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Late Billy Sharp strike takes the points
Saturday, 16th Aug 2014 20:09 by Tim Whelan

It was a game when the two sides looked evenly matched, but a late goal from Billy Sharp was enough to beat Middlesbrough and earn Leeds a first league win of the season.

There were a couple of changes to the starting line-up as Billy Sharp and Liam Cooper came in to make immediate debuts after signing for the club this week, and Tommaso Bianchi was available after missing the Millwall game through suspension. Smith and Wooton were dropped to the bench and thankfully Noel Hunt was left out of the squad altogether.

Leeds made a lively start and created the first chance of the game in the opening minute. Sharp was played though by an excellent ball from midfield but Mejias came off his line very quickly to block his shot, and three defenders got back in time to deal with Ajose’s effort from the rebound. But after that the game settled down and there were few clear-cut opportunities at either end.

Boro started to enjoy more of the possession and at times I thought that Adomah was getting past Warnock a little too easily down their right hand side, and our combination of two left-footed central defenders didn’t look quite right. But Boro struggled to get shots in on goal and when Adomah did manage to get the ball in the net in the 25th minute it was disallowed for dangerous play, Adomah’s making an overhead kick just as Warnock moved in to try to head clear.

The same two players were involved again just before the break when Warnock got back well to block a shot from Adomah inside the six yard box, although he had been the one playing the Boro forward onside in the first place. Between these two chances we had a couple of shots from outside the box at the other end. One from Bianchi which was gathered fairly comfortably by Mejias, the other which Byram sent wide from his weaker left foot.

Leeds started to have more of the game in the second half, but Doukara had to limp off in the 53rd minute after a hefty challenge when he had already been struggling with a knock. His replacement was Tonge, which was a bit of a surprise as this left us with only one up front, and Smith might have been a good bet against a keeper who seemed to struggle on crosses.

This was evident once again when Mejias came out for a corner but got nowhere near it, and Sharp should have done rather better than putting a free header wide of the post. At the other end Kike was denied by a great block from Warnock. The full back seemed to have picked up a slight strain as he stretched for the ball, but manfully he managed to keep going until the end, so the two remaining substitutions could be made in more positive areas of the field.

The first change saw Poleon come on for Ajose, and once again he made some enthusiastic runs but without making very much impact. And in the 86th minute the promising Lewis Cook came on for Austin, who had covered a lot of ground in our midfield. At this stage the game seemed to be heading for a hard-fought draw, but only two minutes later Billy Sharp managed to mark his debut with a typical poacher’s goal.

Tonge was given space to line up a powerfully struck shot from outside the box and when Mejias was unable to hold onto it Sharp reacted far quicker than the two defenders either side of him and raced in to tap the rebound into the net. Sharp’s delight at scoring for his latest new club was obvious as he took his shirt of and ran towards the kop, picking up a booking for his efforts.

There were still five minutes of injury time to survive after various stoppages during the half, and Boro produces a couple of chances that we had to scramble clear, but we held on to claim Hockaday’s first victory in the Championship, much to the head coach’s evident relief. Boro will probably feel they deserved a point on the balance of play, but now that we’ve got a striker who is a proven goalscorer at this level we may well pick up a few more wins like this over the course of the season.

If you want an omen, I remember that our first home game of Howard Wilikinson’s promotion season of 1989/90 was against Boro, and that was also a very even game which we won through a late goal after it seemed to be drifting towards a draw. It’s asking a lot for us to have a repeat of that season, but today there were signs that a good team spirit is developing and with the new signings we’ve got good players in most areas of the field. So who knows?

Photo: Action Images

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