|Swansea City 2 v 3 Ipswich Town|
Saturday, 6th October 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Town Continue Search for First Victory at Swansea
Thursday, 4th Oct 2018 16:47
Town continue their search for their first win of the season when they face Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Manager Paul Hurst says his players can’t afford to be intimidated when facing the division’s top sides such as the Swans, who are expected to be challenging to make a swift return to the Premier League having been relegated in May.
“Watching them, they’re playing some really good football and look like they’re a very confident side,” Hurst said of the Swans, who are seventh in the table at present with a home record of won two, drawn two and lost one.
“They’re very competent on the ball, make good decisions, make forward runs off of that and ask a lot of questions of you.
“But at the same time, we have to understand it’s just another team that are in our league and let’s go there first and foremost and give it a real go.
“And that’s what we’ll be asking of whichever team I put out there and also try and make sure we ask questions of them because I think there have been situations in games where teams have maybe not capitalised on some moments.
“That’s what it’s all about, you’ve got to try and take advantage when those moments come. Can you be clinical? Can you find the right pass or see the pass in the first place? And that’s what we’ll be looking to do.”
Like Tuesday’s opponents Middlesbrough, the Welshmen have kept things tight at the back this season, having conceded only six goals in their first 11 Championship games - three at home, three away - however Hurst says their approach differs from the Teessiders’.
“They probably go about it in a different way,” he reflected. “They’re a very possession-based team. If you think of Swansea in general, the very good teams that they’ve had, that’s been their style, their philosophy if you like.
“They look like they’re getting back to that. I watched them earlier in the season and they did struggle but showed a gritty side and I’ve seen some comments coming out of their camp along the lines of, ‘We’re not going to be bullied’.
“That’s what you need. It’s fine if you’re going to be easy on the eye but you’ve got to have backbone to you and it looks as though it’s coming out and that’s a good combination from their point of view. We’ve just got to ask questions of them and hope that they’re a little bit complacent, but I’m sure they’ll be guarding against that.”
Town, back to second-bottom following the midweek games without a win in their 11 league matches so far, have scored only eight goals in the Championship this season but Hurst says there have been signs that his team are starting to present more of a threat.
“We got a couple of goals at Birmingham and the other night I’ve seen some things and heard some things but I think we did get men in the box,” he said.
“There are some occasions when we could get more, but we showed the intent at the start of that second half with Jon Nolan’s header and we got five players in the box.
“You don’t want more than that realistically unless it’s right at the death or a set play when you might, but in open play you’ve got to make sure the back door is shut, as they say.
“You can’t just throw everyone forward and then just run back, it’s not quite as easy as that.
“I think there are signs but we’ve got to make that happen and the only way that you will change that is by doing the right things, being brave, if it’s termed as brave, or putting the hard yards in to make that run to get in the box and putting the ball in there.
“The other night we certainly did put some good deliveries in there and hopefully on another day we would have reaped rewards from it.”
Overall, Hurst feels progress is being made on the training ground: “I think so. Ultimately, when you look at the lads train, they look fine, bubbly, some days are always better than others, that’s natural.
“And while you do want to see good training sessions, I’ve been in this long enough as a player and a manager to know that you can have a fantastic week training but it gets to Saturday and it goes horribly wrong or vice versa.
“You try not to read too much into it as long as you’re seeing the correct attitude towards it.
“Players should know what we’re after now and I believe in what we’re doing. If I didn’t then we’d rip it up and start again, but in terms of us training that’s certainly not something that we’re going to do, so we’ll just keep working hard on the training ground.
“That might sound very basic but what else do you do? Do we give them a week off and then go into a game? I’d probably say that wouldn’t work for us.”
Hurst, who travelled with his squad to Wales on Thursday where they will train on Friday, admits that a lack of confidence is inevitably affecting his team at present and looks back on earlier matches from which that first win really ought to have been claimed.
“I’d be lying to you if I didn’t keep thinking back to that Rotherham game and whether that would suddenly set a different tone to everything,” he added.
“But that didn’t happen and we’ve had lots of opportunities since then to change it. While I say that thought comes into my mind, I can’t hang my hat on that and nor can anyone else, whether that’s players or fans or anyone linked to the club.
“That’s been and gone and as I said the other night, as much as I was annoyed with the goals we gave away and that’s gone. Yes, you do a little bit of a review but the next one, especially when it’s midweek, comes around quickly and you’re on to the next game. And that’s what the main focus has got to be on and and trying to get that result.”
Following Saturday’s match there is the second international break of the season, something new to Hurst having previously operated in the lower divisions, and he says he’s not a fan.
“I was speaking to someone the other day and saying that the Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday feels slightly different in that it takes more out of the players,” he said.
“I’m not sure how or the reasons behind that, but more so than in League One from last season.
“Whether that’s from winning games, the fitness levels where they were at, I’m not too sure.
“But overall, for me I think the first one came at a bad time in terms of [it being after] the Norwich game but in other ways came at a good time.
“I’d rather just carry on, to be honest, because you feel like there’s almost a bit of dead time.
“Maybe you get a bit of a mental refresh, I suppose, but I’m all for cracking on with it. Maybe you’ll clear one or two injuries up if you pick up any knocks, but other than that I’ll be happy just to continue.”
Dean Gerken will continue in goal with Jonas Knudsen set to be at left-back and skipper Luke Chambers and Toto Nsiala at the heart of the defence.
Hurst has a decision to make at right-back with Matthew Pennington back from his one-match ban and vying for the spot with Janoi Donacien.
In midfield, we understand Andre Dozzell will start, probably for Jon Nolan with Cole Skuse and Trevoh Chalobah in the deeper roles.
However, the England U19 international, who Hurst feels is not yet ready for 90 minutes, may instead again be used from the bench as he was against Boro on Tuesday.
Gwion Edwards was rested against the Teessiders but seems certain to come back into the starting line-up against his old club with Grant Ward probably starting on the left and Kayden Jackson the lone striker.
Freddie Sears, who impressed his manager with his appearance from the bench against Boro, is likely to play a part as a sub. Youngsters Bailey Clements and Jack Lankester are understood to have made the trip.
Swansea, who drew 0-0 at Wigan on Tuesday evening, are hopeful that midfielder Tom Carroll will be fit after coming off with a groin problem against the Latics.
“We took Tom off at Wigan but it was more precautionary than anything,” manager Graham Potter told the Swans club site.
“He was feeling a bit of tightness, but he has responded really well and we will see whether he is fit for Saturday.”
Midfielder George Byers and forward Joel Asoro are expected to be back in contention after knocks, while striker Wilfried Bony is not yet ready to make his return from a knee injury. Midfielder Jefferson Montero is also still out with a thigh problem.
Boss Potter, who joined the Swans in June following a highly-successful spell in charge of Swedish side Östersund, believes his team is moving in the right direction.
“I think we are still a work in progress – we are still trying to work out and learn about ourselves,” he said.
“We have had some good performances and some that were not so good. We have been fortunate to get some points and unfortunate not to get more points in other games. That’s the competition. But overall I think you can see there’s a development happening.
“The pleasing thing for me is the resilience and competitiveness we have had throughout our performances and the desire to play for each other.
“The connection between the players and the supporters is growing all the time and that is the most important thing at any club.
“There is a lot to be happy with but we are also aware that there are still improvements to be made.”
Regarding Town, he added: “It will be another difficult game with its own unique challenge. They are at wrong end of the table and be fighting to turn that around.
“They have a new manager and sometimes there is time needed to transition. They were mid-table last year and it is a great club with history and tradition.
“We have to play well, you cannot look at any game and make assumptions. We have full respect.”
Over the years Swansea have just had the better of it, winning 11 games (11 in the league), Town having won nine (seven) and with nine (eight) matches ending in draws.
The Blues last won at Swansea under Sir Bobby Robson in March 1982 when they ran out 2-1 victors at the Vetchfield with goals from Alan Brazil and Eric Gates sandwiching a Robbie James penalty. Town have only played four games in Swansea since then, drawing two and losing two.
Later that year, in the November, the Blues beat the Swans 3-1 at Portman Road with Russell Osman, George Burley and John Wark on the scoresheet, the last time Town won a league game between the sides.
In January 2007, an Alan Lee goal saw the Blues to a 1-0 FA Cup fourth round victory over the Swans at home, their last win against the Welshmen in any competition.
The teams last met at the Liberty Stadium, where the Blues will be looking for their first ever win, in April 2011 with the Swans on their way to the Premier League.
Town suffered their second heavy defeat of the Easter period - they had been beaten 5-1 at home by Norwich four days earlier - as Swansea ran out comfortable 4-1 winners.
Fabio Borini put the home side in front on nine, Luke Moore adding the second before Colin Healy pulled one back for the Blues.
Borini netted his second prior to the break and Scott Sinclair completed the scoring with a second-half penalty.
The sides met at Portman Road in the previous December when Town were let down by poor defending and referee Andy D’Urso’s failure to award a definite penalty when Carlos Edwards was felled as Swansea came from behind to win 3-1.
Loanee Andros Townsend put Town in front with his first and only goal for the Blues but Craig Beattie (2) and Joe Allen condemned Roy Keane’s side to their fifth consecutive league defeat.
Blues winger Gwion Edwards came through the Swans’ youth system and was a sub for the first team without making his senior debut.
Former Town loanee Cameron Carter-Vickers is on loan at the Liberty Stadium this season but so far has made only one start and one sub appearance.
The Spurs defender made 17 starts for the Blues in a highly successful spell during the second half of last season.
Another of last year's Town loanees, Bersant Celina, joined the Swans from Manchester City on a permanent basis in the summer. The Kosovan international made 26 starts and 12 sub appearances for the Blues, scoring eight goals.
Swans manager Potter was among those to be interviewed by the Blues in the summer before later taking the job at the Liberty Stadium.
Saturday’s referee is Oliver Langford from the West Midlands, who has shown 15 yellow cards and one red in eight games so far this season.
Langford's most recent Town match was the 2-1 win at Sheffield Wednesday in March, in which he yellow-carded Chambers, Carter-Vickers and one Owl.
He was also in charge of the 2-1 home defeat to Derby at the end of December last year in which he booked only Adam Webster.
Prior to that he refereed the 3-1 defeat at Cardiff in October when he booked Tommy Smith and one home player.
He also took control of the 2-0 home victory over Brentford in August 2017 in which he booked Myles Kenlock and two Bees.
Langford officiated in the 2-1 win at Burton at Easter last year, cautioning only Freddie Sears, and also refereed the 1-1 East Anglian derby draw at Carrow Road in February 2017 in which he again yellow-carded Sears as well as Spence.
Before that he was the man in the middle for the 2-0 home defeat to Fulham on Boxing Day 2016 in which he booked Tom Lawrence, David McGoldrick and one Cottager.
Langford also took control of the 2-0 home victory over Burton Albion in October of the same year in which he cautioned Skuse and two Brewers.
Before that he refereed the 0-0 home draw with Charlton in April of that year, in which he yellow-carded Knudsen and two Addicks, and the 2-1 home defeat to Leicester in November 2013, in which he booked only Chambers.
The only other Town game he has officiated in was the 2-0 defeat at Leeds in the preceding April when David Norris, by then with the Whites, was the only player cautioned.
Squad from: Gerken, Bialkowski, Donacien, Pennington, Spence, Knudsen, Clements, Chambers (c), Nsiala, Skuse, Chalobah, Downes, Dozzell, Edun, Edwards, Ward, Graham, Rowe, Nolan, Sears, Jackson, Lankester.
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