Matt Derbyshire's screamer thwarts gritty comeback from Leeds
As the car headed south to Nottingham for our last game of 2013 we reflected on another “interesting” year on Planet Leeds. The year started with Neil Warnock’s team putting in faultless efforts on the field whilst off the field Shaun Harvey was working his socks off looking for new players to boost the quality of the squad.
The problem was none of that transferred into anything other than hopeful hoofball and poor results on the pitch. An inspiring cup victory against Spurs in January papered over the cracks as Warnock’s tenure at Elland Road crumbled culminating in the sack after another inept home defeat to Derby appropriately on April Fools day.
In true Warnock fashion, he believed he’d done a super job at Leeds and left the club in a “good position”. Thousands of Leeds fans had a slightly different view. Brian McDermott arrived to steer Leeds away from the relegation trap door and finish the season with a memorable victory at promotion chasing Watford.
The summer didn’t bring the flood of new personnel into Thorp Arch that many fans craved, but Brian McD assembled a team that, with the help of a tactical change to a 3-5-2 system, are now firmly knocking on the play off door as 2014 beckons.
Pre-match refreshments were taken in the Notts County bar as the Happy Chocker, Quiet One and yours truly pondered our chances of wiping the annoying smirk off Billy Davies’ chubby face. Murphy replaced Tonge in the only change from the Boxing Day game whilst Forest continued with Halford leading their line in the absence of Darius Henderson.
Our conclusion was this one was too close to call as we headed for away end. Over 26,000 were packed inside the City Ground as the game kicked off creating a lively atmosphere as both sets of fans exchanged views on Brain Clough, Jimmy Savile and the miners strike.
A miss hit pass back to Paddy Kenny caused the first incident of the game as the giant makeshift Forest forward, Halford, clattered into the Leeds keeper leaving him prostrate on the turf. After 5 anxious minutes Kenny was ready to resume. But was he fit?
Leeds had the first chance of the game as Danny Pugh rifled in a shot from the left only for it to cannon away for a corner. The opening exchanges were frenetic as you’d expect from two teams in the play off spots and as a result we heard plenty of the ref’s whistle in the first 20 minutes.
Brown, Mackie and Reid seemed to either be fouling or being fouled during this period but as the game settled down Reid and Lansbury started to get an upper hand in the vital midfield area. Forest’s pressing plan was forcing plenty of unforced errors from Leeds as the home side dominated possession.
On 23 minutes Brown and Reid clashed again and the ref gave Forest a dubious free kick deep in the Leeds half. Reid hoisted the ball to the far post looking for Mr Halford, surely a tactic Leeds were anticipating, but despite the bleeding obvious Halford was allowed to leap and head the ball past the struggling Kenny into the net. 1-0 Forest and the stadium erupted in celebrations.
Leeds were now wobbling and Forest were oozing confidence as Lansbury and Reid pulled the strings at the heart of the midfield. Two shots within two minutes of the restart whizzed agonisingly close to the Leeds goal as the home side looked to press home their advantage.
Leeds did respond in the shape of Brown as he collected the ball in the centre circle before giving a shimmy to lose his man and head straight for the Forest goal like a man possessed. Memories of his stunner against Chesterfield came flooding back, that is until his shot ballooned wide and handsome into the crowd! This did give Leeds some hope and two more chances quickly followed. First Austin snatched at a shot from outside the box before Smith glanced a header wide from a superb Austin cross.