Monday, 8 October 2018

Season 2018 Review
After a surprisingly bright start that saw the team soaring into the top 6, the team settled into a comfortable mid table position although, it must be said never more than 4 or 5 points clear of the relegation zone. This was a crucial season for the team, with 5 down, I was not alone amongst Thai football pundits in thinking that they might be one of the favourites for the dreaded drop.

The club’s rather bold mid-season decision to end the contracts of Adiyiah and Rangel and bring in Assumpcao and other supporting squad players appeared to have paid off with improved second leg results.

The low point of the season was the walloping at home by Port followed by another home defeat to Chonburi. These were two dreadful performances and my spirits fell alarmingly as the spectre of relegation loomed large.

Highpoint was probably the run in the league cup, ended unfortunately by the loss on penalties to Chang Rai in the semifinal. A good day out for the fans and a morale booster for the players.

Questions will be asked of coach Joksic. My take is that he has led us to a fairly comfortable mid table finish with an average bunch of players. The team is now established in the Premier League and only investment in better players will help the club to kick on. Unfortunately, I think this is unlikely to happen so the future seems to be mid table obscurity.

Positives are that Malaysian striker Shehrel looks to have a great future with the club and the team’s defence, although at times appearing disorganized has looked fairly secure.
Assumpcao’s future is questionable and I am not sure that he is the right man up front. Coach Joksic’s promise of new strikers being brought in must bring his future into doubt. The coach has also promised that fans will see a more positive approach next season and that he is 100% confident that the team will finish in the top 7 - here’s hoping.

Dateline 7th Oct0ber 2018

 FT Bangkok Glass 1 NRFC 2

Attendance; 5053

In this the last game of the season, Bangkok Glass needed a solitary point to avoid relegation.

The home team opened brightly, dominating play in the first 20 minutes but not really creating many clear-cut chances. In the 31st minute, a poor Cunningham clearance was returned to Totti who rifled in from 18 yards to give Glass a deserved lead.

With the Swatcat’s usual lack of constructive forward play thus far, this looked like an easy 3 points for the home side.

In a totally unexpected turn of events, the visitors came out of their shell and Akekanat swept in from close range after the home keeper dropped a cross. Minutes later, Tanaboon brought down Assumpcao just outside the box and was shown a red card for the offence. The home crowd was then stunned into silence as Assumpcao fired in beautifully from the free kick as they saw their side stare relegation in the face.

At half time The Swatcats were lucky to be 2-1 up and Glass were beginning to look anxious and panic stricken.

The second half began and the expected onslaught from Glass came. An 18-yard free kick was deflected just over Cunningham’s bar but the host’s desperate surges forward of course left gaps at the back and Akekanat was unlucky with a glancing header.

Glass continued to play the better football but the Swatcat’s defensive resolve was proving hard to conquer. They pressed, as in the first half, but again clear-cut chances did not come. In the 58th minute, man of the match Akekanat kicked clear in a goalmouth scramble to defy Glass and on 67 minutes an angled drive flew just over.

 In the 79th minute a delightful cross presented Kunath with a chance to tap in, but unbelievably he mistimed his effort and the ball was cleared.  Glass countered and in another goalmouth scramble Cunningham bravely cleared the danger. With increased desperation Glass flooded forward and Decha this time was the hero as he cleared a dangerous situation. A minute later Cunningham saved miraculously from a point-blank header as the pressure built.

In the 80th minute Cunningham was again the hero when he pushed out a close-range shot - he took a real battering tonight as for the third time, a Glass forward clattered into him - he really is a warrior in times of need!!

With crosses raining in and Glass’s desperation growing the Swatcat defence time and again cleared their lines and in the 80th minute Cunningham brought off another blinder of a save from a close-range shot.

 In the closing minutes, Bangkok Glass’s defence was again found absent when substitute Shehrel blasted over with only the keeper to beat - in reality, despite Glass’s pressure, the Swatcats had produced more quality chances.

In a final desperate and final flourish, Totti went close in the dying seconds but the visitors held on for the victory.

A dour defensive performance which sent Bangkok Glass plummeting down into Tier 2. A lucky 3 points, however the defence must be commended for some brave and at times heroic work to keep Glass at bay.
7th place in the league following this result - a commendable effort from an average bunch of players who have been coached - by necessity I believe, to avoid defeats. Not great to watch but the alternative, especially in this 5 down season was relegation!!

Match Day 34 Stats and end of season table

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Dateline 3rd October 2018

 FT NRFC 1 Chang Rai 1

Attendance; 2356

The home team started adventurously with Shehrel and Jakkit breaking positively down the right flank. This strategy was rewarded in the 13th minute when Akekanat ghosted into the box to nod in from a free kick.

After near constant pressure, on 20 minutes, Assumpcao launched an angled drive that was well saved by the visitor’s keeper. Kitsada also went close with decent shot as the Swatcats pressed. Minutes later Noppol put in a bullet header from a corner. This effort was thwarted by a world class save from the keeper.

With the Swatcats seemingly well in control - in fact probably the best half of football played by the team this season, they were shocked by a fine shot that Cunningham managed to tip over and then on the stroke of half time, Sarawut converted a corner with a fine header to level the scores
As the first half drew to a close, the Swatcats were perhaps unlucky not to be ahead.

The second half started with the home team trying to regain their lead, but Chang Rai had other ideas. Striker Bill went close in the 50th minute and minutes later Cunningham brought off an excellent save from a 20-yard free kick.

With the visitor’s confidence growing by the minute, Bill spurned a great chance when he hooked over from 6 yards - the Swatcats were living dangerously!! These chances apart, the second half yielded little of merit and as the game petered out, one’s thought was that a draw was a fair reflection of the game.

In a game punctuated by incidents of brutish behaviour from Chang Rai players and 9 intermissions for players to receive medical attention, this was a decent if not spectacular performance from the Swatcats. If nothing else, the point gained tonight cements their tenure within the Premier League.

With the possibility of a top ten finish within the team’s reach, I guess the season might be viewed by some as a successful campaign - I personally am on the fence in this regard.

Match Day 33 Stats

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Dateline 29th September 2018

 FT Chonburi 3 NRFC 1

Attendance; 3769

As the game commenced, the Swatcats had an early let off when they carelessly gave the ball away in midfield and only a great save from Cunningham avoided a disastrous opening. In the 5th minute, we saw the other side of keeper Cunningham when he mis controlled a back pass and presented Kroekrit with the ball. Kroekrit accepted the gift and tapped in to give the Sharks an early lead.

The visitors persevered in midfield but the inability to convert possession into chances was, as usual, evident. Assumpcao had a free kick blocked in what was one of few chances managed in the opening exchanges.

As Chonburi began to dominate, Ciro almost made the most of poor Swatcat defending when he nipped in and drew a near post save from Cunningham. Minutes later, more woeful defending presented an unmarked Worachit with a tap in on 32 minutes to put the Sharks two up.

On 38 minutes, Assumpcao gave the Swatcats a glimmer of hope when he beat two defenders on the edge of the box and fired in from 12 yards - a fine solo goal.
In the dying seconds of the first half, VAR drama, as the official checked whether Cunningham had brought down a Chonburi striker. He quickly decided that there was no offence committed.

The second half was largely played in farcical conditions as the heavens opened to produce a deluge that I have rarely experienced at a Thai football match. Constructive football was a nonstarter, although by then, Chonburi had already sealed a victory. The only highlights of note - barely visible through the stair rods of falling rain, were a Nebihi dazzling solo run through the defence ending in a tame shot and the Shark’s third goal, a weak shot from Kroekrit that literally crawled across the waterlogged pitch into the net to evade a stranded Cunningham.

Another insipid display, rather typical of the Swatcats’ recent performances. Little up front and tonight fragile at the back. The second half maelstrom had negligible effect on the result although it did reduce the match to farce. Sheltering under the stand with fellow boisterous Swatcat followers during the storm did nothing to reduce the malaise of tonight’s spectacle. How I yearned for the comfort and cover of my usual seat in the main stand at the 80th Anniversary Stadium!!

Match Day 32 Stats

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Dateline 22nd September 2018

 FT NRFC 3 Prachuap Kiri Khan 3

Attendance; 2372

Striker Jakkit looked lively in early exchanges as the Swatcats probed - he is not the finished article just yet but I feel he will make a useful target man in the future. Despite the home team having the better of early encounters, Reis drew a fine save from Cunningham in the 18th minute.

The Swatcat’s approach play was fine tonight but often the final pass went astray as they pressed for an early advantage. The home team’s first real chance came in the 31st minute when Akekanat headed a Pina corner onto the crossbar. Almost immediately Prachuap broke forward and Reis missed from 8 yards with only the keeper to beat.

With the game suddenly bursting into life, the home team went ahead when Kitsada swept the ball in at the far post after a fine break from Ekkachai.

As the half drew to a close, the home team looked good value for their 37th minute lead.

In the 49th minute Ekkachai pounced on a poor clearance from the keeper and sent a 40 yard rocket just inches wide of the upright. As the Swatcats began to dominate, Assumpcao went close in the 54th minute and in the 64th minute they went two up when Shahrel tapped in after fine work from Pina.

Prachuap struck back immediately when a deflected Doumbouya shot looped over keeper Cunningham. The home team, still looking composed, was denied a third goal when a sharp near post header from Jakkit stuck the upright.

The points were seemingly in the bag when Assumpcao headed in on 72nd minutes and with coach Joksic looking very emotional on the sidelines, things were looking bright for the men from Korat.
With the Swatcats now rampant, Jakkit fired in from 20 yards, the keeper parried and the ball fell to Assumpcao’s feet but he failed to make a clear contact and the ball was cleared.

With a comfortable and deserved 3-1 lead, the hosts relaxed and Prachuap took full advantage of this lapse. An unmarked Doumbouya nodded in on 81 minutes and the visitors completed the comeback in the 93rd minute when Cunningham dropped an innocuous looking shot and Reis tapped in.

The referee used VAR to review the incident but he allowed the goal.

Two points dropped against a poor Prachuap side - as it happens it doesn’t really matter but disappointing none the less. Joksic started with two real strikers at last - Jakkit and Assumpcao and we scored three goals - perhaps the penny has finally dropped.

Tonight’s performance was fine but why can’t the coach realize that his recent ploy of playing Akekanat - a wing back - as the sole striker is probably not the best strategy. Perhaps the attendance figure is testament to the coach’s negative tactics. Fans will not turn up to watch a team averaging 2 or 3 shots on target per match.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

League Cup Semi final played at Supachalasai Stadium
FT Chang Rai United 1 NRFC 1
Chiang Rai United beat Nakhon Ratchasima 3-1 in a penalty shootout following a 1-1 draw at the Supachalasai Stadium in Bangkok. 
Chiang Rai started brightly and had the first effort on goal in the sixth minute when Phititwat struck his drive wide from 20 yards. After continual pressure, the Beetles opened the scoring five minutes later when Chaiyawat fired in.
In a half completely dominated by Chang Rai whose movement off the ball and slick passing left the Swatcats players chasing shadows, the men from Korat were lucky to go into the half only one down.
The phrase “the team did not turn up tonight” might have been ascribed to the Swatcats in the first half and at half time, it was difficult to see away back for the men in orange.
The second half commenced with a more determined approach from the Swatcats and they began to exert pressure on the Chang Rai defence. In the 49th minute Kunath went close with a clever header after a chipped pass from Pina. Chang Rai then countered and Siwakorn smashed in from 12 yards but the keeper managed to beat his drive away.
In the 68th minute a vicious Pina free kick was headed off the line as the Swatcats searched for an equalizer. With time running out, the Swatcats continued to dominate and their dominance was rewarded when they won a penalty in the 72ndminute. Thanasak brought down Leandro and the Brazilian took the kick himself, firing low into the corner to level the score.
On 78 minutes Swatcat elation was turned to despair when, with Chiang Rai fading, Jakkit slotted home at the far post but the flag was up for offside.
Full time ended with the Swatcats looking the stronger of the two teams although Sivacorn had a chance to win the tie in the dying minutes with his rasping drive going narrowly wide.
A largely uneventful first period of extra time was followed by a second period in which the Swatcats had their chances to seal the tie. Assumpcao prodded over from 6 yards out and then the striker had a real chance to win it when he swiveled but his shot went straight into the keeper’s arms.
The tie then went to penalties and misses from Shahrel, Jakkit and Chanatphon sealed the tie for Chang Rai.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Dateline 12th September 2018

 FT NRFC 2 Navy FC 1

Attendance; 1465

In a distinctly miserable and wet midweek evening, strugglers Navy were the guests.

The visitors opened brightly, out passing the home team and looking dangerous moving forward. They seemed to be coping better with the sodden pitch but were nearly shocked in the 6th minute when a long range Antonio Pina free kick went inches wide.

The Swatcat defence was opened up in the 11th minute when a cross found Amadou completely unmarked in the 6 yard box - there was no defender within 3 yards of him!!! He slid the ball under Cunningham to give Navy an early lead.

In the 20th minute the Swatcat defence was again ruthlessly exposed when Caton broke through, unbelievably with only the keeper to beat he shot wide from 6 yards - what a let off!!
As the half progressed the hosts were unable to exert any dominance and indeed, Navy looked the more accomplished side.

The second half saw the Swatcats seemingly determined to overturn their first half deficit and in the 49th minute, after some fine interplay, Akekanat was just wide with a drive. A minute later Pralong Sawandee put in a delicious cross for Assumpcao to hammer home the equalizer.

The home team now began to dominate as Navy wilted and with almost constant pressure and several fine passing movements, it seemed only a matter of time before the winner would come.

The hosts went close with a diving header in the 60th minute then Pina tested the keeper with an in swinging corner as the Swatcats pressed. Pralong Sawandee then drew a fine save from the keeper with a swerving free kick.

The chances continued to come as Ekkachai broke forward and only a fine save from his drive prevented a second goal and minutes later another long range free kick from Pina whistled past the post.

Navy caused a solitary moment of panic in the 92nd minute when the ball ping ponged around in the 6 yard box following a corner but the hosts survived and finally the inevitable happened when Jakkit poked the ball home from a sublime cross by Pralong Sawandee to give the hosts a deserved lead.

A real Jekyll and Hyde performance from the Swatcats tonight but in reality safety from the drop has been achieved. An inept and depressing first half performance where in reality they should have been two nil down was followed by a fine domineering display leading to a vital three points.
The importance of this victory was brought home as coach Joksic sank to his knees in the mud as the second goal went in and we can now all relax with 5 games to go and safety assured.

Match Day 29 Stats