Nottingham Forest drew 1-1 with Leeds United in the final game before Christmas, but should’ve taken all three points after Matty Fryatt had two goals disallowed. James Bolton offers a fan’s eye view from the City Ground…

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With three full-backs and two centre-halves in the starting line up and Britt Assombalonga only on the bench, its fair to say there will have been more than a few raised eyebrows when the Forest team was announced.

As it happened, Eric Lichaj, Kelvin Wilson and Danny Fox made up a back three, with Hunt and Michail Antonio playing as wing-backs and Michael Mancienne taking up a role in defensive midfield in an unorthodox set up.

Leeds carved out the game’s first real chance. Some nice work down the right by Sam Byram led to an Alex Mowatt deflected effort looping tantalisingly wide of Darlow’s right-hand post.

The visitors really ought to have broken the deadlock from the resulting corner. Mirco Antenucci’s effort was well saved by Darlow with his legs, but when the ball popped up to Jason Pearce six yards out, the defender couldn’t convert.

Then came the game’s first case of incompetent officiating. Antonio cut inside from the left, and when his shot ricocheted into Fryatt, who inadvertently turned the ball home, it was wrongly ruled offside by the linesman, despite being at least a yard on.

That did lead to Forest gaining a bit of a foothold in what was an unattractive, physical first-half and went into the break 1-0 up. A Mancienne header from a Lansbury corner was stabbed home instinctively by Fryatt to give him his fifth goal of the season.

Ten minutes into the second-half and Leeds were level. Antenucci held up a long ball in the right channel before laying it off to Byram, whose jinking run was halted by Fox, albeit softly. Former Reds striker Billy Sharp slammed home the resulting penalty to level the scores.

Forest replied fairly quickly with a flurry of chances. Hunt found himself unmarked at the back post, but his side-foot volley lacked conviction. Soon after Antonio forced the best out of Leeds goalkeeper Marco Silvestri after a fierce drive from 25 yards. Tesche then met the resulting corner, but he squandered a good chance and headed over the bar.

Fryatt was then denied what should have been his hat-trick goal after he latched on to a flick on and finished with aplomb, but despite being level with the last defenders, the goal chalked off to add to the Forest’s recent frustrations with officials. Having seen the replays, this decision was the worse of the two.

Nevertheless, Forest continued to keep Silvestri’s gloves warm. The young Italian was equal to long range shots from Tesche and Lansbury late on. Leeds did have a couple of chances of their own. A Sharp volley and a fizzing drive from substitute Souleymane Doukara were both dealt with by Darlow.

Forest looked a bit leggy and unimaginative in the final 10 minutes. The final chance of the game fell to Assombalonga, but he headed just wide from an Antonio cross as a winner eluded both sides.

The simple fact is that were it not for some pretty woeful decisions from the linesmen, we’d have ran out 3-1 winners and Fryatt would have been walking down the tunnel with the match ball under his arm.

It seems every time I write one of these reports it’s of a scrappy game that we really should have taken three points from; although we managed some shots on target, unlike last week’s 0-0 with Rotherham. At a time when results are inconsistent and performances haven’t been great, three points going into the busy Christmas run and a tough away trip to Middlesbrough could have done our confidence the world of good.

I’m in what is (hopefully) the majority of fans in thinking that sacking Pearce would be ridiculous. You only have to look at the top of the division to see that a bit of patience and consistency can bear fruit. Ipswich, Derby and Bournemouth to name just three are reaping the rewards of stability.

I urge us to do the same and, although today was far from pretty and the team set up was questionable, we can’t go back to square one for the umpteenth time. The Christmas period is normally a decent indication of how a club might finish, so hopefully an up turn in form is just round the corner. Follow Forest’s progress this season with Blue Square.


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