|Swansea City 0 v 0 Millwall|
Wednesday, 15th September 2021 Kick-off 19:45
No goals for 180 minutes but the signs in the second half are clearly there
Wednesday, 15th Sep 2021 22:26 by Keith Haynes
Russell Martin will have to navigate an away game at Luton and then a league cup away tie against Brighton before he again tries for his first home win at the swansea.com stadium. Not for another ten days when Huddersfield are the visitors will the ‘no home wins’ mantra be repeated. So be it.
Choosing to stick with what can only be described as a ‘thoughtful’ build up tonight in the first half the swans were criticised by many fans for being far too ponderous in advanced positions. On at least five occasions when a straight run forwards was the clear option the ball was played backwards, and on two occasions the ball actually ended up back with Ben Hamer. The swans fans at the game were clearly becoming frustrated as the passing tactic was becoming laborious and laboured. The opportunities created for Manning and Paterson were wasted, this will have annoyed Russell Martin as the whole idea of ball retention is to create the very chances Swansea missed. Piroe too had two shots at goal which should have been taken far better.
Millwall’s defensive set up coped admirably with the almost walking pace style of play when the the swans were in midfield possession. The intensity seen at times on Saturday was missing completely during the first forty five. The same result as on the weekend was a nailed on bet. As it would turn out to be. Swansea’s front players were slow to close down as well, the only area that Martin has clearly stated needs improving. And that’s obvious, the opportunities created really do need pace and awareness from front players like Piroe and the advanced Ntcham. Ethan Laird too seemed disinterested over the half, his contribution was minimal, whenever he had the ball he was reluctant to take his man on or at least take on the advice of his manager ‘Being braver in possession, and willing to take risks’ His one run in to the Millwall area seeing Paterson miss another gilt edged chance should have told him everything about his ability.
None of the bravery and risk taking was evident.
However, the possession was good on a well watered pitch, it just needs more zip and polish. That’s the positive, and possibly will be during many games this season, but there seriously needs more attention to detail for the final pass and opportunities made.
Ryan Manning worked his socks off against Millwall
For all the frustration ( I think we will be using this word a lot this season ) after ten fruitless minutes of the second half the swans ticked. Piroe was able to move off his marker over to the left and when Obafemi replaced Olivier Ntcham, the speed of his runs completely rattled the Millwall defence. A quick early shot by Obafemi, and then the best chance of the game was squandered after he was put through by Liam Walsh. Walsh at last came on to make his league debut for the swans. Walsh has class, he is quick and carries the ball well, but the real issue will be keeping him injury free as his contribution in midfield with the extremely impressive Flynn Downes will be crucial this season. It just goes to show an increase of tempo with this style of play will work, but ball control has to be exact and passing precise.
Laird came alive rushing his marker on several occasions down the Swansea right but his delivery does need more work. He is a robust player, he does have pace and much encouragement should be taken from his last thirty minute contribution. Liam Cullen who has had his dissenters this season, not because he is disliked but because Morgan Whittaker for many swans fans is the obvious choice ahead of him, came on. Cullen was busy but again looked off the pace, he didn’t have too long to impress though. At the back Ryan Bennett was strong but at times in possession swans fans do worry. The stand out player at the back was Kyle Naughton, quick and responsive to Millwall’s break aways with plenty of cover from Downes, his contribution was superb from a defensive central position.
Obafemi slides his golden opportunity to win the game just wide
Ben Hamer was confident throughout the game and pulled off two excellent saves in the second half, maybe a slight question mark over his handling at times but again he kept a clean sheet. Again we have seen another tick on the Russell Martin ‘total football’ calendar. The positives are all there, the first half was a lost cause, for whatever reason the swans couldn’t move the ball beyond walking pace is of a concern. The four first half chances created didn’t deliver any shots on goal. But even at this pace the swans were the dominant side. Just like Saturday the best side were the home side, if it was two more points lost then so be it. Saturdays trip to Luton will again be a different type of test for Russell Martin but he will want to again see his side progressing positively. Another point wouldn’t be unwelcome.
To see new signings Liam Walsh ( his free kick was superbly saved by Millwall’s Bialkowski ) Olivier Ntcham, Michael Obafemi and Joel Piroe all getting used to the playing style of Russell Martin is extremely encouraging, there will be a growing number of swans fans with questions about it all. But those questions are being answered, slowly, as the games progress, and the system is learned. We all know what was on the table when Martin and his staff came to Swansea City. Nobody seemed bothered, a season of transition it seemed then was just fine. Yes we are experiencing the pain Martin promised, but we are also now seeing productivity across the pitch, and that is the real positive. Just a bit quicker please.
Swansea City: Hamer; Naughton, Bennett, Cabango; Laird, Downes, Grimes (C), Manning; Paterson (Walsh 69), Ntcham (Obafemi 62); Piroe (Cullen 80).
Subs not used: Benda, Latibeaudiere, Bidwell, Fulton.
Yellow cards: Bennett 37, Downes 82
Millwall: Bialkowski; Mitchell, Ballard (Leonard 70), Cooper (C), M. Wallace, Malone; Kieftenbeld, Saville; J. Wallace, Bradshaw (Smith 85), Bennett (Mahoney 62).
Subs not used: Long, Thompson, Pearce, Bodvarsson.
Yellow cards: M Wallace 78, Saville 90
Referee: John Busby
Photographs licensed from Reuters
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