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Steve Cooper hopes Swansea put play-off experience to good use against Barnsley

·3-min read

Steve Cooper is counting on Swansea making their Sky Bet Championship play-off experience tell against semi-final opponents Barnsley.

Swansea have reached the play-offs for the second successive season under Cooper, accumulating an extra 10 points this term to finish two places higher in fourth.

Barnsley finished 21st last season, avoiding relegation by a single point, but the appointment of Valerien Ismael last October transformed their fortunes as the Tykes ended the campaign two points adrift of Swansea in fifth.

“We hope that will help us, but it’s not just last season,” said head coach Cooper, reflecting on their play-off semi-final defeat last term ahead of Monday’s first leg at Barnsley.

“Conor Hourihane, for example, has had a lot of play-off experience, some of it at Barnsley.

“Hopefully the players use that experience wisely.

“But it’s not just the play-offs. It’s the bigger games in general, that’s what experience is.”

Swansea squeezed into the play-offs on the final day of last season, edging out Nottingham Forest on goal difference.

Cooper’s side then suffered a 3-2 semi-final aggregate defeat to Brentford after winning the first leg at the Liberty Stadium 1-0.

“They are obviously bigger games on a bigger stage than normal,” Cooper said.

“It’s about focusing on the performance and not letting the scrutiny on the games seep in.

“It’s important how you manage the first and the second legs and the differences they can give you.

“Notoriously play-off games are frantic at times, and it’s about calm heads but being committed at the same time.

“You’ve got to the use the disappointment of previous experiences as motivation. But equally you’ve got to know what you can achieve as motivation as well.”

Swansea’s 16-goal top scorer Andre Ayew has been declared fully fit for the Oakwell clash after hamstring trouble.

Ayew started the final game of the season at Watford last weekend but has not completed 90 minutes since April 13.

Wales Under-21 defender Brandon Cooper misses out after suffering an ankle injury in training.

Swansea were in pursuit of a top-two spot for most of the season but Cooper, who has operated on a tight budget and saw Joe Rodon leave for Tottenham in October, believes making the play-offs again is a notable achievement.

He said: “A lot of stuff here has been against the odds.

“We had a good go at the automatics, even though we found it difficult at the end to keep up because of some of the strength of depth we haven’t got.

“But we equalled our record amount of points at this level in what has been a congested season to say the least.

“We’ve got to take confidence from all of the good things we’ve done this season, hone in on it and use it well in these next two games.”

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