Swansea City – 3
Nottingham Forest – 1
A frustrating evening – a cracking start, the woodwork rattled, penalty calls denied – all compounded by some clown defending and deadly finishing from our hosts. An improbably comeback denied by a foolhardy decision by Lee Camp to go up for corners with too long remaining on the clock. The end result? A customary exit from the play-offs for Forest at the semi-final stage!
Unusually though we did go out with a bang rather than a whimper – which is some kind of scant relief and sign of progress. We had chances, we fluffed them or went desperately close, and we had an absolutely shocking referee – I’m not going to dwell on him though. Congratulations to Swansea City – we gave ’em a run for their money but ultimately they go to Wembley to face either Reading or Cardiff.
It’s pretty customary for Forest to serve up a game that’s good for the neutrals (or indeed, our opponents) in the play-offs, and this was no exception. Billy mixed things up to a level that even I wasn’t expecting – recalling the Moose, McGoldrick, Tudgay and Tyson into an unusual looking line-up:
Moloney Morgan Chambers Gunter
And you know what, it looked like a blinding move early doors – although it was the hosts who threatened first with danger man Nathan Dyer having an early effort that Wes Morgan put a block on. The rebound found Borini who was blocked in turn by Chambers. A great counter attack from Forest gave the first indication that this wasn’t quite going to be Forest’s night.
Tys used his pace to blast down the right wing and beat his fullback, teeing up the ball into the centre for McGoldrick who’d made up a tremendous amount of ground too – he left-footed strike was pretty powerful and had the beating of De Vries, but rose a little too much and struck the crossbar. It would have been one hell of a start from the Reds.
It was starting as a real end-to-end game – at the other end Scott Sinclair couldn’t seem to make his mind up between crossing and shooting from a tight angle and achieved something between the two – hitting the ball powerfully across goal but too far infront of Borini to make contact, eventually going right through to give Forest a throw-in by the corner flag.
Meanwhile the pendulum swung in the other direction, Lewis McGugan flighted a decent freekick into the box where McGoldrick perhaps got too much on it and headed it straight at De Vries rather than glancing it past him in one direction or planting it the other side. Again, at the other end Rangel chipped it goalward but not quite finding the target.
Swansea then rattled our crossbar – Borini got on the end of a cross from Sinclair and blasted goalward, a last-gap block from Wes Morgan deflected the ball over Lee Camp and mercifully off the bar and eventually cleared to safety. The home side were starting to build some dominance though, and sure enough were the ones to break the deadlock shortly after.
Leon Britton made a bit of a monkey out of Marcus Tudgay on the edge of the area, cutting inside him, taking a touch before stroking a well flighted shot inside the far post giving Lee Camp little option but to stand and watch it go in. A cracking finish, although we certainly should have been doing more to close him down in such a dangerous position.
Just after we’d been denied what looked a fairly obvious penalty when David McGoldrick was being roundly undressed by two or three Swansea defenders there was a doubly-cruel suckerpunch when previous playoff-thorn-in-the-side doubled the home side’s advantage. I for one now no longer feel upset seeing Dobbie dying in Harry Potter!
It was a cracking goal by the Swansea midfielder though – our defenders should be doing better than this, and there was a bit of luck in the nutmeg on Chambers, but the quick shot gave Camp no chance to get down fast enough as the ball fizzed under his hand and into the bottom corner – a really well taken goal. It was looking worryingly like game over.
I might have lost my chronology slightly, but Tyson was wrestled onto the deck in the penalty area at some point, and again appeals were denied by Mr Marriner – who moments later booked Gunter for, well, could someone tell me what for? From what I saw he ran past Dyer and picked up the ball which was in open play. A shocking decision. (checking the stats Gunts was booked before either goal – so I’ve probably got everything in the wrong order!!).
Just before half time it could really have been out of sight – Sinclair broke and found Borini who ended up in the area at a tight angle, his powerful shot at Camp’s near post was saved. A gloomy half time – Moussi had been shocking in possession, our fullbacks were looking dangerously exposed and the rest of midfield were struggling to get a foothold.
Billy made no changes during the break – and certainly we can’t blame luck or the referee for what happened with the first chance of the half. More excellent work by Tyson down the left saw him get past a couple of clumsy challenges and pulling back to Marcus Tudgay, who was wonderfully place, sent De Vries the wrong way, but spannered the ball over with his left foot. A bloody awful miss.
The Reds had their tails up though, clearly having Billy’s words still ringing in their ears – Tyson was felled on the edge of the area, just to the left of the D. Lewis McGugan lined it up and struck it powerfully toward the top corner but it just kept rising and thundered against the crossbar and threatened to snap it in two. Swansea 2, Crossbar 2, Forest 0. Frustrating isn’t the word!
That’s not to say we didn’t ride our luck at the other end – Darren Pratley, on as a sub for Swansea, had time to bring the ball down, settle into an armchair, fill and then light a pipe, smoke it to the dregs and then pour himself a nice glass of Port before calmly slotting the ball into the net. Instead he headed it wide completely unmarked and about 3-4 yards out.
Tys was withdrawn for forgotten-man Majewski, seemed a strange move to me as Nathan had been pretty pivotal to many of our better moments, but he may have been feeling a knock or just knackered – he’s not had much game time of late. The tide was still in Swansea’s favour though, and only a well-timed last-gap tackle from Chambers in the area denied Borini a scoring chance.
Billy introduced Boyd for Tudgay, and whilst Forest built up possession and some degree of pressure, the hard-working home side stifled us brilliantly leaving us with little by the way of chances on goal. To make matters worse for us their pace made them very threatening on the break – with Sinclair denied by Camp, and Borini blocked by Morgan.
The final change for us was McGoldrick to come off for Robbie Earnshaw, who made a pretty immediate impact – putting it in the net within two minutes of his introduction. A delicious throughball from Majewski found his perfectly timed run and he made no mistake smashing it powerfully and low just inside De Vries’ near post. It was quite cathartic!
As the Reds pressed further Gunts will probably wonder why he didn’t go for goal instead of try to cross to Earnie inside the area – he overhit it with his left foot regardless and eventually it was cleared from the dangerzone. In stoppage time Earnie again was causing the danger – a well placed shot hit the post to make the woodwork once again confound us.
Another penalty appeal, this time for hand-ball, was ignored by both linesman and referee – it didn’t feel like much of a surprise any longer, but presumably having seen footage of his howlers in the first half there was a glimmer of hope the referee might have been a little more kind to us. If anything he spent the second half being even more rubbish.
Continued pressure saw a couple of late corners – I’m not really sure what Lee Camp thought he was doing coming up for it, I suppose I’d not even think twice if he’d headed in the equaliser, but as it was the ball cleared, Pratley took it toward the half-way line before putting the game beyond down with a long-range and well-placed shot into the empty goal thanks to Camp’s wanderings.
Despite the penalty claims that the referee denied (in both legs!), the woodwork interventions and all that guff I still think we were beaten by the better team over two legs. Whilst I’m naturally gutted we didn’t manage to get a result I wish them well in the final – despite the sizeable number of neanderthals who decided it would be more fun to goad the Forest players, staff and fans rather than celebrate a great victory for themselves.
Of course, we mustn’t judge the whole because of a few idiots – but it does leave a sour taste. My attitude towards the play-offs has always been if-not-Forest-than-anyone-but-Cardiff. I don’t see any reason to change that stance – I do think over the course of the season and certainly the play-offs that Swansea are worthy promotion contenders. Best of luck to them at Wembley.
As for us, another season of regrouping after play-off heartbreak. With key players out of contract, continual speculation regarding the future of the manager (although he’s apparently looking forward to next year already!) and all the usual uncertainty I’m looking forward to taking some time out away from the blog to recuperate and recharge. Thanks for all your support this season – it’s appreciated!
I noted this above, but I think it’s worth re-iterating. We gave it a good go tonight, I’m proud of the lads and their effort. We contested a game against a very good team, and it means a great deal that we at least didn’t succumb to some kind of ridiculous embarrassing collapse that I’ve been mentally preparing myself for ever since a play-off place was confirmed.
Well done lads, unlucky tonight – you’ve done us proud. The final word goes to our defeaters – if it comes to it, please please please do your damnedest to make sure those scurrilous bastards that are your countrymen don’t ascend to the top flight. Good luck at Wembley. Best of luck to Reading too in the other semi-final.
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