Nottingham Forest out for revenge in their Championship play-off semi-final against Sheffield United
“People will be talking about this for years to come,” Sheffield United manager Neil Warnock declared after his makeshift side eliminated rising stars Nottingham Forest from the Championship play-offs nearly two decades ago.
Warnock was not wrong. The Blades came through a thrilling semi-final, coming back from 2-0 down in the second leg at Bramall Lane to win 4-3 after extra time and 5-4 on aggregate.
Some United fans describe that night in May 2003 as the best ever on a football pitch.
David Johnson and Phil Jagielka (left) had key roles in the epic matchup 19 years ago.
And so are the Blades players, who continue to savor every moment. The memories are not erased despite the monumental postgame celebration, which was still underway at the team hotel when other guests came down for breakfast.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Forest players are less communicative, having wasted a valuable shot in the big moment, despite a team that boasted talented academy graduates including Andy Reid, Gareth Williams, Marlon Harewood and John Thompson, as well as David Johnson and Darren Huckerby. , who was on loan from Manchester City.
But now Forest smells the chance for revenge, playing the first leg of this season’s Championship play-off semi-final at Sheffield on Saturday, with the second leg at the City Ground on Tuesday.
Neil Warnock and his team were celebrating in 2003, but Forest wants revenge this time
Reid’s reaction to the rematch was captured live on air last weekend, as Hull City’s 94th-minute equalizer meant Forest was suddenly destined to meet their old rivals again.
“Let’s not talk about it,” the Irishman joked when asked about the game nineteen years ago on BBC Radio 5 Live.
Reid, who spent 10 years at the City Ground in two seasons, admitted ‘a little revenge’ would be sweet, adding: ‘We were 2-0 up. He finished 4-3. So there was a decent rivalry between us, we always had very good games between us.
That night, Forest was mugged by some canny pros, who had gathered around the Blades’ up-and-coming youngsters like Phil Jagielka and Michael Tonge, and simply refused to give up.
The tie was delicately level at 1-1 after the first leg in Nottingham, but crucially, promising Forest defender Michael Dawson had been sent off with seven minutes remaining in that match and was suspended for the second leg.
Both teams finished the season in good shape overall and it is expected to be a close game.
Somehow, the semi-final gave Dawson the red card, as he seriously weakened the Reds. Well, that and Paul Peschisolido’s twisted, deflected run and scrape that put the Blades ahead in extra time and sparked wild celebrations at Bramall Lane.
Peschisolido took off his shirt on the pitch, chased by his teammates, while chaos broke out in the stands.
‘It’s a bit embarrassing,’ Peschisolido told Yorkshire Live. ‘I just completely lost my mind, lost everything. I didn’t know what he was doing. I’ve never taken my shirt off before. I didn’t know what happened to me.
Michael Brown, who made 151 league appearances for the Blades over five years, scored the equalizer in the first leg and launched the comeback in the second, with a free kick to make it 2-1.
‘That was the classic game of the Championship,’ recalled the midfielder.
‘Yeah, when you’re on the receiving end not so much as to win it for us, it was an extraordinary day and an extraordinary night. None of us can forget,” Brown told the BBC.
‘The story is there between the two football clubs. Two big clubs desperate to get in there. It is remarkable that it is happening again. There’s a bit of history, there’s a bit of spice to it.’
In 2003, a key moment in the tie was Michael Dawson’s dismissal in the first leg
Goalkeeper Paddy Kenny remembers every minute of the game.
“When I look back now, it was the best environment I’ve ever played in,” Kenny said. sports mail.
‘When we were two nil down, I couldn’t believe it because we had a good draw away from home and we thought we were going to win it.
“But Neil Warnock knew we had good steel on us and that group of players stuck together and could fight back.”
United had enjoyed runs to the League Cup and FA Cup semi-finals that season and were used to digging deep.
Nearly two decades later, Kenny claims two assists.
Sheffield United goalkeeper Paddy Kenny knew his team could come back in 2003
First, for the equalizer, his long cross-country clearance in the 68th minute was checked by Kabba, who turned the tables on Des Walker, back at Forest for his second period, before scoring on a volley.
And then to Peschisolido, with another long ball, but there was a lot of work to be done once the tricky striker was in possession.
As the ball rolled over the line at one end, Kenny and Jagielka rolled on the ground in celebration at the other, before Robert Page told them to stop.
‘Pagey came over and said, ‘Damn, get back up, because we haven’t done this yet,’ Kenny later.old sheffield starnoting that the Welsh international centre-back was “hard as nails”.
Kenny, who is a Sheffield United fan and watches the current crop of Blades home and away, has been impressed with them this season.
“They have to go out and do what they’ve been doing,” he said. Kennywho now runs a transport business and gives talks.
Both games between Forest and Sheffield United have ended 1-1 this season
After Peschisolido’s goal the pitch was in turmoil, but the incredible night for the United fans was about to get even better. Walker, who had made 310 league appearances for his arch-rivals Sheffield Wednesday, headed into his own net to make it 4-2.
“It was an added treat,” said lifelong Blades fan Amanda Ball, who was at the game. “He not only scored an own goal, he actually won it for us.”
For Forest, the loss was disconcerting. Paul Hart sounded shaken in his post-match comments.
‘Sorry about the boys…’ he said. “We did well to go up 2-0…but that got them going.”
Forest manager Steve Cooper has engineered a remarkable run of Championship form.
The night had started so well. David Johnson, whose son, Brennan, has taken the Championship by storm for Forest this season and will be instrumental in the Reds succeeding this time around, opened the scoring after half an hour with a hard-hitting strike that threw Kenny off. .
And in the 58th minute, Reid volleyed from five meters. At the time, Forest fans were planning their day away at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
“We were in dreamland,” recalled Paul Severn, 41, an organizer with the Nottingham Forest Supporters’ Trust.
‘They recovered one right away and it all fell apart from there. Des Walker’s own goal made it ten times worse. he had returned [to the club]. It was a shame for him.
In the end, Forest’s hearts were broken and Johnson, who scored 29 goals that season, including one in the first leg, left the field in tears, Severn sadly recalled.
He admits there is now “some trepidation” ahead of another clash with Sheffield United, with whom Forest share a long-standing rivalry, which intensified in that play-off defeat.
‘There’s an element of… can you avenge that? It will be interesting to see if [Johnson’s] son [Brennan] I can do that.’
David Johnson opened the scoring for Forest at Bramall Lane in 2003, this time his son, Brennan, will play for the Reds and try to succeed where his father failed
Forest fans see similarities between this team and the one that flopped last time, with academy graduates like Joe Worrall, Ryan Yates and Johnson becoming famous and gambling on their claims, with a manager, Steve Cooper, renowned for managing young talent, like Hart. it is.
And the team, which was bottom of the Championship after seven games, has the City Ground bouncing again. Forest finally seems free of the incredible achievements of the past, including two European Cups in 1979 and 1980.
“The success was a long, long time ago,” Severn added. I remember Brian Clough’s back but people under 30 don’t remember any of that and this is the best football they’ve ever seen.
‘Even some of the veterans say they haven’t seen an atmosphere like this. There has been so much disappointment, but to have a team that can give Arsenal and Liverpool a game and Leicester a hideout… There is a stir in the city. It’s the best thing in years.
Both clubs would do well not to look to the future. His fans are painfully aware of his dismal play-off records.
Forest fans have enjoyed the ride this season and the club and city are excited about their team’s revival.
In 2003, Sheffield United trailed Wolves 3-0 at half-time in the final. In eight attempts he has not yet achieved promotion via the playoffs.
Since colliding with the Blades, Forest has failed at the semi-final stage on three more occasions.
But they could do worse than look back for inspiration.
Following Sheffield United’s famous victory in that epic encounter 19 years ago, Warnock vowed: “I’ll watch the video as many times as I can.”
And motivation for both teams can be found on Warnock’s old VHS tape.