At Hillsbrough, Sheffield Wednesday had no answer to the Swans as we made it two away wins in a little over 72 hours this evening with goals from Jamal Lowe and Jay Fulton giving us a 2-0 win. The three points should secure the play off place and still the chances of top two have not completely disappeared.
If you expect a manager to make changes when a team isn’t playing well it should come as no surprise when he names an unchanged side after a good performance and that is just what Steve Cooper did when he announced his line up an hour before kick off.
The Swans had returned to winning ways against Millwall on Saturday keeping alive their slim hopes of breaking into the top two and with tonight being their ‘game in hand’ another win was always going to be an aim especially against a side that is looking increasingly likely to be relegated this season.
It was a first half of very few chances as neither side were able to get a real stranglehold on the game. The Swans were not looking very threatened at the back but, once again there was minimal – if any – incisiveness about our forward play with the largest part of the game played out in amongst two midfields that were very much cancelling each other out.
When you get a half of very few chances then it often comes down to which side takes the best of the chance that will almost always come their way. For Wednesday it was a top quality save from Freddie Woodman that kept out a shot that looked for all the money as if it was about to hit the back of the net but for the Swans it was a very different story just past the half hour mark.
A strong Ayew challenge won the ball back 25 yards out and he advanced with it into the area. Just when you expected him to be eyeing up a chance to add to his goal tally he played in his strike partner in Jamal Lowe who scored his third goal of the last two games to fire the Swans into the lead. One chance for each side was the story of the first half but the difference was Swansea taking theirs. And once again, proof that you get a player like Lowe and he thrives on confidence and last weekend certainly increased that confidence.
The early stages of the second half followed a very similar pattern to that of the first half in the early stages with goalmouth action very much the exception as opposed to the rule of a cagey game where the Swans seemed happy to try and defend a lead against a side that didn’t look as if it had half of the attacking intent as they showed recently against Cardiff.
As the half started to progress though the Swans were becoming very much the team on top and attacking more with a half decent penalty shout for a foul on Naughton coming just ten minutes before Ayew almost doubled the Swans advantage. A good header from Grimes found the Swans leading scorer in the box and as he controlled the ball it looked as if he was about to lift it over the keeper but Westwood made himself ‘big’ and the ball went for a corner.
The chance seemed to open the game up a little as Wednesday pushed forward more and the gaps started to appear in the middle of the pitch that were not there in the first half. And it was through one of those spaces that saw the Swans double their advantage in the 74th minute through not just the exploiting of the space but an immediate impact of a substitution by Steve Cooper.
The Swans boss introduced Connor Roberts for Wayne Routledge and he found himself in space from a strong pass by Lowe. As he approached the area he hit a perfect cross that was brilliantly met by the head of Jay Fulton to make it 2-0 and just about seal the points for the Swans. It was the least we deserved at that point after gradually imposing ourselves on a game.
The goal also gave Steve Cooper some freedom to make changes and rest any tired legs he may have had and Manning and Hourihane were replaced within a few minutes of each other by Bidwell and Korey Smith as the changes rang out with the hard work for the evening already complete.
It is amazing how quick things can turn around in football. Just four days ago there was much despondency amongst the fanbase and yet now we are just 7 points off the top 2 but – more importantly – 9 points clear of Reading in 7th with just 15 left to play for. Tonight, for me, we secured our play off place and now we can just see if there could – maybe could – be a little wobble from Watford who still have us, Norwich and Brentford to play. There could be a twist or turn ahead?
All credit though must go for the last two games to Steve Cooper and his team. Two away games, both potentially difficult and navigated with two wins, two clean sheets and five goals to boot. With Wycombe to come at home on Saturday we have to be believing that three more points are coming our way but confidence should be high both on and off the pitch.
Well done lads.
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