FOR­EST FORM HITS LOW-KEY BLIP IN LEEDS

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Steven Chicken

SOME­TIMES, with the end of the sea­son in sight, you get a clash be­tween two sides with noth­ing to play for and the play­ers just go for it, rev­el­ling in the lib­erty of ex­pec­ta­tions be­ing ban­ished un­til Au­gust.

This match was a fan­tas­tic ex­am­ple of the op­po­site: 22 play­ers who look like they can’t wait for their sum­mer break to start in May.

That is surely not ac­tu­ally the case for For­est, who have sparked talk of a late play-off push af­ter an eight-game run fea­tur­ing 22 goals scored, just one loss, and six wins, in­clud­ing vic­to­ries over high-fly­ing Bournemouth and Mid­dles­brough.

But if such spec­u­la­tion is to prove cred­i­ble, For­est fans had bet­ter hope that this timid dis­play turns out to be a mere blip in an ex­tended good run.

They might also fol­low manager Dougie Freed­man’s lead in ob­serv­ing that a point away from home is rarely a bad thing for any team.

He said: “I think be­cause of the run we’re on, we have a group of play­ers who feel they can come to Leeds and win, and they ex­pect to win.

“The feel­ing in the dress­ing room is one of dis­ap­point­ment, but when I take a deep breath on Mon­day morn­ing I think it’ll still be a good point, even though other teams lost around and about us.

“We had an out­side chance of the play-offs be­fore the game and we still do.

“The most ex­cit­ing thing for me is that we’ve got to play Wolves and Brent­ford in the next four games, and we’ll soon see where we are af­ter those games.

“I wouldn’t say it’s in our hands, but we’ve still got that out­side op­por­tu­nity be­cause we need to play those teams.”

Leeds had also looked danger­ous go­ing into this game, mov­ing well clear of the rel­e­ga­tion zone with a run of seven wins in their pre­vi­ous ten games.

But they showed why midtable has been the limit of their am­bi­tions this year, with some nice foot­ball in the first half giv­ing way to a te­dious sec­ond spell – a pity in front of Leeds’ largest crowd for 13 months, with more than 30,000 in at­ten­dance at El­land Road.

Char­lie Tay­lor had the best ef­fort of the game just 11 min­utes in, with Karl Dar­low com­ing off his line to close down the young­ster’s shot from a nar­row an­gle.

For­est winger Michail An­to­nio should have done bet­ter on three sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions, throw­ing the Leeds de­fence into dis­ar­ray with good drib­bling on the counter attack be­fore end­ing each run with a frus­trat­ingly tame ef­fort on goal that caused United no trou­ble.

For­est’s only danger­ous look­ing strike – a low Chris Burke ef­fort in the 73rd minute – was kept out by Marco Silvestri.

Leeds sub­sti­tute Mirco An­tenucci then tested Dar­low six min­utes from time with a de­cent low fol­low-up to Alex Mowatt’s blocked shot.

United boss Neil Red­fearn said: “It was prob­a­bly the right re­sult. “I thought we had the best chance of the game, the one that fell to Char­lie Tay­lor, and I think he should have scored if I’m hon­est.

“And then chances were few and far be­tween.

“There was some good play and both sides played well, both tight at the back.

“When I took the job full-time, my re­mit was just to keep us in the Cham­pi­onship, be­cause I think we were two points above the drop.

“So to get our­selves in this po­si­tion with nine games to go now is an achieve­ment for every­body at the club.

“Be­cause it was look­ing dicey at one point.

“Ob­vi­ously we want to try and build on this now and take some con­fi­dence into next sea­son.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Images

GREAT SCOTT: Scott Woot­ton tus­sles with For­est’s Michail An­to­nio. Inset: Char­lie Tay­lor of Leeds United has a shot saved by Karl Dar­low

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