Saturday, August 7th 2004 – League Two – Swansea City 0 Northampton Town 2
Match Report by Clive Hughes
You know the times when looking back you see that someone was trying to tell you something. Well today was one of them, it took 4 ¾ hours to do the 150 miles.Traffic hold up on the M5, never mind, at least the M50 is quiet. Let’s go Heads of the Valley (A465) no closure news. Ah well that was the idea, closed, so it was a detour, the delights of the Gwent Valleys. To top it all Fabian Way!
So the signs were there, unless of course being optimistic, all the bad luck had been used up for the day. Just enough time to park up and get to the ground. As usual for the first game of the season, the sun was out, with the ground full to near capacity, although with a crowd of 9,578 where would the extra 2,000 fit in? The pitch did look a bit thread bare, maybe a case of not much being spent on it as it’s the last season. Anyway to the game, against a team being tipped as one of the major favourites for automatic promotion. The atmosphere was building up nicely as the wait was finally over.
New faces in the team, but due to injuries and suspensions did again have a lopsided look to it.
Gueret Jones, Tate, Monk, Ricketts.
Britton, Martinez, O’Leary, Robinson.
Forbes and Connor
Subs Murphy, Maylett, Oli and Nugent, Fisken
Within the first minute we could have been a goal down, as Gueret had to save sharply from McGleish as a through ball had beaten a very square looking defence. A let off but it wasn’t long, inside 3 mins, before Northampton did score. A through ball again over the top saw Jones attempting a cushioned header back to Gueret only managed to put it into the path of Galbraith, who put it passed the keeper, to see the ball rebound of the back post. The incoming McGleish reacting quicker than the defence and placing the ball into an empty net.
This visibly shook the Swans as they upped the tempo looking to get back into the game. A through ball from Martinez saw Connor into the area, but went to ground under a tackle just as he was going to shoot. A penalty shout, that was turned down, but this saw Northampton break quickly and it needed a goal line clearance from Jones from stopping the score being 0-2. When play stopped the ref spoke to the linesman and Connor was booked for diving. As play resumed it looked as if something had been thrown at the linesman ( Haven’t we seen enough fines already? )
Forbes who had been chasing everything, went into a challenge, and received a blow to the face which saw him leave the field for 10 minutes.
Northampton took the opportunity to take control for this period as the Swans offered very little with only Connor up front.
The return of Forbes did see him chase a back pass but was beaten to the ball by keeper Harper. Control had now passed back to the Swans as we chased the equaliser and were putting Northampton under more and more pressure without any real threat on goal.
A snap shot from Robinson was well saved by the keeper. The Swans could quite easily have been reduced to ten men, as on the main stand touchline, a reckless tackle from Robinson saw a yellow when it would have been no surprise if it had been a red.
This seemed a bit symptomatic of the display, as it looked as if the expectation of a large crowd, and the frustration of lack of success, was getting to some of the players. After the booking Robinson got involved with the Northampton bench. With very little happening for the front two, our chance of an equaliser, came to the feet of O’Leary. The first shot saved by Harper and the second into the side netting. Chances were being made but we lacked that cutting edge, although minutes from half-time saw a glancing header from Tate cleared off the line.
There was enough time for one more piece of play that saw Gueret clear up field only for the ref to spot the linesman’s flag and call play back for handling outside the area.
The resultant shot was cleared for a corner only to see Gueret race to the edge of the box, giving the ref some animated chat resulting with a yellow. He continued as he returned to goal (Maybe red is his favourite colour).
So half-time saw us down 0-1, but maybe shading the game 60-40, as we had most of the chances on goal.The second half saw most of the play between the two areas as the heat took control. Very little action in the first period, until Northampton saw a couple of half chances as they took control mid-half. The Swans had run out of ideas,and with players not playing in their natural positions saw us lacking any width to spread the Northampton defence.
Oli replaced Forbes who had become more and more ineffectual, and later Maylett replaced Martinez. In reality it made very little difference as the game was now petering out. Whilst we looked for a grandstand finish, it was killed dead with Northampton getting their second. A deep cross to the far side of the goal saw Ricketts under pressure head in. A further chance saw the ball rebound off the bar with Gueret beaten. By the final whistle, the crowd had left in droves, disappointed with the result and the performance.
Gueret. Jury out. Looks hesitant as he tries too hard not to make silly mistakes, but looks the part, must be given time to develop an understanding with his defenders.
Jones. Bad error for the first goal, but not all was bad, although not ready for an extended run in the team.
Tate. A steady game but lacks pace ( Apart from the reading of the game, not much can be done to improve that)
Monk. As Tate.
Ricketts. A promising show but is a right not left back.
Britton. Not really in the game, drifted in field from the right, but unfortunately doesn’t have the physic for some of the League 2 battles.
Martinez. We know so much more can come from Robbie. Will we see it again.
O’Leary. Battled but very little play through midfield. 2 chances and should have put one away
Robinson. A very, very, quiet game a couple of shots and a near sending off.
Forbes. Showed promise in the first half with his running, but most was without the ball.
Connor. Huffed and puffed but offered very little as a target man.
Subs Maylett & Oli not on long enough, but may need a start soon.
Overall. Much of last seasons failings were there to be seen. A very lopsided display, with lack of width against a very well organised Northampton team,which made life easier for them. With the promise from Kenny Jackett that we would not be out battled this season, the team still has that lightweight look to it. Iriekpen, Trundle and Austin were missing but at the moment that’s all we can say is that our subs bench will be stronger than last season.
Very early, but there is still something missing. No grit and determination in midfield where we have the most options. No cutting edge in attack. Pace is missing. We want to play the flick football as we very rarely put our foot through the ball. The same can be said with headers as most are looping with no real power.These are all the areas that were identified by fans last season and picked upon by Kenny Jackett after his initial settling in period. Let’s hope things gel quickly or it will be a long mid-table season.
Defence & Midfield – Not physical enough and lack pace
Attack – Very difficult to match a pairing.
Wings – Only Maylett is a winger and non existent on the left.
A special mention must also go to the referee who was as poor as any ref I have seen in my 30 years of watching football.