The Warmdown: Nottingham Forest win the play-off semi-final first leg
Brennan Johnson of Nottingham Forest celebrates after scoring a goal to make it 0-2 during the Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Semi-Final 1st leg between Sheffield United and Nottingham Forest at Bramall Lane, Sheffield on Saturday 14th May 2022. (Photo by Jon Hobley/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Nottingham Forest gained the upper hand with a 2-1 victory over Sheffield United at Bramall Lane, who grabbed a late goal to keep themselves in this play-off tie. 

The Reds had not beaten the Blades on the road since 2004, but they have now broken that record to take a slim advantage back to the City Ground.

Goals from Jack Colback and Brennan Johnson put Forest two goals up before Sander Berge scored in stoppage time to finish the game 2-1. 

Here are some key talking points from the semi-final first leg.  

Forest could have been out of sight in the first half 

Within ten minutes, the Reds had taken the lead, but the first half could have finished with the away side home and dry.

First, Wes Foderingham saved Sam Surridge's shot from eight yards out, then Ryan Yates flicked a header wide from the outside of the six-yard box when unmarked.

After that, Foderingham came to the rescue once more, making a pair of close-range saves to keep Surridge and Brennan Johnson out.

Forest had nine shots in the first half - six of which were on target, compared to Sheffield United's four goal attempts, one of which was on target.

Man of the match display from Steve Cook

Cook, along with Joe Worrall and Scott McKenna, put in a fantastic effort in this game as part of the defensive trio. 

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Both Worrall and McKenna were outstanding, but Cook's defensive statistics against the Blades demonstrated how solid the defender was.

Cook kept United at bay for the bulk of the game with 11 clearances, three blocks, three tackles, and one interception, making it tough for Paul Heckingbottom's side to break through and get a chance on goal.

The 31-year-old won all three ground duels he attempted, as well as the one aerial duel he faced. 

It was a gutsy and remarkable performance from the defender after suffering a head injury against Bournemouth and learning that his father had recently suffered a cardiac arrest.

Hardworking Sam Surridge

Since joining Nottingham Forest in January, the 23-year-old has been recognised for his goal involvements, but he demonstrated his quality in all areas of the pitch during this game.

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Surridge had to help in all areas of the pitch as he continued to be a part of most of Forest's forward threat with two shots on target, two critical passes, and 100 percent dribble succession.

The striker was perfectly situated to make a clearance off the line early in the first half, keeping his team in front. In addition, the forward won three ground duels, one aerial duel, and blocked one shot.

Surridge's press kept Blades defenders on their toes, and while not scoring a goal during the match, he was highly involved in it and led the line well from the front.

Up next: The second leg

Tuesday's second leg promises to be exciting, with Forest in the lead. The game ended 1-1 the last time Forest hosted Sheffield United at the City Ground, a result that would see the Reds progress to the final on Tuesday. 

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After Saturday's game, Steve Cooper expressed his gratitude to the local media for the victory but emphasised the importance of continuing on Tuesday.

“I’m really, really pleased. We have to keep going.

“I got asked before the game what a good result would be - we wanted to win. I know a draw isn’t a disaster, and even a narrow loss is not the end of the world either. I understand that, but we have tackled and challenged everything in front of us head-on, so let’s not change now. Let’s play the way we play; work the way we work and see where it takes us.”

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