A CALAMITOUS goalkeeping display by Paul Rachubka and the unfortunate sending off of young defender Tom Lees contributed to Leeds United gifting Blackpool the points on their first visit to Elland Road for 41 years, writes Tony Harber.
With Andy Lonergan only just over two weeks into an expected six-week lay-off with a dislocated finger it was once again left to Rachubka to keep goal, but ever since his last minute error cost the Whites victory against Coventry he has looked nervous and that uncertainty surfaced again early on against Blackpool.
Ironically Rachubka was a Blackpool hero in their promotion season from the Championship and it was against them that he happened to have the kind of horror show every keeper must fear.
His first mistake was to parry a Jonjo Shelvey shot straight to Lomano Lua Lua, who was given a tap-in for the opening goal on 13 minutes.
Worse was to come in the 26th minute as he dropped a harmless Alex Baptiste cross under no pressure and as the ball dropped to Lua Lua the Blackpool striker’s shot hit the hand of defender Lees. The result was a hard looking red card for Lees and a penalty put away by Shelvey after he had also netted with a first attempt that had to be retaken because of encroachment.
The nightmare continued for Rachubka as he could only parry a speculative long range shot from Lua Lua straight to Shelvey, who had another easy task to make it 3-0 on the half hour.
Home fans cruelly chanted “off, off” at their own goalkeeper and began to sarcastically applaud his every touch from here on in. Fortunately he did not have any more shots or crosses to deal with and was put out of his misery by a substitution at half-time with teenager Alex Cairns coming on for his debut.
At least manager Simon Grayson spared him the ignominy of being hauled off while the game was in progress, but with his confidence now completely shot it will be a big surprise if he ever wears a Leeds shirt again.
Cairns fared better and made a couple of decent saves in the second half. Ten-man United, with Jonny Howson playing as an emergency right-back and Paul Connolly moved inside to centre-half, improved substantially to begin with as they forced Blackpool back and were unlucky not to pull a goal back.
Adam Clayton burst onto a ball over the top and got to it ahead of visiting goalkeeper Matt Gilks only for his attempted lob to be blocked. Howson hit a shot wide, there was a huge shout for handball in the area that fell on deaf ears and Ross McCormack could only block Patrick Kisnorbo’s header in the area, attempting another of his overhead kicks.
But Blackpool weathered the storm and after a couple of near things from long range killed the game with their fourth goal when Lua Lua ran past Connolly before burying his shot into the top corner of the net.
Shelvey’s calm finish made it 5-0 on 78 minutes and Leeds’ worst home defeat since Grayson took charge was complete. It was also their worst defeat in any game at Elland Road since 1980.
Grayson was undoubtedly hurt by the result against the side he managed and played for, but vowed his team would hit back, probably with a new goalkeeper.
He said: “I had to take Paul (Rachubka) off at half-time because I felt that any shot that went in it would be a difficult occasion for him.
“There’s no hiding place for keepers and unfortunately it’s been a difficult night for him. I felt I had no option about keeping him on.
“Alex (Cairns) came in and did well, he couldn’t do anything with the two second half goals.
“We were obviously chasing the game. I said to the players at half-time that if they got the first goal we might have a chance and the fans got behind them and we really had a go at he game. But when the fourth goal went in against the run of play it was game over.
“Blackpool can hurt you in any game with 11 players or 10. Tonight we were exposed with 10 men and the mistakes we’ve made.
“With the sending off it’s how you interpret it really. Did he deny a goal scoring opportunity? Yes, but could he do anything about it? No.
“It hit him on the hand as it was going in and the letter of the law probably says that the referee has to do that.
“It catapulted from an error from Paul and were obviously 2-0 down with 10 men.
“It’s going to be a tough decision what to do (in the goalkeeper position) because psychologically this is going to affect Paul. Do we go with Alex or do we go with a bit more experience in such a big game at Leicester on Sunday?
“I’ll analyse the market, see what’s out there and decide what to do in the next 24 hours or so.
“We have to take this result on the chin and it’s how we regroup now. We’ll certainly be working hard in the next few days to make sure we’re right for Sunday.
“I’ve got 100 per cent trust in the players that they can go out and get a result at the weekend. We’re a good team and we’ve proved that over the last 10 games. Tonight wasn’t down to too many mistakes by the whole team. It was contributed to by Paul and he will accept that.
“We will be around the shake-up at the end of the season. I won’t let this result affect their confidence and come Sunday we will be out there to prove people wrong.”
Leeds United 0
(Lua Lua 13, 65, Shelvey 26, pen, 30, 78)
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Leeds: Rachubka (Cairns 45), Connolly, Kisnorbo, Lees (sent-off 26), White, Snodgrass, Howson, Clayton (Vayrynen 70), Pugh, McCormack, Keogh (Becchio 45).
Blackpool: Gilks, Baptiste, Cathcart, Evatt, Crainey, Sylvestre, Southern (Angel 72), Ferguson, Shelvey, McManaman (Ince 76), Lua Lua (Bogdanovic 76).
Referee: Roger East