Abi Davies has been off our radar for a few weeks due to a free week for the Swans and then her falling ill through lack of football. But back she came this weekend for the visit to the coldest ground in the Premier league, The Britannia Stadium.
Despite comprehensively condemning Stoke to defeat in the reverse fixture almost 5 months ago, Sunday’s challenge was always going to be a stern one for the Swans, coming up against arguably the most physical side in the division.
The fixture promised to display a true contrast of styles as Swansea would try to combat Stoke’s direct, long ball tactic with the passing game that has earned them many plaudits this season.
Two sloppy first half goals proved enough for The Potters to inflict further misery on Swansea’s away form, their 2nd successive defeat reiterating their troubles in dealing with the leagues more physical sides.
Swansea’s 8th away defeat of the campaign sees them leapfrogged by Stoke City who propel into 12th in the league, whilst Brendan Rodgers’ side drop to 14th, with 12 games remaining.
Swansea were bolstered by the return of diminutive midfielder Joe Allen, who, as expected was restored to the starting line up. Brendan Rodgers was however without first choice and highly rated goalkeeper Michel Vorm who missed the fixture through illness meaning Gerhard Tremmel received his first taste of Premier League football.
Having scored 7 goals so far this season, Scott Sinclair had a great chance to break the deadlock and add to his season tally inside the opening two minutes of the game when he latched onto Nathan Dyer’s delivery into the penalty area. However Sinclair failed to retain his composure as his effort fired high over the target.
The visitors enjoyed large spells in possession however they looked vulnerable on the break, with Stoke able to get the ball forward so quickly and with some poor positional play from Angel Rangel allowing them to advance into dangerous areas and test Tremmel frequently.
With Rory De Lap starting the match on the bench, the long throw ins for Stoke were coming courtesy of Ryan Shotton, who’s deliveries were causing countless problems for Swansea’s defence.
Renowned for their success from set pieces, the home side demonstrated just why this is the case when an Etherington corner was met by Upson who rose above Swansea defenders to powerfully direct his header past Tremmel into the back of the net.
Left back Neil Taylor posed a great threat for the away side, advancing into some dangerous positions as well as supplying some teasing balls into the area, however with the height Stoke’s defence possess, they were able to deal with these deliveries well.
The Stoke side played with an outstanding work rate, looking constantly hungry and determined to regain possession, they pressed Swansea deep in their own area, not allowing them the time to play the ball out from the back to the same effect that has seen the Welsh side achieve so much this season. Their defence remained compact and organised, limiting Swansea’s threat, they worked well as a unit.
Six minutes before the interval, Stoke doubled their advantage as the Swans were undone by another set piece. Stemming from a Shotton throw in, which was met by and headed into the bottom corner by Crouch. Premier League debutant Tremmel got a touch to the ball but could not prevent it from crossing the line.
Stoke’s relentless pressure continued into the second half, closing down Swansea with defenders constantly doubling up on their wide players. A rare shot from the visitors came courtesy of Nathan Dyer, who worked his way into a great shooting position only for his effort to fire marginally wide of the target.
Lack of match time for Tremmel was evident as his decision making was a little woeful at times, however the German keeper displayed some sensational distributions, which were, as in his previous Swans appearances, of the highest ilk.
Despite some good interlinking and instinctive movements in advanced areas of the pitch, Swansea rarely threatened Asmir Begovic in the Stoke goal, with the first and only save the Bosnian keeper had to make coming in the 79th minute, when he got down with ease in order to collect a weak shot from second half substitute Luke Moore. The visitors appeared to be lacking creativity and penetration in the final third.
Swansea City centre back Steven Caulker almost halved the deficit in extra time only for his header to be denied by the cross bar, Danny Graham fired over from the rebound.
I don’t feel that playing with a loan striker worked for Swansea at the Britannia. Danny Graham did not have a bad game and you can not knock his work rate, however the service was not of a satisfactory standard on Sunday, meaning he could not make his usual impact