FROM THE VAULT: March 2
2nd 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 first instalment, former Swans midfielder Darren Pratley looks back at the last time we played Crystal Palace at the Liberty in January 2011...
When Swansea City and Crystal Palace last met here at the Liberty Stadium on January 15, 2011, the two clubs were experiencing a contrasting season in the Npower Championship. Brendan Rodgers' Swansea were joint second in the division going into the match, while the Eagles were hovering just above the relegation zone.
And although Palace were struggling that season, their talent as a side was obvious according to Darren Pratley, who started in midfield for Swansea that day.
"Palace had a decent side, though were quite young and inexperienced I suppose," he said. "Wilfried Zaha was only just starting to break onto the scene at the time and (Nathanial) Clyne was also coming through, perhaps having played a few more games than Zaha. They also had Premier League experience in players like Anthony Gardner and Steffen Iversen."
As they had done for that entire campaign, Swansea went at their opponents from the first whistle, with Nathan Dyer and Scott Sinclair causing Palace particular problems from wide areas and running at their full-backs.
"Having those kind of players (Dyer and Sinclair) on the wing always meant you were going to get chances," said Pratley. "They gave me the confidence as a midfield man to get into the box as you knew they would cut the ball back and cross it for you."
It was Sinclair who played an influential role in the opening goal two minutes before half time. Playing a neat one-two with Mark Gower, the former Chelsea man got to the by-line to cross for Pratley to score.
"Palace were good opposition for me that season as I scored against them home and away," said Pratley, who also netted along with Scott Sinclair and Joe Allen in a 3-0 win at Selhurst Park back in October 2010. "It was a good time to score, a few minutes before half-time and at the break, I'm sure Brendan (Rodgers) would have been telling us to keep on playing our football. That was usually the message as we were pretty consistent with our performances that season."
Ten minutes into the second half, David Wright upended Nathan Dyer as he ran into the Palace penalty area and Scott Sinclair promptly despatched the resulting spot-kick to put the Swans 2-0 up. A second penalty was awarded on 61 minutes when Steffen Iversen handled in the area and Sinclair was on hand to beat Julian Speroni from 12 yards again.
"Scott (Sinclair) was really good at spot kicks and would usually wait for a goalkeeper to go down before sliding it in the other corner," he said. "He's definitely one of the best penalty takers I've known at a football club. Scott was a good lad and it's great to see that he is continuing to do well with his career."
The 3-0 win for Swansea over Crystal Palace saw the Swans move into the automatic promotion spots in the Championship while the Eagles dropped into the relegation zone. Come the end of the season though, Palace had done enough to avoid the drop, finishing two places and six points above the relegation zone, while Preston, Sheffield United and Scunthorpe went down.
The Swans, meanwhile, were promoted to the Premier League. After missing out on automatic promotion by four points, with Queens Park Rangers and Norwich City occupying the top two spots, Swansea beat Reading 4-2 in the Play-Off Final to seal a long-awaited return to the top flight.
"The Play-Off Final was a memorable experience," says Pratley, who came on as a second-half substitute at Wembley. "Moreover, it was a real pleasure being part of such a good passing side as Swansea for the whole time I was there. Outside the Premier League, it was unusual to find a team that played out from the back, but that was our style. You've seen that style continue and also evolve and it's no surprise there are so many people that enjoy watching Swansea given the football they play. They are one of best passing teams around."
Pratley played some 177 league matches for Swansea between 2006 and 2011, scoring 26 goals before his move to Bolton Wanderers in the summer of 2011. His first goal for the Trotters came, ironically, against Swansea in an FA Cup fourth round clash in January 2012.
"The Championship is a very, very tough league as everyone knows," he said. "The ultimate goal for me while I'm here has to be to get Bolton promoted back to the Premier League."