Jamal Lowe scored two more goals as the Swans picked up three points from a losing position for the first time this season to move into second place at our halfway point of the season. It was the least the Swans deserved thanks to another impressive Liberty Stadium display.
The Swans were forced into one change when the teams were first announced – Ryan Bennett not fit after being substituted in midweek and he was replaced by Joel Latibeaudiere. However, Joel never started the game having been injured in the warm up and his place went to Ryan Manning who slotted in at left back with Jake Bidwell moving into the centre. There was also a welcome return to the matchday squad for Morgan Gibbs-White who has recovered from his injury and will be a key player you feel in the coming weeks for the Swans.
The Swans started extremely brightly and Connor Roberts found himself in behind the full back on four separate occasions inside the first ten minutes. The first ball across narrowly missed by Smith sliding in, the second coming off Fulton, the third taken by Lowe as Fulton looked poised to hit it on the run and the fourth cleared but the danger signs were clear for the visitors and the Swans attacking intent equally as clear as we looked to build on the good work of Wednesday evening.
Woodman was called into early action following some strong play on the right hand side of the pitch from former Swan Ben Wilmot whose cross was met by Gray and cleared by the legs of Freddie Woodman with the defence doing enough to prevent a score from the rebound.
The Swans went a goal down in the 20th minute as they failed to clear their lines on the edge of the area and Scott Cleverly’s low shot was enough to beat Freddie Woodman. On reflection it looks like a save that the keeper should have saved although he would have been slightly unsighted by the shot but definitely one that will disappoint the meanest keeper in the division.
The Swans continued to look to Roberts as their main attacking outlet and Fulton shot wide from another move that created a good chance but still we were not making the keeper worked as the game clock ticked by past thirty minutes with the visitors ahead.
Ayew was the next to waste a good chance for the Swans from a move with – unsurprisingly – involved Roberts who was being afforded all the space he desires by the Watford defence. His low ball was pulled back well by Ayew but the Swans leading scorer got his shot straight at Foster who had the relatively simple task of tipping the ball over for a corner.
Smith also called Foster into action just before the interval when he hit a shot from close to point blank range but as with Ayew’s shot minutes earlier the shot was straight at the keeper and he palmed it away. It proved though to be a temporary reprieve for Watford as Jamal Lowe bought the Swans level on 43 minutes with his 7th goal of the season. Lowe created space for himself and curled a perfect shot past Foster and in off the inside of the post to bring a reflection to the scoreline that much more matched the play of the first half.
The Swans started the second half in the same fashion in which they had finished the first with clear attacking intent as Watford found themselves defending deeper. Lowe almost got his second of the game from a Roberts pass but it was cleared for a corner whilst just seconds later the Swans had a goal disallowed when Bidwell found the back of the net only to be denied by the linesman’s flag for a very tight offside decision.
The Swans were now starting to dominate the game and it was showing in the way Watford were defending and giving away needless free kicks that was helping the Swans stay on the front foot. However, the fouls in the second half were not generating the same level of yellow cards that we saw in the first where three Swans – Guehi, Bidwell and Grimes had all seen yellow. This just gave Watford more free range to continue their niggly fouls and you could understand the Swans frustration as each one was given and no cards were produced.
As the game entered its final third your attention started to turn to what changes Cooper may make especially with Gibbs-White on the bench and the Swans looking like they needed to do something different to create the chance that could turn their advantage into a potential match winning lead.
The answer though was to be no change was needed as the Swans took the lead in the 67th minute thanks to a Lowe header from a Smith cross that saw the Swans man take advantage of Foster missing the cross and he headed into the back of the net with his 8th of the season bringing him level with Ayew as our leading scorer. It was the least that we deserved based on our play pretty much throughout the game.
To their credit though Watford did not let their heads drop and started to cause the Swans to be alert defensively and a couple of good blocks and well timed tackles kept the Swans lead intact despite a series of Watford corners as a result of our strong defending. We can also be thankful of poor finishing from Deeney who volleyed well over the bar from close range when unmarked and as the game reached the last ten minutes it was still 2-1 for the Swans.
The Swans were defending deep by this point which was allowing Watford to come back at us every time we cleared it and it was becoming more obvious that a change was needed especially with Lowe looking like he had completely run out of steam after another very good afternoon. The change though was to replace Manning with Gibbs-White making his return from injury with Manning hobbling off the pitch after a very good game from someone who only knew minutes before kick off that he was playing.
The Swans were forced into a formation change as a result with Bidwell taking up his more familiar role on the left side and MGW taking up his place in midfield. And despite this being very much a short appearance from the on loan Wolves player there was enough to show just what we have been missing in recent weeks with his presence back in the side like having a new signing already.
With three minutes of stoppage time due to be played the Swans remained very much on the front foot and injury time was pretty much played out in the Watford defensive third of the pitch – a new trait for the Swans these days of seeing out stoppage time seemingly with ease which certainly has not been the case in recent years.
We are now exactly halfway through our league season with 43 points on the board which is superb and we are a side that has only been beaten once at the Liberty in that first half of the season something we said early on needed to be our fortress for this season. With Gibbs-White back and also a couple more injuries now to return we can go into the second half of the season rightly confident and 2nd in the table.
Great work again Swans.
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