BILLY SHARP’S second goal of the season ensured Leeds United secured a welcome point on their travels at the City Ground, ending a run of three successive Championship defeats on the road.
Sharp, taking the field against a side who he played for on loan throughout the 2012-13 campaign, fired home from the spot nine minutes after the interval after Sam Byram was felled by Danny Fox to cancel out Matty Fryatt’s opener moments before the break.
It ensured Leeds took something tangible home from an away game for the first time since drawing 1-1 at Norwich on October 21, although they were indebted to two big pieces of fortune during proceedings in the East Midlands.
Both revolved around goalscorer Fryatt, denied by a linesman’s flag on 21 minutes and shortly after the hour mark, with replays seeming to show that both efforts should have been given.
Both decisions provided plenty of talking points following the final whistle - with the officials booed off by disgruntled home fans, but Neil Redfearn will be far more concerned lauding a hard-earned point after seeing his side come from behind.
Marco Silvestri showed his mettle on occasions to make some important saves, with Lewis Cook also adding to his reputation with another accomplished performance, with Leeds grafting hard to claim a deserved point.
Much pre-match conjecture centred on whether Redfearn would elect to ring the changes after last weekend’s lame performance against Fulham.
But in the event, the United head coach, accompanied by assistant Steve Thompson in the technical area for the first time, made just one change, with Sharp handed his first start since September 16 in place of Souleymane Doukara, demoted to the bench.
Steve Morison was named as one of United’s replacements, with Giuseppe Bellusci and Rudy Austin remaining sidelined with injury.
Forest surprisingly dropped 12-goal top-scorer Britt Assombalonga to the bench, with Fryatt taking his place in a starting line-up which also contained former Whites loan players Dexter Blackstock and Eric Lichaj.
After some aberations in their recent away games at Ipswich and Blackburn, the onus was firmly on Leeds keeping their discipline and above all, cutting out unneccessary errors, which they managed to do for virtually all of the first period before fatally blotting their copybook again shortly before the interval.
It provided Forest, who turned in a pretty low-key performance for the vast majority of the first period, with an early Christmas present, with the beneficiary being Fryatt on 45 minutes.
The former Hull City striker, stationed near the far post, converted from close range after Michael Mancienne was left unchallenged in the box following a corner on the right, with the Forest captain’s header falling invitingly into his path.
It was another rank-bad concession from Leeds, who had their moments in the first half, particularly early on, playing a 4-3-3 system, with Sharp and Mirco Antenucci supporting Adryan, operating in a central role.
Forest, fielding a 3-5-2 system, with Michail Antonio and Jack Hunt operating as wingbacks and Mancienne playing in a holding midfield role, struggled for rhythm for much of the first period, with Leeds producing the more accomplished football.
An early chance saw Tommaso Bianchi supply Sam Byram on the right and his cut-back was latched onto by Alex Mowatt, whose shot was deflected just off target.
Then on 15 minutes, a very presentable chance fall Leeds’ way with Karl Darlow blocking Antenucci’s shot, with the rebound falling into the path of Jason Pearce, but he ballooned the loose ball off target in wasteful fashion.
Leeds were indebted to an offside flag seven minutes later, when Fryatt diverted Antonio’s cross into the net, only for any impending celebrations to soon be cut short.
The first booking then arrived when Mancienne felled Adryan before Byram was also handed a caution for bringing down Antonio.
Play began somewhat more fragmented for much of the rest of the half, with Forest forced into making a change on 41 minutes when Blackstock, struggling with a knee problem, saw his evening cut short with Assombalonga coming onto replace him.
Then came the decisive moment of the half when Fryatt tucked away a gift-wrapped opener - his fifth goal of the campaign for the Reds.
Forced to do things the hard way on their travels again, Leeds were assigned with another examination of character for seemingly the umpeenth time this term.
But redemption was at hand with a leveller arriving on 54 minutes from the penalty spot.
A raking pass from Mowatt saw the Forest rearguard on the back foot with Antenucci latching onto the throughball before supplying Byram, who showed nifty footwork inside the box ahead of being bundled over by Fox, with referee East pointing to the spot.
Sharp assumed responsibilities and blasted the ball home emphatically to put United on terms.
Rattled they may have been, but Forest soon poured forward in a bid to regain the initiative with Hunt meekly firing a lame volley at Silvestri with plenty of the goal to aim at with Leeds’ defence opened up.
Another scare arrived shortly before the hour mark when Antonio’s long-ranger was tipped over one-handed by Silvestri before a linesman’s flag again came to the Whites rescue.
Again, the unfortunate party as far as Forest were concerned was Fryatt, with the hosts, once again, left to rue their luck.
Fryatt latched onto Mancienne’s finish to fire the ball home, with replays showing the striker was level and therefore onside.
Video evidence drew a cascade of boos from Forest’s irate supporters, complete with a Chorus of You Don’t Know You’re Doing in the direction of the officials.
United also rubbed salt into the wounds for Forest fans when a telling break led by Lewis Cook ended with the teeanger picking out Sharp, whose angled volley was blocked in the nick of time, although not exactly convincingly by Darlow at his near post.
But by and large, the pressure was applied by the hosts, with Silvestri scrambling across goal to block Robert Tesche’s effort before producing an acrobatic save to deny Henri Lansbury, whose curler seemed destined for the net.
An Antonio header was then blocked as Forest continued to carve out opportunities with Leeds increasingly in retreat.
Three minutes from the end, sub Doukara saw a low shot beaten away by Darlow while at the other end, Forest failed to conjure a winner, with the closest they managed coming when Assombalonga headed wide just before the final whistle.
Nottingham Forest: Darlow, Lichaj, Wilson, Fox; Hunt (Burke 70), Lansbury, Mancienne (Paterson 89), Tesche, Antonio; Blackstock (Assombalonga 41), Fryatt. Substitutes not used: Lascelles, De Vries, Ince, Osborn.
Leeds United: Silvestri, Byram, Pearce, Cooper, Warnock; Bianchi, Cook, Mowatt; Antenucci (Doukara 84), Adryan (Morison 66), Sharp (Tonge 77). Substitutes not used: S Taylor, Berardi, Del Fabro, Montenegro.
Referee: R East (Wiltshire).
Attendance: 22,664 (1,850 Leeds supporters).