A trip to Nottingham Forest is always one I’ve looked forward to. A couple years ago it was my first proper away day; in August under the late summer sun, we won 2-1. A late Jermaine Beckford goal sealed 3pts in the dying mintues. Always the best ay to win away I thought.
The womens FA Cup final was next up, Leeds Ladies v Arsenal Ladies again pretty much a sell out and a great day. This was no different, an impromtu visit to the City Ground – impromtu visits to away grounds are usually impossible as the allocations normally sell out straight away. And on that point, we did take 4,000 to Nottingham…
Anyway I digress. Nottingham was a mass of red shirts, dotted around the cafes, bars and burger vans were the occasional group of Leeds fans. In truth while it has always been a good day out, myself and I’m sure many others, came to the midlands in hope rather than expectation. Forest narrowly missed out last season and are strong favourites to gain promotion to the Premier League this time round and frankly, it was clear to see why.
Looking briefly at the team news, captain Richard Naylor was returned to the starting line-up in place of Alex Bruce; I admit I was extremely apprehensive about the prospect of Naylor and Neill Collins up against the pace of Rob Earnshaw and Dexter Blackstock.
Unsurprisingly the aformentioned factors contributed to a deludge from Forest in the opening 20-odd minutes. We could’ve easily been buried before some had taken their seats. Such was the ease with which Forest tore through us, the midfield was run ragged and the defence nowhere in sight. Not ten minutes had past when Chris Gunter cross – after some typically absent defending, was floated in
between Naylor and Collins allowing Blackstock to glance the ball past Kasper Schmeichel. it had been coming. Ball after ball glided through an absent midfield, warning enough one might think but attack after attack rained in as no one in a blue shirt thought to close anyone down.
Infuriating stuff and Forest threatened more as Earnshaw once again made a menace of himself, waltzing through the Leeds defence, playing a neat one-two and rasped a shot against Schmeichel’s right hand upright. As the half wore on, Leeds began to get a foothold but where still edgy, especially at the back. Only the dominance and determination of Schmeichel and some precise, last minute lunges, plus some wasteful finishing kept the scores level.
Then came the moment, how we were still in the game at this point was still beyond me… a left wing cross from Bradley Johnson – about the only one that wasn’t ballooned into the ground or sliced away for a goal kick, found its way on to the head of Lloyd Sam who somehow, despite being surrounded bya huddle of players headed it into the net. Pandemonium in the Leeds end. More disbelief than anything else.
Never has an old cliche been so pertinent – a game of two halves. Simon Grayson knew something had to give, even if he didn’t change personel, the team talk had to be right. It had to trump whatever Billy ‘job done’ Davies could muster, it had to be the full on hairdryer treatment. Sod that, it had to be the whole salon.
Whatever he said worked, the team reappeared with new found belief and it seemed a different team. There were still gaps, mistakes and missed opportunities but Grayson changed the mindset. There’s no shame in coming to Forest and being daunted by the prospect.
Grayson didn’t rush in to any changes and when they did come, Johnson could perhaps consider himself lucky to have not seen his number up.
Beyond that, there were flashpoints and missed opportunities; chances came and went and despite Lee Camp in the Forest goal having an easy afternoon, Leeds had their chances but were not accurate enough. Camp had his own role to play though, the first flashpoint came as he collected a ball high, in the box. Naylor was more than up for the challenge and as the collidec in midair, Camp came off worst. Furious signals to the bench brought momentary concern but Camp was fine. As the physio tended to his cut brow, he attempted to wind up the away fans, in equal measure tried to gee up the home lot but even they, so vociferous were they at kick off but quite and apprehensive now.
The second flashpoint came as Gunter took his studs to Sanchez Watt and sparked a whole lotnof nothing as everyone waded in to have their say. The referee in his wisdom did not see fit to send Gunter off, insteas booking both players. Afterwards the managers would argue over who deserved what but in reflection the referee was poor, for both sides while his linesman on the near side didn’t win himself any plaudits either.
So a point gained undoubtedly, and there is plenty to build on but plenty of holes tonpick as well. Hopefully changes are afoot and with Millwall next, they need to be made and fast.