Super Swans Keep Play-Off Dream Alive

Saturday, 18 April 2009, 18:49
3 mins read


ONE down, two to go – and still the impossible dream is on.

Just three weeks ago Swansea were being classed as the nearly, but not quites, of the play-off race, deemed to be close, but denied the cigar.

And when a last-minute penalty cost Swansea the derby day spoils a fortnight ago, it only seemed to confirm that the end-of-season chase for the top six wouldn’t include Roberto Martinez’s men.

Yet with 180 minutes of this Championship campaign remaining, that talk of Swansea’s demise now looks pretty exaggerated, not to mention premature.

Because Garry Monk’s first goal of the season places them just one point outside the play-off spots as the last remnants of Bristol City’s own promotion hopes were extinguished at the Liberty.

The Swans skipper grabbed the only goal to see off the Robins, at last making the most of a set-piece situation to take the three points on offer.

And while actually making it into the shoot-out for the Premiership will still require others to slip-up, Swansea at least showed they are ready and willing to do their part of the job as they mixed glitz and graft to get one over on Gary Johnson.

It wasn’t Swansea at their slickest, but, up against a side that tried to match them man-for-man, the hosts dug into their collective memories to overcome them.

How many times have Swansea faltered in similar scenarios this season? Not here, not when it mattered.

And even when some misfiring in front of goal stopped them enjoying a more comfortable lead and Bristol had the chance to scrape a point at the death, the side stayed strong through to the final whistle to show they have learned from past mistakes.

Nothing sensational, but it was almost refreshing for Swansea to get a simple set-piece goal after their intricacies had failed to find a way through.

More so, when Monk rose to meet Andrea Orlandi’s corner on 25 minutes, it was a strike that came at an important period of the game with Swansea finally getting into their stride.

Time after time this season, Swansea have worked their way into a position of ascendancy with their possession and patterns of play only to let their opponents off the hook.

But once they got going and got the goal, it was three points all the way.

True, the opening exchanges were full of first touches that took the sting out of Swansea’s passing, Bristol’s stifling shuffled midfield three not helping the hosts’ hopes of stretching the visitors.

With Michael McIndoe deployed as an extra attacker, Alan Tate was having problems picking up his floating free runs and a couple of times the Robins were only denied clear-cut chances by the quality of the final ball.

But, slowly, Swansea made the most of their width and wisdom, keeping it out of the central battle and finding plenty of joy on the flanks.

Nathan Dyer, out on the left, had plenty of opportunities to try and isolate former Swan Izzy Iriekpen, who found himself as Johnson’s makeshift right-back.

And Dyer’s inter-play with Jason Scotland was also giving cause for Liberty optimism, a couple of red-shirted scrambles stopping Adriano Basso being called into action.

But the Brazilian was soon picking the ball out of the net when Angel Rangel’s good work provided the chance from the corner, Monk running freely onto the delivery to score.

Martinez’s men refused to let the pressure subside, Orlandi teeing up Gomez only for Basso to save superbly.

But Bristol City would continue to have their moments, and Dele Adebola, always a thorn with his physical presence, was able to tempt Monk into a foul on 34 minutes.

After a bewitching free-kick build-up, Dorus de Vries was able to beat away the deflected final effort before Monk kept Jamie McCombe at bay from the rebound.

Substitute Gavin Williams was next to remind of Bristol’s threat four minutes after the restart with a dipping long-ranger that de Vries did well to tip over.

And de Vries would be called upon once more, saving from Nicky Maynard as the striker shot straight at the Dutchman from inside the box.

But while the big stopper played his part in keeping the ball out of the net at one end, Swansea’s front men had to take their share of the blame that the ball stayed out of Basso’s.

Darren Pratley, a second-half substitute, came close when he glanced Gomez’s corner across the face of the goal before Scotland inexplicably shot wide when Dyer’s chasing had flustered Basso into hashing a clearance, the striker skewing wide when he bore down on goal.

Again Swansea would go close, Scotland beating the offside trap only for his touch to take him inside and allow Iriekpen to cover.

And as the counters began to break down on the edge of the area, Bristol City went unpunished and on the look-out for the leveller.

Adebola headed wide from a Lee Johnson cross and it took a big Ashley Williams block on his Bristol namesake to stop an 89th-minute blow.

But, unlike so often this year, it never came and Swansea collected the points they needed as they held firm. The dream is still on.

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