Wales On Sunday
HIGH FLYING SWANS SAVE VITAL POINT
Cullen grabs late equaliser, but it’s a missed opportunity:
LATE goals from Jamal Lowe and Liam Cullen saw Swansea City come from two goals behind to claim a point in a frenetic encounter with Wycombe Wanderers.
The Swans created numerous openings at the Liberty Stadium - with the likes of Wayne Routledge, Lowe and Connor Roberts all spurning opportunities.
Although after losing Andre Ayew to a hamstring injury early on, Steve Cooper’s men were way below par.
The Chairboys took full advantage and went ahead 15 seconds into the second half after a well-worked move that ended with Admiral Muskwe firing beyond Freddie Woodman.
They doubled their lead soon after as Garath McCleary’s low drive flew into the back of the net to leave Swansea shell-shocked.
But they got back into it with a penalty from Lowe 10 minutes from time before Cullen headed home three minutes later on his return from injury.
Although they were unable to get a late winner after a remarkable ending, but they did close the gap to second placed Watford to six points after the Hornets were beaten by Luton Town.
Having scored five goals without conceding in their last two matches, the Swans were clearly far more confident in attack early on.
They looked to hit Wycombe right from the outset as a long ball forward found Ayew in a dangerous position, although the Ghanaian was thwarted by a brilliant challenge from Joe Jacobson.
But the home side were dealt an enormous blow on eight minute as top scorer Ayew went down clutching his hamstring, and he had to be replaced by Routledge, who came on for his 300th club appearance.
To their credit, the Swans didn’t let that blow affect them, and they carved out a glorious opportunity to take the lead on 13 minutes as a mistake from Jacobson allowed Roberts to go through on goal, but the Welshman’s left-footed strike was kept out by the legs of David Stockdale.
Such was the confidence in the final third from the previous two games, Conor Hourihane tried his luck with a shot from distance after Jay Fulton had an effort blocked moments earlier.
However, Gareth Ainsworth’s side carved out an opening of their own and wanted a penalty for handball after Muskwe’s shot was blocked, but referee Keith Stroud refused to point to the spot.
The Chairboys took huge confidence from that chance and created an even better opportunity that led to Dennis Adeniran firing wide from inside the box before the Everton loanee then had a shot blocked by Fulton.
After a positive start, Swansea completely lost their grip on the game thanks largely to their own sloppiness in possession while they didn’t have the talismanic Ayew to call upon.
Routledge’s endeavour helped Swansea to create another big chance in the final stages of the first half though as he won possession before picking out Roberts who was unable to curl an effort beyond Stockdale.
Muskwe then had a shot saved by Woodman before Fulton headed over at the front post from a corner as the score remained level at the break.
Something had to improve, but the hosts made a disastrous start to the second half as Uche Ikpeazu played a neat one-two with Muskwe who brilliantly lashed home from the edge of the box to put Wycombe ahead.
Swansea looked well off it after the restart, and after Lowe scuffed a shot at the other end, Swansea survived a major scare as Anthony Stewart’s header hit the crossbar.
But they were punished with the next Wycombe attack as McCleary’s shot flew through a number of bodies and went beyond Woodman.
It was no less than the Chairboys deserved after their energetic display, and Swansea only had themselves to blame after what was an alarming capitulation.
Cooper sent on Morgan Whittaker, Korey Smith and Yan Dhanda in a bid to try and get back in to the game, although Swansea failed to carry a threat as Wycombe continued to work their socks off to keep their faint survival hopes alive.
They did open up the visitors with 25 minutes left as Lowe had a shot saved by Stockdale before Routledge’s follow-up effort was cleared off the line by Jason McCarthy.
Cullen made his long-awaited return to action by replacing Routledge – and the 36-year-old’s mood was evident as be booted a water bottle in frustration after leaving the pitch.
Swansea set up a tense finish with
10 minutes left as they were awarded a penalty following a handball from McCarthy, and Lowe made no mistake from 12 yards out.
And they levelled just minutes later as Cullen headed home Roberts’ cross to net what was his third goal of the campaign as they threw everything at Ainsworth’s men.
Former Swan Adebayo Akinfenwa – who scored the first-ever competitive goal for Swansea at the Liberty Stadium almost 16 years ago – came on for the final stages while Swansea pushed for a late winner, with the home side wanting another penalty when Ryan Manning was shoved in the box after Wycombe had one last chance to nick all three points as Muskwe fired wide from close range.
But the points were ultimately shared as Swansea closed the gap on the top two, although it will no doubt feel like a major missed opportunity for Cooper’s men.