Reds left with lessons to learn at Leeds..

Dex attempting to understand the bamboozling performance from Mr D’Urso under the attentions of Diouf

Leeds United – 2
Nottingham Forest – 1

So, it was nice being the last unbeaten Championship side for a few hours, but it didn’t last long.  And despite Leeds being unsurprisingly Leeds-like, and D’Urso being unsurprisingly D’Urso-like, we never managed to offer enough in an improved second half to counterbalance a pretty shoddy first half in which the home side scored both their goals.

Coppinger was given the nod to slot in in place of Guedioura on the right-ish of midfield, with Guy Moussi preferred to Lewis McGugan in midfield for reasons best known to Sean O’Driscoll.  Dexter returned to a starting place alongside Simon Cox, whilst Lansbury and Cohen featured on the bench:

Halford   Ayala   Collins    Harding
Coppinger  Moussi   Gillett  Reid
Blackstock   Cox

Despite this largely being a first half to forget, Forest did start quite brightly with decent possession and pressure on the edge of the Leeds area.  A Gillet shot was charged down, a nice pass from Coppinger gave Cox an opening but his effort was straight at Kenny who held on to the ball to deny Blackstock the opportunity of a rebound effort.

Leeds started to awaken though, a Lees headers from a corner was just wide – but Forest were still at the races, more good work from Cox won us a corner from which the ball was put in the net by a combination of Collins and Peltier – the referee deemed this a foul though. Difficult to tell from our seats, and needless to say the replay board didn’t deign to show it.

The home side took the lead shortly after – Diouf performed a bit of trickery to get space from Harding to put in a dangerous cross, the Reds struggled to clear and the ball fell kindly for Becchio – the last person you’d want it to fall to – who was able to powerfully strike the ball into the roof of the net from inside the area to give Leeds the lead.

It’s fair to say this boosted the home side immeasurably and Forest seemed to wilt as Leeds’ confidence grew.  The lead was doubled when Ayala made a mess of what should have been a fairly routine clearance, giving goalscorer Becchio the opportunity to shoot – Ayala recovered to get a tackle in but the ball fell kindly for the onrushing Poleon who finished well to double the lead.

Forest attempted to haul themselves back into it – largely through some fairly crude direct football.  A decent ball from Ayala found Cox who was summarily hacked down by Pearce, D’Urso booked him – the freekick seemed to take a while to take, eventually Reid put it off target.  Coppinger put one just wide just before half time, and that was pretty much it aside from two more good opportunities for Leeds.

So O’Driscoll had a job on at half time, because whilst there was an element of fortune to both Leeds goals, they were undoubtedly good value for the margin of their lead and we were not playing well at all.  He made two changes, switching is back to a 4-1-3-2 formation by taking off Moussi and Reid and introducing McGugan and Lansbury.

Early in the second half Coppinger had a decent chance to get us off the mark but was denied through the attentions of Adam Drury.  A McGugan free-kick struck a defender first enabling Kenny to make the easy save – but Forest were definitely setting about their opponents more than they had for much of the first half.  Another McGugan freekick after a cynical foul on Blackstock was struck into the wall.

The goal came from the ultimate direct source, which probably seems apt since we’d struggled to play much decent football this afternoon.  A long throw from Halford into the box found Blackstock who got to the ball ahead of Kenny to head into the goal – amazingly the referee could find no reason to disallow it so it was game on with an hour on the clock.

Leeds’ main tactic to deal with a resurgent Forest was to make a couple of substitutions lasting approximately three weeks each, and to have their players go through cycles of feigning injury whilst waiting for the trainer to come on.  The referee was spineless, and fell for every single trick – which was frustrating.  I used to hate it when we did that kind of thing under Billy Davies, but I suppose you expect it at Elland Road.

Coppinger had another effort, this time cleared off the line – although it wasn’t all going our way, a header from Austin (probably the most influential home player, I thought, as the second half progressed) was saved well by Camp.  Cox created a good chance for Dex, whose effort was blocked, the ball came to McGugan who struck a good shot goalward which was stopped well by Kenny with a diving save.

Lewis McGugan struck a decent freekick just wide, and Forest continued to try to press.  Lewis was having a bit of an impact, a nice turn in midfield was rudely halted by Lees – the resulting freekick was struck powerfully into the area and appeared to strike a hand in the box, which was – naturally – ignored by the referee.  Halford had an effort from close range blocked, as Forest continued to be frustrated in their efforts.

Sharp was introduced late on, replacing Coppinger for the last seven minutes or so – but Forest were struggling to keep up their momentum in the midst of both our own lack of ideas on occasion but also the frequent stoppages in the game through fouls or mysterious injuries to Leeds players.

Six minutes of injury time were announced, but Forest had started to run out of steam.  We certainly had opportunities to snag an equaliser, and whilst our second half performance was much improved, it wasn’t enough to counter the poor first half – so I’m consigning this one to a learning exercise for the manager.

It’s demonstrated that Moussi and Gillett together doesn’t really work very well – and on the brighter side I liked the look of what I saw from Lansbury, it will be exciting to see more of him in a Forest shirt.  We have a little over a week now for one of our most important fixtures of the season – there will be no better occasion for the Reds to bounce back with a positive result.

The goals are here if you’d like to see them, and you might have spotted a familiar name in the Leeds United programme if you decided to cross Ken Bates’ palm with four quid.