Leeds 3 Nottingham Forest 7: McCleary runs riot as 'Sunday League' Leeds torn apart
23:44 GMT, 20 March 2012
Garath McCleary came up with a convincing argument for being kept on by cash-strapped Nottingham Forest after shaping one of the scorelines of the season at a stunned Elland Road.
The midfielder, 24, is out of contract in the summer and has yet to be offered new terms, due to Forest’s financial crisis.
Manager Steve Cotterill may just be tempted to pass a begging bowl round the City Ground, though, after McCleary scored four times to wreck Leeds’ faint play-off hopes.
Pure delight: Nottingham Forest put a serious dent in Leeds' promotion hopes at Elland Road
Leeds: Lonergan, Connolly, Lees, O'Dea, Robinson (Pugh 66), White (Webber 46), Clayton, Brown, Snodgrass,Becchio (Paynter 80), McCormack.
Subs Not Used: Forssell,Thompson
Goals: Snodgrass 6 pen, Becchio 53, Brown 55
Nottm Forest: Camp, Gunter, Chambers, Lynch, Cunningham, McCleary, Moussi (McGugan 86), Guedioura, Reid, Blackstock (Miller 84), Majewski (Wootton 84).
Subs Not Used: Smith, Greening.
Goals: Guedioura 8, McCleary 45,Blackstock 52, McCleary 56,60,71, Blackstock 81.
Ref: Eddie Ilderton (Tyne & Wear).
‘Garath is a wonderful boy,’ beamed Cotterill.
‘He has scored more goals tonight than he had appearances last season, but he is a special talent. I’ve never been in charge of a team that’s scored seven, and to do it at a place like this makes it even better.’
It was the first time Leeds have ever conceded seven at home in the League, but there was little sign of the mayhem to come when Adlene Guedioura tripped Ross McCormack for a sixth-minute penalty that Robert Snodgrass converted.
Guedioura made amends with a 35-yard strike Leeds legend Peter Lorimer would have been proud of in the eighth minute.
Guedioura looked like hogging the headlines after leading a lightning-quick 45th-minute breakaway and setting up McCleary for a drive that went in off the underside of the bar.
It was McCleary who took top billing, though, once Dexter Blackstock had put Forest 3-1 ahead with a far-post header in the 52nd minute.
Luciano Becchio bundled home a Snodgrass cutback in the 53rd minute and Leeds were level two minutes later through Michael Brown’s 20-yard strike.
Their joy was short-lived, as McCleary spectacularly volleyed home a Blackstock flick-on in the 56th minute and completed his hat-trick on the hour.
McCleary cut in from the right and beat Lonergan in the 71st minute, and the play-offs could hardly have been further from Neil Warnock’s thoughts when Forest made it seven in the 81st minute, as Blackstock seized on defensive uncertainty.
Head boy: Dexter Blackstock jumped highest at the back post to make it 3-1
High five: Forest's Garath McCleary grabbed four of his side's goals
The Leeds boss, who faces a
pre-arranged session with fans at Elland Road tomorrow, said: ‘I’m quite
embarrassed by the result, but you learn more about your players at
moments like this, rather than when you’re winning. It tells you who is
prepared to stand up and be counted, who you want alongside you in the
‘We fought back really well to get to 3-3, but their fourth goal was straight off a Sunday League pitch. That demoralises you.’
Don't get used to it: Robert Snodgrass had earlier given Leeds a firm footing in the game
Upset: Leeds boss Neil Warnock saw his side ripped apart at home