A first point of the season for both sides gave greater satisfaction to Leeds and did nothing to ease the tension between Billy Davies and the City Ground hierarchy, although the volatile Forest manager had other reasons to be spoiling for a fight as he and his Leeds counterpart accused each other's players of deliberately stamping on opponents.
Davies and Simon Grayson were at odds over an incident in the final quarter of the game when Forest's Chris Gunter and Sanchez Watt of Leeds clashed in the Forest penalty area, both appearing to stamp on each other. It sparked a mêlée involving up to 15 players after which the referee Tony Gale, following consultation with his assistants, booked the chief protagonists.
Grayson argued afterwards that Gunter should have been sent off. "I've seen the DVD and it is a blatant stamp," he said. "My player has stood on Gunter's foot by accident but Gunter has stood on him deliberately and given him a dig in the back. I don't understand how they [the officials] could reach the conclusion that it should be two yellow cards."
But Davies had a different view. "Gunter reacted very poorly and naively and should not have got involved but Gunter was clearly stamped on and it was not accidental," he said. "And there were two or three on Lee Camp too."
The Forest manager invited more controversy by then suggesting that Gunter should have chosen a moment later in the game to somehow even the score, rather than react instantly. "There always comes a point in a game of football when you can correct one or two issues and that is what we need to learn," Davies said.
Davies's behaviour bore out perfectly what appeared to be a dig aimed at him by the Forest chairman, Nigel Doughty, in a two-page feature in the matchday programme in which he defended the club's recruitment policy via their transfer acquisitions panel – a source of constant irritation for the manager since he took charge 21 months ago.
"Billy's competitive flame sometimes burns a little too brightly," Doughty said.
On the field, Forest began much the better, taking the lead after nine minutes when Dexter Blackstock headed in from a Gunter cross. Moments later, after a brilliant interchange with Blackstock, Robert Earnshaw shot against a post.
But, after running Leeds ragged, Forest threw away their advantage and a casually misplaced pass by Wes Morgan led to a Leeds equaliser on 36 minutes as Lloyd Sam, Grayson's free transfer signing from Charlton Athletic, arrived at the near post on a diagonal run to flick a header across goalkeeper Camp and into the far corner.
Thereafter, Leeds were the stronger side, with Jonathan Howson and Neil Kilkenny taking charge in midfield. Forest gave the ball away frequently and created few threats to Kasper Schmeichel's goal.
Nottingham Forest 4-4-2: Camp, Gunter, Morgan, Wilson, Bertrand, Anderson (McCleary, 62), McKenna, Majewski (Tyson, 68), Cohen, Blackstock (Moussi, 83), Earnshaw. Substitutes not used Darlow (gk), Chambers, Adebola, Thornhill.
Booked Gunter, Wilson, Bertrand.
Leeds United 4-4-2: Schmeichel, Connolly, naylor, Collins, Bessone, Sam (Clayton, 89), Howson, Kilkenny, Johnson, Becchio, Watt. Substitutes not used Higgs (gk), Bruce, Grella, Hughes, Bromby, White.
Booked Kilkenny, Watt.
Man of the match Howson
Referee T Bates