First it was Craig Beattie earlier this season at West Brom and tonight it was the turn of Kuqi to sink his former employers with the only goal of the night 14 minutes into an interesting battle in South London.
Kuqi obliged for yours truly at 11/2 with the first goal of the game after working his way free to fire beyond Julian Speroni and retain the Swans 5th position – a position that is now with the comfort blanked of a six point gap to 7th place.
Palace though were a different proposition to the side that visited the Liberty just after Christmas and caused the Swans plenty of problems and could even potentially have considered themselves unlucky not to take something from the game after finding themselves guilty of wasting some decent chances particularly in the second half.
That said do not take the thought away that this was lucky old Swansea, this was a win that I would almost guarantee we would not have got last year. Paulo continues to instill a steel into the Swans team that basically almost says that they will not lose a lead that they have earned and nowhere was that more evident than this evening.
We could have course have extended our lead as well but this was a different win to last Saturday against Preston in that we were up against a team that seemed high on confidence and probably rightly so considered they would have found themselves pushing hard for the play offs had it not been for the ten point administration deduction.
As ever Paulo sprung the changes ahead of the game and – maybe surprisingly – relegated Saturday’s man of the match Joe Allen to the bench along with the goalscorer and creator of the goals David Cotterill. Gorka Pintado was also dropped to the bench in preference for Shefki Kuqi with Andrea Orlandi and Mark Gower the other two beneficiaries of the changes.
Tate Monk Williams Bessone
Dyer Britton Orlandi Pratley Gower
Swansea started like they meant full business on the evening and for the first twenty minutes Palace hardly had a look at the ball. The midfield clicked quickly into gear and Dyer in particular was looking a threat on the right. Orlandi had already tested Speroni who managed to hold on at the second attempt before Kuqi struck for the first time in a Swansea shirt.
He controlled Orlandi’s ball to him and held off the challenge of the defender before prodding home into the net to send the Swans away support into celebration and start to justify the faith that Paulo had shown in him by signing him. On early displays he certainly seems to fit the mould of a ‘Paulo-type striker’ and gives us an option that very much seemed to be missing before his arrival.
Now whether it was us being happy with the lead or Palace finally waking up but the balance of play shifted soon after with the Swans on the back foot. Dorus was being called into action more and more but he was also shielded where possible by a very determined Monk and Williams who again provided the rock in the middle of defence.
It was long and deflected shots that the home side were left resorting to as the Swans saw them out to the interval holding onto their one goal lead.
The second half was a strange affair with Palace for once seemingly having the bulk of possession but never really hurting Dorus with on target shots although – as mentioned before – they were guilty of wasting some opportunities where working the goalkeeper was almost a minimal requirement.
The best chance of the half fell to Andrea Orlandi though who saw his shot well saved by Speroni after a flowing Swansea move that would have been one of the goals of our season at least.
Pintado, Cotterill and Allen were all introduced in the second half as the Swans looked to consolidate their lead – a feat they managed with a few hairy moments but with a real determination about them that is as much of a joy to watch sometimes as the free flowing football that we do play.
This was an excellent win and a deserved one for the Swans and make no mistake about it, we are very much a force to be reckoned with and certainly can now go into the weekend clash with leaders Newcastle full of confidence with no reason why we cannot add to an 8 match unbeaten run.