Forest stretched their unbeaten run to seven games, courtesy of two bore draws in just seventy two hours.
First up was the annual Christmas tie against Leeds United. The Yorkshire side set up in a similar way to MK Dons, adopting a 4-1-4-1 formation. They also controlled the early possession and worked hard off the ball.
Michael Mancienne filled in for the injured Danny Pinillos at left back for Forest. However, Dougie Freedman is currently lining up a loan signing to fill the boots of the super Spaniard.
But it Forest who drew first blood thanks to man of the moment Nelson Oliveira, he latched onto a long ball from Matt Mills and ended up tapping into an empty net after a mix up between defender and goalkeeper in unison. It reminded me of the capers once seen at Old Trafford between that classic comedy duo of Brown and Barthez.
The remainder of the half was pretty lack lustre; the away side’s only real tactic was for Wooton to lump diagonal balls in from the right, towards the head of lone striker Chris Wood. On the other hand Forest themselves didn’t offer much in the form of attack and were limited to mere half chances.
If the first half was short of ambition then what followed in the second period can only be described as utterly negative. Once again, we sat very deep and allowed the opposition to attack at will. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing to be honest. Last season we did the same against Middlesbrough and Bournemouth but there was a big difference; they were very good sides. Leeds are not a good side and even when we allowed them long spells of possession they often gave it away or hoofed it out of play.
Only after the introductions of Ward and Oliver Burke did we show any positivity. But even they were counter attacks; on at least two occasions we broke into the Leeds half but were outnumbered simply because the rest of the team were sat on the edge of our own box.
The inevitable happened with ten minutes remaining, Doukara fed Sam Byram and he fired home from outside the box to give Leeds the goal that our tactics allowed them. Oliver Burke provided some great play late on and was nearly rewarded for his efforts when his brilliant long range effort hit the post in the last minute.
I heard Steve Hodge justifying Freedman’s tactics on the radio after the game, he said “I remember Brian Clough doing the very same against Liverpool back in the day!” Well Steve; back in the day Liverpool were the second best side in Europe. This current Leeds United team aren’t even the second best in Yorkshire!
Given the quick turnaround in time for the away trip to Cardiff, I completely understood Dougie’s choice to make wholesale changes. Even though he made six in total, we would still come away with a better result than in our two previous visits to the Welsh capital.
Oliver Burke made only his second senior start and continued where he left off at Leeds. He linked up with Blackstock before curling home an absolute beauty of a goal after 8 minutes. A lead that only lasted four minutes; thanks to a huge deflection. Aron Gunnarsson’s lucky strike gave De Vries no chance at all.
De Vries made a couple of excellent saves to deny Ralls and Watt around the 20 minute mark but the tempo of the game was steadily declining for both teams. Luckily for Forest, Cardiff adopted a similar home tactic and looked happy to go in level at half time.
Cardiff looked a shadow of the side that beat us at the city ground back in August and their fans seemed to have lost their mojo too, the quietest I’ve ever known them to be fair. This all culminated in another dour 45 minutes of football, the second half seemed to drag with just a handful of chances. The golden chance for Forest came in the last minute of the game, via two of our substitutes. Lansbury forced a save from Marshall and as the Cardiff keeper lay grounded Nelson Oliveira looked certain to score from the rebound. However, he somehow managed to scoop the ball way over the bar when just a dink was needed.
On reflection I’m disappointed with two draws because Leeds were there for the taking; a point at Cardiff is always decent for us regardless of the tactics. We must be careful not to slip into the Billy Davis mindset, get a one goal lead and defend it forever!
But without being too fickle, we have maintained an unbeaten run despite even more injuries. A win at Charlton on Saturday would be nice but some attacking football wouldn’t go a miss!