On Friday Forest chairman Fawaz Al Hasawi issued a statement insisting his relationship with McLeish was cordial despite rumours to the contrary after George Boyd's move to the City Ground collapsed.
And it was Chris Burke, another man that McLeish wanted yet failed to land before the January window closed, who struck once in either half with Billy Sharp's late penalty proving to be a mere consolation for Forest.
McLeish was never likely to find any sympathy on his first return to St Andrew's as Blues fans jeered the man who was at the helm when they were relegated to the npower Championship in 2011.
His reputation was tarnished further when he left them for local rivals Aston Villa and it was clear from the moment the Scot first emerged that the home faithful had not forgotten.
Forest did start brightly, though, when Chris Cohen played a one-two with Billy Sharp before firing straight at Jack Butland, now on loan with Blues after being sold to Stoke on transfer deadline day.
At the other end Karl Darlow had to push away a loose ball at his near post after Curtis Davies' header had induced panic in the Forest box.
Sharp flashed a header from Andy Reid's cross just past the far post while Butland reacted quickly to punch clear Greg Halford's header.
Yet it was the home side who broke the deadlock when Burke showed McLeish just what he had missed out on.
The diminutive winger curled a glorious effort in off the underside of the bar from the edge of the area with his left foot.
Halford squandered a wonderful chance early in the second period when he nodded over from seven yards out when all alone.
McLeish's men nearly shot themselves in the foot when Danny Collins lost out to debutant Wes Thomas on halfway but, after racing through, he was unable to keep his effort down.
That sparked a frantic period in which Butland made two terrific saves, first from Cohen before he used his feet to deny Radoslaw Majewski from the resulting corner.
Blues then broke with a counter attack but substitute Nathan Redmond got his effort all wrong, much to the dismay of Burke who was better placed.
However, the two were to combine again 10 minutes from time to effectively seal the contest in the hosts' favour.
The exciting Redmond danced past a couple of defenders before squaring for Burke to tap in a simple second.
In truth it was harsh on McLeish's side, who displayed plenty of attacking adventure which the home fans would probably not associate with the ex-Aberdeen defender.
Forest did manage to beat Butland eventually with Sharp netting a stoppage-time spot-kick after Curtis Davies had clipped his heels.
That, however, did not stop them travelling back east pointless as the St Andrew's crowd gleefully chanted: `You're getting sacked in the morning' to McLeish.
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- Billy Sharp