Poor Swansea City all but kissed goodbye to their hopes of automatic promotion with another sorry away performance at Port Vale. Kenny Jackett's men were in little doubt about the importance of hitting the ground running on their return to league action after a fortnight focusing on cups.Yet they could only stumble their way through a depressing 3-2 defeat. The FAW Premier Cup and Football League Trophy may be in the bag, but on this evidence there is little chance of further celebrations this season. Only in brief spells, particularly when Bayo Akinfenwa's goal levelled the contest, did Swansea threaten to chalk up a much-needed travelling success. But for the most part they were outplayed by a mid-table Vale side with little left to play for this season, and substitute Rory Fallon's first league goal for the club provided little consolation late on. Had Lee Trundle taken one of two golden chances in stoppage time, Swansea would have had an unlikely point to cherish. As it is, back-to-back league defeats mean the Championship looks a long way off. Swansea had arrived in the Potteries with Jackett conceding that there is little room for error anymore if they are to compete for the top honours in League One this season. With only six games to go after this one and a worrying gap to the top two to bridge, only wins will do. The side charged yesterday with chalking up a first victory in the final push showed one change from the Football League Trophy triumph over Carlisle United seven days ago. With Andy Robinson left out, perhaps because of his family worries, Leon Knight was handed a start in an unorthodox left-wing role. Despite a week spent on the front pages rather than the back, Lee Trundle and Alan Tate both kept their places. Tate needed to concentrate hard early on as Vale began on the front foot. The former Manchester United trainee could not get close enough to Leon Constantine when Michael Cummins lifted a neat cross into the Vale targetman's path but, thankfully for Swansea, Constantine's tame shot was easy for Willy Gueret. The big French goalkeeper needed to be at his very best three minutes later, though. Craig James's centre was flicked on by the lively Constantine, the ball reached Chris Birchall at the back post, and his first-time half-volley was brilliantly turned to safety by Gueret. Off the hook, Swansea showed few signs that they would take advantage in a lacklustre first 30 minutes. With Knight attempting to push forward and Leon Britton in the more central role he occupied in the FAW Premier Cup final win over Wrexham, Swansea were struggling to build any momentum in attack. Britton was doing his best to inspire some sort of threat, though, and Jackett's men at least managed a shot through Trundle on 27 minutes. Knight's effort would have given home 'keeper Mark Goodlad more to worry about moments later, but for George Pilkington's timely block. At last Swansea were beginning to compete. Akinfenwa was next to try his luck from distance, then the burly frontman had a hand in the visitors' best move of the half eight minutes before the turnaround. He spotted Trundle in space on the right flank, and the Scouser's curling cross was headed just past the post by Owain Tudur Jones. Swansea were enjoying comfortably their best spell, yet it was Vale who forged ahead two minutes before the interval. Danny Sonner fed Birchall down the right and the Trinidad & Tobago international capped an impressive first-half display with a sweet cross, unmarked midfielder TOGWELL easing a header past Gueret to give Vale a deserved lead. Half-time: Port Vale 1 Swansea City 0 Jackett's response was one half-time change, club skipper Roberto Martinez replacing Kristian O'Leary. No doubt there were a few stern words in the dressing room, too, and withing two minutes of the restart, Jackett's players were level. Trundle was the instigator, feeding Knight and then accepting a neat return ball inside the penalty area. A trademark turn gave the 29-year-old space to lift a cross-shot towards the far post, where AKINFENWA powered home his fourth goal in five games with a close-range header. Swansea might have surged ahead only six minutes later when another Trundle cross was met firmly by Garry Monk. His header was parried by Goodlad, with Swansea claiming the ball had crossed the line, but the officials waved Welsh appeals away. More bad news was to come five minutes later. Vale had hardly featured as an attacking force since the restart, yet when Togwell fed CUMMINS 20 yards from goal, Martin Foyle's midfield linchpin had time and space to pick his spot. On came Robinson for Knight, but before he could make any impact Swansea were 3-1 down. This time Jeff Smith, the left-hand prong of Vale's three-man attack, beat Tate on the left wing before centring perfectly for CONSTANTINE to head past the helpless Gueret. Just when it looked like they were going to get the upper handt, Swansea were all but out of it. They tried to battle back, Akinfenwa seeing a close-range effort blocked and Robinson drawing two decent stops from Goodlad with long-range efforts. With a minute on the clock, FALLON, on for Britton, latched on to Trundle's deflected shot to tap home his second goal in two games from close range. Incredibly, Swansea twice had the opportunity to draw level in the dying seconds. First, Trundle lifted the ball over Goodlad but saw Mark McGregor clear off the line, then Jackett's top marksman smacked a shot against the crossbar after Robinson's superb back-heel had put him in.
REPORT: SOUTH WALES EVENING POST
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