Jittery Leeds United architects of their own downfall in 2-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest

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Six defeats in ten matches are alarming enough for any team with title aspirations, but it was the scrappiness of Leeds United in possession which was most alarming about their 2-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest.

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Leeds United players show their frustration after conceding the killer second goal in stoppage time

Leeds United players show their frustration after conceding the killer second goal in stoppage time


They were not alone. Two sides who like to play the ball on the grass as Brian Clough – manager of both clubs but only fondly remembered by one – used to demand produced an error-strewn performance, but it was Leeds's jitters that were most pronounced and most alarming.

Fulham had put the pressure on before kick-off by drawing level on points, having eaten away at a gap between the play-off chasers and the automatic hopefuls which had looked almost unbreachable in mid-December. Forest knew that a win would put them only a point behind both.

Through a rare moment of quality by Sammy Ameobi and a late counter-attack, they got it. Both goals came from Leeds surrendering possession.

If Marcelo Bielsa says he is not feeling the pressure, his players made it abundantly clear they are, none more so than goalkeeper Kiko Casilla.

The Spaniard was the rock behind the Whites' early-season storming of the Championship, his goalkeeping bailing out the unconvincing finishing at the other end. Then, the thought of a suspension for alleged racism seemed horrendous to Leeds fans, now a few might secretly be hoping he picks up a ban.

Casilla was beaten at his near post as for the seventh match in a row, Leeds gave their opponents a goal's head-start.

Inevitably, it came from the visitors giving the ball away. Pablo Hernandez, so typical of Leeds's usual assurance on the ball turned it over and after a one-two, Ameobi drilled a 31st-minute shot the goalkeeper ought to have kept out. The doubts resurfaced again.

It was a rare glimmer of quality in a scrappy game.

When right-back Stuart Dallas had a shot blocked after five minutes, the way Forest's counter-attack broke down through a lack of accuracy set the unfortunate tone.

A great Joe Lolley turn was followed by an overhit pass and although Lewis Grabban beat Liam Cooper and Ezgjan Alioski at the byline – after letting the ball cross it unbeknownst to the linesman – Ameobi's shot was so wayward it became a cross Tiago Silva headed wide.

When a good ball from holding midfielder Ben White released Alioski, his cross was thumped too hard, and Dallas handballed it.

The football constantly raised hopes and dashed them like that. When Helder Costa pulled the ball back for Hernandez, Patrick Bamford ought to have headed the cross goalwards but instead the ball went almost square, which might have been alright had there been a pale blue shirt to nod down to. Within three minutes of that let-off, Forest led.

Casilla seemed to grow more nervous, and was breathing a sigh of relief after throwing the ball straight to Ben Watson who, with a shot on, opted for a woefully overhit pass which went behind for a goal-kick.

He made two good saves at the start of the second half, though in truth Grabban ought not to have given him the chance to get his legs in the way when picked out at the end of a good run by Joe Lolley. He also kept out a free-kick from the winger. Too late, though.

White conceded a similarly clumsy free-kickon Adama Diakhaby to go into the book after 73 minutes.

The first of those free-kicks had come from a clumsy Alioski foul and although he had followed it up with a very well-timed tackle on a twisting Lolley in the area, his challenge on Matty Clash for the loose ball had Forest demanding a penalty.

He got away with that but a pull back on Lolley – three quarters of the way up the field but deeply cynically having been beaten – made him a liability, and Bielsa had to replace him. Jean-Kevin Augustin came on for Bamford at the same time.

But for a brilliant bit of goalkeeping with 15 minutes left, Liam Cooper would have equalised. Brice Samba was on the floor when he got his head to a corner, but reached up and pulled the ball seemingly right off the line. Lady Luck is not on Leeds's side just now.

Costa missed the target with an 81st-minute header, putting a deep cross wide under pressure from Yuri Ribeiro as Leeds cranked up the pressure.

Played in tight to the byline, Mateusz Klich dragged a shot wide of the far post.

Forest ought to have put the game to bed in the 86th minute, hitting Leeds on the counter-attack, but Watson's pass to Grabban was woeful, and symptomatic of the game.

Augustin went down the other end and had a shot blocked.

Forest had been bold in bringing on Tyler Walker – a prolific striker in his lower-league loan spells – on for full-back Ribeiro in the 90th minute to take advantage of the counter-attacking opportunities, although they got cold feet initially, delaying his introduction by a minute or so. When Lolley caught Harrison in possession in the fifth minute of stoppage time, he was able to roll the ball across for 23-year-old Walker to calmly find the net.

What Leeds would not give for that sort of composure now.

Nottingham Forest: Samba; Cash, Figueiredo (Walker 90), Worall, Ribeiro; Sow, Watson; Ameobi (Diakhaby 67), Lolley, Silva (Yates 79); Grabban.

Unused substitutes: Bong, Jenkinson, Dawson, Muric.

Leeds United: Casilla; Dallas, Ayling, Cooper, Alioski (Shackleton 71); White; Costa, Hernandez (Roberts 59), Klich, Harrison; Bamford (Augustin 71).

Unused substitutes: Meslier, Berardi, Struijk, Stevens.

Referee: O Langford (West Midlands).

Nottingham Forest: Samba; Cash, Ribeiro, Figueiredo, Sow; Worall, Watson; Ameobi, Silva, Lolley; Grabban.

Unused substitutes: Bong, Diakhaby, Jenkinson, Dawson, Yates, Walker, Muric.

Leeds United: Casilla; Dallas, Ayling, Cooper, Alioski; White; Costa, Hernandez, Klich, Harrison; Bamford.

Unused substitutes: Meslier, Roberts, Berardi, Augustin, Struijk, Shackleton, Stevens.

Referee: O Langford (West Midlands).