United held to 0-0 draw with Nottingham Forest...
UNITED 0, FOREST 0
United: Silvestri, Wootton, Bamba, Bellusci, Berardi, Cook, Murphy, Mowatt, C Taylor (Doukara 79), Morison (Antenucci 67), Sharp. Subs. S Taylor, Cooper, Sloth, Phillips, Cani.
Forest: Darlow, Lichaj, Lascelles, Wilson, Mancienne, Burke, Gardner, Osborn, Lansbury, Antonio, Blackstock. Subs. Evtimov, Collins, Fox, Paterson, Vaughan, Veldwijk, Walker.
Referee: K Hill
Booked: Bellusci, Morison, Mowatt, Murphy (United)
Att: 30,722 (2,657 Forest)
The visit of Nottingham Forest saw United head coach Neil Redfearn name an unchanged starting line-up from the previous weekend's 1-0 victory away to Wigan. Liam Cooper and Casper Sloth returned from injury to occupy places among the substitutes, but the game came too soon for Sam Byram and Rodolph Austin.
Backed by the biggest Elland Road crowd of the season so far, it was United who made the brighter start as Steve Morison headed into Karl Darlow’s arms after some fine build-up play involving Lewis Cook and Alex Mowatt, with Redfearn’s side probing for an early way through.
And the best opening of the early stages came inside the 10th minute through the unlikely source of Charlie Taylor. Some persistent play down the right from Mowatt teed up Luke Murphy on the edge of the box and his effort deflected kindly into the path of Taylor at the back post, only for Darlow to deny him a first United goal with a sprawling save.
It took Forest 21 minutes to muster their first sight of goal but Marco Silvestri was equal to it and comfortably clutched Ben Osborn’s curling effort from just outside the box. At the opposite end, Steve Morison glanced wide from an inviting Mowatt free-kick as the deadlock remained intact.
It was an end-to-end start to proceedings and the United defence needed to stand firm to block Osborn in front of goal before Jamaal Lascelles turned the resulting corner over the bar from close-range with a scuffed effort into the ground.
The lively Michail Antonio then dragged wide for the visitors after cutting in from the right, while Taylor could only curl into the arms of Darlow following another swift United break up-field.
On the stroke of half-time, Taylor’s cross was blocked by Darlow at his near post after a surging run down the left, and referee Keith Hill signalled for the break after a largely even but ultimately goalless opening 45 minutes with chances for both sides.
The two teams re-emerged unchanged and it was Forest who had the second half’s first sight of goal as Antonio dragged harmlessly into Silvestri’s arms.
United soon stepped things up, though, and Billy Sharp just found himself crowded out inside the area as he looked to meet Morison’s flick after a long throw from full-back Gaetano Berardi.
It was a lively start to the second period and Taylor was threatening again down the left, this time latching onto Osborn’s loose ball and driving forward before lashing a dipping strike over Darlow’s crossbar. Silvestri then had to be alert to rush off his line and smother at the feet of the advancing Antonio as the game passed the hour-mark.
Redfearn was prompted into his first substitution of the afternoon on 67 minutes, replacing Morison with Mirco Antenucci out on the right, but it was Forest the better of the play as former United loanee Eric Lichaj fired into the arms of Silvestri from range.
And the Italian shot-stopper came to United’s rescue moments later, getting down sharply to his right to push away Chris Burke’s low strike which looked destined for the bottom corner with a strong, one-handed save.
Souleymane Doukara was introduced for Taylor as the game approached its final 10 minutes, with the three forwards on the pitch seeming to suggest that a solitary point was hardly on Redfearn’s agenda.
A bout of United pressure followed as Mowatt’s side-footed effort was blocked in front of goal before Darlow got down well to clutch Antenucci’s drilled rebound after the ball had rolled kindly into his path.
The game entered four minutes of stoppage time and Henri Lansbury floated a free-kick over Silvestri’s bar, but there proved to be no way through for either side as the spoils were shared.