The Mark Halsey show ends all square
Wednesday, 13th Feb 2008 18:22
Leeds United 1 Nottingham Forest 1
It was an improved showing from Leeds, but Nottingham Forest also played well, and in the end a draw was probably a fair result. We needed a late penalty to claim our share of the points, one of several controversial decisions by Mark Halsey.
Yes, with two famous clubs contesting this fixture, they thought we needed a ref who also had delusions of being too good for this division, and it was wasn’t long before Halsey’s performance was greeted by chants of “Premiership, you’re having a laugh!” They say that the ref has a good game when you don’t notice him, and oh boy, did we notice this clown throughout the ninety minutes.
Our starting line-up was unchanged from the trip to Northampton, as Frazer Richardson had to be content with a place on the bench even though he had recovered from his latest injury. There was a frantic opening to the game and for once the Leeds midfield seemed eager for the battle ahead, and we showed signs of playing the neat passing football that Mc.Allister has said that he wants to introduce.
All the same, we found it hard to create anything up front, with Kandol ineffectual and Beckford tightly marked. Our best effort came when Howson did well to control the ball and shoot from outside the area, but Forest keeper Paul Smith managed to get behind it. In the chip shop queue before the game I heard some Forest fans moaning about Calderwood’s negative tactics, but by all accounts this was one of their more adventurous peformances away from home. They threatened a few times on the break, and Commons should have done better than to shoot well over the bar when Hoskins’ through ball set him up.
There was also a farcial 30 seconds when nobody was sure if the indecisive Halsey had ordered a free kick to be re-taken or not. I think he was allowing play to continue until he realised that the Leeds players had stopped and Forest were about to score, so he blew his whistle and stopped them in their tracks! To even things up he declined to give us a penalty for an alleged handball on 32 minutes, but it could well have been ball to hand in any case, so a spot kick might have been a bit harsh.
Just before half time Beckford beat his man on the halfway line with a great turn but was forced into a narrow angle as he ran through, and his shot was so wide that Halsey was fooled into giving a corner for a non-existent deflection! After the break Forest posed more of an attacking threat, with Tyson finding a lot of space down their right, and three times he put dangerous balls across the face of goal which they just failed to convert.
On 53 minutes we had a much better shout for a penalty for handball, which Halsey also declined, and at the other end Chambers headed wide after the defence allowed him a free header. Our luck run out after 69 minutes and Forest took the lead, with yet another move that came down their right. This time it was Commons who got free on that side and he delivered an excellent cross, which Bennett headed past Ankergren. We seemed to be doomed three minutes later when Tyson chipped Ankergren from outside the area, but somehow our custodian got back in time to turn it round the post.
Macca put Sweeney and Flo on to try and get back into the game, and Leeds began to make a fight of it, roared on by the majority of the crowd of 29,552. Beckord beat the keeper with a fine header which a defender somehow managed to clear off the line, and Flo and Sweeney also had shots deflected to safety. But with eight minutes left Mark Halsey awarded Leeds a penalty, ruling that Kenton had been fouled in yet another goalmouth scramble.
It was less of a penalty than the handball he turned down earlier in the half, and he had to wave away some furious protests from the Forest players. But Beckford was unruffled, and he calmly sent Smith the wrong way as he placed the ball inside the right-hand post. Elding came on for the last couple of minutes and sent a header narrowly wide right at the death, but we had to be content with a point.
With Doncaster winning, this result was probably not enough to maintain any serious chance of finishing in the top two, unless Ken is successful in getting the 15 points back in the High Court. But at last the new signings are beginning to get it together, and we did well to battle our way back into the game when we could well have lost. Let’s hope we can continue the improvement in the vital game at Doncaster on Saturday.
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