All square as Yates earns Swans a point against Birmingham
Swansea City started off their EFL Championship campaign with a hard-fought 1-1 draw with Birmingham City at the Swansea.com Stadium this afternoon.
The new era under Michael Duff started off with a point with a second-half strike from Jerry Yates on his full Swans debut enough to early a share of the spoils on a blustery afternoon in South Wales. Siriki Dembele’s first-half stoppage-time goal had given the visitors the lead at the break but the Swans would be good value for a point.
Head coach Duff decided to give four debuts in his first eleven to face John Eustace’s travelling Blues. Forward Yates was tasked to lead the line with key man Joel Piroe after sharing three of the four goals in the pre-season 4-0 win at Reading last week.
There were also first starts for the club for Josh Key and Harrison Ashby at wing-back, whilst Carl Rushworth won the battle to be the Northern Irishman’s number one in goal over Andy Fisher.
After finishing in the bottom third of the table for the previous seven seasons, there is fresh optimism in Birmingham following a takeover from ownership group Shelby Companies that things are moving in the right direction for the Brum.
The sanctioning of nine new faces in the off-season has shown a sign of intent with Wolves centre back Dion Sanderson, Wales international Tyler Roberts and Swans summer target Lee Buchanan all making first starts for a strong-looking Blues side.
Looking to avenge their 4-3 defeat at the Swansea.com Stadium in February where two stoppage-time Birmingham goals turned the game on its head, it would be the home side who started the game brighter enjoying the lion’s share of possession.
New signing Josh Key combining with Jay Fulton on the left-hand side to whip a teasing ball into the Birmingham penalty area. Visiting goalkeeper John Ruddy, however, was alert to the danger and smothered to deny the incoming Swansea attackers.
It would be Birmingham though who would fashion the first game’s shot on target against the run of play. Tricky former Bournemouth midfielder Dembele twisting and turning on the edge of the Swans penalty area before rifling a left-footed effort towards the Swans goal. Carl Rushworth called upon for the first time showing a safe pair of hands to deny the Ivorian.
After a stop started period, the Swans start to take the ascendancy once more and would come close through Jamie Patterson.
Harry Darling’s long-range effort deflecting through a crowded Birmingham penalty area before falling for Swansea’s number 12 at an acute angle. The former Coventry player’s effort saved by Ruddy but almost put into his own net by Blues captain Sanderson with the ball narrowly trickling wide.
The visitors, despite not seeing large amounts of possession, would have the best opportunity of the half at the midpoint when former Swan Laird found space on the right-hand side before squaring to midfielder Krystian Bielik. The Pole whilst well placed on the penalty spot though would shoot straight at Rushworth with his shot lacking conviction to trouble the England under-21 man.
The Swans would continue to press but would struggle to make the breakthrough as the half came towards its close. The impressive Key’s marauding forward runs on the left causing the Birmingham defense problems but his final delivery unable to unlock Birmingham’s stubborn rearguard.
Moments later the Swans thought they had taken the lead, Paterson combining with Piroe to slot the ball past Ruddy from close range after good pressing from Yates. The linesman’s flag though quickly raised to deny the home side.
From one end to another Birmingham would punish indecision in the Swans defense and take the lead. Keshi Anderson snatching the ball off Ben Cabango on the edge of the penalty area before squaring to Dembele to place his effort into the top right-hand corner past a helpless Rushworth.
It would be a quiet start to the second half with the visitors happy to sit back and allow the Swans to have the majority of possession.
The Swans would toil and with Key they would once more threaten. The former Exeter wing-back bombing forward before almost finding Paterson arriving late at the back-post.
The Swans would fashion their best opportunity moments later, Grimes’ corner finding Darling to power a header against the Birmingham crossbar after Ruddy had failed to clear with a punch. Duff’s side’s persistence would pay off and they would snatch an equaliser through their new number nine Yates. Substitute Cullen driving into space on the left-hand side after being released by Matt Grimes on a Swansea counter attack before playing a sumptuous ball across the face of the six-yard box, finding the former Blackpool man to smash home for a debut goal.
With the raucous home support in full voice, the Swans drove forward as they barraged the Birmingham goal in search of a winner. Replacement Abdulai’s left foot cross into the box failing to be cleared causing a game of pinball in the Blues penalty area with several shots fashioned before desperate defending saw the ball scrambled away.
The Swans would still have to be aware of the visitors pace on the break and would be in debt to their goalkeeper Rushworth as the Blue’s formed a rare foray forward. Sunjic unleashing a powerful effort to the Swansea goalkeeper’s right-hand side, stinging the on-loan Brighton man’s palms but dealt with superbly with agility to be diverted out of danger.
Both sides would look for a winner with Cullen heading over late for the hosts, but a point-a-piece would be the final outcome of an entertaining contest.
Swansea City X1
Rushworth, Key, Ashby (Abdulai 69), Cabango, Wood, Darling, Grimes (captain), Fulton, Paterson (Cullen 69), Yates, Piroe.
Birmingham City X1
Ruddy, Laird (Oakley 69), Buchanen, Sanderson (captain), Bielik, Sunjic, Long, Dembele (Miyoshi 83), Anderson (Juninho 83), T Roberts (James 59), Hogan (Jutkiewicz 83).