Sunday, 29 April 2012

Swansea City v Wolverhampton Wanderers, Match Report, PL

Just Another Manic Saturday.

An 80's remembrance, big hair an ' all.

Most of us remember the 80's - and for those that don't, welcome aboard, because that was the last time we were in the top flight of English Football. It's taken some time to get back there, but this has been a season that makes the time spent in-between seem just like penance and preparation, and, now that we're back, we get to enjoy.

You know those songs, half-liked, that always seem to crop up in your consciousness from time to time and then you can't get rid of them for the day?

I don't mean the horrendous "Go Compare", or even "", but since I've now put them in your head don't blame me if they're still there this evening!

No, I mean more the sort of radio plays from recent and past years that you were never a buyer of, but were more than happy to hear on the radio. Remember the Bangles? Hey, don't let's get into taste, it's only a query.

If, like me, you do, then you may have had a reasonably fond regard for one of their earliest efforts, "Just Another Manic Monday".

I was put in mind of this when I sat down yesterday to consider writing this report, after yet another Saturday where our team put in an excellent performance that allowed us the leisure of pleasurable reflection when the week started - and, as hinted, not for the first time.

Some might say that the way the team has performed has meant that we've been safe or weeks, but there was a touch of the desperate amongst us at times, as we finally put the point on the board that at last we could confirm that our wishes to "want to break free" had been achieved.

For Saturday's meeting against Wolverhampton Wanderers at the rocking Liberty, the pre game interest had centred principally on how well Dorus De Vries  would do on his return to the Lib, and how we might work towards Brendan Rodgers' demand for a finish "at the best level we can".

Wolves, of course, had suffered the body blow of relegation confirmed the previous week, whilst we'd been earning a point at Bolton in a game where we may well have come away with even more. C'est la vie.

Nobody - none of fans and purported pundits - had even suggested that we would get what we got - an absolutely mind-blowing corkscrew of a game where Swansea more than established a comfortable lead, only to see Wolves rip back in fine style to gain parity, and maybe even to feel unlucky. In this Division, it was ever thus.

Perhaps the first hint of a strange day came from the line-ups. Swansea, basically unchanged for weeks, did not appear to have any FB's in the side, which begged the formation question.

Wolves, on the other hand, had obviously settled on a side to attack,with  the inclusion of both Jarvis and Kightly wide, and Fletcher and Doyle paired up front the key to their intentions.

The teams looked like this........

Swansea City

01 Vorm, 02 Williams, 04 Caulker, 16 Monk, 07 Britton Booked, 08 Orlandi (Taylor - 46' ), 11 Sinclair, 12 Dyer, 24 Allen, 42 Sigurdsson, 10 Graham (Moore - 82' Booked )
25 Tremmel, 03 Taylor, 15 Routledge, 17 McEachran, 27 Gower, 18 Lita, 19 Moore

Wolverhampton Wanderers

31 De Vries, 05 Stearman, 11 Ward Booked, 16 Berra, 32 Foley, 04 Edwards, 07 Kightly, 08 Henry, 17 Jarvis (Hunt - 72' ), 10 Fletcher (Ebanks-Blake - 76' ), 29 Doyle
13 Ikeme, 14 Johnson, 23 Zubar, 12 Hunt, 20 Milijas, 22 Jonsson, 09 Ebanks-Blake

Ref: Moss
Att: 19,408

The set out was interesting to say the least. I've seen it it offered that for Swansea it was a 3-4-3 but I think initially only, that's misguided. I saw it more as a 3-4-2-1.  Caulker, Monk and Williams were indeed deepest. The Middle 4 had Dyer wide right, with Sinclair left, and Britton and Allen holding. Just ahead were Sigurdsson and Orlandi, Right and Left respectively, with Danny Graham up front.

Wolves countered with a 4-1-3-2, as Foley, Stearman, Berra and Ward defended, protected by Karl Henry. Kightly stretched Right, with Jarvis Left, David Edwards took the middle. This left both Steven Fletcher and Kevin Doyle ahead, and it later in the game became important.

Hey, you know I'm a sucker for tactical reflection, but the start of this game sent all of that out the window, as Swansea scored one of the PL's earliest goals.

In the first minute the ball was switched left to Scott Sinclair, who cut back inside and chose to chip in an incoming curler toward the box.

Before either of the CB's could attack it, Andrea Orlandi, who had made a free run, flicked it onward with his head and the ball's pace took it over and beyond Dorus De Vries in the Wolves goal. The Liberty bounced alive, 1-0, and a dream start.

The crowd was rocking, but if we thought the start had been good, it was about to get better. The next 15m saw Swansea rip Wolves apart.

On 4m, Monk, playing out from the back, sent a pass toward Danny Graham , 35yds out with back to goal. Resisting a constant game long rough challenge from Stearman, Graham cushioned a pass to Gylfi Sigurdsson, whose first time through ball in the inside right channel set Joe Allen running free and goal ward.

As he got just inside the box he shot and the ball took a wicked skid off the covering desperate Stearman and spun, almost curved around De Vries on his left hand side, and as he'd obviously been going right he couldn't get to the shot. It tucked beautifully into the net and the Swans were 2-0 up. Cue delirium, which was to get more rabid still.

We Swans were in 7th heaven because often our early attacks don't lead to goals, so this was very different.

The formation had now evolved into an out and out 3-4-3, with Sigurdsson often popping up on the right of the 4, with Orlandi out Left. Ahead now were Dyer, Graham and Sinclair, whilst Allen and Britton worked the engine room of the middle.

A comment on this - what it led to was an exposure of the 3 CB's because ahead of them wide, whilst Siggi and Orlandi were superb going forward, Wolves began to probe the spaces where the FB's would normally be, and the two Swans were not quick enough to slot in defensively.

Jarvis on the Left and with either Kightly or Doyle sometimes Right were beginning to test Swansea. It would come back to haunt us in a terrifyingly (for me) open game that was going end to end.

Still, as I said, the Swans were terrific going forward and on 15m, Orlandi from the wide left role, put in a driving run toward the byline that, veering in, saw him cut between Kightly and Foley and whip in a cross across the six yard box that skidded off a defender and looped up to head height to find Dyer at the far post coming in.

The big little 'un didn't need even to check his run and nodded the ball comfortably into the net past De Vries's despairing left hand. 3-0, and now the place went crazy. A genuine blast of noise, people giggling, screaming and smiling all around. 3-0, and so soon.

The next 15m minutes was like watching a table tennis game as the ball ping ponged from end to end - it was as if someone had reminded Wolves there was pride at stake, whilst Swansea were in devil may care mode. I guess at this point Alan Hansen must have switched off his telly (or computer) because some of the defending from both sides was somewhat weak, but let's give credit instead to the attacking invention on show.

Jarvis was terrifying the exposed Caulker on the left, and Kightly similarly was ruling on the right. On 30m, it bore fruit.

This time Doyle had drifted left and he bamboozled the exposed Monk out wide  who was unable to check his cut back cross, which went beyond and over Williams in the middle to the unmarked Fletcher some 8 yds out.

He showed what a good header of the ball he is by putting in an effort that commentators often describe as "heading the ball back the same way as it came from". In other words he met it perfectly and it looped beyond the scrambling Vorm, into the net at the junction of post and crossbar past Vorm's right hand.

3-1, and you could almost touch the Swansea silence. It was a "time stood still" moment, and it took the Wolves faithful a good 5 sec before they responded with a muted roar. We were stunned.

Unbelievably, just before the goal, Danny Graham had failed to complete when he picked up a poor back pass and had gone one on one with DDV, but to be fair, the ex-Swan goalie kept their team in it by forcing a block as Graham tried to go around him. So, from a putative chance to go 4-0 up, it was now 3-1.

Ah, margins, that's what you realise in retrospect, although Graham made sure he didn't miss the next chance in this dizzying, frenetic spectacle.

In the 30th minute (yes, you read that right), Dyer attacked once more on the right, and whilst he dummied and jigged the FB inside out from 10yds out he shot, suddenly. The initial block fell back to him, and he volleyed a cross with his left to find a lurking Danny Graham, just on the edge of the six yard box at the far post.

Graham coolly balanced receipt of the ball on his right thigh, and as it fell rolled a lovely curving finish into the far corner of the net. 4-1, and the "Football Gods" were obviously in generous giving-goals mood.

More wild celebrations, but if you've seen or heard me talk about Karma, you'll know now what the rest of the game was almost bound to bring. 

The tempo of this crazy fixture was unsustainable, and from a mind-boggling 100mph+, both sides settled to a pace that was just about double the norm - still, way way too fast and open.

To be fair to BR  - and I'll defend him here, because I've seen some nonsense talked on the Net particularly but we'll come back to that - he recognised the problem too, and from now to half time, Swansea shifted to a back 4.

Caulker went to RB, Orlandi dropped in at LB, with Monk and Williams the CB's. The shape up front went back to what we do normally, with the same Middle and Front 3's as are the usual treat.

Wolves though now established a stranglehold on the game, as if the embarrassment of a 4-1 deficit had liberated them - they were playing with a freedom of care and expression of will that will surely make their supporters ask  "Why the hell haven't we played like this all Season ?", because if they had they certainly wouldn't be in the state they find themselves in.

Jarvis and Kightly were switching back and forth wide, and Steven Caulker, who's proved that he's a top class CB, was being consistently and dangerously stretched and tested, often coming out second best  unfortunately for us.

It sounds bizarre to say, but at 4-1 up and at Home, we were rocking, and looked as if we'd concede at any minute.

In the 33rd minute only, we did.

Doyle had drifted right, and he put in a searching cross competed for by Monk and Fletcher, but the ball cleared both, and ran out toward the left to the dangerous lurking Jarvis, who was now one on one with Caulker as he cut in.

He did exactly what everybody in the ground knew he would - good wingers always do - and stood his man up as he checked inside onto his right foot, and put in a low rasping curving daisy-cutter wide of Vorm and with sufficient pace to beat Ash Williams desperate attempt to clear. The ball clipped the outside of Williams foot and ripped into the corner of the net.

4-2, Bloody hell, football eh? as the watching SAF must have said on his scouting visit.

I looked behind me to see his reaction, and the bugger was smiling broadly. See you next week, Matey.

Both sides almost staggered to the half time whistle, Wolves winning a series of dangerous corners, and to say I was pleased to get to the break with no other concession is an understatement, and we all gulped a deep breath as Mr Moss blew for the break.

I feel compelled to say here that the aforementioned Mr Moss had not given us even the slightest break, and Stearman's regular grappling of Danny Graham, and a succession of rotating cast members' fouls on the long suffering Nathan Dyer being the worst of the excesses.

Still, we were 4-2 up in what we all realized now was a game that was likely to rival Man Utd's 4-4 draw with Everton last week in terms of zaniness, and although none of us around me was predicting a repeat of that as a final scoreline, the general consensus was we'd have to score again to make sure of a win, such had been the Wolves threat toward the end of the first period.

There was also a wish that Neil Taylor, who was on the bench, be brought on to try to tighten up a little, and he was, with the unlucky Andrea Orlandi being the player to make way, as Brendan Rodgers sought a little more solidity.

The game restarted again at the same unremitting, relentless pace and fluidity. It was obvious now that Wolves were going for broke, and we were definitely going to need the comfort of scoring again.

And, to be fair, fairly early in the half we almost did, twice moreover, although it was the visitors who ultimately got the first goal of the period. It came about like this.

From a lovely Swans move a cross came in that the stretching Gylfi Sigurdsson met with a controlled half volley only to see his good strike cannon and slide away off De Vries's left hand post with the keeper beaten. Almost immediately the ball was returned centrally again to the Icelander, and from a fantastic turn some 20 yds out he got off a left foot drive that the full length De Vries turned around for a corner with his fingertips. An excellent passage of play, topped off by an excellent shot and save.

As is the way in these sorts of games, Wolves took advantage, constructing an attack on the right where the twisting and turning Michael Kightly played a lovely reverse ball into the heart of the Swansea defence and penalty area.

David Edwards, the increasingly influential Wales MF'er had made a great run onto the delightful pass, and before any Swans defender he stroked in a first time pass/shot that was too quick for Vorm's dive and went under the keeper to arrive in the back of the net. Just in front of the now revitalised Wolves supporters, they burst into delighted life whilst we Swans had our heads in our hands.

I felt sick to my stomach, it was only the 54th minute.4-3, and a long long way to go.

The Home crowd was now very edgy, as you Swans know we can be, but those grumps who think that by shouting abuse at Swansea's consistent attempts to retain the ball, even by going backwards, have nothing but my contempt.

Fortunately that type are in the minority, and the rest of us Home supporters attempted to lift the team by shouting our encouragement.

Wolves were now playing almost as if they were the Home team and we the Away, with the better possession and the more dangerous attacks, with the Swans fighting hard to resist the pressure.

In the 70th minute we cracked again.

The helter-skelter pace had not varied, and the impressive Edwards eventually scrambled a ball out to the free Steven Fletcher on the left, and the Scotland forward had spotted Matt Jarvis clear of several Swans defenders in the middle.

He played a first time ball across the middle into the heart of the area and Jarvis met it perfectly having held his run and poked a first time finish into the net and beyond Vorm. 4-4. and the now delirious visiting support were the ones making all the noise.

Meanwhile, I felt as if I'd been punched again, and I suspect the Staff and Team did too.

However, let's be realistic - there were still 20m to go, and the key now was to make sure we didn't lose, and also to see if we could snatch what had turned from a certain to an unlikely win.

Terry Connor's changes were Stephen Hunt for the dangerous Matt Jarvis on 72m, and Sylvain Ebanks-Blake for Steven Fletcher on 76m, and excuse me for saying that unless the two departing players were injured (and I don't think they were) these were real errors or weakenings since the two Subbees had done as much as anyone to drag them back into this match.

I have a real feeling that had TC not gone this route, we may well be sitting here today without the point that ultimately guarantees we remain in this fantastic division as of right and with mathematical certainty. Please keep that in mind.

Brendan Rodgers, meanwhile, recognised that the bruised and battered Danny Graham had run himself into the ground, and the appropriate Luke Moore came on for him on 82m.

There was to be one more major scare for us Swans, and one more ah, what if? moment too, when either team could have won it.

A cracking Wolves move eventually got Michael Kightly free on goal inside the box on the right, but, with plenty of time, the winger blazed a clearcut opportunity ballooning over the bar.

For the Swans, a long ball over the CB's put the speedy Like Moore in, but De Vries's race from the line, and the scrambling backtracking Stearman just managed to snaffle the chance away.

Both teams struggled and stumbled, almost, to the finishing line, where, after 4 extra minutes the Referee blew an end to this jaw-dropping , breath taking contest.

I sat back in my seat and felt literally physically drained and emotionally in pieces.Wow.

So, as we sit here today, having had time to reflect, how do we explain that?

Well first of all let's come back to those "comments and grumblings" I hinted at earlier.

As is my wont, when I return home after a Swans game, I like to get on the Net as I take in the evening's TV viewing, take a little sustenance etc..., by reading some GB's and MB's, Twitter, FB and the ilk, all the better to see how Swans fans are feeling. Unfortunately, what this means is that as well as lots of varying opinions, you also get to see and hear the dross. I think you know exactly what I mean.

I've seen some fools say things critical not just of the performance but openly disrespecting of the Team, the Club, and all of us fellow Swans even.

Now listen, everybody's entitled to an opinion, but do have a care, please, and, if you're making a comment at least have the facts to justify it. So many people, seemingly, are content to spout drivel without the least justification.

Such people put me in mind of the clods who stream out sometimes 10m early, or who openly mouth not just frustration but bitterness and bile at our own team. We've all seen the ugliness of some of the Blackburn crowd this season, even some of these very same Wolves fans Away at their ground when they turned on their own.

I don't think we have many of that type - but I have seen and heard some. Here's my message to that sort of "fan".

Grow up, and take a look at yourself.

There were many things that didn't go right yesterday, but I care no less for my Club because of that. The Team and Staff are exactly the same, and you can be sure that they will be hurting today, and analysing this week, what went on, why, and what to do the next time. Because that's what they do.

If you think BR doesn't care, read his after game quote.....""The game should have been dead at 3-0 and in the second half I felt there were too many individuals and we did not play as a team," he said. "But give credit to Wolves, I warned in the week that they are a team with spirit and I know how competitive they are."

Moreover, take a look at the after match interviews from 2 decent football people.

Oh, and btw, in all my years of watching top class football, that's the first 4-4 draw I've seen, and it was quite some game :).

So, I'll be at Old Trafford next week, I'll be at the Liberty the week after for Liverpool. Read that again doubters - that's the level we're at - that's the level Wolves have just dropped out of - that's the level we'll be at next season.

And I'll be there too. Supporting, because that's what I do. I guess you could call me a fan.

Onward, Swansea City.

The opinions expressed in this piece are mine and mine alone, because I love Swansea City.I loved them in the 80's, and I love them now, still. I guess I always will.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes, the boos at the end turned my stomach. Can only help to drive away players and managers - imagine if we lose a few early games next season. Dickheads indeed. This season has been heroic. Good blog.


ps I've seen another 4-4 draw vs Rotherham 1979ish when we came back from 4-1. It felt better!