Stevenage v Swansea City [Preview]

By Pete H

It’s a third home game in a row for the Boro’. But this time we’re switching focus back to the FA Cup as the Swans come to town. For so long, Round Three was a big ol’prize for us as a club. After all, it’s not like we stood much chance of winning the historic pot way back in our non-league days. It’s why our memories of Birmingham and Swindon will live on for years to come – even though we’re more than 20 years down the road.

Even after graduating to the Football League, Round Three still held some glitter for us – our delicious 3-1 win against Newcastle United in 2011 is proof of that. Now, however, it doesn’t feel quite as special. Is it ‘cos we can’t be there on the day? Y’know, for obvious virus-related reasons? Or are we just grumpy because, for the fourth time on a spin, we were paired with a second tier club again? No Premier League big guns for us, again…

To be fair, we’re also tremendous cynics and don’t have the same love for the FA Cup like we used to. You can ask us at full time on Saturday evening if that’s still the case.

The Details: Stevenage v Swansea City

Where’s the game?

The Lamex.

Can I watch Stevenage v Swansea City?

You can. Just like our second round tie versus Hull City, the Beeb are showing the action live online via iPlayer or the BBC Sport website and app. It doesn’t change our normal Saturday afternoon kick-off time (3pm). But it does mean you can’t watch on iFollow. And that’s a real shame if you like Steve and Dean swapped out for a bit of vintage Phil Collins..

How is Boro’s form looking at the moment?

After coming back from our Covid-enforced isolation (literally), we had a very encouraging festive period on the pitch. Out of the nine points on offer, Boro’ collected seven of them to move out of the League Two relegation spots for the first time in what we counted to be an azillion-and-twelfty days. That’s numberwang! So, looking at that, it’s hard to be in a better shape – all things considered. Not that form really matters in the FA Cup, right?

It’s not as if the Swans care much for our form in a division that’s two below theirs.

… and how are the Swans doing right now?

If that’s the case, should we care too much about their form? Hull City were top of League One and it didn’t matter on the day. Well, no. If you asked us to tell you where we’d find the Swans in the Championship without looking, we’d say “somewhere between 2nd and 23rd”. Quite simply, we don’t know – and we don’t really care. But we’re happy to dive deeper into what things look like at the Liberty to see what clues we can gather for this encounter.

Right, well, the Swans are sitting second in the Championship right now. And that’d make us right with our guess above. In the league, they’ve lost just four times so far this season. But each defeat is spaced out fairly consistently: four, five, three and another three games is how it reads. Since they were last on the wrong end of the result? Well, it’s five matches now. Of course, we don’t include cup ties here. But it suggests they’re due a loss – yeah?

It will mean having to crack a pretty tough defensive nut. The Swans have conceded only 13 times in the Championship. It’s a good reason why 83% of their matches see fewer than 2.5 goals; 2-0 and 1-0 being their most common scoreline while on the road. Most of their away days have delivered goals too. So, the idea of making a long trek from the south Welsh riviera ain’t going to spook them too much.

Our story with Swansea City so far

Us and the Swans? It’s purely a cup affair. Since first meeting in 2002, we’ve only met two-and-a-half times. Why the half? Well, would you count our Checkatrade Trophy tie against their U21s as a full-blooded match for the records?

So, what was the reason for our first encounter? Well, 2002-3 was the third season where some Conference clubs got an invite to the LDV Trophy party. It was our second campaign taking part and the Round One draw put us up against the Swans – then of Division Three (League Two). We both had our struggles on the field that season. But we still managed to spring a surprise; Kirk Jackson and Richard Pacquette scoring in our 2-1 win.

Fast forward on a season and we’d meet again; the FA Cup Second Round taking us on the trip across to south Wales. Boro’ put in a real shift at the Vetch. We’d even argue that we deserved a replay. But the Swans had got themselves a gem in Lee Trundle; a flashy striker who inspired a 2-1 win for them. Mind you, he did do Peter Costello a major mischief in the build-up to their second. And we had a second goal ruled out for an dodgy offside call.

Not that we’re bitter…

Last Time Out: Stevenage 5-0 Swansea City U21s, 28 August 2018

Who’s the referee in charge?

Michael Salisbury.

It’s been a while, hasn’t it Mr Salisbury? Our ref this weekend was last seen in charge of a Boro’ date back in April 2018; Dino Maamria‘s side going down 3-1 at Coventry City. And that’s a shame because, until that game, we had a flawless record on his watch. Four wins and no goals conceded. Maybe it was Darren Sarll’s magic touch, however, as he was the gaffer in charge for each of them – including a 5-0 FA Cup home win against Nantwich.

We’re not too sure why we’ve not seen him in nearly three years. It’s not as if Mr Salisbury operates above League Two these days. Two of his 13 outings to date were in our division. The rest are spread across the Championship and League One. He’s booked 33 guys so far, with just one red to his name too. That was Stoke’s Nathan Collins in the Potters’ 2-2 draw with Barnsley. If you cared. Which we very much suspect that you don’t.

Last Time Out: Coventry City 3-1 Stevenage, 18 April 2018

Stevenage v Swansea City: Our verdict?

We’re in no doubt that Boro’ will give this one a real good go. But, for us, the gap between them and us will be just too big on this occasion. We won’t put it past us making it to extra time. At some point, however, the Swans’ quality will surely break through *honk*: 0-2.

Anyway, it’s illegal to slay the Swans or something…