Nottingham Forest will take an advantage into the second leg of their Championship play-off semi-final as they beat Sheffield United 2-1 at Bramall Lane.
If you had told Steve Cooper’s men that they’d be in the play-offs when he took charge earlier in the season, you’d have struggled to find a straight face – such was their poor form. But as they went into the penultimate round of fixtures of the regular Championship campaign, Forest were actually chasing automatic promotion. They faltered and had to settle for the play-offs, but they are now 90 minutes away from Wembley.
Although Forest were supposed to have the upper hand, as the fourth-placed side taking on fifth, they were up against a Sheffield United team that have proven tough to beat at home in the Championship this season. The Blades lost just five of their 23 home games in the regular Championship season, winning 13, including a 4-0 thrashing of champions Fulham on the final day of the campaign to secure their spot in the play-offs.
Forest got off to the perfect start though, when Jack Colback gave them the lead at Bramall Lane inside 10 minutes. The visitors cut through the Sheffield United back line with a brilliant pass and, after Wes Foderingham saved from Philip Zinkernagel’s shot, Colback was there to rifled home the follow up.
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The early goal appeared to have rocked the Blades defence and Foderingham was forced into making a number of key saves in the first half, but they weren’t without their chances.
However, it was another sucker punch from Forest that put them 2-0 up as Brennan Johnson powered the ball into the top corner from inside the area after Joe Lolley’s shot had been blocked.
The goal sent the travelling Forest fans into a frenzy, and there was one visiting supporter who would have been celebrating more than most. Nineteen years ago, Brennan’s dad David also scored for Forest against Sheffield United in a play-off semi-final as the two sides looked to reach the Premier League (actually netting one in both legs).
FT: Sheffield United 1-2 Nottingham Forest.
⚽️ 10' Colback
🟨 29' Fleck
🟨 34' Worrall
🟨 43' Zinckernagel
🟨 44' Robinson
🟨 44' Spence
🟨 44' Norwood
⚽️ 71' Johnson
⚽️ 90+1' Berge 🅰️ Gibbs-White
🟨 90+3' Baldock
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) May 14, 2022
But they’ll both be hoping to avoid a repeat of the result, with Sheffield United eventually winning the tie 5-4 on aggregate.
“We’re in a good position from winning the game,” Johnson told Sky Sports after the game.
“We played well today and had a lot of chances. We’d have liked the advantage to have been bigger, but we’ll take any advantage going into Tuesday.”
And Cooper is nothing but positive ahead of Tuesday’s second leg despite Sander Berge scoring a late goal to cut Forest’s advantage to one.
“I’m not going to walk out of here irritated (by the late goal),” he told Sky Sports.
“We’ve taken the lead in the first leg of a play-offs away from home, playing the way we did, creating the amount of chances.
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“If there’s any frustration, yeah we’ve conceded, we should have scored a lot more than what we did. But it was a proper play-off game, it had everything in it and we’re halfway through, it’s great.
“If somebody said we were going to create that many chances today, in the tension of a game that the play-offs give you, away from home, you’d be very very happy with it. We’ve got a lot of young players in the team, experiencing things for the first time or haven’t done things like this too many times before.
“We’re only positive. The dressing room is really positive, we cannot wait for Tuesday now. Let’s go.”