A march to the play offs always looked slightly beyond our squad for much of the season but when we sit and reflect on what could have been at the end of the season then nights like tonight will be close to the top of the list of points thrown away.
Of course the play offs are not out of our reach but the chances of them are slipping further away with us now heavily relying on results elsewhere as well as winning both our remaining games. Something that seems exceptionally unlikely.
It was a week ago tonight that I wrote at the start of a match report “it is the hope that kills you” and whilst hopes were high after an excellent win at Birmingham, then hopes are very low after we twice threw away a lead at Nottingham Forest to escape with a draw – the 11th time this season we have followed a defeat with a draw.
To cap it all the sending off of Kyle Naughton – for a rash and frankly stupid challenge – saw us end the game with ten men although plenty of questions have to be asked of the referee as to how Forest didn’t have the same handicap at any stage with at least three fouls from Figueiredo – each of them worth a yellow card – somehow seeing Forest end with the ability to substitute him long after he should have been sent off.
That didn’t change the game though, Swansea’s inability to stop Amoebi getting a shot in from distance did. Mulder’s seeming unwillingness to make a save did. And our defensive frailties did. Add to that the comments from our manager at the end when he admitted we were undone twice by “things we worked on in training” lead to a frustration of what could have been.
When Rhian Brewster scored again early doors (quite where we would be without him and Ayew is scary to think of) you felt this maybe one of those magical nights when things all went our way. And we could have doubled that lead after a good move from Ayew set up Connor Roberts in the area but the defender’s first touch was dreadful before his second touch was awful and the chance was gone.
Not long after Amoebi scored his first from long range when he made space on the edge of the area to fire home past Benda who possibly could have done better but the shot was well placed.
Andre Ayew converted another penalty just before half time after he was fouled right on the edge of the area and despite the protests that it was outside the referee pointed to the spot and Ayew scored again. A half time lead was – on the balance – probably about right for our start to the game and surely one that we could build on in the second half?
But this is a Steve Cooper side. We sat back, we invited pressure and Forest grew in confidence. Amoebi beat Mulder at his near post to bring it back level. If the keeper possibly could have done better with the first he certainly should have done better with the second. The simple fact here is that if Woodman is not to be here next season then a goalkeeper has to be on our target list because we have no real option. If the new season is only 6-8 weeks away then I hope we are looking and deciding sooner rather than later.
The score was 2-2 and both sides had managed 2 shots on target which summed up this kind of game nicely and there was to be no more shots on target in the remainder of the game. Our bench was likely to offer little options and Celina for Fulton was as predictable as any substitution made this season. Last year it may have been enough to make a difference but this season Celina is a shadow of the player from 12 months ago and he faded into the game in the same way as everyone else had this time.
By the time Naughton fouled and carried on walking, the game was heading towards a draw that sees Forest just about securing their play off place and us planning for the Championship fixtures that September onwards is likely to bring.
Where there is hope there is possibility but the reality is our hopes have gone away thanks to our inability to hold onto a lead, made worse by the manager’s admission we worked to make sure it didn’t happen.