Swansea, on an unbeaten run of 4 Home games (2 wins, 2 draws) and no goals conceded at the Liberty faced a Bolton Wanderers side....
Swansea, on an unbeaten run of 4 Home games (2 wins, 2 draws) and no goals conceded at the Liberty faced a Bolton Wanderers side who, since their opening day win at QPR, had only a further 3 points to their name and that from a win at fellow strugglers Wigan. On a calm but drizzly Autumn day, another Sold Out crowd welcomed back one of its' former players in Darren Pratley. No team changes from the Swans, and Bolton set up with N'Gog up front at the expense of the effective Kevin Davies.
It's always difficult to get down in print what you feel immediately after a game. Inevitably, one is still hyped. On the other hand, when it's gone as today's game has, it's doubly so. Watch the BBC interviews with the respective Managers, and you'll know what I mean. But I would say that, wouldn't I?
Back to the game.
In an evenly contested first half, neither side created a clear cut chance, but Swansea's half-chances outweighed Bolton's by about a 2 to 1 ratio. The Homesters were generally on top, but it was a game where as a Home fan you were never really relaxed. The sides went in at half-time even at 0-0, with Swansea's Michel Vorm in goal doing particularly well to keep out an N'Gog shot on the turn and the Welsh attack never quite being able to get on the end of some probing, goal threatening passes.
By general consent, the turning point came 2 mins into the second half with the Swans, having been frustrated already when Sinclair's sublime through ball was collected by Graham and slotted inches wide, next creating more . From another attack, Dyer, once again, ran Gardener ragged in a right wing raid and was pulled back for his pains. Having already been booked, Gardener's fate was sealed when Mark Clattenburg produced a second yellow card and he was sent off.
Some will argue that Gardener's first foul in the first half had produced a "soft" first yellow card (Coyle did) and thus the sending off too was "soft". This ignores the fact that during that self same first half, Bolton had time after time committed foul upon foul on the Swansea players using a rotating cast - each time a different player stunting the play - and thus, while Gardener's fouls may not have been cumulative , his team's were. Persistent fouling = Yellow, sometimes collectively, and deservedly so, with someone to suffer eventually. Bolton, and Gardener, did. Off he went, to a chorus of "Cheerio, Cheerio, Cheerio .....".
From the resulting free kick the ball was worked to Joe Allen on the left inside channel and he advanced and shot low into Jasskalinen's net. 1-0.
Swansea then demonstrated how to take advantage of the extra man by passing and spinning their intricate webs - Bolton were often chasing shadows - and this gradual but effective grip on the tone and tempo of the match gave belief to the crowd and evidence to the team that they could go on to win. In the 57th minute they went further ahead. From a ball slid into the heart of the box Darren Pratley the ex-Swan brought down his former team mate Angel Rangel who was marauding forward, and after Clattenburg's correct award of the penalty, Scott Sinclair cooly sent Jasskaleinen the wrong way.2-0.
With a full half hour to go, and after last week at Wolves, lots of us wondered what would happen should Bolton get a goal back? From the 73rd minute, we found out. The first Away team goal at the Liberty this season came from a Chris Eagles run and cross from the left that skimmed and skidded into Danny Graham, Swansea's striker, who was back defending in the six yard box, and it diverted past Vorm into the net. 2-1. Game on. Well, not really because Swansea showed that they HAD learned from last week.
The Swans retained possession, passed and moved and squeezed to good effect, and continued to create chances to put the final nail in the coffin. That the third goal didn't come until the extra minutes at the end was only because Sinclair, Allen, Dyer, Graham, amongst others showed us that they are human by not taking clearcut opportunities. The final goal came when Graham was put clear by Rangel just over the half way line - Bolton were pushing forward - and Danny Boy raced cleared, drew the keeper , and scored. The roar from the crowd who had played an increasingly important part with their ever louder support, was cathartic. 3-1. And well deserved too.
Two brief notes:
1) I thought Owen Coyle, a Manager who I've previously had a lot of time for, was ungracious in his comments after the game. I put it down to the frustration of having just lost.
2) The coverage on MOTD was very poor.Little highlights, and , even worse, the so-called pundits were almost silent and grudging post these "so-called" highlights. I put this down to poor broadcasting. Football First on Sky was far better. And Goals on Sunday, just watched, gave us a little more credit. Roll on MOTD2, tonight.
But best of all, I was there. Wonderful. Thank you Swans.