Swansea City 1 Newcastle United 0: Swans toon up for next season
LUKE Moore struck a blow for Michael Laudrup's fringemen this weekend as Swansea City made certain of another year in the Premier League.
With 40 points on the board and ten games of the season still ahead, Swansea can now plan without any doubt for a third year in this division.
Yet the man whose goal secured a season's double over Newcastle United is not sure to be around when Swansea do it all again in 2013-14.
Moore's last league strike, another late winner, came 12 months ago against Manchester City.
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His first-team opportunities have been limited and, with Laudrup pledging to work with a tight squad next season, Moore may consider moving on if he wants more regular football.
"I think two players for each position is more than enough," the Swansea manager said.
"That gives you 22 players, then there are some young players from the under-21s with talent and potential to add to that.
"With those numbers everybody in the first-team squad feels important, and also the young players get the feeling that they are not that far away from the team.
"If you have a squad of 25 or 27-plus players, then you have 14 or 16 who are disappointed every Saturday because they are not playing.
"And the young players think that a whole of the load the seniors have to eat something very bad before they can have even a small chance of being involved, so I think a smaller squad is good for a lot of things."
Laudrup's determination to work with a relatively small group of players remains despite the fact that as well as another season in the Premier League, he is now trying to prepare Swansea for Europe.
There are plenty of his counterparts who would argue that any club trying to compete overseas as well as domestically must stockpile players for an elongated season.
For instance the man in the opposing dugout this weekend, Alan Pardew, complained earlier this season that he did not have a big enough squad to cope with the demands of the Europa League as Newcastle United toiled in top flight.
Yet Laudrup is not convinced. Swansea have made a habit of doing things their way in recent years, and it seems that is not about to change.
"I remember one year in Barcelona when we played every three days with 19 players," Laudrup added.
"I know if we get an injury sometimes you can have a problem — nobody knew we would lose Neil Taylor 12 hours after the transfer window shut this season.
"But I don't believe in having 27 players.
"What for? You cannot have 27 players at the same level anyway.
"If you have that many, there will be five or six who never play.
"And I think we showed this season that we don't need many.
"We had two-and-a-half months where we played two games a week and, although we had some small injuries, we managed okay.
"I don't remember us having only 15 or 16 players for any game, and we were always competitive.
"I felt during that period that everyone felt they were important — they all played some part.
"Next year we hope we will have four competitions to play in instead of three, but I think we can cope."
So Swansea will be searching for quality rather than quantity when the transfer window opens at the end of the season.
But there are likely to be a handful of new faces arriving nevertheless, so inevitably that means players must go the other way.
Moore may be one of the contenders to depart given that he has struggled for regular game-time ever since Swansea climbed out of the Championship.
But Laudrup says it is too early to decide on what the future holds for any of his players.
"You could talk about Luke Moore not starting as many games as he would like, but there are others like Garry Monk, Dwight Tiendalli — I could mention a few," Laudrup said.
"I don't want to go into details on any individual right now.
"We are thinking about next season already, about positions where we want to strengthen, and we have names already.
"But we will still leave something open for the players who are here and, when people get a chance, they have to grab it. What Luke did was an example of that."
Moore's only other goals this season came in the win over Barnsley which kicked off Swansea's run to the Capital One Cup final.
Six days after they trounced Bradford City at Wembley, Swansea were back in action against an in-form Newcastle side — and there was a fear that their mentality may not be right.
Yet it very quickly became apparent that there would be no issues with Swansea's focus, for Laudrup's players produced some fabulous football before half-time against the Toon.
Michu headed over, then touched Jonathan de Guzman's free-kick into the path of Ashley Williams.
The centre-back did not connect properly with an acrobatic volley and Steven Taylor cleared off the line.
Rob Elliot, Newcastle's goalkeeping understudy, spilled a de Guzman long-ranger before Monk nodded the Dutchman's free-kick over the top.
Swansea should have been ahead at the break, and they very nearly were two minutes after the restart when Pablo Hernandez's defence-splitter sent in Angel Rangel.
The right-back's fierce drive was well saved by Elliot, who was on hand again to repel Wayne Routledge's follow-up effort.
Then the contest changed. Suddenly Swansea lost control of possession, and suddenly Newcastle's powerful frontline were asking most of the questions.
Papiss Cisse fired wastefully over, then Yoan Gouffran followed suit after Moussa Sissoko burst in behind.
Yohan Cabaye's dipping effort from distance was heading for the target until Michel Vorm pushed the ball onto the crossbar.
Sissoko also forced Vorm into action from range before Mathieu Debuchy volleyed across the face.
Swansea had survived a fairly hairy spell, and they came back into the contest as an attacking force in the closing stages.
Ki Sung-Yueng might have broken the deadlock but for another Elliot save and, then just as a stalemate looked likely, his fellow substitute found a path to goal.
Routledge did well, tricking his man and crossing from the left. And when Davide Santon and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa made a mess of clearing, Moore gave one of those occasional reminders of his quality in the final third.
The player who was once rated as highly as Wayne Rooney dummied sweetly to fool Steven Taylor, then watched as his shot hit Cabaye and rolled into the corner of the net.
Swansea had won a game where they were only worth a draw, and Laudrup had 40 Premier League points some six games before his predecessor reached the landmark last season.
"Everybody said to me when I came that 17th would be good this season, so I could never imagine that we would reach 40 points with ten games left," the Dane said.
"I think now we can go for 50, and that would mean a place in the top ten. That would be outstanding for this club."