Craig Gardner was on target today with another stunning strike.
How's that for some alliteration! Anyway, it was an up and down afternoon at the Stadium of Light. For large spells, Swansea had the better of things, with plenty of possession, but no killer instinct. Conversely we had little possession, and few chances, but plenty of quality to put the game to bed. Just about anyway.
Two wonderful goals saw us see off the Swans, and here's our re-cap of the match complete with ratings, comment and all that sort of gubbins you'd expect in a match report...
Just the one change pre-match for Martin O'Neill as the central defensive merry-go-round saw Wes Brown return to the starting eleven in place of the now injured Matt Kilgallon, in the process forming an all ex-Manchester United back line. The rest of the side had a familiar shape and look about it too, as the recently maligned Nicklas Bendtner kept his place in the team. Notable bench warmers today being Connor Wickham and Michael Turner, who'll both have felt unlucky not to make the starting line-up.
Scares came for both sides inside the first five minutes. First it was the visitors who laid a lovely ball in for the lively Nathan Dyer, skinning Kieran Richardson for pace, only for Wes Brown to make a superb last ditch tackle. At the other end, James McClean fired a ball across for Seb Larsson to belt a volley off the foot of post from close range.
It only took 10 minutes for injury problems to rear their ugly head this week, I think that's a new 'best' for us this season. Nicklas Bendtner caught a high boot from Angel Rangel right in the face, which was deemed bad enough for him to come off. He looked shaken by it, and no doubt it was painful but in no way intentional by the Spanish right-back. On came Connor Wickham to replace.
It was shortly after the change that Swansea had the first real chance of the game. Dyer once again getting the better of Richardson, the low cross eluding everyone until it got to Scott Sinclair, and despite the angle, he really should have punished us. Sinclair would be made to feel even more foolish seconds later when Stephane Sessegnon showed exactly how to finish.
Picking the ball up on the edge of the area, "Diamant Noir" played one-two of sorts with James McClean (it looked as though McClean mis-controlled rather than playing it back) to get in the area. Sessegnon's first time strike was inch perfect in crashing into the top corner of Vorm's net, right where the spiders live. 1-0 to us, and perhaps justifiably so as despite that Sinclair miss, we'd had the better of possession, and most the game seemed to be being played in the Swansea half throughout the opening twenty minutes.
Swansea, having not really looked themselves up to that point did manage to grow into the game slightly as the half drew on. Gylfi Sigurdsson giving Simon Mignolet something to think about from distance, whilst 'Boro born striker Danny Graham sent a header way over the bar. Certainly the first half hour was a back and forth, open contest, however as stated, Mignolet's gloves were still clean.
That's how the rest of the half petered out. Swansea firmly in control, but not troubling our defence too much outside of a few Sigurdsson pot-shots. Meanwhile you couldn't help but wonder if we were giving them a little too much respect and letting them play it about at will. A good half, but things needed to be kicked up a notch.
The second half took a little while to get going. Swansea continued as they were, we did seem to step up a little, but without much impact throughout the opening stages of the half. A goal mouth scramble under the nose of Vorm could have ended up anywhere as McClean, Wickham, Sessegnon and Vaughan all struck to no avail, at the other end Nathan Dyer continued to be a menace but there wasn't too much for Mignolet to do during those ten minutes.
That man Sigurdsson provided Mignolet with his first real save of the afternoon as the hour approached. A free-kick around 25-yards out was well struck, and well beaten away by the Belgian. Thankfully there wasn't anyone lurking "Lampard-esque" to tuck it away, and Lee Cattermole completed the clearance.
Swansea were beginning to re-take control of things, much to the home crowd's chagrin. Our well-marshaled defence was coping admirably with everything the Welsh side could through at us, but a noticeable lack of composure and control in midfield, meant that hopeful ball's up field were easy pickings for Williams and Caulker for large spells of the second half.
In a rare foray forward for us, Sessegnon was closest to adding a second. Neat play between Wickham and McClean taking the ball from the halfway line to the edge of the area, the young Irishman whipped a cross which Sess nodded wide. Perhaps this didn't seem notable, but such was Swansea's "dominance" and I use that word fairly lightly as for all their possession they were light on chances. Equally, without much possession, we were not doing much either apart from working exceedingly hard to limit the away side.
As the final ten minutes dawned and the visitors became more and more desperate to get forward, we did have further chances on the counter-attack. Sessegnon nearly played in Wickham with a lovely back heel only for the wind to carry it through to Vorm. Moments later, Wickham really should have scored when he picked up the rebound to his own blocked header, sending a thunderbolt of a strike wide from 6 yards.
Finally it seemed the match was back on, just as things had promised after the first twenty minutes. Scott Sinclair, having spent most the game in Phil Bardsley's back pocket was allowed out to fire over from twenty yards and could have done better. Now, cast your mind back to the first half, and following a Sinclair miss what happened? That's right, we scored a peach of a goal. Lightening does strike twice.
And what a strike it was. Sessegnon with room to run out wide, played the ball to substitute Craig Gardner in a central position and with one touch to get it out of his feet, he sent a wonderful dipping half-volley over Vorm to put the game out of sight with five minutes remaining.
Team (Ratings in brackets)
Starting XI: Mignolet (6), Bardsley (7), O'Shea (7), Brown (7), Richardson (6), Larsson (6), Cattermole (7), Vaughan (6), McClean (7), Sessegnon (7), Bendtner (5).
Subs Used: Wickham (6), Gardner (6), Elmohamady (5)
Man Of The Match: Phil Bardsley - What!? Well I was impressed with him today. The whole defence stood firm throughout the game, but for me, for keeping Scott Sinclair in his back pocket, Bardsley takes it. As mentioned, many of the defence could have taken the honours, as could McClean or Sessegnon for admirable shifts, but it's about time someone else took the glory.
So as we thought almost immediately after the Chelsea defeat, the Party With Marty is right back on track. Back up to tenth place, and whilst the visitors did what they did, we seemed to cope well. Very well in fact.
Not much more to say really other than a good solid win to take into next weeks FA Cup tie. These wins are almost becoming routine, and that feels pretty good...
We're On Our Way.