There was general fury at the performance of referee Jeremy Simpson in this month’s 1-1 draw with Brentford, notably in awarding the Bees a soft second-half penalty which ultimately denied the high-flying Whites victory.
Centre-back Pontus Jansson’s comments that Simpson had committed a “robbery” landed the Swede a one-game ban.
Three weeks on, it was Elland Road visitors Nottingham Forest who were left feeling a sense of injustice as striker Kemar Roofe bundled home a controversial equaliser with his arm to keep Leeds in the division’s top two.
As Forest’s protests continued, the honest striker admitted an offence of handball but stressed it was down to referee Geoff Eltringham to spot the misdemeanour as the forward simply mused over the “swings and roundabouts” of the game.
In truth, Roofe’s leveller was the minimum that a dominant Leeds looking for a return to the top of the Championship deserved.
Yet for the second weekend running, United shot themselves in the foot by conceding another goal from a corner as Jack Robinson escaped Stuart Dallas to head home Joe Lolley’s delivery in the 11th minute.
As Aitor Karanka’s side set out to defend their lead, United’s pressure became incessant with Marcelo Bielsa’s men dominating possession and mustering 18 shots at goal compared to Forest’s three though, tellingly, just three of them were on target.
Just as Forest’s defensive rearguard action looked set to take all three points back to Nottingham, Roofe arrived on the scene to net an 82nd-minute equaliser through a clear handball. Stuart Dallas fizzed the ball across the area to Mateusz Klich who sent it back across towards the far post where Roofe bundled the ball home with his arm.
Goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon led the angry Forest protests as Jansson and Michael Dawson locked horns while Eltringham consulted his officials but allowed the goal to stand as more controversy reigned over Elland Road.
With Forest reeling, United were then inches away from bagging a stoppage-time winner when Pablo Hernandez’s flick whistled narrowly wide.
After Eltringham’s full-time whistle, all eyes were on Roofe who swiftly batted off complaints about the nature of his goal.
“The ball has come across, I anticipated it and the ball hit my arm,” said the Whites striker.
“It was just instinct. I picked my knee up and my balance was naturally to have my arm down by my side and it hit my arm instead of my knee.
“What do you want me to do – run up to the referee and say it shouldn’t be allowed? It’s up to the referee to make that decision. I’m just there to play the game.
“I feel like we could have got certain decisions, they could have got certain decisions but it is what it is – swings and roundabouts.
“It’s the same with many other decisions, free-kicks, penalty decisions, you get some, you don’t get some.”
Forest chief Karanka remained calm in his assessment but admitted “everyone could see” that Roofe’s effort should have been disallowed.
Roofe’s intervention denied Forest a place in the play-offs with Karanka’s men now seventh and four points behind Leeds, who dropped to second and two points behind Sheffield United.
But Whites head coach Bielsa was left scratching his head how United had not taken all three points after a host of chances had again gone begging.
After Robinson’s early strike for Forest, the same player’s deflection from Hernandez’s drive almost brought Leeds level as the ball flashed wide before Roofe also sent a volley the wrong side of the post.
Leeds lost Luke Ayling to injury before Matthew Cash blazed a rare chance wide for Forest but United’s Adam Forshaw went close shortly before the break.
Forshaw was brought in for the benched Samu Saiz, who was then introduced with winger Jack Clarke on the hour as Kalvin Phillips and Tom Pearce were withdrawn – Pearce having only been brought on for Ayling in the 25th minute.
Clarke sent a curling effort narrowly over the top right corner before his cross whizzed narrowly past Hernandez.
Time was running out but Roofe was then on hand to put away the equaliser and Hernandez was inches away from netting a winner from Gjanni Alioski’s cross in the fourth minute of stoppage time. In the end, such was United’s dominance, it was Bielsa who felt the game’s outcome was unjust.
“It was an unfair result,” said Bielsa, who said he could not judge Roofe’s goal as he had not seen the replay.
“All the aspects of the game were in our favour. We ran a lot, we had the ball, we attacked the whole game and we didn’t concede chances to the opponent. We missed 10 goals (chances). I don’t know if this argument is right but that’s what we saw. A draw is not enough to give the reward the team deserved.”
Leeds United: Peacock-Farrell, Ayling (Pearce 25, Clarke 65), Dallas, Cooper, Jansson, Klich, Phillips (Saiz 65), Forshaw, Alioski, Hernandez, Roofe. Unused substitutes: Blackman, Shackleton, Baker, Roberts.
Nottingham Forest: Pantilimon, Darikwa, Figueiredo, Robinson, Fox (Dawson 51), Colback, Guedioura, Cash (Dias 87), Carvalho, Lolley (Osborn 69), Grabban. Unused substitutes: Steele, Soudani, Watson, Osborn, Janko.
Referee: G Eltringham (Co Durham).