(Thank you to the brilliant Go2 Photo Stock for some of the photos)
So who are we welcoming to Bang Plee this evening?
A warm welcome to Trat FC and to any of their supporters who have made the rather arduous 4-5 hour journey by road.
Not quite the same buzz to it as last week's home game against Buriram though?
No, and no disrespect to Trat but I suspect the attendance will be back down to something around the 2,000 mark. The 5.45 pm kick off won't help much either.
What was the score in the reverse fixture?
The teams shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw back in early April. Both goals came in the first half with Ibson Melo hitting the target for Samut Prakan and cancelling out Lonsona Duombouya's 14th minute opener.
Guinean international, Duombouya is having a decent season and he's Trat's top scorer with 14 goals so far, but actually the towering forward has been a prolific goalscorer wherever he's played. A couple of years back, he even scored half a dozen times in 19 appearances for Inverness Caledonian Thistle in The Scottish League. I'm not sure how even the most ardent journeyman footballer finds his way from Scotland to Thailand (with a season in Austria sandwiched in-between) but I dare say Thailand must be a slightly warmer place to kick a ball around.
How are Trat doing this season?
They are currently 11th in the Thai Premier League, having won 7, drawn 5 and lost 9.
An eight-game unbeaten run in April and May had the Trat faithful believing a top three finish was possible but a 3-0 defeat at Muang Thong heralded a run of seven games that has included just one win. Trat are now just three points above the relegation zone.
This sounds like a very winnable game?
A month or so ago I would have agreed, but we are seriously struggling for form at the moment. I'll take a win tonight at any price.
So how was the turnout?
I got it spot on! The official attendance was announced in the second half as just over 1,900. We're down to the hardcore you might say.
And no star striker this evening?
Sadly we're missing Ibson Melo, who has to serve a one-match ban for reaching four yellow cards. However, it did finally give me the chance to say hello and have a brief friendly chat. What a lovely guy!
To the game itself. First half?
Both teams went at it from the start with the first clear-cut chance falling to Trat after five minutes. Samut Prakan goalkeeper Supawat finds himself out of position but just manages to tip a long range effort around the post. Trat are a big, physical side and look a constant threat on the counter attack. This is going to be a difficult evening.
However, it's Samut Prakan who draw first blood in the 11th minute. Pumin Kaewta floats in a cross from the left wing and Chayawat rises above the defence to steer his header into the bottom corner for a proper centre-forward's goal.
On the car journey to the ground, my wife had pressured me for a score prediction and I had gone for a 3-0 stroll in the park. Trat hadn't read that particular script though. Samut Prakan's lead lasts barely two minutes as goalkeeper Supawat and defender Jakkapan get into an awful mess, making a comical hash of a routine clearance, and they hand Trat a simple equaliser. Nigerian forward, Durosinmi, is left with the job of running the ball into an empty net.
Samut Prakan responded immediately with Chayawat firing a shot wide of the post and chipping one over the crossbar (he looks on fire tonight). Teerapol clips the crossbar with another good effort on the half hour mark and the Trat keeper produces a couple of fine saves to keep out Chayawat. We are creating numerous chances but just can't find that second goal.
Five minutes before the break, Samut Prakan make a Korean for Korean substitution. Kim Pyung Rae (who was probably having his best game in a blue shirt up to that point) is replaced by Kim Hoyeong, and it's our first chance to have a look at the man wearing number four.
The half-time whistle goes and it's all square in Bang Plee.
Sounds like anybody's game?
Samut Prakan might have edged the first 45 but the second half becomes a far more even contest. It's just a minute old when Trat's Japanese midfielder, Yuki Bamba (on loan from second division BG Pathum United) charges down a Jakkapan clearance and gives Supawat no chance with a rasping drive from outside the box.
In the 63rd minute, the home side lose star player, Jaroensak, as he ends up being stretchered off and replaced by Krailas. It's a tragic blow for the young man and the latest news is that he'll be sidelined for three weeks. This seems to be becoming the story of our season.
Samut Prakan continue to huff and puff but they can't blow that Trat FC house down. But with the stadium clock indicating that 90 minutes is over, we finally get a piece of good fortune as Pumin Kaewta's tame header is fumbled into the net by Trat's gaolkeeper Tossaporn (I'm saying nothing)
Immediately the board goes up to signal four minutes of injury time. Is there time for a last gasp winner? Yes there is - but it's for the visitors in red. The four minutes of injury time are an absolute horror show for Samut Prakan. Not once, but twice, goalkeeper Supawat passes out to his back four and puts the defenders under pressure when he should be just hoofing it upfield with all the strength he can muster. On the first occasion he redeems himself with a glorious save to keep out the danger man Doumbouya - but you can't do that twice. The Guinean international makes no mistake with the second opportunity and buries a 93rd minute winner. (match highlights)
I thought we played well tonight. Every Samut Prakan player put in a shift out there. You couldn't fault the effort and the work rate. But we came up against a strong, physical Trat side who came with a game plan to defend and counter attack and give us no time on the ball in midfield - and they executed that plan superbly. You can see why in the first half of the season, Trat were in the top six. They are a very useful side.
So where do Samut Prakan go from here? I think we can now forget any talk of being champions. Let's put that one to bed. Realistically, the target should now be a top five finish - and that would still be a great season.
Looking back, the home game against Chonburi was the turning point, when we lost both our first choice goalkeeper and Captain Peeradol to long-term injuries. Those layoffs have affected the balance of the team and we haven't looked the same since. If we are going to challenge for the title again next season, assembling a larger squad of quality players has to be a priority. Easier said than done of course.
Finally, a shout out for Samut Prakan forward, Pumin Kaewta. We've only seen him play a handful of games this season but he looks very useful. He certainly doesn't lack confidence on the ball and I'm looking forward to see how he develops as hopefully a vital team member. I was mildly impressed with Kim Hoyeong as well, who came on as sub for a 50-minute debut. He's a big, tall lad who likes to pass the ball forward and his physical presence in the box at set pieces added something to our game.
Is Samut Prakan coach, Murayama, under pressure you think?
I think it's fair to say that there are one or two questions being asked - even at this relatively early stage. But that's the nature of football and football fans. There has been a number of negative comments posted on the club's official Facebook page. Let's just say that patience isn't going to last forever. I'm still confident the gaffer can turn things around though and get our season back on track. You have to put things into perspective: we are still a team punching well above our weight.
While we're on the subject of fan comment and opinion, there's a growing dissent among the ranks as to why Myanmar international, Kyaw Ko Ko, isn't being given a chance in the team. He's found himself in the wilderness for much of the season and I really can't see him being here next year. But the manager picks the team and if Ko Ko isn't in the starting line-up, there has to be a good reason.
Who's up next?
It's another big home game next Sunday (11th August) as we take on Chiang Rai FC, who at the time of writing sit top of the league.