With Neil Warnock at the helm following the dismissal of Simon Grayson, Leeds United harvested hopes of reaching the play-offs entering the latter stages of the season.
Their encounter with Nottingham Forest came as they sat tenth in the table. Forest, on the other hand, lingered dangerously close to the bottom three.
Managed by Steve Cotterill, the Reds were twentieth in the table and travelled to Elland Road off the back of a 1-0 defeat to rivals Derby County.
Story of the Match
The home side started brightly and got their reward inside the first ten minutes. Ross McCormack, starting up top for the Whites, weaved into the box where he was met, clumsily, by Forest midfielder Adlene Guedioura.
A penalty was awarded in the sixth minute and despatched confidently by current West Ham United star Robert Snodgrass.
Guedioura made up for his mistake instantly. A thunderbolt from thirty-odd yards left Leeds ‘keeper Andy Lonergan bundled on the floor as Guedioura wheeled off in celebration; levelling the scores after just eight minutes gone with a goal that would be voted Forest’s best of the season.
The away side took the lead on the stroke of half time as Gareth McCleary left three Leeds players sprawled on the ground with the ball in the back of the net.
With Forest 2-1 up at the break, Leeds were booed off the pitch as Neil Warnock was left still searching for his first home win.
The fans reaction seemingly gave the Whites very little impetus. Dexter Blackstock, future Leeds loanee, gave the Reds a 3-1 lead seven minutes after the break, nodding home a typically perfect Andy Reid cross.
This time, Leeds responded. Two goals in as many minutes levelled the scores again. Firstly, Argentine striker Luciano Becchio took advantage of some shoddy defending finishing from inside the six-yard box, before former Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Michael Brown fired in on the half-volley from twenty yards.
Any chance of a comeback was quickly thwarted, however.
Gareth McCleary put the visitors back in front with a half-volley of his own just one minute after Brown's equaliser. With the scores at 4-3, fans had been treated to four goals in five minutes, two for each side.
However, supporters were only given a short time to catch their breath, as McCleary rounded out his hat-trick on the sixtieth minute- 5-3 Forest.
McCleary scored his third in fifteen minutes and fourth of the game on the seventy-first minute, killing off any chance of a Leeds comeback.
With the stadium already emptying, Blackstock made it seven for Forest, slotting it past Lonergan in the eighty-first minute.
The result moved Forest up to nineteenth in the table whereas Leeds remained tenth. Ultimately Forest survived and Leeds play-off bid succumbed significantly with the White’s slumping to fourteenth by the end of the season.
Of the result Warnock noted:
“I’m quite embarrassed about the result. I don't think you learn much about your players when you're winning games, I think you learn things when things go against you, who stands up and who you want in the trenches with you.”
What Warnock learnt evidently proved to matter very little. Failing to keep Leeds inside the play-offs on a consistent basis the following season, he was relieved of his duties on April Fools’ Day with Leeds lingering twelfth in the table.
As for Forest, Steve Cotterill recognised the game's entertainment factor.
"It was a stunning game, I know we've won but Leeds United played their part as well. "I thought it was an outstanding game by both teams.”
Cotterill was quick to heap praise on four-goal phenomenon Gareth McCleary:
“He's a special talent, he's raw, he's got two good feet, he can head it, he's strong. I think he can go on to be even better, I think he's a top lad.”
McCleary would go on to be Forest’s top scorer with nine.
Cotterill was sacked in the summer and replaced by Sean O’Driscoll.
Often labelled as English football’s sleeping giants, neither Forest or Leeds have enjoyed success in recent years. However, with both sides inside the Championship’s top six could this year be the year they return to the top-flight?