There is one match day left in the Thai League 2 season – and as Donald Rumsfeld infamously said: “there are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”
Let’s reflect on what we know and don’t know ahead of the season’s final weekend.
The known knowns:
Navy FC and Khon Kaen FC are both relegated from T2. Promoted from T3 are Krabi FC, Uthai Thani FC, and NakhonSi United; the latter edged Phitsanulok over the two legs of the T3 play-off final with the decisive goal coming in the 94th minute from the penalty spot. Football can be cruel.
Clubs and supporters will be making some serious long distance journeys next season with three southern teams now in T2; a genuinely national league.
Lamphun Warriors are promoted for the second successive season after beating Rajpracha 2-0 in front of a full house and accompanied by drums, beer, food and fireworks. It was a huge and joyful occasion for Lamphun. A win at Kasetsart on Saturday will ensure that they are promoted as Champions.
The known unknowns:
Second and third place is between Trat and Sukhothai. Both play away on Saturday at Nakhon Pathom and Ayutthaya respectively. To finish second, Trat need to win and for Sukhothai to lose. With five successive wins Sukhothai must be favorite to take second; or even first depending on the Lamphun result.
Trat led the league for 24 successive weeks up until the end of March. A good reminder that the league season is a marathon and not a sprint.
Chainat are certain of a play-off spot, but are not yet certain of 4th place. A Chainat defeat at Rajpracha and a Lampang win at Muangkan would leave both clubs on 57 points. Lampang would take 4th place on goal difference as the teams are tied on head to head results.
One of Lampang, Phrae or Muangkan will not make the play-off places. Phrae travel away to Navy and must win; a draw would not be good enough whatever the Muangkan v Lampang result.
It is head-shakingly complicated and should make for a terrific final game of Muangkan’s difficult season.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the table, the last relegation place is still undecided.
To have a chance of survival Rajpracha need to beat Chainat, who are likely to rest key players before the playoffs. Should Rajpracha win then Customs also need to win away at Khon Kaen FC; a draw would not save them as their head-to-head score with Rajpracha is 3-4.
To add to the complexity newspaper reports said this week that Rajpracha is severing its connections with Bangkok Glass and will leave the BG Stadium for as yet unknown pastures.
Lastly, who comes down from T1 with Chiang Mai United is still up in the air. Samut Prakan City are 99% certain to face the drop, barring a major and unprecedented miracle. Suphanburi are favorites for the final spot, but they do have a Houdini-like habit of last-minute escapes. Nakhon Ratchasima sealed their survival last weekend, leaving Prachuap and Ratchaburi in the mix.
The unknown unknowns:
Will every T2 team return for next season? Too much red ink is not sustainable. Every club needs a FAT license, a stadium, a squad of players, and above all else enough money to operate; and even more money to be successful. Sponsors are few and far between and are more goods-in-kind than hard currency. Wealthy benefactors are needed; and as Lamphun has shown wealthy benefactors can reset the ambitions of both a club and its supporters within a season.
If an existing T2 club folds, a lifeline would be thrown to the third from bottom relegated club. Neither really deserves it and I would be much happier to see an opportunity given to the fourth placed team from T3.
So to the final day of this long league campaign: all the T2 matches kick off at 6pm on Saturday 30 April. The joy of the playoffs (which will be held through the month of May) is that there is still so much to play for even of the last day. Of the nine games on Saturday, seven impact the promotion, play-off and relegation places.
FINAL DAY FIXTURES
Rajpracha FC vs Chainat Hornbill FC
Lampang FC vs Muangkan United
Udon Thani FC vs Ranong United
Navy FC vs Phrae United
Ayutthaya United vs Sukhothai FC
Rayong FC vs Chiangmai FC
Customs United vs Khon Kaen FC
Nakhon Pathom United vs Trat FC
Kasetsart FC vs Lamphun Warriors FC C