Firstly, thanks to my host, blogger.com, for scheduling maintenance during the first play-off date, allowing no new uploads – great timing. I had a match report for you but as it's now old news, I will instead give a few thoughts on the game before looking ahead to Monday's crucial second leg.
As you are aware, Swansea played out a well-fought draw on Thursday night; a positive result indeed, considering the circumstances.
It really was the nightmare start for the Swans. I just sat shaking my head as the flicker of red emerged from Mike Dean's pocket. In all fairness, it was a silly, poorly-timed tackle by Neil Taylor and he deserved to be punished, but the sending off seemed harsh considering it was just the second minute in and nerves were obviously high. Going by the book, the ref was right, though a little compassion could've been used. Meanwhile, despite the bad tackle, McGugan was caught out with his sneaky “have I done enough to get him punished” look to the bench instead of actually “being hurt” which understandably wound up quite a few!
As well as losing Taylor so early on, it was heartbreaking to see Stephan Dobbie make way for Garry Monk. He was truly missed. In a game where Swansea were dominating for quite a while, Dobbie's presence would've been a massive asset. He would've created even more opportunities and had some vital shots when shots were needed. It's just one of those things I guess. At least he is well rested for the second leg now!
It appears Swansea will, rightly, appeal this red card, with the hearing scheduled for Monday morning. It will be a big boost to have Taylor back in the squad, though praise does go to Monk, Tate and the rest of the defence – very solid throughout the match (though a few too many corners given away unnecessarily for my liking). Should the appeal not go Swansea's way however, a back four of Monk, Tate, Williams and Rangel is still one mean, experienced defence.
A further boost is the news of Fabio Borini being deemed playable for Monday. He left the field during the first leg thanks to a hamstring injury and though Moore did sufficient work to keep Swansea attacking, he isn't the man I want starting on Monday. The threat Borini provides via his speed, accuracy, flair and set-piece ability is something Moore can't currently contend with, so news of a fit Fabio is very palatable!
Monday will provide new challenges and, despite having the home advantage, Swansea can't begin to look ahead to Wembley. It's definitely on the cards with Swansea looking the better team in many aspects, though Forest aren't in the play-offs for no reason. They have plenty of attacking power, with McGugan and Earnshaw proving difficult to control at times. McGugan's 30-yard, blistering shot on Thursday is proof of this danger.
With this in mind I am still extremely confident that Brendan and his men can secure a spot in the final as long as they embrace the pressure and keep focused.
Win the next two games and it's into the Premier League. Simple!