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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 May, 2003, 13:14 GMT 14:14 UK
Blades hold Forest
Michael Brown
Brown picked himself up to score from the spot
Nottingham Forest 1-1 Sheffield United

Sheffield United take a narrow advantage into the return leg of the play-off semi-final after holding Nottingham Forest to a draw at the City Ground.

Michael Brown converted the penalty he had won when he was scythed down by Mathieu Louis-Jean after David Johnson had given the home side the lead.

Blades manager Neil Warnock will doubtless leave the City Ground much the happier manager after a game which Forest dominated for long periods.

And Forest's hopes of progress took a further blow when defender Michael Dawson was shown a red card late in the second half, ruling him out of Thursday's second leg.

We've got a lot of resolve in the squad and we don't know when we're beaten
Neil Warnock

The Blades got off to a bright start with Phil Jagielka bursting forward only to fire a wayward shot over the crossbar, but it was Forest who came closest to an early goal.

Riccardo Scimeca's inswinging corner was met by a powerful header from Marlon Harewood which rattled the underside of the crossbar and hit the line before it was cleared by a frantic Blades defence.

And four minutes later, Scimeca's looping free-kick from wide on the left threatened to dip under the bar before keeper Paddy Kenny scrambled back to tip the ball over.

KEY INCIDENTS
7 mins: Marlon Harewood's header hits the crossbar and bounces out
20 mins: Carl Asaba miskicks for Sheffield Utd with the goal gaping
55 mins: David Johnson's cool finish gives Forest the lead
56 mins: Michael Brown converts the penalty he won to equalise for the Blades
83 mins: Michael Dawson is sent off for a late tackle

As Forest pressed forward, the visitors increasingly resorted to long balls out of defence, but a mistake by Louis-Jean almost handed Sheffield United an undeserved first-half lead.

The French defender tested the home fans' nerves when he sliced an attempted clearance and the ball landed at the feet of Carl Asaba six yards out.

But the striker miskicked horribly and though he did connect with a right-foot shot in the ensuing melee, keeper Darren Ward saved his team-mate's blushes with a sharp save.

But the better chances continued to fall to the hosts and Dawson headed narrowly over from another dangerous Scimeca corner before the dangerous Darren Huckerby beat three players only to waste the shooting opportunity.

We played some great football, we played in the correct manner and we haven't been beaten
Forest manager Paul Hart
If anything, Forest showed more urgency in the second half.

The home side finally got their just reward when Johnson, who moments earlier had headed a corner straight at the goalkeeper, raced on to Reid's deflected pass and coolly slotted the ball past Kenny.

But Forest led for less than two minutes when Louis-Jean made his second unfortunate intervention in his own penalty area.

HAVE YOUR SAY
As Brown burst into the box, Louis-Jean brought the striker down and Brown got up to send Ward the wrong way from the spot.

Forest continued to press for the winner, with Johnson squandering a couple of chances, but after Dawson's departure for a late tackle on Steve Kabba, Sheffield United might have grabbed a vital advantage.

Michael Tonge sent a superb 20-yard drive towards goal, but Ward pulled off an equally brilliant save to deny the visitors and give Forest hope for the second leg.


Nottm Forest: Ward, Louis-Jean, Dawson, Walker, Brennan, Williams, Scimeca, Reid, Huckerby, Harewood, Johnson. Subs: Jess, Roche, Lester, Thompson, Bopp.

Sheff Utd: Kenny, Curtis, Page, Jagielka, Kozluk, Ndlovu, Brown, Rankine, Tonge, Windass, Asaba. Subs: Kabba, Peschisolido, Allison, McCall, Montgomery.

Referee: M Clattenburg (Co Durham).




WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC Five Live's John Murray
"United will begin the second leg as favourites"


Forest boss Paul Hart
"The sending off was very, very harsh"



NOTTINGHAM FOREST

SHEFFIELD UNITED

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