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New Swansea boss suffers sobering afternoon with loss to Southampton

20 Jan 2024 4 minute read
Swansea City manager Luke Williams. Credit: Bradley Collyer/PA Wire.

It was a sobering afternoon for Luke Williams as he saw his side lose 3-1 to Southampton now managed by former Swans boss Russell Martin.

The Saints recorded a new club record of 21 games unbeaten, but for the current Swansea boss, it was a first defeat in charge following an FA Cup victory over Morecambe and a Championship draw at Birmingham.

Jamie Paterson made it 2-1 just before half-time with a close-range header, and Swansea finally shook off the shackles to set up a grandstand finish that almost brought surprise reward.

“First half we were too deep, far too deep,” said Williams, Southampton boss Russell Martin’s former assistant at both MK Dons and Swansea.

“Southampton could push the ball around, take their time and wait for the space and they did that brilliantly.

“Second half, the difference is we play higher up the pitch and we were able to create chances.”

Former Notts County boss Williams was appointed after Martin’s successor Michael Duff lasted less than five months in the job.

He said: “If it was something that was a really quick fix, everyone would be doing it. it’s not going to be that easy.

“I need to try to get the message across to the players in a clinical way because we are not blessed with time at the moment.”

Russell Martin says Southampton’s new unbeaten club record will not carry as much importance if the Saints do not return to the Premier League.

Southampton broke a 103-year-old club record on Saturday by extending their unbeaten run to 21 games with a 3-1 victory at Martin’s old club Swansea.

Victory lifted the Saints into second place in the Sky Bet Championship, above Ipswich on goal difference.

“It is a nice moment,” Martin said after his side completed Southampton’s best unbeaten run in all competitions since joining the Football League in 1920, eclipsing the 20 games undefeated achieved the following year.

“I’m really grateful to the players for what they’ve done, the courage they’ve shown. I’m immensely proud.

“The way they did it in the first half, one of the best performances I’ve ever been involved in as coach.

“It’s taken a lot of hard work and they’ve really stepped up. They’ve written themselves in to the history books – and let’s keep it going.

“It will have more significance, importance and standing if we achieve what we want at the end of the season, otherwise it will be just something we’ve achieved together.”

First-half goals from Che Adams, Will Smallbone and Flynn Downes – his first for Saints coming on his 25th birthday and against his former club – put Southampton in control.

Southampton’s Ryan Fraser and Swansea City’s Harry Darling (right) battle for the ball during the Sky Bet Championship match at the Stadium, Swansea. Credit: Bradley Collyer/PA Wire.

However, Saints had to withstand late home pressure as Swansea twice hit the post and Gavin Bazunu made a couple of useful saves.

“We didn’t mix the game up in the last 20 minutes and played with no real purpose,” said Martin.

“We were relentless in the first half and I was disappointed the way we conceded at the end of that half.

“It was handball and offside but we had one offside (goal), so it is what it is.

“It took us a little bit longer to get the wheels in motion. Those two clubs (Leicester and Ipswich) had the two best starts in Championship history, so the fact we are now there and in the fight, in the mix, and hunting them both down, is a real credit to the players.”

Martin was given a warm welcome by Swansea fans on his return to the club he managed for two years and left last June.

Relations between Martin and the Swansea hierarchy had soured after the club had a dismal January transfer window.

“I felt sick this morning and couldn’t eat any breakfast,” said Martin.

“But it was really nice to come back and I enjoyed it more because of our performance and the fact we won.

“Seeing all the backroom staff and lots of people who meant a lot to us – and who we have a lot of love and affection for – was special.”

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