The Division 2 play-offs are set to commence this weekend. The 10 week schedule is the pinnacle of the regional league season with the top two from each group earning a spot in Division 1 in 2013.
Here is a brief outlook of Groups A & B.
Pattani v Roi Et Utd (Sat)
Paknampo NSRU v Phitsanoluk (Sat)
Ayutthaya v Rayong Utd (Sun)
Et Utd and Ayutthaya both won their respective regional leagues and
they jump out as favorites to progress to Division 1 come December.
Ayutthaya only lost one league game all season and made it to the
quarter finals of the Toyota League Cup before ultimately losing to
Bangkok Glass. Roi Et will be cautious after they were widely tipped
last season to make it to Division 1 through the playoffs. Their
campaign got of to a calamitous start when their 2-1 victory over Korat
was overturned due to them fielding six foreigners for a few minutes
near the end of the contest. The White Squirrels never really recovered
and their bid eventually petered out with them finishing well off the
From the rest, Pattani are unbeaten at home this season so
not many sides will fancy making the long trip down to the Rainbow
Stadium. Phitsanoluk, like Roi Et, have a point to prove after their
2011 campaign didn't meet expectations after they'd stormed to the
Northern region title. NSRU have steadily improved since moving back to
the north from the Bangkok region although taking the step up to the
first division might be asking a bit much, while Rayong United are a
club that have attracted attention this year for all the wrong reasons.
There have been rumblings of unpaid salaries over the course of the
season and they'll be without a couple of suspended players after their
loutish behavior during their last league match against R-BEC.
Thai Honda v Sisaket Utd (Sun)
Trat v Trang (Sun)
Rayong FC v Chiang Mai FC (Sun)
is no doubt that Chiang Mai will be expected to complete a quick return
to Division 1. They won Div 2 North comfortably and with the title sewn
up weeks ago, they'll have had plenty of time to rest and prepare
players for the forthcoming 10 weeks. Nevertheless, I'd say this is a
tougher group than Group A with any of the other five teams capable of
challenging Chiang Mai for the top 2 spots.
The two teams from
the Central/East will be strong contenders. Rayong FC have experience of
the playoffs and have been whiskers away from promotion in the last two
seasons. In 2010, they lost to Saraburi in a play off while in 2011
they were denied when Krabi scored a stoppage time equalizer in the last game to advance
at their expense. Trat just squeezed into the playoffs despite the fact
that they've spent a lot of money on their squad. They've shown in the
cups that they can mix it with the big boys and I have a sneaky suspicion
that they might prevail from this group.
Thai Honda and Trang
both won their respective leagues. The Bangkok sides have generally
struggled in the last couple of years in this competition while Trang
will be hoping to emulate fellow southerners Phatthalung and Krabi from
last season and not dwell on their disastrous 2010 effort when they lost
nine of their ten matches.
The remaining side is Sisaket United
who were unpopularly formed at the beginning of 2012 at the expense of
Sisaket FC who metamorphosed into Esan United. I've only watched them
once on SMMTV this season and from what I saw they'll probably fall
short of making one of the promotion berths.