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Leeds 3-1 Town
Leeds 3-1 Town
Saturday, 21st Jan 2012 17:18

Town were again guilty of suicidal defending as Leeds came from behind to win 3-1 at Elland Road. The excellent Andy Drury put the Blues ahead in the first half and Town looked on their way to the three points until a succession of calamitous defensive errors saw keeper Alex McCarthy sent off after he handled outside his area and the home side score three times.

Daryl Murphy returned to the Town starting line-up, replacing Josh Carson in the only change from last week’s draw with Blackpool, the Northern Irish youngster having hobbled off with a hamstring problem late on against the Seasiders. Murphy came in on the left with the Blues employing the same 4-4-1-1 formation as last week.

Leeds included former Blues loanees Darren O’Dea and Andros Townsend in their starting line-ups and Alex Bruce on the bench.

Town started brightly at a windy Elland Road and in the opening minute Murphy chipped into the area for Jason Scotland but ex-Blue O’Dea got in ahead of the Trinidadian to put the ball out for a corner, which came to nothing. The home fans registered their frustration at the sale of skipper Jonny Howson to Norwich by chanting for chairman Ken Bates to get out of their club.

The Blues continued to have the better of the early stages of the game but without creating too much of note, although Jay Emmanuel-Thomas almost played in Lee Martin on 13, O’Dea again getting across to avert the danger.

Soon after, a Fabian Delph break led to the first serious threat on Town’s goal but Robert Snodgrass was unable to get a touch on a deflected shot as it came through a crowd of players.

Snodgrass played in one-time Blues target Ross McCormack on 18, the Blues feeling Andy Drury had been fouled earlier in the move, but Tommy Smith did superbly to dispossess the former Cardiff man. Moments later, Cresswell got in to head a left-wing cross out ahead of Mikael Forssell.

Leeds were beginning to threaten more regularly with the direction of the first half wind favouring them. On 29 Blues keeper Alex McCarthy, who was on loan at Elland Road before Christmas, did well to palm away a corner from the right.

Town should have gone in front on the half hour when Scotland’s pass played Martin in behind the home defence but Leeds keeper Andy Lonergan was off his line quickly to block at the former Manchester United man’s feet.

The loose ball ran out to Emmanuel-Thomas 25 yards out but his very powerful shot flew well over. It was a good chance and Martin, who may initially have thought he was offside, ought to have done better.

But Town only had to wait four minutes more for a goal. Martin and Drury exchanged a short corner on the left, the ex-Luton man cut in and hit a low shot which flew through a crowd of players, under Lonergan and into the net. Lip readers could clearly see the former Preston keeper’s frustration at his error on the big screen.

As the game moved towards half-time, the Blues were well on top, passing the ball around as if they were on the training ground. In injury time, Emmanuel-Thomas came close to making it two with a now trademark 35-yarder which scuffed the angle of post and bar with Lonergan a spectator.

Town boss Paul Jewell will have been delighted with his side’s first half display, the Blues putting in much the same performance as against Blackpool last week. The combative Drury and Hyam had won the central midfield battle.

A bigger lead than 1-0 certainly wouldn’t have flattered Jewell’s men, despite Drury’s goal having an element of fortune, while Leeds had only really threatened in a brief period around the midway point.

Martin sent a speculative early second half shot over the bar, before O’Dea misjudged a ball over the top but Lonergan was out to claim ahead of Scotland.

Soon after, Emmanuel-Thomas skipped past a number of Leeds midfielders as if they weren’t there, then the ex-Arsenal youngster crossed from the right into a dangerous area but with no Town player having pushed that far forward.

Leeds replaced the quiet Andros Townsend and anonymous Mikael Forssell with Aidan White and Luciano Becchio in the 59th minute with the home side yet to threaten during the second period.

The Whites created their first opening not long after the change of personnel, Danny Pugh crossing from the left and Snodgrass scuffing a header wide at the far post. There was another scare for the Blues soon after when McCarthy dropped a White cross from the right but Carlos Edwards cleared the loose ball.

Becchio picked up the game’s first yellow card for shoving Hyam as Leeds were preparing to take a throw with the Blues now sitting back on their lead with the home side having more of the ball.

Town were a threat on the break though, and on 67, after an Emmanuel-Thomas run had been halted, Murphy saw a shot deflect over. From the resultant Drury corner, Smith eventually laid the ball off to Sonko, whose strike also struck a defender and flew over. Murphy picked up a yellow card shortly afterwards for a foul on White.

Town were reduced to 10 men in the 71st minute when keeper McCarthy was red carded for denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity. Sonko and McCormack chased a ball over the top which McCarthy was clearly expecting to clear. Instead, Sonko headed it back to him and the keeper caught the ball well outside his area.

Referee Geoff Eltringham had no choice but to show the red card and McCarthy trudged off, Jason Scotland joining him moments later to allow Arran Lee-Barrett to take over in goal. McCormack wasted the freekick.

Town were once again guilty of being the cause of their own downfall on 74 as Leeds got back on terms. A Leeds shot was blocked inside the Town area, the ball cannoning to Sonko, who inexplicably tried to play the ball back to Lee-Barrett, only to find the entirely unmarked – and presumably greatly surprised – Snodgrass who tapped the gift into the net. In a few minutes the Blues had gone from comfortably in control and ahead to on terms with a man down.

Hyam added his name to the referee’s book for a foul on Snodgrass, then O’Dea header saw a header from a corner on the left saved by Lee-Barrett with the Whites continuing to push.

On 82 the home side went in front, and again Town only had themselves to blame. Sonko chased an Adam Clayton ball over the top, this time leaving it for Lee-Barrett to clear. However, unlike McCarthy, Lee-Barrett decided to stay back, slipping as he did so, and McCormack was given the easy task of stroking into an empty net from a matter of feet.

It had been an unbelievable capitulation from the Blues who had been well on top against a Leeds side which had huffed and puffed but had shown few signs of getting back into the match through their own endeavours.

In the closing stages, Town never looked like mounting much in the way of a fightback, despite the additions of Michael Chopra and Jimmy Bullard.

Leeds rubbed salt into the wound in injury time when Becchio chased Lonergan’s long kick, held off Smith, who oughtn’t to have allowed the ball to bounce in the first place, and played it across Lee-Barrett and into the net to make it 3-1, moments after the keeper had saved well at his feet.

The whistle went soon after to signal the end of what had been a promising afternoon for the Blues. But, as against Blackpool last week, although in more spectacular and calamitous style, a defensive collapse once again saw three points surrendered. That’s now 21 points lost from winning positions.

McCarthy’s sending off and two of the goals came from communication failures at the back with stand-in skipper Ibrahima Sonko playing a part in all three incidents. Smith, who otherwise had a decent game, was at fault for the third.

While the first half again showed signs of promise, the incredible defensive disintegration in the second half, exceptional even by Town’s standards, again illustrated quite how far the Blues - now 21st - still have to go and why Paul Jewell is targeting more defenders in the January transfer window.

Town: McCarthy, Edwards, Sonko, Smith, Cresswell, Martin, Hyam (Bullard 85), Drury, Murphy (Chopra 82), Emmanuel-Thomas, Scotland (Lee-Barrett 70). Subs: Delaney, Leadbitter.

Leeds: Lonergan, Thompson, Lees, O'Dea, Pugh, Snodgrass, Clayton, Delph, Townsend (White 59), Forssell (Becchio 59), McCormack. Subs: M Taylor, Bruce, Brown. Referee: Geoff Eltringham (Sunderland). Att:

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