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Forest ‘positive’ after first-leg win, says Cooper

15 May 2022

Jack Colback and Brennan Johnson were both on the scoresheet as Nottingham Forest took an important step towards reaching the Championship Play-Off Final following an impressive display at Bramall Lane.

The Reds took an early lead as Colback capitalised on a slip from Ben Osborn in the United penalty area, silencing a packed out Bramall Lane, before Johnson doubled the visitors' lead in the second half. 

“We’ve walked away from Bramall Lane with the lead in the Play-Off Semi-Final,” Cooper told Sky Sports after the game. 

“We played well, created our chances and if there is any frustration there it’s that we conceded and maybe we could have scored a lot more than we did. But it was a proper Play-Off game, it had everything in it and we’re half way there.”

Despite the home side dominating possession, Forest had 17 shots on goal, eight of which were on target, forcing Blades goalkeeper Wes Foderingham into a number of saves. 

The Reds’ second came against the run of play as a mistake from John Egan allowed Joe Lolley to set up Johnson for an impressive finish, leaving Cooper delighted with his team’s performance. 

“If we keep creating chances, you’ve seen the amount of goals we’ve scored this season - especially at home - then I think we’ll be alright,” he added. 

“They had more of the ball than we would have liked in the second half, but we also knew that we still looked a real threat going forward. If somebody had said we’d create that many chances in the tension of a Play-Off game away from home I’d have been very happy with that.

“We’ve got a lot of young players in the team who are experiencing things for the first time and I’m really pleased with that. We are only positive going into Tuesday, the dressing room is positive, the players are positive and we cannot wait for Tuesday. 

“I thought we managed the occasion really well, it was a great atmosphere at Bramall Lane and Tuesday will be the same I’m sure. I’m really pleased with the performance.”

Forest now take a slender lead into the second leg at the City Ground on Tuesday night (7:45pm).

“The same approach applies,” Cooper said. “The thing about the Play-Offs is, sometimes you have to realise and remember what’s got you here. It’s tough getting into them in any division, especially the Championship. To make it this far you have to do a lot of things well and it’s important we recognise that and do it even better on Tuesday night. 

“Sheffield United are a really good side, but we’re in the Play-Offs for a reason and I think there’s lots to look back on in the game and be really pleased about.”

Heckingbottom pleased with Blades ‘great spirit’


Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom has praised his side’s spirit to “fight until the end” despite falling to defeat in the Play-Off Semi-Final first leg. 

“It’s something we spoke about in the week and in the dressing room before the game,” he told Sky Sports. 

“Football is a game of fine margins but we showed great spirit to come back. Our late goal changes the tie completely, their players are coming off gutted to have conceded and mine are coming off happy to have halved the deficit. 

“We’ve been behind before and we’ve come back and won and that’s exactly what we’ve got to do on Tuesday. It’s half-time, we’ve got to recover and the players will be ready for that on Tuesday.” 

Despite Forest’s early domination, United came out in the second half and looked to be on top before Cooper’s side doubled their lead against the run of play. 

“We play a certain way, we’ve got a certain type of players as do Forest. We knew they’d be strong on the counter attack and we weren’t good enough at handling that. In the second half we were much better and even though we had the ball a lot, Forest defended brilliantly, it was a pattern of the game.”

Before the game, Heckingbottom stated the important role Blades fans would play in the first leg and there’s no doubt that they kept their side going until the very end, with Sander Berge’s late goal setting up an exciting tie in the return leg at the City Ground on Tuesday night. 

“I have to credit our players, they kept going, they kept fighting and got the goal in the end that I think we deserved. You’re never happy losing at half-time but there’s another 90 minutes of football to play and now it’s game on. 

“It’s a totally different atmosphere at the City Ground, they’re home form is great but we’ll need to make important decisions to manage the game and get a result.”

The Championship Play-Off Semi-final second leg will take place at the City Ground on Tuesday 17 May at 7.45pm. The winner will face either Huddersfield Town or Luton Town in the Play-Off Final at Wembley Stadium on Sunday 29 May.

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