two-goal lead within the opening six minutes; both goals courtesy of Burmese midfielder Lwin Moe Aung, the first an unmissable header on the goal-line, and the second an equally straightforward tap-in. 

What the highlights reel doesn't show is just how many chances Rayong squandered and just how overwhelmed Samut Prakan City were, before the home side finally added a third on 39 minutes; Ratchata loses possession just inside his own half and can only watch on helplessly as Thepittak fires a shoot low into the bottom corner.    

Lwin Moe Aung then jinks past a non-existent Prakan defence to complete his hat-trick before Galhardo (is there a finer player in T2?) adds a fifth. 

In the away end, the Samut Prakan fans start singing, dancing and posing for photos in front of the electronic scoreboard. I suppose you could say it's a celebration - a celebration of the absurdity of the situation we find ourselves in. 

Half-time: Rayong FC 5 Samut Prakan 0

If the first period bordered on ridiculous, then the second half managed to outdo it. Fernando gets on the end of of a Chakrit cross to put Samut Prakan on the scoresheet with a powerful header after 55 minutes, but the Brazilian's joy is shortlived as Ratchata gives away a penalty just minutes later. Rayong's top scorer Chulapa finally joins the party as he converts the spot-kick. Thepiittak then curls in his second goal of the evening and Rayong are 7-1 up. 

The never-say-die Sho Shimoji nips in to pull another goal back for Prakan but as the match turns into almost a futsal training session, Galhardo scores the goal of the game with an audacious technique that was worth the price of admission. 8-2 to Rayong and fans have almost run out of counting fingers. 

The final ten minutes belong to the men in blue as Fernando gets on the end of a right wing cross to score his 12th league goal of the campaign and Ronnachai Rangsiyo hammers home a long range effort. It's only the second time Samut Prakan have scored more than three goals this season; just a shame about the eight they've conceded.

Full time: Rayong FC 8 Samut Prakan 4

Watch the match highlights

Overall thoughts?

It's difficult to be critical of players that are in such a dire financial situation. We should just be happy that they are still willing to pull on the shirt, That was such a bonkers game though and full credit to Rayong, who were ruthless and clinical throughout. Good luck in the play-offs! 

As for Samut Prakan City Football Club, the end of the season probably can't come quickly enough.

(Photo credit: Official Samut Prakan Facebook page)

Who's up next?

Our final game of the season at home to Pattaya United FC on Saturday 27th April. It's also my 60th birthday. 

Samut Prakan fixtures 2023/2024


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