Matchday 2: Champions League & Europa League storylinesSep 26 | 6 min read
Steve Cooper praises ‘big player’ Andre Ayew after Swansea’s draw at Reading
Striker Ayew returned from injury to score as the Swans secured a play-off spot.
Head coach Steve Cooper praised the match-changing contribution of striker Andre Ayew as Swansea clinched a Sky Bet Championship play-off spot with a 2-2 draw at Reading.
The Royals went ahead against the run of play when Yakou Meite nodded in from close range after 31 minutes, but Swansea, needing just one point to secure a top-six berth, hit back with opportunist second-half efforts from Jamal Lowe and substitute Ayew.
Reading equalised in stoppage time through Tomas Esteves but their hopes of reaching the play-offs ended with the point.
Ayew was introduced as a 64th-minute substitute and promptly helped to set up Lowe’s equaliser before going on to score his 16th goal of the season.
“Andre is a really good player and a really good person,” Cooper said. “The team comes first with him, not himself. You saw that today.
“He thrives on being the big player and we’re very happy to have him.
“In the first half, there was nothing much between the teams. They got the lead and, though we threatened a few times, we didn’t have enough shots on goal.
“The message at half-time was to keep on going and keep calm and be a bit more positive with our forward passing.
“We did that, scored two good goals and then, basically, we just wanted to get that point.
“We’d have preferred the three points but if ever there was a game that you would accept a draw, this was it.”
Swansea lost to Brentford in the play-off semi-finals last season.
“I’ve told the lads to be very satisfied with the work so far but our consistency hasn’t been maybe what it should have been over the past month or so,” Cooper added.
“If you’re in a high-performing culture, you’ve got to stay there. We’ve maybe dropped off just a little and I want to get back there.”
Reading had a slim chance of reaching the play-offs – but only if they had defeated Swansea.
“There is nothing to comfort our disappointment today,” Reading boss Veljko Paunovic said. “I don’t have a speech for this.
“On the other side, we have to look at a great season and so many positives.
“The evolution in our game and our mentality, it has been obvious.
“And even though we didn’t reach our goal – to secure the top-six place – we gave it our all.
“We proved it once again today. We played right until the end, which is just like our team. We always play for the win.
“Everyone has to be proud of the group that we assembled this season and acknowledge them.
“It was a big and hard price to pay today to see that our play-off options had vanished.”