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Swansea City 0 Watford 0 (22/10/2016) 23/10/2016

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

1- I lived in Leeds between 1991 and 1994.  Once a week, on a Thursday evening, there was an Indie night in the Student Union;  unremarkable in itself but at the same time a splendid thing.  Held in a black pit of a hall whose name I don’t even remember, it featured dry ice, sticky floors, watered down beer and a reliable set list. Either Going Underground or A Town Called Malice.  Either Sheela-Na-Gig or 50 Foot Queenie. And so on.

What made it special was that everyone was there.  You didn’t need to make any kind of arrangement with anybody in those pre-mobile phone pre-social media days.  Nor had it ever been said, “this is something we should do”.  It just grew organically… you could wander it at 9pm and see a load of people that you knew and were pleased to see, and drink beer and jump around for a few hours before buying an onion bhaji bap from the chip van outside and staggering home through the wind across Hyde Park.  It was an anchor point of the week.

Back to the present day, and after all the years of doing this, of so many of us doing this, it shouldn’t need commenting on.  Again.  But there’s something thoroughly enjoyable about turning up on the other side of the country and knowing that you’ll run into a load of mates without any more formal arrangement than the fixture list.  A four hour drive cross country with two children in the back seat isn’t a risk-free plan by any stretch, it helps that the sun has been shining, we’ve had as clear a run as we could have hoped for and that Swansea City seems such a very hospitable and well-organised club.  But most of all it’s good to see Dave, Matt and Miles killing time outside a hostelry on the periphery of the ground.  Saying hello to Elvis Mark in passing.  Greeting Andy as he and his mates on their way up to the thin-Oxygen top row (where, presumably, he enjoys City running out to the Clash’s “White Riot”).  Saying a waved hello to Alice.  And all the others we met along the way.  It’s a Good Thing.


2- You’ll have noticed that I haven’t, you know, mentioned the actual football yet.

Ten minutes in one of the blokes behind us announced that “this has got nil-nil written all over it”.  This was irritating… partly because it felt like a spoiler, partly because he was so obviously right and the sudden realisation, much as it had been staring us in the face since kick-off, deflated enthusiasm.

It’s not that the game was awful, it wasn’t awful.  But it was… humdrum, and rather predictable.  Both sides were disciplined and reasonably robust defensively – Prödl at his unfussy best for the Hornets, debutant Mawson standing up well to Deeney for the home side.  But going forward… there was little pace to speak of in either forward line and so for the most part the game rattled around in a confined box that didn’t involve either penalty area terribly often, or at least not in a consequential way.  Such stalemates look worse at lower levels of course… with this much quality on the pitch there was always the chance of something happening, but it remained an outside possibility during the first half.  The closest we came were an ambitious turn and shot from Capoue from distance that he did well to get anywhere near the target, and a late free kick teed up for Kaboul to bludgeon goalwards, a deflection taking the shot spinning, almost fortunately but narrowly wide of the post.

3- The shape of the game changed in the second half.  Paul described it as a basketball match… my limited exposure to basketball has led me to believe that it involves lots of points being scored, but that aside there was something about the end-to-endness of it that suited that analogy.  Modou Barrow was the source of much of the helt-peltness of it all, a strong and direct winger who is incredibly quick but seemed to rely on Holebas (twice) and Britos (once) gambling by diving in with a tackle and being caught by quick movement to give him a big hole to surge into.  For all his menace there wasn’t an awful lot of end product.

The home side, nonetheless, had the best of it and Gomes was by far the busier keeper.  He made a fine reflex stop to deny Van der Hoorn – we had no view of precisely what had happened from the far end, relying on replays for information – and had to be bold in coming out for a couple of dangerous crosses.  The best move of the game came when Sigurdsson surged down the left before having the presence of mind to quickly alter the flow and switch the ball to the right, coming inside to hit the return ball off the outside of the far post.

Meanwhile whilst we weren’t getting shots on target there was increasing potency in our counterattacks, abetted no end by the introduction of Amrabat for Zuñiga. The Colombian had done well enough, but here was some acceleration to frighten Swansea with and several times it threatened to open them up.  Odion Ighalo, meanwhile was making a good stab at reestablishing himself in the starting eleven, demonstrating the Marlon King trick of being able to kill a ball stone dead with a touch irrespective of angle and speed of arrival, holding players off, and once selling a couple of scoops to shape a shooting chance which Fabianski fielded comfortably.  There were two penalty calls, one for a handball that I didn’t see but which was protested furiously, the other perhaps more credible for a scruffy challenge on Behrami after we got a lucky break in the box that unsettled the Swans defence.  Could have been given, wasn’t.  Sometimes you get them.  Our best move, the closest we came to consecutive muggings on the road, came when Amrabat flicked narrowly over both keeper and crossbar at the end of another fluid counterattack.

4- Despite this counterattacking threat it was beyond doubt that Swansea took hold of the midfield in the second half.  Mazzarri has lauded the first half performance…  I guess if you acknowledge his qualifier that we need to sort the final third out then you can just about nod at that, we didn’t give them an awful lot.  Overall though, the midfield isn’t quite clicking as hoped, and this despite our injury list generally attacking other areas of the pitch.  Behrami, Capoue, Pereyra looks like the first choice three but whilst Behrami did his dirty-work job again effectively enough Capoue had one of his off-days and Pereyra, for all his ability, has looked a bit peripheral – ornamental? – in the last few weeks.  Guedioura was brought on to bring some welcome randomness to proceedings, but Ben Watson’s ability to recycle possession and just keep us ticking alongside Behrami is being underplayed for my money.  Capoue’s surges into the box that characterised the first six weeks or so of the season have all but disappeared – rarely did any of the middle three make runs ahead of the ball yesterday – given which Watson’s economy could have been a more useful tool.

5- Having said all of which it goes without saying that this was a very decent point, and may look like a better point still if Swansea get their act together, as looks quite possible.  Consecutive clean sheets, let alone away from home, are not to be sniffed at either.  We rolled out of Swansea as the sun set reasonably content with how the afternoon had gone.  A quarter of the way through the season we have three wins, three draws and three defeats, plus a zero goal difference; lazy journalists after a headline might find this dull, but if it’s the new normal – humdrum or not – it’ll do me.



1. Roger Smith - 23/10/2016

Given our lack of goal threat, I was surprised that Sinclair wasn’t used – fresh legs who would have posed a different sort of question.

2. harefield hornet - 23/10/2016

Yes the decent trip down and a couple of beers in the Harvester made this a pleasant day out – certainly better than than the hostile visits to the Vetch Field I recall from years gone by! But a sense of job done settle for a point etc as you’ve correctly pointed out above. Couldn’t help feeling that a bit more adventure might have nicked all 3 points that were there for the taking against a side that despite their possession clearly lacked confidence and looked vulnerable at the back. Strange Referee – seemed determined not to give us absolutely anything for some reason? But as you said not too much to grumble about.

3. David Sawyer - 24/10/2016

A point gained, and I loved this comment “Guedioura was brought on to bring some welcome randomness to proceedings”. Nothing to add to that, sums it up perfectly!

4. SteveG - 26/10/2016

I did feel a little sorry for Behrami last season – he didn’t do that much wrong, but Ben Watson was playing well for much of the time and it didn’t seem that there was room for both of them in the starting line-up. At least not if we weren’t going to play even more people out of position. But as you say, Matt, with a different formation and a midfield which isn’t quite working in the way that we thought it might, then the two of them with either Pereyra or Capoue in the more advanced role might be a tweak worth exploring.

5. David Wray - 27/10/2016

I certainly would like to see Pereyra playing more centrally as watching on Saturday reminded me of an Abdi performance of last season. He worked hard but struggled to really influence the game.

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