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

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Dateline 8th September 2018

 FT NRFC 0 Buriram United 2

Attendance; 15679

The Swatcats welcomed future TPL Champs Buriram United this weekend.

Right from the start it was apparent that this was going to be a “men verses boys” encounter with Buriram confidently stroking the ball around whilst the Swatcats gamely and at times agriculturally tried to get a toehold in the game.

With Diogo a constant threat (what a player he is), the Buriram players were quicker to the ball and their off the ball movement meant that there was always a passing option. The Swatcats conversely appeared to be laboured and unable to maintain possession.

In the second minute a quick break forward by Osvaldo led to his low drive striking the post - an early warning for the hosts. Minutes later the Swatcats were denied a clear penalty when Chanatphon was tripped inside the box - where is VAR when you need it???

In the 23rd minute Akekanat swept the ball into the net but was adjudged to be offside - a correct decision from where I was sitting. Buriram continued to push forward and in the 30th minute Osvaldo drew a save from Cunningham after a clever flick from Diogo.
A minute later Diogo finished off a fine flowing move when he swept in from the edge of the box to give the visitors a well deserved lead, and as the half drew to a close it looked a long way back for the men in orange.

The second half commenced with Buriram again in the ascendance with the men from Korat unable to mount a sustainable challenge. Osvaldo was inches wide with an angled drive on 55 minutes and the result was put beyond doubt on 64 minutes when Diogo, in true Diogo style, ran in from deep and swept the ball into the net from 14 yards.

Osvaldo who had been a constant threat all match nearly made it three a minute later when his angled drive went narrowly wide.

The Swatcats were completely outclassed by a side superior in all departments and there is no shame in that. The Swatcats, however, have now managed only 3 shots on target in the last two games. I understand Joksic’s need to grind out the results to avoid relegation but what about the long suffering fans. Sure the massive crowd of 15 000 were entertained by a talented Buriram side but I do wonder how many will turn up on Wednesday for the Navy game.

Football is an entertainment business… in this regard some teams are failing the fans!!!

Match Day 28 Stats

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Dateline 5th September 2018

 FT Pattaya United 0 NRFC 1

Attendance; 2328

An explosive start in this mid table clash when, in the second minute, Antonio Pina sensationally lashed in from 50 yards. This goal will 100% be seen as the goal of the season.
An astonished crowd, after recovering from such an amazing event was then subjected to the most successful rearguard action since Peacock’s Hill!!

Pattaya pressed forward gamely, probing and despite creating chances, were unable to break down the Swatcat’s resolute defence.

A 7th minute free kick crashed against the visitor’s crossbar and minutes later Cunningham brought off two miraculous saves to keep out home attempts from close range but with the stage being set, the Swatcats dug in and defended deep.

In the 15th minute, in a rare raid forward, Kunath was denied a stonewall penalty when he was brought down unceremoniously inside the box. Pattaya bounced back and keeper Cunningham was again called into action in the 22nd minute when he tipped a low drive just around the post.

As the half drew to a close, the home team were well on top but were becoming increasingly frustrated at their inability to break the deadlock.

As the second half began, Pattaya continued to surge forward and in the 60th minute a long range shot shaved the post and minutes later Cunningham tipped a free kick onto the bar.

In a late flourish Cunningham parried a close range header but despite almost continuous pressure, Pattaya only managed 3 direct second half shots on target - testament I feel to the visitor’s dogged defending.
In the final minute Kunath, through on goal, was upended and the home defender was shown a red card. The resulting free kick from Pina was well saved by the keeper.

Well, this was a result much against the run of play. The visitors shut up shop after the early opener and then a brave rearguard action against a talented Pattaya team resulted in an important three points. That early goal was one of only two attempts on goal for the team and perversely, Pattaya could have scored 4 or 5 but for some real heroics by keeper Cunningham.

The team is, in my opinion, now safe from relegation - well done to the players and coach - I certainly underestimated the team and now we must press for a top 8 position in the league.
A forthcoming semi final berth (and final maybe) coupled with a potential top 8 finish certainly represents a successful campaign. My early season pessimism was thankfully unwarranted and we seem to have survived the pivotal “5 down” season.

Match Day 27 Stats

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Dateline 5th August 2018

 FT NRFC 0 Bangkok United 0

Attendance; 4677

The Swatcats welcomed the Angels from Bangkok in this, the last match before the near month long break for the Asian Games.

In a rather bizarre line up, wingback Akekanat was played up front and Malaysian striker Shahrel was played as a wingback - a role he certainly looked uncomfortable in. Yayar Kunath was also given a start.

 In a first half almost devoid of chances the visitors showed great passing skills which resulted in large periods of midfield possession with the hosts unable at times to get the ball from their more talented adversaries. Their possession however was not being rewarded by chances created as the hosts defended bravely.

The Angels were restricted to a single long range shot that drifted wide and a headed half chance from a corner. The hosts for their part went close when Kunath failed to connect with a pin point cross and Akekanat dragged a shot wide.

As a rather entertaining first half concluded, neither keeper had been called into serious action.

The second half started with the hosts beginning to assert themselves as the Angels began to fade. The momentum seemed to have shifted in favour of the hosts as they hunted for a vital first goal.

In the 73rd minute Yayar Kunath connected with a well directed free kick but his header was weak and drifted wide - one thought that if it had been Assumpcao on the end of the free kick, the deadlock would have been broken!!
A minute later, the finest move of the match. Assumpcao broke forward and a deft flick put Jakkit clear. His cross was met by the advancing Assumpcao but his chance was foiled by a combination of defender and keeper and the ball was deflected just wide.

In a late Bangkok surge, Robson was inches wide with a fine drive and then in the 93rd minute Pokklaw Anan’s 25 yard shot shaved the post with keeper Cunningham flailing - probably the Angels first real chances of the match.

Another fighting performance to gain a vital point against a technically superior Bangkok outfit. In a game of precious few chances, the Swatcats, fighting for their very TPL existence, defied the Angels from Bangkok and indeed could have snatched all three points with what was arguably their only clear cut chance of the match.
We now go into the Asian Games break on a relative high, sitting in a creditable 8h place and 6 points clear of the relegation zone.

Match Day 26 Stats

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Dateline 29th July 2018

 FT Air Force Central 1 NRFC 0

Attendance; 1898

The Swatcats took on league basement side Air Force this weekend. They started without skipper Chalermpong and with Pina and Marinkovic in midfield.

The match commenced in very heavy conditions with heavy rain continuing to fall.

In a rather tentative start by both teams, as they attempted to adapt to the worsening conditions, chances were scarce but the hosts were beginning to dominate possession.

In the 23rd minute Assumpcao missed a tap in from 4 yards - the first real chance of the match. The Swatcats then began to knock the ball around effectively and Assumpcao was denied a clear penalty when he was pushed in the back.

In a thrilling first half final 5 minutes, Assumpcao was again in action in the 40th minute when he finished a fine move with a rasping drive that went narrowly wide. Minutes later Marinkovic let fly with a 30 yard thunderbolt that was tipped over by the keeper. From the resulting corner Assumpcao’s shot was cleared acrobatically off the line.

A half of few chances and little excitement drew to a close with the match deadlocked at 0-0.

The second half began with Assumpcao going close as the visitors went on the offensive. He nearly put the visitors deservedly ahead on 60 minutes after a quickly taken throw in, but his shot was parried by the keeper.

Air Force seemed to have run out of ideas as the Swatcats pressed and on the hour had not yet produced a single shot on target.

As the Swatcats seemed to tire, Air Force bounced back, with a drive narrowly wide and a header just over the bar. Cunningham then saved well from an angled drive as Air Force began to take control late in the game.

Air Force broke the deadlock with a 90th minute winner as Kayne Vincent fired in from 8 yards - unbelievably, their first shot on target in the whole match!!

Disappointing result and back into the relegation mix. This was not a great spectacle, hampered as it was by poor conditions. The Swatcats defended well and Assumpcao could have bagged a hat trick but his poor finishing cost us dearly. We have now made it “squeaky bum” time as we are only 5 points clear of the bottom five. I suspect that we will be safe but with Bangkok United next i.e. no points, we could find ourselves only 2 points clear going into the Asian Games break.

Match Day 25 Stats

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Dateline 21st July 2018

 FT NRFC 1 Chainat Hornbills 0

Attendance; 3270

The Swatcats welcomed the Hornbills in this mid table clash. They started with Assumpcao and Malaysian Shahrel up front - still no Yayah Kunath!!

The home team started brightly and Shahrel shot just wide in the third minute. They then began to dominate and with Chainat throwing 3 or 4 men forward in rather a reckless fashion surely openings would be left at the back.

In the 15th minute, a Chakrit cross was deflected goal ward by a defender but an alert keeper managed to palm the ball just wide of the post - a lucky let off for the visitors. From the resulting Pina corner, Jakkit headed in to give the Swatcats a deserved lead.

The home team continued to create half chances and with any luck could have been 2 or 3 as the half came to an end.

As the second half progressed, the home defence was put to a real test as the Hornbills strived for an equalizer. Sterling work from Lee and Chalermpong aided by T May T, managed to keep the marauding Hornbills at bay. Despite the Hornbill pressure, they did not create real chances and indeed Jakkit almost put the Swatcats two up with a fine drive in the 53rd minute.

The home team were denied a stonewall penalty in the 64th minute when Assumpcao was body checked in the box but play was waved on - one of many dubious decisions that tonight’s referee made. Assumpcao then had a clear chance to make it two in the 71st minute but his low drive was weak. Minutes later he raced through on goal only to be again body checked off the ball just outside the box - again his claim for a foul was turned down!!

Definitely a proverbial “game of two halves - first half, the Swatcats dominated but second half they defended too deep and allowed a spirited and attack minded Hornbill side to put the defence under massive pressure.

A competent performance from the home side and a massive 3 points. I now feel that the team is safe from the drop and indeed should be looking to cement a seventh place finish. Full marks to the club for adding to the squad at a critical time and despite my early season pessimism, the club appears to have rescued its season.

I consider that the club has massively exceeded expectations - well done to everyone at the club. 8 games unbeaten, bottom placed Air Force next weekend and a winnable FA Cup quarter final to come - things are looking up!!

Match Day 24 Stats