By Gareth James
Russell Martin was grateful for small mercies after Swansea City succumbed to defeat again – making them the team with the worst current form in the Championship.
The Swans lost 3-1 at home to Middlesbrough to make it four defeats and a draw in their last five games – a poorer return than any of the clubs either below or above them.
The gap between Martin’s side and the bottom three remains at 11 points, though, after Blackpool, Huddersfield and Wigan all lost.
“Last week and this week, albeit we’ve lost, it’s felt a lot better than the Rotherham game when we drew and the Stoke game when we lost,” said the Swans head coach.
“I hope that the players and the crowd will take something from that, we certainly have as a coaching staff.”
“The crowd were great today, but that third goal took the atmosphere and energy out of the players and the crowd and that was the game done. Frustrating. Really frustrating. But I’m pleased with so much of what I saw.
EFL Skybet championship, Swansea city v Middlesbrough yesterday, pics by Andrew Orchard pic.twitter.com/ZK1GESsE3n
— Andrew Orchard (@sportsphotoAOSP) March 12, 2023
“I was really pleased with so much of it. We looked dangerous on the turnover and scored a goal with really high quality.
“Then, we actually started the second half better than we played in the first half and we score a goal which I’m still not convinced is offside, it’s such a tight call. I’m sure someone will have a better angle than what I’ve seen.
“At 2-0 it’s a completely different game. But we don’t manage the game well enough after that, we conceded from a counter-attack from our corner and a second phase from their corner which kind of sums up where we’re at really.”
Where the team is at statistically, is that they have won one league game in their last nine matches.
That is relegation form and if they lose at Millwall on Tuesday night, then the supporters will look anxiously at the remaining nine games and wonder where the next points are going to come from.
Two goals in the space of three second-half minutes helped Middlesbrough to come from behind and close the gap on the Championship’s promotion leaders.
Just a reminder of what they said when they took over back in 2016. This football club will never move forward while they are still here. Blame Russell Martin all you want, we all know where the real problem is at Swansea City. No matter what manager we bring in, they’ll never… https://t.co/1oQrHZmjCl pic.twitter.com/AWv2acoj3t
— Jordan (@JordanWebber96) March 11, 2023
Aaron Ramsey and Cameron Archer scored after the break to turn the game on its head just moments after Swansea, who led at the interval 1-0 thanks to Joel Piroe’s 14th goal of the season, had a goal ruled out.
Top scorer Chuba Akpom netted from the penalty spot to seal a rousing comeback and leave Michael Carrick’s side just four points behind second-placed Sheffield United, who were beaten by Luton.
Martin added: “They’re a good team with a lot of athleticism and good players.
“We knew it’d be a tough game and that there’d be times we’d have to suffer without the ball and work really hard, which the lads did.
“We looked dangerous on the turnover and we actually started the second half better than we played in the first half. But we didn’t manage the game well enough after that.”
Middlesbrough manager Michael Carrick said: “I can’t hide from the fact of what our league position is but it can’t affect how we go into the games.
“Of course, as the season goes, games grow in importance, but we have to be clear minded about our performances.
Swansea City fans show their support for Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker before the Championship match at the https://t.co/OPMsi4JeWw Stadium on Saturday. Photograph: Bradley Collyer/PA #racism #RefugeesWelcome pic.twitter.com/tbdWAVHJjd
— Jenny Haines (@JennyHaines19) March 12, 2023
“We’ve been playing a certain way that has worked for us most of the time, but we can’t take anything for granted. We’re certainly not being blase about anything.
“There’s not much to change about our approach, it’s just about becoming better. We were calm and composed today, we stuck at it and believed, and that’s going to be key from now to the end of the season.
“We’ve got great togetherness and spirit within the group which we saw here (against Swansea). They made my job at half-time very easy and I didn’t really have to say a lot. They knew what they had to do and they stuck at it.”