FIRST half goals from Robert Snodgrass and Luciano Becchio had Neil Warnock celebrating his first win as Leeds United manager as the Whites overcame a very ordinary Middlesbrough team at the Riverside.
Leeds were fired up for a game labelled a must-win by the manager, quickly established control and should have won by a greater margin.
Middlesbrough ended with 10 men after Barry Robson was red carded by referee Carl Boyeson for lashing out with elbow and boot at Adam Clayton, but they showed too little fight for most of the 90 minutes against a hard working United side.
It was clear early on that the Whites were fired up as Snodgrass sent a free-kick over and Ross McCormack sliced a decent chance wide. They went in front on 18 minutes as Aidan White latched onto a loose ball on the edge of the box and set up his skipper, Snodgrass, whose shot squirmed under home keeper Jason Steele into the net.
The hosts rarely threatened to hit back and it became 2-0 on 27 minutes when McCormack and Becchio combined on the edge of the box and the latter’s persistence paid off when Middlesbrough right-back Justin Hoyte miskicked and the Scot pulled the ball back to give Becchio a tap-in.
It should have been three soon after as Becchio was clean through from a ball over the top only to hit his shot over from 10 yards out.
One moment of alarm at the other end saw debutant Paul Robinson head clear under pressure from an inswinging Robson corner that appeared to have caught out Andy Lonergan.
But United ended the half the stronger as White lashed a shot over when well placed and McCormack hit a shot wide from long range.
Middlesbrough were more competitive in the second half, but the first chance fell to the visitors as Snodgrass was set up by McCormack only to see his shot hit the side netting.
Although Rhys Williams went close for the hosts with a far post header Leeds remained largely in control. Adam Clayton saw a shot hit the top of the net after it deflected off Matthew Bates and Snodgrass sent a header just over.
Clayton was involved again with a shot wide after McCormack had instigated a dangerous break.
McCormack should have wrapped up the game when clean through, but saw his shot saved by Steele.
The hosts went down to 10 men on 86 minutes after Robson was red carded for his reaction to having his shirt pulled by Clayton, who was booked after the same incident, and with their extra man it was comfortable for United for the remainder.
Middlesbrough did have their best chance in the seventh minute of injury-time as Adam Hammill’s 25-yard shot was spilled by Lonergan, but Hines could not put the rebound on target.
Leeds boss Warnock was obviously pleased to take the three points home.
He said: “It’s great to get a goal and the win. We wanted it and played some good stuff at times.
“There were some great performances and some unsung heroes like Paul Connolly, Tom Lees and Michael Brown.”
Leeds United 2
(Snodgrass 18, Becchio 27)
Sunday, March 11, 2012
Middlesbrough: Steele, Hoyte, Bates, Hines, Bennett, Robson (sent-off 86), Bailey, Williams (Thomson 63, Ogbeche 80), Hammill, Jutkiewicz (Main 63), Emnes.
Leeds: Lonergan, Connolly, Lees, O’Dea, Robinson, White, Brown, Clayton (Pugh 90), Snodgrass, McCormack (Webber 87), Becchio (Forssell 90).
Referee: Carl Boyeson.