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Steve Cooper delivers verdict as Nottingham Forest hold play-offs advantage over Sheffield United

By Sarah Clapson

Head coach Steve Cooper singled out his players’ mentality as Nottingham Forest came away with a 2-1 advantage from their play-offs semi-final first leg against Sheffield United.

The Reds could have scored more as they created numerous chances at Bramall Lane. Goals from Jack Colback and Brennan Johnson ensured they are in a great position ahead of the return fixture at the City Ground on Tuesday night. But a late header from Sander Berge to reduce the deficit still leaves the tie enticingly poised.

Cooper will call for more of the same, though, after a brilliant opening 45 minutes in which the visitors could have been out of sight. They had to defend well after the break, as they came under the cosh, but the Welshman was delighted with the overall performance.

Read more: How the Reds rated against the Blades

Read more: Reasons for regret and optimism after first leg

“It coulda, shoulda been a clean-sheet. Could have been more goals. But this is football, and this is the play-offs,” said Cooper.

“It was a really good game. I loved our first-half performance. We were dominant.

“I was really impressed and happy with our mentality and approach to the game. Whether we like it or not, these games are different, so to come to a big stadium like this, against a good team with good players, in a good atmosphere, and to do what we did, tells you our mentality is in a good place. I’m pleased with that.

“We created more chances than having the one goal in it, but this is football. They had a bit more of the ball than what we would have liked in the second half. But we also knew that if we got our defending right, we could continue to create chances, which we did.

“It’s disappointing to concede at the end. But that’s the tension and randomness of the play-offs.

“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.”

How are you feeling ahead of the second leg? Have your say in the comments below

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