The Championship playoff final is one of the biggest games of the English football season and often a team can hit form at the end of the season and take their momentum into the Premier League. There is also quite frequently an underlying story that makes the two teams who clash all the more eager for victory. In 2011 it was the turn of former top-flight side Reading and Swansea City, who had not been in the big time since 1983.
The big story of the day was that Swans boss Brendan Rodgers was up against his old side, from whom he had been fired in December 2009. To get the Welsh side into the playoffs in his first season was quite an achievement, although he had kept faith with a similar pass-and-move system that Roberto Martinez and Paulo Sousa had used before him to get the team to the Championship in the first place, even if he adopted a more attacking approach than the Portuguese.
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If there was a big story off the pitch with Rodgers on the day it belonged largely to Scott Sinclair, who fired a hat-trick in the most important game in his club's history. Despite the 4-2 scoreline in favour of the Welsh side it was in fact a very close encounter, with the decisive spell of the game coming the first half when Brian McDermott's side struggled to contain their opponents to the tune of three unanswered goals.
Indeed, it was Reading who looked the most threatening in the early exchanges, with Shane Long looking likely in the more advanced role alongside Noel Hunt. Dorus de Vries in the Swans goal looked nervous when failing to deal with a cross and Jimmy Kebe was having a good time up against Alan Tate, but despite seeing much of the ball the Royals could not quite fashion a genuine chance, which allowed their opponents into the contest.
The opening goal came from a clumsy foul in the box by Zurab Khizanishvili on Nathan Dyer, who up to this point in the 20th minute had not been in the contest. It allowed Sinclair the chance to grab his first of the contest and the lead that Swansea scarcely deserved. However, they were not done there.
Just over a minute later and the advantage was doubled through Sinclair again. Stephen Dobbie got by Ian Harte all too easily, despite the Irishman having a headstart getting to the ball, and drilled in a cross which Adam Federici parried into the path of Sinclair to make it 2-0 on 22 minutes. Game over? Perhaps not quite, but a third would almost certainly have put the game beyond Reading.
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The Royals had a half-chance to get one back as Hunt put a header wide, but five minutes before the break it looked to be curtains for his side. Dobbie, very lively to this point, reacted first after a Dyer cross was part-cleared by Khizanishvili and slotted home from just inside the box for 3-0 and surely Swansea's first appearance in the top flight for nearly 30 years.
After a half-time interval during which substitute Jay Tabb and assistant manager Nigel Gibbs were sent off for Reading, the team got themselves back in with a shout not long into the second 45. Hunt flicked on a corner and Joe Allen diverted the ball into his own net. After Dobbie squandered a chance at the other end suddenly there was only a goal in it with 35 minutes to play as skipper Matt Mills headed in a Jobi McAnuff corner.
A Jem Karacan effort against the foot of the post was the fine line between the two divisions, as it proved to be Reading's last chance to score a dramatic leveller. The stuffing was finally knocked out of McDermott's men when Andy Griffin fouled Fabio Borini to allow Sinclair to complete his hat-trick. The Swans had done it and have since established themselves as a solid Premier League side.
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