Swansea Reach 4th Round!
Injuries, suspension and cup-ties ruled us out of a number of players ahead of the trip to Premiership new boys Sheffield United on Saturday, and even the most optimistic of the 5,000 Jacks the travelled to Bramall Lane would probably have told you the best result we could hope for was 0-0, or perhaps a sneaky 1-0 with the ball going in off Bayo's enormous backside. With just two recognised strikers available, both started, although Fallon dropped back into midfield alongside the returning O'Leary. Britton started on the right with Butler left, and Tom Williams and Kevin Amankwaah came into the back four. Tate played between the midfield and the defence, with Willy of course in goal. 16-year-old Joe Allen had a seat on the bench.
Attacking away from the Jack Army in the first half, Fallon drew an early save from Gerrard (no, not that one!) in the Blades' goal when a short back pass fell his way. The ball bounced akwardly for him on the terrible surface, and his low shot with his right foot was too weak and easily dealt with. From that point onwards, the home side started to assert their dominance on the game, playing the ball around quite well on the awful surface, but too often they were lacking a good final ball, or were denied by an interception by the exellent Tate or O'Leary. Sheffield had still yet to trouble Gueret when Tom Butler's free kick from 25-yards took a deflection off the wall and landed on the roof of the net, although they did create one a minute later, with Amankwaah off injured a cross came into the area for Steven Quinn, but he could only guide his header into the side netting when unmarked. Their only other real chance during the first half fell for Quinn after some decent build up, but Gueret was out quickly and was able to clear the ball with his face! By that time Iriekpen had replaced Amankwaah, and we were starting to believe that a replay was possible, perhaps even winning today as there was little difference between the two sides.
The first 20 minutes of the second half are usually where we go to pieces, and although Nade shot wide when well placed, it was the Swans who started better. Butler had a shot well saved by Gerrard, and then Akinfenwa was unlucky to see a bicycle kick kept out by him. By this time the Blades were committing men forward and leaving some gaps, and Leon Britton was looking dangerous on the right wing. He broke from midfield, feeding O'Leary on the right. Up to this point O'Leary had done well defensively, but his distribution had been charactaristically poor. This time, however, he sent in a perfect low cross towards Bayo. Leigh Bromby was twice able to block his shot, but the second one fell to Butler on the edge of the area, and he slotted the ball home under Gerrard to give us an unlikely lead.
Memories of games at Reading and West Ham came to mind as we faced another 35 minutes - probably of desperate defending and holding on for dear life, followed by an inevitable late long-range equaliser. But we didn't have to do anything of the sort this time, it took just three minutes for us to double the lead. Britton was again involved, and Bayo's precence caused their defence problems. Again the ball broke to Butler on the edge of the area, and this time he took a touch, slid the ball onto his left foot and again rolled it beneath Gerrard to double the lead and cause even more pandemonium in the away end!
Warnock made three changes shortly after that, but the Swans kept coming. Britton and Fallon combined to clear a Blades attack and Britton raced away on the right. He checked back and fed Fallon, who sent the ball forward towards Akinfenwa. Again the ball deflected into the path of Butler, and this time he got to the ball a fraction of a second before Geary, who came flying in and sent him tubmling for a definate penalty. Already on a yellow, he was lucky to stay on the pitch.
With Trundle, Robinson and Knight all not playing, Leon Britton stepped up to take the penalty, despite the protests of the excellent Tom Williams. Gerrard went the right way but could do nothing about Britton's well placed shot - 3-0 with twenty minutes to go - it was getting increasingly difficult to believe!
From that point on we were content to sit back and let them try and break us down, which they never really looked like doing. Iriekpen made one excellent tackle on Webber when he found space in the area and looked set to make it 3-1, but other than that, we saw the game out comfortably to record an excellent victory that certainly ranks up with some of the best the Swans have had in the FA Cup.
Gueret - 7 - Had one save to make and did it well, racing off his line to deny the striker.
Amankwaah - 5 - A poor backpass got him into trouble and eventually led to his injury.
Lawrence & Austin - 7 - Dealt with their strikers very well.
Williams - 9 - Superb! I don't know who their right wingers was, but Williams had him in his pocket for the whole game, and even had time to make a fool of him going forward a few times too. Welcome back, Tom!
Tate - 7 - Excellent first half, put himself in the way of a lot of their attacks. Quieter after the break.
Britton - 9 - A constant threat, never stopped running. Had a hand in all three goals.
O'Leary - 8 - His distribution was poor in the first half, but you couldn't complain about the rest of his game.
Fallon - 8 - Linked the play well between attack and midfield in an unaccustomed role.
Butler - 9 - Two goals and he won the penalty for the third, can't ask for much more than that! MOTD pointed out after the game that he played like a left winger, staying where he was supposed to be instead of drifting inside all the time. Were you watching Andy Robinson?
Akinfenwa - 8 - Worked very hard up front on his own and caused their defence a few headaches with his strength and size.
Iriekpen - 7 - Did a good job in an unusual position.
Sadly the draw didn't live up to our expectations, we're away at either Chester or Ipswich in the fourth round on the 27th of January.
Neil Warnock can tell us all he wants about how he played a weakned team today, but he wasn't the only one. We had a ton of players out with injuries, suspensions and being cup tied, as well as losing Painter to illness on Friday afternoon. All in all, an excellent and completely unexpected result, combined with some amazing vocal support from the fans. If we can put in that sort of performance (on and off the field) consistantly in the league, we'll go up automatically, no question.
Tuesday nights FAW Premier Cup Quarter Final at Port Talbot was rained off, and has been rearranged for Monday, January 15th.
Match report written by www.centre-circle.com forum member 'Geddon'