Abi Davies reports on a day of confusion and uncertainty as to what’s next for Swansea City.
With the news breaking just an hour before kick off that QPR had escaped a points deduction from the FA, The Swans went into their final league game against Sheffield United looking to gain as much momentum as possible going into the Play-offs.
Brendan Rodgers side also had the chance to leapfrog local rivals Cardiff and finish the season 3rd providing they beat The Blades, and Dave Jones’ side failed to take all 3 points from their game against Burnley.
There were two changes to the Swansea side that claimed a crucial away victory over Millwall last weekend, as Fabio Borini and Scott Sinclair returned to the starting line up in place of Darren Pratley and Luke Moore.
The home side got the game under way and were quick to take control with their fluid passing movements and link up play allowing them to dictate the pace early on.
The first chance for the home side came courtesy of Stephen Dobbie, after Ashley Williams outstanding long cross field distribution found Dyer, the fans Player of the season played the ball through for Rangel, but as the Catalan failed to control the ball it broke for Dobbie who’s strike was parried away by 17 year old débutante keeper George Long.
Already relegated Sheffield started to show glimpses of the form that saw them end Readings run of home victories on Easter Monday, as Michael Doyle’s shot on 12 minutes skimmed just wide of De Vries’ goal.
The home side never looked in real danger of conceding after this and Swansea’s next chance to open the scoring came after 15 minutes of play, Stephen Dobbie picked out Sinclair and after his two attempts were blocked, the ball fell for Dyer who’s effort on the volley blasted over the bar.
Swansea continued to control the game, working their way into great positions however their movements seemed to be breaking down inside the final third.
The Swans had further chances as Fabio Borini’s glancing header fired high over the bar before Player of the year Dyer had his effort from six yards out saved by George Long.
The breakthrough eventually came on the half hour mark as Scott Sinclair was brought down by Matthew Lowton wide on the edge of the area. Stephen Dobbie scored directly from the resulting free kick with a sweetly struck shot.
Moments later The Blades keeper was forced into making a superb save to deny Sinclair his 24th goal of the season, after the winger had made a surging run into the box, Long’s legs blocked Sinclair’s effort.
Stephen Dobbie came close to doubling Swansea’s lead with 5 minutes of the half remaining as his shot fired marginally wide of the post.
Scott Sinclair created Swansea’s last chance of the half as he found shooting space outside the area, however his effort failed to hit the target.
Sheffield United started the second half as though they were content with a 1-0 defeat, playing 11 men behind the ball making it difficult for Brendan Rodgers side to add to their one goal advantage.
However with 54 minutes on the clock, The Blades succumbed to Swansea’s onslaught of pressure as Borini’s shot was blocked by the Sheffield back line, Sinclair’s follow up effort was also blocked, this time by the outstretched arm of Shane Lowry who was immediately dismissed by referee Ilderton. Sinclair stepped up to take the resulting spot kick, remaining composed to slot home Swansea’s second of the game.
It took just 6 minutes for The Swans to add a third as Stephen Dobbie’s shot somehow found its way through a gap in The Blades defence, as the Scot notched up his ninth goal of the season.
With 25 minutes left on the clock, Rodgers made a double substitution with Alan Tate and Joe Alan leaving the field being replaced by Garry Monk and Mark Gower.
The whole stadium thought Ashley Williams had scored the 4th goal of the game with what would have been his 4th Swansea goal of the season, as the Welsh internationals superb strike from 40 yards out appeared to have found the top corner, however as fans celebrated the ref pointed for a goal kick as the ball had actually gone behind the goal.
Leon Britton who spent 7 months as a Sheffield United player before returning to South Wales in January, compiled further misery on Micky Adam’s side with an uncharacteristic effort from outside the area on the stroke of full time. This, the diminutive midfielder’s first league goal for Swansea since the 2006-07 season.
The victory along with Cardiff’s 1-1 draw against Burnley means Swansea finish the season in third place in only their third season back in the Championship. A huge accolade for Brendan Rodgers in his first season in charge.
Swansea have extended their unbeaten run at The Liberty to 8 games and should go into the first leg of the play offs full of confidence, despite having a poor record at The City Ground.
There is a great air of optimism around South West Wales ahead of the semi finals with players such as Stephen Dobbie and Nathan Dyer hitting peak form at the right time.
Having scored 10 goals in their last four games whilst conceding just one, Swansea are showing that they are the complete package and real contenders for promotion after improving their threat and conviction as well as still looking solid at the back.