'Recognise that' - Steve Cooper makes important point as Nottingham Forest edge Sheffield United
Nottingham Forest’s victory over Sheffield United showed the importance of playing with an identity, according to boss Steve Cooper.
The Reds have the edge in the semi-final, going into Tuesday night’s second leg at the City Ground, having triumphed 2-1 at Bramall Lane. If anything, they should be holding an even greater advantage, given the number of chances they created.
Jack Colback put the visitors in front early in a first half in which they could have been out of sight by the break. Brennan Johnson doubled the lead with 20 minutes to go, only for Sander Berge to hand the Blades a lifeline late on.
Read more: How the Reds rated against the Blades
Far from being a tense, cagey affair, though, Forest had looked to take the game to their opponents from the off. For Cooper, it was a case of not wanting to change the approach which had secured a top-six finish in the first place.
“We knew we wanted to attack the game. It’s our way,” he said. "It’s really important the players recognise that to get to the play-offs in the Championship isn’t easy. You see the teams who are not there - and I don’t say that disrespectfully, because a lot of teams have had a good go.
“We did it with three, probably four, games to go. We didn’t really talk about it too much because we were going for automatic. But to do that means you’ve done a lot of things well to get there.
“You have to recognise that, not change, and try to do what you do even better. The first half is just how we play - attacking football, creating chances and taking risks. We didn’t want to concede late on, but in 180 minutes-plus, they are going to have chances. They were probably a bigger threat with set-pieces, which tells us a lot about how we played as well. But that’s the Championship, you have to deal with that.
“We always look at what we can get better at. But the dressing room is really positive. There were lots of good performances. And they were good as well, Sheffield United. It bodes well for the neutral on Tuesday.”