We knew this was going to be a tricky game. Swansea had cruised past Pompey in the last round and reports from my Championship supporting pals all said they were the best team in the division. So it proved. Neat passing and good movement we might have expected but this team showed a work rate and passion for the fight that swung the tie completely in their favour. In the end we did well to weather the storm and give ourselves another opportunity to admire the Welsh side up close.
Alarm bells must have been ringing when as early as the fourth minute Swansea were able to slice their way through our defence. Jason Scotland and Mark Gower exchanging passes before Gower fired his shot against the far post. I'm still not sure how it came out and as it did Gower almost had another chance to tap it in before Mark Schwarzer gratefully smothered the ball.
Murphy and Dacourt linked up well in the centre to regain some sort of momentum for Fulham as the game progressed. Dacourt looked classy and solid in the defensive holding role, whilst nearly all our attacking moves began with a Murphy pass. Danny picked out several long passes over the top of the Swans defence and one of these put Andy Johnson through to face the 'keeper alone before being wrongly pulled back for offside. Swansea created the better chances though and a cross from the right wing found that man Gower in space again on the left of the penalty area. Stoor was horribly misplaced and Simon Davies static as the left winger took aim but Schwarzer pulled of a remarkable point blank save to deny him again.
Our one decent chance of the first half came as Eric Nevland flicked a Davies long pass towards goal but Swansea keeper De Vries just beat Johnson to the ball. The balance of play was very much with Swansea so it was unexpected when we took the lead a couple of minutes before half-time. A corner from Konchesky was missed by the fist of De Vries and came off defender Monk's hip to give us an unlikely goal. The half time graphic showed we'd not managed a shot on target.
Thoughts that taking the lead would help us take control of the game were soon dispelled as Swansea came out for the second half in much the same fashion as they'd played the first and didn't take long to level the scoreline. A fluid buildup down the left hand side resulted in a pass to lone centre forward Jason Scotland. With his back to goal he held the ball up well, before a shift of feet bewildered Aaron Hughes and allowed Scotland to fire home under the body of Schwarzer. We were up against it now. Player for player it seemed Swansea had greater technical ability than us a fact that hardly bodes well for the replay. Our two banks of four stood up well and made it difficult for Swansea to break us down but all the creativity came from them.
Their wide men really hugged the touchlines and took every opportunity to switch play and stretch our resources. This put our wide men in the spotlight and none of them came out with very much credit. Stoor and Davies in particular suffered down the right flank, whilst Gera was conspicuous by his absence throughout. A flurry of changes from the hour mark onwards saw any ambition from us slowly dwindle and in the end it was a relief to claim a replay.
Swansea: De Vries, Rangel, Williams, Monk, Tate, Britton, Gomez, Allen (Bauza 81), Gower (Orlandi 71), Dyer, Scotland Subs Not Used: Cornell, Tudur-Jones, Bessone, Serran, Butler
Goals: Scotland (51)
Fulham: Schwarzer, Stoor, Hangeland, Hughes, Konchesky, Nevland (Zamora 75), Gera, Murphy, Davies, Dacourt (Dempsey 60), Johnson (Gray 85) Subs Not Used: Zuberbuhler, Pantsil, Milsom, Kallio
Goals: Monk o.g. (43)
Ref: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire)
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