Well, I think we can safely file that game into the ‘wins that nearly gave me a heart attack’ folder. Again. Last season was torture, but the rollercoaster of emotions we’ve had so far this season and sheer number of one-goal wins we’ve already had is arguably worse for my health.
The fact that three points still separates fifth place and sixteenth means it doesn’t look like this season is going to get any easier for the old ticker either.
All jokes aside, what a win. Seriously, that is a huge three points. It wasn’t pretty, it very rarely is with this team, but once again they showed fight, spirit and heart to dig in and walk away with the win.
The game followed the pattern you’d expect, considering the team with the lowest average possession in the league were coming up against the team with the highest. Swansea City had as much of the ball as I had pigs in blankets on Christmas Day: an arguably unhealthy amount.
And we sat in, as we have time and time again this season. We were organised, structured and waited for our moments to pounce.
The visitors worked some good openings, with the most notable chance of the opening exchanges falling to Ollie Cooper who fired a glorious chance straight at Joe Lumley before Ryan Manning blazed the rebound over.
However, on the whole, the game plan seemed to work in the first half. Those aforementioned moments for us came soon after Cooper’s chance. The first of which was a corner which fell to the feet of our Big Festive Geordie who seems to love playing Swansea as much as I love a Christmas Day quiz: again, an arguably unhealthy amount.
Carroll’s finish had us one up, and it wasn’t long until we had a glorious chance to double our lead. After a tussle in the penalty box from another corner, the referee pointed to the spot and Yakou Meite had the chance to put us two goals to the good.
Yaks is great, we all love him. But I’ve always thought he’s one of those players who revolves his game around instinct. When he has the chance to think about what he’s doing, he’s nowhere near as effective, which is why I always get nervous when he’s on penalties, and never expect a goal when he’s through one on one.
It was a woeful penalty, it really was. To miss the target is one thing, but I think it would’ve gone over two goals on top of each other. I love ya Yaks, but Carroll on the next one please.
With that penalty miss, you could sense the hosts smelled a bit of vulnerability. They grew into the game a bit more and Piroe really should’ve levelled the scoring on the stroke of half time. A let-off.
Into the second half we went and another one of those moments we were waiting for came along pretty quickly. And, again, we took it. Very rarely in this league do a team who try and play the way Swansea play not make a mistake or give you a chance to punish them.
That mistake came in the 52nd minute as a hospital pass from the ‘keeper forced Joe Allen to prod the ball to Tom Ince who rolled in the second via a courteous deflection. I think the Swans may have taken the season of giving a bit too literally.
2-0 up and you’d have thought it would’ve calmed a few nerves right? Wrong. Swansea's record of coming from behind, coupled with the fact that they came back from 2-0 against us a matter of months ago, and you can see why no nerves were calmed.
What was always going to happen after 2-0 though was that we were going to sit deeper than your Grandad does in his chair after the Christmas Day cheeseboard. And Swansea were going to going to knock harder than an angry carol singer.
Knock they did, but still we continued to prevent any real clear-cut chances. There were a few half chances here and there, but Lumley didn’t have to do anything too difficult between the sticks.
However, Swansea’s persistence was rewarded when Lumley tipped a Piroe header onto the post, only for the rebound to fall to Cullen who tapped home from a yard. At this point, I resigned myself to us losing 3-2 again - ever the optimist I am.
Ince has made us a tougher team to beat and part of that has been a masterclass in the dark arts. We have become very good at small, cynical fouls and breaking the game up as much as possible when we’re under pressure. Of course, it’s a double-edged sword. When we lose it looks bad, but tonight it worked a treat.
One of those little fouls ended with a free kick, which subsequently landed onto the head of Harry Darling who really, really should’ve done better with his effort. However, other than that, we saw out the game pretty well. That doesn’t mean there were no nerves, there are always nerves, but we saw the game out well.
Cue the final whistle and jubilant full-time scenes, topped with a very angry Russell Martin taking his frustration out on Joe Lumley who had done a bit of celebrating in front of the travelling fans. Very odd behaviour from the visiting manager.
There are a few subplots of the game that I haven’t discussed but I’m sure will be delved into in more detail over the coming days: another standout Ince performance, a poor showing from Mamadou Loum and Tom McIntyre playing left midfield(?!) to name but a few.
However, the main takeaway from the game has to be yet another fighting win. This team has grit and spirit in abundance. As Ince Jr said after the match, we owed the Swans one, and you could see every player wanted to right the wrongs of the reverse fixture.