I don't quite know how to start this blog post. It seems Saturday's game against Burnley was one of the many defining points of the season.
Though technically one automatic promotion spot is still in reach, it relies on too many other factors to go Swansea's way for it to be a realistic dream. But the play-offs are still fully up for grabs, and that is where the team, and fans, should now focus their attention.
Brendan Rodgers explained in a post match interview that his main task of surviving in the Championship is complete (I don't think that task was in any doubt from a couple of games in), and to be in a near play-off position is great. While I will agree with him that it's a great position to be in, being a couple of points off the top spot earlier in the season means anything but promotion would now seem a little disappointing to fans.
Right, I've tried to put it off, but there must be a mention of Saturday's falling apart against Burnley.
I felt, as I'm sure many listening to the dramatic radio commentary did, that Swansea had a great first half and were showing that they were a changed team on the road. Britton and Pratley added some solidity to the midfield and defensive mistakes were kept to a minimum.
Then came the second half. Fabio Borini beat the offside trap and scored his first away goal in a white shirt. Brilliant! The travelling Swans were ahead. This was the time they needed to learn from past mistakes, most recently in the previous game against Hull, and build on the lead. After three minutes things were looking good, Swansea hadn't conceded, they were still ahead. Then... then we hear of an own goal. Ashley Williams is able to beat De Vries with a header, putting the home team level.
An own goal is unlucky. As is a penalty (I'm getting to that). But these two things come from defensive errors and letting the opposition pressure you deep. It's unavoidable at times, but with the Swans dominating the first half and then scoring early in the second, they shouldn't have let Burnley get their heads up. But they did. Then, during the 76th minute, Burnley won a penalty (told you I'd get to it) thanks to a rare Rangel error and the game was as well as over.
What can you say? It is crushing. If it was a 1-0 loss, say, after Burnley had strung together a few nice passes early on in the game then shut up shop, it wouldn't have been so bad. But to literally gift Burnley with two easy goals, after taking the lead, shows that Swansea don't have the cutting edge they need to consistently win games.
There was no blaming the bowling green pitch this time and the "curse of the black shirts" wasn't a plausible excuse either.
Nevermind though! As I said, it's disappointing but the play-offs are just around the corner and, so long as Swansea can pick up about six points in the next four games, they will be around to battle for that final promotion spot. A good idea would be to get the results with minimal effort (is that possible?) and rest some vital players at home, so everyone is refreshed and raring to the play-off games. This is one of the best positions the team has been in in many, many years so, despite little disappointments, the team as a whole should be applauded.
This brings me onto my side note: the Mark Gower incident. I have yet to see this, but rumour has it (and there are many) that one/a few travelling Swans fans were shouting abuse at Swansea as they left the pitch (singling out Gower). Gower retaliated by showing one or more fingers to this group. What can you say? Not much. A minority of stupid fans get over emotional and then hurl abuse, which shouldn't happen, no matter how angry they feel. Meanwhile, Mark Gower shouldn't have reacted. He is a professional and, despite being full of emotion himself, is being paid handsomely to act in a specific way. A role model to youngsters should just suck it up and let the cool headed fans sort the abusers out. Lesson learnt: just leave the stands in silence if you didn't think anything of the performance (this goes for players and supporters alike).
With that, I leave you with this thought. Swansea vs Cardiff, Wembley, May 30th. Anyone fancy that?