SHEFFIELD United departed the Championship with a whimper as Swansea City showcased their promotion credentials in stunning style.
Having urged his players to enjoy one last hurrah after relegation was confirmed last weekend, Micky Adams, the visitors’ exasperated manager, was instead forced to watch as Brendan Rodgers’ side picked them apart in cruel fashion.
Scott Sinclair, Leon Britton and Stephen Dobbie, who tormented United’s beleaguered rearguard even before Shane Lowry’s dismissal soon after the interval, condemned the Yorkshire club to their most emphatic defeat of what has been a miserable season.
Adams, who launched a stinging attack on several members of his squad soon after the final whistle, admitted: “It hard enough to play against Swansea with 11 men let alone 10. They’ve got players who, on their day, can hurt anyone at this level.
“You’ve got to be at your best to beat them. That goes without saying when you look at where they are.
“But the lesson for us - once again - was that if you don’t take your chances then you get punished. We didn’t and we were.”
Adams was referring to efforts from Michael Doyle and Lee Williamson with the latter drawing a smart block from Dorus De Vries before Dobbie open-ed his afternoon’s account with a su-
perb free-kick. But, such was Swansea’s superiority in almost every department, it would have been a miscarriage of justice had United denied their opponents the win which lifts them above rivals Cardiff in the rankings.
“I’ve got to be honest,” added Adams. “I didn’t expect too much coming down here with what we had available to us.
“We only had one centre-forward (Jordan Slew) and although he was full of enthusiasm and gave absolutely everything he had you’ve got to be experienced to perform that role.
“It was a difficult afternoon but, to be fair, there have been a few of those.”
With United’s fate already sealed, there are more pressing items on Adams’ agenda than analysing the reasons behind this latest defeat.
Today’s meeting with plc chairman Kevin McCabe, a driving force behind his arrival in December, should decide whether the former Port Vale chief is invited to take charge of a rebuilding programme designed to prepare the club for the harsh realities of life in League One.
Nick Montgomery and Stephen Quinn were among a clutch of names likely to have pulled on a United jersey for the final time during Saturday sojourn in South Wales with Adams using the opportunity to blood more members of the academy’s FA Youth Cup final squad before they enjoy more prominent roles next term.
Midfielder Matt Harriott and Terry Kennedy were both dispatched into action after the interval but it was the central defender’s fellow debutant - goalkeeper George Long - who impressed the most with a several fine saves.
One, which saw him deny Nathan Dyer from point-blank range, drew gasps of astonishment from all four corners of the ground.
“George showed a good attitude,” said Adams. “It’s not the easiest of places or situations to appear for the first time but he handled it well.”
Swansea, by contrast, face an altogether more exciting future having qualified for the play-offs with a comfortable victory over Ipswich Town last month.
Fabio Borini, whose brace a fortnight ago confirmed the wisdom of Rodgers’ decision to sign him from Chelsea on loan, was a peripheral figure here but another acquisition from Stamford Bridge - Sinclair - was instrumental in ensuring Swansea finished third in the table.
Rodgers, speaking on the eve of United’s arrival, insisted his team “deserved promotion” after proving that intelligent, incisive football can prosper amid the hurly-burly of England’s second tier.
Their hopes of doing so by default were dashed when the Football Association delivered its findings into the QPR/Alejandro Faurlin fiasco less than an hour before kick-off
Swansea, who have been paired with Nottingham Forest in the end-of-season shootout, served notice of their intentions when Dobbie tested Long and Montgomery flung his body in the way of a powerful Sinclair shot.
Doyle and Williamson went close before Long somehow clawed Dyer’s poke to safety but United’s resistance finally crumbled when Dobbie thrashed home an expert set-piece following Matthew Lowton’s foul on Sinclair.
The Swansea winger converted from the spot after Lowry had seen red for handling his initial shot on the line with Dobbie applying the finishing touches to another incisive move soon after. United’s misery was complete when Britton, who spent a brief and unhappy spell at Bramall Lane earlier this term, caught Long off guard with a long-range attempt at the death.
“It was an awkward situation for them,” Rodgers, proving Swansea’s class extends off the pitch, said. “But I thought their young lads defended well and the likes of Nick Montgomery and Stephen Quinn, who are tremendous professionals, gave everything they had.
“It’s a terrific club, a big club, and I’m sure they’ll be back.”