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First Team

Hot Off The Press: Swansea City

Ian Mitchelmore previews tonight's Play-Off Semi-Final Second Leg

29 July 2020

A brilliant goal from Andre Ayew gave Swansea a narrow advantage in the tie on Sunday evening – what did you make of the game?

It was a well-worked move that produced the goal, started by Ayew himself. It was a lovely touch from Conor Gallagher into Jay Fulton, who teed it up nicely for Ayew and what a sublime finish it was. That made it 18 goals for the season for him. He’s been a shining light for Swansea and his experience has been vital as well because, let’s not forget, after that penalty miss, other players’ heads might have dropped but he’s not that kind of character. He was monumental on Sunday night and, had he scored the penalty as well, it would’ve been a 10/10 performance. You might say Swansea have the advantage, but I think it’s still fairly even going into the second leg.

Brentford were reduced to 10 men with 25 minutes to play when Rico Henry was sent off after a challenge on Conor Roberts. Steve Cooper said he was certain it was a red card, while Thomas Frank argued the complete opposite. What was your view?

I can see both sides, if I’m being brutally honest, but I must admit that if you are going in with that force in this day and age, it’s really excessive. You are putting yourself at risk and giving the referee a chance to make a decision, so I fully understand the red card. I must admit, when I saw it live I thought it was a red; seeing it back, he does win the ball, but I think that’s irrelevant when you are going in with that amount of force and your studs are up. But I also fully understand why Thomas Frank and the Brentford staff and fans are upset about it because maybe 20-30 years ago you look at that as a superb tackle.

How much would it mean to Swansea to reach the play-off final at Wembley next week?

It would be enormous. Let’s be honest, I think they’ve punched above their weight this season in terms of the finances they’ve got, much like Brentford, so to overcome them over two legs would be a remarkable achievement, especially when you consider that Brentford have been up there, pushing towards automatic promotion, throughout the season. Cooper has had very little to work with in the transfer market and has had to heavily rely on his contacts to bring in loan deals for players like Rhian Brewster and Conor Gallagher and they’ve been excellent for him. To finish in the top six alone was a fantastic achievement and if they don’t get to Wembley or they don’t go up, it’s still been a great season and it feels like anything from here on in is a bonus. But you don’t want to get to the play-offs and not go up because that can have a knock-on effect.

Today will be Brentford’s last ever game at Griffin Park. What are your memories of the stadium?

My memories are quite mixed. The first time I visited was after Swansea returned to the Championship after they dropped out of the Premier League in 2018 and they got a brilliant 3-2 win after going 3-0 up inside the first half-an-hour. That was back when fans were allowed in and there were plenty of them there to witness what was an incredible day. More recently, I came down for the game on Boxing Day last year and that one wasn’t so memorable as Brentford won 3-1. The Bees, at that moment, looked like a team that were ready to seriously challenge for automatic promotion, which they went on to do and, obviously, narrowly missed out on. So there are some mixed emotions but it’s a great, compact, old-school ground and it will great to be a part of that final game.

How are Swansea likely to set up for this one?

I expect a similar line-up to start at Griffin Park and I think the only change could be Kyle Naughton coming back in after his three-game suspension for the red card against Nottingham Forest. Mike van der Hoorn had knee surgery back in February, so he has been carefully managed since the lockdown and the first leg was his first full game since they played Luton on 21 December. Van der Hoorn could start and come off in the second leg, but I’d probably tend to side with Naughton starting and playing the full game.

What’s your score prediction?

There could easily have been more goals in the first leg, so I see goals in this one and I’ll go 2-1 to Brentford, forcing extra-time. Don’t ask me who wins after that, though!


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