Leeds United's under-23s produce stunning performance to fell Nottingham Forest
Friday, 9th Feb 2018 18:07 by @LucasMonk_
Andy Lonergan, Ronaldo Vieira and Hadi Sacko were among the first-team players in attendance as Leeds United's stars of the future enjoyed an exceedingly good day at the office...
Nottingham Forest's imperious undefeated streak in the Professional Development League is now in tatters after Leeds United inflicted their first defeat in the division since September by emerging from this afternoon's match at Thorp Arch as comfortable 5-1 winners.
Oliver Šarkić, Oriol Rey, Adrian Balboa, Paudie O'Connor and Tom Pearce were all on target for United, who led 4-1 at half-time.
Leeds made a sprightly start to the match and found themselves ahead after merely four minutes, when Šarkić, who signed a permanent contract with the club last month, converted Pearce's sumptuous set piece delivery from after Alex Iacovitti's last-ditch tackle presented the striker with a tap-in.
And it soon got better for United when another excellent delivery by Pearce was eventually seized upon by midfielder Oriol Rey, who coolly guided the ball past Forest custodian Tim Erlandsson at the back post.
After a torrid opening 15 minutes, the Reds, managed by midfielder Chris Cohen and Professional Development Coach Gareth Holmes, grew in confidence and they soon halved the deficit through striking hotshot Virgil Gomis.
Having appeared to have taken a poor first touch after racing onto an excellent slide-rule ball by Yassin En-Neyah, Gomis composed himself before prodding the ball past the onrushing Bailey Peacock-Farrell in the Leeds goal.
Just seconds later, Gomis found himself presented with an opportunity to restore parity for Forest - but a crucial last-ditch from O'Connor preserved United's slender lead.
The visitors were made to rue that missed opportunity following a lengthy stoppage in play, after which Šarkić left the field owing to injury. Jack Clarke produced a particularly alacritous piece of wide play to create space for a cross and his subsequent delivery was turned home by Adrian Balboa, who turned the ball home to restore his team's two-goal cushion.
That goal really knocked the stuffing out of Forest, who went on to concede a fourth goal shortly before the half-time interlude. Erlandsson produced a fine save following a threatening attack by the hosts only to see the ball serendipitously fall for O'Connor, who planted a firm header into the back of the net to compound the visitors' misery.
United enjoyed a hegemony in midfield for the match's entirety and the performances of Rey, Callum Nicell and Alex Machuca paved the way for Pearce to score a richly deserved fifth goal.
In a manner that evoked memories of Leeds legend Eddie Gray leading defenders a merry dance, Pearce, who was unquestionably the best player on the pitch, exuded self-assurance as he evaded several defensive challenges before sweeping the ball past the hapless Erlandsson and into the bottom corner.
The final scoreline wholly reflected the dominance enjoyed by Carlos Corberán's side, whose next game fixture sees them travel to Sheffield United on Monday 19 February.
United lineup: Peacock-Farrell; Diaz, Struijk, O'Connor, Pearce; Rey, Clarke, Nicell, Machua; Šarkić, Grot.
Substitutes: Vieira Nan, Male, Balboa, Odour, Dalby.
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