Nottingham Forest moved to within a point of the playoffs with a 2-0 victory at Leeds United’s Elland Road this evening.
First-half goals from Matt Derbyshire, who took his tally to four in three games, wrapped up the points in Yorkshire as Forest made big strides towards the top six.
Temporary manager Gary Brazil was forced into making three changes to the side that beat Birmingham City on Saturday.
Karl Darlow and Danny Fox both sustained knocks against The Blues and were replaced by Dorus de Vries and Dan Harding. Loanee Lee Peltier was ineligible to face his parent club, opening the door for Irish midfielder Stephen McLaughlin to make his Reds debut.
Forest’s victory over Birmingham came courtesy of a second-minute Derbyshire strike, and The Reds had the lead again in spookily similar circumstances.
It was McLaughlin who provided the assist this time, although Paterson was involved once more. The former showed great strength in the middle of the park and played a neat one-two with Paterson before sending Derbyshire through one-on-one with Whites keeper Jack Butland. Just as he did at The City Ground days earlier, Derbyshire stroked the ball to the keeper’s left to give his side the perfect start.
It was almost made even better on nine minutes when Jamie Mackie drilled the ball into the box where Ben Osborn was prowling. The young midfielder reacted quickly to divert it towards goal, although Butland was able to hold on comfortably.
Leeds’ first effort came in the form of a Michael Tonge effort, he sent the ball bobbling harmlessly wide on 18 minutes, before Forest doubled their advantage.
It had actually looked like the chance had gone when Mackie’s clever pass from the right ran away from Derbyshire near the edge of the area. But former Forest loanee Scott Wootton crashed the ball against the striker as he attempted to clear, presenting Derbyshire with the chance to coolly round Butland and slot the ball into an empty net.
Forest were by far the better side and carved out another opportunity on 32 minutes. David Vaughan ghosted past a number of white shirts before turning Neil Warnock inside out on the right edge of the area. His cross was just too high for Derbyshire, who could only nod the ball over from six yards as the linesman raised his flag for offside.
The Reds were enjoying a fine spell and tested Butland again when McLaughlin received a quickly-taken free-kick and struck the ball powerfully towards goal from range. It took a nick off Warnock on its way through and flew, to Leeds’ relief, straight into the keeper’s clutches.
Two minutes later, Mackie broke down the left and played a crossfield ball into space to his right. Paterson and Derbyshire both attempted to race on to it but clashed in the process, the pair requiring treatment in the aftermath. Both were able to continue.
Forest’s back four had been equal to everything Leeds had thrown at them and it was therefore unsurprising to see Leeds’ first clear-cut chance come from a set piece. Mackie was harshly penalised - and booked - for hand ball on the edge of the area and Ross McCormack sent the ball just wide from the resultant free-kick.
Just before the break, Osborn stung Butland’s palms with a well-struck effort from 20 yards before the referee called time on an excellent first half for the visitors.
There were no changes for either side at the break, although there was a slight switch in the balance of play as Leeds sought a way back into the match.
Luke Murphy’s shot from outside the area took a nick off Noel Hunt and could have gone anywhere - thankfully it rolled straight into the welcoming hands of Dorus de Vries.
Forest made their first change two minutes later as Vaughan, who is being handled carefully following his comeback from a fractured knee cap, made way for Jonathan Greening. The experienced midfielder was adjudged to have tripped Hunt moments later, and de Vries was forced into making a good save from McCormack’s 22-yard free-kick. The Dutchman dived to his right to push the ball out for a corner and required treatment.
Leeds continued their forward momentum in direct style just before the hour mark. Butland generated incredible distance on his kick and McCormack was first to the ball in the area after Lascelles and Hunt had challenged for it in the air. Halford did just about enough to put McCormack off, the striker blazing the ball over the bar from eight yards.
Forest were still acquitting themselves well, however, and they almost had a brilliantly-worked third goal on 70 minutes. Osborn’s short corner saw him roll the ball to McLaughlin, who took his two markers out of the game with a clever backheel for Osborn. The youngster scampered along the byline before sending the ball low across the face of goal. Somehow it evaded everyone in a red shirt and Lees was able to clear at the back post.
The clock was beginning to tick down for Leeds, who had a half chance when the ball fell for Brown after substitute Marc Pugh’s cross had hit the bar. Danny Collins was well positioned to divert Brown’s shot wide of goal with his head.
De Vries was still struggling after his earlier knock and on 80 minutes had to make way for young Bulgarian Dimitar Evtimov, an Academy graduate making his debut. Gonzalo Jara joined him a minute later, replacing Paterson.
Those substitutions appeared to take the sting out of the game and, apart from a Smith header which went comfortably wide, the home side were struggling to carve out opportunities as the match entered a period of five minutes’ additional time.
Headed efforts from Alex Pearce and Smith both proved fruitless for the hosts and Forest saw out the final moments to keep their season very much alive.
Forest: De Vries (Evtimov 80'), Halford, Lascelles, Collins(c), Harding, Vaughan (Greening 54'), McLaughlin, Osborn, Paterson (Jara 82'), Mackie, Derbyshire
Subs not used: Majewski, Abdoun, Tudgay, Henderson
Scorers: Derbyshire 2', 16'
Booking: Mackie 39'
Leeds: Butland, Lees, Pearce, Wootton, Warnock (Pugh 71'), Tonge (Mowatt 72'), Brown, Austin, Murphy, McCormack(c), Hunt (Smith 60')
Subs not used: Cairns, Poleon, Stewart, White
Booking: Lees 20'
Referee: Iain Williamson