Swansea City turn on the second half style and qualify for the play offs again
Sunday, 25th Apr 2021 14:50 by Keith Haynes & David Cornish
From the start it seemed the same old swans, that is bar a few glimpses of hope had turned up at Reading today. The positivity swans fans had before the game almost disappeared when Reading went one up. However, in true swans fashion it was to be a roller coaster from beginning to end. The swans are in the play offs again by damn !
A changed swans side took to the field against Reading for this early kick off at the Madejski stadium in Berkshire. Hourihane made up the midfield with Grimes and Fulton leaving Lowe, Routledge and Liam Cullen to try and get the point for Cooper’s swans. It looked good for the first half an hour, Cullen showing his strength on the flanks and on the ball more centrally. Lowe too looked energised and comfortable linking with Routledge on several occasions, but the end result was shots off target or hurried decision making. A very early chance for Swansea when Cabango failed to convert his brave header did give the swans more confidence but as the half wore on their play was almost walking pace again. The swans then began to react to Reading’s tactics but slowly, no committed response and little desire to put a foot in and win back the many opportunities presented to the home side.
Reading were the better side in the first half for sure.
Reading keeper Cabral celebrates his side going one up
It was the home team who pushed on looking for the spaces in the swans defence. Bidwell looked out of place in a more basic defensive formation. His lack of awareness when battling with Meite was plain to see, and on thirty six minutes Bidwell’s lack of strength and positioning saw Reading go one up. A lovely cross from a fit again John Swift saw the Reading striker bury a lovely header in to he bottom corner of the swans net.
The swans at the back seemed to lack strength and awareness in the first half
Once again a lack of finishing quality by the swans had backfired on them, from there on in to half time the swans looked indifferent. Hourihane misplaced numerous passes resulting in a golden opportunity for Reading to get a second. Referee Simin Hooper waved away two Reading penalty appeals, and it only seemed Marc Guehi had anything about him in defence. The leadership of Ryan Bennett was clearly missing. Naughton when receiving the ball out wide right didn’t possess the speed to beat his man with most balls to him ending back with Marc Guehi. It is a sad indictment of this formation that Grimes was isolated and looking for long wide balls to Bidwell or Cullen. Fulton had a wayward shot towards the end of the half but it was almost as if the swans players were running in treacle. The midfield is what makes this formation tick and Fulton pushed forwards looking for opportunities, this left Hourihane exposed and his lack of aggression in the tackle saw numerous balls lost in fifty fifty challenges.
Wayne Routledge who started brightly sadly completely disappeared in the last fifteen minutes. However, he has played more minutes for the swans in the last four games than he has all season. It seemed to show as Wayne’s physicality dried up as the half progressed.
Routledge started well but fizzled out.
The second half saw Cullen go very close from a superb left wing cross, inches away from an equaliser. The diagonal passing on the right hand side nearly paid off minutes later as good work by Guehi saw the ball roll across the goal with a desperate Reading defensive clearance. The frustration again was beginning to build in a slow, some would say methodical Swansea City build up. Grimes was too far back to make any difference as the half wore on, selecting to play in front of the defence when the swans needed more power up front. Cooper then decided to look to his bench, he had of course Andre Ayew, for some reason selected hen all seemed lost for him to make an impact on this game. On sixty five minutes a Cooper throw of the dice saw Whittaker, Ayew and Roberts replace Routledge, Naughton and Cullen.
Of course who was it that turned the game for the swans, immediately getting on to the pitch Ayew flicked a pass that took three Reading players out of the game, Fulton drove on goalwards, his shot saved by the keeper, but the rebound left Lowe with an easy tap in.going forwards with pace is a clue to scoring goals it seems. It was then time for Reading to get on the attack, Grimes and Fulton working solidly to keep Reading out. The game clearly had more to give us. Bidwell again was caught out in defence and had his hands all over Lucas Joao he was lucky he didn’t concede a penalty. From there the swans went straight up forld and Lowe’s superbly struck low shot was saved by the Reading keeper. It wasn’t a boring game, for the swans element it would be frustrating, but of course that’s the story of the season for Cooper’s men. However, the introduction of Roberts was as well inspired. His blocks and never say die attitude strengthened the swans belief.
Fulton takes one for the team
Jamal Lowe was having an inspired second half too, running at the Reading defence he came very close on eighty minutes, setting up Ayew who was a second behind another Swansea goal. It seems Ayew and Lowe are more than capable of carrying the swans through the play offs if their desire and commitment is as strong as we saw in this game. Reading saW the last ten minutes of the game as their last opportunity to keep their play off hopes alive. Whittaker looked comfortable on the ball and had a shot bravely blocked, then came the game changer.
Jamal Lowe scored again for the swans
Jake Bidwell combined beautifully with Lowe and redeemed himself from his first half mistakes with a perfect low pass to Ayew who made it 2-1 to Swansea City. Lowe had two chances to put the swans 3-1 up, hitting the post on one occasion. Whittaker with all the time in the world fluffing his lines. Then the kitchen sink arrived and in injury time, as so often has happened this last two months Swansea conceded. Another lumped in cross saw the ball watched by the whole Swansea defence, as a result Pontes Esteves fired his shot through the bodies as Freddie Woodman slowly reacted - and the ball squeezed in to the bottom corner of his net. Once gain the swans showed their vulnerability at the back in the last knockings of a game, ball watching and sleeping their way to a draw that should have seen them go third in the league had they converted chances or stayed switched in at the back. It really doesn’t matter now though, this isn’t a swans side that fills anyone with confidence that says they can win the play offs. There are clearly three better teams than the swans in the final four. The opposition are also capable of being beaten as the swans have proven this season a couple of times. Barnsley home and away were won, drawing twice with Brentford, and Bournemouth being the only side to make a dent in the swans record - beating the swans 3-0 after a draw at the Liberty.
Woodman is beaten low down by Estevez for Reading
Who can say what happens next ? What we do know is that once again the swans carry the Welsh flag proudly in the big games this season, which will hurt the so called established journalists of a certain age in Westgate Street’s secret drinking spots. Over many years now the swans have led the way in the premier league, Europe and in the real hope now a premier league return is possible. We can only hope.
Reading: Rafael Cabral, Omar Richards, Liam Moore (captain), Andy Rinohmota, John Swift, Yakou Meite, Ovie Ejaria, Andy Yiadom, Lucas Joao, Josh Laurent, Tom Holmes.
Substitutes: Luke Southwood, Tomas Esteves, Michael Olise, Sam Baldock, Lewis Gibson, Sone Aluko, Alfa Semedo, Dejan Tetek, George Puscas.
Swansea City: Freddie Woodman; Kyle Naughton, Ben Cabango, Marc Guehi, Jake Bidwell; Jay Fulton, Matt Grimes (captain), Conor Hourihane; Wayne Routledge, Liam Cullen, Jamal Lowe.
Substitutes: Ben Hamer, Ryan Bennett, Korey Smith, Andre Ayew, Morgan Whittaker, Yan Dhanda, Joel Latibeaudiere, Connor Roberts, Ollie Cooper.
Referee: Simon Hooper
Photo: Action Images
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