Swansea City 1 Tranmere Rovers 0 on Saturday, 6th August 2005 in Football League One
With the pre-season hype and big name friendlies behind them, the Swans took to the field for the first competitive match of the season, and the first to be staged at the magnificent new (small ‘n’ intended) Stadium.
In front of an excellent opening day crowd of 16,733 the Swans lined up:
The atmosphere in the stadium was terrific, so there need be no worries that any of the intimidation felt by opponents at the Vetch will be lost here.
The Swans started with a very lively passage of play. A speculative early shot by new centre forward Akinfenwa showed Tranmere and the crowd a confidence that really didn’t let up for the whole game even when they were under pressure. Shortly afterwards and swift move into the Tranmere penalty area saw Trundle come very close to sneaking the lead.
The Swans pretty much controlled the opening 45 minutes. Martinez was displaying a very calming influence in the middle and his distribution and reading of the game certainly seemed to a pace up on last season.
Akinfenwa wasn’t having the best of the aerial battles, but for a big man, he seems to have very clever touches, and an ability to create space for himself and others.
Ricketts and Forbes were constantly involved on the right, with Ricketts particularly, showing good pace and control.
On 30 minutes, good work by Ricketts saw Trundle with the ball on the edge of the area. He worked to the by-line, and a curling cross was met and netted by the head of Akinfenwa to send all but the away end onto their feet in unison.
The referee was demonstrating some very strange interpretations on the game’s rules, and his idea of a foul and handball were at odds with even the most balanced spectators in the crowd.
He reached his peak in his decision making when he awarded Tranmere a penalty for an innocuous challenge. Loud chants of Big Willy from the supporters, and Willy G felt obliged to do his bit and save the penalty taken my McAteer low to his right. An excellent save, which ensured the Swans maintained their advantage as we moved towards half time.
That lead could have been doubled when the Swans were awarded their own penalty just before the interval. The game had become a little ill tempered on the part of the Tranmere players by now, and even as Trundle walked the ball towards the penalty spot, a Tranmere player decided that a face to face confrontation was necessary.
Uncharacteristically, Trundle fired a poor penalty and the keeper saved low to his right to send the players in at half time with a one nil scoreline.
Tranmere had avoided the more severe punishment that some of their players deserved in the first half purely because the officials chose to ignore the seriousness of the offences. One particularly bad tackle on Martinez could have had serious consequences for us, but thankfully, other than Monk having to be replaced by Tate at half time following a knock he took early in the first half, no other changes were necessary.
The second half saw Tranmere in a more dominant mood, and throughout the half, the Swans were put under increased pressure. Gueret was having an excellent game in goal, not just with his saves – one very acrobatic save early in the 2nd half was superb – but also with his taking of crosses and his decisions on when to catch or punch. He was on great form.
Tate looked a little jaded and I thought his distribution was poor at times, but overall, despite some second half performances not quite reaching those of the first 45 minutes (Forbes/Ricketts faded a little), the Swans handles the pressure very well, and always looked capable of breaking away and adding to their score. Austin, now playing in the centre made two absolutely superb tackles where the timing and control was immaculate.
Trundle did miss a golden opportunity at the end of the game when he was put through in space but was forced to take the ball out to the right of the keeper, and chose to try to flick the ball with the outside of this left boot towards the open goal when a simple side foot with the right would have made it 2 – 0. The ball lacked pace and didn’t reach the goal line.
This was not an easy game but the scoreline does not flatter. The Swans deserved every bit of this win and they can go into their next game with the confidence that Tranmere, who are a much fancied team this year, were as tough a test as you could ask for in an opening fixture, and they came through it well.
Once the team settles playing together in the competitive environment, and if they learn to take a little more time on the ball and play it on the floor more often rather then clear to nowhere, then the Swans could become a difficult side to beat, which has got to be a great starting point. The difference in the quality of football played in League 1 compared to League 2 is clear, but we have the players with the skill to play better football, and match the teams we will meet. Hopefully we’ll see this develop through the season.
Having not seen any of the pre season games, I really enjoyed this one, and thought that they played well, with the defence standing up very well in the second half.
There was no shortage of fight or passion in the team’s performance today, qualities that have been criticised for their absence in the past.
Watching a game in this stadium is a great experience, and for those that have visited more modern away grounds than I have, I cannot imagine any other new style stadium generating the atmosphere that I felt down there today.
So, the new dawn has broken, and simple row letters and seat numbers have now come alive. Settling into new surroundings and getting to know your new supporter neighbours will be a big part of this season for Swans fans. As for me, I’ll move around the ground game by game, but for today I was looking after someone else’s season ticket for the day, and found myself in the East Stand and in the midst of the more verbal part of the Swans support.
It was very loud, heard enough F words shouted to have relegated Twin Town to 6th in the recent poll of films with the most obscenities, and can’t understand why some people have paid £315 just to stand, stare and swear at the opposition supporters. The game must have been a big distraction for them today.
Anyway, one part of the Vetch has made its way to the East Stand at least, as I couldn’t understand one word that Kevin Johns said through the PA system!! Hope they get that fixed because this stadium is fantastic, and if the team continues the way it played today, it will be home to a team that deserves it.
Gueret – did nothing wrong, made a great penalty save and timed everything perfectly
Ricketts – great first half but faded a little in the second
Monk – first half was the mainstay of defence but injury cut his game short by 45 minutes
Iriekpen – distribution a bit hopeful rather than directed, but was the best of our players in the air
Austin – an average first half was more than compensated for by a superb 2nd half display at centre back after Monk’s departure. Two great tackles.
Martinez – my man of the match for his total control and cool headed approach throughout the game.
O’Leary – quiet game
Goodfellow – a few breaks forward but little impact on the game overall
Forbes – A good first half in partnership with Ricketts at right back, but not as effective 2nd half when Ricketts moved to the left.
Trundle – tried a few things but a penalty miss and a failure to score at the end made this a very average day for him
Akinfenwa – Took goal well, and caused defence problems. Not great in the air and no real pace, but some clever footwork.
Have a read of another Swans v Tranmere match report from Nigel Gigg.