By Andrew Butterwick
After battling through endless roadworks on the M1 and the Xmas shopping traffic in Nottingham we arrived at the Notts County bar just in time for some well earned pre match refreshments ahead of our teatime clash with Nottm Forest. With the exception of the remarkable result against Bournemouth our awaydays this term have been nothing short of excruciatingly painful so it was surprising to hear mainly positive vibes coming from the assembled army of Leeds fans awaiting the 5.15pm kick off. I suspect this had more to do with the copious amounts of alcohol consumed by the majority of fans during the afternoon rather than any true football logic. Funny how the Police often insist on a lunchtime kick off if they think there could be trouble at high profile games to reduce fan's drinking time but are quite happy to sanction tea time kick offs for big games just to suit the TV schedules?
After having my ticket checked a record 38 times as I entered the stadium and made my way to my seat we were ready for kick off. Redders had made one change to the starting line up with Sharp replacing Doukara alongside Antenucci. Morison and Montenegro joined Doukara on the bench. The well lubricated away fans were in good voice as the game burst into life. Leeds started with a more intensive pressing game to try and throw the nervy home side off their stride which resulted in a very frenetic and high energy opening quarter. Lansbury wasted the first opportunity of the match when his shot flew high into the home fans behind Silvestri's goal. Silvestri clearly didn't like the bleached blonde hair look he was sporting for the Fulham game this time preferring a skinhead style but it was Forest's Danny Fox who took the award for most ridiculous hair style of the night for a strangely glowing bushy beard..............to be fair he was doing it for charity though.
Leeds' early ambitious attacking verve nearly paid dividends as Mowatt latched onto a lovely pull back from Byram only to see his shot deflect wide from 16 yards. Minutes later Pearce blasted over from 7 yards after Darlow in the Forest goal had failed to hold an Antenucci shot. Stung by the scare Forest stepped up a gear and started to create more chances. The impressive Fryatt had the ball in the net on 21 minutes only to be denied by the linesman's flag. I'm not sure many Forest fans agreed with the decision though? The ease with which Fryatt found space to head the ball in should have rung alarm bells in the Leeds defence but the West Yorkshire visitors continued to sail close to the wind in the heart of defence with far too much space given to the men in red. A minute into added time in the first half Leeds paid dearly for their slack marking. A corner swung into the Leeds box was met unchallenged by Mancienne who's header was stabbed home by an equally unmarked Fryatt 2 yards out. As Alan Hansen would say.............shocking defending. 1.0 Forest at Half Time and Leeds looking down the barrel of another fruitless awayday.
Leeds kept their hosts waiting before the start of the 2nd period presumably for Redfearn to hand out major bollockings to his defence? Whatever the tone of his half time pep talk it worked with Leeds flying at the East Midlanders right from the whistle. Lewis Cook weaved his way through after good work by Bianchi only to see his shot blocked but minutes later Byram was tripped in the box by the bushy bearded Fox resulting in the ref pointing immediately to the spot. PENALTY and a lifeline for Leeds. Sharp made no mistake with the spot kick sending the 1900 away fans into raptures. 1.1 and cue a Forest onslaught on Silvestri's goal.
Jack Hunt was guilty of missing a gilt edged chance with only Silvestri to beat before the Leeds keeper made a spectacular save from Antonio. The Leeds keeper could do nothing with the next attempt as Fryatt had the ball in the net again but again the linesman's flag ruled it out. The home fans were now mildly annoyed at what appeared to be another perfectly good goal chalked off for offside. Life's a bitch isn't it? Shaken by Forest's search for a winner Leeds decided they might need another goal and god forbid they could actually win the game. Cook picked out Sharp free in the box who hit a superb volley only to see Darlow turn the ball away for a corner.
On 65 minutes Redfearn looked to his bench for a game changer to try and pinch all three points. Instead he sent on Morison for the tiring Adryan. Silvestri was still keeping Forest at bay with another fine save this time from Lansbury as the game entered the final frantic 10 minutes. Tonge replaced Sharp as both teams had a tilt at winning the game. Doukara replaced Antenucci and tested Darlow immediately with a sweetly hit shot. Despite 4 minutes of added time the game ended all square with the 1900 travelling fans much happier with the point than the Forest fans. Silvestri was my man of the match with excellent contributions from Byram and Cook. Pearce looked very vulnerable at the back although he improved in the 2nd half.
As we headed back the car the home fans were bemoaning Stuart Pearce's tactical decisions. "Why didn't he start with Assombalonga he is the league's top scorer" one frustrated Forest fan moaned. He had a point.............but then again so did we and that's why we were smiling and joking for a change after a Leeds away game. I'd forgotten how it felt!
So in the end Leeds snatched a point and rode their luck in a game many thought they would end up pointless. The point shouldn't hide the weaknesses in this Leeds side but what pleased me was the spirit in the 2nd half after been on the ropes for the majority of the 2nd period. A win against Wigan on Boxing Day would be a nice late Xmas present? I hope Bellusci's back.