Swansea City were defeated again this afternoon as a single goal in the first half was enough to give Middlesbrough a 1-0 win over us at the Riverside Stadium this afternoon. The Swans though will look back on missed chances to get an equaliser on an afternoon where it just wasn’t meant to be.
After the disappointment of last week’s self capitulation against Reading, the talk this week from Russell Martin had been all about the work that they had done to put that behind us and move on with a brave performance on Teeside.
Team selection wise, the Swans were entirely predictable except perhaps for the retention of Rhys Williams in the team although there was a welcome return for Ben Cabango into the back three which meant there was still no place in the starting line up for Jake Bidwell.
On the flip side Chris Wilder had talked in the week about his side not being phased by Swansea’s possession based game and maybe the first minute gave an indication of what he meant by that when Whatmore closed down Ben Hamer’s first touch to deflect it for a goal kick before that minute was up on the clock. It was certainly an indication of the opening stages of the game with the home side winning the ball off the Swans often in our own half and creating some concern in our defence as another early chance was pulled wide of the post as the home side threatened.
For our part in the game we were as true to our game as Martin wanted us to be with some neat first touch passing at times seeing Middlesbrough chasing shadows and on more than one occasion and space often created more so on the left for either Manning or Smith who won a couple of early corners as a result.
It was from some of that space on the left that Manning hit the bar early on and Paterson blazed well over when well placed as the Swans threatened the home goal. However, shortly after that first chance for Paterson, Middlesbrough found themselves a goal up. A ball from the back saw Jones break the offside trap in a similar position to the one where Carroll broke it last week (if indeed he did!) and it ended with a similar position as he ran into the area and beat Hamer at his near post to open the scoring.
The goal didn’t change the pattern of play as the Swans continued to push forward and a shout for a penalty just before half time was turned down and a yellow card given to Paterson for simulation. On replay he was touched by the keeper but the referee’s decision would have been influenced by the view that he was going down before he was touched and therefore the decision looked correct.
Russell Martin’s decision at half time was to replace Korey Smith with Olivier Ntcham as he looked to get his side back on level terms and the early stages of the second half could have seen us draw level with the best chance falling to Piroe who rounded the keeper but saw his goalbound shot cleared off the line just as it looked as if he had bought us level.
An exceptionally entertaining game was developing now as the home side pushed forward for a second but were often put back into retreat by a Swans side who sensed that there was at least a point there for the taking.
Middlesbrough were though holding out strong defensively and Martin made a second change midway through the second half when he replaced Williams with Obafemi in search of that elusive equaliser.
It could have come a minute later as Swans captain Matt Grimes eyed up a free kick 25yards out but whilst his shot cleared the wall and was on target it was a relatively easy save for Daniels in the home goal as he tipped the effort away for a corner.
A minute later Boro should have sealed the points when Ntcham’s stray pass in midfield sent Whatmore away. You only expected one outcome as the striker ran down on goal but his hesitation allowed the sprinting Ntcham to catch back up with him and the shot blazed over the bar to save his blushes. It was Whatmore’s last involvement in the game as he made way almost immediately as Wilder made a double substitution.
You sensed even at this stage with 15 minutes to go that the game could go either way as the Swans pushed forward and Boro looked to pressure us with the ball and they almost got a reward with 10 minutes left and some more nervy moments in the Swansea defence but thankfully Hamer cleared.
The game was end to end at this point and both sides could have got themselves a goal as we closed in towards stoppage time. Good solid Swansea defending denied Boro a chance on 86 minutes whilst thirty seconds later Ntcham was blazing over from the edge of the box.
Two minutes later an equaliser looked on the cards when an accurate pass into the box found Piroe with a perfect first touch but sadly his second blasted the ball over the bar to deny the Swans what the overall pattern of the game probably meant they deserved.
Four minutes of stoppage time gave us hope that there could be a late snatching of that deserved point and that chance almost came as a flick on from Obafemi found Piroe but he could not get the ball under control and his shot away. The last chance had passed us by.
When we reflect back on this game it will be a game that either side could have won, neither really deserved to lose but ultimately it was just the solitary goal from Middlesbrough that ended up the difference between the two sides.
From Russell Martin’s point of view it was not for the want of trying from the Swans but today it just was not meant to be – two defeats on the bounce was not what we wanted but it was what we got. On another day we could easily have got something.
Forest and a certain Mr Cooper next.
MATCH FACTS AND LINE UPS
OTHER CHAMPIONSHIP RESULTS
NEXT UP FOR THE SWANS