What a huge three points that might prove to be for Blues as Hogan’s last-minute winner from the penalty spot lifts Blues 2 points above Coventry, and a further 6 points above Rotherham in 22nd. Here’s a recap of the Blues victory under the Friday night lights at St Andrew’s…
The intent was clear from kick off: we are not here to play for a point. The fact that Swansea were fighting for automatic promotion didn’t seem to daunt Blues at all. Swansea were the first team to be given a chance as Jamal Lowe wasn’t tracked from a free kick and forced a fierce effort towards Etheridge’s near post but Etheridge was equal to the test and tipped it behind for a corner. Swansea players all crowded around Etheridge for the corner which can be very difficult for ‘keepers to deal with, but after a poor delivery, Etheridge was able to claim and get Blues moving down the other end.
Swansea wouldn’t have another chance all half as Blues began to look the more threatening team. Halilovic picked up possession on the right edge of the box and made getting past Lowe and Fulton look very easy. From just outside the box Halilovic tried to curl it into the corner and a deflection from Leko completely wrongfooted the ‘keeper but luckily for the visitors the ball bounced just wide of the post. Blues would then have a brilliant chance to take the lead. Marc Roberts hurls a long throw into the box and Leko is clumsily tripped in the area by Connor Roberts.
What results is a very poor penalty from Blues as Jutkiewicz fires his effort straight at Freddie Woodman. I love Juke but I must admit I had very little confidence when he picked up the ball. It’s now 3 misses out of his last 4 for Jukey and surely Gardner, Halilovic and Hogan must now take over penalty duties when Bela isn’t on the pitch. Blues should’ve had another penalty as Jukey was kicked in the head yet somehow it was deemed not to be a foul despite a huge cut below Jukey’s eye. The Swans attacked one last time but Seddon made sure his man was stopped in his place and Roberts put on a turn of pace to ensure that the advantage came to nothing.
Blues really hadn’t been troubled since Lowe’s effort in the 6th minute. Blues didn’t really create too many chances themselves, but overall it must be said they were the better team. Halilović, in particular, was brilliant as he is every week and Leko was also having a solid game and at one point even played a Messi-esque ball for Colin. Swansea would’ve been the happier team at half time to get in level but in terms of performance, Bowyer would’ve been the happier manager.
The second half was much more scrappy than the first half. Both teams were guilty of giving away possession a bit too easily. The visitors probably put together their best move all game when Ayew played into the feet of Jason Lowe who let it run across his body but George Friend was in the right place at the right time to ensure Etheridge didn’t have a save to make. For the first time all night, Ayew won his battle against Roberts and was forced to give a free-kick away in a dangerous area. Once again Etheridge was equal to Dhanda’s effort in the bottom right corner.
The next chance went to Blues as Hogan found himself in acres of space down the left wing. The substitute tried to do some stepovers as he made his way into the box but unfortunately he was stopped in his tracks. After a period of head tennis in the 89th minute it seemed the game was destined to peter out as a 0-0 draw but Blues would have one more chance. Marc Roberts launched another long throw into the box which was cleared, however, it came back to him and the resulting cross was poorly cleared allowing Sunjic to pick up possession and he cleverly won a penalty. It seemed to be a very soft penalty but for me, there is a tiny clip on Sunjc’s foot. and if anything it makes up for Jukey’s kick to the head. Hogan took on the responsibility and Woodman’s streak of 4 consecutive penalty saves came to an end as Hogan emphatically struck it into the corner past the reach of Woodman.
With Rotherham, Sheffield Wednesday and Coventry all losing earlier in the day the significance of this result can not be understated. The second half may not have been pretty but we got the three points and at this point of the season the result is all that matters. The back four were fantastic and dealt with everything thrown at them. Next we play Brentford and if we can get a point out of that game I would be very confident about our chances of staying up.