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Match Report: Middlesbrough 0-2 Leeds United (Leeds Fan's Perspective)

Monday 12th March 2012
When Neil Warnock's Leeds travelled to Middlesbrough, the pessimists might have been worried, as since the new manager's introduction the team were yet to win a game. Wins are important, sure, but the optimists such as myself have been looking at the bigger picture. Leeds had conceded only once in their last three games, against the league leaders despite their defence having  been infamously leaky in recent seasons.

As the Warnock effect is already showing in defence, it was time to remind people that Leeds still have one of the more fearsome attacking line-ups in the Championship. And the visitors' attack certainly didn't disappoint at the Riverside on Sunday lunchtime.

With new loan signing Paul Robinson starting immediately at left back, Aidy White was able to play in a right-wing position. The experience of Michael Brown was paired with the tenacity of Adam Clayton in central midfield, while captain Robert Snodgrass, Luciano Becchio and top scorer Ross McCormack all started. Recent signing Danny Webber was on the bench.

Leeds immediately began on the front foot and an ambitious free kick from Snodgrass gave the home fans an early scare. Snodgrass then opened the scoring in the 18th minute when a hard working Aidy White set the skipper up on the edge of the penalty area. A composed side-footed shot into the bottom corner slid underneath Jason Steele to make it 1-0.

Leeds' pressure continued for most of the first half. White was particularly dangerous throughout and comfortably showed  how dangerous he can be going forward. The visitors' hard work paid off as McCormack took advantage of Justin Hoyte's defensive error to coolly supply Becchio with probably his easiest goal of the season so far. The Argentine's finish wasn't quite as spectacular as his excellent volley at the Riverside last season, but who's complaining?

As Leeds' front line took the limelight, the defence was equally impressive, with Darren O'Dea and Robinson working particularly hard to scupper any Middlesbrough counter attacks. The first half finished 2-0 in favour of the visitors, but there was a lot of work still to be done.

The second half proved to be much more of a test for Leeds as the home side noticeably stepped up their game to control possession for longer periods. Middlesbrough are no pushovers, and it was down to some great defensive work that Leeds' lead was protected. Although the sending off of Middlesbrough's Barry Robson gave Leeds some much needed breathing space.

White's pace on the right wing still caused problems when Leeds counter attacked, but the second half was spent largely in the Leeds half. Andy Lonergan, after a very quiet first half, was forced into making some good saves; last season's signing is proving to be extremely reliable between the posts.

A nerve-wracking final ten minutes (which wasn't helped by seven minutes of stoppage time) saw the introduction of all three Leeds substitutes: Pugh replaced Adam Clayton, Mikael Forssell replaced Becchio, and McCormack, who was unlucky not to have added his name to the scoresheet, made way for Webber. Despite long periods of pressure, the visitors were able to hold on to their lead and finish the game 2-0 winners.

Warnock's first win in charge could turn out to be a pivotal point in Leeds' season. Many pundits felt that if Leeds lost today, their playoff hopes would be shattered. Instead, Leeds seem to have sprung into a new lease of life going into the final stages of the season. Having only conceded once in their last four games, Warnock is already bringing out the best in Leeds' defence. They still lie in tenth, but are only four points away from the playoffs. Promotion will be very difficult, but it looks like Leeds could still have a few surprises in store.

My Man of the Match: Aidan White (Leeds United)

Leeds United : Lonergan, Connolly (booked), Lees, White, O'Dea, Robinson, Clayton (booked) (Pugh 90), Brown, Snodgrass, Becchio (Forssell 90), McCormack (Webber, 87) Unused subs: Nunez, Thompson

Middlesbrough: Steele, Hoyte, Bennett, Bates, Williams (Main 63), Hines, Bailey, Hammill, Robson (sent off), Emnes, Jutkiewicz (Thomson 63 (Ogbeche 80)). Unused subs:  McMahon, Arca.
Tom Fletcher

Total articles: 13

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