Swansea City booked their place in the 5th Round of the FA Cup with a comprehensive victory over Nottingham Forest at the Liberty. Two goals each from Liam Cullen and Matt Grimes were added to by a first senior goal from Oli Cooper and a likely home tie with Manchester City being our reward.
Steve Cooper, as he had said he would, shuffled his squad and handed a debut to Conor Hourihane who signed in midweek from Aston Villa whilst both Jamal Lowe and Andre Ayew were rested with Liam Cullen given his chance to lead the line as the Swans looked to reach Round 5 of the competition.
And it was Cullen who shone early on in the game when he gave the Swans the lead inside seven minutes finishing nicely from Wayne Routledge’s cross from the right wing to give the Swans the lead. It capped a bright start for the Swans particularly with Hourihane being heavily involved.
It was though to be the only meaningful involvement for Routledge who was forced off just past the twenty minute mark with an injury to be replaced by Jamal Lowe who passed up a chance to score almost immediately when the ball got away from him as he ran clear of the Forest defence.
It was a great opening to the game though for Swansea and in Hourihane even in the first half hour you could see that we have gained a class addition to the side with some dangerous set pieces and neat passing being at the heart of his game. And it was off the back of one of his deliveries that the Swans doubled their lead in the 29th minute when Matt Grimes smashed home a shot from almost 30 yards out which had the Forest keeper static as it hit the back of the net. 2-0 inside the half hour mark and you expected right then for the game to be as good as done given our defensive record.
Connor Roberts was denied a third Swans goal just before the interval when the linesman’s flag went up as the ball hit the back of the net but it took nothing away from what was an excellent first 45 minutes from the Swans and one that would have no doubt been greeted with nothing but praise from Steve Cooper as the team went into the dressing room.
Chris Hughton looked to change things around at the start of the second half as he made a couple of changes and the half started with Forest looking to threaten the Swansea defence but Woodman was never troubled, or indeed seemingly called upon to get the ball, with the Swans defence very much in control.
That was until Anthony Knockeart gave Forest hope of a recovery when he finished after some confusion in the Swans defence and his delight was clear as they went back for the kick off having breached the Swansea defence for only the second time in the last seven games.
The Swans can count themselves fortunate to have been gifted the chance to restore their two goal lead though shortly afterwards. On first glance Manning went down in the box under challenge but TV replays clearly showed that he was looking for the decision rather than deserving it but it was too late Kevin Friend had pointed to the spot and without VAR there was no going back. Matt Grimes sent the keeper the wrong way with the penalty and the Swans were not only two goals up again but they had scored three for the first time this season. The penalty will be a talking point at the end of the game no doubt and it was clear from the Forest players reactions that they knew they had been the victim of a poor decision.
Manning almost made it 4 in the 64th minute when his strong shot was well saved by the keeper and it signalled the start of changes from Steve Cooper as he introduced Fulton, Bidwell and Oli Cooper for Grimes, Guehi and Hourihane who departed after a very impressive debut and with the Swans with one foot in the next round of the competition.
The changes had an immediate impact for the Swans as Cooper went forward with the ball and as he found Dhanda a great ball to Manning was placed back into the box where Liam Cullen was on hand to get his second of the afternoon and a fourth for the Swans who all of a sudden were a free scoring team. With more than twenty minutes left the question very much now was not would the Swans win but by how many would the Swans win by with the confidence flowing through a team who are becoming better by the game.
Such is the strength of our defence these days Freddie Woodman doesn’t have a huge amount to do in matches but when he is called upon he often comes up trumps and he kept Lolley out from pulling back one of the three goals in the 71st minute although he was helped by a shot that was straight at him – either side may have been a different story.
Jordan Garrick became the fifth substitute of the afternoon for Steve Cooper in the 76th minute when he came onto replace Connor Roberts as Cooper used the Swans comfortable lead as a chance to clearly give players some rest ahead of the big clash with Brentford in midweek.
The Swans were dealt a blow in the 80th minute when they went down to ten men as Liam Cullen went down under a 50/50 ball in the area and was helped off the pitch with a clear limp bringing to an early end what had been a very good afternoon for the youngster thanks to his two sharp finishes.
Despite the one man disadvantage, the Swans were still intent on pushing home their advantage and a fifth goal was just around the corner. Jamal Lowe was allowed to play on after winning the ball just inside the Forest half and whilst his shot was blocked by the defender it fell to Oli Cooper who took it into the area and squeezed a shot under the keeper for his first senior goal and the Swans were 5-1 to the good!
The game had long since been over as a contest and the Swans cruised through the remaining minutes with no panic at either end and a very comfortable afternoon was bought to a close by Kevin Friend after just two minutes of stoppage time.
Whilst we now have to wait a few hours to find out our fifth round opponents it is almost certain to be Manchester City that will await us at the Liberty and maybe the chance to avenge that quarter final defeat from two years ago.
A very good afternoon at the office, happy days to be a Swans fan.
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