Date: 30th July 2006 at 5:53pm
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After the Heartache in the Millennium stadium, the play off final defeat still resonates in the minds of Swansea fans up and down the country.

Kenny Jackett will not want a repeat of last season and instead seal promotion automatically from the 3rd tier of English football.

There has been a huge response from Swansea fans, with season ticket sales brisk; there will be no shortage of vocal support for the swans at the Liberty Stadium this season.

Kenny Jackett has strengthened the side with key captures, Darren Pratley has signed for £100,000 from Premiership side Fulham. Jackett has also brought in former Walsall keeper Andy Oakes to replace the released Irish Keeper Brian Murphy. Willy Boland who has been on trial with the club after being released from Cardiff City looks set to sign for the club after impressing on trial.

The strengthening of the side does not conclude there with Defender Kevin Amankwaah from Yeovil Town and winger Thomas Butler from relegated Hartlepool United. The Swans will have to be psychologically ready for another push for promotion, however with lessons so cruelly learnt from last season the Swans will have to be more consistent and work on their defensive work, in which defending set pieces and defensive positioning will be vital if the Swans will, at the second time of asking, seal promotion to the championship.

Swansea will kick start the season with a home tie against league one newcomers Cheltenham Town. Cheltenham progressed to League one via the League Two play-off final against Grimsby. I must confess I do not know a lot about the Cheltenham side, however Grant McCann has been touted in the press (namely four four two) as the one to watch.

Their unpredictable nature of this league could throw up a shock win for the League one new boys as there will be no “whipping boy” tags put on the promoted sides this season.

Kenny Jackett must have done his homework if there is to be an opening day win for the swans; this should be aided by the inclusion of Pratley in the side and will be a much needed poise and thrust in the midfield. He has looked composed in reports from the pre season matches and could be the key to the side’s success this season. This encompassed with the trident force or Trundle, Fallon and Knight, Cheltenham could be in for a reality check in their first foray into the this level since 2002/03 season.. I predict a win for the swans 3-1.

The swans then hit the road, when they travel to Scunthorpe United at Glanford Park. Swansea will have to improve their away form if we are to secure promotion this season, without a decent run away from home then we may struggle to claw our way into a playoff spot. Scunthorpe will be spurred on in attack by Billy Sharpe, one of the league’s highest scorers last season. The Swans will have to mark him carefully and stop the supply coming in from the midfielders if we are to take away 3 vital away points. Last season our away from was poor and this cost us automatic promotion to the championship, we must not allow teams like Scunthorpe to dictate the game, we must also tighten up our discipline which away from home was poor.

A lot of ill discipline in key games last season away from home cost us in more than points but in needless suspensions. Against Scunthorpe we will need to use the pace of the wingers and be strong at the back. Set pieces could decide the outcome of this game. I foresee that Britton, Pratley and Knight, will be the major players for this game. I predict a first away win of the season at Glanford Park.

Next up is Oldham Athletic at Boundary Park, if the Swans can win away at Scunthorpe United then this will give the swans confidence. Andy Liddell and Richard Wellens will be the players to watch. If the Swans can stem Wellens’s creative threat and mark well Andy Liddell then the swans will come away from Boundary Park with a second away win. However against a very creative Oldham side we will have to use the pace of Knight and Britton to open up the somewhat shaky Athletic defence. With the Defence strengthened over the summer transfer window the swans will be better placed to win these kinds of matches. I predict a tough away draw.

The Swans will play host to Doncaster Rovers at the Liberty Stadium on the 19th August. The Swans lost against Doncaster on both occasions last season, 2-1. The swans will have a tough time breaking down the Doncaster defence as last season Rovers boasted one of the best defensive records in the league.

The Swans strike force will have to get into good positions and use the distribution channels well. The midfield could hold the key to this game, Pratley will have to make sure he controls the centre of the midfield and the wingers get decent crosses into Fallon, Trundle and Bayo. Doncaster will be confident in their defensive qualities however Rovers away from home was just as poor last season and with the loss of influential midfielders in Kenny Lunt, Doncaster could find it tough at the Liberty this time around. I predict another home win to the swans.

Swansea will have a break from League football, in the Carling Cup first round. Swansea will host Wycombe Wanderers on the 22nd August. Wycombe had good start to last season but tailed off towards the end. This was due to a personal tragedy for the club when Midfielder Mark Philo died in a Car Accident. The Swans will be confident of making sure than Wanderers don’t overhaul league position to claim a win. Jermaine Easter will be potent in attack and could be the difference between the sides. In spite of this Swansea will have the upper hand in the depth of our side. Wycombe look thin on the ground for experience since the likes of Roger Johnson departing Adams Park. Swansea will have to be strong in defence for this game to counteract the attacking style of the Wanderers. I predict a win for the Swans; however they must contain Easter and take advantage of the high tempo we know we can play at.

Next up is an away trip to Brisbane Road as Paul Connor will face his former side.

Leyton Orient secured promotion from League 2 last season with an attacking brand of football. Lee Steele and Paul Connor could prove the key opposition for the Swans.

Orient have created a solid side that will be hard to break down, this will be a tough test for us, the defensive frailties with have to be shored up if we are to get anything from this game. Oakes or Willy will have to communicate well with the back four especially when set pieces come around. The Strike force will have to un-nerve the likes of John Mackie at Centre back, Knight’s pace could be crucial here and Fallon/Bayo will have to hold up the ball well for Knight to get behind the defence. Butler and Britton will be key also stretching the defence making ideal room for Trundle, and Knight to get into good attacking positions. I predict a very Tough away win.

A good start to the season is essential, if we can get 10 -13 points from the first month’s fixtures and secure a 2nd round place in the carling cup final this could set the tone of our season. So let’s get behind the boys, and let battle commence.

by Lisa Higgins (sbrjack