Mad Monk Mugged as Swamped Swans Steal a Point

Former Swans manager Garry Monk cut a frustrated figure on the sidelines as Birmingham City side dominated from start to finish without putting the Swans to the sword. In the other technical area Graham Potter watched on as his young charges battled hard to pilfer a point and maintain an unbeaten start to the Championship season. Which of the two managers will be happier this morning? Potter probably, but he’ll no doubt have concerns about how easily bullied his side was and he’ll be looking to his Chairman to bring in the loan reinforcements that are desperately needed.

All thoughts of new recruits though were put on hold as the Swans contemplated going top of the very early Championship table if they could get one over their ex-boss Monk in front of the Sky TV cameras.

Potter made one change from the side that started last Saturday’s victory over Preston, Erwin Mulder given the chance to cement his place after an impressive mid-game debut with his rival for the goalkeeping jersey Kris Nordfeldt facing a few weeks on the sidelines.

The Blues handed a debut to their new goalkeeper Lee Camp and also physical forward Omar Bogle, on loan from C*!diff City <spits>, whilst Gary Gardner and Maikel Kieftenbeld came in to the starting line up at the expense of Gary’s brother Craig and the departed Cheik N’doye.

And it was the home side’s line up that started the brighter, taking the game by the scruff of the neck right from the kick off. The Blues stormed forward from the very start, forcing two corners in the first three minutes, the second of which yielded a difficult chance for Bogle that he couldn’t take.

A few minutes later and another Birmingham thrust saw Bogle knock the ball down for Jota but although the ball sat up nicely the striker’s shot from outside the box was lashed high and handsome.

Birmingham were looking well up for the contest and their high press and harrying meant that the Swans couldn’t relieve the pressure. There was simply no outlet and even when there was a chink of space a poor pass inevitably gave the ball right back to the hungry opposition.

Oh No Oli – Get Up!

Starved of any service McBurnie found himself dropping back into his own final third to try and win the ball, but after tussling away he was left in a crumpled heap and needing attention. Potter must have been as panicked as every Swans fan watching on, desperately hoping that his only first team striker would be able to continue. Fortunately after a bit of care and attention McBurnie was fit again to rejoin the fray and continue ploughing his lonely furrow up front.

Birmingham’s fast start continued and Bogle was causing all sort of problems with his movement and physicality…if his finishing had been just as good then the game would have effectively been over within the first quarter of an hour but the big striker spurned two great chances.

The first saw him pick up some bits and pieces in the box as Rodon and van der Hoorn made a mess but Connor Roberts’ last ditch intervention meant Mulder could simply fall and smother the ball at close range.

Then Bogle stripped Barrie McKay of the ball far too easily and drove a shot from outside the box that fairly fizzed past the post.

There was no way out for the away side and a matter of seconds later it was Maghoma taking aim but a desperate Rodon managed to deflect the ball for yet another corner.

GOAL! – Oh no it’s not!!

It was surely only a matter of time before Birmingham made the incessant pressure count and when Rodon repeated the trick to deflect another magma effort the home contingent finally thought they had cracked it from the resulting corner.

Jota’s flag kick sailed over the defence and found Lukas Jutkiewicz alone at the far post and his thumping header was brilliantly kept out by Mulder. As the ball landed right in front of the posts it got bundled over the line. Home celebrations were immediately cut short though as the assistant referee flagged for an infringement and replays showed a push on Mulder by Morrison after the keeper’s initial fine save.

Despite that let off in the 20th minute there was just no respite; the Swans continued to give the ball away cheaply with McKay, Celina and Olsson most guilty and it meant more work for the impressive Mulder.

First the Dutch keeper thwarted Jutkiewicz for a second time and then produced something even more spectacular to deny Harley Dean whose header from a wicked Jota free kick skipped up off the turf at speed forcing Mulder to bat it clear.

By this time Potter had tinkered a little, moving Celina into a more advanced position to prevent him losing the ball in deep areas and bringing Fulton and Carroll back to sit in front of the overworked back four. However that didn’t alter the pattern and Celina again lost the ball, this time claiming hand ball against Jutkiewicz as he tried to make inroads into the Birmingham half. The referee Darren England though allowed play to go on and Jutkiewicz surged forward, leaving Celina trailing in his wake but again the finish was not good enough to convert the chance into a goal.

A painful half got summed up for the Swans as a rare foray forward saw Asoro dash after a long ball only to get eased off the pitch by a defender, crashing awkwardly into the advertising hoardings. The Swedish winter was able to continue after a period of treatment…but maybe he would have preferred not to after the frustrating forty five he and his teammates had endured!


Clearly Potter had his work cut out during the half time interval to install some belief in his side; perhaps he did so by pointing out that their opponents had had a staggering fourteen shots on goal, with five on target, but had failed to take the lead.

Whatever Potter did say it had some sort of effect. There was a bit more of a threat going forward, perhaps due to Potter pushing Asoro up front and moving Celina wider into a 4-4-2.

Whilst the Swans never really threatened Camp in the Birmingham goal the increase in forward momentum did serve to take some of the steam out of Birmingham’s attacking play.  The opening ten minutes of the half was a scrappy affair but at least the Swans had a Mike van der Hoorn header in the box – albeit given as a foul – and an off target effort by Celina to give them some hope.

In amongst all of the untidy play Jota showed once again what a threat he can be, driving forward and taking on all comers, fortunately though he also showed why he doesn’t score or make enough goals as he once again took the wrong option and tried to do too much himself.

Fer Game

Just after the hour mark Potter rolled the dice with a double substitution, springing a surprise whilst he was at it. The physical presence of a half fit Leroy Fer was predictable but Daniel James entering the fray ahead of Jefferson Montero was an eyebrow raiser, especially after the latter’s electric impact coming on late at Sheffield United. Tom Carroll and Barrie McKay were the players hooked and there really was no argument there as both had been having a poor night.

Again the changes had an impact, but only slightly. The quality of the possession improved and there was an extra threat – but still not good enough to register a shot on target!

It also looked like the home side was tiring after putting a huge effort all evening to close down their opponents, although they still carried the greater threat.

Potter played his last card, swapping Asoro for Matt Grimes, leaving James to move forward and partner the frustrated McBurnie up top, but it was Birmingham substitute Che Adams who should have settled things minutes after coming on. Fortunately for the Swans (again!) the forward was caught cold when Jota’s chip through found him all alone in the box and he blazed horribly off target on the half volley.

Mulder then came to the rescue again, thwarting Jutkiewicz once more before Leroy Fer responded with a weak effort at goal after a decent passage of play and a neat piece of hold up play from McBurnie.

It was the closest the away side had come all night, but the more significant thing as that somehow the Swans had kept out their opponents and secured an unlikely second consecutive clean sheet.

A messy second half came to a close with honours even, a disgruntled Monk left ruing missed chances and a relieved Potter happy to steal a hard fought point after seeing his side comprehensively outplayed.

ATFV Man of the Match: Connor Roberts comes close for a very strong performance and Joe Rodon deserves credit for again standing his ground and helping to keep a clean sheet. But the man most responsible for that clean sheet, and the point that comes with it, is Erwin Mulder. Nordfeldt faces a battle to reclaim the goalkeeping position once he’s regained fitness, that’s for sure.

ATFV Moment of the Match: The floodgates could have opened had Birmingham’s goal in the 20th minute been allowed to stand but it was probably the biggest cheering point of the night for the travelling Swans fans when the flag went up to rule out the opener.

ATFV Match Thoughts: Two ways of looking at it; strictly second best with a soft centre exposed and a subsequent lack of any threat or a fortuitous point harvested by a young side on the back foot that stuck in there until the end. Remaining unbeaten is certainly a positive, the performances of Roberts, Rodon and Mulder too. However, the soft centre in midfield has been apparent in all three games so far and Potter needs to find a way to solve it. Furthermore, the young players we are relying on need to learn on the job and fast…Bersant Celina and Barrie McKay in particular need to heed the lessons learnt in this game and show a bit more strength and care on the ball. Potter too will have plenty to ponder and hopefully he’ll show a video of this game to his Board of Directors as part of an appeal for some backing for a dominant central midfielder plus experienced centre halves and forwards before the loan window closes.

ATFV Final Word: All in all, given the flow of traffic in the first half particularly, we’ve got away with one here and we should be grateful for the point whilst heeding the alarm bells that were ringing a little too loudly.




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