Lees from villain to hero in big Leeds United win

Tom Lees, scorer at both ends for Leeds United. Picture: IAN HARBER
Tom Lees, scorer at both ends for Leeds United. Picture: IAN HARBER

LEEDS United are up and running at last in the Npower Championship as their first league win of the new season came in surprisingly resounding style against Hull City at Elland Road.

Nigel Pearson’s men came to Leeds with a reputation as the most successful side in the division away from home in the past 12 months and with a tight defence hard to breach. But they conceded four goals and could have let in more in an open contest that defied predictions of a possible goalless draw.

United were bright from the outset and delighted to have their full compliment on the field again after being reduced to nine men on Saturday.

With Andy Keogh brought in on loan from Wolves to bolster the striker ranks, they went with two up front and the tactics must have surprised Hull as they struggled to contain the hosts early on.

Robert Snodgrass brought the first save from keeper Peter Gulacsi, while Ramon Nunez and Ross McCormack could have done better with efforts in the first 10 minutes.

Nunez did beat the keeper with a well struck shot from the edge of the box only to see the ball bounce back off the crossbar. McCormack, whose clever flick had given Nunez space to shoot, got to the rebound only to head over with the goal gaping.

Home fans did not have long to wait for the opening goal as in the 17th minute the Hull defence backed off to allow Snodgrass to pick out McCormack in the area with a cross. The Scottish striker saw his first header well saved by Gulacsi, but this time was able to net from the rebound.

It was a shock when Hull equalised in lucky circumstances four minutes later when young defender Tom Lees appeared to be covering Matty Fryatt’s low cross in text book style at the far post only to turn the ball into the top corner of his own net.

It was shades of last season with Leeds finding new ways to concede goals and they lost their way for a spell before Lees made amends in great style five minutes before half-time. When Nunez’s corner was only half cleared to the edge of the box, the defender came up with a great strike to fire the Whites back in front.

It was 3-1 two minutes into the second half as McCormack won a free-kick on the edge of the box and Snodgrass stepped up to beat Gulacsi with a curling effort from an angle.

Hull responded by throwing on the big guns from the bench - forwards Aaron McLean, Dele Adebola and Nick Barmby - and they began to exert their first real pressure of the game, but they also left themselves exposed at the back and United took full advantage to bang in a fourth on 69 minutes as Nunez completed an incisive break.

Andy Lonergan made excellent saves to keep out McLean and Fryatt while McLean again and Barmby were wide of the target when well placed as City threw everything at the hosts.

It was closer than the final 4-1 score suggested, but Leeds could have extended their advantage late on when Snodgrass shot over and the otherwise superb Adam Clayton failed to get a strike in after making a lung-busting run from midfield to get clean through.

There were many positives for manager Simon Grayson to talk about after the game, particularly the displays of his young players Lees, Clayton and Aidan White, who came in at left-back for his first game of the season.

He said: “I’m delighted after losing our first two. We knew it would be difficult after Hull had a good result at the weekend, but we were good with and without the ball and made a really good Hull team look ordinary at times.

“The players were excellent from start to finish. They showed tremendous spirit, great attitude, belief and confidence.

“The results we have had could have had a negative effect. We were down to the bare bones tonight, with no strikers, Howson and Gradel suspended and Bromby and Parker injured so it’s a massive result.

“It’s embarrassing when you see your team in the bottom three, but I had immense belief and confidence in the players to get results.

“The two young kids, Tom Lees and Aidy White, were exceptional and Darren O’Dea was good moving into the centre of defence, which is his natural position.

“Tom was devastated when he scored the own goal, but he’s got great composure and a great attitude to football and he took his opportunity well. I’m delighted for him and he’s been a revelation in the two games he’s played so far.

“Andy Lonergan’s also been exceptional. We’ve brought him in and asked him to do the job and he comes for things, catches it , he’s got good distribution and he makes saves. So far he’s done very well for us.

Adam Clayton’s playing with immense confidence and belief. He’s comfortable and confident on the ball, he works hard and likes a tackle. He’s grasped his opportunity. He’s a great lad to work with and is going to keep growing as the season goes along.”

Match facts

Leeds United 4

(McCormack 17, Lees 40, Snodgrass 47, Nunez 69)

Hull City 1

(Lees og 21)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Npower Championship

Attendance: 22,363

Leeds: Lonergan, Lees, Kisnorbo, O’Dea, White, Snodgrass, Brown, Clayton, Nunez (Sam 78), McCormack (Thompson 89), Keogh.

Hull: Gulacsi, Rosenior, Chester, Hobbs, Dawson (McLean 45), Brady (Adebola 63), Evans, McKenna, Koren (Barmby 68), Dudgeon, Fryatt.

Referee: Eddie Ilderton.