Sam levels it for Leeds

The first away game of the season brought a 150 mile round trip to what I’d decided pre-match was a very winnable fixture against Nottingham Forest. On the road again, and in numbers with a 16-seat packed minibus cruising south down the M1. As the beers flowed, my predictions for the game became more and more ridiculous with my cautious 1-1 turning into a 4-2 before we’d even parked up (I’d decided both defences were lousy).

Forest is one of my favourite away grounds in the country, right on the side of the River Trent with a nice ‘away fans welcome’ supporters bar just outside the ground. As I knocked back another pint, I couldn’t help but get a little nostalgic. Seeing the sea of Forest and Leeds replica kits swarm towards the stadium, reflecting in the River Trent, you couldn’t help but think about the history of these two great sides.

With my insides suitably drowned in lager, we headed into the stadium just in time for the kick-off. 4,000 Whites fans were in great voice immediately, and it didn’t take long for the ‘there’s only one Don Revie‘ chant to emerge. Predictably, Forest replied with echoes of ‘Brian Clough, Brian Clough, Brian Clough…‘ filling City Ground – Leeds fans decided this bloke was a bit of a “w**nker” which was an opinion that didn’t sit well with the opposition. It was good to be back!

After three years in League One it was nice to be visiting a club that meant something to Leeds United. I’m not saying Leeds and Forest are bitter rivals, because if anything, we’re more like kindred spirits – two teams that have fallen out of the natural order and are trying to claw their way back. However, the two sides certainly have history and it’s the kind of history that really makes these games stand out.

Forest started brightly and within only the first few minutes they’d had a penalty shout denied and saw a glancing header blocked by Kasper Schmeichel. It didn’t get any better for the Whites either and Forest kept coming. Just 9 minutes into the fixture and Forest took the lead as Dexter Blackwell beat Schmeichel with a header. 1-0 and Leeds were struggling.

The onslaught continued with Earnshaw being denied by the woodwork as Leeds struggled to get a stranglehold on the game. Not even fifteen minutes had passed and Leeds were lucky not to be 3-0 down.

As the game slowed down a little, Leeds started to get a hold of things with a couple of half chances and some much needed time on the ball. As Leeds gained composure and Forest took their foot off the gas, Bradley Johnson sent a cross into the box which Lloyd Sam got on the end of with a glancing header to level the scores at 1-1. Sucker blow for Forest, but ecstacy in the Leeds end.

Half-time and it was nothing but relief for the Whites. After the first fifteen minutes, it was a wonder the scoreline wasn’t embarrassing but Lady Luck seemed to be on our side for once and things were level at City Ground.

Spurred on by the equaliser and lifted by the tireless efforts of the travelling army of Leeds fans, the Whites returned a much better team and set about snatching the three points. Despite several efforts and a second half dominated by Leeds, there was no way through and Lady Luck seemed to have changed ends. A blatant red card was missed by the ref as Gunter stamped on the foot of Sanchez Watt. The resulting handbags at five paces seemed to go for an eternity but the referee gave nothing but a couple of yellows leaving the Leeds fans furious.

In fairness to the ref, he held back from waving his cards about for most of the game and tried to let a fiery encounter keep the pace. It was clearly a sending off – no question about it – but whether he could see the incident clearly or not is debatable and I doubt it would have had much effect on the outcome of the game anyway. All it would have achieved was Forest sticking everyone behind the ball and playing for the draw, depriving us of what had been a very open and attacking battle.

After the first 15 minutes, it looked like the writing was on the wall for Leeds, but after escaping only a goal down 1-1 is a fair reflection of a very good encounter. Forest fans will no doubt be disheartened and the Whites will feel they have plenty to complain about, but I doubt either team can claim they deserved all three points?

Overall, what we witnessed was two teams who will only improve as the season goes on. Leeds are missing a lot of key players, but the new additions are gelling quickly with the team leaving plenty of reasons to be optimistic. Forest meanwhile showed an attacking threat capable of terrorising every defence in this division. I’m told their squad is a little thin, so if they avoid injuries, the play-off’s look likely.

TSS man of the match

Struggled with this one a bit, but going to go with the goalscorer, Lloyd Sam. I’m convinced the wingers will be the difference for Leeds this season and Sam continues to look like the bargain of the summer.

It’s good to be back on the road again – MOT!