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Barnsley 0 v 1 Swansea City
SkyBet Championship
Monday, 17th May 2021 Kick-off 20:15
Cooper out thinks Valérien in the Play Off first leg tie at Oakwell
Tuesday, 18th May 2021 09:00 by Keith Haynes & Steph Thomas

It was always going to be a tight game, the newly inspired top six latecomers Barnsley against the methodical percentage tactics of Swansea City. However to win the game it takes more than an off the pitch vision and tonight Coopers surprise selection got it spot on.

We have covered Barnsley’s positives all week, from Dike up front to the Mowatt inspired attacking midfield machine that has petrified defences since February. A change of formation from Cooper was greeted with some surprise post match with Kyle Naughton and Jake Bidwell linking in with Ben Cabango and the outstanding Marc Guehi at the back. Not only that a three up front in Cullen, Lowe and Ayew which we learned about way before the team sheet was known wasn’t maybe such a surprise ? However the midfield three was, Conor Hourihane getting the nod over a more solid Korey Smith and the industrious Jay Fulton included with captain Matt Grimes couldn’t be argued with.

Ahead of the game, Matt Grimes spoke about the need for Swansea's experienced heads to step up to the plate in the play-offs. An early goal would have lit a fuse beneath them but Swansea were too canny to be drawn into an early-swinging match that would have left their chins exposed. Barnsley, who are a physical side and don’t duck the idea of going long, tried to overpower the visitors but they held firm. Barnsley were limited to a couple of tame efforts at goal in the first period – a wayward shot from Romal Palmer on the edge of the area, a header from Michael Helik that was comfortably gathered by Freddie Woodman – and it always felt that Swansea had the extra edge in class.

The swans had rather easily soaked up the Barnsley pressure in the first half, it actually was a lesson in defending as was noticed at half time by Sky pundit Keith Andrews “ I thought the Swansea tactic of course at the back was spot on, Guehi and Cabango are immense, everything they do is functional and for a reason, Cooper has definitely won the tactical battle “ It looked like Barnsley had run out of ideas but top scorer Ayew showed exactly why he's feared by defences throughout the division. The Ghanaian latched on to Naughton's pass up the right flank and cut inside to leave Michal Helik trailing in his wake before curling beyond Collins to notch his 17th goal of the campaign.

It was pure class.

The second half saw Barnsley come out of the traps like Ismaël Valérien had threatened to do all sorts to them if they didn’t up the pace. Sadly for the tykes their long balls and let’s say industrious competitive play was food and drink for the swans defence. On the break Barnsley looked dangerous after several Swansea set pieces were poorly delivered by Conor Hourihane, on one occasion Jay Fulton managed to intercept a cross field pass. If there was a weakness in the swans side it was Hourihane who failed with his set piece deliveries and seemed less active in the defensive third and non existent in the attacking third. I know it has been said many times, it just isn’t good to watch, but he just isn’t suited to this Swansea City side, he seems to offer very little. His selection maybe is easier to make when you look at the possible replacements. He is a decent option, but that’s all he is, it’s just another poorly designed loan for the swans this season. It seemed fine on paper, his start was emphatic, but since March there has been little if anything for swans fans to shout about when it comes to the Aston Villa man.

Tykes forward Carlton Morris replaced Dominik Frieser at half-time and had an instant impact as his shot was saved by Woodman, who then superbly denied Callum Brittain on the rebound. Mowatt's free-kick was saved by Woodman as Swansea were swept on to the back foot, but the visitors weathered the storm. Swansea's on-loan midfielder and former Barnsley captain Conor Hourihane's free-kick was tipped away by Brad Collins and Jamal Lowe curled an effort just off target. The visitors did all they could to slow the game down and their time-wasting tactics became more pronounced. With 10 minutes left it was all going to the Welsh side's plan. That was almost undone in the closing moments when Carlton Morris turned the ball goalwards from Mowatt's corner, only to see his curling effort hit the crossbar.

Swansea survived and extended their unbeaten run against Barnsley to 17 matches. The tykes beat the swans on penalties in the League One play-off final in 2006, but their last victory against them over 90 minutes was back in 1983. Barnsley are going to have to rethink how they go about their game plan for the second leg this coming Saturday in Swansea. For all their strength, aggression and running it just didn’t work against a well drilled, very motivated Swansea City side. The swans will get the plaudits post match but Barnsley could have been telling a different story tonight if it wasn’t for super goalkeeping from Freddie Woodman and a well organised defensive display from a well organised and very competent Swansea coaching tactic.

Post Match reaction

Barnsley boss Valerien Ismael
"I can't blame my defenders for the goal because they pushed up as they are told and then you need the linesman to do his job. Anything can happen in the play-offs. Two years ago Leeds won at Derby in the away leg but it was Derby who came through in the end. Three times we have played Swansea now and we have not scored. We need to do it on Saturday, it's only half-time. I thank the fans for their support. It was a special atmosphere and it felt like there were 30,000 people there. It was an incredible feeling and I even felt it from my office when the players were warming up."

Swansea boss Steve Cooper
"I was pleased with the effort. We knew what kind of game it would be and we stood up well to it. The two centre backs (Guehi and Cabango) are both 20 years old and they were excellent. We know Andre can do that. It was a real moment of excellence. It was a really good atmosphere and that has whetted the appetite for Saturday now. It will be a special moment to play in front of our fans again."

Barnsley: Collins; Brittain, Sibbick, Helik, Andersen, Styles, Mowatt (C), Palmer (Williams 76), Woodrow, Dike (Adeboyejo 86), Frieser (Morris 46).

Subs not used: Walton, Sollbauer, Kitching, Halme, Moon, Chaplin.

Swansea City: Woodman; Naughton, Cabango, Guehi, Bidwell; Grimes (C), Fulton, Hourihane; Ayew, Cullen (Routledge 67), Lowe.

Subs not used: Hamer, Roberts, Manning, Bennett, Latibeaudiere, Smith, Dhanda, Whittaker.

Goal: Ayew 39

Yellow card: Ayew 51

Referee: Geoff Eltringham

Photographs licensed from Reuters

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