And then it started going wrong, an enormous gap appeared between our midfield and the front two and we could barely hold onto the ball for more than a couple of touches. Swansea’s football at this stage belied their lowly position and, as we weren’t losing, the talents of Leon Britton, on loan from West Ham, could be enjoyed. This included a neat move, which fortunately, ended up with Thomas hitting the post when he really should have scored.
As the first half petered out, Swan’s Johnrose went off injured and I was drawn to the conclusion that a significant reason for our failure to capitalise on early superiority and our subsequent twenty minute ‘mare was Soupa’s lack of mobility. In terms of quick forward/midfield interplay and as an outlet for the longer ball from defence, unless it is hit more or less directly at him, he is barely at the races. It used to be said that the rest of the team preferred to have him in the team and played better when he was in the team. I wonder how true that is at the moment.
However those thoughts were partially banished on the stroke of half-time as yet another Cummings cross, from the right this time, following a corner, held up nicely for James Hayter as a Swans defender challenged and he slotted home comfortably from about ten yards.
Broadhurst failed to appear for the second half after sustaining what looked like a nasty shoulder injury after 20 minutes, Carl Fletcher made a quick return to centre back and O’Connor replaced him in midfield.
Cherries started brightly, forcing some corners. Hayter teed up Soupa whose rising twenty yard drive was spectacularly tipped over by Freestone. On the hour Hayter had to be carried off with a knee injury and Holmes came on to form a low-speed strike partnership with Soupa. Once again we had a spell of playing far too deep with a consequent lack of possession. To be fair, Swansea never really looked like scoring and it is difficult to recall Moss having to make a serious save all evening. One goal looked to be enough to secure all three points.
As Swansea searched for the equaliser, Lewis Buxton suddenly realised he had plenty of space down the right wing and had a couple of encouraging runs. These seemed to renew the team’s ambition and when Browning was put through a minute before the end of normal time, he pushed the ball past Freestone and was unceremoniously hauled down.
In some respects Tardif, if he was in the stand, and the fans who paid good money to go to Stoke, must have felt aggrieved as only the yellow card came out. However, how many fans actually wanted him sent off is another matter. O’Connor went for the power option and a straight blast at shoulder height.
Was it too early in the season for that most cruel of taunts ‘we’ll never play you again’ or is there a Third Division etiquette that there shall be no reference to footballing life beyond the pale ? Either way there would barely have been time to sing it before Browning again broke into the box and was needlessly tripped from behind. The perpetrator earned himself a booking and had to be helped off injured. This time O’Connor smacked the ball to Freestone’s right. Freestone went the right way, it could have been nearer the post, it could have been at a more awkward height but the power behind the shot gave him no chance. After his miss at Crewe, this was a good confidence booster for O’Connor, should he need to take a more important spot kick in the remainder of the season.
At that point ref. Mick Fletcher decided to call it a day; cue delirious teenager dashing onto the pitch, neatly sidestepping a steward and diving onto the penalty spot below the North Stand. His grin was a mile wide as four stewards carried him off in a pose more suited to one of Swansea’s finest (and richest) in the film Chicago. His mother will have two questions, "how did you get so dirty at football ?" and possibly - in 10 days time - "why aren’t you going to football today ?"
Figuratively, a satisfying leap back into third place that, with games in hand, will dent the confidence of our rivals and I urge them to give up the chase now. Convincing scoreline if not a convincing ‘promotion’ display. Such is the level of enforced line-up changes that, excepting Connell, one wonders how often SOD will be able to pick his first choice team. I’m sure there’s a convincing promotion team somewhere in the squad.
AFCB: Moss, Buxton, Broadhurst ( O’Connor 46 ), Tindall, Elliott, C Fletcher, Stock, Browning, Cummings, Hayter (Holmes 59), S Fletcher
Subs not used: Chukki, Foyewa, Thomas
Gordon Buchan, Yateley