Swansea City - The Run In
My worry about 3 weeks ago was that we were peaking too soon. Irrespective of where you finish in the league (within the Play-Off places), it is usually the team with the most momentum that can push on through to the Final, and then it's a lottery.
Back in 2005/06 we lead the table at Christmas before spluttering towards the Play-offs. Needing to beat Chesterfield on the Final day for the League season, we took them apart 4-0 and Bang! There was our momentum. It took us through Brentford, and there`s not a Swans fan I`ve spoken to who could fault our performance in the Play Off Final itself.
A result like last night`s was always possible given the lack of resources available to us. I can remember back in November/December forgetting we even had the likes of Jordi Lopez whilst everyone was available, but we could certainly do with him back right now. Most fans would agree, I think, with this ranking of our Central Midfielders:-
1. Ferrie Bodde
2. Darren Pratley
3. Leon Britton
4. Joe Allen
5. Andrea Orlandi
6. Jordi Lopez
Last night, just one started and was fully fit. The same was true against QPR. It is a big ask to expect the likes of Guillem Bauza and Mark Gower to replace them so sufficiently we don`t notice the difference. They are simply different players, playing out of position.
By all accounts we look tired and the galling thing is even though we do have a decent gap between ourselves and 7th place, the energy-sapping decisions against Nottingham Forest, WBA and Plymouth cost us yet more. Realistically, with the extra 6 points in the bag, we`d be all but there. Imagine how the players must have felt after these decisions, after they`d put in so much effort, and it`s understandable to see why they let last night`s game run away from them.
Hopefully Paulo Sousa will have put his arm around his players, told them to forget it, and given them a couple for days off to recover. The hardest thing he has to do now is make the games exciting for the squad again - an opportunity to gain as opposed to a potential pitfall.
Our run-in is a potentially good one, though. The hardest teams to play at this stage are relegation battlers, and fortunately Scunthorpe look to be pulling away from that. And, whilst finishing with games against Sheffield United and Doncaster look tough right this second, if, and it`s a big if, we can scrape some points together any way we know how - 4 points from Ipswich and Cardiff would do the trick - then by the time we come to play those teams there`s hope that they will have nothing left to play for. This could be our momentum.
It`s easy to be filled with dread, and negativity. We`ve been up in the Play-offs for so long, and been so consistent that it makes it even harder to take. And at the beginning of the season 7th place is a great end result. There`s no other way to look at it at this point however, than a massive disappointment from the position we`ve put ourselves in. Don`t misjudge that as a call for someone`s head, or a damnation of our players. I`ll be proud to finish 7th, it`s just an entirely pragmatic view of the situation.
Me? I think we`ll do it. I think we`ll suffer a little more until legs freshen up, and we get a little rub of the green at some point. Hopefully that`ll be in tandem with 3 wins to finish the season, and full steam ahead for the Play-offfs…..
PS - perhaps the thing we`ve most to worry about is that even Steve Claridge thinks we won`t slip up from here…