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Swansea and Forest serve up a treat

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Paul Fletcher | 01:05 UK time, Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The Liberty Stadium

It was the type of game that reminded me why I fell in love with football in the first place.

Swansea defeated Nottingham Forest 3-1 on Monday to book their place in the Championship play-off final, but to reduce the match to a statistic would be to do a huge disservice to a contest packed with emotion and entertainment.

There was awesome skill and attacking flair, missed chances, battered woodwork, controversial refereeing decisions and, at the end of it all, a goal from the half-way line to finally extinguish Forest's fire.

It was a night that shredded the nerves of the supporters of both teams to the same degree that it must have thrilled the neutrals watching on television. It's hard to imagine a more stark contrast with the goalless first-leg draw at the City Ground on Thursday.

The last 10 minutes were quite simply breathtaking as Forest pushed and pushed for the goal that would level the match and the tie at 2-2.

Forest had looked dead and buried before Robert Earnshaw, once of Cardiff, came off the bench to score the goal that gave them hope. And when the striker directed a shot at goal seconds before the end, time seemed to briefly slow down. There was a collective intake of breath from the home fans, while Forest supporters must have thought they were about to be catapulted into dreamland.

The hopes and aspirations of an entire season seemed to be distilled down into a split-second's action. It was Swansea's night, and the ball struck the base of the post and rolled to safety.

bredanrodgers595.jpgSwansea boss Brendan Rodgers saw his side's attacking flair richly rewarded. Photo: Getty

When substitute Darren Pratley delivered the coup de grace with a brilliant strike into the empty Forest goal from 50 yards, deep into injury-time, the relief was obvious.

Manager Brendan Rodgers charged down the touchline in a manner reminiscent of mentor Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford when the Special One was in charge of Porto many years ago. Players hugged each other; Pratley ripped off his shirt and was booked for the ebullience of his celebrations. A few fans invaded the pitch even though the match had not yet finished and the occasion seemed to have briefly spiralled out of control.

The full-time whistle did see a large-scale pitch invasion but that did not prevent several Forest players, members of the backroom staff and boss Billy Davies from battling through opposition fans to pay tribute to their own magnificent supporters, who had tried so hard to raise their team as they trailed 2-0 with time draining inexorably away.

"That was scary, very scary but we owed our fans a thank-you," said Davies after his journey through the Swansea fans.

His team were frequently cut to ribbons, particularly in an opening half during which the Swans scored twice in a four-minute spell, but Davies was in typically bullish mood as he contemplated another season that has ended in play-off heartbreak.

"I am not down or disappointed," said the Scot, who tasted defeat against eventual play-off victors Blackpool at the semi-final stage last year. "I'm upbeat.

"At the end I said to my players that they must keep their heads up. In the second half we put Swansea to the sword but I have said for a while that in play-offs a refereeing decision or a little bit of luck can be crucial."

Forest's failure to win promotion will inevitably bring with it speculation about the Scot's future. His feisty personality and stubborn streak mean that he is frequently at loggerheads with someone or other, often key figures at the club he is managing. At Forest he has barely been able to disguise his frustration with the transfer acquisitions panel that oversees the buying and selling of players.

However, on Monday he was adamant that he had no intention of leaving the City Ground.

"Let me make it clear - 100% clear - that my agreement with this board was three-and-a-half years to get this club out of this division," added Davies, who joined Forest in January 2009.

"Along with my staff, I've already started looking at the changes needed, and we will prepare again for another excellent challenge next season. I'm not planning on going anywhere."

But Monday was not really about Davies and his future - it belonged to his opposite number Rodgers and the team that he has created since taking over last summer.

"It was a brilliant game, it was probably [worthy of] a final in relation to the quality of both sides," said 38-year-old Rodgers, who was the Swans' fourth choice to succeed Paulo Sousa.

"You have to pay credit to Nottingham Forest for coming here and playing like they did. They played very, very well. But I think the night belongs to my group, my players and the supporters because they were absolutely heroic."

Swansea are by some margin the most attractive side I have seen in the Football League this season, and if they go on to win the final I think they will be a refreshing addition to the Premier League.

pratley595.jpg
Darren Pratley was mobbed at the Liberty Stadium after his winning goal. Photo: PA

The lush, large pitch at the Liberty Stadium is well suited to their easy-on-the-eye brand of football, while the atmosphere that their supporters create is sensational. We live in an era where fans are often drowned out by music pumping out from overwhelming tannoy systems, but not at Swansea. As the PA announcer said before kick-off: "This is Wales, this is Swansea - we can sing."

Swansea can sing on the pitch, too. They are composed and calculating in possession, always probing, probing, probing until space opens. If, as has been suggested, they are the closest the Championship has seen to a club modelled in the image of Barcelona, then on Monday midfield duo Leon Britton and Joe Allen were their Andres Iniesta and Xavi. They might lack inches but they have cunning and ambition in abundance.

Wide men Scott Sinclair and Nathan Dyer boast incredible pace. They terrified the Forest defence every time they ran at goal and have been the stuff of nightmares for full-backs all season.

Stephen Dobbie intelligently filled the space behind striker Fabio Borini and scored an excellent goal after drifting across the edge of the Forest penalty area before placing his shot beyond goalkeeper Lee Camp. Borini is on loan from Chelsea and boasts a subtlety of movement rarely glimpsed outside the top tier, although his touch at times let him down on Monday.

I do not recall ever seeing goalkeeper Dorus de Vries kicking the ball up-field. It is just not the way Swansea go about their business.

It was no surprise that as Rodgers discussed his team's victory he explained that he watches just about every Barcelona game, home and away. Rather like the Catalan side, the Swans are patient in possession but play a high-tempo pressing game when they do not have the ball.

The Welsh club were exciting but porous in defence under Roberto Martinez and tight at the back but short of goals under Sousa. Rodgers seems to have created a potent balance.

It is obvious that he has a strong bond with his players. Time and again on Monday he spoke of how proud he was of them and how much courage they had shown to stick to their principles on such a high-pressure occasion.

"They dug deep and showed team spirit to get through the match," said Rodgers. "We were tipped to finish in the bottom three but we finished in the top three. Now we have reached Wembley and we must remember to celebrate this great achievement."

A few weeks ago as Swansea defeated Sheffield United 4-0 Rodgers stopped standing at the edge of his technical area and retired to the dug-out. As he did so, he explained to coach Colin Pascoe that he was sitting down because he was bored.

There was nothing boring about Monday's game. It was a wonderful and welcome advert for the drama of the play-offs.

You can follow me throughout the season at twitter.com/Paul__Fletcher

 

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    As a Forest fan I would firstly like to offer my congratulations to Swansea and their fans, and I hope that you use the momentum gained from last night to go on and win promotion. Any team that plays with the verve Swansea do, coupled with having the best defence in the country deserves to be promoted.

    Forest's performance was one of the best I have seen from them this season and I can say hand on heart that my disappointment was tempered by that. Not many teams can over run Swansea (admittedly only in the second half). I just hope we can keep our key players for next season.

    Congratulations again, Jacks!

  • Comment number 2.

    I was only listening to this on the radio but even I was breathless during the last 10 mins. I can only imagine what it was like in the ground!

    Contrast this with the, in my opinion, utterly snooze-worthy FA Cup Final, and it just reminds me why I prefer watching the Championship over Premier League teams

  • Comment number 3.

    SWANSEA!
    SWANSEA!
    City said I,
    Standing on the North Bank till the day I die!

    What a result.
    GREAT game, fair play Forest, but you it was won last Thursday when we held you to a draw at yours.

    Glad to see the Jacks getting some recognition, we are the best FOOTBALLING side outside Arsenal and Barcelona. No one plays like we do, and when we're on top form, no one can keep up.

    Now, COME ON READING!! Good luck tonight Royals.

    STID

  • Comment number 4.

    Brilliant article. Nice to see Swansea getting the press they deserve.
    This has made the whole city a very happy place.
    Thank you Brendan and co

  • Comment number 5.

    Great article fletch!
    im so proud of the swans, we look a side determined now. I dont care if its cardiff or reading in the final - wel go there playing our style on that fantastic pitch.
    Liberty was bouncing last night, i cant wait for may 30th!

  • Comment number 6.

    Really glad for Swansea! As a Southend fan I remember having some great games with them over the years when we were promoted up to the Championship, with one of the finest games coming in a 2-2 draw at the Liberty Stadium, with Freddy Eastwood and Rory Fallon stealing the show on the pitch, but it was Swansea's own fans who really stole the show!

    As the Southend fans were leaving the stadium on their coaches many of the Swansea fans had gathered to applaud us off and congratulate us on our promotion. There aren't too many fans that would have done that and it is great to see you lot now getting the high's of a possible debut season in the Premier League!

    Good luck Swansea! (and as much as I'm sure you would love it to be Cardiff in the final I really hope Reading get through tonight)

    Oh and I hope you are enjoying Mark Gower, we have never replaced him with anyone near his quality.

  • Comment number 7.

    Having listened to Billy Davies' after the game I have to say the 'at loggerheads with someone' comment is not warranted this time round. For someone who had just suffered another play-off defeat, I thought what he said and how he said it showed class. Unlike many (most) managers he was even-tempered and rueful after defeat, accepted his team were on the wrong end of luck and, in wishing the Swans all the best, deserves many plaudits for his behaviour. Perhaps the FA should use the footage to show how managers should behave after a game.

    Well done Billy and good luck to your team next season. And good luck to the Swans as well.

  • Comment number 8.

    Awesome news for the game, Swansea play a fantastic brand of football and I can see them doing alright should the make the Premier League! I'm going to back Cardiff for tonight, too!

    Makes you think though, will the English Premier League be re-named the British Premier League, should Swansea/Cardiff get promoted? Does that open the door for Rangers & Celtic too? I read this blog by markbritton7 which spoke all about it; ( http://markbritton7.wordpress.com/2011/05/15/british-premier-league-cardiff-swansea-now-old-firm-next/ )

    I think Reading will pinch it tonight, but I think Swansea could be too strong for them in the play-off final, I think the met police would rather Reading there too to be honest!

    Forest were unlucky on the night, but simply have to finish better, so many chances!

  • Comment number 9.

    @7, I don't think you know what "at loggerheads with someone" actually means. It's got nothing to do with not showing class or his response after the game.

  • Comment number 10.

    It was definitely Swanseas night - Forest were denied two (arguably three) clear penalties by the referee. A fact which makes Billy Davies' post match reaction all the more impressive. Add to that the clear penalty denied to us in the first leg and you have to say Swansea have been damned lucky overall.
    All the best to them - but don't get carried away - best footballing side apart from Barcelona and Arsenal? In the second half last night Forest completely outplayed them, and we are nowhere near either of those teams.....

  • Comment number 11.

    Swansea are a team that play as a team, and with the ball on the floor. Lots of movement and support play, with wide men who can beat their man, and the occasional strong or tricky runner. Pass and move rather than kick and chase. It's a patient passing style and beautiful to savour, and difficult to play against primarily because it's different to the norm. Not many teams can change their style to counter Swansea And stick at it for 95 mins.
    For those accustomed to '3 passes and a hoof', sorry long pass, then you may need to bring a good book as you should be able to read a chapter before your team gets the ball back and you can kick it up to the front man.

    Thats not to say that they are world beaters but as a team they are more than the sum of its parts. And if they are fortunate enough to reach the EPL they will grace the league.

    And what an achievement that would be. Barely rescued from extinction almost 8 years ago. Badly run and laughed at for the turn over of managers. But their spirit will not be quenched. Determination to play the right way; the appointment of footballing managers from Brian Flynn and later; bringing in the right players as best as available for peanuts; a board that is determined to do the best possible and in the right way; a new stadium. To reach the EPL would be the success story of the last decade, and should be inspirational to others.

  • Comment number 12.

    @cloughtheking;

    Very good point, Swansea did ride their luck, and Andre Marriner at times was a bit too weak for my liking. Just in his general performance, denied Forest a few corners, booked Gunter rather pathetically. But Swansea's brand of football is very controlling, you must admit, with them at 10 men at The City Ground, they did fashion quite a few chances.

    I think to label them the 'best football side outwith Barcelona & Arsenal' is a massive statement too, Blackpool are a football side, and look what happened to them!! http://wp.me/p1z74j-v - (sorry to mention the same blog again, just a different article, but it's still good to illustrate the point!)

    Swansea will hold their own in the PL, should they make it. I just think Nottingham Forest might not come out of this Summer's soul searching as well as they did last Summer. Falling at the final hurdle again must be de-motivating.

    In other opinions, I think Rangers should try and pinch Earnshaw.

  • Comment number 13.

    if last nights goals had been scored in the Champions League final people would have hailed it the greatest final ever. Championship rocks.

  • Comment number 14.

    Fantastic game and great advert for the most enjoyable league in the world. Kudos to Forest for their second half performance but I'm still a little perplexed why he left Earnshaw (ex-Cardiff) and Anderson (ex-Swansea) on the bench when they would surely have been massively up for the game. Not that I'm complaining!

    Looking for a favour from Reading tonight as would much prefer them in a final - can only hope tonights game is half as good as last nights.

    @6 I dont think all fans appreciate the role Gower plays but i am personally a big fan - has now switched to a more central role and controls the flow of play very well. Even chipped in with a couple of goals this season which is a change.

  • Comment number 15.

    Now then,

    Thanks for your thoughts so far. It really was an amazing game and I must stress that both teams deserve enormous credit. At one point it had almost surreal, dreamlike feel. Everything was happening so fast it was impossible to take in.

    brisolbilly (post 7) - I agree, I thought Billy Davies was extremely gracious in defeat and spoke very well afterwards. Does that mean he won't fall out with someone influential at his club as they discuss next season? I'm not so sure.

  • Comment number 16.

    The Championship. What a League.

  • Comment number 17.

    Can anyone explain the notion of a Huge pitch. I was under the impression the size of the pitch was standard. How do some grounds have bigger pitches than others?

  • Comment number 18.

    Been watching the PL all season as a CITY fan and I must say that was right up there with the best games of football I've seen all season. Glad Swansea won but we can not have Cardiff in the PL with their fans terrorizing every town/city they Visit... Swansea or Reading will be just fine!

  • Comment number 19.

  • Comment number 20.

    @19 I am flabbergasted by that information, is this the only sport in the world where the pitch can change size depending on location?

  • Comment number 21.

    What a great advert for the play-offs. Two teams who play good football and swansea in particular pass and move very well and i really hope to see them in the prem next season. They do have very good wide players in dyer and sinclair, but borini was their best player imo. It is a shame that he will probably return to chelsea at the end of the season, if he is sensible then he will stay at swansea and get 1st team football at a club that play great football. But i feel sorry for lewis mcgugan in particular, he is a premiership player without a doubt and i would have really liked to have seen him their next season, but hopefully forest will come up automatically next season. This would have been a great final and i truly hope that swansea win the final because i think that the prem would suit them and they have a fantastic stadium and great pitch and rodgers is a great manager.

  • Comment number 22.

    A fantastic game of football last night and a magnificent advert for Championship football deservedly won by the better side over the two legs.

    Forest can consider themselves unlucky with one or two penalty shouts over the tie, but given the somewhat excessive histrionics that got Taylor sent off in the first game, the lack of a red card for Gunter in that game also and the penalty we should have had when Morgan scythed down Borini in the box they probably shouldn't complain too much.

    Here's hoping now that Reading do the decent thing tonight, as the prospect of 30,000 Cardiff fans rampaging through London when they lose the final doesn't really bear thinking about.

  • Comment number 23.

    Why on earth didn't Gunter leg up the lad who scored from the half way line? With such little time left it would have kept it at 2-1 and a glimmer of hope with ten men rather than no hope whatsoever and 11.

    Thought Swansea just about edged it over the two legs but Forest can count themselves very unfortunate with some of the refereeing decisions. On the flipside of that Swansea getting a 0-0 with ten men away form home was mightily impressive and you felt that would tip the tie in their favour. As it happens it has.

  • Comment number 24.

    At the end of all things black and white theres still one game left, but for a place like Swansea, decimated by thatcher and here bunch of blue and whites in the 80's (when i was still stumbling around on all fours), when people with nothing about them have the gaul to call people from places like swansea, liverpool, manchester, Newcastle, sheffield, glasgow etc.. rough, working class, spongers, idiots!!!.

    Iv got news for you middle of the roaders, its people like us that keeps the enthusiasm in the country, wether it be music (oasis, arctic monkeys), sport or even crime (jobs i mean, in the form of police, prison staff, probation staff, court workers, solicitors-the list goes on).

    Education Education Education Tony Blair once said, never mind all that, today everybody who has an affiliation with Swansea City is walking around with a very, very big smile on their face, not even losing there job in a factory would hurt so much! ha. And there is nothing, and i mean nothing anybody or anyone else can do about that. Education, Education, Education, as Jim Royle would say, My Arse!!!!

  • Comment number 25.

    Does anyone have any insight on how Sawnsea/Cardiff are able or how they started to play in the English leagues? Lot's of people would suggest they shouldn't be allowed as they are Welsh! having said that it would be a very boring and easy WPL for them

  • Comment number 26.

    I'm with the Lone Rangel on this one. I'm hoping to meet Reading in the final and I also feel that on our day, we can beat any team put in front of us on that pitch. Let's hope 30th May is Swansea's day!

  • Comment number 27.

    #25

    Both clubs were invited by the FA to the leagues (Swansea helped found League 3 in 1920 - Cardiff joined League 2 between 1910 and 1920).

  • Comment number 28.

    #27 - Cheers! presumably because of their fan base, size of City, history etc..

  • Comment number 29.

    #23 Bellion-Wonderland

    I have no idea why Gunter didnt bring the lad down, I was yelling at him to do it.
    Lack of experience maybe? I think that is all Forest lack, to be honest - for all the plaudits being given to Swansea, over the tie we were just as good as them.
    The 0-0 with ten men may may have slightly tipped the tie in thier favour but not as much as the penalty decisions denied to Forest - one at the City Ground and two, arguably three last night.
    I can't believe more is not being made of it - can you imagine the fuss if it was Chelsea in a champions league semi-final, denied three clear penalties against say, Barcelona? Oh hang on.......that happened 2 years ago and people still talk about how bad the ref was - Andre Mariners 'homer' performance last night barely gets a fleeting mention......

  • Comment number 30.

    What I feel doesn't get mentioned enough in all this is Swansea's exemplary financial situation.

    Whereas most other teams (and certainly all the other playoff sides) have glittering squads built with borrowed money and written off debts, Swansea don't live outside their means and were one of only two clubs in the league to record a (modest) profit this year.

    We have a wage limit of around 10k a week (I'd be surprised if there was a single Forest player on the pitch last night earning so little), and have never spent more than £1M on a player (and Scott Sinclair remains the only signing we've ever stretched that far for). When you look at how we dominated a side like Forest, who can bring on Earnshaw from the bench (who cost five mil - or six Nathan Dyers), then it makes the achievements of this club all the more amazing.

    Week after week Swansea wipe the floor with teams who cost literally ten times as much to put together. They do it by playing beautiful football the right way, and they are a very rare example of a team run in the right way too. Us Jacks are very, very proud of them but the whole of the Championship should be as well.

  • Comment number 31.

    As a Forest fan, I'd just like to mention Billy Davies conduct after the match.

    Billy met all the returning Forest coaches at the City Ground in the early hours of the morning, and thanked everyone for their support.

    He has something of a reputation, but I thought that gesture showed the class of the bloke. Good to hear he will be managing us next season.

    YOU REDS!!

  • Comment number 32.

    "Does that mean he won't fall out with someone influential at his club as they discuss next season? I'm not so sure."

    Paul, just who is it that Billy's "fallen out with" at Forest?

    Yes he can be an abrasive character, but falling out with people suggests not being able to work with them. Is he supposed to have fallen out with the owner? Because the owner has in the past defended his managers fiery streak and confirmed that he preferred him to have it.

    Seriously, you seem to think you know something, so who is it at the City Ground he's fallen out with? Either now or before? Which names at the City Ground has he ever fallen out with? Where was it reported?

    The reality is, you're writing up on a cliche fuelled by rumour and it does nothing for the mans reputation. Or yours.

  • Comment number 33.

    #30 el-nickpcr-io

    Dominated Forest? What game were you watching....well done for operating within a limited budget but the ref had a whte shirt on last night

  • Comment number 34.

    #30 el-nickpcr-io ... And Earnshaw cost £2.65M not £5M...

  • Comment number 35.

    Awesome acheivement for Swansea last night and one of the best games I've seen as a fan, can see Reading getting a 2-1 win at Cardiff tonight and hopefully a win for the Swans at Wembley. Well played to Forest though and what a great guy their manager is no complaining after the match like many Premier League mangaers would if any decisons didn't go their way.

  • Comment number 36.

    Great write up and at last some mutually respectful Forest/Swansea comments! I'm a Forest fan and "dislike" Swansea... why? Because they are a superb football team and have played great, passing football over the past five or six years. All the best Jacks for the Final. Thought the two legs were a great advertisement for the Championship. Only one gripe - of all the "ifs and buts" as the two ties ebbed and flowed, I'd love to know why Marriner ignored Williams' handball at the end - I'd have loved the tension as Kris Boyd stepped up to take the 92nd penalty!! Who knows what might have happened? How ironic that it was Darren Pratley who scored that monster goal as I screamed, "Don't go up, get back Campy!" Proud of you Forest but congratulations Swansea.

  • Comment number 37.

    I have to say that Swansea were the best side I saw down at the Den this year, and last nights match just showed the level of talent in the division, well played both teams.

    What I love is that at this level there is a true connection between the clubs and the fans, the noise is so much more 'real' than in the plastic premiership.

  • Comment number 38.

    As a long time Forest fan I was proud of our magnificent performance last night. Ultimately though poor refereeing cost us this game. How could the referee not see the Swansea player tugging at McGoldrick's shirt but then managed to book Gunter for the same action (it was outside of the penalty area so easier for the referee). The tackle on Tyson in the penalty area was clearly a foul but the referee was too far back to see it properly. And then there was the 2 handed save from Earnshaw in the penalty area. Again neither an assistant referee or referee saw it. Unbelievable. I don't begrudge Swansea their victory because at the the very least they play football as we like to play it - on the ground. It wasn't their fault (but it was their good fortune) that we had such a poor referee who quite clearly was swayed by the home fans. The wood work didn't help either!!!!

  • Comment number 39.

    does #3 On our way to Wembley - MayhillBoiJACK think Swansea are a better footballing side than the champions of the premier league then? ha ha. funny boy!

    anyway not taking anything away from swansea they did deserve it and they are a good footballing side (not better than two thirds of the premiership though sorry, as youll find out next season IF you go up).

    how juicy would a cardiff-swansea final be!

    come on the bluebirds!

  • Comment number 40.

    "Cloughtheking" I have to say you are sounding very bitter about pereceived injustices over the two legs. What you fell to mention is that swansea could have also had a pen lastnight when morgan clearly took borinis legs before contacting the ball?Also lady luck was clearly on your side with Taylors sending off in the first leg when lets face mcguan was clearly cheating the ref. The tug of the shirt by Tate could have been a pen but how you say Williams meant to hand ball it when Earnshaw hit it from 2 yards away il never know. In the rules it states ball to hand and that clearly wasnt.

  • Comment number 41.

    #38 That'll be the ref that didn't spot the shirt tugging against Dyer, Sinclair, Dobbie and Borini then. There was no intent by Williams at handling the ball. It was clear that it was an instinctive covering of the face rather than a blatent obstruction of the ball. No denying it, I was yards away from it all. Six of one and all that.

    I must admit I did laugh at the irony when a Swansea player got scythed down in front of Billy Davies and he started dancing and shouting about play acting. The only things missing were the Swansea player looking up cheekily to watch what was going on and a red card issued to the offender.

  • Comment number 42.

    Congrats to Swansea, the better team over the two legs won. Despite some good appeals for penalties in both legs Forest have only themselves to blame for a poor performance in the first leg and not taking advantage of playing virtually the whole game against 10 men!

    It's also nice to see the mutual respect being shown from fans of both teams on this thread. Apart from the likes of 'el-nickpcr-io' who is either very naive or lives in his own dream world.

    Lastly, i would also like to commend Billy for his gracious handling of the defeat, he showed true class there. Although i wouldn't be disappointed if he returns to the City Ground next season, i think if there's any chance of us persuading Martin O'Neill to come to the club then we should jump at the chance. Billy's done a decent job but i'm beginning to wonder whether he's quite got what it takes to get us back where we belong!

    You Reds!

  • Comment number 43.

    OK, there were a couple of penalty shouts about which the pundits would say "I've seen them given" but you can't take it away from the Swans that over the two games (and the season) they have been the better team. Typically, lots of comments about supposedly bad refereeing decisions regarding penalty shouts but little mentioned as to why Gunter didn't pick up a second yellow on Thursday. Also, surprising that no-one has mentioned McGugan's appalling display of play-acting whilst on the floor after Taylor's tackle. Borini also had a good shout for a penalty after Wes Morgan's tackle. At the City Ground they produced an incredible performance with 10 men and last night dominated the game for an hour. Both games were a credit to Nottingham Forest and Swansea and a fantastic advert for Championship football.
    Best of luck to the Swans in the final

  • Comment number 44.

    Of our 4 play off semi final defeats, this one is by far the worse to take.

    The loss to Sheffield United was hard to take because it was so close and because it was Sheffield United. But they were the better team, just.

    And I can remember leaving the City Ground after the Yeovil and Blackpool games and thinking that, undoubtedly the best team had won the tie. No complaints.

    But this time the feeling is different.

    To have 3 good penalty shouts over the two legs and not get at least one is difficult to accept.

    You can make a case as to why the handball at the City Ground wasn't given, as the referee was probably unsighted.

    But last night, the officials clearly saw the tug on McGoldricks shirt and the almost goalkeeper like save from Earnshaws volley, but chose to ignore it. Very poor.

    Like most Forest fans, I have a healthy respect for Swansea. Great club, great fans and a team who always try to play the game the right way. Perhaps, as their league position shows, they too are a better team than us. But my overriding feeling about this tie is that Forest were let down by the officials.

    A big well done to Billy for his words and actions last night and like him, I'm already looking forward to next season.

    And good luck to the Swans at Wembley and in the Premier league, if that's where your football takes you. Enjoy.



  • Comment number 45.

    Well done Swansea, a super effort and an excellent advert for Championship football last night.

    One thing though, If Swans do get promoted do you think they will do anyway with their total football philosophy? Granted at this level it can and has been very effective, but seeing them get hammered 4-0 by a far more physical Qpr side (my team) this season I just wonder if they wont be a little too lightweight to succeed in the top flight?

    Good luck in the final Swans, hope you get Cardiff as that will be a real cracker!

  • Comment number 46.

    Tate's shirt-pull on McGoldrick. Watch the replay! started outside the area so a free-kick at best.

  • Comment number 47.

    @41 you really think putting your arms stretched out in front of you is protecting your face???

    I do not begrudge Swansea as over the two legs they were more consistent than Forest, but had the correct decisions been given it would have been very different.

    Also, at the person who mentioned Mcgugan's play acting; what he did was wrong and there is no place for it in the game, but even had he not done it Taylor deserved to be sent off. It was a dangerous challenge, which thankfully didn't cause an injury.

  • Comment number 48.

    I have to say as a neutral, the is game was extremely good viewing. I will say regardless of the overall merit in the game Forest should have had the handball should in injury time, the ball was going at goal and it struck the hand level with the head, the linesman needed to man up and give that, the referee's view was obscured. But a superb finish from Pratley everyone wanted him to score from there

    Hope tonight's game is just as good.....

  • Comment number 49.

    Wow, that was an excellent game of football. No luck for Forest with woodwork and decisions, but Swansea look the more composed and creative team and worthy of a move up to the Premiership. I like Reading a lot, dislike Cardiff even more, so would like to see Swansea give Cardiff a pasting at Wembley.

  • Comment number 50.

    Congratulations Swansea. It was a great game and a great advert for football. I'm disappointed that we were close again and missed out but at least this time we gave it our best shot and it's no disgrace to come up just short. I hope Billy sticks around and the Board backs him this summer; we just need a few tweaks to create a line up that can win automatic promotion.

    Again, congrats Swansea. You play football that's a treat to watch and I hope you win the Final and make it to the Premiership because you deserve it.

  • Comment number 51.

    To those who cited McGugans playacting after being studded in the groin (by whoever the swansea player was that got sent off) in the first leg, I share your distaste - I never like to see that. But it was a 100% red card anyway to any sane person - the tackle was a Roy Keane on Alfie Haaland job, except higher.
    Plus, is McGugans play acting any different to the Swansea defender blocking the shot with his hands in the first leg and pretending he had been hit in the stomach by the ball? No.
    Both are attempts to deceive the referee. All teams do it (unfortunately)

  • Comment number 52.

    I have no gripe with Swansea, just the appalling refereeing

  • Comment number 53.

    I think each side had a half in each game where they dominated but the entire 180 minutes was littered with good chances for both teams. Swansea shaded it in my opinion as the better team, but I can’t quite believe how unlucky we were over the two legs.

    Firstly, Taylor’s is a red card regardless of whether McGugan gets up or stays on the floor. I don’t see how anyone can complain about that. Also i don't see anyone defending Tyson for fair play when he was clipped in the area and stayed on his feet! We’re not good at breaking down teams who then defend and are dangerous on the counter, but that is a handball by Tate and a penalty. If we go into the second leg with a 1-0 win who knows what would have happened.

    Away from home, the ref was poor. Gunter’s yellow in the first half was harsh anyway and I saw plenty of shirt pulls go unpunished, the one in the area springs to mind too. As if striking the woodwork three times wasn’t unlucky enough, the ref misses the Williams handball. His arms are up and that is a penalty, I would have no complaints if that was the other way round. Ball to hand is a load of rubbish and if the arms are out or raised, they’re often given.

    But then I’m a Forest fan so I would say that :)

  • Comment number 54.

    Standard of Forest's goalkeeping was poor.

  • Comment number 55.

    As a loyal Forest fan it pains me to say that we just weren't good enough. Cooler heads and better finishers would've seen us score the easy chances missed by McGoldrick and Tudgay in the second leg. The first leg showed what ball retention and quick neat passing can do to a side as Swansea outplayed us with what their (admittedly very loud and supportive) fans kept on reminding us was only ten men.

    Yes we were unlucky with penalty decisions (we weren't lucky with the red card, that was just a correct decision) in both legs but they wouldn't have mattered had we been more clinical with the chances we did create.

    All in all we can't complain as Swansea were the better team over the two legs and took their chances when they came. Good luck to them at Wembley, neither Cardiff or Reading should pose much of a problem if they keep playing as they are.

    For a more in depth look at the place of playoffs in sport read my blog:
    http://thebigblogofsport.wordpress.com

  • Comment number 56.

    Without doubt the officials played a huge part in Swansea's victory.

    I find this comparison to Barcelona bizarre. They've been good throughout the season but over the course of these two legs were easily matched by a Forest side who, once again, went on a five minute suicide mission.

    I don't begrude Swansea the victory and I wish them the best in the final, but I am quite angry at Mr Marriner's decision making last night. That's the difference in the playoffs, Swansea have nabbed it 3-1 but whilst it was at 2-1 we've hit the post, had the ball right across the six yard box and had a blatant handball turned down. If any of those go in the net it's going to extra time with Forest the dominant side after Swansea sacrifice their attacks to sure up the defence.

    Proud of the Forest boys. They didn't deserve that. Nice gesture by a thousand or so Swansea fans after the game to wait 45 minutes and dance in front of the exiting vistor fans. Compared with the others who clapped us and received the same in response, you were an embarrassment to your club.

  • Comment number 57.

    We could argue all day about referee decisions. Its a hot subject right across all divisions. I am sure that both Swansea and Forest could argue that games throughout the season could have been won if referee decisions had gone in either teams favour.

    In terms of last night game - What a thriller!! I was at the Swans v Forest game at the liberty a few weeks back and a similiar outcome was had at that game with the swans taking a good lead and Forest giving them a good run for their money in the second half. I believe both managers need to be congratulated on their professional attitude and in particular Billy for his positive response after the game. Many managers would have done nothing but complain about decisions etc. However, I felt Billy was composed and was full of praise for his team.

    What next? Well I am not sure whether the Cardiff v Reading game is going to be as exciting as last nights and we maybe in for a few yawns and a bit of shuteye within the 90 minutes, however I do believe if there is going to be any goals then either team could just snatch one in normal time. Failing that it may be a draw with the possible excitement coming in extra time. If Cardiff do lose, I doubt very much whether Dave Jones will be as positive as Billy Davies. (I don't think I have seen Jones smile all season)!!

  • Comment number 58.

    I so badly wanted Forest to come up

  • Comment number 59.

    Seems to me that Oor Wee Billy has now been out-managed in the playoffs two seasons in a row!

  • Comment number 60.

    67% of the opportunity to have a team from Wales in the Premiership.
    It would surely help the core of the Wales national team to have more players from Wales exposed regularly to the quality of the Premier League.

  • Comment number 61.

    Afternoon all. Just arrived at Cardiff's ground. Wet and very, very windy.

    I'm pleased to read Forest fans defending Billy Davies. He is someone I have known for a long time and rate him as an excellent manager. His teams are competitive and good to watch. That said, I sometimes think he needless complicates matters with unneccesary comments.

    I also think it is great that he met the fans as they came off the coaches at the City Ground. That is a classy gesture.

    Riggadon (post 32) - I don't have any specific info on that front and I'm not blindly trying to allude to any specific incident. Bu if you look back over the history of his comments about the transfer acquisitions panel it is obvious it sits uneasily with him. He once told me that at Forest he is just a hired hand.

  • Comment number 62.

    To Collie21 (#20 - hey you couldn't have waited one more post?)

    Rugby League and Rugby union also allow different size pitches with maximum and minimum dimensions.
    I assume this is because historically it would have been harder to measure the large pitches accurately and easily (for amateur clubs back then) and also potentially the difficulty to find a flat bit of ground the right size so there was some leeway set up in the rules. Another factor is probably that the games were common before the rules were officially set up so different teams would have all had different pitches (no standard to set up to and again possible errors in measurement) so when the rules were set up they would have given a range to include a majority of pitches already in existence and not force nearly everyone to change their pitches.

    Just for general interest, when Arsenal moved to the Emirates from Highbury, I am pretty certain they decided to change the size of the pitch to suite their style of play better (Perhaps some Arsenal fans can confirm or deny it)

  • Comment number 63.

    @20 Actually this is quite common. Similar rules apply to rugby pitches. It adds to the element of home advantage and makes players and managers think about being adaptable to varying conditions. Cricket is another obvious example but it has also been true in the past for ice hockey (the Chicago Blackhawks played on a small rink for many years before the old stadium was demolished). Originally, lacrosse had no boundaries.

  • Comment number 64.

    I will start off by saying that I have always had a lot of time for Forest and their fans.

    But some of the comments on here are just plain daft. Forest showed bucketloads of spirit in the second half last night and with a bit of fortune may have snatched an equaliser - either via Earnie's shot which hit the post or the Ash potential handball.

    But let's be clear, Forest lost this game in the first leg with a quite desperate, guileless performance. To allow a 10 man Swansea to embarrass Forest as much as they did especially in the 1st half at the City Ground was unforgiveable. Apart from a half shout for a pen against Tate (sometimes they are given, other times not and it was not "nailed on") how many clear cut chances did Forest create at home? If anything the Swans were more threatening.

    And the sending off was still harsh - a better ref than Mike Dean (eg Howard Webb) would have recognised there was no malice in the challenge and far worse challenges (eg Adam's on Bale at the Lane) go unpunished. A yellow card would have been sufficient.

    And there is little comment either about the penalty Swansea should have had midway through last night's second half when Morgan went through Borini before getting the ball (had that been correctly awarded as a pen then by the strict letter of the law Morgan would have had to have walked which would have been harsh and would have ruined the contest)

    And as for last night, what about the chances Swansea missed - Rangel in the 1st half and Pratley's free header? And several Borini chances.

    The better side over the 180 minutes went through but credit to Forest for the fightback but why oh why were the tactics so poor in the 1st leg? That's where Billy lost it.

    Tonight's game will offer a complete contrast in playing styles but may be just as dramatic. Reading badly missed the width offered by Kebe in the first leg and the French sub looked out of his depth.

  • Comment number 65.

    Last night was a fantastic spectacle, and what a fascinating duel it was across the two legs. I was personally gutted for Forest, and although out-played during the first half, they were excellent in the 2nd, and well worth an equaliser. I'll somewhat biasedly agree with Neil Warnock's post-match assessment that Forest were denied a stonewall penalty for Williams' handball in the run-up to the corner, which of course resulted in Pratley's well-taken decider.

    But that is why football is such a cruel mistress, and for all Forest's late endeavour, Swansea were magnificent across the both legs, and should be very confident going into the final. Reading may have peaked too early, and Cardiff look a bag of nerves, whilst both rely heavily on the broken bodies of their repsective talismen, Jimmy Kebe, Craig Bellamy and Jay Bothroyd.

    One thing I will have to take umbrage with is dixienarco's comment 1)

    Swansea do not have the best defence in the country, let alone their division. That honour, both in goals conceded and clean sheets kept, goes to the Champions, Queens Park Rangers ;-)
    Man Utd have also only conceded 32 goals this season, but a) Are yet to play Blackpool again, and b) will only have contested 38 games. I'm a pedant, but a proud one.

  • Comment number 66.

    Swans fan - fantastic game , fantastic support from both sides and two fantastic managers.

    The atmosphere before, during and after the game was the best ive ever seen at the liberty ! credit to both sets of fans.

    Class moment after the game when hundreds of swans fans applauded forest players and fans just yards from each other on the pitch ...shame about the idiots outside the ground later on gloating !

    Good luck to Forest next season , i hope you go straight up to the Prem next season where Billy Davies and your club truly belong .

  • Comment number 67.

    Having seen the iPlayer viewing from the match, had this been a Premiership match, we'd be paying tributes to the participating sides, with huge headlines on nationwide tabloid backpages. It's been some game!

  • Comment number 68.

    I'm a neutral, and I thought the refereeing was, on the whole, pretty good. It certainly didn't have the impact on the game that some Forest fans are claiming.

  • Comment number 69.

    As an Arsenal fan from Swansea, being there last night was utterly inspiring. The atmosphere was equivalent to when we hosted Barcelona at the Emirates back in February (found myself holding back tears at both), and the breathless tempo of the game concisely demonstrates that the Swansea first eleven has what it takes to battle away in the top flight. Will be keeping everything crossed and donning black and white for Wembley and hope the squad is buffered for a momentous debut season in the BRITISH Premier League. Jack Army!

  • Comment number 70.

    Firstly well done Swansea and Forest, listening to it on the radio it sounded amazing, and then watching the highlights, it was a fantastic game, and I am ecstatic about the result!

    The referring debate always seems to come up. There were certain decisions that both teams feel aggrieved about, the red card in the first game and penalty decisions for both teams in the second (albeit more shouts for forest than Swansea). It is really disappointing that the same debate about refereeing comes up time and time again. It was such a good game, I think that it is being spoiled by it.I do genuinely hope that Forest do get to the premier league soon, its probably where such a big club belong.

    Hope that tonight's game between Cardiff and Reading is just as good. Don't really mind who wins because Swansea will play our game, and hopefully it'll be good enough and we'll get to see the likes of Man. U, chelsea, Arsenal and the mega bucks of Man. City at the Liberty next year. Its amazing to think how far the swans have come, not so long ago we needed to win to stay in the football league!

  • Comment number 71.

    @64, Forest did not lose the game in the first leg. It was still 0-0 and you can't just assume you are going to win your home leg. The game was lost in the second and but for a bit of luck could have been won. That's football.

  • Comment number 72.

    Majewski28, sure the 1st leg finished nil all but what an opportunity missed by Forest to beat a team that had 10 men for the whole game bar 52 seconds. And the tactics in the first leg were so odd - no width at all etc, no tempo. Last night Forest put up a terrific second half fight but the game had gone at the City Ground - psychologically the 1st leg must have had a huge mental effect on both sets of players.

  • Comment number 73.

    #69

    You should hold your head in shame. Respect to the Forest fans, and the Jacks. but none whatsoever to an ARSENAL fan from SWANSEA!

    Disgrace. Hope you and yours aren't at Wembley on the 30th, heard it's going to be a hot day in the sun, and as you know, PLASTIC melts in the heat.

  • Comment number 74.

    @ Liverpool supporters
    Hey kids, "Come back when you've won 19".
    "MUFC 19 times".

  • Comment number 75.

    Cardiff is my favorite team from the Championship, coz I love playing as Cardiff in the Championship on my PS3.

  • Comment number 76.

    first of all...i'm not a bitter forest fan as i'm extremely proud of our performance in the play offs. and also no one can argue swansea aren't a fantastic footballing side but, and it's a big but, forest were denied four stonewall, for me, penalties over the tie...the handball from cohen's shot in the first leg, and the handball (save) from earnshaw's shot, in the second leg, in particular were about as blatant as handball's get. also reading these comments, the swansea fans going on about mcgugan cheating the ref? what!? taylor went over the top of the ball and put six studs in the top of his thigh! if we went to talk about play acting we could talk about fabio borini! also forest don't pay massive wages for the championship level, i imagine earnshaw would be our only player on over 10 thousand a week, and we also have the smallest squad in the league by far. well done though and good luck in the final.

  • Comment number 77.

    and Earny didn't cost £5m, he cost £2.6

  • Comment number 78.

    #76 strawberto

    Smallest squad by far? How come you can field a full team each match? More than can be said about Portsmouth... and Cardiff right now for that matter.

  • Comment number 79.

    What a game

 

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