Cast for so long as the villain as an ongoing contract dispute, Sam Byram once again reminded Leeds fans why he deserves hero status against Nottingham Forest.
The Whites had dominated the majority of the game, but it took until the last quarter for them to score. It was Byram who forced the matter with his third goal in three games, bringing the tie level after Nelson Oliveira put Forest into a first-half lead.
While that was the result of a defensive mix-up on Leeds’ part, Byram’s goal was nothing but quality, a low strike that was destined for the Forest net from the moment it left his boot.
With a solid week to prepare and rest for the visit to the City Ground, Steve Evans named an unchanged starting line-up from the victory against Preston. Three wins from the last four and no defeats likely explained the decision to stick with the successful 4-5-1 formation.
A high-tempo start from Leeds brought two early opportunities, both of them involving Lewis Cook and Stuart Dallas. A delivery from Cook into the area could not reach the Northern Ireland international, who slipped while chasing it. Another pass from the young talent did find Dallas, but his shot was dragged wide of Dorus De Vries’ net.
With 15 minutes on the clock, referee James Linington had to deal with the first controversy of the game. A lovely piece of interplay between Sam Byram and Cook on the edge of the area gave Byram an opportunity to drive at the Forest defence. He seemed to have been brought down, but Linington decided it was a dive and gave Forest a free-kick, booking the 22-year-old in the process.
Leeds dominated the opening 20 minutes, but found themselves a goal behind by the end of the period. A long ball over the top was completely misjudged by both Guiseppe Bellusci and Marco Silvestri. Neither cleared, and when it trickled through to Nelson Oliveira, all he had to do was slot it into an empty net to put Forest into the lead.
The blow of conceding did not do much damage to Leeds’ confidence, and they continued to control the tie, finishing the half with 74 per cent possession. Time and time again they came close to breaking the Forest resistance without bursting through. Charlie Taylor had the freedom of the left wing, and a teasing delivery from the left-back nearly set-up Byram, the ball cleared before he could replicate his goal against Wolves.
The pattern of the first half continued at the start of the second, although Leeds struggled to craft clear cut opportunities. One of the best chances came after a long-ball from the back was met by Chris Wood, but his first time effort was well wide.
Leeds brought on Souleymane Doukara for Cook in an attempt to equalise, but the change in formation simply opened the game up. With Forest deep and built to counter, that meant Leeds were repeatedly subject to dangerous breaks. However, Forest could never quite find the final ball, their best opportunity a long-range strike by Jamie Ward that Silvestri tipped over.
As the game edged towards the final ten minutes, Leeds finally had their reward for the earlier pressure. Taylor carried the ball out of defence before playing it inside to Doukara. The substitute shaped to shoot, but instead fed Byram. Byram showed his recent prowess in front of net taking a glance at goal before firing it low and hard past De Vries, sending the Leeds fans into ecstasy.
Victory could have been United’s had Mirco Antenucci and Wood taken a pair of opportunities, but it was not to be, Leeds recording a draw to go five games unbeaten.
Nottingham Forest: De Vries, Lichaj, Mills, Hobbs, Mancienne; Lansbury (c), Vaughan (O.Burke, 84), Mendes (Ward, 61), Osborn; Oliveira, O’Grady (Tesche, 67).
Unusded Subs: Evtimov, Trotter, Blackstock, C.Burke.
Leeds United: Silvestri, Wootton, Bellusci, Cooper, Taylor; Byram (Coyle, 90), Cook (Doukara, 61), Bridcutt, Murphy, Dallas (Antenucci, 77); Wood.
Unused Subs: Peacock-Farrell, Bamba, Adeyemi, Sloth.