Swansea City v Nottingham Forest (2011)

Swansea City 3 – 1 Nottingham Forest 1 (May 2011)

Npower Championship Play-off Semi Final Second Leg

Venue: The Liberty Stadium

Swans are flying high and off to Wembley, Is the 28 year wait finally over ?

At the start of the season, many saw Swansea as potential relegation candidates after a second season in the Championship saw them miss out on a play-off place on the last day of the season. However, having scored the least amount in the entire division in the 2009-10 season, critics believed the struggle to find goals could see them relegated back into League 1.

With a young new manager in Brendan Rodgers, a former member of Jose Mourinho’s backroom staff at Chelsea, Swansea gained from his contacts at his former club. He brought in Scott Sinclair, in what must be considered one of the deals of the season, for around £500,000 that would rise to £1,000,000 based on performances. Sinclair rewarded his old youth coach and new club by smashing in 27 goals from the wing and combined with the passing philosophy that Rodgers had instilled at the club, Swansea snatched third place in the league from bitter rivals Cardiff City on the last day of the season with a comprehensive 4-0 defeat of already relegated Sheffield United.

Their reward for silencing those critics at the start of the season? Two legs of football for a shot at the big time.

Swansea went into the second leg as favourites after a remarkable display saw them hold Forest to a 0-0 draw at the City Ground. What was more impressive was that Swansea had played 87 minutes with 10 men after a straight red card for left back Neil Taylor looked to have scuppered any sort of chance of reaching a Wembley final. With the second leg at the Liberty Stadium, where the Swans had lost just 3 league games, optimism was high that the journey to the Premier League was not about to end on a cool Monday night in May as football fever had taken over the entire city.

The occasion saw a poignant moment before the teams took to the pitch as the announcer reminded the crowd that a year had passed since the tragic death of Swansea striker Besian Idrizaj (aged just 22) from heart failure. The entire season had been dedicated to the young Austrian and the crowd honoured their former player with applause as his name was announced over the speaker system.

The game started, as usual at ‘Fortress Liberty’ with Swansea on the attack, looking for flying machines Sinclair and Nathan Dyer to dance their way into the area and get a shot away, yet it was Forest who almost took the lead. In the 5thminute Forest were able to break, as the recalled Nathan Tyson stormed down the right, easily out-pacing Angel Rangel as the Swans struggled to get back from a corner. Tyson played the ball to David McGoldrick who clipped the crossbar with a left footed shot from 16 yards. It looked as if the striker had done everything right, lifting the ball over Dories de Vries and was unfortunate not to give his team the advantage.

Forest again offered a warning that they were not going to stand aside and watch Swansea take the game by storm, a Wes Morgan header clearing the bar from a Chris Cohen corner. The Swans responded well, knowing that this would be no easy game and continued to do the running with both flanks putting teasing balls across Lee Camp’s goal with the faintest of touches required to take the lead. The game never looked like it would be a dull affair and on 17 minutes a Leon Britton through pass saw the on-loan Fabio Borini cleverly turn his marker to unleash a blistering shot that smashed the woodwork after taking a slight deflection off Wes Morgan, leaving Forest keeper Lee Camp a grateful spectator as Forest were able to comfortably clear their lines.

The breakthrough came in the 27th minute, with a goal of such quality that it was worthy of being a match winner. Stephen Dobbie, the man sacrificed after 4 minutes of the first leg following Neil Taylor’s dismissal, took a short corner to Scott Sinclair who in return gave it back him as they worked the ball to the right corner of the penalty area. With the ball played to Leon Britton, one of the longest serving players at the club (first playing in 2002), the 5’6” genius known more for his intricate passing than scoring prowess, sent Marcus Tudgay the wrong way with a quick turn and curled a left footed shot into the far left corner of the goal, scoring only his second goal in three and a half years and leaving Lee Camp rooted to the spot in the process. Advantage Swansea.

Nottingham attempted to get back in the game, with two corners within a minute of conceding which posed no real threat to the Swans. Five minutes after going ahead, Swansea consolidated their lead with a terrific second goal, Stephen Dobbie back to haunt Forest after scoring against them at the same stage of the play-offs the previous season whilst in Blackpool colours. The move began with Dobbie controlling a throw in on the right, some 40 yards out, enjoying a delicate one two pass with Nathan Dyer that left Forest’s Moussi trailing by some two yards, giving the Swans midfielder time to open up and run at the Forest defence. Running across the face of goal, Dobbie evaded defender Chambers, perhaps fortunately as the ball appeared to go through the defenders legs, and drove the ball low and hard into the bottom right corner from the 18 yard line. A chorus of ‘Hymns and Arias’ soon followed,  Wembley seeming certain, with only 33 minutes gone. The game continued to flow with Swansea’s attacking flair taking them forward, and Forest looking to break when possible. As half time loomed, Lee Camp was forced into a decent save from an acute angle by Borini.

Swansea knew that the game was theirs to lose and perhaps unwisely started to play the occasion and not the opposition. They were reminded that they were still in for a fight four minutes into the second half as a misplaced Dyer back pass down the left saw Tyson creep in behind Angel Rangel, delivering a perfect ball in for the running Tudgay to blaze over the bar from the penalty spot. A warning from the 1979-80 European champions. Some scrapping defending by Swansea saw the ball fail to reach half way on two occasions before captain Gary Monk pulled down Nathan Tyson on the edge of the penalty area. Up stood Lewis McGugan, sending the ball over the wall and crashing against the upright, before Scott Sinclair rushed the ball up into the Forest half, losing possession with the resulting counter attack ending with a weak cross from the right that flew high and wide past de Vries’ front post.

Goalscorer Stephen Dobbie made way for Darren Pratley soon after, to rapturous applause from the East Stand faithful and Brendan Rodgers was almost immediately rewarded for the change; some three minutes later a quick corner caught the Nottingham defence sleeping, allowing Pratley a free header from six yards that went culpably wide. Again a Swansea team still full of running looked to finish the game off and after losing possession in mid-field, Forest saw a brilliant through ball by Pratley allow Borini, seemingly uncatchable down the left, to run at Lee Camp, his last touch perhaps a tad heavy as Luke Chambers put in a superb last-second tackle six yards out to deny the Swansea crowd an early start to their party.  Forest pushed to get back in the game yet it was still Swansea that tested the opposition, first with a de Vries goal kick that bounced over the defence, putting in Borini who looked to be then fouled inside the area by Wes Morgan, but with Referee Andre Mariner some 30 yards away and a difficult angle, the Forest defender was adjudged to have got the ball first. Scott Sinclair also found space, rifling in a shot from 20 yards with 18 minutes to play, comfortably saved by Lee Camp.

To a chorus off boos and whistles from the East stand, former Cardiff City talisman Robert Earnshaw graced the pitch and immediately changed the game, a beautiful through ball by Radoslaw Majewski past Tate and Williams finding Earnshaw who waited for the ball to drift past him before thumping the ball first time past de Vries at his near post from 15 yards. Ten minutes to play and Forest were in with a chance of forcing the game into extra time.

It was the former Cardiff man that almost got the equaliser in the 90th minute, part of a well worked Nottingham attack that saw Earnshaw give the ball to Majewski who passed once more, and after a nice little flick on the Welshman put his shot timidly across goal from 15 yards, beating deVries however but hitting the post. Agonisingly close for the striker as a chorus of jeers rang out following the miss. Seconds later he was at it again, forcing a corner with an angled shot from 6 yards, easily blocked by Ashley Willaims. Into stoppage time, and Lee Camp stormed up field for the corner, as the ball was whipped in, everyone was on the edge of their seats at the Liberty stadium as de Vries punched clear to the edge of the area where Mcgugan waited, attempting to drive a shot on target. However, a cruel slip by Mcgugan saw the ball continue to trickle away from goal, through his legs and into the path of Darren Pratley on the right side of the pitch 25 yards from his own goal. The crowd went crazy, everyone cheering for their man, who raced away with the ball, thumping the ball forward from the half way line into an empty Forest goal. Swansea Substitutes, just feet from Pratley when he struck the ball were almost on the pitch before the ball had reached the goal, all aware the shot was going nowhere but in. Party fever hit the Liberty stadium as the final whistle went minutes later, fans spilling onto the pitch, having witnessed their team reach Wembley in a display worthy of the Premier League.  Heartache once more for Nottingham Forest who had failed in the play-offs once again.

Just over 8 years previously Swansea fans had also been on the edge of their seats, their football league status dependent on a must-win home game against Hull City. How far the club has come in the last 10 years, bought for £1 by managing director Mike Lewis in 2001 and now playing in a final often rumoured to be worth a £90million jackpot for the winners. Swansea City were off to Wembley!!

   Team Line-ups

Nottingham Forest Camp, Chambers, Morgan, Gunter, Moloney, McGugan, Cohen, Moussi, Tyson (Majewski – 62′ ), McGoldrick (Earnshaw – 78′ ), Tudgay (Boyd – 68′ ).   Unused subs: Smith, Lynch, Anderson, McKenna,

Swansea City

De Vries, Williams, Tate, Monk, Rangel, Dyer, Sinclair (Serran – 88′ ), Allen (Moore – 84′ ), Britton, Dobbie (Pratley – 59′), Borini.  Unused subs Ma-Kalambay, Orlandi, Gower, Beattie

Swansea City 3 – 1 Nottingham Forest

Ref: Andre Marriner

Attendance : 19,816

(By Shaun Harries)

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