Leeds United manager Neil Warnock concedes his team were outplayed by Billy Sharp after his double helped set up a 4-2 victory for Nottingham Forest at the City Ground.
The on-loan striker from Southampton took his tally to eight goals in 18 games and was also at the heart of the flashpoint incident that Warnock felt swung the game in Forest’s favour.
Leeds were ahead through an 11th-minute goal from Paul Green but Sharp went down under a challenge from Tom Lees to give himself the chance to equalise from the spot before the end of the first half.
Sharp then fired his second of the game soon after the restart and a three-goal blitz in nine minutes – Rodolph Austin scored a clumsy own goal and Dexter Blackstock headed home the fourth – stunned the visitors, who had a late consolation from Davide Somma.
However, Warnock believes the penalty marked the start of his side’s downfall.
“I just hope Tom learns from the incident – it is a harsh lesson for him but one he’s got to make sure doesn’t happen again,” he said.
“I’ve known Billy a long time and if you are up against him in the area he’s going to be clever.
“Tom has just breathed on him but Billy has made sure there is contact and gone down. In that situation you have got to stand a yard off him.
“It’s a penalty because 20 out of 20 referees would give it. Billy used to get penalties for me like that at Sheffield United so I can’t complain.
“Tom has just got to be more professional.
“It was really disappointing because at that stage it was the only way I could see Forest scoring.
“The equaliser gave Forest the lift they needed and we were guilty of being very amateurish and naive in the second half.
“If you concede three goals in seven minutes at any level you can’t expect to win football matches, but at the end of the game I’m still disappointed that we have passed by another chance to win a game.”
Sharp coolly rounded goalkeeper Kenny and slotted home his second goal in the 54th minute to start the match-changing spell.
Three minutes later an out-of-touch Austin swung a clumsy leg at Forest defender Ward’s cut back and lashed the ball into the roof of his own net.
Forest midfielder Andy Reid ghosted past right-back Sam Byram and clipped in a fine cross for Blackstock to shrug off Tate’s challenge and head powerfully beyond Kenny. It was the first defeat since the takeover of Leeds by GFH Capital but was not enough to keep Sean O’Driscoll in a job.
Nottingham Forest: Camp, Hutton, Ward, Collins, Halford, Cohen, Guedioura, Majewski (Moussi 70), Reid (Lansbury 82), Sharp (Cox 77), Blackstock. Unused substitutes: Darlow, Harding, Gillett, McGugan.
Leeds United: Kenny, Byram (McCormack 79), Lees, Tate, Drury, Green, Brown, Austin (Pearce 66), Thomas, Diouf (Somma 65), Becchio. Unused substitutes: Ashdown, Varney, White, Norris.
Referee: L Probert (Wiltshire).