|Swansea City 2 v 3 Ipswich Town|
Saturday, 6th October 2018 Kick-off 15:00
|Mullet added 23:53 - Oct 6|
The playoff places were just out of reach before kick off for the hosts, but the comfortable and modern surroundings of their medium sized bowl, still had the air of recent Premiership success. It turned blue as the teamsheet was read aloud whilst we took our seats and more changes were ringing in our ears.
Gerken had Pennington, Nsiala, Chambers and Donacien ahead of him. Skuse, Chalobah and Dozzell the midfield’s sternum and ribs. Ward and Edwards the limbs that would carry the ball to Sears heading our attack. Some quick debate about whether this might be back to 3-5-2 with wingbacks of Ward and Donacien, were soon quashed as the team kicked off.
Soon too was possession as Swansea charged down the ball and ran straight to our goal in ominous fashion. It didn’t take long before they were firing across it. In the 8 or 9 minutes it took for Town to concede, like much of the Hurst the reign the drama and arc of the game swung in frenetic fast forward.
Ipswich looked every bit ill-equipped to deal with a Swansea team so assured and cerebral that seeing them toy with us, felt unsporting. A sort of strafing and flanking bank four, fullbacks were West London in their design and desire to push on past the sitting Carrol who formed a diamond with Celina just off McBurnie’s frame. The Kosovan was every bit a number 10 today.
Pulling off players of both sides, Swansea feinted right, but knew that Pennington was vulnerable and doubled up on him on the left every time. Like a boxer with only one clever combination, they punched down that flank repeatedly after glancing the other way.
The Evertonian’s natural tendencies as a centre back meant he dropped in, and left Town with at least one less man for every attack. With our best two right backs on the left side of defence, it was no surprise to see the supply come from the left, only to spring unluckily off the heel of Donacien. Closing too late, the young winger Roberts cut inside and took a chance where McBurnie had failed in outstretched Gazza ’96 style. The lead was far from unexpected but fortuitous in execution, after the hacking slashes that came before the final blow.
Swansea received fair warning from a Town side that struggled to find its shape and style. Early on Dozzell was more advanced of the midfield and Ward and Edwards were swapping flanks with regularity. He didn’t need them when he slid Sears in, just beyond the central defence but not a late flag. When he did it a second time, Sears looked to set himself on the edge of the box, but the ball came out of the mould too soon and tumbled off a sliding challenge for a corner.
If that wobble was enough to spur one side on, it was us. The Welsh have a weird habit of appealing for everything, that by the end of the game would border on farcical. Every deflection must have hit a Suffolk hand, every line crossed was by their ball. B0llocks all too often more like.
The purring over Potter’s magic and alchemic brand of football might have been louder than a generator at times, but Town cut through the smoke and smashed them like a mirror after only 20 minutes. Sears mugged Naughton who at right back was wrongly too far back and misjudged the ball. Flying forward and in his swishing delivery looked like it might have gone all the way through as Edwards moved towards it in the distance. However, the celebration soon made it clear that the equaliser was down to shared success and the rub of Brylcreem on Freddie’s ball. The returning Welshman had made clearly himself at home at his first club.
The problem with teams and clubs that are seen to be so clever and intelligent is that sometimes their genius can be complimented by them making themselves look stupid. In four minutes, the Jacks sh*t it and had a complete breakdown. Edwards again seizing on territorially blasé fare from the defence. Whipping the ball back across for Sears to flick in to the net under pressure from the towering Dutch captain.
Neither set of fans knew what to do, as Blue shirts embraced at either end. Emotions ran out and shouts upwards as again Town were celebrating a second first half goal away from home in a week. It felt a little bit wrong, a little bit too familiar, like this was a chance for another dirty weekend away in some foreign bolthole.
Much like last week Gerken would parry and punch, and Nsiala would watch wingers fly past everyone to the touchline. Bounding after James like he was a little frisbee and the Congolese a muddied and sodden Golden retriever. All too often though the ball found its way to McBurnie jumping down our throats, or back to Bersant. Both had chances to score and failed to the hit the target.
The former Town loanee gifted us a reprieve with a drive wide of the mark. But to really instil memories of Birmingham just a week ago. Town fans went down to the innards of the away end chewing over the low, last gasp stop of Gerken at the Scotsman’s feet. All alone, with him and the goal, it was the luminous Deano that fortune favoured, as he bravely prostrated himself and frustrated the striker in splendid fashion.
2-1, and Town fans had spent the last ten or so minutes of the half in pensive silence and smattered willingness to dream. There was no talk of winning it beyond mere possibility once again. Town weren’t meant to be here, it all felt so foreign.
The second half saw a change each as Naughton who had undone so much of his own good work going forward, with goal giving lapses at the back was removed for the attacking Asoro. Knudsen took his place at left back, but surprisingly Donacien who also had the misfortune to give away a clean sheet was hauled right across to the bench, not the natural right back spot where Swansea were enjoying so much errr liberty.
Despite the lead, this second defensive adjustment caused ripples of wonder and suggestions Hurst might have hit upon a design for strife. But Town who had so little of the ball and so much defending to do, again had a chance to go further ahead.
Grant Ward who won so much more than just the free kick on the right today, tumbled under a heavy challenge and up stepped Andre. The left foot bent and bounced the ball off the hoarding, just over the bar on its way out. It was all too similar to when Nolan hit one over at St Andrews right after the break.
If Town fans are racked with almost Catholic levels of guilt and doubt at every sign and suggestion of misfortune being divine retribution for their own past sins, then the intercessory pleas that filled the away end were needed, as every Swansea shot, and shimmy was met with blasphemes and profanity amidst the most minor of decisions going against us.
Pouring forward and piling up on us in possession, the Town goalmouth looked like it had been punched several times as white shirts lined up like teeth, sharp and gnashing at a corner which was headed off the bar and in previous weeks would have hit a centre back just hard enough to tee up Celina or McBurnie. Instead Town held fast. Potter shuffled his cards.
Fer came on the central midfielder once of Norwich, (and once so stupid he brought a horse for a girlfriend who lived in an apartment block) to add gristle to the guts of a team who lacked it.
Whilst their coach might change his formation several times during a game, it also changed Ipswich’s. Skuse and Chalobah both had goes at being the mop in the corridor of unglamorous grunt work between midfield and defence. At times we went to a deep flat three with Dozzell joining both, or either. But the youngster got the ball forward regularly and instead of linking up fruitfully with fellow Under 23’s colleagues, he wrong footed what defenders the Swans had left, and facilitated Ward.
Emerging from the shadows in which he had worked so hard in, he lit up the game with a stinging drive just past the post. He would deserve better late on when a run from the right met the ball with the instep of his left and spooned out in far less threatening fashion. But it was a quietly effective play for MOTM from Ward today, whilst others were grabbing deserved attention ahead of him.
Potter then produced his last ace from the bench in the form of one-time rumoured Town target and superfluous attacking midfielder McKay. Curiously though, they took off towering Dutch captain and centre back. Switching to a back three containing two full backs, Potter clearly miscalculated on the runs and tenacity of former Hammer Sears. He just hadn’t pressed the equals button yet.
English hearts had fluttered at the persistent nature of a team well ahead in possession and firepower, but reluctant to do what virtually every other team had done this season and punch through Town, square in the centre. Looking for an equaliser, that was all it took.
Celina of all people ran and ran, before doing what he never did for Town. Scoring a simple and subtle goal. No blast from the explosive run, just a deadly stab into the net to draw his side level. He had been pulling Town all over the place, but no one was able to spring his trip wire runs all game, either because he was too quick, or we were too timid to slam into him often enough.
Swansea had got behind Town so often, when they slid the ball across goal for a third time, and third McBurnie failure to get the easiest of connections and score you sensed they might never get in front of us.
Downes would replace Dozzell, and Town were at least level with the wonderkid giving a good account of himself to rapturous applause. Function over flashy would rule the day. A silly booking for flicking and blocking the ball at a free kick had been picked up by AD,
Chalobah would earn his with a clattering foul not for the first time this season. If the game had seen him produced a more mature use of the ball and his body, the youngster had one of his finest games yet whilst still producing a darker more streetwise moment when needed.
This would prove itself in the denouement of the game. With time running out, so did Town. Swansea looked short at the back, the corner Chambers won by heading off the defender was unorthodox genius. Ward put it in, and unmarked by anyone over 6ft, Chalobah rose to head the ball back across the keeper and into the net for scenes so Shakespearean in their drama and exuberance, they were beyond review.
Arms, feelings and balance all went up and about the place as players crashed the party being had at the front of the stand.
Edwards was withdrawn late on as Town needed fresh legs to pin down a home side who had no idea how they had found themselves here. Sears milked his exit as the 4th official held up the wrong number initially. It still didn’t explain the 5 minutes of stoppages, that went on for six between Jackson entering the pitch and Town exiting victorious.
It was the breaking points that Town so often reached under pressure that won them such a hard-fought victory. As Hurst marched stoically behind his men at full time. His celebrations were extended to little more than a single hand for any player in grasping distance and a few distant glances at the hundreds too busy embracing each, collecting intimacies from and giving plaudits to the players who just looked sick of being beaten today. He had earned every bit, the right to be in amongst that too.
News reached us just before kick-off a family bereavement via text message. At full time, the phone was full of tweets and messages of celebration and disbelief. It’s a funny old game. But that’s why we play them every week, international breaks and the summer aside.
It’s unclear whether Ian Brown might be elbowed aside by Paul Hurst tonight. I couldn’t imagine Town fans would ever bring themselves to hating the man who has taken so long to shine any kind of light of on what he can do.
Today he played Dozzell, he played the players in form and in positions that most of them suited. Today debates might rage and subside with even greater intensity, and quicker than the tides of emotion so invested in following Ipswich. Today town remain steadfast when they could so easily have been buried, here and around the division forming up into contenders and condemned by the game. Today the victory was not just his, but everyone’s and all should savour it. And not even treacle can be this sweet right now.
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