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Sheffield United v Nottingham Forest player ratings - Colback and Johnson give Reds advantage

By Sarah Clapson

Nottingham Forest will take a 2-1 advantage into the second leg of their play-off semi-final with Sheffield United.

Jack Colback and Brennan Johnson put the Reds in front. But their lead should have been even more comfortable, and they conceded late on to give the Blades something to cling to.

The visitors could have been out of sight at half-time. They had so many chances as United struggled to cope with their counterattack.

As it was, Colback’s goal in the 10th minute was all that separated the sides at the break. Joe Worrall had played in Sam Surridge with a lovely pass, and while Philip Zinckernagel’s effort from the pull-back was saved, his teammate was on hand to rattle in the rebound.

Read more: Re-live the action from Bramall Lane

Read more: Riverside views and St Andrew's sadness mark out best and worst Forest away days

Surridge then had to come to the rescue at the other end a few minutes later. He headed off the line after John Egan had met a corner.

But it was one-way traffic after that. The hosts had Wes Foderingham to thank for keeping them still in it.

Surridge and Johnson were both thwarted, before Ryan Yates headed narrowly wide from a James Garner cross and Johnson rolled a strike inches past the far post. Five minutes before the interval, it took a strong double-save from Foderingham to deny Surridge and Johnson again.

The second half was a different story, though, as the Reds came under the cosh. Worrall and Steve Cook came to the rescue with a couple of big blocks to thwart Sander Berge and Chris Basham early in the second half. The former then wasn’t too far away with a rising effort which sailed just over the bar.

That was a warning sign for Forest. And they got another when Brice Samba plucked Morgan Gibbs-White’s effort out of the air.

Just when they needed to relieve some pressure, Johnson doubled their advantage with 20 minutes to go. Substitute Joe Lolley pinched the ball off Egan and raced forward. His cross-shot was deflected into the path of Johnson, who applied a cool finish to make it 2-0.

He could have had another soon after, having been played in by Spence. The right-wing-back fired into the side-netting himself late on.

How costly Forest’s misses prove to be will be determined in the second leg. Jack Robinson headed in in added time to pull one back for the hosts, leaving the tie poised at 2-1. Here’s how Reds reporter Sarah Clapson rated the Forest players at Bramall Lane.

Brice Samba: Disappointing to concede so late on, and give United something to cling to. Was a poor goal to let in, too. Rating: 6/10

Joe Worrall: A colossus at the back. Summed up by a moment in the first half when he had a shot on goal, then sprinted down the pitch to help snuff out a counterattack. Rating: 8.5/10

Steve Cook: Composed and calm when the Blades applied the pressure; a reassuring presence in defence. Made some crucial blocks. Rating: 8/10

Scott McKenna: Plenty of ‘you’ll never beat McKenna’ chants getting an airing. And deservedly so. Stood firm when the visitors came under the cosh, with the back line as a whole superb. Rating: 8/10

Djed Spence: Well and truly had the beating of the Blades back line whenever he turned on the burners. Caused so many problems on the counter. Rating: 8/10

James Garner: Had a fairly quiet game by the midfielder’s own very high standards. Still played an important role in securing the first leg advantage, though. Rating: 7/10

Ryan Yates: A couple of decent chances to find the back of the net. Got through a lot of work in midfield as he put in his usual shift. Rating: 7.5/10

Jack Colback: Fourth goal of the season. Perfect time to score it. Made sure he was in the right place at the right time to capitalise. Rating: 7.5/10

Philip Zinckernagel: So important to the way Forest play. At the heart of much of their good attacking work in the first half - even if he didn’t always get it right. Rating: 8/10

Brennan Johnson: Lovely finish to make it 2-0. One which was celebrated with gusto by his dad, in the away end. Might have had at least another one. Rating: 8/10

Sam Surridge: Headed clearance off the line in the first half was as good as a goal, and could prove just as vital. Had chances to get on the scoresheet, too. Rating: 8/10

Subs

Joe Lolley (for Zinckernagel, 69mins): Didn’t take him long to get involved. And what an impact it was. Great determination and a terrific run to set up the second. Rating: 8/10

Keinan Davis (for Surridge, 77mins): A massive boost to have him available again. Hold-up play was good. Rating: 7/10

Alex Mighten (for Johnson, 90+2mins): Little time to really make an impact. Rating: 6/10

Subs not used: Horvath, Figueiredo, Laryea, Cafu.

Who was your man of the match? Have your say in the comments below

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Dive Deeper:
Colback and Johnson give Nottingham Forest first-leg win at Sheffield United
Jack Colback and Brennan Johnson handed Nottingham Forest a two-goal lead but Sander Berge’s stoppage-time goal means Sheffield United are…
Nottingham Forest boss Steve Cooper names his team for play-offs clash with Sheffield United
Latest Notttingham Forest news from NottinghamshireLive as Reds face Blades in Championship play-offs
Nottingham Forest surge into first-leg Championship play-off lead over Sheffield United
Sheffield United 1-2 Nottingham Forest: Jack Colback and Brennan Johnson scored for Forest but Sander Berge’s late goal gives the…
Nottingham Forest hold slender advantage over Sheffield United in promotion play-off semi-final
Strikes from Jack Colback and Brennan Johnson helped Nottingham Forest take a slender 2-1 win over Sheffield United at Bramall…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Sheffield Utd 1-2 Nottingham Forest: Championship playoff semi-final, first leg – as it happened
Sander Berge’s late goal for Blades, after Jack Colback and Brennan Johnson’s strikes for Forest, left plenty to play for…
Sheffield United 1-2 Nottingham Forest: Steve Cooper’s side take slender lead into second-leg after late goal
Sander Berge ensured Sheffield United would travel with something at least to the City Ground when they play Nottingham Forest…
Get all your news in one place