words: David Marples
On an evening when both teams stuttered as an attacking force, the points were shared, or from a Forest perspective, snatched away from them in the style of a stroppy kid picking his ball up and going home.
As poor as Forest were going forward, they were magnificently disciplined at the back. Despite ceding possession, the opportunities to break were there in the second half but a lack of composure in key moments meant that Aitor Karanka’s team were unable to put daylight between them after Jack Robinson’s opener in the first half put Forest in the ascendency.
It was a breathtaking opening forty-five minutes in which Forest gave as good as they got against Marcelo Bielsa’s exciting side. Leeds were unable to flow from back to front, to sweep Forest aside with a sweeping move based on unfathomable movement. Karanka’s side were ready and waiting with wide men Matty Cash and Joe Lolley ever-willing and able to ensure Leeds were unable to make inroads down the channels.
The key battle was likely to be in the wide areas and whichever team were able to negate the others’ threat and push them deeper were likely to gain the upper hand. Few could have envisaged the Forest full-back Jack Robinson being the one to make such a vital attacking contribution yet it was he who headed the Reds into the lead after some sloppy defending from the home team.
After which, the more Leeds grew increasingly frustrated, Forest grew increasingly confident. Once possession was turned over, the ball was channeled into the vacant full-back areas for Lolley and/or Cash to exploit. It was effective and causing Leeds some headaches – the home crowd went a bit quiet.
After the restart, Leeds huffed and puffed like a big old grumpy gorilla whose porridge had been eaten by a cheeky scamp of an intruder. For all their possession and passes though, Costel Pantilimmon was rarely troubled. The ceaseless running of Lewis Grabban and chasing of the ball by João Carvalho seemed to take its toll and when opportunities to break did occur, they were snatched at, or the players were simply too knackered to make it happen.
Just when it looked like Forest’s resolve would be enough to take the points while Leeds grew frustrated to the verge of indiscipline, Kemar Roofe did what he did.
While frustration and anger at the officials and indeed Roofe is the natural reaction, keeping a lid on it is perhaps the more dignified one. Even if the disappointment of not seeing the referee making a big rectangle with his hands and cutting to pictures of four officials in a pokey little room dressed in full referee's kit staring intently at a freeze frame was palpable, what goes around will surely (hopefully) come around.
Besides, solace could easily be sought in the performances of both Forest full-backs, the defensive unit as a whole, the bite in the midfield area, the discipline of the wide men and the ceaseless running of the front line. We know they can score goals and we now know they can put the proverbial Mick-McCarthy-120%-right-old-shift in when necessity dictates.
For all the wailing, moaning and teeth gnashing, Forest were ten minutes away from three consecutive and three consecutive clean sheets away from home. As frustrating as it is to concede in such circumstances, it was a performance that confirms Forest have the steel to make things difficult for the opposition away from home against the fancied sides in the division. Indeed, increasingly, Forest look like one of the more fancied sides themselves.
The final touches to Issue Ten are being applied - it will be with you very soon. Expect exclusive interviews with some 80s Forest legends and much more besides.