Swans draw no more

I DON’T know how common it is to have disorientating experiences in Burnley, but I had two at once last night.

It was confusing enough watching Swansea manager Roberto Martinez give a press conference after a match which hadn’t ended in a draw.

But as I thrust my digital recorder under his nose, I could see, on the TV behind his head in the far corner of the press room, that he was simultaneously giving a live post-match interview to Sky Sports in the tunnel.

I began to wonder if Martinez was omnipotent.

OK, it’s no great secret that “live” TV interviews are sometimes recorded. And it’s probably the sensible thing to do, given that you never know when you’re going to get Micah Richards bounding in after scoring a late equaliser and shouting “f***ing brilliant” into your microphone.

Not that Sky needed have worried about Martinez’s language. The Spaniard is, outwardly at least, one of the calmest managers in the Championship. He doesn’t start panicking, even when his team are on the verge of breaking unwanted records.

Swansea arrived at Turf Moor yesterday on the brink of breaking one of the most curious records around. Martinez’s men had drawn eight successive matches, equalling a Football League record held by six other teams.

It was a run that began on November 25 at Coventry, and continued with further draws against Cardiff, Bristol City, Barnsley, Sheffield United, Blackpool, Coventry (again) and Birmingham.

Those who have watched Swansea on a regular basis will tell you that they play some of the best football in the division. Indeed, winger Nathan Dyer described them as “the Arsenal of the Championship” after arriving on loan from Southampton a few days ago.

The problem is that Swansea have consistently failed to kill teams off. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the run of draws began when Dutch midfielder Ferrie Bodde picked up a season-ending cruciate knee ligament injury.

Bodde is, by all accounts, one of the few Swansea players willing to have a crack at goal from 30 yards, while his team-mates too often look for the extra pass.

They are, though, beautiful to watch. Martinez insisted throughout last summer that reports linking him with the Manchester United assistant manager’s job following Carlos Queiroz’s departure were untrue. Nonetheless, it’s easy to see why United might have been interested in him, because his team play a wonderful passing game.

Perhaps, then, they just needed a bit of a break to get out of their draw rut. They got it in the 34th minute. Jordi Gomez’s through pass sent Jason Scotland clear, and Burnley centre-back Michael Duff made just enough contact to haul him to the floor. Penalty for Swansea, red card for Duff.

Trinidadian striker Scotland, who played against England at the last World Cup, fired the penalty high into the net.

In the crowded tea bars under the stand at half-time, Burnley’s fans watched a TV replay of the incident, then shouted in exasperation at the screen.

Against 11 men, Swansea might not have held out. But Burnley are a bit flat at the moment. Their incredible run to the play-offs has stuttered somewhat, and their Carling Cup heroics came to a shuddering halt at Tottenham on Tuesday night.

The fact that manager Owen Coyle has managed to guide Burnley into the promotion frame on such a tight budget is incredible. But the brutal fact is that the Clarets probably can’t afford to reach the Premier League. It’s hard not to feel that the cost of maintaining a top-flight side would financially cripple them.

Against a team going through a blip, Swansea grew in confidence. With five minutes left, Mark Gower cut the ball back from the left, and Scotland slammed in his second from close range. It was the first time the Swans had held a two-goal lead since November 15, the date of their last victory, a 3-2 triumph at Norwich.

Coyle would have known all about the danger of Scotland, having had the striker on his books at St Johnstone for two years. That didn’t mean he knew how to stop him, though.

As for Martinez, he sounded pleased just to have brought the run of draws to an end.

“This was the reward we needed after the run of draws,” Martinez said. “That’s going to give us a lot of belief and a big platform to build on.”

He may have said the same things to Sky too. But unlike some people, I can’t be in two places at once, so I can’t tell you.


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