Nottingham Forest played out a 1-1 draw with Leeds United at The City Ground this evening.
Matty Fryatt was The Reds’ goal scorer, giving his side the lead in the first half when he turned the ball home from close range following Michael Mancienne’s header.
The forward had the ball in the net on two other occasions during the match but both were ruled out for offside. Leeds’ equaliser came from a penalty scored by former Forest loanee Billy Sharp.
Stuart Pearce made two changes to the side that drew with Rotherham last weekend, opting for a 3-5-2 formation. Jamie Paterson and Britt Assombalonga dropped to the bench as Jack Hunt and Matty Fryatt came in.
Forest’s back three comprised Danny Fox, Kelvin Wilson and Eric Lichaj, with Hunt and Michail Antonio playing as wing backs.
Mancienne captained the side in a holding midfield role with Henri Lansbury and Robert Tesche ahead of him, while Fryatt partnered Dexter Blackstock up front.
Both sides used the opening quarter of an hour to get a feel for their opponents, and it was Leeds who showed their hand first when Sam Byram was released down the right. He cut the ball back for Alex Mowatt whose shot was blocked by Fox. The ball looped teasingly into the air and wide of Karl Darlow’s post.
The keeper was called into action for the first time from the resultant corner. The ball fell to Mirco Antenucci inside the area, who struck it towards goal. It appeared to take a deflection, forcing Darlow into an excellent save with his legs. The ball looped up for defender Jason Pearce but, with the goal at his mercy, he was unable to control his effort, sending it over the bar.
Fryatt had the ball in the net on 22 minutes only for the referee’s assistant to flag for offside after the forward turned in Antonio’s low, drilled cross from the left.
A booking for either side followed, with Mancienne and Byram both penalised for fouls, before Blackstock saw a header saved by Whites keeper Marco Silvestri and Tesche had an effort blocked on the edge of the area.
Blackstock was struggling with a knock by this stage and, despite receiving treatment, had to come off four minutes before the interval. He was replaced by Assombalonga, who won a corner when his header was diverted wide by a Leeds defender seconds before the fourth official indicated three minutes’ added time at the end of the first half.
And Forest had the lead from the corner, Fryatt reacting quickly to turn Mancienne’s header over the line from close range.
The teams emerged from the tunnel unchanged and within five minutes of the restart The Reds almost unlocked their opponents. Fryatt capitalised on Stephen Warnock’s sloppy pass, playing the ball to Assombalonga who in turn found the run of Lansbury. With Leeds stretched, the former Arsenal man had the chance to play Fryatt in down the right. His through ball lacked accuracy, however, and it ran all the way through to Silvestri.
Shortly afterwards, Leeds won a penalty when Byrom’s quick feet drew a foul from Fox in the area. Sharp struck the ball powerfully past Darlow to level the scores.
Leeds’ equaliser had come out of the blue and Forest soon set about restoring their advantage, winning a free-kick in shooting range. Lansbury could only send the ball into the wall.
The former Arsenal man was then involved again, receiving a lay-off from Fryatt in the area. The forward’s pass asked a lot of Lansbury, who, off-balance, miscued his shot. The ball popped up for the unmarked Hunt at the back post but, seemingly in two minds about how to strike it, he sent a tame effort straight at the keeper.
Forest’s pressure was incessant as the hour mark approached. Antonio drew an acrobatic save from Silvestri with an effort from outside the area and, from Lansbury’s excellent corner, Tesche headed the ball over after losing his marker.
Two minutes later, Fryatt had another goal disallowed for offside after he latched on to a flick into the area and fired the ball past Silvestri.
And Forest’s frustrations were nearly compounded after Lewis Cook led Leeds on a speedy break down the right. He reached the corner of Forest’s area before digging out a cross for the unmarked Sharp to his left. The forward displayed superb technique to direct his volley at goal and Darlow had to stoop low to push ball around his near post.
Pearce made his second change of the evening with 20 minutes to play, sending on Chris Burke in place of Hunt.
And a flurry of Forest chances followed as The Reds pushed for a winner.
Tesche’s sweet strike from 25 yards forced Silvestri to fumble the ball out for a corner, which Leeds managed to clear as far as Antenucci. Lichaj robbed him of possession, however, and played the ball to Lansbury. Leeds backed off the midfielder, allowing him the space to fire the ball towards the top corner from the edge of the area. Silvestri made an excellent save to turn it behind for a corner.
Leeds again failed to clear properly, presenting Burke with the opportunity to cross the ball to Antonio at the back post. The winger did brilliantly to climb above his marker to head it towards goal but Silvestri was on hand to make another good save.
Forest were completely controlling play and, with eight minutes to go, Burke worked himself into a shooting position on his left foot 20 yards out. He didn’t sustain sufficient bend on his shot, however, and the ball sailed wide of the far post.
Leeds boss Neil Redfearn sent on Souleymane Doukara in place of Antenucci, and within two minutes the substitute tested Darlow with a powerful strike from outside the area. The keeper displayed strong hands to push the ball away.
With two minutes to play, Paterson replaced Mancienne, before four minutes of added time were indicated.
Fox played a long ball forward and a defensive header saw the ball drop for Lansbury on the edge of the area. He could only volley the ball off target.
Forest’s final chance came when Antonio floated a cross into the middle. Assombalonga met the ball with his head at the near post but he could only direct it wide.
Forest: Darlow, Lichaj, Wilson, Fox, Mancienne (Paterson 89'), Hunt (Burke 70'), Antonio, Lansbury, Tesche, Fryatt, Blackstock (Assombalonga 41')
Subs not used: De Vries, Lascelles, Ince, Osborn
Goal: Fryatt 45'
Bookings: Mancienne 23', Antonio 73', Lichaj 82'
Silvestri, Byram, Pearce, Cooper, Warnock, Cook, Bianchi, Mowatt, Adryan (Morison 66'), Antenucci (Doukara 85'), Sharp (Tonge 77')
Subs not used: Taylor, Berardi, Del Fabro, Montenegro
Goal: Sharp (pen) 54'
Booking: Byram 24'
Referee: Roger East
Attendance: 22,664 (1,850 away)