FROM THE VAULT: March 16
16th March 2014
As part of our new content on the official website, we take a look back through the archives from past matchday programmes in our 'From the Vault' feature.
In our latest instalment, former Swans goalkeeper Roger Freestone looks back at at the 1993 Second Division Play-Off Semi-Finals against West Bromwich Albion...
At the end of the regular 1992-93 season, West Bromwich Albion and Swansea City had finished fourth and fifth respectively in the old Second Division, securing a play-off spot along with Port Vale and Stockport County. In the semi-final first leg the Swans hosted Albion with some 13,917 packing into the old Vetch Field for an eagerly anticipated fixture.
"I played in some big occasions for Swansea, but the atmosphere that day was quite incredible," recalls Freestone, who was in goal for the Swans. "For those kind of matches, you'd have 5,000 or 6,000 supporters in the North Bank alone, which was fantastic for the home players and very intimidating for the opposition I can imagine."
A tense first-half saw limited chances at either end. Swansea's central defensive pairing of Mark Harris and Keith Walker restricted Albion's leading goalscorer Bob Taylor to just one shot on target which Freestone was equal to. At the other end, West Brom keeper Tony Lange denied Russell Coughlin and Andy McFarlane's efforts.
"We'd probably slightly edged the first half, but it was a typically cagey play-off match," said Freestone.
Early into the second half, however, the deadlock was broken. Full-back Des Lyttle headed the ball into the Albion area and McFarlane held off Paul Raven to fire home. Just 14 minutes later, it was 2-0 to Swansea when Andy Legg's cross picked out Martin Hayes, who confidently slotted the ball past Lange.
"We were really quick out of the blocks in the second half and Andy (McFarlane) and Martin (Hayes) both took their goals really well," remembers Freestone. "We were well on top and West Brom didn't really get much of a say in that second period."
Before the end, though, Swansea would fall for a total sucker punch, conceding an own-goal. Albion's Bernard McNally hit a hopeful cross from the right, which Darryl Burgess hooked towards goal. Hitting the bar, the ball bounced down and hit McFarlane who was powerless to stop his deflected effort going over the line.
"West Brom's goal was fortuitous to say the least," said Freestone. "Sometimes getting that bit of luck is what you need to get yourself back in a football match and that's certainly what happened for Albion."
The second leg took place at the Hawthorns and while they were confident of securing their place in the Play-Off Final, Swansea were wary of the threat posed by Albion.
"They had some very good players; Bob Taylor, Andy Hunt and Ian Hamilton being some names that stick in my mind," said Freestone. "Taylor was the division's top scorer that season, so he was one you had to plan for defensively. Any team with a proven goal scorer like him could be dangerous."
An intense atmosphere at the Hawthorns turned to delirium within the opening 20 minutes of the match as goals from Andy Hunt and Ian Hamilton put the home side 2-0 up on the night and gave them a 3-2 lead on aggregate. It was the worst possible start from a Swansea City perspective.
"I can remember Frank Burrows calling for us to keep it tight before we went out on the field that night, but we were 2-0 down before we'd even got settled," said Freestone. "I have to say, the atmosphere at the Hawthorns was immense, though obviously the disappointment of the result I don't look back on it with any fondness."
Despite Micky Mellon being sent off for West Brom, the Baggies held on for a 3-2 aggregate victory and would go on to beat Port Vale 3-0 in the Play-Off Final. It wouldn't be until 2008 that the Swans would finally experience promotion to the second tier, with Freestone looking back on the missed opportunity in 1993 with a philosophical attitude.
"Losing in the play-offs is perhaps the hardest way to miss out on promotion," he said. "It could have been that had Swansea triumphed in either of the play-offs, but the history of Swansea City could have panned out differently. For all the ups and downs the club has experienced, getting to where they are now, I don't think the fans would have had it differently."