Dobbie fires Swansea a step closer to elite

Swansea City 3 Nottingham Forest 1
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The Independent Football

Swansea City manager Brendan Rodgers hailed his side after they booked their place in the Championship play-off final with a second leg win over Nottingham Forest – and set up a potential all-Wales clash against arch-rivals Cardiff City.

After a goalless draw at the City Ground, first-half strikes from Leon Britton and Stephen Dobbie fired the home side two goals clear. Wales striker Robert Earnshaw halved the deficit with ten minutes remaining but Darren Pratley scored from the halfway line with the final kick of the match as Swansea held firm for their first appearance at Wembley in 14 years.

Rodgers beamed: "I'm so proud and it's a wonderful night for the club, players and supporters. The night belongs to them. It was a heroic performance. We were brilliant in the first half and defended well in the second.

"There were a few hairy moments towards the end. I was stood behind Darren and it was a difficult skill to score from so far out. Then all my emotions came out and I knew we were through."

But this much-deserved victory, in front of a record 19,816 crowd at the Liberty Stadium, has raised the hopes in these parts of an enthralling final contest involving one country – Wales – should Cardiff defeat Reading 40 miles down the M4 motorway tonight, and guarantee the Welsh nation a first Premier League place. Rodgers added: "This season has always been about us and we have been brilliant. Wembley will be like a home game for us because of the size of the pitch. But I'm not bothered about who we play. Reading gave me my chance in English football but to play Cardiff would be unbelievable."

It was a rollercoaster of a contest which started when David McGoldrick crashed Dorus de Vries's crossbar with a thundering left-footed effort inside five minutes. Swansea responded as Fabio Borini thumped Lee Camp's woodwork via a wicked Wes Morgan deflection to end a pulsating first 20 minutes.

Then came the opener for the hosts, which was worth the 28-minute wait. Dobbie combined with Scott Sinclair for a short corner routine before the ball arrived at Leon Britton. The diminutive midfielder twisted and then turned away from the challenge of Tudgay before letting fly with a giant swing of his left foot from 25 yards.

Worse was to follow for Forest five minutes later. Dobbie, who ended Forest's play-off hopes at the same stage with Blackpool last season, fended off Guy Moussi and nutmegged Morgan before firing left-footed past Camp from the edge of the penalty box to spark wild celebrations in west Wales.

Swansea could have made it three at the stroke of half-time when Sinclair sent Borini clear but the Italian Under-21 striker saw his drilled effort beaten away by Camp.

Forest, to their credit, refused to give up and Tudgay wasted a glorious chance to give the East Midlands outfit a lifeline, but he thumped the ball high over de Vries' bar from 12 yards. Earnshaw pounced three minutes after appearing off the bench before Pratley sparked a pitch invasion. Swansea now stand one game away from returning to the top-flight after a 28-year wait.

Forest manager Billy Davies has dismissed the notion that he may be forced to leave the two-time European champions following another season of failure. Davies said: "I am not disappointed or down. We have had back-to-back play-off efforts and I can ask no more. When I arrived here I had a three-and-a-half year deal so I'm planning on going nowhere. I'm looking forward to next season."

All eyes are now on Dave Jones and Cardiff, as they seek to set up an epic finale on 30 May.

Swansea (4-3-3): De Vries; Rangel, Monk, Williams, Tate; Allen (Moore, 84), Britton, Dobbie (Pratley, 59); Dyer, Borini, Sinclair (Serran, 88). Substitutes not used Beattie, Orlandi, Gower, Ma-kalambay (gk).

Nottingham Forest (4-4-2): Camp; Moloney, Morgan, Chambers, Gunter; McGugan, Moussi, McGoldrick (Earnshaw, 78), Cohen; Tudgay (Boyd, 68), Tyson (Majewski, 62). Substitutes not used Anderson, McKenna, Lynch, Smith (gk).

Referee A Marriner (West Midlands).