A 90th minute equaliser by former transfer target Andy Yiadom rescued a point for Reading and stopped the Swans returning to the top of the Championship table. As disappointing as the late nature of the goal was nobody could deny it was coming as the home side were strictly second best in a lame second half. It could have been oh so different though if the Swans had built on a perfect start that saw Borja Baston head his side in front within three minutes. The ATFV Swans v Reading Match Report looks at where it went wrong for Steve Cooper’s side.
I speculated before the match that Cooper might make more than just the enforced change due to Jake Bidwell’s suspension but the boss went with what he knows; that meant Connor Roberts was restored at right back and Kyle Naughton occupied the opposite side with Bersant Celina once more out wide in front of him.
My specualtion was based on a lack of creativity in recent matches but that was an observation made to look a little foolish as the Swans started on the front foot, tearing into Reading and delivering a superb opening goal within three minutes.
The move started in the right back area as Connor Roberts advanced with the ball and then picked out Andre Ayew; the Ghanaian stayed out wide for once and delivered a perfect cross that left Borja Baston the job of steering a header past Rafael Cabral in the Reading goal. The Spaniard didn’t disappoint and he wheeled away in delight to celebrate his sixth goal of the season.
Energised by the early lead the home side went hunting for a rapid second. Passing their way through the packed Reading midfield, the Swans were able to get at the soft Reading underbelly, causing panic in the three central defenders at the back. Only some scrambled defending and poor execution on the Swans’ part let the away side off the hook.
Despite being totally outplayed Reading served notice of the danger they posed with two John Swift corners causing danger. Jordan Obita shanked the first one wide and then George Puscas blew a second, better chance, smashing the ball over from the penalty spot despite having plenty of time and space.
Swansea hit back Celina, Fulton and Borja all combining to set up Byers for one of his trademark curling strikes from distance but the effort was just wide.
The game took what I feel was a decisive turn in the 21st minute when the Royals were forced to make a substitution, centre half Tyler Blackett forced off. Instead of a like for like, manager Jose Gomes bravely opted to throw on another striker, Lucas Joao entering the fray.
The change in formation allowed Reading to gain a solid foothold; the Swans continued to play their football and create chances in the first half but the outright panic they caused in the first 15 minutes was no longer evident.
More chances for the Swans came though. A desperate block prevented Fulton doubling the lead as he connected with a beautiful lay off from Byers, whilst Andre Ayew’s effort drilled into the side netting rather than nestling into the goal.
Ayew had another chance shortly after, the best move of the match leading to Borja slipping the ball in for his teammate but a clattering and totally fair challenge by the ‘keeper prevented another home goal.
There was controversy on the stroke of half time as Reading faced the almost certain prospect of being reduced to ten men only for the referee to show an enormous amount of mercy. Having been booked halfway through the first half a red cad looked inevitable for Lucas Boye when he cynically pulled back a counterattacking Matt Grimes.
The offence took place right in front of Keith Stroud AND his assistant referee but the laws of the game were consigned to the dustbin as Stroud elected to offer a stern warning instead of the obligatory red card.
It speaks volumes that Boye was withdrawn at half time, taken off rather than sent off!
The away side looked determined to make the most of their disciplinary let off from the moment the second half started. In contrast the home side looked somewhat sluggish and deflated.
Reading had been slowly wresting the initiative from the Swans as the first half wore on and the opening exchanges in the second suggested they were well on their way to snatching the initiative completely.
Joe Rodon and Mike van der Hoorn were both forced to make blocks to prevent an early equaliser before a home corner led to scrambled defending in the home box as a Reading counterattack left Naughton desperately playing the ball out for an away corner that thankfully came to nothing.
With the crowd urging the Swans to up their game and regain some territory and possession Bersant Celina tried his luck with a right footer from outside the box but it was easy for Rafael Cabral.
The ball went straight down the other end, Josh Barrett trying a similar shot only for it to go high and wide.
John Swift was the architect once again for that chance and he was now having a field day in the midfield alongside his imposing partner Oviemuno Ejaria. The pair looked hungry and dynamic whilst the Swans midfield was beginning to look disoriented, disjointed and tired.
Cooper’s side tried to reassert their authority just past the hour mark but a couple of efforts from Byers and a follow up from Borja were all smothered by the Reading defence, which was looking more and more stubborn as the game wore on.
Reading hit back with Ejaria leading the charge, skipping past four tired looking challenges and forcing Woodman to block an effort at his near post.
Cooper moved to re-energise his side with a trio of changes in quick succession; Sam Surridge and Jordon Garrick came on for Borja (surprisingly) and Celina (unsurprisingly) and then Tom Carroll made his long awaited return from injury in place of a knackered Jay Fulton.
The changes didn’t seem to make much of a difference and Reading continued to press high and push bodies forward whilst the Swans seemed content to hold on to the slender one goal lead they’d held for so long in the game.
That lead was almost snatched from them in the 85th minute as Michael Morrison rose highest to meet an Omar Richards cross but Woodman was able to pluck it out of the air just under his crossbar.
As the clock ticked towards 90 the Swans sought to keep the ball and see things out for a place at the top of the table but almost inevitably there was to be a sting in the tail.
Possession was lost and Reading worked the ball forward to Joao, the big striker teeing up Yiadom on the right hand edge of the area and the defender’s vicious shot flew past a helpless Woodman.
The equaliser left the crowd stunned at first and then nervous as Reading looked to complete the turnaround by grabbing a winner in stoppage time.
Fortunately the Swans held out and it was just two precious home points dropped and not three.
On the dressing room mood:
It’s a frustrating dressing room after conceding a goal so late on
On Boye’s let off:
They should definitely have been down to 10 men. I don’t want to dwell on it too much. It was a clear second yellow card and the referee has made an awful decision.
On the game itself:
I did think we created some good chances to go 2 or possibly 3-0 up and that’s equally as frustrating as conceding late on.
To be fair to Reading they did play some good stuff in the second half but we did manage to keep them away from the goals
The ATFV Verdict
There was a palpable feeling of frustration and disappointment as the fans filed out of the Liberty. That’s understandable after conceding a last minute equaliser but it was more than that. This was a home game against a side an truly awful form away from home (one win in the last 23, I think) and staring a fourth defeat in a row right between the eyes. Grabbing a goal int he first few minutes against such oppoisition should set you up for a handsome win – and the first ten or so minutes suggested we’d bag three or four more goals. But Reading’s enforced first sub, the red card let off and their renewed determination after the break all conspired to knock the Swans out their stride and Cooper couldn’t come up with any answers to turn the tide back in his side’s favour. It was pretty disappointing that Cooper didn’t shake things up more before kick off and the changes he made during the second half came too late. All that said, it’s part of the learning curve for Cooper and despite throwing away two points we are still second in the table. It’s on to Charlton in midweek, hopefully with a few changes to what currently looks a jaded side.
Man of the Match: It has to be Borja, not just for his goal but for his excellent hold up play and dogged determination throughout his 70 minutes on the pitch. It’s a little surprising that Cooper brought on Sam Surridge to replace Borja rather than support him; if the gaffer had done that it might well have wrestled the initiative back from the away side and I’d have fancied Borja to get a second goal.
Mare of the Match: It’s difficult to look at anyone other than Bersant Celina for this one…the Kosovan goes from the sublime to the ridiculous and sadly this was one of his ridiculous games. Things just aren’t working in the Swans front four at the moment, despite the excellent early goal, and it’s time for Celina either to revert to the number 10 role or find himself on the bench so that a fresh approach can be adopted. Kristoffer Peterson must come into the left wing reckoning for Charlton, or alternatively Ayew shifting over and either Wayne Routledge or Jordon Garrick coming in on the right.
Golden Moment: My golden moment was the reception for Borja Baston as he was substituted, the Jack Army standing and applauding in appreciation for another performance filled with effort and tenacity as well as another well taken goal. I don’t know what the Spanish is for “zero to hero” but maybe I’ll learn it in time for the next home game.
Strikes for Samaritans Update: A single goal and a point means another £2 from me and the same from Aaron – which will take our combined contribution to £62 + Gift Aid.