Nott'm Forest 0-0 Swansea

By Peter ShuttleworthBBC Sport Wales

Ten-man Swansea City bravely held dominant Nottingham Forest to a goalless draw in the first leg of their Championship play-off semi-final.

The visitors had defender Neil Taylor dismissed inside the second minute for a lunge on Forest's Lewis McGugan.

Forest had a penalty appeal rejected after Chris Cohen's shot was blocked by Alan Tate's arm and Rob Earnshaw had an effort ruled out for offside.

Swans striker Fabio Borini tested home keeper Lee Camp with two superb shots.

Camp's opposite number Dorus de Vries made some superb saves to keep his 22nd clean sheet of the season but some heroic defending by the Welsh side restricted their opponents to long-range strikes.

Swansea made the worst start possible when young left-back Taylor was sent off by referee Mike Dean for a high challenge on McGugan on the half-way line.

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Wales international Taylor, who was only playing non-league football at Wrexham last season, saw red for the first time in his career, a decision that gave the City Ground faithful a clear lift.

So Swans boss Brendan Rodgers, whose pre-match plans had been thrown into disarray, sacrificed playmaker Stephen Dobbie for club captain Garry Monk in order to maintain a four-man backline.

Monk had struggled with a back problem but slotted in at centre-back as Alan Tate moved to fill in at left-back - and Monk could only watch as Forest striker Earnshaw fired just wide from 20 yards early on.

Despite their man disadvantage, the visitors contained Forest and maintained possession in their trademark style for the majority of the first half and created the better goal-scoring openings.

Borini brought the best out of Camp with a fierce 25-yard free-kick that the home keeper had to tip over the crossbar. Monk's header from the resulting Joe Allen corner was scrambled away to safety after causing confusion in the Forest box.

The home crowd's earlier excitement had quickly turned to anxiety as Forest, who had failed to progress in their previous three play-off semi-final appearances, struggled to make their numerical advantage count - and the tension grew further as Borini stung the hands of Camp.

Forest's only significant sight of goal in the first half was former Cardiff striker Earnshaw's 15-yard half-volley from Kris Boyd's right-wing cross but the Welsh international's effort was finger-tipped around his right-hand post by De Vries.

The home side cranked up the pressure after the break as McGugan's 25-yard drive was kept out by De Vries and the night threatened to go from bad to worse for Swansea as Borini hobbled off with a hamstring problem that makes him a doubt for Monday's return leg at the Liberty Stadium.

The visitors' night could have deteriorated further as their opponents had strong claims for a penalty when Tate seemingly handled Cohen's 15-yard hit from Chris Gunter's left-wing cross.

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Premier League official Dean waved away Forest protests - and from the subsequent corner Earnshaw put the ball in Swansea's net.

But the striker's far-post header, after McGugan's left-wing corner had been flicked on by Boyd, was ruled out for offside by assistant referee Ron Ganfield as the Swans somehow continued their brave resistance.

Forest's second-half pressure was relentless and De Vries needed to be at his alert best when substitute Nathan Tyson fired low moments after coming on.

And the former Swansea striker was inches away from heading Garath McCleary's ball past De Vries but Tyson could not reach the teasing right-wing cross.

The Swans, though, almost caught Forest as Angel Rangel sprang a quick counter-attack but Dyer could not beat Camp with his low shot from close range.

Monk and partner Ashley Williams were inspirational at the centre of Swansea's defence as the visitors, renowned for their attractive football and creative guile, showed their battling side to contain opponents who had scored three goals in each of their previous four wins.

Swansea, who had only progressed once in their previous five play-off appearances, will now prepare for their home leg as favourites to progress to the Championship play-off final at Wembley on 30 May.

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