SWANSEA CITY 1 (Easter 28)
Tuesday December 28, 2010, KO 3.00pm
BARNSLEY had Swansea hanging on in the second half but could not force an equaliser at the Liberty Stadium.
Reds boss Mark Robins handed another chance to the side beaten by Burnley on Boxing Day as he looked to get back to winning ways at the Liberty Stadium. It meant Andy Gray continued in attack alongside Goran Lovre with Paul Hayes, Jeronimo Neumann and Steve Bennett on the bench.
The winter cold snap had evaporated in Swansea with the Reds greeted by pouring rain in South Wales as they faced a Swans side hurt by a 4-0 humbling at QPR just 48 hours ago. The home side did have skipper Alan Tate available after appealing his dismissal at Loftus Road. A quirk in the FA disciplinary procedures meant Tate, who missed the vital penalty against the Reds in the 2006 League One Play Off Final, would not have his appeal heard until Wednesday and was able to play. Former Red Garry Monk was on the Swans bench as the home side made six changes from the side thumped on Boxing Day, including a full debut for striker Jermaine Easter.
It was going to be a long day without the ball for the Reds against a Swansea City side who were still one of the best in the division at keeping possession. Neat play by Nathan Dyer put Scott Dobbie in and behind the Reds on four minutes but the striker could not direct his effort near to Luke Steele's goal. It was an early warning shot from the hosts.
Swansea were through again on eight minutes as Dobbie picked out a fine pass to put Easter and David Cotterill in on goal but Steele was quickly out to put the pair out of their stride and the chance went begging. Both Easter and Cotterill looked well offside.
Barnsley were giving as good as they got in possession with the opening exchanges played at a frantic pace although both sides lacked any real quality in the final third. Clear chances were at a real premium although the Reds were rocking a little from Mark Gower's corner on 17 minutes but the visitors were able to clear before any real damage was done.
Tate saw one deflected high over on 20 minutes before Dyer left his marker for dead to race onto Andrea Orlandi's pass but was denied by Steele's fine save.
Barnsley could have been in front on 23 minutes as Stephen Foster rose highest to meet Hammill's corner with a powerful header but his effort flew inches over the top. Hammill then tested his shooting boots on 27 minutes but his ambitious effort from distance was never going to trouble Dorus de Vries.
Swansea cut the Reds open just a minute later as Dyer broke through the Barnsley defence to play a neat one-two with Cotterill and tee up Easter. The striker made no mistake and rolled the ball into the net from eight yards.
Hammill tried to get his side back into the game on 29 minutes with a snap-shot from distance but this time his effort bounced harmlessly wide of the mark. It could have been two moments later as Cotterill skipped away from Kieran Trippier before crossing but Easter was unable to direct his header on target. Cotterill then should have put his side further in front on 34 minutes as he raced onto Foster's poor backpass but bottled out of a challenge with Steele and the chance went begging.
Barnsley were scrambling again on 35 minutes as Dyer raced through the heart of midfield before playing in Dobbie but the striker's effort was woeful and flew well, well wide of the target.
Easter was an inch away from putting the Reds to the sword again on 37 minutes as he rose unchallenged to meet Dyer's fine cross and beat Steele with a looping header but the ball cannoned away off the crossbar.
Steele was in action again on 40 minutes as he held on to Dyer's curling effort before the Reds could have had a spot kick as Gray was felled from behind as he looked to pounce onto Foster's knockdown in the area. Referee Gavin Ward was never going to give a penalty to the Reds for that.
Hammill then threatened to break through the Swansea City defence on 44 minutes but was hacked down by Gower, who earned himself a yellow card. Hammill took the free kick himself and his effort had de Vries rooted to the spot but dropped an inch wide of the post.
The Reds were more focussed and determined at the start of the second half. Hugo Colace picked up an early yellow card on 49 minutes for a lunge on Orlandi while a lightening break by the Swans ended with Dobbie shooting straight at Steele moments later.
Lovre lashed one just over the bar at the other end on 51 minutes before Dobbie did the same four minutes later. It was scrappy but the Swans were always looking a threat. Orlandi tested Steele on 58 minutes with an overhead kick from Cotterill's cross.
A great run again by Dyer gave Cotterill the chance to kill off the game on 66 minutes but the winger smacked his shot high over the bar from 12 yards out.
Steele saved the Reds on 70 minutes as Dyer again had the Barnsley defence at sixes and sevens. This time he picked out Dobbie on the six-yard line but Steele was quickly down to make a top, top save.
The big chance came on 75 minutes as Lovre rose to get his head to Jacob Butterfield's corner but the midfielder was denied by de Vries' fine save. The ball fell to Paul Hayes but he could not turn it goalward from a tight angle.
Hayes was in again on 81 minutes as he raced onto Hammill's pass but found de Vries in great form as the Swans keeper parried his shot away at the near post. Diego Arismendi almost grabbed a goal the Reds just about deserved on 83 minutes as he met Butterfield's corner but nodded straight at de Vries. Hammill was then inches away from finding the top corner seconds later with a drive from 25 yards that had de Vries beaten.
With the rain pouring down in South Wales there was always the chance that referee Gavin Ward could call a halt to proceedings!
Swansea thought they had a second goal on 88 minutes as Scott Sinclair left the Reds trailing down the left before pulling his cross back to Dyer on the six yard line but the winger was denied a goal by Steele's world class save.
Sinclair then should have scored in stoppage time as he looked odds on to meet Dyer's cross but threw himself to the ground when challenged by Trippier rather that make a connection to wrap the game up. The only surprise was that referee Ward didn't give a penalty.
There was controversy in the closing seconds and Butterfield brought a fantastic save from de Vries before Hayes pounced to put the rebound into an empty net only for the goal to be ruled out for offside. It was very, very tight.
SWANSEA CITY: de Vries, Williams, Tate, Cotterill, Orlandi, Dyer, Dobbie (Sinclair 80), Rangel, Gower (Pratley 68), Easter (Allen 63), Taylor.
Subs: Beattie, Monk, Ma-Kalambay, Agustien.
BARNSLEY: Steele, Trippier, Foster, Shackell, Hassell, O'Brien (Butterfield 71), Colace, Doyle (Arismendi 65), Hammill, Lovre, Gray (Hayes 68).
Subs: Preece, Neumann, Bennett, Hill.
Gavin Ward (Surrey)
Andrew Hutchinson (Cheshire) and Stephen Martin (Staffordshire)
Andrew Rodda (Devon)
Attendance - 15,093
Away Attendance - 208
Match Report by Rob Knowles.
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