MATCH VERDICT: Leeds United 1 Wanderers 0
IT’S a case of new year, same old problems for Wanderers who will still wonder just how they emerged empty-handed from Elland Road.
It was never a game that would allow you to forget about your hangover, but at least a point looked a certainty until a rash tackle from Tyrone Mears on Ross McCormack presented Leeds with a penalty out of the blue.
Luciano Becchio’s spot kick was the only thing Neil Warnock’s rather limited side got on target all afternoon and yet those harsh lessons just keep coming in the Championship, don’t they?
Wanderers did all the hard work but failed to open up Leeds with any regularity, and, in the end, their lack of a killer pass or touch in front of goal meant they struggled to get back into the match after falling behind.
The first half wasn’t a classic by any stretch of the imagination. An uneven pitch did not help, but the free-flowing football that blew Birmingham away on Saturday was replaced at first with stuff of function and effect.
Even though they were far from their best, Wanderers still looked a class apart and produced the few moments of genuine quality early on.
Chris Eagles came closest to breaking the deadlock when he shaved the post with a low left-footed effort and forced Paddy Kenny into action for the only time in the half with another ambitious shot from distance a few minutes later.
Darren Pratley continued his good work from the weekend, pressuring the Leeds back four into a variety of errors and putting a header on to the roof of Kenny’s net.
Otherwise, it was rough and tumble stuff, concentrated mainly in the middle third of the pitch. With goalscoring chances so few and far between, the Whites fans had to find other aspects of the game to enjoy. Jay Spearing drew a song of appreciation for one thundering challenge on Leeds rough-house Rudi Austin, while both sets of fans rejoiced in a mutual dislike of a certain Manchester club.
Half time came as a release, not least to Elland Road legends Norman Hunter and Eddie Gray, whose tutting at the standard of football on show in the opening 45 minutes could be heard by anyone in the ground.
Things took a while to warm up after the break too, with little of note happening until a penalty shout for the home side on the hour as Mears tangled with Ross McCormack.
Referee Phil Gibbs was unconvinced and waved away the appeals, levelling things up a few moments later when the pair clashed again in the box.
Leeds has been completely predictable, the crowd quiet, right up until the 63rd minute when after their first spell of concerted pressure, they made the breakthrough.
Former Wanderers favourite El-Hadji Diouf and Paul Green put the ball into the danger zone and, as the Whites struggled to clear, Mears made a clumsy challenge on McCormack to gift Becchio a chance he gobbled up from the penalty spot.
It could have been two moments later as Eagles lost the ball on the edge of the Leeds box and Diouf exploited the space to feed McCormack, who should have done done much better with his shot at goal that failed to trouble Adam Bogdan.
Freedman threw on David Ngog and Benik Afobe to inject some pace into the game, later adding Jacob Butterfield into the mix for Spearing, who seemed to be nursing some sort of injury as he left the field.
A big chance fell for Ngog to be the super sub once more, as Davies squared for the Frenchman 10 yards out only for him to scoop his shot well over the bar.
Depressingly, the game petered out without any more drama in Kenny’s penalty area. Even a late dash up the pitch by Bogdan was ultimately wasted with an awful delivery from the corner.