Swans will walk down Wembley way again

Swansea City bench celebrate at final whistle

Championship play-off semi-final second leg:

Swansea City 1 - Barnsley 1
(Swansea win 2-1 on aggregate)

Swansea City are now just 90 minutes from a return to the Premier League after a 1-1 draw with Barnsley in the first game with fans in the Liberty Stadium since March 2020, writes Fraser Watson.

Leading 1-0 from the first leg, skipper Matt Grimes doubled the advantage just before the break with a stunning left foot shot, and although Cauley Woodrow levelled 20 minutes from time Steve Cooper’s men held on to set up a play off final with Brentford next Saturday at Wembley.

For the first time in 441 days, Swansea’s players were backed by home support. And the 3000 fans who found fortune in the club’s ballot system this week felt like exceedingly more at kick off as they ramped up noise levels.

Indeed, for the opening half hour, the surrealistic notion of returning crowds outweighed on field entertainment. Barnsley, as ever, looked to be direct while Swansea looked for openings on the counter. Neither tactic yielded anything in the way of clear chances although it took a superbly timed challenge from home centre back Marc Guehi to deny Carlton Morris a clear shot on goal.

And then six minutes before the break, growing tension amongst the Jack Army turned to elation. Hourihane’s  free kick from wide out was palmed away by Brad Collins  - but only as far as Jay Fulton who teed up Grimes to jink past Callum Brittain on the edge of the area and fire into the top corner.

For Swansea, it was breathing space, and in the early stages of the second half they continued to look comfortable despite the sad sight of Wayne Routledge, on what could yet be his last appearance at the Liberty, being stretchered off having landed awkwardly on his knee.

But as the half wore on, the action delved increasingly towards the Swansea area.

Callum Styles' corner found Carlton Morris at the back post but his header was well saved by Freddie Woodman – before Woodrow set up the tensest of finales.

Barnsley sub Jordan Williams burst forward from his own half and pulled the ball back to Woodrow, who connected with an excellent first time shot from 14 yards out.

Suddenly the Swansea area was being peppered. Mads Andersen and Morris both headed off target from corners, while Guehi and the equally outstanding Ben Cabango were immense in standing firm under intense pressure.

Korey Smith had a chance to alleviate any nerves late on when he went clean through only to slip as he bore down on Collins’s goal, and then in injury time even the latter found himself in the Swansea box as the visitors pumped in long balls in desperate search of the goal they needed to level the tie.

But as hymns and arias resounded around the Liberty, the Swans held firm, and the scenes among players and staff at the final whistle signified both joy and relief.

Next stop, Wembley.

Swansea City: Woodman; Naughton, Cabango, Guehi, Bidwell; Grimes (C), Fulton, Hourihane (Smith 72); Ayew, Routledge (Roberts 52), Lowe. Subs: Hamer, Manning, Bennett, Latibeaudiere, Smith, Dhanda, Cullen, Whittaker.