A penalty 11 minutes into the second half, created and scored by their Dutch striker Bryan Roy, ultimately settled a vigorous contest in the Nottingham side's favour, enabling them to move up to fifth in the Premiership and leave Leeds well adrift in mid-table.
The penalty award in some ways mirrored the incident in last Sunday's televised FA Cup tie when the referee, Alan Wilkie, heeded a linesman in giving Aston Villa their decisive spot-kick. Last night, Wilkie was again guided by one of his touchline officials in ruling that Carlton Palmer had handled Roy's cross.
Palmer was fortunate that the penalty was his only punishment, having taken it upon himself to contest the decision more vehemently than was probably wise. The referee was lenient but there was no let-off from Roy, who dispatched the kick out of Mark Beeney's reach.
Palmer had another reason to feel aggrieved, however; barely two minutes earlier he had forced home an equaliser, stabbing the ball in from close range after Chris Bart-Williams had failed to clear Gary McAllister's corner. Given Forest's current scoring problems - they average less than a goal per game - Leeds might have backed themselves to seize the initiative.
However, victory was probably no more than Forest deserved, having responded to the loss of Steve Stone through injury with a performance of commendable endeavour, which drew praise from their manager, Frank Clark.
Stone's absence, because of a bruised foot, persuaded Clark to gamble by playing three strikers, which placed a burden on his midfield but created fresh options up front, with Andrea Silenzi, the rarely employed Italian, drafted in to partner Roy and Kevin Campbell. "Considering that they had so little time to work with the new system I felt the players coped well," Clark said. "But then they worked very hard to make the gamble pay off."
Their numerical advantage in midfield allowed Leeds to pressurise the Forest defence with more frequency than they otherwise might, which Clark to concede that "we were hanging on at the end." But Leeds, none the less, could find no one capable of finishing in the manner in which Campbell had given Forest their first-half lead.
Goals have been scarce from the pounds 2.5m striker since his move from Arsenal - last night's was only his fourth in 16 games - but the sidestep with which he wrong-footed Richard Jobson and the power of his left-foot shot suggested the confidence he has lacked is surging back.
Nottingham Forest (4-3-3): Crossley; Lyttle (Haland, 89), Cooper, Chettle, Phillips; Gemmill, Bart-Williams, Woan; Silenzi (Howe, 81), Campbell, Roy. Substitute not used: Lee.
Leeds United (4-4-2): Beeney; Kelly, Palmer, Jobson, Dorigo (Bowman, 89); Couzens (Gray, 75), McAllister, Speed, Wallace; Deane, Brolin (Tinkler, 75).
Referee: A Wilkie (Chester-le-Street).Reuse content