Leeds 3-3 Portsmouth: Criminal referee, lousy defending and two own goals TSS December 29, 2010 Match reviews 18 Comments Poor defending and another criminal referee once again saw Leeds United surrender a two goal lead and throw away two points for the second time in three days. Leeds got off to the ideal start in front of the bumper 31,500 Elland Road crowd with Max Gradel extending his fine run of goalscoring form to knock in from close range after Billy Paynter headed the ball down to gift him the opener. 1-0 Just three minutes later and the captain Jonny Howson doubled Leeds United’s lead by netting his eighth of the season. Only ten minutes gone at Elland Road and Leeds were making light-work of the formerly Premier League Portsmouth. 2-0 As the Pompey fans started to wonder why they’d bothered making the long journey North, Leeds took their foot off the gas a bit and started to allow Portsmouth a little too much time on the ball. Rather than continuing to press, Leeds invited the visitors to attack and waited for opportunities to catch them on the break. A risky and unnecessary approach from Leeds but there was some motive to the madness. On the wing, Robert Snodgrass was making Liam Dickinson look like a Sunday League player as he cast him aside time and time again with absolute ease. Almost every attack Leeds forged went through Snodgrass and Dickinson was second best throughout. Inviting the pressure on ultimately cost us though and Portsmouth got themselves back into the game just after the half hour mark when Nugent scored to make it 2-1. Had Leeds kept up the pressure of the first twenty minutes, I feel this game would have been out of sight before Pompey got anywhere near the scoresheet, but as things were, they were back in it as we headed towards half-time. Not much in the way of clear cut chances early in the second half, but Pompey had a bit of swagger and belief about themselves now with the likes of Utaka, Halford and Nugent all giving Leeds United fans cause for concern. There was a sense that whoever scored next would likely win this one, so when Bradley Johnson netted with a great finish just after the half hour mark there was a noticeable sense of relief amongst the celebrations inside Elland Road. With just half an hour remaining and the two goal lead restored it should have been game over. 3-1 Before I’d had chance to catch my breath however, Pompey had pulled one back straight from the restart. Former Arsenal striker, Kanu cut the ball across the box into the path of Hughes, whose shot took a massive deflection off the helpless Andy O’Brien to make it 3-2. One thing about following Leeds United this year – It’s never boring. Leeds kept their heads up and responded well and there were celebrations once more as Ross McCormack netted Leeds’ fourth just minutes later, only to be denied by the referee for an earlier foul. Just five or so minutes after the goal was ruled out, Ross McCormack was brought down in the box for an absolutely clear-cut penalty by Ibrahima Sonko. Unfortunately, the hopeless referee saw things differently, much to the anger and frustration of Leeds United players and the Kop who were more than a little vocal in making their feelings known. Robert Snodgrass once again made Liam Dickinson and the Portsmouth defense look like statues as he twist and turned his way into a good shooting position, only to see his shot sail over the crossbar. Pompey were forging a few attacks of their own too, but Schmeichel was dealing with both Pompey’s attempts and Bradley Johnson’s dodgy back-passes competently. All the attacks were heading towards the wrong end of the pitch as we entered the hefty five minutes of added time desperately trying to cling on to our slender 3-2 lead, and once again we were left cursing the defense as a lack of communication between Schmeichel and O’Brien gave the centre back his second (own) goal of the match and leveled things for Pompey in injury time. A tragically disappointing way to end the game. To lose a two goal lead at any stage in the season is always cause for concern, but twice in a week is beyond the ridiculous. We will quite rightly point towards the referee’s failings as the penalty would have put the game totally out of reach, but as things were, two questionable decisions in the space of a few minutes turned the tables on us completely. I’ve been arguing for the last couple of weeks that we shouldn’t be looking to alter the squad at all in January unless it’s to bring in a new centre-back. The priority of that signing has definitely increased after the last two games. Loanee stop-gaps and over-the-hill has-beens are not good enough either. We need someone young, strong and with enough pace to get back when we’re caught on the break . It’s difficult to highlight positives when you’ve stood and watched your team throw away four points in three days, but eleven games undefeated and comfortably placed in the play-offs is a situation we’d have bitten people’s hands off for. The fact that we’re a little disgruntled with the last two games is testament to how well we’re doing really. TSS man of the match Aside from a careless back-pass late on, I have to say that Bradley Johnson was once again excellent in midfield and did well to get on the scoresheet. Both Ross McCormack and Billy Paynter gave a good account of themselves with the rare opportunity to start a match. Max Gradel continues to frustrate and amaze in equal measures and did well once again to open the scoring and it was also nice to see Howson add to his tally of goals this season. Only one contender for man of the match though and it’s Robert Snodgrass – I mentioned it a couple of times above, but he made Dickinson look like a statue and didn’t struggle too much taking the rest of the team on either.