Nottingham Forest 1 Leeds United 1: Sam Byram rescues point for Whites after error undermines efforts

AFTER the devastation of the floods that left parts of Leeds under several feet of water on Boxing Day came a mixture of elation and frustration for the city’s football team 24 hours later.

Leeds United head coach Steve Evans applauds the travelling support following his side's 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest (Picture: Tony Johnson).
Leeds United head coach Steve Evans applauds the travelling support following his side's 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest (Picture: Tony Johnson).

Elation at how Sam Byram had rescued a point with a late equaliser to ensure that a decent display in the East Midlands did not go unrewarded.

But a sense of frustration, too, at how a Nottingham Forest side largely content to play on the break despite being on home soil had been let off the hook.

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The hosts had been gifted their first-half opener by the sort of defensive blunder that would shame a schoolboy footballer.

And, on the countless occasions that United found themselves in a promising position and Forest truly stretched, a woeful final ball or lame effort on goal meant the chance was spurned.

The exception to this general rule of profligacy came 10 minutes from time when Byram drilled a fine effort into the corner of Dorus De Vries’s net.

It ensured a traumatic Christmas for the city of Leeds did, at least, end with some of the gloom lifted and United having nudged their way into the top half of the table for the first time in months.

That this ‘prize’ – which Forest had been denied by Byram’s leveller – should be what two clubs who once ruled English football were chasing ahead of kick-off said everything about the lacklustre times the pair have had of late.

Not that this prevented a bumper crowd of 27,551 turning out in the hope that a contest put back a day at the behest of Sky TV could provide a late Christmas cracker.

Much of the pre-match talk among the 1,890 visitors from Yorkshire who braved the inevitable M1 hold-ups on the journey south had centred on the devastation that had been left behind in Leeds following the floods.

Amid the inevitable comments of ‘never seen anything like it’ or ‘Kirkstall Road looked more like a river’ was an anger at how vulnerable the city had been left without adequate defences by both the Government and the Environment Agency.

Eighteen minutes into yesterday’s game, a similar accusation could be made of Leeds’s football team.

Just how Giuseppe Bellusci and Marco Silvestri managed to get in such an almighty tangle when trying to deal with an innocuous punt forward by Matt Mills is something only the Italian duo can answer.

But they did, as Bellusci completely missed the ball to leave Silvestri, who had recklessly rushed from his goal, in no-man’s land. Oliveira was not going to spurn such a gift and, after flicking the ball beyond the goalkeeper, rolled a shot into the empty net.

Such bungling at the back was a shame for Leeds, who for much of the contest had looked the more constructive of the two teams when in possession.

Time and time again, the ball was moved around with pace and purpose. Then, though, just as a killer pass was required or a decent cross, everything broke down.

Typical was the 39th-minute move that saw Stuart Dallas burst out of his own half with a delightful turn and dart down the left flank.

Once deep inside home territory, the Northern Ireland international exchanged passes with Byram before playing a delightful ball behind the Forest defence for Byram.

Either a shot or pass to the unmarked Chris Wood at that stage would have surely brought an equaliser but, instead, Byram made a hash of controlling the ball and the chance was gone.

Charlie Taylor was twice similarly guilty of woeful delivery at vital moments during the first half to add to the frustrations of those in yellow that the interval arrived with United trailing.

It was a similar story after the break, at least in the early stages as Cook twice wasted excellent openings with a poor pass before Byram headed wide from a corner when well placed.

Forest, still content to play on the break, did go close to doubling their advantage when, first, Mills’s header had to be cleared off the line by Luke Murphy and then Jamie Ward’s ferocious drive was tipped over by Silvestri.

But the equaliser Leeds craved came 10 minutes from time when Byram drilled a low shot beyond De Vries to set up a frantic finale.

The visitors, very much in the ascendancy, had two gilt-edged chances in as many minutes as, first, Mirco Antenucci somehow side-footed wide when it seemed easier to hit the target.

Then, after the Italian substitute turned creator, Wood spurned an even better opening from five yards out with a scuffed shot that was collected by the relieved De Vries.

As big a let-off as these had been for Forest, the home side could have snatched all three points themselves at the climax.

However, Ward flashed a shot just wide and Oliver Burke subsequently thundered a volley against the post to ensure that a difficult 24 hours for the city of Leeds did, at least, end with some reward for its football team.