February raced by; four matchdays were played as teams looked to find their form for the push to the end of the season.
Except, that is, for the leaders. Trat’s lead of 11 points over third place at the start of the month has been reduced to just six points. Just below them, Lamphun have overtaken Sukhothai to occupy the second automatic promotion spot.
The biggest surprise of the month came at Kasetsart last Sunday, with their comfortable 2-0 win over Trat. It ended a poor month for the leaders, whose only February win was against COVID-blighted Udon Thani.
Trat were scoring two goals a game in the first half of the season; in 2022 it is just one a game. Strikers Conrado and Babo have a solitary goal each this year. Suddenly nobody fears Trat; not even Kasetsart’s diminutive Lao midfielder, Soukaphone, who squared up to Conrado in the second half. It would have been a non-contest – both received a yellow card.
Lamphun and Lampang were the teams of the month, both unbeaten and each with three wins and a draw. The former opened the month with an away win a Trat, due to a solitary goal from Kwon Dae-Hee and some occasionally desperate defending. A goal a game from Thales Lima, supported by Anuntachok, Maung Maung Lwin and Arthit, has made Lamphun the league’s in-form team.
Meanwhile, the latter’s approach is a little different, as their goals have been shared amongst nine players. The concern for Lampang fans is that the club still has to play all the remaining top eight teams (except for Udon Thani) in their remaining nine fixtures, by far the most difficult run of games among the promotion hopefuls. Lampang are at home to Lamphun on March 20th – last November the teams played out a 3-3 draw in one of the games of the season.
Promotion-chasing Sukhothai suffered consecutive defeats at the end of a turbulent month, which began with a last-gasp win at Chiang Mai and a thumping of Rayong. The loss at Muangkan was partly self-induced – failing to adapt their game to a mud bath. The lethargic loss at home to a resurgent Phrae United will have concerned coach Amato.
Udon Thani and Chainat, both on 41 points, take up the rest of the play-off positions. Udon Thani got their season back on track with two very necessary wins, albeit not very convincing, against Rajpracha and Navy. There are more difficult games to come.
Chainat’s glimpses of brilliance brighten up any game without being regularly match winning. Wellington’s goal away at Khon Kaen was sublime but not enough for more than a draw.
Ten goals from Leandro Assumpcao in 2022 keep Muangkan (38 points) challenging for a play-off spot; but the free-scoring, unbeaten January slowed down in February as their away form stuttered to a loss at Lamphun and a 2-2 draw at Khon Kaen.
Contenders for promotion and play off places likely run down to Phrae (37 points), who are currently eighth. Ayutthaya (32 points) Kasetsart, Ranong and Nakhon Pathom (all on 30 points) all pulled clear of the bottom four clubs. Chiang Mai, with just one point in February, is the one mid-table club sliding in the wrong direction.
Nakhon Pathom have been one of the in-form sides in 2022 with just one defeat; they have not conceded a goal since the 22nd of January.
Spare a kind thought for Navy, who have suffered four 0-1 defeats in their last five games and a 3-4 loss against Ayutthaya. While doomed to T3 next season they are going down with their colors still flying.
Then take two of the next three to go down with them. Rajpracha and Customs are both struggling for goals, finding the net just once in February. Customs, after a solid January, lost four successive games in February to quickly join the other three clubs at the bottom of the League. Rajpracha’s 0-1 loss at home to Udon Thani came from a 90th minute own goal. Where your form has gone, your luck often follows.
One of these two clubs will join Khon Kaen, who are masters of the battling draw against the stronger clubs, but then lose by the odd goal to fellow strugglers. Six points from safety is a big gap.
Customs, Phrae, Navy, Chiang Mai, and of course Udon Thani all fired and replaced their coach in February. With squads already in place and just nine games remaining, is any real change in fortune possible? One success is coach Thongchai Rungreangleas who has led Phrae through an unbeaten February.
Nine games to go. Plenty still to play for. If you can, please do go and support your local team. The sport, the clubs and the players need fans back in the stadiums across Thailand.