IT is perhaps a measure of Leeds United’s new-year improvement that a draw with in-form Nottingham Forest will be met with disappointment in some quarters.
A scrappy encounter in front of a crowd of 30,772 – Leeds’ biggest Elland Road crowd since February, 2014 – witnessed a clash between two old rivals which lacked considerable sparkle, with a second successive clean sheet the main substantive for the hosts.
But, in mitigation, this was exactly the type of display Leeds falled to produce in an alarming run to the turn of last year, when their appetite for a potential relegation scrap looked minimal.
Thankfully, all fears about United retaining their Championship place went several weeks ago, with Neil Redfearn’s side a tougher nut to crack these days.
Fourteen points from the play-offs and the relegation zone they may be, but a top-10 finish is something that Leeds are striving for to round off a sound second-half of the campaign, according to Scott Wootton.
The defender, one of several prospering in United’s new- year renaissance, said: “We have turned it around, steadied the ship and we are a lot more solid.
“That’s our base. The top 10 would be a real positive this season.
“In the (poor) run we went on, myself, Steve Morison, Billy Sharp and Luke Murphy were nowhere near the picture and the club looked like being in a real relegation dogfight, to be fair.
“Since the turn of the year, we have all come back into the mix and helped the team out and are solid now.
“Charlie Taylor is playing really well on the left as well and it is really pleasing for us all to pull together.
“We know what this league is about and are getting results and showing form.”
Chances were at premium with United’s best coming in the first half, with Taylor’s angled shot on 11 minutes beaten away impressively by Karl Darlow, who denied substitute Mirco Antenucci with a smart late save six minutes from time.
Forest’s best moment arrived on 73 minutes when Marco Silvestri made a telling save to block Chris Burke’s low shot.
After the game, United head coach Neil Redfearn stressed his desire to keep hold of Antenucci, subject of interest from Norwich.
He said: “It is the first I’ve heard but you’re going to have clubs interested in your better players.
“I’m trying to build something, not take it apart, Antenucci is a good player. There’s no way I want him to go.”
Leeds United: Silvestri; Wootton, Bamba, Bellusci, Berardi; Cook, Murphy; Morison, Mowatt, C Taylor (Doukara 79); Morison (Antenucci 68). Unused substitutes: S Taylor, Cooper, Sloth, Phillips, Cani.
Nottingham Forest: Darlow, Mancienne, Lascelles, Wilson, Lichaj; Burke, Lansbury, Osborn, Gardner, Antonio; Blackstock. Unused substitutes: Evtimov, Collins, Fox, Paterson, Vaughan, Veldwijk, Walker.
Referee: K Hill (Hertfordshire).
Man of the match: Sol Bamba.