Rochdale 1 Swansea 2

Sunday, 27 April 2003, 0:00
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Match Report from ic Wales (Pics by Johnathon Coombes)

After Swansea collapsed over Easter the little Welshman gave his squad a lecture about life on the dole. Flynn knew all about that because he tasted unemployment for twelve months after severing a near 13 year link at Wrexham in September 2001. Flynn, a guarded and proud man, must have feared the worse before this trip to the Pennines. But his inspired substitution six minutes after the hour, with goal hero Marc Richards replacing James Thomas, has given him fresh hope. Strikes by Blackburn discard Richards – just 60 seconds after his entry – and a 19th minute opener from Kevin Nugent means the Swans’ football league destiny is back in their own hands. Regardless of the outcome of Shrewsbury’s gripping clash with Carlisle at Gay Meadow on Tuesday, a Swansea maximum over Hull City at the Vetch next Saturday will see them safe.

Flynn toasted these facts booming, “That’s what I always aimed for going into the last day of the campaign. “I knew things would go to the wire and that’s exactly how events have turned out. But we really needed this victory at Rochdale. We had to bounce back with a brave display after those defeats over Easter. “My lads were quite magnificent out there. And yes, I will allow myself a little pat on the back for putting Marc Richards on.”

Swansea’s reshuffle included Jon Coates who made his first start for over 12 months. The Wales B international, cruelly dumped to Woking during the disastrous reign of Nick Cusack, slotted into a left-side midfield role. James Thomas also returned as veteran John Williams dropped to the bench.

Under-fire Dale chief Paul Simpson resisted the temptation for change, despite no wins in nine games. The Lancastrians opted again for a 4-4-2 formation, Northern Ireland cap Lee McEvilly and Clive Platt leading the attack.

Around 1,000 Swans followers had made their way along the M62. Roch-dale directors must have been pleased – home gates had plummeted to around 1,800 recently. And the travelling support was roaring its approval as Swansea ripped forward in search of that early breakthrough.

Flynn’s men almost had the lead on five minutes. Roberto Martinez launched a pin-point right side corner, Lenny Johnrose’s thunderous header screaming inches wide. The Swans were soon threatening again. Mike Howard’s throw was flicked on by Johnrose, Rochdale keeper Matt Gilks grabbing the ball over a clutch of heads. Dale’s last maximum was on March 15 but they were soon showing their teeth. Platt touched a cross goal and then saw a blast canon back off Alan Tate.

Martinez and energetic Leon Britton were monopolising the midfield and Swansea were wallowing in a glut of possession which they capitalised on in the 19th minute. Former Wigan playmaker Martinez crucially played in Nugent and the ex-Cardiff City striker powered the ball into the net from 12 yards – his fifth goal of the season. It was just reward for the visitors against opponents who were guilty of numerous unforced errors. And Dale almost disintegrated once more on the half-hour as Johnrose almost touched in another Martinez corner. The home team were continuing to creak. Michael Howard rounded Chris Beech on the left, Gilks down at his near post to smother the menace. But Swansea wilted to a devastating counter-punch two minutes from half-time, Martinez’s hand ball on the left edge of the area proving fatal. Gary Flitcroft’s set piece was precise and Gareth Griffiths’ header flashed past Neil Cutler.

It was the 33-year-old Welshman’s seventh strike of the campaign and Swansea were swaying as a Matt Doughtery’s delicate chip just grazed the bar. Unfavourable later scores had filtered through on the wire over the break – Swansea’s relegation rivals Exeter and Carlisle both winning their matches.

But Richards left the bench for Thomas on 66 minutes to dramatically turn this clash. Only 60 seconds had past before the youngster made his mark – jabbing into the net via a post after Britton had escaped on the right.

Swansea’s unbridled relief was so evident and Dale were hanging on as Wayne Evans hacked Coates’ scuffed drive off the line.

Richards then missed a chance to seal matters completely as Swansea hung on grimly to the death as Simon Grand scooped over the bar from six yards.

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