WAYNE ROUTLEDGE’s last-gasp header saw Swansea City secure a play-off spot with a handsome away victory over 10-man Reading on a dramatic Wednesday night (July 22).
Steve Cooper’s side knew they had to win at the Madejski Stadium to have any hope of a top-six finish, and Rhian Brewster’s 10th goal of the season gave them an ideal start.
The sending off of Yakou Meite then gave the Swans a man advantage, but the Royals equalised before the half through a George Puscas penalty.
The Swans restored their lead through a classy finish from substitute Routledge, before Liam Cullen showed great composure to steer in his first goal for the club.
And when Routledge popped up at the death to complete his brace it put the Swans into the top six as Forest suffered a 4-1 defeat at home to Stoke, meaning Swansea got into the play-offs on goal difference.
The Swans started on the front foot, with centurion Connor Roberts having particular joy down the right-hand flank.
Brewster then nearly threaded Conor Gallagher in on goal after fine work by Andre Ayew, before Roberts hit a strike into the ground and over the bar after Jake Bidwell had made the overlap on the opposite flank.
The hosts responded by having a good spell of possession, probing and asking a few questions of their own.
But the visitors hit the lead in the 16th minute through Brewster. The striker picked the ball up some 30 yards out and got the ball out of his feet before smashing a long-range drive that completely deceived Rafael in the Reading goal.
John Swift curled a free-kick over at the other end, while more good work by Roberts could not quite end with Bidwell getting on the end of a deep cross before Rafael made a hash of dealing with a Gallagher cross.
Swift headed straight at Erwin Mulder from a good counter on the half-hour mark, with Ayew quickly advancing up the field to work Rafael again.
Opportunities were coming at both ends, with Mulder called into action again as Meite took aim from the left side of the area.
Swansea were riding their luck a little and had a let-off when a sliced clearance landed on top of the bar.
Matt Grimes had a free-kick pushed away by Rafael before the home side were reduced to 10 men after Meite had pushed Mike van der Hoorn in the face after a tussle for the ball.
But the hosts made light of the numerical disadvantage by levelling after Bidwell was adjudged to have fouled Andy Rinomhota, with Puscas beating Mulder – who got a hand to the strike – from the spot.
However, the Swans should have led at the break. Ben Cabango’s shot was blocked and fell to Jay Fulton, but the Scot pulled his shot wide of the target.
Rafael pushed away an Ayew drive right on half-time, with Swansea frustrated that referee Stephen Martin did not award them a penalty of their own as Fulton went down under a challenge from Omar Richards.
With Cardiff winning and Nottingham Forest losing, Cooper knew goals were needed and he made two changes at the break.
Yan Dhanda came on for Fulton, while Routledge replaced van der Hoorn, and they were immediately on the front foot.
With Swansea committing so many players forward, Reading looked to sit deep and play on the break and they proved resolute as the visitors battled to find a way through.
Grimes curled a free-kick wide of the target and Gallagher also threatened from distance, but the hour mark came and went without any clear-cut chances to show for their dominance of possession and territory.
However, when they did craft a sight of goal they took the chance clinically. Grimes produced a lovely ball, and Routledge controlled superbly to loft the ball over Rafael and into the net.
Unfortunately for the Swans, that goal went in moments after Forest had equalised against Stoke, which appeared to put a sizeable dent in their playoff aspirations.
Nevertheless, Cooper’s side continued to search for more goals in the hope events in the East Midlands would turn back in their favour.
They so nearly made it 3-1 with 17 minutes to play as lovely link play from Rutledge and Bidwell ended with Ayew steering just wide.
The situation was changing all the time, and Stoke retook the lead at Forest to leave the door ajar for the Swans.
And, when Stoke scored a third at the City Ground and Cullen coolly fired home his first senior goal for the club with six minutes remaining, they suddenly only needed a goal to finish in the play-off places.
Grimes had a deflected shot tipped over but the Swans then got the goal they needed in stoppage time as Routledge popped up to nod in at the far post, with Stoke’s fourth goal putting the matter beyond doubt a few moments later to spark delighted celebrations among Cooper, his players and his staff.
Shingler set to make 200th appearance for Scarlets
SCARLETS’ Aaron Shingler is set to make his 200th appearance for the Scarlets on Friday night as his side take on Bennetton at Parc Y Scarlets in the United Rugby Championship.
Speaking to the press on Tuesday (Oct 19), Shingler said it would be a proud moment when he walked onto the pitch.
Scarlets go into the game on the back of two defeats against Leinster and Munster and Shingler said it had been a ‘difficult couple of weeks’ for the team.
He added that Friday’s game would be a ‘test of character’ as they look to get back to winning ways.
Scarlets take on Bennetton on Friday night, kick off 7:35pm, and they then have a break of over a month before their next United Rugby Championship game.
Coach Dwayne Peel also spoke to the media and added that it was important they picked up the win on Friday.
He went on to say that although he saw an improvement in the team in the Leinster game after defeat to Munster, there was still work to do.
Dwayne said: “The boys are disappointed. We felt that at half time (against Leinster) we were still in the game, we knew the game plan we had but we were disappointed we didn’t allow ourselves to do that. So we were disappointed but in a different way.
“Ten guys have now gone away to Wales so there is a different group of boys who will get an opportunity for this game.”
With Wales playing their autumn internationals following Friday’s game, the Scarlets are next in action on November 27 when they travel to South Africa for games against the Cell C Sharks and the Vodacom Bulls.
Three in a row for Kidwelly
KIDWELLY Town earned their third straight win in Carmarthenhire League Division 1 on Saturday (Oct 16) as they came from behind to beat Tumble 4-1.
Tumble had lost their last three matches prior to Saturday’s game and it was they who took the lead when Garin Morris scored in the tenth minute.
Chris Cray equalised for Kidwelly and it remained 1-1 until half time.
Both sides knew the next goal would be crucial but it was the home side who got it as Rob Davis set up Alex Kay to score.
And just a minute later it was 3-1 as Connor Howells scored.
That all but won the game for the home side who made sure of the points in injury time as Kay fired in his second goal of the game from the penalty spot.
Their fourth win of the season sees them stay in eighth place but they are now only three points behind third placed FC Carmarthen.
On Saturday, October 23, Kidwelly travel to Llangennech who sit just a point and two places above them in the table.
Photo by Darren Harries
Llangennech youth go top
LLANGENNECH Youth moved to the top of the South East Carmarthenshire league on Saturday (Oct 16) as they thrashed Ammanford 47-0.
The home side ran in seven tries, six of which were converted, as they earned a third bonus point win in a row.
Rhys Harris scored a hat trick of tries and Kyle North also crossed the whitewash twice.
There were also tries for Ryan Guard and Kallum Morgan as the home side ran out comfortable winners.
Cameron Mills scored four of the conversion while the other two were scored by Tyler Payne.
The win sees Llangennech leapfrog Ammanford into top spot.
Llangennech will look to keep hold of their 100% record on Saturday, October 23, when they travel to Brynamman.
Photo by Darren Harries
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