Andre Ayew was the pivotal difference for the Swans this afternoon as he effectively made one and scored one to give the Swans a point at Reading and seal their place in the end of season play-offs.
The Swans will be joined now by Brentford, Bournemouth and Barnsley with one of the four sides securing a place in the Premier League for next season alongside Norwich and Watford who had both secured automatic promotion before today.
The Swans point lifted them into 5th place in the table and with the four side who will compete in the play offs separated currently by one point there is potentially much still to play for to secure the key play off fixtures which will start on 17 May.
It was three changes today for Steve Cooper as Cabango, Hourihane and Cullen all came into the starting eleven for a game where a point would be enough to secure a place in the play offs for a Swans side that has completely lost its way in recent weeks.
And one of those players could have given the under pressure Swans boss the perfect tonic as Cabango almost opened the scoring in the first minute. As the ball came in from the left he stole half a yard on the Reading defence and just as you expected him to open the scoring the ball went wide and the opportunity was gone.
It was the start of a good period again for the Swans who passed the ball about nicely in the opening 15 minutes of the game but it was a style that gradually evaporated as the first half wore on and once again we started to chase shadows as Reading pushed forward more and more.
Goal chances were – as is the case in most Swans games – at a total premium until Meite opened the scoring just past the half hour mark. A floated ball into the area caught Bidwell off guard (sleeping in other words) and Meite was given the easiest chance to steer his header into the back of the net to give the home side the lead.
It is at stages like this that you start to feel that the character of a team is tested and the Swans character was one that we retreated further into our shell, resorted more to hoofing the ball from defence and Reading were more and more on top of a game that for the first half hour was relatively even.
As the half wore on then the home side were asking more questions of the Swans defence and whilst Woodman was not called upon to do anything spectacular you always felt that the most likely next side to score would be Reading as opposed to the Swans.
The early stages of the second half took a very similar vein although the Swans were able to get slightly more territorial play in the Reading half but as the hour mark ticked past the damming statistic was no shots on target once again from the Swans.
A triple substitution just past the hour saw Routledge, Naughton and Cullen depart for Whittaker, Roberts and Ayew and it was the Swans leading scorer who played the biggest part in our equaliser just a few minutes later.
Closed down on the touchline by three Reading players it looked a lost cause for Ayew but a sublime first touch saw a backheel to Fulton who was able to run on and advance on the Reading area. His shot was saved by the keeper but the rebound fell nicely to Lowe who had the easiest chance to score and bring the scores back level and relieve any pressure that may have been building in the Swansea side.
It was almost a lifeline from nowhere for the Swans and surely was about to open up a game completely with Reading effectively given a little over twenty minutes to score the goal that would keep their season alive with the question being as simple as whether the Swans could take advantage when the inevitable gaps in the Reading defence started to appear.
The answer to that was a simple yes as those gaps were nicely exploited in the 82nd minute when Andre Ayew gave the Swans the win. Some superb pass and movement between Lowe and Bidwell on the left saw the wing back break into the area and he waited for the right moment to feed Ayew and he was not going to turn down the opportunity to grab a goal and effectively seal the Swans place in the end of season lottery.
The goal prompted Cooper to replace Hourihane with Smith as he looked to prevent any damage on that play off position and the game ended with Reading knowing their chances had gone and the inevitability of the end result, even if it proved not to be the match one, secured the moment Ayew’s effort hit the back of the net.
Jamal Lowe can consider himself unlucky not to add to the scoring when his late effort came back off the post and Whittaker hammered the rebound wide from the edge of the area but it was all irrelevant at this point.
Reading did manage an equaliser in the 93rd minute when Esteves hit home through a crowded defence from the egde of the area but it was to secure nothing more than pride for a Reading side who led the way at the early stages of the season but could not keep up the momentum.
This may not have had the drama of the last time we visited the Madejski but ultimately it ended with the same overall result in that the Swans secured a play off spot on the same ground as they did last time around.
We now have a few weeks to prepare for those play offs – Derby at home next Saturday and Watford away the following weekend will not so much be warm up games but the chance for the Swans to make sure they go into the final few games as a team in form which – as we know from personal experience – can make all the difference.
Job done today, the bigger job has still to be achieved.
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MATCH FACTS AND LINE UPS
OTHER CHAMPIONSHIP RESULTS
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