SWANSEA CITY 4 BRENTFORD 1

Donald Kerr was among the disappointed Bees fans in the Liberty Stadium.

 

It’s difficult to know where to start with a report on our defeat in Swansea. Given that it was on BBC Wales, there can be few fans that weren’t either there at the Liberty Stadium or didn’t watch on television the grasp we had on the game weaken and disappear within minutes of the start of the second half. It was not merely that our composure and control, so evident for 45 minutes, seemed to evaporate, but that we started to make so many uncharacteristic mistakes, and make a poor situation much worse. Everything we did well in the first half we seemed to forget the minute we gave away the disastrous second goal, and, of course, the red card ended any hope there was that we might get back in the game.

We started quite shakily, with McBurnie imposing himself on our defence and looking like he was going to be a real threat, and Celina, one of a few very quick players, drawing Yoann Barbet into a foul and yellow card within four minutes of the kick off. But almost as quickly, we found our normal game and started to pass the ball around and through their midfield, releasing Sergi Canos and Said Benrahma on both flanks with apparent ease. Canos, who possibly played his best game for us this season on Wednesday, picked up where he left off, and seemed to be finding more freedom at wing back than in his more normal position further forward. We appeared to have neutralised the threat of McBurnie who was still acting as a target man but not finding anyone with the resultant headers, and we had cut off the supply to the wings, where James and Celina were becoming increasingly frustrated. Despite this greater control, we were still not making their goalkeeper work and any chances created were being spurned. And then, a quick break, the ball moved quickly from Neal  Maupay to Ollie Watkins, who ran in on goal and blasted it past Nordfeldt for the fully deserved opening goal. There were a couple more genuine chances on goal before half time, particularly one created by Canos which was narrowly ahead of Maupay in the box. The home crowd, which was smaller than might have been expected for a 5th round FA Cup tie, were silent throughout the first half and, when the whistle blew expressed a deal of discontent with their team’s performance. For those of us who have attended all our away matches this season, despite our domination of the preceding 45 minutes, there was no sense of comfort or complacency. Too many times this season, most notably at Ipswich, we had taken the opposition apart in the first half and wasted many good chances, and then had allowed teams to get back into the match and cause us embarrassment in the second.

And so it proved in this game. We had hardly found our seats when we conceded a free kick on the edge of our box and then conceded a goal. We might wonder whether, if we’d kept them out for the first 15 minutes after the restart, we might have caused them to reassess their strategy and make changes, but we were 2-1 down before we had really recovered from their first goal. If that goal had been lucky, the ball bouncing off the post and then Daniels into the net, the second was entirely of our own making. If we were going to take a short free kick on the edge of their box, why wouldn’t we leave at least one player back to prevent a quick counter attack? It wasn’t as if we hadn’t been aware of their pace. James ran the length of the pitch with the ball at his feet, our players trailing in his wake, and hit it past the advancing goalkeeper. Even then, we could have perhaps got back into the match. But, in a defensive display not seen for a few months, it went from bad to worse, with Barbet, who had perhaps been at fault for losing the ball for the second goal, also involved in the pass to Konsa which resulted in the red card for a professional foul. 

At this point, you could almost sense the air go out of our tyres and the confidence flood into the minds of the opposition. They took over and never looked back. The supply to the flying wingers couldn’t be halted by the ten men and they gave us a torrid last half hour. The back four, a formation which had proved so fragile in that long run without a win, couldn’t cope, and the replacement of our own danger men of the first half, Benrahma and Canos, with Josh da Silva and Nikolaj Kirk, didn’t inspire any hope that we could recover the lost ground. This was Kirk’s debut, a very tough challenge for the young man, and if we were looking for any positives from a disappointing afternoon, it was that he looked as if he might cope in this company. Josh McEachran came on for the tiring Kamohelo Mokotjo but by that stage it was a question of how many Swansea were going to score. It appears they scored five but had their third chalked off for offside, wrongly it would seem on the replays. 

Overall, it was another poor away performance, one in which, like so many others this season, we only played at our best for half the game. The result flattered Swansea and suggested a gap between the teams that really didn’t exist. You couldn’t even claim that they created more chances or took more of those they created. They scored a lucky first and we contrived to present them with the second, and only when we were reduced to ten men did they really impress. We had sight of the sixth round and on the basis of the first 45, started to believe, but perhaps the exertions of that great performance against Villa started to tell as Swansea rode their luck in the second half. Out with a whimper rather than a bang.

With the FA Cup run over, we need to secure safety in the league as soon as possible, and then perhaps look to give those players on the fringes some experience of the Championship in preparation for our next campaign.

Swansea City: Nordfeldt; Roberts (sub Harries), van der Hoorn, Carter-Vickers, Naughton; Byers, Grimes; James (sub Asoro), Fulton, Celina; McBurnie (Baker-Richardson)

Brentford: Daniels; Konsa (sent off),Jeanvier, Barbet; Canós ( Dasilva ), Sawyers, Mokotjo ( McEachran ), Odubajo; Watkins, Maupay, Benrahma (Kirk)