A DAY of firsts saw Leeds United overcome Portsmouth to make it four successive home wins in the Npower Championship, writes Tony Harber.
Surprisingly the Whites had not beaten Portsmouth in a league game for 21 years and maybe more of a surprise was a first clean sheet in any senior game this season – and that with 20-year-old defender Tom Lees given his first start for the club at centre-back alongside Darren O’Dea.
Manager Simon Grayson’s decision was fully justified with an improved defensive show as United came under pressure in the second half, but did well to hold onto a lead given them by Danny Pugh’s 14th minute header from a Robert Snodgrass corner.
Grayson was pleased with his defenders, but although he admitted his team had to work hard for the victory he thought they deserved it.
He said: “I thought we were very good. We’ve worked hard on the training pitch and all the players worked extremely hard. They defended well when they had to and had some good opportunities – all-round it was a very professional performance.
“We could have been further in front at half-time because we counter attacked quickly, put balls in the box and their keeper made a couple of good saves.
“We limited them to few opportunities, but you know at 1-0 you are always vulnerable to that equaliser.
“But we put bodies on the line and I’m delighted with the clean sheet. There will be a lot made of it, but we have worked hard to achieve it.
“I thought the players have taken on board what we have worked on this week. The lads who came into the team did well.
“Paul Connolly has waited for his opportunity for a league start and he took it very well. He’s really had the bit between his teeth in training. Full credit to him, he’s been a top pro since he came here and he’s been a little bit unfortunate that he’s been out of the team. I’m delighted with his performance.
“Tom Lees moved inside and was very comfortable with Darren O’Dea and Aidy White continued his excellent start to the season.
“I’m delighted for them four and goalkeeper Andy Lonergan as well, but it was a good team performance as well. The midfield four worked well together and the front two looked a constant threat.”
Leeds had not played for eight days while their opponents were having their third game in that time and it showed in the opening half as, two Portsmouth free-kicks apart, the hosts were full value for their interval lead.
Only great defensive blocks prevented Ross McCormack and Pugh from adding to the score while the back to form Snodgrass was a huge threat down the right flank and was inches away from a goal after a great run from half way into the box.
Portsmouth served warning that they carried a threat when Greg Halford had two efforts from free-kicks well saved by Lonergan and Halford also hit the crossbar with a header.
The visitors switched from their unsuccessful 4-5-1 formation to 4-4-2 for the second half and visibly improved. David Norris, Jason Pearce and Joel Ward all went close and it was United’s turn now to defend.
However, they saw the game out and created a few opportunities late on with Mikael Forssell and Jonny Howson forcing saves from Pompey keeper Stephen Henderson.
Four minutes of injury-time brought a nervy finish for the hosts, but the nearest Portsmouth came was when a mis-hit cross by Liam Lawrence had to be tipped over by Lonergan.
Leeds United 1
Saturday, October 1, 2011
Leeds: Lonergan, Connolly, Lees, O’Dea, White, Snodgrass (Vayrynen 78), Howson, Clayton, Pugh, McCormack (Forssell 78), Keogh (Becchio 68).
Portsmouth: Henderson, Ward, Halford, Pearce, Ben Haim (Williams 86), Riise (Kanu 45), Mullins, Norris (Rocha 68), Lawrence, Huseklepp, Benjani.
Referee: Nigel Miller.