By Andrew Butterwick
The prospect of two of the form teams in the championship meeting head on had enticed over 30,000 fans to Elland Road despite the chilly weather. The Happy Chocker, Quiet One, brother Chris and yours truly joined the happy throng making their way down Elland Road for a match that always has that bit of extra spice due to a certain Mr Clough and the deep scars of the miners strike. Leeds were still without Byram and Austin so Redfearn stuck with the starting eleven that won at Wigan. Cooper and Sloth returned to the bench.
Leeds started brightly with Cook and Mowatt eagerly prompting from midfield. Morison headed an early chance straight at the keeper before a combination of Mowatt and Murphy set up Charlie Taylor with a glorious chance in the 10th minute but the Forest goalie Darlow spread himself wide to block his shot. Billy Sharp was going ballistic on the penalty spot screaming for a lay back from the young full back. In Burke and Antonio Forest have two wingers who in very different ways cause problems to most teams. Antonio's supersonic pace saw him glide past Wootton a couple of times but thankfully other parts of his game are not quite of the same quality as he shot weakly at Silvestri. On the other flank Burke was testing Berardi with his trickery but the Swiss international was more than holding his own and resisting the urge to launch a two footed karate assault on his opponent. A tactic that always seems to be just a quick flash of temper away for our new left back. Pretty much the same as Mr Bellusci in the centre of the Leeds back four.
Chances were at a premium as two good sides cancelled each other out. Morison glanced a header just wide from a deep free kick for Leeds while Silvestri coped with efforts from Osborn and Lascelles with ease. Silvestri has shown he is a top shot stopper this season but he's not always the most convincing when the ball is played high into his box. It would seem that the goalkeeping coaches at Thorp Arch had been encouraging him to come out and punch the ball from crosses this week as the young Italian punched anything that moved in his area..............problem was it looked like we've suddenly employed Graham Norton as a goalkeeping coach from the evidence of some of his punches. Where's Jeremy Clarkson when you need him?
The first half ended with the scores still goalless. It was a tight and tense game but overall there were more fans pleased with the first half efforts than those in the negative. Leeds were struggling up front though with Sharp well marshalled by Wilson and Lascelles down the middle and Morison looking a bit forlorn out on the right flank.
The second half kicked off with Leeds attacking the kop but it was Forest who were now looking the most likely. Bellusci earned a yellow card for trying to wrap his legs around the midriff of an unsuspecting Forest player whilst simultaneously attempting to head the ball. Impressive! Forest were enjoying the most possession but Taylor tried to relieve their stranglehold on the hour as he drove hard from the half way before hitting a rising shot over the bar. The game was now lurching towards scrappy rather than tense as both teams struggled to create a breakthrough. Bamba and his defenders were immense at the back in repelling anything Forest could throw at them. Silvestri continued to punch at any cross into the box and most fans continued to wonder if catching the ball was allowed in Italy. In between the punches he pulled of a superb save to deny Burke low down to his left.
Redfearn looked to change the game as he brought first Antenucci on for Taylor and then Doukara on for the misfiring Morison. The fresh legs inspired a short spell of Leeds pressure but Mowatt's shot from a Sharp lay off and Antenucci's drive were both easily dealt with by Darlow in the Forest goal. There was still time for late drama at the other end though as Bamba was harshly adjudged to have fouled on the edge of the Leeds box giving Forest a dangerous free kick with just seconds remaining. Henri Lansbury stepped up to take it as my heart took refuge in my mouth but thankfully the Red's free kick expert drifted his shot over the bar and into the grateful south stand. The ref blew his whistle to end an intriguing 0:0 draw.
Bamba was my man of the match with another towering performance at the back. Despite his less than convincing punches Silvestri performed admirably. Cook, Mowatt and Murphy more than held their own in midfield but too often the final ball was rushed and ended promising moves with frustration rather than finesse. The Morison debate will continue to rage as long he remains goalless and with Antenucci adding some pace and craft when he came on I wouldn't be surprised to see him start on Wednesday at Fulham.
In the end a point was a fair result and one a lot of fans would have accepted before the start of the game against a more than decent Forest side who have had a remarkable turn around in fortunes since Stuart Pearce left. Leeds are now basking in mid table safety and take their good form to Craven Cottage on Wednesday looking for another away three points. Hopefully we can show a certain Ross Mac that Leeds are now the team he fell in love with?