Jason Pearce’s first-ever goal at Elland Road clinched three points for Leeds United against 10-man Middlesbrough.
Pearce headed home a Lee Peltier cross in the second half as a 2-1 victory lifted the Whites up to sixth place in the Skybet Championship.
It was never easy for Leeds, who were not at their fluent best, but they played against 10 men for the whole of the second half after Boro keeper Jason Steele was sent-off for a challenge on Dexter Blackstock outside his area two minutes before the break.
United were already one up by that stage after Ross McCormack kept up his recent scoring spree, reacting fastest to head home from close range on 35 minutes after Tom Lees had met Luke Murphy’s corner with a far post header.
McCormack had looked lively from the kick-off and got his first effort in on goal in the opening minute, directing an Alex Mowatt shot wide.
Pearce headed an effort wide from a corner and Rudy Austin saw a long range shot beaten away by Steele, but the visitors were lively and Mustapha Carayol forced a save from Paddy Kenny after getting past Peltier to cut in from his left wing.
A great run and cross by McCormack led to a big chance for Leeds only for Blackstock to shoot over.
Middlesbrough were a little fortunate not to suffer a greater penalty when defender Daniel Ayala handled the ball right on the edge of the box to prevent McCormack getting in. He was only yellow carded and the resulting free-kick was blocked to the visitors’ relief.
McCormack was denied by Steele when he got another shot in, but from the corner that followed he pounced to break the deadlock.
Boro’s task was then made harder when Steele’s rash challenge on Blackstock reduced them to 10 men. From the free-kick McCormack was a whisker away from doubling United’s lead and it stayed 1-0 to half-time.
Leeds started the second half sloppily and paid the price when Boro broke away to equalise as Albert Adomah’s low cross was volleyed home by Carayol.
But the response was good. Mowatt’s low shot brought a great save from sub keeper Jayson Leutwiler then they scored their second goal when centre-back Pearce, still up front from a corner that was not cleared, climbed above former Leeds defender Frazer Richardson to head home Peltier’s cross.
Disappointingly against the 10 men United failed to kick on, although Leutwiler did well to deny Mowatt from a Danny Pugh cross and Austin headed wide with the keeper this time lost.
Middlesbrough stayed in the game, but never really looked like coming up with a second equaliser with their only serious effort a long range strike by sub Lukas Jutkiewicz that was well held by Kenny.
Leeds settled for seeing out the game and did so comfortably with just two more efforts in injury-time as Austin hit the side netting with an angled shot and Mowatt cracked a 25-yarder over.
United boss Brian McDermott was pleased to get the points and climb up into a play-off place.
He said: “I thought we played some good stuff in the first half and we could have had more than one goal, but the second half was tough.
“Sometimes you’re better off playing against 11 men. Theer’s an assumption that it’s easier against 10, but it’s not.
“The important thing was that we got the three points against 10 men. Our fans will have a good night and we’ve moved up the table.”
Leeds United 2
(McCormack 35, Pearce 57)
Saturday,November 23, 2016
Leeds: Kenny; Lees, Zaliukas, Pearce; Peltier, Murphy (Brown 88), Mowatt, Austin, Pugh (Byram 87); McCormack, Blackstock (Smith 81).
Middlesbrough: Steele (sent-off 43); Richardson, Woodgate, Ayala, Friend; Leadbitter, Smallwood (Jutkiewicz 82); Adomah, Emnes (Leutwiler 44), Carayol (Main 67); Kamara.
Referee: Philip Gibbs.