Stoke 1 Swans 2

Wednesday, 7 March 2001, 0:00
5 mins read
Stoke City 1 Swansea City 2 By Keith Haynes
Brittania Stadium
Nationwide League Division Two
Att: TBA
Potters – 1
Jack Army – 2
O’Conner 81 mins
Price 18 mins
O’Leary 31 mins
For the Stoke View

Smith out, Swansea win, Hollins breaths more easily – the report from Britannia where sizzling Swansea burn Hancock’s forefinger !

Kris O’Leary
Scored what proved to be the winner
Swans Lineup

Roger Freestone Jason Price Michael Howard Jason Smith [Romo 55] Mathew Bound Nick Cusack Kristian O’LearyDamian LaceyMatthias Verschave Steve Watkin[Jenkins 76]Nicolas FabianoSubs not used:Gareth Philips Jason Jones Stu Roberts

Stoke Lineup

Birkir Kristinsson Wayne Thomas Brynjar Gunnarsson Frode Kippe [Thordarson 41] Mikael Hansson [Risom 77] Tony Dorigo Bjarni Gudjonsson Graham Kavanagh James O’Connor Peter Thorne Rikhardur Dadason

Subs not used: Petty MuggletonClarke

Keith Haynes of The Midlands Avon & Gloucester Swans has a few words to say ………

Journeys to Stoke are never going to be easy. The midweek traffic and the Bury debacle fresh in the minds of Swansea fans meant that some were talking of another 5-1 defeat a la Walsall and Reading. It was clear that Hollins had stumbled through his verbally challenged weekend so desperately that we were and are on our last second division legs. Some would say we should have had more hope, and entrusted the rest of the season to the manager and the team he has built from video tapes and false hope.

Of course, if you are one of those few, then maybe you to should have made the journey ? Bury may have been at the back of our minds, but so was Northampton, where Swansea put on a rare display of footballing skills, that they just didn’t look like a team doomed for the drop.

And so it happenned. From the off we passed and played and with the clear exception of Damien Lacey competed for everything. Jason Smith was everywhere at the back, bossing and commanding the rearguard and made use of every pass and clearance. He was immense.

In midfield my old friend ! Nick Cusack showed the watching manager that he was worthy of inclusion with a battling performace, yes the experience was back. Nicholas Fabiano, on a decent surface and good surroundings showed class alongside the captain and it was he who supplied a sublime cross field pass for Swansea’s first goal. Jason Price, left alone to wander in to the Stoke area picked up the thirty yard cross ball, flicked it over the first Stoke defender, beat another and slotted it home. The travelling Jacks celebrated. 1-0.

From there you just knew that another goal just may bring us the points. We continued to dominate possession, and Stoke although sharp on the break were faltering in front of a demanding 10,000 plus crowd.

Swansea’s breaks were generally through the middle and a barrage of shots broke to Kristian O’ Leary on the edge of the area. Again, a smartly drilled shot through a crowd of players signalled mass celebration, we were 2-0 up and it just couldn’t get much better. Could it ?

As is traditional more bad news was to come from the good. Roger took a few knocks as Stoke lost their rhythm, and set about Swansea’s players accompanied by an inept referee and sidekick linesman ( that’s what they are that’s what they always will be ) Watkin was put through and blatantly brought down. The result nothing. Traditional indeed.

Stoke did come close with a far post header on 43 minutes but that was all they had to show for their efforts. Half time 2-0 the Jacks. It was pleasant indeed to purchase bottled beer in the bar area and see some decent stewarding for a change too. No bolshy madmen in yellow jackets but fairly polite people who notified us that Stoke were rubbish and we had the game sewn up. Comforting maybe, but they had not seen what we had for the previous seven months.

Of course the second half would be different, the half time Stoke pep talk must have centred around Jason Smith and Nicholas Fabiano, both head and shoulders above the rest of the players on the field. Within minutes one would leave the field of play with a serious ankle injury. News afterwards that he may be out for quite a while. Jason Smith involved in a 50/50 ball with Thorpe came out the loser. A doctor was summoned as were the two physio’s, he was to take no further part in the game, stretchered off with his legs splinted for good measure.

Early reports are he could be out for the rest of the season, but hope says we need him badly. The reaction of the players told us it was serious. On came Romo ? Maybe not one of Hollin’s best moves due to the conditions, and O’ Leary concentrated his efforts in a more withdrawn role.

The tale of this half was simple. Stuart Roberts, if gifted with half the amount of one on one’s that Watkin and Verschave were given would have sewn the game up as predicted by the stewards at half time.

Both strikers were exhausted, Verschave also seemingly suffering from a lack of confidence as he missed three good opportunities to settle the game. He squandered countless chances to improve our tally, and Watkin wanted too much time, something not even Stoke’s faltering centre half would grant him. The writing was on the wall, Stoke were going to score, it was only a matter of when ?

Credit where it’s due, again with the exception of Lacey, we battled and fought for possession. Price was excellent, and I do not say that lightly, and Cusack’s guile brought Watkin and Verschave several good chances. Then Hollins made the change, Watkin off, Lee Jenkins on.

Many were muttering about Stuart Roberts but only minutes later Stoke scored. A low cross headed in past Roger to get them back in to the game. Cue the Alamo. The final minutes were hetic.

Stoke had one more chance, a low shot to Roger’s right before the referee, who prompted the Hollins ballad ” You don’t know what your’e doing ” on several occasions brought the game to an end after six minutes squeezed in to four minutes of injury time. The scenes at the end of from the travelling Jacks was of immense relief.

A pressure cooker exploding, we had won away for the first time since god had invented grass,and in the process of doing so had inflicted upon Stoke the sad old ” double ” Yes, The Swans had done the double for the first and last time this season. That would do us nicely. The walk back to our transport some twenty minutes away saw us witness to sad tales of Stoke woe, sore thumbs ?

We must have stuck out like big un’s matey. And not a jot we gave. They were desperate, I mean a play off place must be awful for them ? For us it was worthy of a new beginning, a new start. We are in a league table of five, currently we are fourth. Big games against those lifeless and poorly supported Cobblers, and a six pointer at Swindon beckon. If we get two wins, the table will look interesting, but that’s a big if. But on the face of the performances ( Bury agreed ) of late we have a slight glimmer of hope. But if it all falls apart on Saturday it would have been a waste of time. We have one last chance to secure our place in next years second division, and a traditional four points against Cardiff City.

Half the squad may have left if this happens, regardless of the league we play in, down to mismanagement and incompetence. But at least there is hope, the next ten days will show us all exactly how much bottle The Swans have got. And if, like us, they are up to the task in hand, I may not be the only dreamer out there.

We have a slight ray of hope, the last time I felt like this was after the Peterborough game last season, and we all know what we achieved after that, of course this time staying up will feel even better.Fingers crossed.

Keith Haynes writes for Jackplug and Total Football magazines.

SWANS STATS 1. Roger Freestone 7 2. Michael Howard 6 3. Matthew Bound 5 4. Jason Smith 9 Sub 5. Jason Price 8 6. Kris O’ Leary 8 7. Nick Cusack 7 8. Nicolas Fabiano 8 9. Steve Watkin 6 Sub 10. Verschave 7 11. Damien Lacey 4 Subs 12. David Romo 7 13. Lee Jenkins 6 Travelling approximate : 150 – 170.

Images courtesy of Getty Images, Athena Picture Agency and Swansea City Football Club.

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