So yet another game where I sit in front of my laptop, slightly baffled by what has transpired.
Given the baggage from last season, exacerbated by the humiliation inflicted by Plymouth, I can see why some fans are already forecasting midtable obscurity…
Wagner opted to make three changes to the team that won at the weekend. Hwang, Placheta and Fassnacht lost out to Fassnacht, Rowe and Springett.
Barely two minutes were on the clock when a poor Duffy ball out of defence sold Forshaw short. Grimes drove through the defence before setting Jamal Lowe up for a simple goal.
City continued to struggle under an energetic high press from the Swansea front three. There were more mistakes and more chances for Swansea. For all his other attributes, when under such intense pressure, Duffy looks likely to make a simple error when moving out from the back.
City managed to get forward after six minutes, a Sara through ball to Hwang which was smothered by the Swansea defence and resulted in a long ball coming back at the City defence which Giannoulis flicked out for a corner.
Then, after a long 10 minutes under the cosh, City found the angles that worked and began to play through the Swansea press. They moved from front to back nicely, Hwang combined with Stacey only for his cross to be cleared, but only as far as McLean who hit a fearsome shot which was blocked by the home defence.
City moved forward again through the press. Giannoulis tried to put Sara through this time but the pass was intercepted. Now it was City’s turn to press and Swansea who made the mistakes. Hwang battled well and got the ball to Rowe but the Swansea defence were able to shield the ball out for a goal kick.
Swansea were now looking to hit City on the break. As they did so, after 17 minutes, Gibson picked up a yellow card for a late challenge on Cullen. Then Stacey fouled Lowe on the other side of the pitch, level with the penalty box. The free kick was swung in but Gunn got out to palm it clear.
After 21 minutes, City moved slickly once again from back to front, starting with Gunn. McLean drove forward, cutting inside and the ball came to Rowe, who burst forward at pace. His cross was blocked, but only as far as Giannoulis, who drove a cross into the area. The cross struck a Swansea leg and ballooned upwards to be met by the half-stooping head of Sara for his second headed goal of the week. 1-1.
Springett was beginning to flourish now, using his strength he battled for the ball, releasing Stacey who drove a shot across the keeper which was saved and went for a corner.
Swansea were still dangerous. After 27 minutes, Darling hit a cross through the six-yard box that somehow evaded everyone. City now countered at pace and Rowe and Hwang were 2v2. Rowe will probably reflect that he held on to the ball too long and when he finally tried to play Hwang through, Key was able to block him. Hwang was not happy and it looked like he provided the City youngster with some ‘feedback’ to aid his reflections.
Swansea were now relying on long balls to hit back at City. On the half-hour, they had a shot deflected out for a corner. Duffy headed clear but the ball fell to Paterson who drove his shot over the bar.
On 34 minutes, Humphreys was allowed to make progress down the left. He was in a completely non-threatening position but somehow won a corner. The set piece beat everyone and was cleared, but as it came back in, Yates tried to backheel the ball in at the near post. The ball went wide and a corner was given. That was headed clear by City and the referee immediately levelled it up by giving a goal kick.
It is clear that in Wales, the definition of hand seems to include any part of the body above the waist, with the home crowd persistently appealing any contact on that basis. The referee didn’t even bother to acknowledge the crowd, much to their increasing dismay.
As the break approached, Duffy lifted a ball to Springett. He did superbly to hook a cross into the box, but no one was on the end of it. Then Stacey and Sara combined, but the return ball was too much for the City defender. They combined again, a great Sara ball this time found Stacey but his cross didn’t find a yellow shirt and it was honours even at half time.
City were out early again for the second half and it looked like they were planning quick changes, Idah conspicuously warming up.
City were pressing high again. Springett battled well with Humphreys, initially winning the ball but was unable to retain it subsequently. The pressure paid off though as City won a throw.
Then the jitters hit again, Giannoulis and Gibson both ceding the ball cheaply and carelessly in quick succession. As City moved out, Rowe did well on the left. He was giving Key a tough evening and the Swansea defender now earned a yellow card to add to the pressure.
On 53 minutes, Stacey and Springett exchanged passes on the right, Stacey winning a corner. The ball looped over everyone and found Rowe at the back post but his header went across the goal rather than towards it.
Then Cullen fouled Rowe and earned a yellow. The pressure was piling on the defenders. Forshaw found Rowe with a raking ball. He beat his man but yet again his cross failed to find a target.
Wagner made his changes after 57. Hwang for Idah looked inevitable. The Korean was making some nice contributions but singularly failed to provide a threat to the Swansea defence. Placheta and Hernandez replaced Springett and Forshaw, who were both tiring. Sara dropped back alongside McLean and Rowe moved into the central slot behind Idah.
Onel was straight into the action. Grimes gave the ball away and the Cuban broke down the right, but his cutback didn’t quite find Rowe.
City pressed down the left this time, winning a corner. McLean had a shot cleared for a second corner. As the ball came in, McLean was wrestled to the floor off the ball, but the referee chose to take no action.
Then Mclean intercepted a ball out from the back and found Idah, who put it wide. Paterson fouled Rowe. The City free kick was straight at the keeper. Then it was the turn of Onel on the end of a Stacey pass to again find the keeper rather than the net.
Swansea broke the pressure after 70 minutes. As they broke, they managed to move the ball ahead of the backtracking City defence with every pass, but the move lacked the earlier intensity and eventually City got numbers back and snuffed the threat out.
City hit back. Onel finding space on the left this time. He pulled the ball back to Placheta whose shot was blocked for a corner. Duffy won the header to see the keeper save on the line.
Swansea broke on the right, Stacey blocked and a corner was given. The initial threat was cleared but Cooper hit a shot forcing a good save from Gunn. Yates hit the rebound in but was offside.
City had their best chance on 74. Duffy put Stacey away, he found Placheta who hit a great pacy cross. Perhaps the ball was fractions too far behind Idah, perhaps the Irishman’s body shape was all wrong, but he skied the free header over the bar.
On 77, the clearly tiring Rowe was replaced by Fassnacht, who took up the support role in the centre.
McLean nicked the ball off the Swansea defence and found the Swiss, who moved wide and left. The ball found Onel who somehow kept the ball under pressure winning a corner.
With 10 minutes to go, Swansea broke again. The ball was looped in from the right and as the header came in, Duffy cleared off the line. Suddenly, Swansea had a short spell of pressure and City were unable to get the ball away. City cleared the immediate danger twice off the line before a shot was deflected through a crowd of players and beat Idah on the line to give Swansea the lead. A really scruffy, scrappy goal to concede.
City needed to find another gear in order to hit back but failed to find it. For the remainder of normal time, plus the 6 minutes added, they looked like a team that had run out of ideas. The game fittingly coming to an end with City playing out from the back with no openings available.
This was a poor game to lose. City did more than enough to take at least a point away having given Swansea a goal start. City hit so many crosses into the box that failed to find a target. Perhaps because the targets are sitting on the sidelines with ligament damage.
Hwang looks like a player that needs to play with and off someone. So does Idah. Without Barnes to lead the line, City look toothless. And whilst they remain toothless, it becomes difficult to find much optimism about upward progress.