By David Williams
Russell Martin admitted he was left feeling conflicted by Swansea City’s performance at Coventry City – “proud” of their comeback in a 3-3 draw, but angry at elements within the first hour he branded “a disgrace.”
The Swans head coach watched his team go 3-0 down at the CBS Arena and questioned their commitment levels. Jonathan Panzo headed home before second-half strikes from Jamie Allen and Viktor Gyokeres put Coventry in total control.
But in the final 22 minutes, the visitors turned things around to claim a point through goals from Joel Piroe, Jay Fulton and Liam Cullen.
The draw has lifted Swansea to 10th in the Championship, two points adrift of the play-off places at the midway point of the campaign.
“I don’t know how to feel about it really,” said Martin. “For half an hour, we were incredible.
The moment Culls completed the comeback 🎯🙌 pic.twitter.com/xpdV4fl9Ev
— Swansea City AFC (@SwansOfficial) December 17, 2022
“I’m really grateful and proud for the last half an hour, but I’m really hurt by the first 60 minutes. It’s going to sound crazy, but, with the ball, the performance in the build-up, the lads, Steven [Benda], Grimesy [Matt Grimes], Jay at times, they did some incredible things, we got out and out, the build-up was so clean.
“We got to the final third and it just ended up on the counter attack. The energy at the top end of the pitch, the willingness to run, to sacrifice yourself, the reaction to losing the ball, all stuff we’ve worked on in the last couple of weeks was nowhere near acceptable.
“The lack of physical contact, lack of aggression in transition is why they came away with so many counter attacks. It’s something we worked on and spoke about.
“To then concede from a set-piece is a disgrace with how we’ve been at them recently.
“We’ve gone behind in too many of the last seven games and when I sit there and look at the work Andy [Parslow] does, the detail he goes into with the players, how much we focus on them, because before today we’d given away the least shots against in the league on average, today I think we end up with 17 shots each.
“That’s mentality. They have all of the detail in the world and the guy (Panzo) gets a free header and scores when the game had actually settled down. That’s unacceptable.
I saw some stuff in the first half I did not like one bit. I’ve told the players that. Passes that are not helping your team-mate, it’s not hurting the opposition. I don’t know where it came from.
“Then, we concede two crazy goals. The third goal, I just really didn’t like the reaction.
“For 60 minutes I was so happy with the build-up, but nowhere near happy enough with the final third, nowhere near happy enough with the reaction to losing the ball, recovery runs to our own goal, nowhere near happy enough with the physical contact.
“The thing that hurt me the most was the reaction to disappointment. The arms in the air, looking around at each other. We have a really young group so today will be brilliant for them in the long term, I think.”
Swansea had not shown any signs of launching an unlikely comeback, but last season’s top scorer Piroe started the turnaround after 68 minutes when he turned in Ryan Manning’s cross from the left.
Martin had introduced both Ollie Cooper and Armstrong Oxo-Flex in an attempt to salvage something from the match and it was the latter who forced Wilson into a smart save before Fulton fired home the rebound.
Oh what I’d give to have this JB back in a swans shirt or someone of similar quality down the right hand side!
It’s what we are crying out for and if we don’t invest in this area in January then it shows we have no ambition whatsoever.
Over to you Swansea city 🤍🖤🤍 pic.twitter.com/WrOOYet1eO
— Garry Leech (@garryleechswans) December 17, 2022
And just 16 minutes after Piroe’s tap-in, the comeback was complete.
Cullen, thrown on just a matter of seconds before, was in the right place at the right time to turn in after Piroe’s header had come back off the post, stunning the CBS Arena crowd.
Martin added: “The subs who came on were outstanding and that’s the context of the game because they were willing to run and willing to show conviction.
“Ollie Cooper set the whole show on the road really, and we had more intensity, aggression and conviction. We reacted better to losing the ball and there was no ego.
“Armstrong was really direct, Joe Allen won every tackle or 50-50 he went into or otherwise a Coventry player ended up on the floor, which shows his mentality. Harry (Darling) showed courage on the ball and then Culls comes on and puts himself in the right place.”