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Draw leaves Islanders’ fate in the balance

Draw leaves Islanders’ fate in the balance

PHUKET: Phuket FC have made sure their battle to avoid Division 2 relegation goes down to the wire, wasting several second half opportunities in their 1-1 draw with Phattalung FC tonight (Sunday) at Surakul Stadium.

By Dane Halpin

Sunday 16 September 2012, 11:18PM

Phuket’s Niran Phanthong (green) attacks down the left wing as Chairat Phong-hoam gives chase. Photo: Dane Halpin

Phuket’s Niran Phanthong (green) attacks down the left wing as Chairat Phong-hoam gives chase. Photo: Dane Halpin

After a close first half, The Islanders conceded early in the second before dominating for the rest of the match. But despite finding a free kick equaliser, Phuket couldn’t capitalise on their momentum and ended up sharing the points.

With just seven matches now remaining in the season, and the Islanders just three points clear of the relegation zone, star midfielfer Marcio Santos told The Phuket News he is confident his side can remain outside the bottom five, despite tonight’s lacklustre result.

“Today I really wanted to win this game. [Earning] three points today was very important… so to draw almost feels like a loss.

“But this year I feel confident we won’t go down [to Division 2]. I think it’s important that we stay in Division 1 this year, then next year we can fight for the Premier League.”

Tonight’s game saw both sides come of the blocks firing, with several attacking chances in the opening exchanges, including two corners for the Islanders off their first two plays.

It was end-to-end football in a free flowing opening exchange, both sides obviously aware that three points would take the pressure of relegation off.

Watcharapong Chan-ngam had the first genuine chance for Phuket, but his shot picked out Phattalung goalkeeper Warut Mekmusik.

Still, Roland Vargas and Watcharapong looked threatening down the right wing, but their inside men couldn’t find the finishing touch.

But despite it being a half of clear chances and strong counter-attacking from both sides, the scoreline at half time reflected what was a fairly even tussle; 0-0.

The impasse didn’t last long into the second half though – a break down the middle by Phattalung’s Wasan Sungkhaphan caught Phuket goalkeeper Worapoj Sabaijit out of position, and a clean chip over his head saw the ball roll agonisingly slowly in the Phuket goal and send the visitors ahead.

The Islanders almost equalised straight away, with a long ball from the back finding Watcharakorn Klatin in clear space on the left wing. He shot low and left, but again only found the gloves of the Phattalung goalkeeper.

Still, finding themselves behind on the scoreboard looked to inspire the home side as they went on the offensive, pummeling the Phattalung goal with a succession of close chances, Niran Phanthong missing the best of them when he pushed his shot way to the right while unmarked with an almost open goal.

In the end, the equaliser came from a rather dubious free kick, awarded to Watcharakorrn after what looked a fairly soft challenge. From 30 metres out and straight in front, his low shot probably would have missed had it not been for a deflection off the boot of a Phattalung defender; 1-1.

A last-minute free kick to the Islanders from 25 metres out offered the Islanders a chance to take home the three points, but they had to settle for one after the shot went just to the right of the post.

Marcio Santos said of Phuket’s seven remaining games, he expects the side to win four, which should see them comfortably avoid relegation. With three of their next five games against top-four sides (Sriracha, Suphanburi and Bangkok United) though, the failure to secure three points tonight could come back to haunt them.

Phuket FC’s next game is away to Saraburi on Sunday (September 23), kickoff 6pm.

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