Wayne Routledge and Viktor Gyokeres scored the goals as the Swans eased into the 4th Round of the FA Cup this afternoon against a Stevenage side who put up a good account of themselves but ultimately were unable to break the Swans defence – something Championship sides have found tough enough this season.
Steve Cooper rang the changes, as you would expect, from the last outing for the Swans against Watford making seven changes from the starting line up. It possibly would have been more but Steven Benda missed out through injury meaning Freddie Woodman kept his place in the side. There was a first start of the season for George Byers who returned from injury whilst Kyle Naughton was also back and lining up in defence.
Conspiracy theorists will love the fact that there was no Ayew or Roberts in the squad at all whilst we saw a first senior start for Cameron Evans.
It didn’t take long for the Swans to take the lead when good work from Dhanda saw his cross land perfectly on the head of Routledge who put the Swans into the lead in the 7th minute. It sparked a strong start for the Swans who could have gone two up but Gyokeres shot was straight at the keeper, a similar result coming shortly after from a Byers shot.
At this stage it did look as if the Swans could easily run away with the tie as we looked to ignore the heavy changes in the side and settled into a rhythm in the first twenty minutes of the game. As the half progressed though that rhythm become disturbed and Stevenage started to sense that they could come back into the game.
A couple of well worked corners caused confusion in the Swans defence whilst Woodman was left beaten by two shots that narrowly missed the target and would likely have got the equaliser had they been directed slightly lower or slightly to the right of where they were.
As the game reached the interval though the Swans were able to go in ahead having ridden the Stevenage storm with relative ease. Cooper made a change at half time bringing on Smith for Fulton but could easily have seen his side pegged back inside the first couple of minutes of the second half. A relatively free header was straight at Woodman just as it looked as if it may have been easier to score and Cooper would have been grateful to see the scoreline still in our favour at that stage.
The Swans response was immediate though and finally Jordan Garrick joined the game with two strong runs down the right. The first found Dhanda in the middle but his shot was straight at the home keeper. It was a brief respite though for Stevenage and just a minute later the Swans had doubled their advantage. This time the Garrick cross was met by a glancing header from Gyokeres and the Swans were two nil up.
This was the cushion that we needed and we could have added to that lead with a shot from Byers straight at the keeper and an effort from Manning that cleared the bar by some distance. It felt even with more than half hour to go in the game that the match was probably over as a contest with both teams contesting the game largely in the middle third of the pitch with very little goalmouth action to note.
Both managers were regular with their substitutions in a bid to make a change for the game but as the clock ticked past the 80 minute mark it was still a two goal lead for the Swans and one that we did not look like giving up on. That was until the Swans needlessly gave away an 82nd minute penalty but once again the Swans were grateful to Woodman who saved the Norris penalty denying the home side the chance to get back into the game.
Cooper gave a first senior appearance to Olly Cooper for the last ten minutes of the game when he replaced Garrick just after the penalty miss and a better ball into the box could have given him a dream start but the ball – as many of ours were this afternoon – was misplaced and the danger had passed.
Woodman was called upon to keep the Swans goal intact in the 88th minute when a Reid free kick was heading into the corner before the Swans keeper got across and palmed it away for a corner. That was the last chance of the game though and it will be the name of Swansea City who will go into the 4th Round draw on Monday evening.
With seven changes in the side it was always likely to be a disjointed performance at times from the Swans but what became clear was that several players failed to make the step up and that highlights a lack of depth in our squad in certain positions. This was a game we should have won and we did and it has long been said that winning is a habit and the longer we keep that habit the better.
Wonder who will be next?
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