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10-man Islanders break home ground hoodoo

10-man Islanders break home ground hoodoo

PHUKET: The small crowd at Surakul Stadium were unusually quiet when Phuket FC kicked off against Bangkok FC tonight (June 17).

By Dane Halpin

Sunday 17 June 2012, 10:59PM

Nene Bi scores the opening goal for Phuket FC.

Nene Bi scores the opening goal for Phuket FC.

But they were unusually noisy after it. The reason: After more than eight months, the new look Islanders (formerly Southern Sea Kirin) of Phuket finally gave their home supporters something to cheer about with a fighting 2-1 win over Bangkok FC.

The local side hadn’t won at Surakul since their 1-0 win over Customs Utd in October last year.

The win also broke the side’s nearly three-month winless period.

With the threat of relegation next season a growing threat, The Islanders came out playing an attacking brand of football in the first half, and while communication in the midfield and up front remains an ongoing issue for the side, they were consistently applying pressure to the Bangkok goal.

It paid off after only 15 minutes, with Nene Bi getting his head to a high cross to put The Islanders up 1-0.

Despite playing with a lot of resolve, the home side were still out-skilled by their higher-ranked opponents (Bangkok were 10th on the ladder leading into the match). Nonetheless, their opportunistic and at times scrappy style was wreaking havoc with the Bangkok defence.

It looked as though Phuket would carry an unfamiliar lead into the break, until Bangkok’s Korean forward Kim Byung-Chae spoiled the party. He drew the visitors level off a free kick after squeezing a header between goalkeeper Alonso da Silva’s glove and the left post.

The Islanders, who had looked the dominant side for most of the half, were suddenly under pressure.

But with three minutes of added time announced in the first half, they made their most cohesive counter-attack of the match, shifting the ball with precision through the midfield.

After showing some fancy footwork to catch Bangkok defender Suksayam Chanmaneewech off balance, Watcharakorn Klaitin sent in a curling right-foot shot that found the back of net and gave the home side a 2-1 advantage at the break.

Phuket FC came out in the second half looking to stay on the attack, knowing that defending a one goal advantage would be difficult.

And when Bangkok’s Santipap Siri brought down Kornprom Jaroonpong just inches outside the box, it looked as though Phuket might get the start they wanted.

Watcharakorn Klaitin wasn’t up to the free kick though, sending his shot high and wide.

But that was the end of Phuket’s attacking play. Minutes later, Wuttipong Sittitanyakit received his second yellow card for a poorly timed challenge, and suddenly The Islanders were down to 10 men.

For the rest of the game, it was Bangkok with all the possession. Phuket’s strategy meanwhile lost all its creativity, as they opted to consolidate men at the back and send long balls down field.

But their defensive efforts displayed a strength of character that has lacked for most of the season, as they had everything thrown at them – including some very questionable decisions from the referee.

With seven minutes of added time announced, Phuket managed to absorb the pressure of a late free kick to hold on and claim a 2-1 victory.

Coach Miloš Joksić told The Phuket News after the match that he was “a little relieved” with the result.

“It was a very hard game for all of us,” he said. “My team showed fighting spirit.”

He also took aim at the match referees for the amount of cards his side accrued during the match.

“I must say, I don’t know why every match the referees give us easy cards. Now we have had 12 matches, and we have had seven red cards.”

The fans echoed those sentiments, hurling abuse – and a bottle – at the match officials as they left the ground.

But coach Joksić was reluctant to predict the win would turn over a new leaf for his struggling side.

“Let’s wait until we finish the first half of the season. We have many problems in the team right now, but we still have a team that plays with patience, and plays full of heart.

“But this city, and this club, deserve many better things.”

Phuket FC’s next match will be against bottom-placed Chantaburi at Surakul Stadium next Sunday (June 24).

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