Russell Martin | Our subs were great but parts of the first hour were unacceptable

17th December 2022
First team

Russell Martin hailed the impact of his Swansea City substitutes in the dramatic 3-3 draw at Coventry City, but the head coach pulled no punches in his assessment of his side’s display during the first hour.

Any prospect of the Swans picking up a positive result and extending a 41-year unbeaten streak against the Sky Blues looked to be done and dusted when they trailed 3-0 after 54 minutes.

Jonathan Panzo had headed in a corner to give the hosts the interval lead at the CBS Arena, with Jamie Allen and Viktor Gyokeres quickly adding to the tally after the break.

But Swansea rallied bravely, and got back into it through goals from Joel Piroe and Jay Fulton, before Liam Cullen tapped in from close range to complete the fightback five minutes from time.

Head coach Martin was delighted by how his side responded, and praised the impression made by Cullen, Ollie Cooper, Joe Allen, Armstrong Oko-Flex and Harry Darling following their introductions.

But he made clear there were aspects of the performance he found “unacceptable”.

“It’s hard to know how to feel about it really,” said Martin.

“I thought for the last half an hour we were incredible, so I am really grateful for that last 30 minutes.

“But I am really hurt by the first 60 minutes.

“It may sound crazy to say with how it turned out, but some of the things the lads did in the build-up, in terms of beating an aggressive press and being able to get out, were so good.

“But any time we got in the final third it ended up being a counter-attack (against us).

“So the energy at the top end of the pitch, the willingness to run and sacrifice yourself to make space for others, and the reaction to losing the ball – all stuff we have worked on – was nowhere near acceptable.

Liam Cullen cele Coventry

“The lack of physical contact, the lack of aggression in transition was a reason why they came away with so many counter-attacks, and Steven Benda had to come to the rescue for us.

“That is nowhere near acceptable for this group. Conceding from a set-piece is a disgrace with the amount of work we have done with them on that area.

“We have gone behind in too many games recently and in a lot of those games it has been to a set-piece, and when I look at the work (set-piece coach) Andy Parslow does and the detail he puts in on the grass and in the video room, then it is a mentality thing.

“The players have all the detail in the world, and a guy gets a free header and scores. That’s unacceptable.

“The reaction to that was okay but I have told the players there were bits I saw in that first half that I did not like one bit. It’s not helping your team-mate, it’s not hurting the opposition.

“We spoke at half-time, mostly about mentality, and then we concede two crazy goals. We lacked conviction, and the reaction was disappointing because we had a lot of people standing around waving their arms in the air.

“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 showed courage on the ball and then Culls comes on and puts himself in the right place.”