Leeds United – 3
Nottingham Forest – 7
Well, well bloody hell. It just goes to show what I know – doesn’t it? Ten players who put up a limp-wristed attempt to out-hoof Derby a week ago also started today and conspired to become the first team to put seven past Leeds at Elland Road. Certainly a result that defies prediction, and to a degree, explanation – one that of course offers much hope, particularly given the now seven point gap between us and the relegation zone.
A soft (read: not a) penalty after a positive start looked to be the beginning of a more predictable outcome after a promising start, but a thunderbolt from Guedioura and a late first half goal from McCleary saw us go in at half time a goal to the good. In a crazy second half it was 1-3, 2-3, 3-3, 3-4, 3-5, 3-6 and finally 3-7 as defending basically went out of the window and seemingly Forest were firing deadly accurate.
So, as noted above, Steve Cotterill (who must take his fair share of credit for this result – much as we lay into him when we don’t get ’em) elected to make one change – a surprising one. Forgotten man, ‘injury’ victim, Raddy Majewski was restored to replace the suspended Marcus Tudgay in a 4-5-1 or 4-4-1-1 type arrangement against Leeds’ more conventional 4-4-2 formation:
Gunter Chambers Lynch Cunningham
McCleary Moussi Guedioura Reid
The game commenced at a decent enough pace – and we weren’t far off opening the scoring right from the off with McCleary bursting down the right and firing in a cross which was met by Blackstock, in between the two centrebacks, but he couldn’t get his effort on target. So very early signs of optimism – which took a considerable hit moments later.
McCormack picked up the ball on the edge of the area, evading McCleary and Majewski and into the area – Guedioura moved to get out of his way, McCormack tumbled theatrically to the deck, the referee gave the spotkick. Soft decision, but kind of what you come to expect these days (except, of course, when it happens to our players!). Leeds captain Robert Snodgrass spanked it well into the top corner, sending Camp the wrong way.
Guedioura responded to what he clearly saw as an injustice in the perfect way – he picked the ball up and after a touch fired an unstoppable piledriver from distance giving Andy Lonergan absolutely no chance in the Leeds goal. The game calmed down somewhat after the goal, but Forest looked uncharacteristically composed – more good work from McCleary found Andy Reid who could only get a tame shot away straight at Lonergan who made the save.
The referee seemed to take an age to get his cards out in the midst of an awful lot of niggly play from the Leeds players – Paul Robinson had the dubious honour of picking up the first booking for a disgraceful challenge on Dexter Blackstock. Another decent cross from McCleary deflected taking its’ sting meaning it was difficult for Moussi to get anything on it, making it an easy save for Lonergan.
Garath didn’t give a hint of what was to follow with his first couple of efforts in the game – a corner fell to him 25 yards out and he volleyed it wildly off-target. Three minutes later he was closer after Moussi laid it back, but put a powerful strike just over. As the half closed out Leeds started to pile on a little more pressure – Snodgrass put in a cross to White who attempted a cheeky back-heel that missed the target.
Just as we got nervy again though the unexpected happened again – a Leeds corner had us worried when Guedioura broke with the ball and played a cross-field pass to McCleary who had found masses of space, he unleashed a decent enough shot which Lonergan was unlucky not to save, he got a strong hand to it but it still found its’ way into the net to give Forest the lead at the break.
Certainly deserved – Forest had been uncharacteristically positive against a leggy looking Leeds side, they’d done the scrappy stuff well, but also passed it around well and didn’t succumb to the series of niggly fouls particularly on McCleary and Blackstock. All in all, it was very pleasing – but of course, as ever with just a one goal cushion, a nervy time of it. Nobody was expecting a seven goal thriller of a second half.
Five of those goals came within fifteen minutes – the first saw Reid nick the ball from Snodgrass and whip in a bloody brilliant cross to the back post where Dexter Blackstock was on hand to head home. Then came the sucker-punch, scrappy defending allowed Snodgrass to get the ball across the area where a ricochet made it fall kindly for Becchio who managed to stay on his feet for a chance and put the ball in the net.
A minute later and it was 3-3. What looked to me like a foul throw saw the ball launched into our area, it was half-cleared but only as far as Michael Brown who hit the kind of goal that – had it not been for Gued and McCleary – would’ve been a real talking point, a well-taken half-volley on the outside of his right foot. A cracking finish, for sure – but a mere tap in compared what was to follow (well, not quite, but this is a day for superlatives).
With fans reeling Forest yet again showed they had a real sting in their tail – in five minutes we’d have scored five. McCleary scored what for me was the pick of the goals – a long ball found Gaz wide out on the right and with little support from his teammates he simply smashed it over Lonergan and under the bar from an acute angle – a bloody amazing piece of technique from the in-form winger.
Garath got his hattrick minutes later – Reidy again was the architect with good work down the left before cutting it back for McCleary to finish low from inside the area. Leeds were briefly stirred into life again – Snodgrass brought a cracking save from Camp, and substitute Danny Webber perhaps ought to have done a little better from the resulting corner, heading just over.
It was a mere flash in the pan though, Forest again picked up the initiative – and it was McCleary again, this goal was reminiscent of the one he scored at Elland Road last season. He picked up the ball on the right hand side and dribbled into the area, cutting inside and smashing it into the goal with his left foot to give us a three goal lead and send the visiting fans into raptures.
The rout was completed with around nine minutes left – Blackstock had more than a whiff of offside about him as he latched onto a great pass from Guedioura, it was a cracking run though and a lovely finish to calmly get the ball past Lonergan and inside the post. Moments later he was similarly very-close-to-being-offside but this time the assistant referee opted to raise the flag. Leeds offered little other than a McCormack miss, and thus the game finished 3-7.
So, our first win at Elland Road since 1996, a first EVER team to score seven goals there against the home side, the first time we’ve scored seven goals away from the City Ground since 1995 (also in Yorkshire – remember that one?), the first time we’ve had a four goal hero since we beat Stoke 6-0 in 2003. As I type, today would’ve been Brian Clough’s 77th birthday – 7-7 would be the aggregate score between us and Leeds this season.
We win on away goals.
Anyway, enough gloatery – with results elsewhere as noted above we’ve amassed a seven point gap between us and the drop zone. It would be fantastic if we can take the confidence from this result into the weekend game against Brighton at the City Ground, and of course into our game in hand at Leicester City next week. Despite the exceptional scoreline, this isn’t our first unexpected good result – now we need to master getting a good result after the Lord Mayor’s Show.
As noted above, a huge congratulations to Steve Cotterill and the team. Difficult to pick a man of the match but obviously McCleary is up there – but Guedioura and Reidy were pretty instrumental, Blackstock played a blinder. Not man of the match, but it was good to see Majewski back in the fold. The goals are below, for as long as YouTube keep them there!
This one’s for you, Chris Cohen.
Filed under: Matches