WITH Halloween fast approaching, luckless Luke Ayling must be lamenting spooky coincidences.
Leeds United’s first-choice right-back looks like facing another long spell on the sidelines after limping out of Saturday’s 1-1 Championship home draw with Nottingham Forest with a knee injury.
He was forced off in the 26th minute with what coach Marco Bielsa described as “an important injury.” Ayling will have a scan on Monday to assess the damage.
Ayling missed four months action last season after going off with an ankle injury on New Year’s Day in the same minute, against the same opposition in the same Elland Road stadium.
With fellow full-backs Barry Douglas and Gaetano Beradi also sidelined by injury this season, the position – one of the most important in the way Bielsa sets up his team – is causing the Whites’ defensive headaches.
While United may have been unlucky with injuries, they did get a huge slice of fortune to claim a point as Kemar Roofe’s 82nd minute equaliser was bundled over the line with his hand.
The Forest players were incensed and implored Geoff Eltringham to reverse his decision, only for the referee to award the goal after a lengthy discussion with his linesman.
Roofe did admit after the match that the ball had struck his hand. “I just saw the ball flash across and the ball hit my hand,” he told Sky Sports. “Call it ball to hand, it’s a goal, it’s up to the ref to give it and he gave it.”
Although Forest naturally feel aggrieved about the goal, Bielsa felt that it was unjust that dominant Leeds did not win when analysing all the aspects of the game.
Jack Robinson’s slow-motion header from a corner on 11 minutes gave Forest the lead but other than that the visitors offered next to nothing in attack.
Bielsa said: “Apart from the goal and one more incident the opponent didn’t create any danger against us. We had five chances to score in each half and attacked the whole game. We attacked well and I’ve got no criticism of my team. I think the draw is not enough to give the team the reward they deserve.”
Forest defended brilliantly, repelling wave after wave of Leeds attacks in the second half but ultimately paid the price for not going for a second killer goal.
Adam Forshaw, making his first start of the season, came in for the gifted Samuel Saiz, and was the mainspring in United’s midfield. However, he and Kalvin Phillips were too similar in their roles and it was only when Saiz came on that space was created for Mateusz Klich to come into the game.
Seventeen-year-old winger Jack Clarke also enhanced his claims for a starting place with an excellent half-hour cameo. The fact he got on the bench ahead of the more experienced Manchester City loanee Jack Harrison hints that Bielsa may be thinking a start from the youngster is not too far away.
Leeds, in second place, two points adrift of leaders Sheffield United, are next in action at Wigan next Sunday lunchtime and hope that Douglas may be fit to return to fill one of the full-back problem spots.
Leeds United: Peacock-Farrell, Ayling, Dallas, Cooper, Jansson, Klich, Phillips, Forshaw, Alioski, Hernandez, Roofe. Subs: Blackman, Pearce, Shackleton, Baker, Clarke, Saiz, Roberts. Caution: Phillips
Nottingham Forest: Pantilimon, Darwikwa, Figueiredo, Robinson, Fox (Dawson 49), Colback, Guedioura, Cash (Dias 86), Carvalho, Lolley (Osborn 68), Grabban. Subs: Steele, Soudani, Watson, Janko. Cautions: Grabban, Colback, Carvalho, Dias
Referee: Geoff Eltingham Att: 34,308