A DISAPPOINTING stalemate in front of Elland Road’s biggest league crowd in 13 months saw Leeds United fail to make it a win treble in a dull 0-0 draw against Nottingham Forest.
The new year may have been kind to both United and the Reds, but both failed to hit the heights of the last few months, with a bumper 30,722 attendance, United’s biggest at home since the 5-1 drubbing of Huddersfield in February 2014, witnessing a pretty dour encounter.
Forest went into the game harbouring an outside chance of the play-offs, but did not look a top-six side on this evidence, while Leeds had a frustrating afternoon, with the lack of a decisive final ball in the final third telling.
The hosts couldn’t get going on the day, with Forest keeper Karl Darlow relatively untroubled.
United fielded an unchanged starting line-up against Forest, who had won six of their previous eight matches under the command of ex-Leeds striker Dougie Freedman, with Sam Byram and Rudy Austin still sidelined and captain Liam Cooper having to settle for a place on the bench after shrugging off a hip injury.
Changes on the bench saw Adryan and Dario Del Fabro miss out, with Cooper and Casper Sloth coming in, with academy player Kalvin Phillips also among the substitutes.
Forest made just one change with Ben Osborn coming in for Todd Kane.
A vibrant atmosphere greeted both sets of players at the kick-off, with United attacking the South Stand in the first half.
Chances were at a premium in the tentative opening sparrings, with Sol Bamba producing sound defensive skills to bail out Scott Wootton after Michail Antonio escaped his clutches.
The first dangerous moment belonged to Leeds, with ex loanee Eric Lichaj being dispossessed by Alex Mowatt, who teed up Luke Murphy on the edge of the box, with his low shot blocked by Jamaal Lascelles.
The loose ball fell invitingly for Charlie Taylor, whose fierce effort was turned away impressively by Darlow, with his wait for his first United goal continuing.
Utilising the pace of Michail Antonio on the break yielded Forest’s first opportuniity of note with the ex-Sheffield Wednesday man supplying Chris Burke, who twisted and turned past a couple of challenges before seeing his shot blocked by Giuseppe Bellusci.
Forest were starting to shade proceedings with Osborn’s effort held by Marco Sillvestri before the visitors went close to taking the lead.
Antonio got away from Wootton before cutting the ball back to Osborn, whose goal-bound low shot was blocked by Silvestri.
Soon after, just from a few yards out, Kelvin Wilson found himself unmarked following Burke’s corner, but his effort was deflected for another flag-kick.
At the other end, United had little pockets of pressure, but failed to manufacture too much with one moment of mirth just past the half hour mark seeing Morison seeing a shot go out of play for a Forest throw-in.
Not too much was coming off for Leeds and despite Morison and Billy Sharp showing plenty of graft, they were getting small change out of the Forest defence.
Token efforts then saw Antonio fire a shot wide before Darlow comfortably claimed a curler from Taylor, with the lead-up to the interval somewhat underwhelming.
A rare moment of animation saw home appeals for a spot-kick turned down after Mowatt went down under pressure in the box from Lichaj, but referee Keith Hill was unmoved.
The start to the second half proved just an anonymous as the final 15 minutes of the first period with Forest looking the more likely without carving out chances.
There was one development of note, with Bellusci carded for a challenge on Blackstock.
A sniff of goal of sorts saw Blackstock win the header following Osborn’s corner, but Bellusci cleared, with Leeds first opportunity of the half arriving just before the hour when Taylor fired into the Kop.
It failed to serve as a momentum builder for the hosts, with the big crowd served up with a game which was hardly a classic, with it starting to look likely that a set-piece or mistake, if anything, would inspire a breakthrough.
Midway through the half, Morison was cautioned for a late challenge on Michael Mancienne and it proved his last involvement with the forward substituted for Mirco Antenucci - subject of interest from Norwich - on 68 minutes.
With both sides lacking quality in the final third, it was increasingly making for a painfully disappointing spectacle.
A deflected shot from Lichaj was held comfortably by Silvestri before Forest conjured the best chance of the half thus far with Blackstock feeding Burke, who cut inside before unleashing a well-struck low shot which was destined for the corner, with Silvestri making a smart reaction save.
A third Leeds player then entered the notebook of Hill, with Mowatt cautioned for dissent, summing up an increasingly frustrating afternoon for the hosts.
With 11 minutes to go, Neil Redfearn threw Souleymane Doukara into the fray for Taylor and he started a half-decent move which ended with Antenucci’s angled save beaten away by Darlow after Mowatt’s effort was initially blocked by a Forest defender.
Minutes later, Murphy fired off target and soon after, he picked up a caution for a challenge on Gary Gardner.
The final activity of the game saw Forest presented with a decent free-kick opportunity, but in keeping with the game, Henri Lansbury’s tame effort flew harmlessly over.
Leeds United: Silvestri; Wootton, Bamba, Bellusci, Berardi; Cook, Murphy; Morison, Mowatt, C Taylor (Doukara 79); Morison (Antenucci 68). Substitutes not used: S Taylor, Cooper, Sloth, Phillips, Cani.
Nottingham Forest: Darlow, Mancienne, Lascelles, Wilson, Lichaj; Burke, Lansbury, Osborn, Gardner, Antonio; Blackstock. Substitutes not used: Evtimov, Collins, Fox, Paterson, Vaughan, Veldwijk, Walker.
Referee: Keith Hill (Hertfordshire).
Attendance: 30,722 (2,657 Forest supporters).