The last week on Planet Leeds has been unusually positive. On the pitch we followed up a hugely impressive win at Hillsborough with an EFL Cup win at Luton after making an eye watering 11 changes from Saturday’s team. Cue another of the Leeds academy graduates, Tyler Denton, making a stunning debut capped off by scoring the winning goal. It was even good enough to get him selected for the EFL team of the week. Off the field Garry Monk seems to be negotiating the precarious minefields of the Leeds United back office environment with some success. So it was with real optimism that I pointed the car south for our trip to the City Ground Nottingham to take on Forest and hopefully another fruitful trip down the M1.
What would today’s team be? Will Wood down the Forest? Will we keep an unheard of three clean sheets on the bounce? All questions that were eagerly debated as we headed for the Notts County Sports bar and the compulsory pre match refreshments. When the team sheets came there was only one change from the the team that sunk Wednesday with Hernandez ousting Mowatt from the left midfield spot. Everything was set for an intriguing game as the skies darkened and the heavens opened ready for kick off.
Leeds were the first to threaten with Pablo Hernandez dancing to the edge of the box before firing over but it was the home side who soon gained the upper hand. Burke, Osborn and Lansbury were the main troublemakers for the Leeds defence looking to make it three clean sheets on the bounce. The signs were ominous on 12 minutes though when Burke flashed a near post header from a corner goalwards forcing a superb reaction save from Green. Leeds didn’t heed the warning and were made to pay just 4 minutes later. Forest won another corner and once again Lansbury whipped in the same ball to the same man, Burke, who this time could only flick the ball onto the far post where Kasami finished well with little resistance from the visiting defence. Why can’t we defend set pieces? It drives me nuts. 1.0 Forest and the home fans were dancing with delight.
Forest started to dominate what was a very open game. The Leeds midfield was narrower than last week presumably in an attempt to nulify the Forest midfield. But it wasn’t working. Kasami had two efforts to add to his first goal but the Leeds defenders held firm. At the other end Antonsson made a lovely run into the box and picked up a slide rule ball from Hernandez but his low shot was just saved before booted away to safety. This prompted a short period of pressure for Leeds as the first period ended with Forest still ahead by the single goal.
Forest had had the better of the first half especially on the flanks. Ayling was struggling to cope with the swift attacks and Taylor was over worked on the other flank. Cooper and Bartley weren’t winning enough of the high balls into the box. Things were looking a bit glum for the 2,000 fans who had made the trip down the M1. What could Monk do with his half time team talk?
The 2nd half started scrappily with the referee incensing the travelling support with some very strange decisions in favour of the Home team not least when Wood chased down a back pass and then chraged down the goalie’s kick only to be pulled up for handball as the ball thundered into his arm. The Leeds fans were getting nervy as Kasami and Osborn went near to doubling Forest’s lead. Monk needed to change something and on 66 minutes he sent on Phillips for Vieira quickly followed by Roofe surprisingly replacing Sacko who I thought looked the most dangerous Leeds player. Forest continued to have the better of what now was a stop/start game. On 71 minutes they won another corner. Osborn floated a long ball into the box where Perquis rose and headed home from 6 yards. Jesus H Christ how can he be given a free header in the 6 yard box? The ever so brittle Leeds defence strikes again. 2.0 Forest and most of the away fans were resigned to another disappointing away day.
The 2nd goal did kick Leeds into life. Hernadez delivered a superb cross for Wood to head wide just before he was replaced by Mowatt. There was a bit more vigour in the Leeds play as they looked for a way back into the game. 83 minutes and Antonsson won what I thought was a dubious free kick 25 yards out. Up stepped Phillips to take the kick. Now I don’t know if it was the fact that the Leeds fans expectations were at rock bottom for the kick but when the young midfielder struck a sweet free kick into the left hand corner of the net there was a muted response more in shock than celebration. 2.1 and Leeds had dragged themselves back into the game. Leeds were now throwing everything forward and Forest started to creak. Cooper headed inches wide from a corner and then Antonsson ghosted into the box and forced another superb save from the home goalie. Why didn’t we play like this earlier?
As Leeds pushed forward they left gaps at the back and Cash should have made Leeds pay on 90 minutes but his shot went high and wide. Phillips spurned a chance as the 5 minutes added time started but at the death Burke sealed the win with a 3rd goal for Forest after more sloppy defending allowed the big striker through. 3.1 Forest and game over. Forset deserved their win and in Lansbury had a player who Leeds struggled to cope with all afternoon. Sacko had another good performance for Leeds showing his undoubted quality in going past defenders. Phillips had a good session when he came on but it was too little too late for Leeds. All three goals conceded were right out of the Leeds United back catelogue of brittle defending a fact that wasn’t lost on Garry Monk in his post match press conference.
So another hugely frustrating away performance from Leeds just a week after beating Sheff Wed on the road. There are some good signs in the performance and team but we have to stop conceding sloppy goals. Leeds had the majority of the possession and did have their chances. The difference was that when Forest got their chances they converted them. The snarled up congestion in Nottingham didn’t help my mood as we tried to escape back North. It’s early days yet though but we need to get some consistency into the team by hook or by crook. We now have the international break before the happy clappy Terriers arrive unbeaten and top of the league at Elland Road for the West Yorkshire derby. What could possibly go wrong?