Bristol Rovers

Tuesday, 27 August 2002, 0:00
5 mins read

Home >Story Index> Bristol Rovers 3 Swansea 1 – The Fan’s Views

Match Report by Phil Crocker

A warm and sunny summers evening saw over 800 jacks head for Bristol hoping to see the Swans chalk up their second win of the season only to witness what must have been one of the worst, gutless Swans performances in recent memory.

With the news that Thomas and Wood were both out, most fans expected a place in the starting line-up for Keaveny or Moss. Cusack had other ideas though and partnered Williams and Watkin up front. Rovers started the brighter of the two teams as the Swans seemed to run out of ideas as early as the 10th minute!!! Time and time again, the static Swans defence watched helplessly as Rovers lifted balls over the back three at will. In fact, it was surprising that Rovers had to wait until the 33rd minute to opening the scoring. A long ball flew over the Swans defence and Grazioli couldn’t believe his luck as he looped his unchallenged header over Freestone who was caught in no man’s land. Bristol seemed to attack at will for the remainder of the half as Cusack’s team was ripped apart at will by a very average Rovers side. It was difficult at times to figure out whether the Swans were trying to play 3-5-2 or 5-3-2 but whatever formation it was it certainly couldn’t cope with the balls that Rovers were playing up and over the midfield and the two wingbacks may as well not have been on the pitch as they stood and watched on as the back three struggled to carry out even the most basic defensive duties. The referee blew for half time much to the relief of the travelling jacks and everybody expected wholesale changes at the interval.

Unbelievably, no changes were made at half-time and the Swans started the second half much as they had ended the first. On the rare occasions that the Swans managed to attack it was painfully obvious that Williams was a good two yards of the pace and Watkin may as well have not been on the pitch at all. Neither striker played with an ounce of passion or commitment and they both seemed frightened to shoot. Watkin should be singled out as an example of what the team was lacking last night as he simply didn’t deserve to be wearing the shirt!!! He failed to control the ball on numerous occasions and had absolutely no intention of winning it back when he lost it. He was unable (or unwilling) to find space for himself and the calls for his substitution came as early as the 50th minute. Rovers extended their lead after 52 minutes when Paul Tait followed up an Astafjevs shot that Freestone had blocked and the game seemed over. Cusack made his first change in the 55th minute, replacing Phillips with Keaveny, effectively changing the formation to 4-3-3 which was certainly a brave move with over half an hour left. Keaveny almost made an immediate impact when he struck a superb shot which was turned around the post by the Rovers keeper. The three man Swans midfield was being over run by Rovers and they almost stretched their lead when a shot from distance caught Freestone well off his line but thankfully smacked against the crossbar and dropped gratefully into Rogers hands.

Cusack finally came to his senses and replaced Williams with Moss on 63 minutes but the fact that he had taken Phillips off earlier severely limited his options and the chance to revert to a solid 4-4-2 formation was now not available. Rovers continued to pile through the undermanned Swans midfield and had numerous chances to increase their goal tally. With what was to be the final throw of the dice, Cusack brought himself on to replace the completely ineffective Watkin in the 71st minute and the Swans player/manager was determined to lead by example. Cusack led the front line with the aggression and passion that had been missing all night and the next 13 minutes saw Swansea’s best spell of the night, as the Swans (seemingly inspired by their manager) threw everything at the Rovers defence. The Swans were rewarded on 80 minutes when a Moss header halved the deficit and it looked quite possible that we could have gone on to snatch a draw or even all 3 points from a game that we didn’t really deserve anything from at all. Only some desperate defending by Rovers prevented two further goals in the next few minutes but with the Swans trying desperately for an equaliser it was only a matter of time before Rovers would catch us on the break which they did after 84 minutes when Astafjevs slotted home from 15 yards which sealed the 3 points for Bristol.

Player Ratings :-Freestone – 4 : At fault for the first goal when he should have stayed on his line, never took charge of his area or defence.Howard – 3 : Never seemed to be where he should have been.Jenkins – 4 : DittoTheobald – 3 : Beaten by the Rovers strikers in nearly every challenge, far to weak in the tackle.Sharp – 3 : Didn’t seem comfortable on the ball and made some terrible clearances.Evans – 5 : Started confidently but could defend against the long balls from Rovers.Reid – 6 : A battling performance but didn’t see enough of the ball as Rovers lobbed the ball over the midfield time and time again.Mumford – 5 : Not the performance we came to expect of him last season but joined in the attacks effectively during our good spell in the second half.Phillips – 5 : Not really in the game at all, spent most of his time closing down Rovers midfielders before they hoofed it over his head.Williams – 1 : Too slow, too lazy, didn’t seem to know where the ball was most of the time.Watkin – 0 : One of the worst ever performances I’ve ever seen from a Swans player. No passion, no direction, no idea. Should be ashamed of himself and doesn’t deserve to wear the shirt.Subs :- Keaveny – 7 : Not scared to shoot on sight and seemed pretty sharp although he was pushed off the ball too easily a few times.Moss – 8 : Took his goal well and looked very dangerous.Cusack – 9 : Only played 20 minutes but was my man of the match. Led by example and battled like his life depended on it. Pick yourself on Saturday Nick!!!

If Cusack doesn’t sort out the defence soon we’re going to be in real trouble. Conceding 10 goals in 5 games is disgraceful. The general consensus of the fans present last night is to play 4-4-2 as the players don’t seem comfortable in their present formation. Not many positives to take away from last nights performance but I think Keaveney and Moss must start on Saturday in the absence of Wood and Thomas. I was also disgusted that only a couple of players bothered to come over and clap the huge away support. People pay an awful lot of money to support you through thick and thin, so the least you can do is to show your appreciation. Sort it out lads!!! Special thanks to the staff and stewards at Bristol Rovers who were kind enough to open the supporters bar for us to have a pint while we waited for the mechanic after our coach broke down in the car park after the game.

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