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Match Report: Leeds United 1-2 Brighton (Leeds Fan's Perspective)

Sunday 12th February 2012
2012 has proven tough for Leeds United with January's transfer window signalling the end of an era for club captain and home-grown talent, Jonny Howson, setting sail for Norwich, and the sacking of manager, Simon Grayson, following the Whites' first loss of the year at home to Birmingham City, leaving supporters unsure about the wisdom of the administrative department at Elland Road.

The new year has given Brighton & Hove Albion renewed hope following four wins from five Championship fixtures. They were arriving in West Yorkshire full of confidence having shipped just two goals in their last five league matches and with sights firmly set on bothering the play-off places.

Although there is many bad feelings around Leeds at the moment and Brighton could be forgiven for having a rosier outlook on their club's current situation, the two sides were level on points before yesterday's clash and could have entered the play-off spots with a win. More than that, it was an opportunity for Neil Redfearn to stake a claim for the permanent role at the club, and would give a small indication as to who would gain the upper-hand in the personal battle between the two clubs having drawn 3-3 earlier in the season in a pulsating affair.

The dissatisfaction felt by a significant group of Leeds fans towards the way the club is being run by Ken Bates and Shaun Harvey has contributed in creating a poisonous atmosphere at Elland Road this season but, encouragingly, the Leeds United Supporters' Trust's protest march before the game appeared to drain the dissenting voices by kick-off and enable the fans to focus their energies into supporting the team during the game. The players responded positively to the bonhomie around the stadium and dominated the opening 10 or 15 minutes.

During this promising spell for the home side they couldn't find the breakthrough but were not far off scoring the opening goal when Luciano Becchio's header grazed the post when he connected with Robert Snodgrass' chipped cross. A legitimate appeal for a penalty for Leeds was waved away by the erroneous referee, Graham Salisbury, when Ross McCormack flicked the ball over Brighton defender, Adam El-Abd, only to be upended by the Egyptian centre-back.

After the award of a few disputable corner kicks to the away side, Leeds could count themselves lucky that Adam Clayton was only shown a yellow card after a reckless lunge on Brighton's Alan Navarro after losing the ball. Brighton grew in confidence towards the end of the first-half but neither side profited from their attacking forays into their opponent's half, with the score goalless at the interval.

The entertainment levels rose to an impressive level in the second-half as Brighton began to attack their hosts with more regularity than they had managed during the first 45 minutes. However, Leeds nearly made the initial impact as Aidy White's low cross deceived Brighton goalkeeper, Peter Brezovan, but arrived too quickly for Becchio to profit. The game soon became stretched and Andy Lonergan reacted well to deny Sam Vokes at Leeds' end.

Craig Mackail-Smith's introduction in the 74th minute sparked an action-packed final part of the game as the Scotsman found himself unmarked from Vicente Rodriguez's corner to put Brighton into the lead two minutes later. Two minutes later, Becchio reduced the arrears as he stooped to angle home the imperious Snodgrass' delivery from a corner as Leeds replicated their visitor's effective set-piece.

The momentum in the stadium was with Leeds and the home supporters urged their stars forward in pursuit of a valuable victory and a result that would help Redfearn's improbable chances of becoming manager of the club. However, the remaining ten minutes drifted away disappointingly and Leeds were dealt a sucker-punch in injury-time when Navarro's long-range effort squirmed under Lonergan's body to lift Brighton up to eighth in the table while the Whites dropped down to tenth.
Andrew Belt

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