Another European away day for the Sky Blue Army today! Swansea away, our second trip to Wales within the space of a few weeks. Originally I hadn’t planned on attending the game today - I was supposed to be going for a spa day with my fiancé Hannah, but she’s been ill this week and we’ve decided to re-schedule our trip. I therefore decided to get a last minute ticket for the game, the night before they went off sale and after I had confirmed that there would be a space for me on one of the supporters coaches!
I haven’t travelled to a game by coach for a long time, but my brother Joe had decided to go by coach for this one rather than driving. Originally it was only him and our mates Kev and Tara going to the game, and I was buzzing that there was space for me on the coach as well. We passed the time on the way to Wales by playing cards, and then did the same in a pub in Port Talbot where the coaches stopped. I wasn’t feeling massively confident ahead of the game today, as we haven’t looked great in our last few games and when we played Swansea at home earlier this season they looked better than us. They’ve not been in the best of form this season though and find themselves sat in the bottom half of the table, whereas we’re in the hunt for the Play Offs - could we do it?
Once we arrived at the ground, I had to collect my ticket from the opposite end of the ground to the away end as I’d bought it after the postal cut off point. I’ve never had to do that before, but it was a smooth process thankfully! I was pleased to see that Matty Godden had made it on to the bench when I looked at the team news - we’ve missed him a lot since his enforced absence due to appendicitis, so it’ll be a big boost to have him fit again. Last weekend’s hero Fabio Tavares was on the bench again as well - I suppose he’ll have to be patient when it comes to starting, but I was hoping he would be able to come on and make a difference again if we needed him!
Dom Hyam and Callum O’Hare were sadly missing today, not named in the match day squad at all - I’m not sure whether they’re both injured or not, but O’Hare’s presence especially I felt would be missed today - Jamie Allen and Ian Maatsen had been selected to play in behind Viktor Gyokeres, but neither of them really bring the same level of creativity as O’Hare does. That’s nothing against either of them though, I actually rate Jamie Allen very highly and Ian Maatsen has done reasonably well in that advanced role when he’s played there, although I prefer him at left wing back in truth. It was a lovely sunny day in Swansea and the atmosphere inside the ground was electric at kick off - the home fans were loud, the Sky Blue Army were in full voice, and we were ready to go.
The first observation I made was that Swansea number 9 Michael Obafemi was built like an absolute tank! I was confident that Kyle McFadzean would be able to outmuscle him though if it came to it. The game started brightly, but Swansea seemed more comfortable on the ball in my view. We looked a bit panicky, and the home side had definitely settled into the game more quickly than us.
Joe made an observation after around 10 minutes that the Swansea fans weren’t quite as good as the Middlesbrough fans had been when we had visited the Riverside earlier this year, to which I replied with something along the lines of “yeah but wait until they go 1-0 up” - in absolutely typical fashion, the home side did just that no less than a minute later. I must have jinxed us, apologies everyone! It was a well worked goal truth be told, some neat one touch passing as the Swans worked the ball down their left hand side and the ball came into the feet of Obafemi, who laid it off first time for Jamie Paterson (born and bred in Coventry!) - Paterson took a touch, and then buried his shot into the far corner of the net. It was a lovely goal, I’d be waxing lyrical about it if we had scored it.
Not a great start for the Sky Blues. I noticed early on that we were allowing the Swansea keeper Andrew Fisher a lot of room to come forwards and play - Fisher was stepping up to around 30 yards away from his goal, looking to pass the ball long and over the heads of our back 3. He had tried it a couple of times in the early stages of the game and I was a bit surprised that we didn’t make more of an effort to put him under pressure when he did - one mistake and we would’ve had a great chance to catch him out!
Around 20 minutes in, a Swansea player went down injured just as we were about to break up the left side of the pitch. The game was stopped, and feeling hungry I took the opportunity to head down to the concourse to purchase myself some food. I opted for a foot long hotdog, and was back at my seat in the stands before play had resumed - perfect! The hotdog was a solid choice, it did set me backs fiver but sadly that’s always the way at football grounds nowadays. I only wish I had been able to enjoy the football on display as much as I had enjoyed my hotdog - Swansea hadn’t threatened our goal much, but they had looked the better side be a mile in my opinion. They looked very composed, and when we got on the ball we looked sloppy. Every forward ball seemed to be swallowed up by the home side!
One thing that I did appreciate was that the Swansea fans have adapted their old “Come on Wilfried Bony, score some goals for Swansea” chant for Michael Obafemi. What was more impressive was that it actually worked for them as well, as if by magic. Fisher stepped up into the defence again, and clipped a ball forwards into midfield that just about evaded the head of Ben Sheaf. It was picked up by Flynn Downes, who was given far too much space to turn and carry the ball forwards. Our defence backed off and kept backing off until Downes had reached the edge of our penalty area - he’d been allowed to carry from the half way line! He then slipped a ball through for Obafemi, who just about reached it before Simon Moore could come out to smother it - Obafemi was able to poke the ball just under Moore and into the bottom corners. I blame Joe for jinxing us this time - he had said about a minute before the goal that if we went 2-0 down, it would be game over.
Where the first goal had come though a quality bit of play, the second was more of our own making. The way that Downes was allowed to carry the ball through the middle was criminal really, I don’t care whether had needed to foul him to break up the play but we could’ve at least done something! Nobody seemed to want to put a challenge in and in cost us in the end. What was worse was that we hadn’t looked like scoring at any point in the half so far - Viktor Gyokeres was gifted an opportunity after Swansea had given the ball away in an attempt to play out from the back, but he couldn’t beat the keeper once he had set himself to shoot. We went into half time 2-0 down, and things were looking bleak for us if we didn’t get our act together.
At half time, I would’ve liked to see a change made. Jake Bidwell had picked up a booking and also appeared to pick up a knock - I wanted to see him taken off with Ian Maatsen dropping in at left wing back, and either Matty Godden or Fabio Tavares introduced to add some energy and a goal threat. It’s quite rare that we make half time substitutions, but at 2-0 down having been second best for the first 45 minutes, why not give it a go?
Mark Robins obviously disagreed that changes were needed, as none were made as the teams re-joined the field to start the second half. Many congratulations to the two Swansea fans who got engaged on the pitch during the interval - you don’t see that every day! I texted Hannah to tell her and jokingly suggested that I should’ve done the same when I proposed, and she replied to tell me she couldn’t think of anything worse! I actually wrote about our engagement in one of the very first blogs I ever posted at the beginning of this season, as I had popped the question on the weekend of our opening day victory at home to Forest (that blog is still available on here if you haven’t read it!). Me and Joe were joined in our row after the break by an older gentleman who repeatedly shouted “Gypo’s!” at the Swansea fans and players. He was even changing the words of the City fans’ chants to include the word which I must admit did give us a laugh!
It didn’t take long after the break for us to concede again - Ben Sheaf gave the ball away on the half way line, and Swansea broke down the left hand side again, working the ball into the tank Obafemi who opened his body up to curl a shot past Simon Moore and into the far corner. It was a miserable moment for the Sky Blues, and I’m sure it was probably the exact opposite of what Mark Robins had planned after the restart. It was definitely game over now, I know that stranger things have happened but realistically we were dead and buried at this point! The Swansea fans were signing “You’re only here to watch the Swans”, which wasn’t true in the slightest, but in reality they were the only team who had actually turned up on the day. We had been incredibly poor!
That being said though, we did actually grow into the second half and we started to get the ball forwards with more urgency. Todd Kane got in behind the defence and on to the ball to square it for Gyokeres, who lined up a shot but found this blocked by a defender who had gone flying in - the ball bounced out for the oncoming Ian Maatsen, who hit his shot first time but skied it well over the bar and into the stand. The ball kept rising, over the heads of the Sky Blues fans in the lower seating area and it actually bounced off the bottom of the stairs and straight towards me and Joe - I reached out to claim it and duly gathered, holding it for a moment before launching it back down on to the pitch. I’ve never caught a match ball before at a game and I was quite impressed at my own quick reactions to be honest! I found it hilarious that I had actually managed to end up with the ball despite being in the upper part of the stand (see my photos below for where I was in relation to the pitch!), and it summed up our afternoon really!
We continued to press the home side though, doing our best to create chances but finding that nothing was really coming off - Viktor Gyokeres attempted an audacious bicycle kick at one point after Jake Bidwell had floated a cross in from the left, but he couldn’t rise high enough to make contact with the ball. Mark Robins took him off not long after this, making a double change just after the hour mark - Gyokeres was replaced by Martyn Waghorn, and Matty Godden was introduced for Bidwell in a move that saw Maatsen drop back to left wing back. Personally I would’ve opted for Tavares over Waghorn, but it wouldn’t be Fabio’s day it seemed.
The game looked like it was going to fizzle out with around 20 minutes left to play. Swansea put the ball in the net again, but the offside flag had gone up well in advance of this. We didn’t look like we would be able to create much more, but we did manage a couple more chances eventually - Ben Sheaf had a golden opportunity after he had made a bursting run through the middle to support the attack, and he got on to the end of Matty Godden’s deft pass through to him and into the penalty area, but the Swansea centre half who had tracked the run put in a goal saving challenge to deny him. Godden picked the ball up on the rebound, but his shot was charged down and cleared away to safety.
We had a corner at one point which ended up being worked out to Michael Rose at the back post, who played a lovely ball into the middle for Martyn Waghorn - Waghorn met the ball in the air completely unchallenged, but his header dropped just wide of the post to the keepers’ right. I could see what he was trying, and to be fair it was the right idea to head the ball down into the corner, but he just couldn’t execute it well enough to pull one back for us. It felt like one of those games where we could carry on playing all night and not score!
Thankfully this wasn’t the case, and we were actually given a reason to cheer in the 84th minute - Swansea had played themselves into trouble again, and Matty Godden was gifted the ball in a dangerous area. He cut it back on to his right foot after the Swansea defenders had closed the space to shoot on his left, and he hit a decent effort towards goal which forced Fisher into a smart save down to his left. The rebound dropped to Waghorn who couldn’t sort his feet out in time to get a shot away, so he laid it back to the edge of the box instead where Gustavo Hamer was running in. Hamer stroked the ball calmly into the bottom corner of the net and sparked the travelling City fans’ celebrations, but it was too little too late for us really. We didn’t have any opportunities after this, with the exception of a Waghorn backheeled volley at the near post which went wide after a Todd Kane cross.
It was a poor result, after a largely poor performance. The worst thing is, Swansea only had 3 real chances in the game and they scored them all! They punished us for our mistakes, and ultimately we didn’t deserve anything from the game despite our chances in the second half. Unfortunately, if you only start playing when you’re 3-0 down you need a miracle to get anything from the game, and Swansea didn’t need to batter us to beat us today. They kept their cool on the ball and they played some neat football at times, especially for their opening goal, but we lost this game off the back of our own errors which is very frustrating.
We’ve got to be better at this stage of the season, there’s no two ways about it really. It’s a set back for us and at this crucial point in our quest to finish in the Play Offs, we can’t afford to make the kind of defensive mistakes we made today. One positive though was that Matty Godden was back on the pitch, and he looked quite sharp too. If we can get him scoring again, this will make a huge difference to the team! I’m still keeping the faith.
On the whole, I think I would’ve rather been at the spa day as I’d originally planned!