United suffer narrow defeat to Nottingham Forest...

UNITED 0, FOREST 1 (Oliveira 60)

United team: Silvestri, Wootton (Adeyemi 90), Bellusci, Cooper, Taylor, Cook, Bridcutt, Diagouraga (Erwin 81), Dallas (Carayol 70), Doukara, Antenucci. Subs: Peacock-Farrell, Coyle, Bamba, Murphy.

Forest team: De Vries, Lichaj, Mills, Mancienne, Jokic, Vaughan, Tesche, Gardner, Osborn, Ward (Burke 75), Oliveira (Blackstock 88). Subs: Evtimov, Cohen, Hobbs, Mendes, Grant.

Referee: Scott Duncan

Booked: Bridcutt (United)

Att: 24,079 (2,266 Forest)

The visit of Nottingham Forest saw United head coach Steve Evans make just the one change from the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round victory over Bolton Wanderers seven days earlier, with Liam Cooper returning from injury to replace Sol Bamba in defence and also taking the captain’s armband in the process.

It was a lively start to proceedings at Elland Road, with United creating the game’s first opening after just three minutes as Souleymane Doukara towered a header agonisingly wide of Dorus De Vries’ far post after rising to meet Stuart Dallas’ right-wing cross inside the area.

Forest soon threatened at the opposite end, Nelson Castro Oliveira firing into the arms of Marco Silvestri from a tight angle after working his way behind the Leeds defence, but it was the hosts who were controlling possession during the early stages.

Liam Bridcutt then hammered a first-time strike well over the Forest crossbar from distance, while Oliveira dragged another low effort straight at Silvestri at the opposite end.

The visitors were starting to come into the game and twice tried their luck from distance, with Silvestri clutching Jamie Ward’s dipping half-volley before midfielder Gary Gardner rattled the United crossbar with a ferocious 25-yard effort.

Ben Osborn was the next to let fly from range, and it was his strike which created Forest’s clearest chance in the opening half-hour as a huge deflection off Giuseppe Bellusci saw the ball fall kindly for Robert Tesche 10 yards out, only for the midfielder to lash his volley into the South Stand.

Leeds looked to re-find their rhythm and Doukara dragged a low effort wide from 25 yards after being found by home debutant Toumani Diagouraga, but Forest continued to cause problems on the counter-attack and one-time Elland Road loanee Eric Lichaj drilled a rasping first-time strike wide as the game remained goalless going into the interval. 

Both sides re-emerged unchanged for the second half and United started on the front foot, with Scott Wootton firing into the arms of De Vries from the edge of the area before Dallas fizzed a low attempt wide after driving towards the Forest area.

Charlie Taylor then needed to be alert at the opposite end to deny Ward a close-range tap-in for the visitors with a crucial block after Oliveira’s cutback, before Silvestri got down sharply to his right to clutch Ward’s curling effort.

The visitors managed to break the deadlock on the hour mark, though, and it was the goalscorer from December’s reverse fixture at the City Ground, Oliveira, who wheeled away in celebration after stooping to head home Gardner’s right-wing cross.

Forest’s tails were up and Tesche fizzed a powerful strike over Silvestri’s bar within minutes of the opener, but United chased a quick response and Doukara squeezed in a low effort on the turn which De Vries managed to gather after palming away the initial strike.

Evans was soon prompted into his first change of the afternoon, introducing Mustapha Carayol in place of Dallas, and the on-loan winger was soon causing problems for the Forest defence with his pace and direct running.

Lee Erwin was also brought on in place of Diagouraga as United sent men forward in search of an equaliser in the final 10 minutes.

But, despite some end-to-end football in the closing stages, with De Vries denying Carayol’s strike from range and Oliveira flashing wide for the visitors, there proved to be no late drama and Forest saw the game out to collect all three points.