Graham Potter always stressed it was a long shot, but after watching Swansea City’s play-off dream die an unnecessary little death the manager admitted they were not among the best six teams in the Championship.
Despite leading 2-0 against Hull City at the Liberty Stadium with only 13 minutes to go, the Swans stumbled to a 2-2 draw.
Two goals from Oli McBurnie – taking his total for the season to 21 in the Championship – were rubbed out by Jarrod Bowen and Nouha Dicko.
As the Swans had no margin for error, it means they can now only reach 69 points. Sixth-placed Derby already have 70.
““The reality of it, if we are being fair, is we probably were not ready to be part of that top six,” said Potter in an honest assessment of his squad.
“We have not been good enough to be in that top six for much of the season, so it is for us to say we have not been good enough this year.
“We have had a lot of turbulence to deal with in terms of relegation from the Premier League, we have had a lot of young players in terms of age.”
Swansea have two games left – at home to Derby on Wednesday and then a trip to Blackburn Rovers next weekend – but Potter is now already planning for next season.
The club have activated a one-year contract extension for captain Mike van der Hoorn – meaning he cannot leave on a free transfer, but there will be a summer of speculation over whether he, Daniel James, McBurnie, Connor Roberts and others remain or leave.
Of van der Hoorn’s deal, Potter added: “It’s a big boost for us and an obvious one, I think. To be fair it was just a formality but while it is not done there are always questions.
“He has been great for us. He has developed as a leader, he has developed as a person and has developed as a footballer.
“He is one of the best Championship centre-backs and the challenge for him is to be a Premier League centre-back and we hopefully will help him get there. It is great news for us.
“We have a lot of work to do in the summer, we’ve got the nucleus of a good group there, a lot of good lads with a good spirit that are learning and just starting out.
“So, I look forward to trying to shape this squad and improve.”
Had Swansea been able to hang on for a win, then they could have moved within two points of Derby by beating them on Wednesday night.
They would still have needed final day results to go in their favour, but their inability to defend simple crosses cost them again – just as it has done all season.
Potter added: “It was difficult with how Hull came and set up. They were very hard to break down.
“We scored a really, really good first goal and then to get the second from a good bit of open play meant we felt comfortable.
“But we were not too comfortable as teams do not have to do a lot, or necessarily play that well to score.
“We didn’t defend our box in the second phase of a long throw, and then we are in a situation where the result probably does not mean a lot to the opposition, but it means a lot to us.
“We have got a young team, who are thinking a lot about trying to win and we probably did not see that last 10 minutes out as well as we could have.
“We are all disappointed as we wanted to take care of our own business, so to speak, and we were not able to do that.
“We have a young team, people forget that George Byers, Daniel James, Connor Roberts, Matt Grimes and even Oli McBurnie are starting out at this level. These results, while disappointing, are part of the process to get better.
“In terms of minutes for under-23 players we are the highest in the Championship, and that comes with the process you have to go through a bit of pain.
“But I am proud of the players, proud of the supporters. Despite their disappointment they have always got behind myself and the team, and for that I am grateful.”