Bluffer's guide to the play-offs: Swansea City
Missing out to eventual winners Blackpool in the battle for sixth spot last season, Swansea City have stormed to third place this time around under new manager Brendan Rodgers. Abigail Davies gives the Swans perspective ahead of their semi-final against Nottingham Forest.
Feeling confident? Hows your form?
The Swans should go into the first leg of the play-off semi-finals full of confidence as they travel to The City Ground on the back of 3 consecutive victories. All of which were comprehensive wins with The Swans scoring 10 goals and conceding just one. Brendan Rodgers’ side looked composed and dominant in possession throughout all three fixtures against some stern opposition.
Personally, I would have felt a lot more confident had we been playing Reading as we have done the double over them already this season. We have also had a poor record at The City Ground over recent years losing on our last 2 visits.
Having said this, we boast a good enough squad to beat any side bidding for promotion.
Up to now, would you judge your season so far as a success or did you have an eye on the automatic spots?
After a second consecutive summer of turbulence and uncertainty and the loss of yet another manager and key player in Leon Britton, many Swansea fans had a bleak outlook on the 2010/11 season. But after watching the Swans first 2 home games in which we scored 7 goals, it was evident that Swansea were going to be a bigger force to be reckoned with than they had under Paulo Sousa.
The biggest apparent difference being our wingers having a far more offensive role as opposed to them practically playing as additional full backs last season. We have also proven ourselves to be one of the best footballing sides in the division, with performances of the highest calibre demonstrating our attractive, free-flowing passing game.
I think our squad would have been worthy of automatic promotion. However, I still feel 3rd is an outstanding achievement in what is only Swansea’s third season back in the Championship. It is also a great accolade for Brendan Rodgers in his first season in South Wales.
Did you have the upper hand over your semi-final opponents in the games you’ve played against them already this season?
When we played Forest at The City Ground earlier this season, we were condemned to our 4th consecutive league defeat on the road, with Billy Davies’ side outplaying us and coming out of the game as worthy winners. However, this was at the start of the season and I feel Swansea travel to The City Ground a far more accomplished side than the one that lost 3-1 there back in September.
The second meeting between the two sides was a completely different story, as the Swans looked buoyant going forward with Fabio Borini emerging as a great prospect for the rest of the season in his début game for The Swans. Despite a convincing performance from Swansea, Forest still came close to taking something from the game with the woodwork denying them an equaliser deep into injury time.
Do you think your players have a big-game mentality? Will they step up?
Swansea definitely have the ability to step up to the challenge and occasion. They have shown this a number of times, having won all but one of their televised games this season. Swansea seem to perform better on the big stage and rarely succumb to pressure put on them. Brendan Rodgers feels his side go into the play-offs as underdogs which I’m sure no-one in Swansea will complain about.
Who will be your key man?
I think the key man for Swansea will be Stephen Dobbie. Having played a pivotal role in helping Blackpool to play-off success last season, the Scot has been Swansea’s most effective link player this season tucking in behind our lone striker.
He has a great ability to bring other players into an attack and while Swansea are sometimes criticised for playing one pass too many, this is not the case with Dobbie who is never afraid to take a shot on. He has also proven over recent weeks that he can deliver great set pieces – with his first goal against Sheffield United coming from a free-kick.
Who is the semi-final opposition’s danger man?
I think one of the biggest Forest threats will be Lewis McGugan. Netting the opening goal for Forest at the weekend, McGugan has now scored 13 goals this season. The central midfielder also provides danger by delivering great set pieces.
If you get through, who would you prefer in the final?
If the Swans reach the final of the play-offs, I would hope to play Reading. I feel Cardiff pose a much larger threat going forward as they boast two of the greatest attacking players in the league in Jay Bothroyd and Craig Bellamy.
They are also very good at grinding out victories even when their not playing their best. As well as this, losing to our local rivals in the play-off final would probably be the worst experience a football fan could go through.
With the hostility and rivalry between Swansea and Cardiff fans, there has been speculation as to whether the final would be played at Wembley if the two Welsh sides do get there – I think the potential trouble between fans would ruin the occasion.
Swansea have also claimed 1-0 victories over The Royals home and away this season and I’d feel confident we could get a result against them at Wembley.
Who’s going to score your winning goal in the final?
Having bagged a brace in our final league game against Sheffield United, I think the winning goal at Wembley could come courtesy of Stephen Dobbie. The striker has scored nine goals this season and even if he didn’t provide the winner at Wembley, I’m sure he will play some part in the build up to the goal.