Elsewhere – 3rd March

Monday, 3 March 2003, 0:00
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Swansea City 0, Wrexham 0 Mar 3 2003

Mark Currie, Daily Post

Nobody could accuse match-day staff at Swansea City of lacking a sense of humour with the teams running out on Saturday to the strains of the theme music from cinema classic, The Great Escape.

And the home side, who are fighting for their Football League survival, produced the sort of battling performance to suggest that director of football Brian Flynn has got the club moving in the right direction.

But Wrexham, too, will look back on this St David’s Day derby with some satisfaction, even though they rarely hit the heights of which they are capable, after earning a share of the points thanks in the main to some solid defensive work.

As manager Denis Smith pointed out, it was a third successive clean sheet for his side and although victory would have lifted the Dragons into the automatic promotion places, they remain handily placed with games in hand to push on as the season enters the final straight.

Both managers acknowledged Wrexham might have snatched the result in the final 10 minutes when City’s on-loan defender Alan Tate checked Andy Morrell in the penalty area but referee Clive Penton, who was well-placed, waved on play.

Smith claimed players on both sides expected the penalty to be given but Flynn, admitting it was a close call, felt his side got the break they deserved.

The former Racecourse boss, coming up against his former club for the first time, said afterwards: "I was very pleased with the performance. We didn’t get the win we wanted and probably deserved but I was pleased with many aspects of our display.

"Wrexham have got the best away record in the league and, while we’ve not come a million miles yet, we’ve travelled a little way along the road in terms of improvement.

"It was a close call for their penalty appeal but the referee was in an absolutely perfect position and hasn’t given it, so we’ll abide by his decision."

Ironically, the penalty incident immediately preceded the home side’s best chance of breaking the deadlock when the day’s star man, Leon Britton, broke quickly to set up former Welsh under-21 international James Thomas for a shot which he drove against the foot of a post.

Flynn agreed it was a golden opportunity spurned. "There was great movement, a great pass by Leon and then James hit it early," he added.

"It’s not the best of strikes but it’s beaten the keeper, only to hit the post flush on."

It was fortune that Wrexham deserved on an afternoon when they were pressed back into their own territory for long spells as their opponents were dominant in midfield, the area where Smith had forecast the match could be won or lost.

Roberto Martinez was equally as influential as Britton, who is on loan from West Ham United, anchoring his side’s efforts in the centre of the action and allowing his younger colleague to dart forward whenever the opportunity arose.

While the Dragons’ back three, Brian Carey, Steve Roberts and Dennis Lawrence successfully shackled Kevin Nugent and Marc Richards, wing-back Paul Edwards, back from a one-match suspension, was his side’s outstanding performer, not only finding time to provide penetration down the left flank but also coping well with the threat posed by City’s John Williams.

In a less than auspicious start for the visitors, striker Hector Sam was stretchered off with a hamstring injury after less than two minutes, pulling up in agony after bursting forward between two defenders.

He was replaced by Lee Jones and early chances were squandered by both sides. Andy Mumford’s cross-shot had the beating of Andy Dibble but Carlos Edwards was well-placed to clear the danger before Paul Edwards headed harmlessly wide of the target following a good run and cross from his Trinidadian namesake.

Thereafter, though, the home side were on top territorially, and tested Wrexham’s new-found meanness at the back in some style. Carey put in a fine block to deny Nugent, who was not far away minutes later from connecting with a Williams cross, and when Steve Roberts unnecessarily conceded a corner, Mumford’s inswinging effort almost crept in.

Lawrence showed great presence of mind to snuff out another Nugent probe and Dibble had to make a decent save when Tate, currently on loan from Manchester United, produced a shot at goal.

In typical derby fashion, the tempo was frantic at times but the visitors had a good spell either side of the break when both Carey and Roberts spurned chances to break the deadlock.

Then Jones, who had been penalised too often for offside in the opening period, timed a 46th minute run to perfection but failed to beat Swans keeper Neil Cutler, who in joining the Swans on loan from Stoke City the previous day had become the 21st player to make his debut for the club this season.

With the frenetic pace and the heavy pitch taking its toll on legs, the game opened up but Darren Ferguson still managed to track back to prevent Williams from posing more danger before Jason Smith wasted a beckoning opportunity, heading wide from another good cross by Mumford.

Lawrence, all legs and elbows, took matters into his own hands for the visitors, surging forward from deep in his own half to pick out Jones who, perhaps lacking confidence, declined to take on Tate and instead went wide where the promising opening came to nothing.

With time ticking away, it seemed that only a mistake would bring the breakthrough but when Roberts slipped after 73 minutes to let in Richards, Dibble produced a fine save to maintain the status quo.

There were just six minutes remaining when Morrell, who had worked hard for little reward, went down under Tate’s challenge but while Wrexham stood still waiting for a penalty award, Britton played to the whistle and, ball at his feet, hared towards the opposing goalmouth with Williams and substitute Thomas in support.

With a one-man advantage against two defenders, Swansea should have made it count but Thomas, though he got the ball beyond Dibble, held his head in his hands as the ball hit the upright before Carey, showing remarkable sang-froid under pressure from Williams, turned it behind for a corner.

There was still time for Wrexham to snatch victory when they earned a last-minute corner, but when a poor defensive header from Smith fell close to Morrell, the striker leaned back and ballooned his effort over the crossbar.

SWANSEA CITY (4-4-2) Cutler; O’Leary, Smith, Tate, Hylton; Mumford, Martinez, Britton; Williams, Richards (Thomas, 74), Nugent. Subs: Jenkins, Phillips, Howard, Stiens.

Booked: Smith

WREXHAM (3-5-2) Dibble; Roberts, Carey, Lawrence; C Edwards, Green, Ferguson, Thomas, P Edwards; Sam (Jones 3), Morrell (Trundle 90) Subs: Rogers, Holmes, Pejic.

Booked: Ferguson

Referee: Clive Penton (Sussex)

Att: 6,463

BBC Sport
Swansea v Boston

Swansea striker Steve Watkin is added to the squad for their crucial game against Boston at the Vetch Field.

Watkin missed Saturday’s 0-0 draw against former club Wrexham through illness.

Defender Terry Evans remains on the sidelines after aggravating a knee injury he suffered against Cambridge, while goalkeeper Roger Freestone (back) is also out.

Marc Richards was substituted against the Dragons with a slight groin problem but he should be fit to continue.

Boston United hope to welcome back both Stuart Balmer and Mark Angel for the trip to Swansea.

Striker Angel was suspended for the 2-1 defeat at Oxford while on-loan Oldham defender Balmer was sidelined by a groin injury but should be fit.

Veteran midfielder Neil Redfearn could be in line for a start after proving his fitness as a sub at the Kassam Stadium following calf trouble.

James Gould has failed to recover from a hamstring injury, however, and looks set to miss out again.

BBC Sport
Cutler eyes Stoke return

Goalkeeper Neil Cutler aims use his loan spell at Swansea to prove he deserves another chance at Stoke.

The former Aston Villa man was loaned to the relegation-threatened Swans after being dropped by Stoke boss Tony Pulis.

But Cutler believes he can re-establish himself at the Britannia Stadium.

"I don’t want to leave Stoke," he insisted.

"I want to come to Swansea and show people that I’m a good goalie.

"It’s a matter of me playing well for Swansea, getting them out of the trouble they’re in and bumping up my claims for a first-team place at Stoke.

"Let’s hope I can do that – get my place back at Stoke, and get Swansea out of this mess."

But Cutler, who made his Swansea debut against Wrexham last weekend, has not ruled out staying at The Vetch when his current loan deal expires.

"If I’m happy with the club and the club is happy with me, I can’t see any reason why I shouldn’t stay longer," he told Swansea’s official website.

"It is a big club and shouldn’t be where it is."

Most of the South Wales Evening Post, Western Mail and Wales on Sunday articles are reproduced on Dai Smith’s site or the Message Board here on JackArmy.net.

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