STUBBORN SWANS GET REWARDED WITH POINT
SWANSEA City picked up a hard-earned point as they frustrated high-flying Middlesbrough in this goalless draw at the Riverside Stadium. The Swans became the first side to take points off the Teessiders on their own turf this season, even if they couldn’t also become the first Championship team to score here so far this term, in a fixture low on quality and eminently forgettable in parts.
It has to be said that Swansea carried little threat of their own aside from a bright opening, but Graham Potter and his players will be happy enough to emerge from a challenging week with another point added to their tally against opponents fancied for promotion.
It was another result forged out of perspiration rather than inspiration, and Swansea will certainly want to make strides in terms of the quality of their displays, but they are becoming an obdurate and frustrating side for others to deal with.
Again a solid defensive base laid the platform as skipper Mike van der Hoorn, Joe Rodon and Connor Roberts stood out as the hosts were limited in terms of genuine sights of goal and, while Erwin Mulder had saves to make, they were made with reasonable comfort.
It was a second clean sheet in the space of a week, although Swansea now have one win from their previous seven league games and have failed to score in four of their last five Championship fixtures.
As had been the case at Stoke in midweek, Swansea started well and put their hosts on the back foot.
Matt Grimes and George Byers were busy in midfield and linked well with Wayne Routledge and Oli McBurnie.
But the first chance went the way of the host as Martin Braithwaite’s smart pass teed up Stewart Downing for a drive that Mulder parried.
The Swans were soon back on the front foot, lovely work from Grimes and Roberts found McBurnie eight yards out, only for the header to strike Ryan Shotton and fall into the grateful arms of Boro goalkeeper Darren Randolph.
Another headed chance fell the way of the visitors in the 15th minute, Routledge’s cross was nodded skywards by Daniel Ayala and Martin Olsson should have done better as he headed straight at Randolph from the follow-up.
Boro manager Tony Pulis was unimpressed by what he was seeing, and moved Braithwaite up alongside Britt Assombalonga, and from that point the game began to turn in the home side’s favour.
George Saville’s superb strike clipped the bar with Mulder beaten, before Rodon was in the right place to block Ayala’s goalbound effort after Adam Clayton’s scuffed strike had run through to the defender.
Mulder then denied Assombalonga as the pressure increased while, at the other end Grimes’ inswinging corner threatened to find the net as Randolph pushed over.
Saville then threw himself to the deck in the area with Byers in close
attendance but, at the end of a week where Swansea have been on the end of poor decisions, Simon Hooper correctly booked the midfielder for diving.
It was far from classic fare, and it was summed up when Olsson dragged horribly wide after a nice exchange of passes with Kyle Naughton.
Potter made an alteration at the break, taking off Byers to introduce Tom Carroll as part of a reshuffle which saw Swansea go to a 4-3-3 with McBurnie on the left and Barrie McKay through the middle.
But Boro remained on the front foot and Swansea had real difficulty keeping the ball without McBurnie through the middle.
A teasing delivery across the sixyard box from Shotton just evaded Assombalonga, while Van der Hoorn recovered well to snuff out Braith- waite as the Dane threatened to head in on goal after a Swansea error.
Tom Carroll struck the bar with an overhit cross from one decent Swansea counter, started by an intelligent switch from Roberts.
On the hour mark, Dan James replaced Routledge just as the visitors were having a better spell, only for a poor pass from Grimes to allow Braithwaite to escape and peg Swansea back.
Still, for all the little glimmers of promise, there seemed little prospect of either side finding a winner with neither goalkeeper having a save of note to make during the second period.
The hosts made one final push as the final five minutes arrived, but their sustained pressure was dealt with as Swansea emerged with another creditable result away from home.