Vital Swansea Review of the Year- Part 4
Life in the Championship was well underway when one of the first major sides crossed the border to try their luck at the Liberty. Wolves were cutting teams to bits home and away, but were brought back down to earth with a 3-1 reverse at the hands of the Swans. Jason Scotland produced one of his best displays in a Swansea City shirt, bagging two after Jordi Gomez had opened the scoring in under 30 seconds.
Yet again an untimely international break stopped the Swans from getting any sort of prolonged run going, and when Roberto Martinez's men were back in action they were cruelly denied a third consecutive win as Ipswich claimed a debateable late equaliser to pinch a 2-2 draw at Portman Road. QPR came to South Wales as one of the richest clubs in the country. They left after being given a footballing lesson but somehow escaping with a point. Iain Dowie didn't escape though, losing his job after the result. The game will always be remembered for the appearance of Alan Tate in a goalkeepers shirt. Dorus de Vries was stretchered off injured with a facial injury that would keep him out for weeks, and with no replacement 'keeper on the bench, Tatey stepped in and kept a clean sheet!
Artur Krysiak made his debut in a convincing 3-0 home victory over Southampton as the Swans really began to find their rhythm at this level, with Ferrie Bodde consistently proving why he is one of the best central midfielders at this level. Dimi Konstantopolous became the third goalkeeping option at Martinez's disposal when he joined on loan from Coventry, but he watched from the sidelines as City were unfortunate to come away from Molineux with nothing.
The big Greek did make his debut in the 0-0 draw at lowly Doncaster, the debutants late penalty save the highlight of an otherwise forgettable encounter.
The games were coming thick and fast, with Watford visiting South Wales twice in the space of three days. They fell victims of fortress Liberty in the League, but claimed a narrow victory in the League Cup in one of the Swans most disappointing performances under the stewardship of Roberto Martinez. Stephen O'Halloran joined the ranks on loan from Aston Villa, the Irish left back coming in as cover for long term absentee Marcos Painter.
A 60 year wait for a win at Carrow Road came to an end in what Martinez described as a 'massive moment' in the season. Little did he or anyone else expect that it would be our last win of the calendar year!
Then came the nightmare game against Birmingham. Kevin Phillips did what he does best and win the game for the Blues with two goals from the bench, as the Swans threw away a victory that was in their grasp. More worrying than the defeat was the injuries to midfield lynchpins Bodde and Britton. Both were expected to be long term, but thankfully Little Leon's wasn't as bad as first feared. Bodde's on the other hand was. He'd suffered the same cruciate knee injury as Painter and would be out for the season. The man around which the whole Swansea team and style of play was based around was gone, and the early season aspirations of making the play - offs were being reassessed.
OTJ stepped into the Dutchman's boots for the next game at Coventry, whilst de Vries donned a mask to make his return. Jordi Gomez's free - kick looked like it might be enough for a win, but de Vries was helpless to stop a late Danny Fox free kick. The first of a sequence of draws that is still to be ended.
The Bluebirds were in town for the next league game, at the ridiculously early time of 11:15 for the biggest derby in Wales, Britain, Europe, the world? Darren Pratley got the Jack's off to a flyer; cue compulsory swim away impression. But from then on Cardiff really did start to take control, and after equalising before half - time through Joe Ledley, converted a dubious penalty the other side of the break to take the lead. Things really were looking bleak until Stephen McPhail kindly booted the ball away for no apparent reason and made his way to the Liberty Stadium showers early once again. Gorka Pintado scored a cracking volley to salvage a point, and it should have been three as Cardiff looked to hold out for the draw. Bragging rights not quite shared, as we had won in the League Cup. Technically, still the best team in Wales!
Draws, lots of them. That's the only way to describe December. Other than battling back against Barnsley and a point gained at Ashton Gate, the Swans drew five games which they quite simply should have won. Possession wasn't converted, and the Swans began to fall off the play - off pack slowly but surely. Blackool, Birmingham City, Sheffield United and Coventry (again) played their part in a Football League record of eight consecutive draws. Forget opening Christmas presents, the only thing Swans fans wanted to open was the transfer window, for the elusive player who could create something from nothing and win these tight games for us. That window is now open, and we await the magical signing...
Vital Swansea 2008 Awards
Only my opinion, and as lovely as it would be if everyone agreed with me, please feel free to pick your own. I'm just going to judge it on the games and goals I saw in 2008.
Player of the Year
1. Ferrie Bodde
2. Leon Britton
3. Angel Rangel
Goal of the Year
1. Ferrie Bodde v Preston (A)
2. Jason Scotland v Bristol Rovers (H)
3. Darren Pratley v Luton (A)
Performance of the Year
1. Swansea 3-1 Wolves
2. Doncaster 0-4 Swansea
3. Norwich 2-3 Swansea
Most Improved Player of the Year
1. Ashley Williams
2. Darren Pratley
3. Joe Allen
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