Looking for something to fill the days between Christmas and New Year? Me too, hence the Vital Swansea Review of 2008. First up, it’s January to March.
2008, what a year! A global recession, the first black American President, and a record breaking Olympic Games for Team GB.
But let’s be honest, who will remember all that in years to come? When asked about 2008 the only thing that really matters is that it was the year of the Swan!!
New Year’s Day in Swindon was probably one to give a miss when the fixtures were announced in 2007, but such was the impact of Roberto Matinez in his first full season in charge that 2,700 Jack’s made the trip. A win against that cheating Yorkshire lot in the last game of 2007 no doubt bumped up the numbers, as did starting the year at the top of the League One table.
The hangover’s weren’t helped by a dubious last minute spot kick which saw Swindon snatch a point and Kris O’Leary pick up a red card. Not the best start to the year…
I think it’s in everyone’s interests that I ignore the two cup games that followed. We were never going to win the FA Cup anyway. Why waste our time getting to the final to get beat by Pompey?? The other one was the JPT against Brighton, 1-0 win. Tidy.
Back to the proper stuff and a 3-1 win at Luton was impressive. Darren Pratley rounded off a sweeping counter attack move that was one of the goals of the season. Pratley was on the score sheet again as the Swan’s saw off Port Vale to go 5 clear at the top, which soon became 8 with a 7th consecutive home win against Crewe.
This set it up nicely for two games that looked set to define the season. Doncaster and Forest away in the space of five days. Donny were flying and were playing the best football in the league according to some. A Friday night trip to the Keepmoat was going to halt the City momentum apparently. It didn’t quite turn out like that as the Swan’s destroyed Sean O’Driscoll’s men. Ferrie Bodde ran the show, scoring the opening goal on the way to an emphatic 4-0 win. And to think we could have missed out on this if we had still been in the FA Cup. I’ve done the stadium tour at Anfield anyway.
Forest didn’t quite get the same treatment, but they were outplayed in a goalless draw. Ten points clear and 12 league games unbeaten at the end of January.
Febian Brandy announced his arrival at the Liberty with the winning goal in a 2-1 win over Oldham in the first game of February. It was revenge for an opening day defeat against the Latics where the Swan’s had been well and truly robbed.
Next came a slight bump in the road on the way to promotion glory with a 2-2 draw away to Crewe. Jason Scotland’s penalty and a pretty special own goal saw City coasting. It was genuinely far too easy. Then, out of absolutely nothing, the home fans were celebrating two late goals for a draw. The Swan’s failure to kill the Railway men off proved costly. Sound familiar?
Walsall were seen off easily enough, the maestro that is Bodde scoring the solitary goal as Pratley missed a penalty. Vale Park was not quite so comfortable a win, but the 2-0 scoreline suggests otherwise. The ‘Evil Genius’ and Scotland bagging one each.
After a 1-0 defeat to MK Dons in the Paint Pot Trophy, the Holy Trinity of Bodde, Britton and Pratley returned to the side to help see off Luton at the Liberty. Tom Butler was the late match winner as the lead at the top was stretched to a remarkable 14 points.
A trip to Wembley was rubbed out of the diary though when Willy Gueret, who was as close as me to saving a penalty in the Play – Off final against Barnsley, pulled one out of the bag to send MK Dons to a Wembley Final at our expense. Admittedly, not done the tour of that one yet.
Moving swiftly on, and to the Galpharm on St. David’s Day. Huddersfield tried to make us feel at home by playing Bread of Heaven at half time (if my memory serves me right), when three points would have done. Oh, they let us have them as well! A pretty dire game, blowing a gale and freezing cold. But Scotland brought some Caribbean sunshine to proceedings with a close range winner. Happy St. David’s Day one and all!
Worryingly though, Scotland was stretchered off injured, and Monk was missing with a back strain that was set to rule him out for most of the remainder of the campaign. But 14 points clear at the top was going to be enough, wasn’t it??
Kenny Jackett made his return to the home of football to make some people start to wonder if it would be. Football fans are a negative bunch sometimes. Jackett’s Milwall team brought a 19 game unbeaten league run to an end with a 2-1 win.
The opportunity to get firmly right back on track came a few days after when Tranmere and their 90 fans came to the Liberty. An Alan Tate screamer, yes screamer, gave City the lead before an inury time equaliser from Chris Greenacre spoiled things. Suddenly the lead at the top was only 6 points. I believe ‘squeaky bum time’ is the terminology used by psychologists.
Monk’s absence was really starting to be felt, especially at Sixfields where Northampton blitzed a creaky Swansea defence to go 3-0 up in 23 minutes. The game ended 4-2, and that day out at Wembley looked on again; in the Play – Off Final.
Three days later and we were 9 points clear with nine games to go. Scotland, again, and Lawrence saw off Bristol Rovers at the Memorial Ground. A much needed win to say the least. But the March misery was back again at Southend where Roberto’s men escaped with a point before the televised game against Brizzle. A chance to show the country why we were top. 2-0 down at half time, not really going to plan.
Step up Jason Scotland. Ably assisted by an inspired Darryl Duffy, whose performance probably earned him a move across the Severn Bridge later in the year, bagged a double to claim a point. The second goal was the best of Scotland’s 30 in the campaign. Put two ‘keepers in and neither of them would have got near it.
The long, long trip to Hartlepool got the promotion show back on the right path, with a 3-1 win meaning that nine points from the last six games would guarantee promotion, no matter what the Football League decided to eventually do with the Leeds debacle. Roll on April…
I’m sure you’re all tingling with anticipation with the prospect of the next installment. Or is that the shakes from too much drink?? Either way, like the drink, I’m sure you won’t be able to resist having more! Nothing quite like the optimism Christmas brings, is there?
Obviously, no yearly review would be complete without some pointless awards. The usual’s will probably be in there; Player of the Year, Goal of the Year etc. Feel free to suggest your own in the forum for us editor’s to ponder. There’s no prize’s for suggesting them unfortunately. Credit crunch and all that. So get thinking!!
Read Part 2 here