Leeds Utd 2 (Harrison 20, Sinisterra 45+1)
Nottingham F 1 (Mangala 12)
4th April 2023, Premier League.
One of the most one-sided affairs we’ve witnessed this season and yet we could only scrape home with a one-goal advantage! It hardly matters what our performance was like, the result was the only thing that mattered and that win has given everyone the boost we needed to convince ourselves that there are enough more points we can garner in the last few weeks of this stressful season. That the performance was, mostly, pretty good as well is a bonus.
It didn’t start well though did it? Forest almost undid us from a left-wing corner in the opening minutes, the chest of Patrick Bamford and then the goalpost saving us that embarrassment and Lady Luck at least ensuring Denis’s flick at goal missed Bamford’s arm. But they did have the lead by the 12th minute. Denis was a real menace but didn’t get past Luke Ayling but he was able to square the ball across and Mangala deceived Sinisterra with his intentions by letting the ball run past them both before he placed an exquisite shot into the right corner. At that time Forest looked like a decent outfit and we looked worried.
Thankfully, that was all Forest had to offer and that proved to be their one shot on target in the whole game. Meanwhile, Leeds slowly got into gear and with Sinisterra looking to have quickly found the flare we briefly saw early in the season and Jack Harrison back to his best, it was mostly Leeds attack v Forest defence for the rest of the evening.
That early shock to the system could have rocked weaker teams than ours but it was vital we got back on terms quickly which we did in some style in the 20th minute. Harrison started the move on the right, moved inside before shuffling the ball to McKennie, still outside the Forest area but McKennie then earned his stripes and showed why he stars for the USA (hope you saw what I did there!). McKennie nonchalantly played the ball first time, flicking it to his left with his right boot to where he knew Marc Roco was unmarked and in acres of space. McKennie then stood stock still and watched as Roca took aim and fired towards the bottom right corner. The keeper made a bit of a Horlicks of the save and it bounced up invitingly for Harrison to run in and place it cleverly into the opposite corner on the half volley. It was a lovely move and a typical bit of Jack Harrison finishing. If you get the chance to watch the goal back keep your eye on McKennie though, he was the epitome of nonchalant self-control throughout!
It was all Leeds from then on with a succession of four corners and shots courtesy of Sinisterra, Koch, and the regular ‘kick and miss’ from Patrick Bamford who still looks lacking in sharpness although no one can argue that his hold-up play was useful all through the game. He has to stay on his feet more though as referees are not falling for his attempts to win free-kicks. It was starting to look like so many games this season; Leeds playing well in two-thirds of the pitch but when it came to the final third little was done well. Until the 1st minute of added time in that first half; enter stage left, Luis Sinisterra.
Sini collected the ball on the left from Junior Firpo and then proceeded to taunt and tease both Mangala and Williams going one way and then the other and finally getting the yard he needed to thread his right foot shot through a whole host of Forest defenders and just inside the far post. It was a little cameo of what we have missed albeit we know we have three wingers who can do that – not only Sini but Cry and Willy are just as capable on their day.
The second half continued that familiar Leeds United trait; loads of possession, loads of nearly balls in and around the opposition box, and loads of missed chances. The best effort came from Sinisterra again. He almost reprised his first-half goal but just curled this one around the right post. The two worst misses came from Patrick Bamford, who was given a free shot when a Forest defensive header when wrong but Paddy lashed well wide, and then, with the last kick of the game, Crysencio Summerville, who was through on goal but somehow managed to clip the ball wide as he was closed down by the keeper. On another day those misses could have been so costly and it remains a worry that we are so wasteful when closing in on goal.
But, as I started with, the result was everything and the performance at least suggests there is no reason why we shouldn’t give any team a battle. It all starts again on Sunday with what looks like another must-win game, against ‘Woy’s’ Crystal Palace. Win that one, and hearts can return to a more normal beat.
Leeds Utd N'gham F
Possession 63% 37%
Shots 21 13
On Target 6 1
Corners 11 4
Fouls 11 13