Honour followed dishonour for Swansea, who played almost all last night's Championship play-off semi-final first leg with 10 men after their left-back Neil Taylor was shown the red card for a dreadful foul inside the first minute on Forest's Lewis McGugan.
Yet they left the City Ground deservedly with the tie all-square after a performance of tactical discipline with which it was impossible to find fault, leaving Forest manager Billy Davies in need of substantial improvement at the Liberty Stadium on Monday if his 2007 triumph with Derby is not to remain his sole success.
Referee Mike Dean had little option but to send off Taylor, irrespective of the time elapsed. The defender's challenge was reckless, high and had the potential to seriously injure McGugan, who has been Forest's most creative player this season.
Brendan Rodgers, the Swansea manager, felt Dean was influenced in his decision by the home crowd but was so pleased with his side's performance he did not labour the point.
"Although Neil was just stretching for the ball, I can see why he gave it," Rodgers said. "The emotion of the game and the crowd may have influenced his decision. But I'm so proud of my players. We are not doing cartwheels. It counts for nothing if we don't finish the job on Monday – but it was a brilliant performance."
Davies, as might be expected, clutched at the straw labelled "it's only half-time" and argued that the early red card worked against his side. "As soon as it happened I knew we would be playing against a 10-man defence," he said.
Indeed, save for a fierce half-volley from an otherwise misfiring Rob Earnshaw that goalkeeper Dorus de Vries tipped round the post in the first half, a couple of long-range efforts from McGugan was the sum total of the Forest threat. Swansea, with pace on the counter-attack, went close twice, through a Fabio Borini free-kick in the first half and a shot from close range by Nathan Dyer in the second, both of which drew fine saves from Lee Camp.
It was a tactical triumph for Rodgers, whose decision to leave three up front in the first half obliged the Forest full-backs to limit their forward runs. Only in the second half did he switch to blanket defence, and was rewarded with a display of sustained discipline that makes Swansea strong favourites for the second leg.
Nottingham Forest (4-4-2) Camp; Moloney, Chambers, Morgan, Gunter; McGugan, Cohen, McKenna (McCleary, 72), Anderson; Earnshaw (Tyson, 71), Boyd (Tudgay, 77). Substitutes not used McGoldrick, Smith (gk), Majewski, Lynch.
Swansea City (4-3-3) De Vries; Rangel, Tate, Williams, Taylor; Dobbie (Monk, 4), Britton, Allen (Gower, 72); Dyer, Borini (Moore, 55), Sinclair. Substitutes not used Pratley, Orlandi, Serran, Makabu-Makalambay (gk).
Referee M Dean (Cheshire)Reuse content