Nottingham Forest 1-1 Leeds United
Blackstock 9’ Sam 36’
Attendance – 24, 986
Leeds United fought back impressively to share the spoils with Nottingham Forest in a feisty battle at the City Ground. Forest stormed out of the blocks, taking a deserved early lead through Dexter Blackstock, courtesy of a well placed header. Simon Grayson tinkered with his formation and Leeds responded well, Bradley Johnson’s perfect cross from the left was met by a late run from Lloyd Sam, whose glancing header was expertly directed into the bottom corner.
Despite the early Forest dominance, which saw both Paul Anderson and Robert Earnshaw go close, it was Leeds who looked the more likely to win the match. Sanchez Watt headed narrowly wide when well placed and Neil Kilkenny saw a low drive flash past the post late on.
Simon Grayson elected to make just one change to the side successful in the Carling Cup against Lincoln City in midweek, with skipper Richard Naylor returning in place of Alex Bruce. Forest boss Billy Davies made seven changes to the side beaten by League Two Bradford City in the Carling Cup. Kelvin Wilson, Paul McKenna, Robert Earnshaw and Dexter Blackstock were among the notable inclusions.
The early exchanges were dominated by the home side, and the deadlock was nearly broken inside the opening two minutes. Chris Gunter delivered a dangerous ball into the box from the right wing which Anderson chested toward goal from close range, denied only by the boot of Kasper Schmeichel in the Leeds goal.
Gunter was proving a constant threat to the Leeds defence, and he had claims for a penalty turned down when Federico Bessone halted his advancing run into the Leeds area.
The opening goal soon arrived as the relentless pressure took its toll. Again Gunter was the architect, as his ninth-minute cross was nodded past Schmeichel into the bottom-left corner by the unmarked Blackstock.
Dexter Blackstock heads Forest into an early lead
It was nearly a two goal lead moments later, following a delightful exchange between Blackstock and Earnshaw sent the latter through on goal, but his effort rebounded off the upright.
Leeds slowly worked their way back into the match with some pressure relieving possession of their own. Grayson altered his formation midway through the first half, switching to a 4-4-2 with Watt partnering Luciano Becchio in attack.
The tactical change took effect almost immediately as Becchio raced onto a pass from Sam, the Argentine’s touch let him down though, as Lee Camp smothered his attempted shot.
Leeds restored parity on 36 minutes courtesy of Lloyd Sam’s second goal for the club following his landmark strike against Lincoln. Forest defender Wes Morgan conceded possession needlessly in his own half allowing Leeds to break, Johnson’s inch-perfect cross found the late-run of Sam, who guided his header into the bottom corner leaving Camp with no chance.
Lee Camp watches on as Lloyd Sam’s equalising header nestles in the bottom corner
Leeds began the second half brightly and on 55 minutes the lively Watt did well to twist inside two Forest defenders before firing a cross-come-shot across the face of goal which somehow evaded three on-rushing Leeds players.
Leeds effectively prevented Forest from recapturing the quick passing tempo achieved in the opening 20 minutes, displaying a greater urgency to press the ball when not in possession and astutely slowing the pace of the game down.
As the home side became more and more frustrated, the opportunity for Leeds to take all three points presented itself more clearly. A 70th minute Neil Kilkenny corner found Sanchez Watt unmarked 10 yards from goal, but the on-loan Arsenal man couldn’t direct his header goalwards as a great chance went begging.
Billy Davies’ attempts to change the pattern of play via a double change failed to lift the flat looking home side, neither Gareth McCleary nor Nathan Tyson made telling impacts.
As Leeds continued to search for a winner, there was a strong appeal for a penalty as Blackstock hauled Naylor to the ground off the ball as a free-kick was delivered.
With 10 minutes remaining there was a heated confrontation between players from both sides in the Forest area, after what appeared to be a stamp by Gunter on Watt. After discussions with both assistant referees, referee Tony Bates cautioned both Gunter and Watt. However replays suggested the Forest full-back was fortunate not to receive red for a blatant stamp.
Tempers flare after a stamping incident
Leeds continued to dominate the final throes, but were unable to muster up a winning goal. A low skidding effort from Kilkenny in the last minute that flashed wide of the goal was the closest they came.
Leeds left the City Ground with their first point of the Championship campaign. After weathering a torrid opening 20 minute period; Grayson’s men came back into the game well and will take confidence from their response, despite not claiming all three points.
Nottingham Forest – Camp, Gunter, Morgan, Wilson, Bertrand, Cohen, McKenna, Majewski (Tyson, 68), Anderson (McCleary, 62), Earnshaw, Blackstock (Moussi, 83)
Booked – Bertrand, Wilson, Gunter
Leeds United – Schmeichel, Connolly, Naylor, Collins, Bessone, Kilkenny, Howson, Johnson, Sam (Clayton, 89), Becchio, Watt
Booked – Kilkenny, Watt
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