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Sport The huge Swansea City calls that reaped rewards at Stoke City, Chelsea loanee Marc Guehi makes statement as shockwaves felt at Brentford and Watford

09:00  05 march  2021
09:00  05 march  2021 Source:   walesonline.co.uk

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Swansea City secured their first win at Stoke City in 20 years to move within a point of the Championship's automatic promotion places.

Here are the key talking points to emerge from the victory at the bet365 Stadium.

Guehi's telling response

Marc Guehi's loose pass presented Stoke with the chance to take the lead early on.

The Chelsea loanee uncharacteristically dallied on the ball before his wayward pass was intercepted by Steven Fletcher who teed up Nick Powell to score the opener after just seven minutes.

But the response from the central defender to that error was telling.

Guehi never shied away from the ball while he more than played his part in ensuring that Swansea kept Stoke at bay after Powell's opener, albeit with some poor finishing proving costly for the Potters.

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"The reaction is testimony to his character," said head coach Steve Cooper.

"It's all part of becoming an established player. I'd be more angry if he'd have stopped showing for the goalkeeper, which he didn't.

"We've seen the tackles, passes and everything else this season, but tonight we saw a lot about his character."

Guehi has arguably been Swansea's most consistent performer this season, but his reaction to making such a poor error - which coincidentally came at the same venue where he made a costly mistake on his Swans debut little more than a year ago - speaks volumes about his mentality.

Big calls reap even bigger rewards

Given the losses to Huddersfield Town and Bristol City, fans have raised concerns over fatigue within the squad of late - particularly after the second half collapse against the Robins.

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Cooper clearly knew things needed freshening up, and he responded by making four changes to the side that started against Bristol City for the game against the Potters.

His changes paid dividends as Swansea competed throughout and ended the game strongly as they nicked all three points at the death.

The three-man midfield of Matt Grimes, Korey Smith and Jay Fulton functioned well once again while Ryan Manning (more on him shortly) caught the eye at left wing-back.

Cooper made just one substitution during the course of the game, and that also played a part in Swansea's strong finish.


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Jamal Lowe - who is now without a goal in his last 10 appearances - desperately struggled against Stoke and was replaced by the rested Conor Hourihane with 20 minutes left on the clock.

The Republic of Ireland international helped to ensure the Swans ended the game on the front foot while his cutting edge in the final third allowed the away side to carry a greater threat - which was needed after Andre Ayew and Lowe failed to cause Angus Gunn any issues for long periods.

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The changes will hopefully help to reinvigorate Hourihane and Jake Bidwell in particular as Swansea play five more times before the international break.

And after some of the flak they have understandably received over the last week, Cooper and his coaching staff deserve plenty of credit for utilising the squad as well as they did to earn victory over well resourced Stoke side.

The Manning on a mission

Bidwell has delivered some brilliant performances for Swansea on the left flank this term.

Only five Championship players boast a tally better than Bidwell's total of seven assists in the league so far this season.

But the former Queens Park Rangers, Brentford and Everton man has tailed off recently, and coaches have long expected Manning to force his way into the reckoning at some stage given his qualities.

The Irishman was handed his first Championship start since the 2-1 win over Watford in January - almost exactly two months ago.

Manning looked like a man possessed as he gave everything to the cause in his quest to showcase his talents.

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It's telling that the 24-year-old was Swansea's greatest goal threat for large spells against Michael O'Neill's side, with only goal scorer Connor Roberts matching his tally of three shots.

Manning's sublime first-time cross was brilliantly volleyed home by Roberts as Swansea equalised in the 19th minute while his statistics from the game in Staffordshire make for positive reading.

He won two aerial duels, two free-kicks and registered an assist while also putting in seven crosses during the course of the game - a figure that was matched by the outstanding Roberts which highlights the significant impact Swansea's wing-backs once again had on the game.

It remains to be seen whether Manning will retain his place in the starting XI for Saturday's clash with Middlesbrough at the Liberty Stadium, but the versatile defender certainly enhanced his reputation with a fine showing at Stoke.

The slice of luck Swansea needed

Kyle Naughton hit the deck four minutes into injury time which led to referee David Webb awarding the visitors a penalty.

Replays of the incident suggest the official's decision to give Swansea a spot-kick was soft to say the least.

Several members of the Jack Army were only too happy to suggest the decision was some kind of justice after Jack Clarke had been guilty of going to ground somewhat easily during the course of the second half after replacing Danny Batth at the interval.

Nevertheless, it was a slice of luck that Ayew ensured sent seismic shockwaves to Griffin Park and Vicarage Road, with Brentford and Watford now just a point ahead of the Swans who boast two games in hand.

O'Neill was less than impressed though.

“I think we did enough in the game to win it. We hit the bar, we hit the post, we defended well when we had to against a good team and then ultimately the referee gives a penalty, which is clearly not a penalty," he said.

“Obviously Naughton has got through on Jack Clarke, but in the lead up to it there’s a clear foul on James Chester where Andre Ayew runs into James and throws himself to the ground in an attempt to win a free-kick.

“James subsequently heads the ball into an area where they pick it up, and then shortly after, the ball ends up in the area of the pitch where the penalty is given.

“To give a penalty in that situation is gut-wrenching really because it’s very unfair on the players and ultimately it decides the game. Referees shouldn’t be deciding games, players decide games.”

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