AN injury-time goal from Alan Navarro handed Neil Redfearn his first defeat as Leeds United caretaker manager as the Whites lost 2-1 to Brighton at Elland Road.
After a goalless first 75 minutes Saturday’s Npower Championship game exploded into life in the final quarter as Leeds went one down then hit back and appeared to have done enough to earn a point only for the late strike to leave them empty handed against one of their rivals for a play-off spot.
There was little to choose between the teams, but United started well and should have been in front inside four minutes only for Luciano Becchio to head wide from a delicious Robert Snodgrass cross.
The Whites were then denied a stonewall penalty on 12 minutes when Ross McCormack was felled in the box by Gordon Greer, but referee Graham Salisbury, who went on to have an awful game, denied the massive shout.
Becchio headed over and McCormack was off target with a long range strike before Brighton finally got their first effort in on goal on 24 minutes, Navarro firing over from just inside the box.
The visitors then showed why they were unbeaten in eight coming into the game as they had a good spell, but aside from a couple of straight forward saves for Andy Lonergan there was no huge threat on the home goal up to half-time.
The second half got off to an exciting start as only desperate defence denied Becchio as he came in to meet a Snodgrass cross that squirmed out of the grasp of Brighton keeper Peter Brezovan.
At the other end, Joe Mattock saw his shot deflected just wide and Sam Vokes was denied twice in a minute by Lonergan, the first time with a superb save after the ex-United striker was left unmarked in the box to get his shot in.
Leeds’ on loan right-back Adam Smith, who in the first half brought a save out of Brezovan, fired over when well placed and the game had really opened up. McCormack hit two strikes over and Tom Lees saw a header from a corner saved on the line by the keeper.
But it remained scoreless until the introduction of Brighton striker Craig Mackail-Smith, who scored with his first touch after Lonergan was caught out by a near post corner.
United’s reply was swift as Aidan White won a corner and Becchio then met Snodgrass’s delivery with a fine header that saw the ball creep in at the far post.
Leeds went for the winner, but it was their opponents who got it in the first minute of injury-time as Navarro found space on the edge of the box and beat Lonergan with a low shot.
Leeds United 1
(Mackail-Smith 76, Navarro 90)
Saturday, February 11, 2012
Leeds: Lonergan, Smith, Lees, O'Dea, Pugh, Snodgrass, Clayton, Delph, White (Townsend 81), McCormack (Nunez 90), Becchio.
Brighton: Brezovan, Jara, Greer, El-Abd, Mattock, Buckley (Noone 45), Bridcutt, Navarro, Barnes, Lua Lua (Rodriguez 61), Vokes (Mackail-Smith 74).
Referee: Graham Salisbury