Diary of a Thai football season

2023/24 Samut Prakan v Chantaburi FC

A lower mid-table T2 clash between two sides that look relatively safe for another season.

(The stadium by the sea and the home of Songkhla FC. I wonder if we'll be going there again?)

Let's begin with the T3 play-offs

It's always exciting to know which clubs have a chance of being promoted from T3 to T2 at the end of the season and which far-flung provinces Samut Prakan fans might be travelling to. 

Well, we now know the TWELVE third division play-off contenders. Let's have a look at each one in turn and please note that I'm coming at this from the angle of a Samut Prakan fan who's looking for new travel experiences and to maybe tick off an unfamiliar ground or two.

The expert view

To add a bit of spice to the proceedings, I've also asked for the opinions of four Thai football experts and to give each play-off team a rating from 1-5. 

The experts are James, a man with seemingly an ear to the ground at every Thai football club (you can follow him on Twitter at @JNB_91) Svein, a man focused on all things T3 (@ThaiLeague3News is the account to follow) and Chonburi FC fanatic Dale Farrington and Rob Bernard, the dynamic duo behind the brilliant weekly Thai football podcast. (@Thaifootballpod is their account). Thank you for taking part gents!

The rating system is as follows;

1 = Not a chance

2 = A slight chance but very unlikely

3 = A possibility. They could be a dark horse.

4 = A great chance of getting promotion.

5 = Red hot favourites.  

Ok, let's get into it!

Saimit Kabin

I know little or nothing about Saimit Kabin FC, who finished top of their T3 East division. They play in the presumably sleepy town of Kabinburi, which is just over a two-hour drive east from Samut Prakan, and their Nom Klao Maharaj Stadium holds around 3,000 people. I've also heard it mentioned on social media as 'the stadium that you can see from the train station platform'. Could this be an away trip to do by train then? Further research is definitely required.

The expert view = Samit Kabin get a 1 from both James and Rob but a slightly more hopeful 2 from Dale. And what's this?... a 3 from Svein! Does he know something the rest of us don't? 

Bankhai United

Staying with the T3 East division, Bankhai United were the runners-up behind Saimit Kabin. Founded in 2012, Bankhai United (nickname The Thaksin Warlord) play their home matches at the tiny Wai Krong Stadium. Well, I'm guessing it's tiny with just a 1,300 capacity. It's somewhere down in Rayong Province, so just a couple of hours in the car and you're there, and Rayong or nearby Satthahip always make for a decent football weekend. 

The expert view = Things are looking bleak for the teams from T3 East. Although Svein has gone for another dark horse 3 rating, Dale rates their prospects a 1 while James and Rob go for a 2.  

Songkhla FC 

The Samila Mermaids topped their T3 southern section with plenty of room to spare, but this is a club that always seems to make the play-offs and then come unstuck at the final hurdle. I'm secretly rooting for them to go all the way this time because Songkhla is a delightful place for a football away trip. Yes it's a long way to go (almost a thousand miles to be exact) and yes, it requires getting on a plane, but it's a coastal town that boasts great food, chatty locals and a wonderful laid-back atmosphere. 

We have actually been there once before; Samut Prakan played an FA cup match there in January 2022 and I remember being most impressed with the set-up at the 20,000 capacity Tinsulanonda Stadium. My wife and I have always maintained that we'd do Songkhla again in a heartbeat. We love Southern Thailand! And Southern Thailand desperately needs more representation in Thai football's second tier. Come on The Mermaids!     

The expert view = Perhaps this is Songhla's year. They get a very solid 4 from three of our experts; Rob, Dale and James. Svein is playing a cagey game though and can only see Songkhla as a 3. Perhaps those long distance travels will take their toll again. 

Sisaket United

I've got unfinished business with Sisaket in North East Thailand. I went there once in the mid-1990s as part of a company roadshow to demonstrate to Thai teachers in government schools how to teach English effectively. I was only there for a couple of nights but I recall a one-horse town with very little to see or do except a morning market, plus it was bitterly cold early on in the day. I also disliked the company I was working for and I disliked the boss even more. It wasn't the happiest period of my life by any stretch. 

Sisaket United play at the 11,000 capacity Sri Nakhon Lamduan Stadium, which is some 560 kms from Samut Prakan. Those who don't fancy the 7-8 hour drive can catch a one-hour flight to Ubon Ratchathani, and then it's an hour's drive from there to Sisaket. I'm guessing the town has changed beyond recognition in the last 30 years and I would relish the opportunity to go back.  

The expert view = There's plenty of respect and optimism for the 'Fire Rumdel' (funny nickname?) as Sisaket United get solid 4 ratings from James, Svein and Dale. Rob's having none of that nonsense and shows some love for one of his favourite lower league sides by rating them a 5.

Mahasarakham SBT

The T3 North-East runners-up get crowds of around 500-600 at the Mahasarakham Provincial Stadium, which could cope with ten times that number. Getting there would mean at least a six-hour drive from Samut Prakan, probably closer to seven, and the nearest airport is an hour away in Roi Et. Hmmm... not the easiest place to get to but that's part of the fun of following football in T2. Even though I do feel slightly sorry for a club that has the nickname 'The Great Purple Crabs', I'm itching to go.

The expert view = It's almost 4 ratings all round again with Dale, Rob and James all fancying Mahasarakham's chances. Svein is not quite so optimistic and goes with a 3. 

Bangkok FC

From a Samut Prakan fan point of view, Bangkok FC, who have topped the T3 Bangkok division, would undoubtedly make a very welcome addition to T2, especially as we look like losing two of our closest geographical rivals - Customs United and Kasetsart FC. It's always nice to have a sprinking of away matches that are relatively easy to get to. That said, we played Bangkok FC in the FA Cup in October 2022, and it was still a fair old drive to their 72-year Anniversary Stadium in Thung Kru. I'm not sure it's that well served by public transport either. 

However, the stadium is in an interesting neighborhood with a significant student population - and that often means plenty of quirky cafes and unusual eateries. I thought the 10,000 capacity stadium was impressive on the day I visited. It may have looked a little tatty and weather-beaten from the outside but its main stand positively gleamed.

The expert view = Bangkok FC are the only team to receive a 5 rating from James and Dale, while Rob also sees them as 5-star prospects. We sure know where to put our betting money. Svein only gives them a 4 but I should add that no team gets a Svein rating of 5. The Fire Bulls have also just knocked the mighty Buriram out of the FA Cup so confidence in the squad will surely be sky high.   

Angthong FC

Angthong FC have qualified for the play-offs as the runners up from T3 West. I like Angthong. In fact I like all that region of Thailand that encompasses Angthong, Suphanburi, Chainat and Singburi. With its slow pace of life and nods to a bygone era, you always feel like you're exploring provinces that are off-the-beaten-track but only 2-3 hours away. The Ang Thong Stadium is just 130 kms from Samut Prakan and is not far from the centre of Ang Thong and a decent choice of accommodation. It sounds like the perfect one-night trip for me, perhaps even longer if there are enough attractions in the vicinity.   

The expert view = James has given Angthong FC a 3 and says "Angthong is the biggest wildcard, as their striker Karam Idris is a capable goalscorer and a potential matchwinner because of it". Dale also gives them a 3 but Svein and Rob go one better with a 4. I'm guessing that the relatively high ratings could be because although Angthong have to play three of their five play off matches away, they have Songkhla and Phattalung at home, thus keeping their travel time down to a minimum. Keep your eye on Angthong is clearly the message.    

Phitsanaloke Unity

Formerly known as Watbot City and qualifying as T3 North champions, Phitsanaloke Unity draw crowds of barely a hundred hardy souls to their Phitsanaloke Stadium. This probably explains why a couple of years ago when I happened to be in Phitsanaloke, I asked at the tourist information office where the stadium was and the two women on duty looked blankly at each other before one said 'oh, does Phitsanaloke have a football team?" Anyway, I'm sure you're in for a warm welcome if you're willing to brave the 5-6 hour drive. Alternatively, the town does have an airport fairly near the city centre.

The expert view = James doesn't quite see Phitsanaloke Unity as also-rans and has given them a rating of 2. Dale just can't see them gracing the second tier so can only give them a 1. Just to really put the cat amongst the pigeons, Rob has gone for a 3 and Svein has given them a 4. Have we found the play-offs' most unpredictable quantity?  

Maejo United

Could Chiang Mai be boasting three teams in T2 next season? It could well happen if neither Chiang Mai FC nor Chiang Mai United get promoted to the top flight and they are joined by the Cowboys from Maejo. Maejo United's compact Intanin Stadium (it holds just 1,500 spectators) is some 15 kms north of Chiang Mai within the grounds of Maejo University. 

It's a club that needs no introduction to Samut Prakan fans, having drawn them twice in the FA Cup - a 3-0 victory to Prakan in December 2020, followed by a 2-0 win in October 2022. The latter of those two cup ties was played at the Chonburi FC Stadium because the Samut Prakan Stadium was experiencing floodlight issues. I'm sure Maejo United's ground is lovely and I can imagine a backdrop of towering mountains and ominous dark clouds, but I don't want to go to Chiang Mai at all, let alone three times! 

The expert view = Perhaps Chiang Mai won't be getting a third club after all. Svein and Rob award them an encouraging 2 but James rates them a 1 without any hesitation... and Dale completely agrees with him. Sorry Maejo.

North Bangkok University

Isn't this the club that qualifies for the play-offs every season and then confesses it doesn't really want to get promotion because it will mean finding a better stadium, spending large sums of money, and doing all manner of things the club really isn't willing to do. Who seriously wants to play against university sides anyway? Next... 

The expert view = It's 1 ratings across the board from three of our experts. Only Rob thinks we shouldn't be quite so hard on them and puts a 2 against their name. 

Pathum Thani University

Oh no! another university team. Pathum Thani University FC play home matches at the Ratchakram Stadium in Ayutthaya, so it's only an hour's drive from Samut Prakan. They get attendances of between 100 and 200 on a good day.

The expert view = James, Rob and Dale clearly see the university teams as there to just make up the numbers and PTU get a 1. Only Svein sees perhaps a glimmer of hope and has gone with a 2.  

Phattalung FC

Now this is more like it. We love teams from the south and the southern Thais are passionate about their football. Throw some decent opposition at them and Phattalung FC are well capable of attracting 2,000+ and nigh on filling half their stadium. Flanked by the provinces of Trang and Songkhla, it's a gorgeous part of Thailand that's almost perfect for a week-long road trip.

The expert view = James and Rob are confident that Pattalung can go all the way and each dish out a 4. Dale's got his doubts though and settles for a 3. Svein doesn't do 'supremely confident' but still thinks they're worthy of a 4.  

A final conclusion from James - "Of the 12 teams that have qualified, only half of them (in my opinion) are capable of taking that next step. T3 East and T3 North were again the weaker regions this season, so I don't think clubs from those two divisions will earn promotion. The three I think will go up are: Bangkok FC, Songkhla, and Sisaket United.

Dale summed it up like this - 'Bangkok FC have been the podcast favourites for a while and I'll be very surprised if they don't go up. Sisaket Utd and Mahasaraham have received lots of coverage on the show, too, and both look very strong contenders. The only other two I'd tip are Songkhla & Phattalung, with Songkhla being most likely.

"It's a difficult play-offs to predict and there are no clear favourites in my opinion" argues Svein. 

"I believe the Southern section [of six play-off teams] is slightly the tougher of the two sections - and the runner-up place will be a real battle behind Bangkok FC" adds Rob

Back to T2 action and Samut Prakan host Chantaburi FC in what has the feel of an early end-of-season, nothing-to-play-for fixture, or is that being a bit harsh?

No, I don't think it is. Although the two teams are at the wrong end of the table in 12th and 14th positions, they are both pretty much safe from relegation. It would take a remarkable run of results from one of the teams currently in the bottom three - Krabi, Customs and Kasetsart - to overtake Samut Prakan or Chantaburi, and you wouldn't bet on any of them with bad money. That 12-point gap is insurmountable in my opinion and all three clubs should start preparing for life in the third division.

I just hope this game is a better one than the 0-0 draw we had to sit though in Chantaburi earlier in the season.  

(I must give a wave to Chantaburi fans Paul and Berni, who will be watching the game from somewhere in northern India while on vacation)

Any player connections?

Attacking midfielder Thanadon Suphapon scored 3 goals in 25 appearances for Chantaburi last season before making the move to Samut Prakan. He's found games at his new club much harder to come by though and has started just five times with a further seven appearances from the subs bench. He has just a solitary goal to his name.   

Do Chantaburi travel well?

Not really. They've won just one of their 13 away matches this season - a 3-1 victory at Ayutthaya United back in August.

(Photo credit: Official Samut Prakan Facebook page)

To the match itself

Samut Prakan's three chief goal threats are arguably Si Thu Aung, Fernando and Arnont Phumsri. Two of them were on the sub's bench for this one and I spot Arnont Phumsri limping around in front of 7-11 before the game. He confirms to me that he is carrying an injury that will keep him out for 2-3 weeks. Things are not looking too great.

The first half is woeful and you'd be forgiven for wondering which team were the home side, such was Chantaburi's dominance in terms of possession. With a more potent forward line, they would surely have put the game out of sight before the break. Samut Prakan's tactical plan - if I can call it that - seems to be to hoof it out of defence at the first opportunity and hope Sangjin Lee can make something happen. But the Korean midfielder is plowing a lone furrow up front and becomes visibly more frustrated as the evening wears on. With the impressive Seul Ki pulling the strings in midfield, the visitors have simply looked far too comfortable.  

Half time: Samut Prakan 0 Chantaburi FC 0

Disaster strikes for Prakan in the 57th minute as Jiraaut Wingwon is given his marching orders for possibly the harshest red card you'll ever see. It was barely worthy of a yellow and surely the match official will come under some scrutiny for the decision.

It takes just five minutes for Chantaburi to make the numerical advantage count and get their noses in front - a left wing cross and Filipino forward Bienvenido Maranon, playing his first season in Thai football, ghosts into the box to sidefoot home from close range.  

With 20 minutes remaining, Chantaburi get the chance to extend their lead as Pantakan pulls down Pedro Paulo in front of goal. There isn't a single Samut Prakan player that contests the obvious spot kick decision. The responsibilty of wrapping up the points falls to Seul Ki but Jirunpong in the Samut Prakan goal saves well diving to his right.

The reprieve is short-lived however as Pedro Paulo gets on the end of another left wing cross to steer the ball into the bottom corner and give The Wild Rabbits a two-goal lead that they richly deserve.

An 81st minute tap-in from Samut Prakan defender Kittichai Yaidee offers the home side a glimmer of hope but Chantaburi see the remaining minutes out comfortably and almost certainly ensure their second division survival for another season.

Full-time: Samut Prakan 1 Chantaburi FC 2

Watch the match highlights

(Kittichai Yaidee gets his name on the scoresheet. Photo credit: Official Samut Prakan Facebook page)

Overall thoughts?

I'm not going to fall into the trap of saying that the ridiculous red card decision was a game changer. It wasn't. I'm convinced even had the contest stayed as 11 v 11, Chantaburi would have got a goal or two from somewhere. That was another very poor performance from Samut Prakan; the first half tactics especially were baffling and had many a home fan scratching their head in disbelief. Thankfully the teams in the bottom three keep losing but that's just two wins from 11 games under manager Wanderley's tenure and surely questions must be being asked.      

(I love the club owner Khun Big and it's so disappointing that he's being let down on the pitch at the moment. Photo credit: Official Samut Prakan Facebook page

Who's up next?

It's time to get on the Bangkok skytrain for a trip to Kasetsart FC on Saturday 9th March, 6.30 pm kick off.

Samut Prakan fixtures 2023/2024


No comments yet

Post your comment

Comments are moderated and will not appear instantly.

Featured Jobs

NES or European Teachers

฿34,000+ / month


Fun Native English Teachers

฿44,000+ / month


NES English, Science and Math Teachers

฿42,300+ / month


Kindergarten and Primary Teachers

฿42,000+ / month


Principal and Curriculum Developer

฿60,000+ / month


Short-term English Teachers

฿40,000+ / month


Featured Teachers

  • George

    British, 62 years old. Currently living in Thailand

  • Paulyn

    Filipino, 27 years old. Currently living in Philippines

  • Renieboy

    Filipino, 26 years old. Currently living in Philippines

  • Purificacion

    Filipino, 40 years old. Currently living in Philippines

  • Jelamin

    Filipino, 27 years old. Currently living in Philippines

  • Dina

    Filipino, 27 years old. Currently living in Philippines

The Hot Spot

Air your views

Air your views

Got something to say on the topic of teaching, working or living in Thailand? The Ajarn Postbox is the place. Send us your letters!

The dreaded demo

The dreaded demo

Many schools ask for demo lessons before they hire. What should you the teacher be aware of?

The Region Guides

The Region Guides

Fancy working in Thailand but not in Bangkok? Our region guides are written by teachers who actually live and work in the provinces.

The cost of living

The cost of living

How much money does a teacher need to earn in order to survive in Thailand? We analyze the facts.

Will I find work in Thailand?

Will I find work in Thailand?

It's one of the most common questions we get e-mailed to us. So find out exactly where you stand.

Need Thailand insurance?

Need Thailand insurance?

Have a question about health or travel insurance in Thailand? Ricky Batten from Pacific Prime is Ajarn's resident expert.

Teacher mistakes

Teacher mistakes

What are the most common mistakes that teachers make when they are about to embark on a teaching career in Thailand? We've got them all covered.

Contributions welcome

Contributions welcome

If you like visiting ajarn.com and reading the content, why not get involved yourself and keep us up to date?