AN INJURY time equaliser left Leeds United fans and manager Simon Grayson frustrated as the Whites threw away two points against an ordinary Coventry side, writes Tony Harber.
Tuesday night’s visitors to Elland Road had looked there for the taking, but United missed several good chances and paid the price when they unbelievably backed off in the last 20 minutes and were hit by the latest of sucker punches and a costly error by stand-in goalkeeper Paul Rachubka.
Leeds initially carried on where they left off in the 3-0 victory over Doncaster as they harried and chased, forcing their opponents into making mistakes and capitalising with some swift attacking play.
Robert Snodgrass was behind all of the Whites’ best early moves and set up Ross McCormack with a good chance in the area on five minutes, but the Scottish striker did not realise how much time he had and headed the ball over.
Coventry fashioned their first chance when Sammy Clingan’s 25-yard shot was pushed out by Rachubka and Lucas Jutkiewicz fired the rebound over.
But Leeds gradually got on top and after Snodgrass’s free-kick had been turned away for a corner by City keeper Joe Murphy they went ahead on 26 minutes as Paul Connolly’s cross was deflected onto Darren O’Dea and the Irish defender found the bottom corner of the net with a well struck shot from an angle.
McCormack was denied by Murphy when latching onto a quickly taken free-kick and O’Dea headed an easier chance than his goal wide after getting on the end of Adam Clayton’s chip into the box.
The biggest miss of all was to come five minutes before half-time when Andy Keogh set up McCormack, but he somehow spooned his shot over from no more than eight yards with the goal gaping.
Coventry were more in the game after the break, but the chances were still created by Leeds as Danny Pugh saw a header saved and Clayton was also denied by Murphy after cleverly making space in the area.
The turning point proved to be the manager’s surprise decision to take off both his strikers 20 minutes from the end. It was particularly hard on the hard working Keogh and the replacements, Luciano Becchio and Mikael Forssell, failed to make any sort of impression in the remainder of the game.
Suddenly United were back pedalling and they were given a warning when Cody McDonald skimmed the crossbar with a header.
The visitors now had all the possession, although they never really looked dangerous until with just 30 seconds left in injury-time Cyrus Christie volleyed the ball into the box and it was spilled by Rachubka straight to Richard Wood, ironically believed to be a Leeds fan and brought up in nearby Ossett.
United players left the pitch to boos and manager Grayson could not believe his side had not taken all three points.
He said: “We had enough chances to put the game to bed. The game should have been over at half-time.
“It’s a game we had comfortably in the bag and 20 seconds from time we threw it away. For 60 minutes I thought the shape of the team was excellent, the way we counter attacked and closed them down.
“They had quite a bit of possession in the last 20 minutes, but they didn’t really threaten us and Paul Rachubka’s had nothing to do.
“It feels like a defeat and the boys are obviously very frustrated and the fans are frustrated. We were only 10 seconds away from winning the game and keeping another clean sheet.
“But it’s football and that happens. We’ve had games when we’ve scored late so you have to take it on the chin.
“In that last 20 minutes we gave it away too cheaply. Up front we didn’t keep hold of it, in midfield we didn’t pass it well enough. I understand when people say we invited the pressure on because we gave the ball away too cheaply and that’s a criminal thing to do.
“But they’ve only had long distance shots and then Paul’s had it in his grasp and then dropped it. Unfortunately for him it’s costly.
“It’s a blow to lose Andy Lonergan. He’s going to be out for six weeks, he’s had an operation on his finger, which he fractured last Friday night. But I’ve got a goalkeeper and I’ve got a lot of trust in Paul Rachubka. Tonight won’t phase him, he’ll be very positive in what he needs to do and we’ve got a good understudy ready to fill the void at this moment in time.”
Leeds United 1
Coventry City 1
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Leeds: Rachubka, Connolly, Lees, O’Dea, White, Snodgrass (Vayrynen 79), Howson, Clayton, Pugh, McCormack (Becchio 70), A Keogh (Forssell 70).
Coventry: Murphy, Christie, R Keogh, Wood, Hussey, Bell, Clingan, Thomas, Deegan (Bigirimana 45), Jutkiewicz, Platt (McDonald 45).
Referee: Andy Haines.