To mis-quote the Christmas song, it’s beginning to look at lot like mid table, with every game that goes.
Leeds arrived for their seemingly annual festive fixture at the City Ground (why always them?) and put an end to a four game home winning streak.
Highly-rated Sam Byram’s crisply struck effort earned a share of the spoils and left us in 13th, 8 points off the top six, and 8 off the bottom three: the very definition of mid table obscurity.
In truth, if Freedman’s Reds were to mount an unlikely play-off charge then this is the sort of game they need to win. Nelson Oliveira’s sixth goal of the season came as a well wrapped gift – with walkabout keeper Marco Silvestri and the Leeds defence conspiring to let him in – but it was a good finish nevertheless.
Although they dominated the ball early on, the visitors didn’t really threaten Dorus De Vries. Byram, Bridcutt, Murphy, Cook and Dallas all looked comfortable on the ball but striker Chris Wood was isolated and dealt with well by Jack Hobbs and Matt Mills.
It was another home performance built on the tireless work of an imperious David Vaughan. The Welshman would surely win the player of the year title hands down if voting were done now. He tackled, pressed and passed us into the game and was at the heart of everything.
Leeds continued to have the lion’s share of possession but you always felt that a second goal would kill them off ala Fulham and Reading. Instead, the away side played with much greater purpose after the break.
Steve Evans threw on Doukara and then Antenucci and got his reward through Byram who, by all accounts, might soon be off to pastures new. He’ll be missed.
Freedman, on the other hand, didn’t have one of his better days. Ryan Mendes might be a player who makes you tear your hair out – ironic perhaps given his magnificent mop – but once he was replaced we lacked a little pace on the counter attack and Leeds found it easier to dominate. Chris O’Grady had faded after a fantastic first half but replacing him with Robert Tesche again gave ground to the visitors and pushed a lucky-to-be-left-on Henri Lansbury further up the pitch.
Evans, sporting a seasonal Santa Claus-esque physique, crowed after the match that if it’d been a boxing match the towel would’ve been thrown in. Yet, while his charges might’ve had about 60% of the ball, he ignored the fact that Forest actually had more shots on and off target.
The game was fairly end-to-end as full time approached, with Jamie Ward and Nelson Oliveira not quite able to land a killer blow on the counter and Antenucci wasting a good chance.
Evans presumably wasn’t watching when the excellent Oliver Burke rattled the post late on. Burke had been a breath of fresh air when he came on and certainly did enough to show he’s worth more game time. As the cliché goes, it would’ve been a goal worthy of winning any game and was the closest either side got to earning three points.
In truth, though, this was a distinctly mid table clash by two distinctly mid table sides. Given the circumstances of the season, we might well consider mid table obscurity worth cheering about this year. The goal for next year is to get good enough to kill games like this off.