Russell Martin | I am so proud of the character the players showed
Swansea City head coach Russell Martin spoke of his pride in the character of his young squad after they came from behind to seal a dramatic 3-2 victory at West Bromwich Albion.
On a breathless afternoon at The Hawthorns, the Swans had led through an early Matty Sorinola goal - his first for the club – but found themselves trailing with 20 minutes to go after Jake Livermore and Grady Diangana had netted for the Baggies.
Olivier Ntcham then produced a moment of magic to bring the visitors back level, and they remained on equal terms after birthday boy Steven Benda kept out Karlan Grant’s penalty inside the final 10 minutes.
But the drama was not over, and Ntcham fed fellow substitute Michael Obafemi for the striker to work a yard to turn and fire into the far corner of the net in the 89th minute.
And given the late disappointments Swansea have had to stomach recently, Martin was delighted at how his players had turned the tables to land a crucial last-gasp blow of their own.
“The best place to start assessing that game is by saying how proud I am of the players,” said Martin, whose starting line-up was the youngest fielded in the Championship on Saturday.
“The character they showed, the willingness to run for each other, the resilience and the trust they showed in each other to come back from the disappointment of being behind after leading was excellent.
“So, I am really, really proud of them and the best thing is we know we can improve a lot. We can be better than that in a lot of areas.
“A bit of anxiety crept in after we went ahead. We had started the game so well, and then West Brom committed more bodies forward, more bodies to the press. They have some outstanding athletes and they made it difficult for us.
“The lads did not quite show enough intensity and we went back to the keeper too much, which helped the atmosphere for West Brom in here.
“But we overcame that and when we showed courage we looked really threatening and really dangerous.
“If you look at the two teams and the contrast in terms of what it took to put the two teams out there, then the way the guys fight and show that togetherness shows how much this group has moved on from last season in terms of the mentality we showed.
“There are things we have to do better with certain things, quite a few of their chances were self-inflicted.
“But Steven had a big moment for us and we talk about needing everyone because we have a small squad, and we were able to bring on two top performers on their day and they made the difference.”
Martin also thanked the 1,700-strong contingent of travelling Jacks who made the journey to the west Midlands despite the difficulties caused by nationwide rail strikes.
And he felt their singing of the Welsh national anthem during the closing stages of the contest had been a key moment.
“The fans were incredible, when you look at how many travelled with all the rail strikes that are going on,” added the Swans boss.
“It is unbelievable. You hear the Welsh anthem being sung late on in the game at 2-2, and you just felt the atmosphere and the momentum had shifted.
“There was Steven’s save and then the players showed real composure after the save to take the temperature of the stadium down and our fans played their part in that. There is no doubt about it.”