New boy Billy grabs the points and the headlines.
The game began brightly for Leeds as an early opportunity was created for Sharp but the through-ball from Ajose was just ahead of Sharp and he couldn’t quite beat the keeper to the ball, the rebound fell to Ajose whose tame effort was cleared by the Middlesbrough defence. Middlesbrough began to dominate possession and was trying to turn the screw on Leeds. Middlesbrough did have the ball in the back in the net but the goal was subsequently disallowed by referee Stuart Attwell for dangerous play, much to the annoyance of Boro manager Aitor Karanka. Leeds did enjoy spells towards the end of the half and we began to play our game and the overall feeling I got was, when we thought about playing and got it down we did look decent but more often than not we were still trying to lump the ball forward and with Sharp seemingly playing through the middle on his own he was unable to win much in the air but we managed to bring the ball down, his holdup play was good and was able to link with the midfield very well.
The second half seemingly began in the same fashion but after 54 minutes, and credit where credit is due, Dave Hockaday changed things by bringing Michael Tonge on for Doukara and that seemed to add more balance and composure to our team. Now, for all Michael Tonge’s criticism, the one thing he does add to our team is a calm composure on the ball and much-needed experience in a relatively in-experienced team. Clear cut chances were few and far between for both sides but Billy Sharp had a very good chance from a Luke Murphy set piece but he steered his header wide with the goal gaping at his mercy. After he had missed you were left wondering if this game was to head for a 0-0, although, the guy behind me was adamant we were going to grab the 3 points in injury time. Not quite injury time but sure enough, Billy Sharp read his script and delivered. Michael Tonge hit an opportunistic effort from the edge of the area which Middlesbrough ‘keeper Mejias spilled out and sure enough, there was Billy Sharp to gamble and put his chance to make Elland Road erupt.
After leaving the game, it did actually feel a bit like a smash and grab considering the possession that Middlesbrough had, but after recording the game and watching it back this morning, I don’t feel that way anymore. Yes, Boro had the possession but they didn’t create anything either and our defensive play was impressive. For the first time since signing him, I could sit, well stand as we all do, and really see why Stephen Warnock has been awarded 2 England caps and was included in the 2010 world cup squad. Albert Adomah is a very good player and Warnock dealt with him well, he made many of crucial interceptions and stunning challenges. Without doubt his best performance in a Leeds shirt. Liam Cooper, who signed in midweek also had an impressive debut, despite making a few mistakes early on, most likely through nerves, he really improved as the game went on, which is the sign of a good player. The only thing that was noticeable between him and Pearce was that the combination of two left footed centre halfs looked a little unbalanced but on the whole they did very well.
As many reporters were saying after yesterday’s game, it would appear that Billy Sharp was born to play for Leeds. After a dream debut at Elland Road, fans, teammates and the press were all quick to praise Sharp following a passionate display and a perfect introduction to Leeds fans. Sharp really grafted hard and no doubt deserved his goal, every ball that was seemingly dead he chased it down, and honestly, that’s all we ask for isn’t it?
The main thing I was impressed with though was a team performance, something we haven’t seen for a very long time. Every player ran themselves into the ground for the shirt and I couldn’t be more pleased for the team to come away with this victory, onto Brighton on Tuesday night now, a game where we need to pick up the points and continue to make Elland Road a fortress once more.
Leeds team. Silvestri 6, Byram 6, Pearce 7, Cooper 7, Warnock 8, Austin 7, Murphy 7, Bianchi 6, Ajose 6, Doukara 6, Sharp 8.
Subs: Tonge 7, Cook 5 (Standard mark for only getting 5 minutes and nothing to do), Poleon 6.
Man of the match: Hard choice between Sharp and Warnock, but, I’m gonna agree with Sky and give my man of the match to Stephen Warnock.