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Middlesbrough 2 v 1 Swansea City
SkyBet Championship
Wednesday, 2nd December 2020 Kick-off 19:00
Tough night for Cooper as the Swans lose 2-1 on Teesside
Wednesday, 2nd Dec 2020 22:04 by Keith Haynes

It may well be that it never really looked right tonight from the off with several changes in the swans starting line up, brave ones too, but they couldn't prevent only the second away loss of the season.

The first problem compared to the swans last visit to the Riverside was new Middlesbrough boss Neil Warnock. Unlike the easy away win at the restart to last season this was no breeze for Swansea city. Tactically Warnock knows exactly what is required to stabiliise any club, especially one in the championship. No other manager has achieved the amount of promotions that Warnock has. Use as many anagrams as you like, he prevented the swans from playing and ensured his side won this game. Kasey Palmer came in as well as the under used Ryan Manning and Ben Cabango was included to shore up the defence. Good choices of course but when your free flowing game is disrupted by a Warnock team and the referee blows up for more free kicks in a first half than any other referee in the championship this season, - you know the nights work won't be easy. The last referee to stop the game as much as Keith Stroud did tonight was, yes, you have guessed it, Keith Stroud.

It was only a third defeat of the season for Swansea, who might have climbed into the automatic promotion spots with a win but were short of their best in possession. In fact as results came in a win would have seen the swans top of the league. It was Middlesbrough's night as Watmore, who Warnock signed on a short-term deal last month, scored with a deflected effort before doubling his tally on the break.
Warnock was forced to endure a nervy finish after Swansea substitute Yan Dhanda pulled a goal back with another deflected shot but the home side held on.

This was a meeting of two teams with impressive defensive records, yet it was a contest which produced chances. Swansea threatened first, with Jamal Lowe's shot saved by Marcus Bettinelli before Connor Roberts' goal bound follow-up was well blocked by Marcus Tavernier. From there many swans watchers would have thought this was the start of another impressive away win.

Two Ryans, no points

However, it was the home side who went ahead with their first effort of the night, as Watmore cut in from the left and saw his 20-yard drive take a wicked deflection off Marc Guehi and sailing beyond the wrongfooted Freddie Woodman. It was a sweet moment for former Sunderland player Watmore, who was making only a third appearance since switching to Teesside. Swansea's appeals for a penalty were ignored after Andre Ayew tumbled under Marvin Johnson's challenge. Just seconds before that a handball in the Boro area went unnoticed and then the trip on Ayew, right in front of Referee Stroud was astonishing. If they felt hard done by there, the visitors were fortunate just before the break when Watmore picked out Sam Morsy and his close-range effort was pawed to safety by Woodman.

Watmore opens the scoring

Cooper made three subs at the start of the second half. Gyorkeres, Routledge who sadly was ineffective throughout, and captain Matt Grimes took to the field. Later we would see Jordan Garrick who put the ball in to the net to be called offside, and then the ever improving Jan Dhanda. It has to be said at this moment in time Dhanda should be starting as his industry and quality was an immediate boost for the swans. Picking up the ball and driving forward, picking out succinct passes are all about his game and it was to pay off.

If Woodman felt responsible for the opening Boro goal he made up for it over the rest of the game as he excelled in stopping Boro increasing their lead. An equaliser almost came within seconds of the restart, with Viktor Gyorkeres - one of those who had just come on - seeing a shot deflect over an empty net after Bettinelli had fluffed a clearance. Woodman then parried Johnson's 25-yarder and the resulting corner dropped to Morsy, whose shot was brilliantly blocked under the bar by Guehi. Swansea then enjoyed a spell of pressure before Middlesbrough doubled their lead on the counter-attack. The visitors were left badly exposed after Gyorkeres gave the ball away cheaply, with Paddy McNair feeding Watmore to stroll into the box unchallenged before firing low into the net. His second goal saw him immediately subbed and a pleased Warnock must have felt happy at that stage securing three points.

Once two down the swans seemed to spring to life, the very quiet Ayew, at least by his very high standards became more involved but his ball retention was lacking. However, it was Dhanda and an impressive Boro defence that kept the swans out. A succession of corners produced little and shots, both from Dhanda, deflected or went wide. In fact that was the tale of the tape tonight. Solid defending from the home side and loose passing in good positions by the swans won the game for Warnock. On another night may be, but tonight the old tactician won the game, in fact Warnock has done everything more than Steve Cooper. He has won more games than Cooper has ever managed, including his career before Swansea. Some would say the statistic that Warnock has won more cup ties than Cooper has managed games at Swansea was evident tonight. Hate him or hate him more he used all his cunning and guile to win the game for Boro, and for that reason alone we hope Cooper learned a few things tonight.

Cooper said post match “It was disappointing, from the start really I did not think we were ourselves, in the end we did not manage to improve and we gave away two really poor goals. We probably did not create enough either, so there aren’t many positives to take out of the game. I am disappointed, the players are disappointed and they know we have dropped our standards tonight.. Ifyou don’t player anywhere near your level you are going to get punished. Itwas self-inflicted and we cannot blame anyone other than ourselves tonight. We were well short."

Fair play to Cooper, no excuses.

The swans head in to the weekend with a home game against the ever improving Luton Town, at the Liberty. The Hatters victorious over Norwich City in an impressive home win tonight. We all know the championship is a hard slog, and last weekends win at Forest for Swansea will be gold dust come the end of the season. However, the next two games for the swans are at home, and if they and Cooper are to be taken seriously then surely two home wins are a must ?

Swansea City sit seventh in the table tonight but don't think that's a side in decline, a win tonight would have seen them go top.

Alan Curtis
The swans were lacking in positivity first half, overall they played well, but it was only when the game was two to Middlesbrough they really started playing like we know. Okay, we cant win them all, but we could have got something from tonight if Ayew was playing as we know he can. It didn't happen for us, and that's they way it sometimes goes but I'm still positive. We kept on pushing, we didn't give up and that's a positive.

Swansea City: Freddie Woodman; Ben Cabango * , Ryan Bennett, Marc Guehi; Connor Roberts, Korey Smith *, Jay Fulton *, Ryan Manning; Kasey Palmer*; Andre Ayew (captain), Jamal Lowe *

Substitutes: Steven Benda, Kyle Naughton, Jake Bidwell, Matt Grimes*, Yan Dhanda*, Wayne Routledge*, Jordon Garrick*, Viktor Gyökeres*, Liam Cullen.

Middlesbrough: Marcus Bettinelli, Djed Spence, Dael Fry, Paddy McNair, Marc Bola, Sam Morsy, Jonny Howson, Marcus Tavernier, Marvin Johnson, Duncan Watmore, Chuba Akpom.

Substitutes: Dejan Stojanovic, Nathan Wood, Hayden Coulson, Lewis Wing, George Saville, Isaiah Jones, Sam Folarin, Patrick Roberts, Britt Assombalonga.

Photo: Action Images

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