League Division Three – Swansea City 1 Leyton Orient 0 – Saturday 18th January, 1997.
Jeremy Kivell has written this match report.
I almost didn’t go to this game, but for once in my life, I think I made the correct decision. Swansea stuck with the same team that beat the Barnet Cinderellas in mid-week. Leyton Orient had the ugly sisters Alvin Martin and Peter Shilton in a defence which had one of the best records in the division. Ex-Swansea striker Colin West also made an appearence in the Orient line-up.
Most of the action in the first half was concentrated around the first 10 minutes and the last 5. In the first few seconds, Dai Thomas turned and volleyed wide from the edge of the area. Shortly afterwards, there was a lengthy delay as Steve Jones received treatment after a clash of heads. When the gane resumed, Swansea continued to play attractive football and created chances for Steve Torpey, who shot wide after some neat passing on the edge of the area; and David Penney, who had a shot deflected for a corner after picking up a knock-down from Torpey.
Linton Brown was causing Leyton Orient all sorts of trouble with his pace. On one occasion, Jan Molby put him through but Shilton saved well as Brown tried to lift the ball over the keeper.
That was all in the first 10 minutes. The game then lost it’s way a bit, but Swansea still managed a couple of efforts on goal with Moreira shooting wide, and Molby hitting a superb dipping shot which only just cleared Shilton’s crossbar.
Orient didn’t force Roger Freestone into a save until 5 minutes from half time. When the effort on goal came, it was a lob from 25 yards which caused Freestone to backpedal frantically before tipping the ball onto the crossbar.
There was still time for Swansea to create another couple of chances before the break. Brown, who had switched over to the right hand side, crossed causing a mad scramble in the 6 yard box, but Orient somehow managed to force the ball away. Thomas then had a cross-shot not far wide before the referee blew for half-time (a bit early I thought, considering how long it had taken to treat injuries to Steve Jones and Keith Walker earlier in the game).
Incidentally, I counted 4 bookoings in the first half from card-happy referee Pierce. That was nothing on what was to come.
Swansea started off the second half as they finished the first. In the first couple of minutes, Thomas headed straight at Shilton from a Moreira cross, then the game exploded.
Torpey, who had been man-marked by Alvin Martin all afternoon, got involved in an off-the-ball tussle with the “experienced” ex-West Ham player. The referee rushed over to where the flare-up occured, red-card already in his hand. Initial cheers from the North Bank soon turned to boos when it became apparent that it was Torpey, and not Martin, who would be showering alone. It’s interesting to note that Torpey was bleeding from the mouth as he walked off the pitch.
That incident, coupled with the news of the rugby score from Murrayfield, increased the noise level in the ground, and things threatened to boil over when Molby got involved in a silly incident right in front of the North Bank.
Apart form that, Swansea looked barely troubled by the sending off, and continued to dominate posession and create chances. Both Brown and Coates had good efforts on goal, Brown hitting the outside of the post, while Coates, having just replaced Ampadu, forced Shilton into a save from 20 yards. Molby also had another terrific effort from long range brilliantly saved by Shilton.
Shortly afterwards, Molby played a ball through the middle for Thomas to run on to, but Orient defender Mark Warren held Thomas back when the Swansea striker would have had a clear run in on goal. Judging by the referee’s track record, there was no way Warren was going to stay on the field. Sure enough, the card was in the air almost before Dai Thomas had time to look aggrieved at being fouled.
Step forward Jan Molby for what will probably be the goal of the season come May. It was a beautiful right-footed curler perfectly placed into Shilton’s top right-hand corner. The poor old guy didn’t have a chance.
For the final 15 minutes (plus a mysterious 8 minutes of injury time) it was open, end-to-end stuff, with Orient pressing forward and Swansea defending deeply. However, Orient never really looked capable of scoring, while Thomas and Brown both went close for Swansea. Shilton should have become the third sending off after a blatant handball outside his area. The linesman initially flagged, then seemed to change his mind when the referee decided that Shilton had chested the ball away. At the final whistle, Molby said something to the linesman (probably about the Shilton handball), and got a yellow card in exchange for his frank input.
This is by far the best game I’ve seen all season. By all accounts the Swans played better against Barnet, but for atmosphere, the Orient game will take some beating. It’s just a pity that it was mostly down to the questionable refereeing rather than consistently fluent football.
Torpey and Thomas are now both facing suspensions, probably concurrently. Heggs is injured, and MacDonald has never looked the part, so here’s an idea – how about signing an out-of-contract striker from, say, Denmark, until the end of the season as cover? Surely nobody would be short-sighted enough to refuse such a request?
Still, it’s been a pretty good weekend – Swans won, C****ff lost, and Wales stuffed Scotland. I’m now off to gloat to some Scottish friends at work.