The Phuket FC players took to the field at the Rayong Provinical Stadium on Saturday, June 22, wearing a new away kit with orange shirts and black shorts, which seemed unfamiliar to fans.
The Islanders wasted no time in going on the attack. Watcharapong Jan-ngam and Tossapol Karnpluk tried to advance down the right flank but the long balls they sent in towards the Rayong goal were cleared by the capable centre-backs.
Elsewhere on the pitch, former Phuket players Marcio Santos and Nithirot Sokhuma, who now play for Rayong United, seemed to cause a lot of trouble for the Islanders by taking the play forward.
Nithirot often stole the ball from the Phuket players, and the pair gave Islanders defender Yusuke Sato a run for his money as he moved to counter their attacks.
After 10 minutes of play, Phuket found they couldn’t get into their ground game because of rain showers and a wet pitch, and resorted to long balls for Giorgi Tzimakuridze and Chana Sonwiset, but the tactic didn’t work out.
Watcharapong tried several shots from distance, one of which seemed to hit the hand of a Rayong defender, but the referee didn’t spot it.
Then, on the 20 minute mark, the Phuket ‘Hulks’ fans who had travelled to Rayong for the match were left roaring with joy as midfielder Geoffrey Doumeng sent the ball forward to Thongchai Kuenkhunthod, who clipped it from the left into the Rayong’s goal area – where Giorgi was waiting to tap the ball in, putting Phuket in the lead.
Rayong now changed their tactics to a full-on attack.
In one dangerous attack, Nithirot ran along the right towards Phuket’s goal line, then tried to cross the ball back to his teammates, but the effort was stopped by Sato and Nene Bi Tra Sylvestre.
Phuket now fell back into their own half, waiting to break on the counter attack.
On one of these, the impressive Doumeng strolled past five Rayong players only to see a sixth steal the ball just before he took his shot.
Watcharapong later charged down a long pass from Giorgi but missed the goal by inches, and Chana Sonwiset had an opportunity in a one-on-one with Rayong’s keeper – but the goalie slid out to grab the ball from the striker’s feet before he could shoot.
Just before half-time, Doumeng sent the ball to Chana who passed to Giorgi, who dove for a header but missed.
In the second half Rayong United sent on their star player Valci Junior to try and score an equaliser, but their tactics remained the same.
Marcio Santos sent a long ball forward for Valci to chase down and, but Sato and Nene Bi stood tall in defence and foiled the attack.
Ten minutes into the second half, Rayong United sent on David Le Bras to help Valci in the attack.
The two highly-skilled players caused more problem for Nene Bi and Sato, but without team support the Rayong forwards couldn’t do much more.
With half an hour left, Chana put the ball into the Rayong net after collecting Giorgi’s pass from a goalmouth scramble, but the referee ruled the goal offside.
Phuket kept up their attacks, and 10 minutes later Chana had another shot inside Rayong’s penalty box. He missed but the ball bounced to Giorgi, who tried to volley it into the goal, only for the shot to be saved by Rayong’s keeper.
In the last five minutes Rayong attacked with everything they had in an effort to score an equliser.
They almost had one when Phuket’s keeper Adisak Doungsri punched at an incoming ball that bounced back in front of Rayong’s Wuttipan Pantalee. He fired it straight back in, but his shot hit the crossbar and bounced away.
In a nerve-jangling incident, when a Rayong player got the ball and tried to take it back towards Phuket’s goal, Wutthipong tackled him with two feet and swept the opposing player off the ground.
At this point the Rayong fans were delighted, as they expected a penalty would be awarded to them. But instead the referee pulled out a yellow card and booked Rayong’s player for diving.
The final whistle blew a few seconds later, giving Phuket FC the win and moving them up to fifth place on the Yamaha League One/Thai Division One table.
Phuket FC next play at home against Nakhon Rachasima FC, the sixth placed team in the First Division, at Surakul Stadium at 6pm tomorrow, Saturday, June 29.