For Nottingham Forest, tonight’s game is a chance to take the first, tentative step towards restoring one of England’s great football clubs to its former glory. Rivals Swansea, meanwhile, will be looking to stake their claim to become the leaders of Welsh football by making the step up to the Premier League, and show Cardiff City how promotion is won. Forest are currently the bookies’ least-fancied side for this year’s play-off lottery, and their run of nine games without a win earlier this season has perhaps contributed to this consensus. However, they are certainly one of the Championship’s in-form sides, having won five of their last six matches and veritably stolen a place in the top six off a wasteful Leeds United.
Swansea are also in good form, winning three games on the bounce in the run-up to this tie to snatch third from Welsh rivals Cardiff, but Billy Davies’ side have been here before. Despite losing to Blackpool at this stage last season, Forest will have the experience of such a big occasion, and this should contribute to a much-improved performance second time around. Despite playing some of the division’s most attractive football, indeed few would disagree with the Swans being awarded this title, one would have to fancy Forest for the first leg, especially at home.
They won’t find it easy, however; City have the second best defensive record in the division, having conceded just 42 goals. Only Champions QPR have conceded fewer goals, and with their title-winning season having, to all intents and purposes, being built on a solid back line, this is no mean feat. Therefore I will stick my neck out, and wide into the mire with a bold prediction: 3-1 to Nottingham Forest, a scoreline which would make for a very exciting second-leg indeed.