Second-half headers from Jevani Browne and John Marquis proved to be enough for the visitors to give new head-coach Michael Duff much to contemplate ahead of the Swans opening Championship fixture against Birmingham City in eleven days time.
After a disappointing 1-0 reverse against Oxford United at the Kassam Stadium on Friday night, Northern-Irishman Duff spoke about learning their defensive lessons and targeted eradicating the kind of mistakes that cost his side dear against the U’s and on occasions last season under the previous regime.
This would be though much of the same as the Jack Army would see a combination of youth and experience in the lineup lack ideas and penetration to break down the visitor’s stubborn backline.
There were five changes in all as the former Barnsley head-coach chose to tweak his starting eleven with Liam Cullen, Ollie Cooper and Jamie Patterson returning to the starting eleven to boost his sides attacking options, whilst Brandon Cooper and Azeem Abdulai came in for opportunities in defense.
It would be the home side who started the brighter, Abdulai playing in an unfamiliar left-wing back role cutting in from the left-hand side, beating his man to deliver a sumptuous cross narrowly evading the eager Jerry Yates looking for scraps in the Rovers penalty area.
The Swans would then be unlucky not to take the lead minutes later with home goalkeeper James Belshaw pulling off a splendid diving save to deny Yates his first Swans goal. The former Blackpool striker rising high to meet Matt Grimes’ left-footed corner but only finding Rovers number one’s outstretched palm.
Joey Barton’s side would grow into the game with a high press in the Swans half and would almost open the scoring on the quarter-hour mark. League One player of the season Aaron Collins finding room on the right-hand side of the penalty area before rifling a shot across goal. The Welshman though unable to trouble home number one Andy Fisher who comfortably gathered the effort.
The Swans toiled and fashioned efforts with Cooper and Yates coming close, but it would be a largely disappointing half for the home faithful with the sides level at the break as Duff’s side struggled to gain a rhythm to their play.
After multiple changes from both sides, it would be the Swans who would look the most likely to break the deadlock in the early stages of the second half. Fulton stinging substitute goalkeeper Matt Cox’s gloves with a low rasping effort from range to the satisfaction of the home faithful.
As the half wore on the Swans would start to find their flow with gaps opening in the Bristol defense. Ollie Cooper producing a moment of quality to find space after a swift break to find Abdulai supporting the attack. The youngster’s effort however always rising over Cox’s crossbar.
Duff’s side would then inject some much-needed urgency into their play and would produce their best moment. A neat passing move resulting in Cullen driving an effort toward the goal only to be blocked once more by the stubborn Gas rearguard. Replacement Cotterill followed up but also experienced the same fate as the away side held firm.
As the Swans committed numbers into attack the visitors would look to counter the home sides vulnerabilities down the left channel and dually struck a sucker punch to take the lead. Combative forward Brown catching the home defense cold, ghosting in to head home from a right-wing cross after a swift break had left Fisher helpless in the Swans goal.
The Swans fought in frustration but could not find the key to unlock the door with the final pass often begging as opportunities became few and far between the raft of changes off both benches.
The visitors would be the side to have the last laugh on the night as things would go from bad to worse for the Swans in the closing stages. Substitute Marquis doubling their lead after fellow replacement Evans had produced a carbon copy delivery on the right to pick out the journeyman striker to seal the match with a close-range header.
It would prove a frustrating night for the hosts, but both provide a valuable learning experience for Duff and signs to the owners that the squad will need depth and strengthening ahead if the Swans are to be competing where they want to be in the Championship this season.
(Lead image: Swansea City FC)
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