Leyton O 2 Swansea 2

Saturday, 9 February 2002, 0:01
6 mins read

But the team will know that against a medicore Orient side, and playing with a fierce wind behind them, we should have had this game sewn up at half time.

But the team will know that against a medicore Orient side, and playing with a fierce wind behind them, we should have had this game sewn up at half time.
It was a great turn out of Jacks at Brisbane Road today – must have topped the 400 mark, and gerat vocal support was given throughout. Why can’t it always be like that? Great to meet up with the contingent from Belgium in the pub before the game. They knew every word of the Swansea City Song, and made sure they sang it from the first whistle – remarkable effort! Hello to Debue, Bekaert, Depla, Filip, J-Pierre and Pieter; nice to know our old scarf has gone to a good home!
There was a bit of a shake up in the team. Roger was, of course, between the sticks, but O’Leary found himself on the bench as Mumford, Sharpe and Todd made up the centre back three. Evans and Howard were the usual wing backs, but the midfield trio saw Jenkins come in to the Brodie role (though he played in a more withdrawn position) alongside Cusack and Coates. It was great to see Sidibe in the starting line-up again, alongside Watkin.
With a strong gale behind them the Swans made most of the early running. Coates had a chance which he fired over, and Mumford struck a firm free kick which was well saved. Another neat shot from Coates flew just wide. During this spell we looked a decent side – the midfield pasing was composed, with Coates looking neat and incisive, and the forward running was bright, particularly through the pace of Sidibe. We reaped our reward for this early pressure on the 20th minute, when the latest of several dangerous in-swinging corners from Mumford found the head of Cusack with the Goalkeeper flapping, and the Captain made no mistake from close range. The home side rallied and began to get their game together in the difficult, swirling gale. A number of dangerous crosses were clipped across our box and we made a meal of defending them, as the back three tried to sort themselves out positionally. One header flew just wide and a looping effort from Brazier was clutched by Freestone. Despite the pressure, though, the home team never really threatened to cancel out our lead, and the home support, as usual at Brisbane Road, was thoroughly silenced.
The last ten minutes of the half saw a concerted effort by the Swans to grab a priceless second. First Sidibe burst through and 40 yards out had his heels blatantly clipped by a defender – but the referee saw nothing wrong a waved play on. Then Cusack controlled the ball well at the edge of the area and fired a low shot straight at the keeper. Shortly after another ball over the top set Sidibe away again and this time he evaded his marker, only to see his rather hurried shot parried by the keeper. Then from a corner on the right, Watkin flicked on to Sharp, whose header from six yards was athletically turned over the bar. Then in the dying minutes of the half the keeper made another wonderful save, this time from a low sidefooted shot from Cusack. The verdict on the half was positive, but with the usual nagging doubts – particularly as we had failed to take advantage of the strong wind in our favour.
With the wind at their backs we expected an onslaught from the home side after the break. But it never really came. In fact the opening ten minutes of the half was the quietest period of the game. Then after 55 minutes the game went through bizarre series of twists which saw the initiative shift one way and then the other. On 56 minutes David Partridge was shown the red card after a reckless challenge on Evans, which saw our right back removed on a stretcher (to be replaced with Lacey). Down to ten men the Orient heads were visibly dropping and there seemed no way back for them. Then a dangerous in-swinging cross from the right saw Freestone and Sharp collide as they attempted to clear. Sharp was led off the pitch by the Orient physio, who was signalling that he would need stitches. Remarkably, we chose not to replace him immediately with O’Leary. From the resulting corner, we failed clear the aerial threat, and after Jenkins cleared one header off the line, McGhee nodded home the rebound. The Orient tannoy played its annoying South American “Goooooaaaallllll” recording, and the home fans predictably burst into life. The Swans fans responded with some rousing singing, much to the annoyance of those who attempted the “you’re not singing any more” song.
But a couple of minutes later we really were silenced. A hopeful punt into the box caused confusion in our makeshift back three; the ball was hooked across the six yard box and Wayne Gray stole in to head the O’s into an undeserved lead. But the Swans must have been rueing the fact that they had taken such a passive stance at the start of the second half, and had failed to replace Sharpe. The inevitable substition of Sharpe for O’Leary then followed, along with the replacement of Watkin with Brodie. Another capitulation seemed likely.
But impressively, the Swans did not give in. In the following 20 minutes we surged forward whilst the home side dug in for a precious three points, choosing to hit us on the break. But things began to look bleak – depsite some industrious work by Lacey in midfield, and some creative work from Coates, we never really looked like rescuing the game, with far too many high balls flighted in from deep, with no real threat coming at the end of them. Our best moments were a great run on the right from Jenkins, now at right back in place of Evans, which was blocked in the area, and a header which flashed wide from Sidibe. But on 81 minutes our efforts were rewarded when a neat move on the right culminated in an excellently placed low strike from Mumford, which found the far corner of the net.
Briefly it seemed that the home team would cave in, as the Swans launched another flurry of attacks, with Sidibe having a low shot blocked in the area. But then suddenly, in a frantic final spell, Orient looked the likelier winners. Freestone made an excellent flying save, there were several last gasp clearances, and deep into injury time a header cannoned back off our cross bar when it seemed certain that the O’s would steel the points. Even during this spell, we almost snatched the points ourselves as a low Jenkins cross was almost diverted in by a combination of Cusack and Sidibe. To add to the almost surreal final moments, the four minutes of injury time were punctuated by a sudden deluge of hailstones, which swept the pitch, almost blinded the players, and sent home and visiting fans alike scurrying for cover. The final whistle brought relief all round, and at the end of the day, all concerned seemed happy with the outcome. The Swans left the field to a rousing reception from the travelling faithful, and made a point of acknowleding this.
Freestone – 7 Some good work under the high ball and a couple of great saves.
Evans – 6 Lacked some spark going forward
Howard – 6 As above
Sharpe – 6 Struggled to cope with a semi-robust attack, but added useful height
Mumford – 9 Surged forward with confidence, worked hard at the back, and produced some excellent deliveries from dead ball situations; fine goal too.
Todd – 6 Learning his trade still, and seemed uncomfortable for much of the game
Cusack – 8 A sound marshalling performance from midfield and plenty of energy when pressed into attack
Coates – 8 Neat and creative, though lacking a finishing touch
Jenkins – 7 Battled away in midfield, but looked far more effective when he switched to his natural home at right back
Watkin – 6 The usual set of flicks and swivels but no real impact on goal
Sidibe – 7 Some good pacy running, but not back to his best yet
Lacey – 6 Prodded and probed from midfield
Brodie – 6 Added some useful zest to the attack without looking particularly dangerous
O’Leary – 6 Slotted in OK at the back, but we do struggle for height without Smith in there.
Addo/Nicholas – 7 Overall game plan was good, but the failure to replace Sharpe probably cost us two points. We didn’t spot the reported bust-up with Cusack.
Let’s be positive here – before the game we would certainly have settled for a point from this one. It nudges us a further point clear of Halifax and at least stops the rot. It was also a performance which will have restored some confidence, as there were some good individual performances today which knitted together into a sound team effort.
Three points would have been nice, and should have been secured, but lets hope that this can at least be a launching pad for a decent run. If we can just secure enough points to feel safe, we will all sleep easier in our beds!
Images courtesy of Getty Images, Athena Picture Agency and Swansea City Football Club.

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