MANAGER Simon Grayson hailed the contribution of goalkeeper Andy Lonergan (pictured) as he crucially saved a penalty to help 10-man Leeds United to three points against Bristol City.
Summer signing from Preston Lonergan has been in excellent form so far this season and continued with a string of saves that frustrated visiting City, including a 65th minute stop from Nicky Maynard’s penalty.
He was beaten by a stunning strike from former Leeds midfielder Neil Kilkenny in the opening half, but United started and finished strongly to make it back to back home wins as Adam Clayton struck with a well placed shot on three minutes and Ross McCormack kept up his scoring spree with an 86th minute close range strike after Luciano Becchio had headed on a Leigh Bromby long throw.
Andy Keogh and Robert Snodgrass fluffed great chances for more goals, but the game’s turning point came when Maynard was sent clear following a poor goalkick by Lonergan and rounded Darren O’Dea only to be bundled over by Patrick Kisnorbo.
The Leeds defender was subsequently red carded and a penalty awarded, but Lonergan kept out Maynard’s spot kick and the Whites then dug in for the remainder to earn their third league win of the season.
Manager Grayson reckoned the penalty save gave everyone the heart to go on to get something from the game.
He said: “It was a great save from Andy from the penalty and he redeemed himself after his poor kick.
“I’m not criticising him or anything like that, I’m just going through the goal and how it happened. But the save came at a vital time. It lifted the crowd and we dug in after that and obviously got the result.”
Grayson also praised the never say die spirit of his team.
He added: “We started excellently. We worked the ball well, we closed down and we created good opportunities.
“We could have been two or three-nil up and suddenly we miss an opportunity and they go down the other end and score. Kilkenny put it in the top corner and he’s not done that too many times.
“We then got a little bit nervous and didn’t pass the ball well enough. But the one thing you can’t fault this group of players for is the spirit and the big heart they’ve got. They never know when they’re beaten.
“The crowd demands them to work and challenge and keep working right to the end and they’ve certainly got a group of players that will do that. We’ve gone down to 10 men and grinded out another result.
“I’ve got no complaints with the sending off, but I thought he was just outside the box. Everybody thought it was a penalty, but it was bordering the line and just outside.
“He’s the fourth player we’ve had dismissed this season but we are not a dirty team. We were unfortunate with the other three.”
Leeds United 2
(Clayton 3, McCormack 86)
Bristol City 1
Saturday, September 17
Leeds: Lonergan, Lees, Kisnorbo (sent-off 64), O’Dea, White, Snodgrass (Forssell 71), Clayton, Howson, Nunez (Becchio 58), McCormack, Keogh (Bromby 68).
Bristol: James, Spence (Stead 89), Wilson, Nyatanga, McGivern, Adomah (Bolasie 86), Kilkenny (Pitman 75), Skuse, Elliott, Campbell-Ryce, Maynard.
Referee: Fred Graham.