With about a quarter of the T2 league season played (9 matches) let's have a look at the table before this weekend's games
Before the season started, ask many fans in the know as to who would be their top promotion picks and it's a fair bet Nakhon Ratchisima, Suphanburi, Chiang Mai FC and Nongbua Pichaya would have got plenty of votes. Well, those teams occupy the top four places and I certainly think two of them will secure the automatic promotion spots come the end of the season. At the other end of the table, Chainat Hornbill and Krabi are yet to record a victory and it already looks like being a long hard campaign.
Samut Prakan are lying safely in 10th and part of a crowded mid-table, but like a number of T2 clubs, they're struggling for any real consistency.
Pattaya United have been my surprise package so far. I really thought they'd struggle after seeing them go down to Samut Prakan on the opening weekend of the season but that hasn't been the case. I also expected Lampang and Chiang Mai United to pose more of a threat than they have. It's still early days though.
How about today's opponents Ayutthaya United?
Fifth place Ayutthaya are on a fine run of form that has seen them shoot up the T2 table and it's worth pointing out that five of their nine games so far have been away from home. On the road, they've spanked Chainat Hornbill 5-1 and won at Rayong, DP Kanchanaburi and Chiang Mai United all by a single goal.
How did this fixture go last season?
After Ayutthaya beat us 2-1 at their place in early November, the return game at Samut Prakan was closely fought with honours even in a 1-1 draw. In other words, we are yet to register a win against them. I'm drinking from the half empty glass because I'm not sure I can see that changing today.
Ayutthaya players to watch?
Andre Luis and Moussa Sanoh are a strike partnership that has grabbed 8 goals this season. Brazilian Andre is something of a veteran at 37 years old and Ayutthaya is his fifth Thai club. Last season, he dropped down to T3 level and banged in almost 20 goals for MH Nakhonsi United. 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.
Any player connections?
Yes, 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!
To the match itself
We got to the ground about an hour before kick off, chatted with some regular faces, and after picking up our new club scarves at the merchandise stand (and very fine they are too!) we took our usual seats in W2. And then the heavens opened...and oh boy did it rain! Within a quarter of an hour, small lakes had formed on the playing surface and I thought there was no way this game would be allowed to go ahead. Then we got an announcement that kick off would be delayed by half an hour, but it just kept on raining. Kick off was pushed back another 30 minutes (it was now going to be a hopeful 7.30 start instead of the scheduled 6.30) The groundstaff, using advertisment hoardings as giant squeegees, worked like trojans to get the pitch into some sort of playable condition. Eventually the rain stopped, most of the surface water had been cleared, and we were going to get a football match...or at least something resembling a football match.
As for the Samut Prakan line-up, Ittiphon took over the goalkeeping gloves from Jurapong and Ronnachai Rangsiyo came out of the league match wilderness, not only to start but to don the captain's armband. There was also a starting place for academy star Ratchata Chanlao, who enjoyed a fine 45 minutes at Fleet FC in midweek. Top scorer Fernando had to be staisfied with a place on the bench but I suspect he was far from 100% fit.
The two teams did extremely well to cope in such difficult conditions. I haven't got a highlights video to play back (at the time of writing) and I can't be bothered to wade through the live stream but the game didn't really come alive until the final twenty minutes. Sho Shimoji gave Samut Prakan a 67th minute lead, applying the finishing touch to Fernando's deft flick header (Fernando on as a first half substitute). Alas, the home team had to be satisfied with just a point as deep into stoppage time, their defence switched off and allowed Chukit Wanpraphao to nod in Ayutthaya United's equaliser.
The Samut Prakan players fell to the wet turf in despair at the final whistle, knowing they had thrown two points away right at the death. But on the balance of things, a draw was perhaps the fair result and the right result. The players from both teams deserved something from the contest, doing their best in atrocious conditions. Finally, kudos to the Samut Prakan ground staff for getting the match underway.
(Sho Shimoji celebrates what should have been the winning goal. Photo credit: Official Samut Prakan Facebook page)
(Sometimes it hurts. Photo credit: Official Samut Prakan Facebook page)
Who's up next?
It's back to cup action and a tough away tie at premier league Trat FC in the FA Cup (round of 64) on Wednesday 1st November.
Oh for sure! We play at Chantaburi in the league three days after, and with Trat and Chantaburi being just an hour apart, it's a wonderful opportunity to do a longer road trip down in deepest south-east Thailand and take in two matches.