Jackett out to wrap up Swansea's elevation

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The Independent Online

Three years ago Swansea City were on the verge of relegation into non-league football and were attracting crowds of 5,000, but today they are on the verge of extending their impressive recovery with promotion to the Championship.

In 2003, a 4-2 final day win against Hull prevented their relegation. Victory against Barnsley in the League One play-off final today would see the Swans return to the second tier of English football after 22 years away.

A win for the Welsh side in Cardiff would also keep the Watford connection alive in this season's play-offs. Adrian Boothroyd took the Hornets into the Premiership last week while a former Watford player, Kenny Jackett, is the man responsible for the Swans' revival. Jackett, who took over 11 months after that win against Hull, is looking to secure a second promotion in his second full season in charge, echoing Boothroyd's swift success at Vicarage Road.

Swansea and Barnsley did not push for automatic promotion during the regular season, the former finishing fifth and their opponents one place lower.

Jackett's men then beat Brentford in the semi-finals while Barnsley triumphed against Huddersfield in a Yorkshire derby, setting up a game which will be particularly poignant for the Swansea defender Kevin Austin.

He endured an injury-ravaged spell at Oakwell between 1999 and 2001 but is now determined to condemn his former employers to another season in League One.

He said: "Barnsley are geared up to play their football at a higher level, but I hope they have to wait that little bit longer than us. They are still a great club and despite suffering from a serious Achilles injury I was sorry to leave. But today we have to make sure we finish the job we've started."

The Barnsley manager, Andy Ritchie, is confident his side will not suffer from nerves as Leeds United appeared to in losing 3-0 to Watford.

He said: "My players responded on the last day of the season when we needed to win to make sure of the play-offs, and they responded from being 1-0 down after the first leg in the semi-final against Huddersfield to come through. Either they have no nerves, or with them being so young they just don't feel them."

In Sunday's League Two final, the innovations Boothroyd has brought to Watford will be copied by the Grimsby manager, Russell Slade. Slade is taking his side early to the Millennium Stadium to help them acclimatise to the size and atmosphere of the place. They will watch the League One final together.

With the return of their top scorer, Gary Jones, whose red card in the semi-finals was rescinded, the Mariners will be favourites against a Cheltenham side managed by John Ward.

They also have the benefit of a perfect recent record against Ward's men, having beaten them twice in the regular season. Then again, since when did form guarantee anything in the play-off finals?

* John Gorman said yesterday that he is "disappointed" with Wycombe's decision to sack him and is planning a rapid return to management. The 56-year-old former Swindon manager, who took over in November 2004, had endured a difficult season at the Causeway and had been on compassionate leave since April, following the death of his wife, Myra.

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