Forest 2-1 Leeds
Attendance: 26,854 (Away: 1,968)
Referee: James Linington
Bookings: Brown 23', Austin 40', Murphy 69'
Scorer: McCormack 83'
Subs not used: Cairns, Warnock, Varney, Tonge
Kenny, Lees, Zaliukas, Pearce, Peltier (Byram 70'), Pugh, Brown (Ariyibi 61'), Murphy, Austin (c), Smith, McCormack (Poleon 86') Leeds:
Booking: Jara 56'
Scorers: Halford 23', Derbyshire 84'
Subs not used: De Vries, Harding, Paterson, Osborn
Darlow, Jara, Lascelles, Hobbs, Lichaj, Lansbury, Reid (c), Majewski (Chalobah 73'), Abdoun, Mackie (Cox 84'), (Derbyshire 68'), Halford Forest:
Five minutes were added at the end but the hosts saw the time out comfortably to record another tremendous victory.
McCormack was replaced by Dom Poleon as the visitors sought a way back into the match. Jara did well to block his shot with two minutes of normal time to play before Darlow saved the ball from going behind.
Derbyshire clearly felt the same as, within a minute of Leeds’ goal, he picked it up from Chalobah and unleashed an unstoppable effort towards goal. The ball hurtled beautifully into the top corner, sparking scenes of unbridled ecstasy among the home contingent.
While they hadn’t been at their best in the second half, anything other than a Reds win would have felt unjustified.
Sam Byram, on for Lee Peltier, escaped down the right and slid the ball beyond Darlow. Lascelles hooked it off the line but Forest couldn’t get rid of the danger, leaving McCormack the easy task of sliding home the equaliser.
Forest may have been cursing their luck, but their inability to properly clear a minute later will have smarted much more.
Majewski was replaced by Nathaniel Chalobah two minutes later and the substitute nearly had an assist when he laid the ball to Reid. The Irishman barely shuffled his feet before striking the ball sweetly towards goal. Kenny was rooted and relieved to see the ball clip the post and go out for a throw.
Forest made their first change of the day on 68 minutes as Abdoun made way for Derbyshire. But it was another substitute, Leeds’ Gboli Ariyibi, on for the booked Brown, who had the next shot of note. Sadly for him, he skewed the ball out for a throw-in from inside The Reds’ area.
The first clear-cut chance of the half fell to Abdoun after Mackie had made a strong run into Leeds’ half. The Algerian received the ball in the right-hand corner of the box and struck the ball towards Kenny’s near post. The keeper turned it behind. Lansbury was just underneath Reid’s subsequent inswinging corner.
Both sides emerged unchanged and swapped speculative efforts in the early exchanges of the second period. Smith headed harmlessly over for the visitors before Lansbury saw his shot blocked after winning a 50/50 with Rodolph Austin.
And it was from more impressive wideplay that Forest claimed the final chance of an excellent first half. Abdoun beat his full back and found Mackie at the back post. The former QPR man could only sweep the ball across goal and wide on the stretch.
Much of The Reds’ incisiveness was coming from wide areas and it was another cut-back which presented the hosts with their next chance on 37 minutes. Reid picked out Majewski who shot left-footed towards Kenny’s near post. The keeper, still struggling after the earlier Halford challenge, found it awkward to deal with but managed to bundle it out for a corner.
Forest offered another quick retort as Lichaj sprayed the ball out to Abdoun, who had swapped wings with Mackie midway through the half. After taking an excellent first touch the winger stumbled to the byline and, with Forest shirts darting into the area, he could only pick out Lees with his cut-back.
Leeds were being restricted to a limited number of half-chances, one of which arrived on 33 minutes. Matt Smith and Tom Lees both rose at the back post to meet Danny Pugh’s corner and the ball deflected just wide of Darlow’s post.
Forest responded immediately through Mackie, who brought the ball down and turned brilliantly in Leeds territory. Despite Abdoun’s darting run into the area Mackie opted to shoot, ballooning the ball over the bar.
Despite being very much on the back foot Leeds were keen to show a glimmer of what had taken them to 6th in the league ahead of the match. On 30 minutes the Reid-Brown battle continued. This time the Whites midfielder prevailed, skipping away from Reid before miscuing his 25-yard shot horribly.
Mackie was putting in a typically energetic display, and there was also something familiar about the way the tenacious forward wriggled his way into the area on 27 minutes before cutting it back for Djamal Abdoun. The Algerian didn’t catch his effort clearly and the ball was blocked.
Forest were in their element and continued to put their visitors to the sword. Reid was heavily involved again two minutes after the goal, receiving a cute through ball from Mackie before sending the ball onto the roof of the net with Kenny scrambling backwards.
And that foul led to The Reds taking the lead, Reid swinging a delightful delivery to the back post where Halford was ready to nod the ball across Kenny and into the bottom corner.
Michael Brown, who had earlier got away with a robust challenge on Reid, did find his way into the notebook on 25 minutes after tackling the Irishman from behind in the middle.
Jamie Mackie scuffed wide from inside the area on 13 minutes, before Leeds offered their first shot of the game. Rodolph Austin’s long-ranger bobbled harmlessly wide of Karl Darlow’s goal.
That early pressure was a sign of things to come for the hosts who completely dominated the first half, playing some excellent football in the process.
And the former Sheffield United man nearly gave The Reds the lead within 30 seconds, capitalising on a poor back-header and entering a race with Paddy Kenny to get to the ball first. Halford slid in but Kenny made the block before referee James Linington blew for a foul on the experienced stopper. Kenny received lengthy treatment and was forced to designate goal-kick duties to his defenders.
Cox’s ailment had opened the door for Halford to take up a striker’s role on Boxing Day, an opportunity he seized by frequenting a number of dangerous positions and netting the opening goal.
Simon Cox missed the QPR match through illness but this time made the bench, where there was again a spot available for young midfielder Ben Osborn.
Billy Davies made one change to the side which beat Queens Park Rangers on Boxing Day. On-loan Sunderland midfielder David Vaughan was absent from the squad altogether, leaving room for Radoslaw Majewski to make his first start since the November defeat to Reading. Eric Lichaj, who spent time on loan at Elland Road in 2011, continued at left back.
But substitute Matt Derbyshire scored a sensational winner a minute later to earn The Reds back-to-back wins and send them four points clear of 6th.
Sky Bet Championship top scorer Ross McCormack appeared to have earned the visitors an undeserved point when he cancelled out Greg Halford’s first-half header with seven minutes to go.
Nottingham Forest secured victory over Leeds United in the most dramatic of circumstances at The City Ground this afternoon.
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