After improved defensive displays since Neil Warnock took over as manager Leeds looked anything but safe at the back and were undone by classy forward displays by four-goal Garath McCleary and two-goal Dexter Blackstock.
They were simply all over the place and although they got back to 3-3 with more than half-an-hour to go a mixture of incompetent defending, great finishing and a few bad decisions by the officials contributed to an amazing night.
In an incredible period early in the second half every single shot flew into the net with five goals in seven mad minutes.
Despite 10 goals in total the game was not as entertaining as it might have appeared with Leeds looking tired after their efforts in their 1-1 draw with West Ham on Saturday and unable to play the high tempo pressure game they have been sent out to do since Warnock took over.
Significantly Forest were fresher having not played at the weekend and it ultimately showed, although not at the start as it was the Whites who struck first.
Ross McCormack made a superb start and after several threatening runs in the first few minutes he was stopped illegally by a foul in the area by Adlene Guedioura to win a sixth minute penalty. Skipper Robert Snodgrass stepped up to confidently convert United’s first spot kick of 2012.
The first sign that this was not going to be a straight forward night came as the lead lasted only two minutes with Guedioura instantly making up for his error with a 25-yard strike that proved too powerful for home keeper Andy Lonergan.
Forest edged the rest of the half, although there was little sign of the carnage to come until the game entered injury-time. It looked like Leeds were finishing the half strongly, but after Aidan White saw his close range flick blocked the visitors broke away soon after and McCleary’s shot from the edge of the box was too strong for Lonergan, who got a hand to the ball only to help into it into the net.
The fun really started in the second half as Forest made it 3-1 after being awarded a controversial corner. After it was only half-cleared Andy Reid’s cross made it all the way to the far post where Blackstock out jumped Paul Robinson to head home.
Within four minutes it was 3-3, however, as out of the blue United produced a good move down the right and Snodgrass’s cross was turned in by Becchio for his tenth goal of the season. The very next attack saw the ball fall to Michael Brown on the edge of the box and in an instant he chested it down and struck a sweet shot with the outside of his foot to level the game.
There was hardly time for celebrations to die down as Forest went straight down the other end and McCleary scored with an equally spectacular shot from an angle that gave Lonergan no chance.
The fifth goal in seven minutes proved the most crucial as it went to the visitors. There appeared to be a foul and a handball in the build-up, but referee Eddie Ilderton ignored appeals and Reid’s pull back was met by McCleary, who completed his hat-trick with a shot that went under Lonergan.
Shellshocked Leeds cleared their heads and came close to a fourth goal when Snodgrass’s volley was well saved by Forest keeper Lee Camp.
But it was effectively game over in the 71st minute when McCleary netted again after easily beating substitute Danny Pugh in a run into the box from his wide right position.
Blackstock ensured Forest went into the record books when he bagged his side’s seventh goal eight minutes from time, racing through the middle and shrugging off Tom Lees to score.
United should have had a late consolation, but McCormack shot over when well placed in the box. His effort summed up the night for United and they are now facing an uphill task if they are to get up into the top six.
Leeds United 3
(Snodgrass 6, pen, Becchio 54, Brown 56)
Nottingham Forest 7
(Guedioura 8, McCleary 45, 57, 59, 71, Blackstock 52, 82)
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Leeds: Lonergan, Connolly, Lees, O’Dea, Robinson (Pugh 66), White (Webber 45), Clayton, Brown, Snodgrass, McCormack, Becchio (Paynter 80).
Forest: Camp, Gunter, Chambers, Lynch, Cunningham, McCleary, Guedioura, Moussi (McGugan 86), Reid, Majewski (Wootton 84), Blackstock (Miller 84).
Referee: Eddie Ilderton.