IT WAS a long, miserable journey home for Town and their loyal band of 350 travelling fans.

Defeat to the Third Division leaders and a slip to 17th in the table was hard enough to stomach.

But the sendings-off of Paul Scott and Ian Hughes rubbed salt in gaping wounds inflicted by goals from Swansea's dangerous frontmen Lee Trundle and Kevin Nugent.

Referee Steve Tanner, who issued five yellow cards and one red in his previous match this season, went one better at a sun-drenched and throbbing Vetch Field.

The Gloucester official - who awarded Swansea 20 free-kicks in open play to Town's seven - set too low a threshold for the bookings.

His first in only the 18th minute was for an innocuous-looking challenge by Tony Carss on Leon Britton.

After that, in a match which was always going to be keenly fought and passionate in a bear-pit of an atmosphere, he was struggling to allow any sort of contact without resorting to the book.

Scott - who had been playing well - could count himself extremely unlucky to walk for two tussles with the tricky Trundle.

His first yellow could easily have been interpreted as `backing in' by the striker, and Scott's frustration cost Town another 10 yards as Mr Tanner moved the ball forward for his alleged dissent.

His second, coming just two minutes into the second half, was crucial to the whole game and, while it was a bookable offence, Trundle looked to make a meal of it.

The referee showed his inconsistency by not booking Trundle for a blatant dive in the box when tackled by the excellent David Mirfin midway through the second half, but Hughes admitted he could have few complaints about his straight red card in front of a baying home contingent.

Having seen Trundle tumble on top of the ball near the lefthand touchline, where there was no danger, he lashed out at the ball in what was going to be seen only as violent conduct.

That was in the final minute and had no effect on the outcome, although the three-match ban he will serve against Southend, Torquay and Lincoln presents manager Peter Jackson with another headache as he bids to lift Town out of the lower reaches of the division.

That is also going to be difficult while Town's win-draw-lose scenario continues, and the upcoming home League games against Leyton Orient and Kidderminster are now massively important.

It would help, of course, if Jackson's men could emerge victorious from tomorrow's Carling Cup trip to Sunderland and, certainly, one young member of the team should be full of confidence as he heads up the A1.

Teenage centre-back David Mirfin did nothing at the Vetch to dent his growing reputation as arguably the brightest new talent from the Academy.

He got a foot caught by Trundle's boot as the striker turned to crash in his ninth goal of the season on 33 minutes - an unstoppable drive into the top corner - but apart from that he was faultless and kept a cool head under pressure.

Scott, too, looked in determined form until his dismissal, while Nat Brown added fuel to the debate about whether he's a striker or a defender by deputising superbly as a substitute alongside Mirfin.

Before that, Andy Booth slotted in for a few minutes at the back (now there's another debate) until Jackson decided who to sacrifice to get Brown onto the pitch.

It was Jon Newby who had to give way and, playing with 10 men, Town did marvellously well to keep themselves in the match until seven minutes from time.

Everyone battled hard and Town created more threat than they had in the first half with 11 on the pitch.

Jon Stead will rue ballooning the best opportunity of the match on 28 minutes, from a lovely Booth flick, because a goal then would have taken the steam out of Swansea and their fans.

At that stage, the defence had been keeping Trundle and Nugent under wraps and the main danger was from Leon Britton and Brad Maylett on the right.

Scott, Mirfin and Hughes all made great interceptions in the box, while Lee Fowler blocked a Trundle free-kick.

Scott's sending-off made the search for an equaliser all the more difficult, although Stead had a left-foot drive blocked by Kristian O'Leary, Booth beat Freestone in the air - Town should have sent every set-piece his way - and Carss hit bodies with a downward header from a corner.

Hard-working Jon Worthington, who finished the match at left-back following Rob Edwards' hamstring injury, also sent a skidding shot just wide as the hopes of the fans were momentarily raised, but Nugent's goal finished Town off.

There was a suspicion of offside as the ball was chipped into the box and everyone stopped (including keeper Gray) before the Swansea skipper scored.

It was a bad mistake and one which clearly added to Hughes' frustration.

Gray saved magnificently with his legs from Nugent and superbly at his near-post from Maylett to keep the score respectable, but Swansea finished with a fifth straight home win of the season while Town are still looking for a first away success.

Maximum home points, however, are now vital in the next two League matches.


Town (4-4-2)

Ian Gray Made super saves from Maylett and Nugent but hesitated badly for the second and clinching goal on 83 minutes Rating: 5/10

Ian Hughes Solid throughout but admitted he was foolish to make the challenge on Trundle which earned a straight red Rating: 5/10

Rob Edwards Had to work hard to combat Maylett and Britton down the right before going off with a hamstring injury Rating: 5/10

Paul Scott Playing well until his second yellow card. The first, again for a tackle on Trundle, looked very harsh Rating: 6/10

David Mirfin He will long remember an eventful full League debut. Made some terrific tackles and kept a cool head throughout Rating: 7/10

Jon Newby Retained his place on the right flank but was sacrificed in a major reshuffle after Scott's sending-off Rating: 5/10

Lee Fowler Started well with some testing passes and remained very much involved as Town did well with 10 men Rating: 6/10

Jon Worthington Had a couple of cracking shots and worked his socks off. Finished the game deputising for Edwards at left-back Rating: 6/10

Tony Carss Should have hit the target on a first-half break and had a header from a corner blocked. Worked hard Rating: 6/10

Andy Booth Had a short spell in the back line after Scott's red. Whacked one volley just over and did well in the air Rating: 6/10

Jon Stead Grafted, but hammered his best chance of the match high over the bar on 28 minutes when it could have been a lead Rating: 6/10

Swansea City

Freestone, Duffy (Johnrose 60), Howard, O'Leary, Iriekpen, Maylett (Durkan 90), Britton, Wilson, Robinson (Connolly 67), Nugent, Trundle.

Subs not used: Thomas, Murphy



David Mirfin

Determined, strong and quick, Mirfin made a big impression on his full League debut despite having three partners in the red-card mayhem and facing dangerous opponents in Trundle and Nugent. Cool and assured, he looks one for a very bright future


The sending-off of Paul Scott for two challenges on Trundle, the first of which looked particularly harsh. At 1-0 down, Town were in with a shout, but playing with 10 made it an unfair uphill battle

Subs used: Swansea: Johnrose for Duffy 60, Connolly for Robinson 67, Durkan for Maylett 90. Town: Brown for Newby 50, Holdsworth for Edwards 74.

Subs not used: Swansea: Thomas, Murphy. Town: Booty, Ahmed, Senior.

Scorers: Swansea: Trundle 33, Nugent 83.

Dismisals: Town: Scott (two yellows) and Hughes (straight red).

Bookings: Swansea: Duffy, Britton. Town: Carss, Scott, Holdsworth.

Shots on target: Swansea 6, Town 2.

Corners: Swansea 4, Town 2.

Caught offside: Swansea 4, Town 2.

Free-kicks awarded: Swansea 20, Town 7.

Attendance: 8,048.

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