Leeds United 0 Nottingham Forest 1: Goal-shy Whites chopped down by Forest
AN UNSATISFACTORY week for Leeds United ended in more disappointment as Nelson Oliveira's header sealed a 1-0 win for Nottingham Forest at Elland Road.
Five days after failing to bring a single player in on transfer deadline day, United again lacked a cutting edge and never looked likely to score after going a goal down.
Defeat left Leeds 16th in the Championship, 14 points off the play-offs and 11 off the dropzone ahead of a week on Monday’s home clash with second-placed Middlesbrough.
Whites head coach Steve Evans made one change to his starting line up with Liam Cooper replacing Sol Bamba to partner Giuseppe Bellusci at centre-back.
With striker Chris Wood set to miss another two weeks with a fresh hamstring injury, Mirco Antenucci again playing a lone striker role with Souleymane Doukara and Stuart Dallas on the flanks.
United began promisingly with Dallas showing good pace to threaten to the left of Forest’s area before his cross-cum-shot went over and wide.
Three minutes later, Dallas produced a peach of a cross from the opposite flank which Souleymane Doukara connected with and headed just wide.
At the other end, Giuseppe Bellusci was dispossessed giving half a chance to Oliveira whose low shot was saved by Marcio Silvestri.
Leeds hit back with Charlie Taylor’s left flank cross being collected by Forest ‘keeper Dorus De Vries right under his crossbar.
Another five minutes passed before Liam Bridcutt lashed over from range with Forest’s only threat coming on the counter attack. From one such instance, Oliveira fired straight at Silvestri.
Jamie Ward then hit a decent volley straight at Silvestri as the game passed the quarter hour mark.
And the visitors then went agonisingly close to opening the scoring in the 20th minute when Jamie Ward’s free-kick was headed out to Gary Gardner whose vicious effort smashed against the United crossbar and over.
Leeds were beginning to live dangerously and five minutes later Ben Osborn’s shot deflected to Robert Tesche who had the goal gaping but managed to power a volley just wide.
United attempted to come back into it but Doukara’s weak effort from 25 yards out rolled wide.
But it was undoubtedly Forest who looked most likely to take the lead with ex Whites loanee Eric Lihaj putting a fierce effort just wide of Silvestri’s right hand post.
United briefly looked threatening five minutes before the break when a Dallas cross was cleared for a corner just as Doukara looked to nod home.
The corner came to nothing but a few minutes later a fine pass from Doukara towards Dallas presented United with the first of another two corners but again both were eventually cleared.
And in the sole minute of first half injury time it was Forest who countered to win a corner which was also cleared.
Neither side made any changes at half-time and Leeds began the second half the brighter with Scott Wootton getting forward and seeing a low shot saved.
Five minutes later, Dallas elected to shoot from range instead of playing in Wootton but the winger’s shot went harmlessly wide.
Taylor then saved United’s bacon at the other end to deny Jamie Ward a tap in from a counter, allowing Leeds to counter and win another corner that was once again wasted.
Ward’s low shot was then well held by Silvestri before Dallas produced a great turn and shot on the edge of the area which produced a good save from Dorus De Vries.
But it was Forest who struck the killer blow just before the hour when a right flank cross from Gardner picked out Oliveira totally unmarked amid claims for offside.
The striker connected with a low header and while Silvestri attempted to save, the ball squirmed its way into the bottom right corner to give the visitors the lead.
Forest then nearly doubled their lead just two minutes later when a pile-driver from Tesche went just over the bar.
United had it all to do and the closest they got in the next ten minutes was when Doukara’s low effort from the edge of the area was saved by De Vries at the second attempt.
With 20 minutes remaining, Evans brought on Mustapha Carayol for Dallas, after which United won a free-kick some 30 yards out but Giuseppe Bellusci’s woeful effort went straight into the feet of the wall.
Forest then hauled off Ward for Oliver Burke with 15 minutes left and the visitors were then denied what looked a clear penalty when Bellusci took down Osborn inside the area.
And United’s predicament was perfectly summed up with 11 minutes remaining when Carayol delivered a fine low delivery across the Forest area without a single United player in the penalty box.
In search of new options, Evans brought on Lee Erwin for Toumani Diagouraga with ten minutes left but it was still Forest who looked more threatening and Osborn’s effort was well held by Silvestri.
Oliveira then curled a long range effort wide and that proved his final act before being brought off for another ex-White in Dexter Blackstock after Oliveira was fouled by Bridcutt who was booked.
Evans then made his final change by bringing on Tom Adeyemi for Wootton with one minute left and United were given four minutes of injury time to salvage a draw.
But it never looked like happening with plenty of United fans already heading for the exits long before the fourth minute of injury time which was greeted by a few boos.
Leeds United: Silvestri, Wootton (Adeyemi 89), Bellusci, Cooper, Taylor, Cook, Bridcutt, Diagouraga (Erwin 80), Dallas (Carayol 70), Doukara, Antenucci. Subs not used: Peacock-Farrell, Coyle, Bamba, Adeyemi, Murphy.
Nottingham Forest: De Vries, Lichaj, Mills, Mancienne, Jokic, Vaughan, Tesche, Gardner, Osborn, Ward (Burke 75), Oliveira (Blackstock 87). Subs not used: Evtimov, Cohen, Hobbs, Mendes, Grant.
Referee: Scott Duncan.
Attendance: 24,079 (2,266).