Nottingham Forest 0 Swansea City 0: Twenty reasons why
1] 2 mins – It took just 90 seconds for the first flashpoint of the play-offs. Swansea left-back Neil Taylor was given a straight red card by referee Mike Dean for a studs-up challenge on Forest playmaker Lewis McGugan. There was no intent to injure from Taylor, who naively tried to intercept a loose ball at knee height, but it was a definite sending-off.
Swansea captain Garry Monk replaced Stephen Dobbie with the link man in midfield sacrificed and the visitors reverting to a 4-4-1 formation. Monk went into the heart of the defence and Alan Tate moved across to left-back.
2] 19 mins – It says everything that the next moment of note arrived nearly halfway into the first half, despite Swansea’s one-man deficit. The visitors continued to retain the ball well and carried the greater threat for long periods.
Lone loan striker Fabio Borini found himself one-on-one with Luke Chambers, taking the Forest centre-back out wide before beating him for pace and forcing a save from Lee Camp from the narrowest of angles.
3] 22 mins – Shortly after, Swansea won a free kick 25 yards from goal and the impressive Borini side-footed his effort over the Forest wall. Camp made an excellent save at full stretch, although he would have been disappointed had he conceded a strike delivered to the centre of his goal.
4] 23 mins – The normally reliable Camp made an utter mess of the resultant corner, flapping wildly at what looked like a routine high ball. Swansea failed to capitalise, although they did generally pose a threat from corners during the first half.
5] 30 mins – One notable aspect of the first half was Swansea’s ability to find space in the midfield area despite their numerical disadvantage. Nathan Dyer in particular drifted inside off the right wing to good effect throughout and his best moment involved a great turn before feeding Borini, who drove the ball hard along the ground but straight at Camp.
6] 36 mins – Forest’s first significant threat arrived nearly ten minutes before the break. Excellent buildup play resulted in Kris Boyd crossing low to the edge of the box. Robert Earnshaw struck the ball cleanly from the edge of the box, only for Swansea keeper Dorus de Vries to make a fine save.
7] 44 mins – Boyd made another excellent contribution just before half time, sending a superb long pass from just outside his own area deep into Swansea territory. Paul Anderson was unable to beat Tate with his low cross, but Forest were ending the half strongly.
8] 48 mins – The hosts continued this trend after the break, winning two corners in quick succession as they threatened to open the scoring. From the second, Wes Morgan was being held by Ashley Williams but a penalty was out of the question.
9] 53 mins – With Forest pressing forward, McGugan finally had his first sighter from long range. De Vries parried well, although the rebound nearly fell to Boyd. The space McGugan found when lining up his shot was indicative of the greater possession enjoyed by Forest in the early stages of the second half.
10] 56 mins – While Borini lay on the turf due to a hamstring injury, Forest worked the ball to the edge of the area where Earnshaw was waiting for the cutback. His right-foot shot went high over the bar into the Trent End. Borini was replaced by Luke Moore, the Italian’s season seemingly at a premature end.
11] 64 mins – Forest were now dominant, but chances remained at a premium. It came as welcome relief for the ten men of Swansea when Dyer managed to keep possession despite the close attention of three opponents, eventually winning a throw-in halfway inside the Forest half.
It was a clear sign that the Swans continued to pose a threat on the counter-attack, with Dyer their most dangerous man on the break.
12] 67 mins – With three-quarters of the game gone, substitute Moore performed a smart turn on the edge of the Forest box but his left-foot shot went straight into the arms of Camp.
13] 68 mins – Moments later, Chris Cohen fired a shot from outside the area but the ball was deflected away by the elbow of Tate.
Referee Mike Dean initially looked to be in the perfect position to give what looked a clear penalty, but instead pointed for a corner. Replays showed that Dean’s view was blocked by Swansea midfielder Leon Britton.
14] 68 mins – From the set piece, Boyd’s header was diverted in by Earnshaw but the Welshman was correctly ruled to be offside.
15] 69 mins – With Forest still daydreaming about what might have been at the other end, Dyer burst clear and side-footed an early shot towards the near post. Camp got down low to make a brilliant save.
16] 79 mins – Substitute Nathan Tyson had a magnificent chance to make a late breakthrough, just failing to get on the end of Chris Cohen’s diagonal cross when contact looked inevitable. Forest were now firmly back on top.
17] 81 mins – This was re-affirmed when Anderson’s low shot from long range forced de Vries to make a fine save at full stretch. By this stage, Swansea looked to be under orders to drop deep and were far less willing to commit numbers forward.
18] 90 mins – Swansea were indebted to two excellent clearances from Britton in quick succession, firstly with his head and then with a clever short, lofted ball to Scott Sinclair. The former Chelsea man drove at the heart of the Forest defence but was tugged back by McGugan, who earned a yellow card.
19] 92 mins – Forest left-back Chris Gunter was fortunate to stay on the pitch after the linesman spotted his off-the-ball block on Angel Rangel.
20] 94 mins – Chambers had a great chance to win the first leg for Forest when he wrestled with Tate before heading over the bar with de Vries in close attendance.
Swansea’s fans celebrated an unlikely draw in difficult cirumstances – a fascinating first leg with a gripping finale set for South Wales.