Mansfield 3 Swansea 0

Sunday, 2 December 2001, 0:01
4 mins read

If anyone is logging on to this report to find some crumbs of comfort, they are unlikely to find them. The Swans were devoid of good fortune today, but all in all it was a disappointing effort, with a disorganised and passionless second half wiping away the memories of a constructive first half hour.

It is surely no co-incidence, though, that our recent brief resurgence in form coincided with a fleeting period of optimism that Mr Petty was surely to be ousted. The removal of that false hope seems to have plunged the team’s morale and performance level back to rock bottom level, and this time it is hard to see how they can climb back up.

Strangely, the first half hour was almost completely dominated, in terms of possession, by the Swans. And some of this play was constructive and promising, as the midfield of Coates, Lacey and Cusack exerted early control, and prompted the running of the front two of Williams and Sidibe with some neat approach play. The two Evanses also supported well from full back, and we saw some decent balls played into the box from both flanks.

However, this period gave us scant return in terms of chances – an early strike over the bar from O’Leary and a great strike from Coates, which just cleared the bar on 19 minutes, were our only efforts, and certainly Pilkington in the home goal was not forced into a save. And we paid the price for this lack of penetration when we fell behind to a sucker goal on 13 minutes. A simple flick on caught the back three of Bound, Smith and O’Leary flat-footed, and deadly striker Chris Greenacre stole in to neatly finish – the ball rolling agonisingly into the corner after Freestone had seemed to get a hand to it.

To their credit, the Swans did not let their heads drop at this stage, and tried to play their way back into it, but from the half hour mark, the home side began to show some of the form which has taken them into the promotion places and took control. On 29 minutes Freestone was forced into an excellent save with his legs, and a minute later a cross from the Mansfield left found its way to a Mansfield striker (didn’t get the number) whose left foot snap shot from point blank range went just wide.

Just before half time, it was our turn to attack on the break, and briefly we thought it had brought us back on level terms, as a magnificent strike from Coates flew inches wide of Pilkington’s post. But as the Swans were still holding their heads in dismay, they were again caught by a sucker punch, as a Mansfield player embarrassed the hesitant Bound before slipping the ball to Greenacre who slid the ball past Freestone.

The 2 – 0 deficit was harsh, and indeed the Swans almost stole one back in first half injury time as a shot from Cusck was almost deflected in by Sidibe. Indeed, during the interval there was still some hope among the Swans fans that an early goal in the second half could see us get right back into this one. The start of the second half saw us make two substitions, as Brodie replaced Lacey to give us more punch in attack, and Sharp came on for the presumably injured Smith. The re-enervated side then twice came close to pinching that vital first goal.

A great volley from Cusack was tipped over the bar by Pilkington, and from the corner, a header was cleared off the line. At this point we really thought we were on the up, but it was short-lived – and we should have been punished on 50 minutes when Greenacre missed a free header from 6 yards. On 52 minutes a low shot from Cusack was well saved by Pilkington, and this proved to be the end of the Swans’ resistance, before the home side took complete territorial control.

Our midfield disappeared from the fray, the full backs were isolated when they went forward, the front men looked frustrated by lack of service, and when they got the ball they failed to hold on to it. Mansfield played the game in a strong and simple manner, feeding the wings, switching the play and getting the ball into the box at every opportunity. Freestone made a couple of excellent saves to keep us in it, and Mansfield missed several golden opportunities to finish us off, with a snap shot from Brodie our only response during this spell.

On 77 minutes we were put out of our misery when a series of about 20 passes culminated in a simple through ball to a Mansfield striker on their left, who scurried away from Evans before delivering a low cross to Matthew Piper who struck home frist time at the far post. The manner of the goal was contintal, but this was no Barcelona – this was only Mansfield. But it was a deserved third goal to finish off what was, by then, a completely demoralised Swans side.

Other opportunities came for the home side to pile on the agony, but they failed to take any of them. In the last few minutes we had a couple of flurries in the home penalty area but never really looked like pulling one back. At the final whistle, many of the visiting Jacks had left, few appluaded the team off, and the players trooped away looking shell shocked.

A game which for 40 minutes seemed well within them, had disappeared unaccountably into the Mansfield mist. Freestone – 7 The only player with any real credit; made some great saves to keep us in it, and had little chance with the goals. Evans T – 6 Looked strong and dangerous in the first half, but after the break struggled to cope with the physicality of the home attack Evans S – 6 Like his name-sake he probed forward well in the first half, but struggled after the interval. Bound – 4 Slow and ponderous; If anyone is logging on to this report to find some crumbs of comfort, they are unlikely to find them.

The Swans were devoid of good fortune today, but all in all it was a disappointing effort, with a disorganised and passionless second half wiping away the memories of a constructive first half hour. It is surely no co-incidence, though, that our recent brief resurgence in form coincided with a fleeting period of optimism that Mr petty was surely to be ousted.

The removal of that false hope seems to have plunged the team’s morale and performance level back to rock bottom level, and this time it is hard to see how they can climb back up.

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