Tuesday, 26 June 2012

This blog in 'Big Chilli'

The 'Big Chilli' magazine - available in all good English book stores and probably a few bad ones, too - recently mentioned this blog amongst others. Thanks to the writer.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Samut Sakhon 0 Nontahburi FC 2 - report and highlights

"It's simple lads, just produce the biggest upset of the season."

Supporters of both sides met for a seven-a-side kickabout at a nearby futsal arena before this game and I played my part by making the 2012 Robbie Fowler look like the 1995 Matt Le Tissier. Evidence of this exists online but will certainly not be published by me! The short trip back to the Samut Sakhon Stadium caused the vast majority of away fans to miss our opening goal, which is why the cheers are so few in the video you see below.

No.25 S.Chattong - has made a huge difference
I’ve been ranting about the need for a target man for Eka for two seasons now, they finally acquired one by the name of Siroch in mid-season and the benefit was obvious not just for his goal but his overall contribution to the team.

A frustrated SS goalie
The goal stunned the home crowd and as expected, the home side and league leaders Samut Sakhon piled on some pressure in response, but the benefit of our new coach was also obvious as we kept calm under pressure and tight on the opposing forwards to deny them space and force them to snatch at chances. I wouldn’t be atall surprised to hear our new coach and his side have studied some videos of England’s defending in Euro 2012 to learn how arguably technically superior teams can be defied by using double-layered defending. We played a similar way today and it paid off.

There were two other important events in the first half. The first was a free kick to Eka in which Samut Sakhon’s no.16 decided to get in the ref’s face, yell at him and (study the clip below at 3:13 carefully) actually jab a finger in the ref’s chest. It earned him a yellow card at the time and would come back to haunt him later.

The second incident was a shocking two-footed challenge by no.6 which was high, nowhere near the ball and stopped the player going through on goal. Not only did the ref allow play to go on but the home side refused to kick the ball out of play for the injured man to be treated. In many circumstances I’d applaud the continuation of play as the “gentleman’s rule” has been abused so much in Thailand as a time-wasting technique. Sadly in this case it was nothing of the sort and the injured player was subbed off two minutes later. The offender was not even spoken to. See the clip below at around 4:40.

We took it to them
In the second half I was expecting Eka to basically set up camp in their own area but to the massive credit of everyone involved they set their sights higher. Midway through the second period (10:20 in the clip) SS’s no .16 committed a late challenge and didn’t even look at the ref before handing over his captain’s armband and walking towards his early bath. To make it even sweeter, the resulting free kick produced our second goal from no.39, Jakkrit. Perhaps Samut Sakhon’s captain will think more carefully about his responsibilities before needlessly trying to bully the official and acting like a general idiot next time.

With the one man advantage Eka still refused to sit back and perhaps my favourite moment of the game was Siroch’s long range effort that hit the corner of the goalposts. To see a player possessing the kind of confidence to even attempt that shot gives me hope that we can move up the table.

Final result 0-2. This has been the most unexpected result I’ve ever seen since I saw Southampton beat Man Utd 6-3 in 1996. Today was fantastic not just for the score alone but the performance that produced it, the influence of the new players, the calmness of our defence - our goalie had the best game of his Eka career today - and the news that we have two new Korean players who have not even debuted yet.

We can’t get over-excited, we’re still bottom of the table, but at least now all my “cause for hope” comments can be at least partly vindicated.
Well done and a heartfelt thank you to every single player and staff member at Eka for their commitment, attitude and bravery. This game was another one for the scrap books.
Photo credits: Nhong Tim

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Nonthaburi 1 Kasetstart Uni 4 - report

As writing challenges go, waxing positive about a 1- 4 home defeat for a team at the bottom of the lowest division must rank up there with the best. Yet somehow I’m undaunted by it.

This game started amidst confusion for me. Eka strolled out in a green kit with a mysterious new sponsor. My first conclusion was that we’d been involved in a minor corporate takeover probably involving a change of name and a colour appropriate to whatever product our owners were flogging. This has happened for many teams but it transpires that today (as you’ll hear announced on the clip below) was simply a case of the new kits not being ready in time so we’d borrowed from another team. Any neutrals watching this game could be forgiven for their confusion though, Kasestart’s fans were decked exclusively in green but cheered every goal against the team on the pitch wearing green.......

Eka have obviously strained to make improvements during the mid-season break. The new coach took just minutes to show he’s more dedicated than our previous stalwart and was on the touchline communicating with the players almost from kick off.

The lads on the turf showed equal renewed vigor, several new faces - whose names I have yet to learn - made an impact. Number 25 appears to be the archetype target man for this level that I’ve stressed the need for many times: not especially fast but tall, heavy built and willing to barge his way through the box. Creative midfielders with a good first touch created so many chances in the opening half that it actually felt a bit like a throwback to last season and the days when we had a whole lot of possession but could not bury our chances. So despite going in 0-2 down at half time thanks to some good attacking by the visitors, I was not down-heartened.

The second half was, sadly, a backwards step. The players began to tire and Kesetstart showed why they made the play-offs last season  with a forward line often made up of four players that took their chances well. The final score was 1-4 and by the last few minutes, the players looked resigned to another loss.

However, there were positives to be taken from this game. The new players looked carefully chosen - though there are still no foreigners in the squad - rather than more random signings and it seems that someone has had the good sense to take a look at what is wrong and what can realistically be done to fix it. As mentioned, we have acquired some height and muscle in the front line to match our style of play, we’ve employed a bit more pace in the midfield and the vital presence of former Thai international Janewit in the back line is a blessing.

That said, there are still issues to work on and time is running out. The pitch itself has never been very good this season thanks to the floods of last year (of course there was nothing we could do about that) but it is now looking barely playable, I guess our cost-cuts prevent us treating it.  On the tactical side, we still need to work on attacking crosses when our wide players have the ball and I do wish we’d whip in some low crosses instead of playing every cross at a height goalkeepers feel safe with. It’s a matter of percentages - enough low crosses will net us more goals simply due to deflections and chance alone, let alone what our new forwards can scramble in. Finally, the fitness  levels looked lacking slightly in this game, probably due to the new lads bedding in and the mid-season break.

It’s very important to remember that Kesetart are a good side who won the division last season. They are very effective going forward and their right-winger in particular looks capable of playing at a higher level. Losing to this bunch is not equal to the depressing surrender to mediocre teams like Globex and for the first half we matched them in terms of possession and chances. We’ve obviously done what we can to reedy our problems and it’s now a race against time, we need to break free of the losing mentality and  pick up enough points against fellow strugglers to avoid the anxious wait for the TFA to “decide” what will happen to teams in relegation spots in D2 Bangkok this season.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

New kit, new players, new hope?

It should be available next month. A fan video posted on Facebook (let me know if that link works, please!) shows several new faces including some foreign players. New blood is clearly needed so let us hope the new boys can improve the team.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Nonthaburi FC 1 Chamchuree 3 - highlights

I have to accept I made an error in my report - there clearly was a player offside for Chamchuree's third goal. It could be argued he was not interfering with play but I have never, ever, seen an official make that judgement in Thailand and clearly here he was gaining an advantage.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

New coach

Nonthaburi have sacked coach Tapakorn and appointed former TTM Pichit/Chiang Mai assistant coach Somrak Rungsawang in his place.

While this move was a no-brainer given the obvious plight of the team and apparent insipid attitude of Somrak, I hope it's not used to paper over the cracks. No coach in the world can save a team that's way out of its depth and Eka need at least three, preferably double that, signings to refresh the team and push them up the table.

If we survive this season but things don't get better, I will actually make good on my threat to offer/plead with the team to work as coach, without salary and on whatever budget they give me. I can't do any worse and I'm confident I could do a whole lot better.

This is Thailand, anything can happen.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Nonthaburi FC 1 Chamchuree 3

Another disappointing defeat for Eka against a good Chamchuree side in a contest that served only to underline long-term problems within Eka.

Chamchuree's goalie makes the catch
Nonthaburi looked sleepy in the first twenty minutes of the game and it was this lethargy combined with one defensive error - caused by ball watching - that set up the visiting pink side with an early 0-2 lead.

It was only then that the home side galvanised and I can’t help noticing that we so often pick up our game when we’re losing and nobody expects us to come back. In other words: we play best when the pressure is off. I think this speaks volumes about the wilting confidence in the side.

Chamchuree’s third goal came in the second half when the entire Eka back line stood still and claimed offside when clearly there was no offside. The home side's consolation goal came from some strong pressure down the wings and was well-deserved.

This was the final game in the first leg of the season and in my humble opinion little has changed because conspicuous problems have not been addressed. We have no natural strikers, neither a big target man to attack crosses and corners nor a quick poacher. It makes me so frustrated to see wide players move to the touchline, look up and see nobody moving into the box.  Meanwhile the coach seems to think no touchline interaction is necessary until we are trailing by at least one goal and the back line lack work hard but lack coordination.

Ryan, Joe, Jelani: sadly, they can't help us now.
But there is hope: number thirty, Samart, has speed and dribbling skill,  our new long-haired midfielder Autthapon has a fantastic first touch and creativity, and midfielder Sarawut is good at long range passing. The squad as a whole look to have a good level of team spirit and have mastered basic breakaways and counter attacks. Though still lacking full confidence, it’s clear that the lads are developing in that area and are no longer afraid to take responsibility when they receive the ball in play. Most importantly of all, the team never give up or stop giving one hundred percent for the fans and the crowd respond in kind. With so much dedication from players and fans alike, nobody can write us off just yet.

Over the next couple of weeks the club must "wheel and deal" in the transfer market, presumably, without any cash to spend. If we can wrangle some loans or free transfers to bring in a couple of experienced pros or a hidden gem than we might just move up the table.

However if we do nothing or continue our tradition of utterly random swapping and selling, then we will probably stay rooted to bottom spot. The TFA have, I’m told, “not yet announced”(Thai bureaucrat speak for: “We haven’t got our s**t together yet”) if any relegation from the Regional League will take place this year.  I hate to say it but in its current state, I can’t see our club surviving relegation to  non-league. The future of Nonthaburi FC could be decided this coming fortnight.

Photo credits: Nhong Tim

Cause for hope 1: Samart, quick and able.

Cause for hope 2: New kid Autthapon
Cuase for hope 3: Sarawut's long range passing
Cause for hope 4: they drive the players on