npower Championship Play Off Final
30 May 2011 - 3:00 PM
Hat-trick hero Scott Sinclair netted the first Play-Off final treble for 11 years as Swansea won promotion to the Premier League after a pulsating encounter with Reading.
Sinclair’s penalty after 80 minutes settled an enthralling game and ended Swansea’s 28-year absence from the top flight, although it was tough on Reading.
Brian McDermott’s side played their part in a thrilling match and came back from 3-0 down at half-time to make it 3-2, before Sinclair settled it with the first hat-trick since Clive Mendonca’s for Charlton in that memorable Play-Off final win over Sunderland in 1998.
Sinclair’s double and Stephen Dobbie’s strike seemed to have wrapped it up in the first half but Reading dragged themselves back into it after the restart with Matt Mills and Noel Hunt netting to set up a grandstand finale.
But Andy Griffin’s needless foul on Fabio Borini 10 minutes from time was rightly punished and Sinclair stepped up to send Swansea into the Premier League.
With an expected £90m going to the winners, the occasion undoubtedly led to nerves among both teams to begin with but it was Reading who coped the better early on and they almost profited from Swansea indecision in the opening stages.
Barely a minute had gone when Jimmy Kebe’s cross caused confusion in the box and after Dorus De Vries spilled, Swansea just managed to clear their lines and keep their goal in tact. But as time elapsed, Swansea grew into the match and in the blink of an eye, they had a 2-0 lead.
First, Zurab Khizanishvili’s poorly timed tackle on Nathan Dyer in the box was rightly punished by Phil Dowd and Sinclair stepped up to send Adam Federici the wrong way from the spot after 21 minutes. And a minute later, after Dobbie broke clear down the right, his cross was diverted into Sinclair’s path and he had the easiest of tasks from all of five yards to double the lead.
Just before half time, the match seemed to be over. Following a blistering run down the right by Dyer, the ball arrived to Dobbie and his crisp half volley beat Federici all ends up to signal delirium from one half of Wembley.
If action on the field was bad enough for Reading, events off it deepened the gloom. During half time, assistant Nigel Gibbs and substitute Jay Tabb were sent off for comments made to the match officials as Reading came to terms with their disappointing first half showing.
But as is often the case, drama is never too far away in the play-offs and just when it seemed Swansea were ready to prepare for trips to Old Trafford and Anfield, Reading rose from the dead.
Hunt nodded home Jobi McAnuff’s corner to reduce the deficit on 59 minutes and then Mills powered home a header to make it 3-2 before the hour – and then Jem Karacan hit the post and Gary Monk brilliantly blocked Hunt’s follow-up.
But there was to be no fairytale comeback for McDermott’s men as Sinclair’s penalty eased the tension on Brendan Rodgers’ side and cleared the path to the Premier League.
Reading: Federici, Griffin (Robson-Kanu 84), Mills, Khizanishvili, Harte, Kebe, Karacan, Leigertwood, McAnuff, Long, Hunt (Church 76)
Subs: McCarthy, Tabb, Howard, Cummings, Pearce.
Swansea: De Vries, Rangel, Monk, Williams, Tate, Dyer, Britton (Gower 76), Dobbie (Pratley 55), Allen, Sinclair, Borini.
Subs: Ma-Kalambay, Beattie, Serran, Moore, Richards.
Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire)
Attendance: 86, 581