Connor Roberts’ late header earned Swansea City a vital three points as they secured a dramatic 1-0 victory over Nottingham Forest.
The game appeared destined to end level for long periods as Anthony Knockaert came the closest to breaking the deadlock in south Wales as hit first half strike skimmed the top of the Swansea crossbar.
But Roberts headed home his third goal of the campaign three minutes from time as Swansea claimed a vital victory to stretch their unbeaten run in the league to nine games while they are also unbeaten in 12 home Championship matches as a result of what could be a huge win come May.
A grand total of 12 days that must have felt like an eternity for fans in what has been an unusually hectic Championship campaign had elapsed since the Swans defeated Norwich City 2-0 on home soil.
The postponement of the clash with Sheffield Wednesday had played a part in Swansea dropping to fourth place ahead of the clash with Forest, and it’s fair to say the Jack Army have been hammering the refresh button on their electronic devices of late in a bid to keep up with events that were unfolding in games involving their automatic promotion rivals.
However, an impressive run of results over the festive period and in the New Year had ensured Swansea’s destiny remains firmly in their own hands which highlighted the perspective needed when it came to keeping an eye on the fortunes of Norwich, Brentford and others.
Forest were more than confident of denting Swansea’s promotion push though having gone unbeaten in their four matches since being hammered 5-1 by Cooper’s side in the FA Cup last month.
The Swans stuck with the same side that started in that convincing triumph over Norwich while Korey Smith was listed among the substitutes following a spell on the sidelines due to a quad injury.
Hold On Tight (to your dream) by Electric Light Orchestra played over the Liberty’s tannoy system as the players completed their pre-match warm-ups, although the opening stages of the contest served as proof that the Swans were going to be pushed all the way in their quest to complete a treble of victories over Forest this season that would subsequently take them yet another tiny step closer towards a return to the promised land.
Cyrus Christie worked his way up the right flank, beating Andre Ayew in the process, before his cross was drilled over by Filip Krovinovic early on.
Swansea responded though as Conor Hourihane swung his left boot through the air when attempting to volley at goal before Roberts drilled well wide after a slick passing move.
Lewis Grabban couldn’t quite pick out Joe Lolley after finding space in the Swansea box as Forest showed the kind of stubbornness that has played a key role in their run of just one defeat in their last 11 league outings.
And Cooper urged his players to lift the intensity midway through the opening half after what had been a fairly low key start to proceedings from both sides.
After Ayew’s driven strike was blocked, Freddie Woodman had to be alert to claw away Knockaert’s teasing cross just before the half hour mark as clear cut chances remained at a premium.
And, in truth, Cooper knew he needed to deliver an important team talk at the break after his side struggled to click at the business end of the pitch in the opening 45, particularly when Knockaert struck the top of the Swansea crossbar in injury time after the visitors created an overload from a corner.
Lolley’s tame effort was comfortably dealt with by Woodman after the restart before Jamal Lowe’s scuffed strike was easily gathered by Brice Samba as Swansea registered their first shot on target in the 57th minute.
Jordan Morris replaced Kyle Naughton for the final quarter of the game after the defender took a knock to the face, and that alteration saw a change in shape for the hosts as Ayew operated centrally, with Morris and Lowe moving to the wide positions.
The hosts marginally improved after that tweak, although they continued to struggle at the business end of the pitch.
But Forest had a glorious chance to hit Swansea on the counter attack after clearing a corner, although Lowe and Roberts tracked back brilliantly to thwart Grabban.
Roberts made a fine block as Forest threatened from a recycled corner as Paul Arriola replaced Lowe for the final stages.
But just as the game looked set to end level, Roberts demonstrated the same athleticism he showed in the reverse fixture to head home Bidwell’s cross to send the Swansea bench into raptures as the Swans clinched victory in sensational fashion.
Swansea City: Woodman; Naughton (Morris 67), Bennett, Guehi; Roberts, Grimes (C), Hourihane (Smith 88), Fulton, Bidwell; Ayew, Lowe (Arriola 83).
Subs not used: Hamer, Latibeaudiere, Cabango, Manning, Dhanda, Whittaker.
Yellow card: Bennett 35
Goal: Roberts 87
Nottingham Forest: Samba; Christie, Figueiredo, Worrall, Ribeiro; Cafu, Garner; Lolley, Krovinovic, Knockaert (Mighten 89); Grabban (C) (Murray 75).
Subs not used: Smith, Mbe Soh, Colback, Bong, Jenkinson, Blackett, Taylor.
Referee: Geoff Eltringham
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