A late goal from midweek signing Billy Sharp gave David Hockaday his first league win of the 2014/15 Championship campaign as The Whites improved on a poor opening day performance against Millwall to beat Middlesbrough at Elland Road.

Leeds started brightly, but Middlesbrough soon began to dominate possession and showed glimpses of the fluid, attack-minded team who brushed aside Birmingham City on opening day.

Albert Adomah was proving to be a particular nuisance to Leeds on the right. In what looked to be a glaring oversight by David Hockaday, it was Stephen Warnock who was tasked with keeping Middlesbrough’s tricky winger under control despite being almost unfairly mismatched for pace.

But Warnock would go on to put in the performance of the day, using his years of experience to frustrate and restrict one of Middlesbrough’s most dangerous players and when Leeds’ defence was beaten, it was often body on the line stuff from Warnock that kept the visitors at bay.

A big talking point came 25 minutes in when Warnock was involved in a moment of controversy that denied Middlesbrough the opening goal, throwing himself at Albert Adomah whose overhead kick was consequently ruled out for dangerous play. Such was the proximity of Adomah’s boot to Warnock’s head, the referee saw fit to disallow the goal despite a total absence of appeals from the Leeds United players or the crowd.

Middlesbrough will feel understandably annoyed at the decision as it was an excellent bit of skill and a goal which should – in my opinion at least – have stood, but it’s the referees call and he saw it differently. Harsh, but over the course of a 46 game season every club sees their share of bad and questionable decisions, you just hope it all balances out with a bit of good fortune along the way.

At a point in the game where Middlesbrough were dominating possession, the disallowed goal seemed to give The Whites a bit of belief to push on and make their own mark on the fixture. New signing Bianchi and Sam Byram both had attempts before the half-time whistle, but it was Adomah again who went closest to breaking the deadlock, denied again by a fantastic block from Stephen Warnock.

Leeds started the second half strongly, pinning Boro back and looking to keep the pressure on through a succession of corners but their defence proved to be as resolute as our own and the fixture looked to be heading towards a stalemate.

Boro’s best chance of the second half fell to Kike who looked certain to score after breaking free of Leeds’ defence, only to be denied by the thorn in Middlesbrough’s side, Stephen Warnock.

At the other end Billy Sharp was annoyed with himself after his headed attempt from a Leeds United corner went wide of the post, but the debutant would have the final word, reacting quickly to a long-range effort from Michael Tonge which was spilled by the Middlesbrough keeper and tucked away by Billy Sharp, who reeled away towards the Leeds fans in celebration of a winning goal on his debut.

FT Leeds United 1-0 Middlesbrough

Ups and downs v Boro

Sharp – Strong performances from all of Leeds’ new signings, particularly Sharp whose striker’s instinct ultimately won us the game. His workrate was excellent and the chasing-down of every lost cause keeps the pressure on the opposition’s defence and goalkeeper.

Bianchi – A reassuring figure in midfield, very comfortable on the ball making very few mistakes in possession. He’s already proving to be a very good signing.

Cooper – Did a lot of things right but his was undoubtedly the weakest performance of the three new signings. Both he and Pearce should have done better leading up to Middlesbrough’s disallowed goal, and again when Adomah and Kike broke through later in the game, but it takes time to form a strong defensive partnership and Cooper did enough to convince me he’ll be a strong asset to the club.

Silvestri – First clean sheet for the new man between the sticks and a deserved one I feel. He’s been solid in his first couple of games for the club and I’ve been very impressed by his command of the area. He reaches most crosses and high-balls into the box before the opposition manage to cause us any problems relieving huge amounts of pressure from the defence. Also mixes things up with his distribution, often rolling the ball out to his defenders instead of the aimless hoofs we’d become accustomed to.

Warnock – Simply sensational. On paper, he should have been the weak link of our defence up against the pace and skill of Adomah, but Warnock rolled back the years to put in arguably his best performance to date in a Leeds United shirt. Man of the match without contest.

Overall, a hugely improved display from Leeds after the poor showing against Millwall on opening day. There’s work to be done and I’d still like to see some genuine width added before the window closes (Adomah would be nice…) but this was an encouraging performance against a strong Middlesbrough side who have the talent to go a long way this season.

On and on…

  • Ev

    I felt Cooper had a good debut, just one error, he was obviously far more comfortable on the ball than either Pearce or Wooton…… I love Pearce but surely the future is Cooper + Bellusci ?

    • TSS

      He did. Might have come across a little too critical above, I just felt there was a couple of moments where we could very easily have been made to pay for him and Pearce not having enough time to work on the partnership, but yeah, he’s clearly talented.

      • Ev

        Yes, seems to have the courage to play for us too…..something that’s been lacking in players over the last few seasons…….
        Tonge is a big positive for me, he looks reborn this season, fit and hungry!
        Some fans were critical of Murphy and while I agree hes not mobile enough to play behind the front two hes a good passer and was involved in most of our attacks…. Mowatt though is more mobile and would be more suited to that position ???
        I absolutely love Cook, hockaday is doing the right thing, blooding him gently but I think we are all impatient for him to age a year and become the special player hes obviously going to be

  • Matthew

    It was like it was written in the stars that Billy Sharp would score on his debut. I had no doubts, it was a good game against a strong Middlesbrough side who were solid at the back.

  • YorkistinCanada

    Wing-play still lacks (nothing new here)……Boro threatened through Reach constantly in the first half and it had us vulnerable.

    Hope to see some more of Dom Poleon in support of The Fat Lad.

  • oldschoolbaby

    If pre seasons are for allowing your new acquisitions to gel, figuring out your best XI and even identifying the formation in which you want to play ours is due to finish around the end of September. We can make our assessments then.
    What struck me yesterday was Cellino`s way of doing business. Time spent in preparation is seldom wasted. Whether you agree with it or not any new manager knows, for definite, they will be a coach. Agents know they can`t come to Elland Rd and take the piss. Players know expectations are high.
    Due to a fondness for the underdog and belief in stability I hope Hockaday succeeds but he can be fired and bought out of contract for the price of an average semi – detached. Any of the new arrivals can be discarded without crushing financial consequence. They could sulk in the reserves without too great a haemorrhage on the purse
    I resolved to maintain a respectful distance from Mr Cellino, I will continue to do so. But things are happening. It`s all interesting and, for the most part, promising. Most importantly it`s happening without me fretting the club`s future is being compromised or threatened. I thank you, Mr C.

  • Bluesman

    Yesterday was a very good performance. Agree that Cellino is doing a brilliant job sorting things out. Cellino ia axreal asset to Leeds and Hockaday is showing a lot of nous too. All in all, everyone should be very pleased with our progress. Dont even need to mention Warnock, he was colossus. Thought everyone had a good game and for me, Cooper really does look the part. Hevis going to be good, very good!

  • Tim

    What is encouraging for me is that we will steadily improve and if Boro are tipped as one of the contenders this season then what we saw yesterday is about as good as they will get to be.
    Cellino is chasing another forward, a centre back and midfielder/playmaker but we still need width. The squad is looking strong for a long season ahead and for the first time in years I can see options on the bench.
    There will be injuries and suspensions over the season so the strength in depth is so important for the second half of the season particularly. If we can get to the two week break at the end of the month in good order then Hockaday has if you like a second two week pre-season without the fitness training to bring it all together and get all the players gelling.

    • Ev

      boro have bought a lot of players in just like leeds so im not sure that argument holds up………both teams will improve as they gel, we need a bit more upfront to be on the same level as the big boys

  • JDC

    Brilliant performance by everyone in a white shirt … well done boys!

    I’ve watched the disallowed goal over and over again and it appears that the concensus is that it should have stood … leaving one question, if Adomah had tried that kick anywhere else on the park, would it have been deemed dangerous play and a free kick given? In my opinion the answer is yes and therefore the goal was rightly disallowed … any thoughts?

    • TSS

      I think it was a nonsense decision personally and I disagree it’d have been a freekick anywhere else on the park as seems to be the growing argument in favour of the referee (only from Leeds fans though, naturally).

      What makes it a bad decision is that Adomah is in space and putting no one in danger when he starts flipping himself to take the shot, the only reason anyone becomes in danger of injury is because Stephen Warnock reacts to what Adomah is doing and lunges himself headfirst towards him.

      Had Warnock already been moving for the header, it’s dangerous and a foul. But he wasn’t, he reacted and as such, deliberately put himself in danger hoping to either put Adomah off or give the referee a decision to make.

      Now, you could argue at this point that he has the right to challenge for the ball and that’s fair enough, he does, but Adomah’s feet aren’t at or above head height – they’re around chest height at best. Warnock is diving downwards at him headfirst and taking the risk, putting himself in danger. If they had collided, then it’s unlucky, but it’s part and parcel of the game. Had he been kicked in the head while standing upright, we’d be rightly outraged, but if you’re diving at a players’ feet – whether off the ground or not – you’re putting yourself at risk and are the only one to blame if kicked in the head.

      It’s also worth noting that Warnock wasn’t really challenging for the header, he simply (and fearlessly) threw himself towards Adomah, hoping he might get a touch, distract Adomah or win the ref’s call. It’s just experience.

      The real acid test is reversing the roles. It was an excellent goal and I’d be furious if it was Leeds and we’d had it ruled out, but then, I also believe malice and intent should be considered above all else when it comes to fouls. Adomah’s intent was to score, and he did, using a technique that’s been around decades. He never attempted to kick Warnock in the head, Warnock was nowhere near him at the time he starting flipping himself over and – most importantly – he DIDN’T kick Warnock in the head.

      To summarise, the rule states it’s the refs call, but the basis for the decision is he put another player in danger. For me, Warnock puts himself in danger by diving in headfirst (as a reaction), Adomah was clear and had every right to attempt the shot.

  • Bob

    Not a Leeds fan (Boro fan here) and I have to give the OP credit here, first Leeds fan i’ve seen take his rose-tinted specs off and say that Adomah’s goal was incorrectly ruled out.

    Leeds played well, frustrated us, dragged us into a fight and ultimately won because they wanted it more. Doesn’t help when we panic as we did for the goal – Omeruo left his position to go head the ball when Friend was under it, leaving Tonge with a clear sight of goal, Mejias failing to deal with a fairly average shot and push it wide, Damia not reacting and following in when Sharp was.

    Fair credit to Leeds, our heads went on that decision, Leeds grew into the game and dominated for most the game. I personally believe a draw would have been a fair result and I know that most Leeds fans would disagree as even the ones i’m close friends with are incapable of any sort of humility.

    Wish Hockaday and Leeds all the best, just wish the fans would learn a little humility. Us Boro fans admit when a team plays well, when we were lucky etc. Shame most fans don’t.

    • Matthew

      I thought the decision was bullshit too, while I’m happy with the 3 points, if the decision had gone in your favour, it would have been a decent 1-1 draw. I wouldn’t worry too much, you’ll easily be in the top 10 at the end of the season.

      • PMH

        Overhead kicks in a crowded box are dangerous, and should be illegal. Realistically, an opposing player is not able to challenge equally for a ball.with his head, when the forward has launched his foot at a height of 6 feet. Having said that, they are exciting to watch and Leeds were really lucky to get that goal disallowed.

        • Matthew

          He had space around him mid motion while doing said overhead kick. He can’t be held responsible for one of our defenders going head first while doing said kick, he had no intent to injure, he had a legitimate shot on the goal. Infact the moment he scored, I thought that was Middlesbrough legitimately ahead.

        • TSS

          6 foot is a bit of an exaggeration, no player can elevate their foot above head height when attempting an over head kick because you’re falling downwards as you flip, so it’s 4-5ft at most.

          As for them being made illegal, I completely disagree. This culture of trying to wrap players in cotton wool is what’s led to the pathetic rolling about and dives, you can barely tackle these days without some refs blowing the whistle, it’s madness. Football is a contact sport, they’re going to take a few knocks contesting balls at the speed it’s played, I wish we’d stop trying to prevent that, let the players challenge for balls without fear of being sent off if they mistime it by half a second or raise their foot a millimetre too high and base the decision to award a foul on intent. (Ie. if a player is genuinely challenging for the ball, or trying to score then it’s not a foul. If someone gets hurt in the process, unlucky.)

          • MaltaWhite

            Obviously you didnt see Ibrahimovic’s goal for Sweden against England. His foot was about 2 metres in the air. Overhead kicks are fine when there is no one around, but Warnock’s head was inches from Adomah’s foot.
            Saying that, I also believe it was harshly ruled out because Warnock was stooping.

    • Helen LUFC

      Bob, were you one of the fans chanting ‘Jimmy Savile, he could be your dad?’ throughout most of the match? Or on the way into the ground? I think you should take a leaf out of the Millwall manager’s book and show a bit of humility and apologise on behalf of the Boro fans, even if you weren’t involved in that chanting, rather than give back handed compliments.

      • PMH

        Unrealistic. Leeds fans are the master of dark humor and the clever insult, So, we are not going to get (or deserve) any apologies from Boro fans. Plus, this one seems quite sensible, so leave him alone.

        • Helen LUFC

          You sound like you’re probably a Boro fan that joined in with the chanting? Well done.

          • TSS

            I dunno, it’s a fair point. ‘Those in glass houses’ and all that…

  • Helen LUFC

    Agree totally with the Warnock praise. I was in the Bremner stand and could see clearly the shift he was putting in, particularly in the second half. Billy sharp did what good strikers do and pick up any scraps. I thought doukara was very poor, and smith would be better. Pearce looks weak, and is no captain, not sure hwy he should have the captains armband. I have to say, taking the rise tinted spectacles off, the team played bloody awful football, and they could only improve in the second half, which they did, but my concerns are that without Cellino investing effectively in the team we are little improved on last season, and from what I saw yesterday if we play like that home, or particularly away, we will get well beaten. We were lucky to get the points, and really, a share of the points would have been fairer. If it had been one point out of six, would fans be quite as jubilant as they seem to be now? There was a lot of euphoria after smiths late goal against Brighton in the starting fixture last season, and that was a poor game team wise. I don’t see the point of the soft pre-season games that Leeds insist on when it shows on match day in the championship that they are out played for large periods. It would make more sense, if Leeds have any ambition, to play more challenging pre-season games and we definitely need Cellino to stop being such a cheap skate with lack of money for good quality players. To get Viviani, and then Agard, to the club to discuss a move and they refuse at the last hurdle shows how shy Cellino is to spend. It’s ok people saying he’s a business man, astute, etc. but to be honest we’ve had tight owners with bates and GFH, he needs to splash some cash. The team as a whole yesterday were garbage.

    • oldschoolbaby

      Cellino was placed between a very big rock and a very hard place when he sold McCormack. He had to divulge that he had received a very respectable sum to limit our dis-satisfaction. In doing so though, he indicated to every Chairman and bloodsucking leech of an agent that he had a wad in his back pocket. Subsequently, Viviani / Agard situations were inevitable. I`d be surprised if both of them don`t regret their greed at some point this season
      Silvestri looks a good find
      Bianchi looks able when played in the centre of the park
      Doukara is, I agree, enigmatic but has something
      Replacing McCormack with Sharp, on a financial level, is outstanding business
      There is a lot more to assess / arrive ( personally, I don`t think Ajose will amount to much )
      We are significantly improved on last season
      I agree that Pearce is no Captain. Murphy always appears deferential to me, particularly towards Austin for some inexplicable reason. While we wait to see who emerges with Captaincy potential I would be rather curious to see how a bit of responsibility impacted on his game

    • TSS

      Some fair points. It wasn’t a performance that’s going to win us the league title, but it was a HUGE improvement on Millwall and since we’ve given ourselves a handicap courtesy of the poor pre-season and failure to get players signed quickly enough to work out a system, I’m impressed that we did that well personally.

      The area where we have most room for improvement is in possession. Countless times yesterday the man in possession was given no options by the rest of his team, having to try chips and risky balls because the rest of the players were making it all too easy for Boro to put a man between themselves and the ball, which in turn, allows them to tighten up on the man in possession and crowd him out. The more players get themselves in space and give him options, the less they can do that and the easier it is to retain possession and cut paths through the opposition – Boro did this very well for the first 30 minutes and it’s an area Leeds need to work on.

  • Yorxman

    The Sun has Austin 8/10 MOM!! Which fekking game were they watching? He is sluggish, his touch is non-existent, creates nothing & his finishing makes Bradley Johnson look like Messi. Get a proper creative midfielder in alongside Murphy and we may end up an half decent side

    • Helen LUFC

      Put in a good sliding tackle from behind that brought about the biggest cheer of the day outside of the goal, though.

    • Matthew

      Austin MOM? Shocking decision, he lost possession a fair bit yesterday, even passed the ball to the Middlesbrough players sometimes too. Warnock is my MOM, he was immense, his blocks were superb, couldn’t fault the man. If he can retain this form for the rest of the season, our backline will be all the better for it.

  • PMH

    A good game and Leeds played well against a strong Boro side, as I expected. They earned one point but got all three through a little luck. Nothing to complain about, but also way too soon to get carried away. As soon as you relax a little or go off form in the Championship, you take a beating. I expect we can raise our game for Cardiff and Forest but I want to see how we perform against the likes of Brentford and Rotherham. These are the teams you have to beat week in and week out, and that will not be easy. So let us remember not to get too excited with a single win, or too depressed with a loss. We’ll have plenty of both before the season is over.

    • Helen LUFC

      You obviously must have pretty low expectations if you think that performance was fine?! It was poor and totally lacking in quality at any level as a team performance. The Boro fans were probably chanting at you when they said we’re stuck in the past. We ARE one of the weak links in this division, not a team that should be expecting to beat anyone as a given. One zero flattered us.

      • oldschoolbaby

        Call me a pedant but isn`t your declaration of what we ARE a touch premature. Unless you are unbelievably well informed / connected / travelled you haven`t even seen a number of the variables in the new equation. A number more do deserve some time to settle

        • Helen LUFC

          Seen enough yesterday to see how the new season will unfold. Underinvestment in an already weak squad = bottom half of the table finish. The team are not good enough to compete with a lot of the teams in this division.

          • PMH

            You really can’t tell much from a single performance from a team that has been together for less than a week. But realistically we are arguing whether it will be mid table or bottom half. Not much joy in that. I’ll agree that, based on personnel, this team does not look play-off bound.

          • oldschoolbaby

            You clearly have very strong views. Personally, I would find them more compelling if they were blessed with rather more objectivity
            I would be interested to know what your opinion of Warnock was on Friday evening. Perhaps, just perhaps, “underinvestment” in Berardi ( I understand he can play left side when not distracted by unarmed combat ) inspired him to improve his performance. A scenario which would undermine your arguments a little.

        • Matthew

          It’s not worth debating something with someone who seems to be dwelling in negativity, we did well enough to complete with Middlesbrough, enough said. Onwards to Brighton on Tuesday and hopefully another 3 points. Onwards and upwards.

  • PAUL W

    Leeds were penned in their own half, for most of the first half, but Warnock was outstanding throughout and he was the only Leeds defender talking and geeing up everyone else up.
    Warnock is a very experienced player and should now be the Leeds team captain, rather than Pearce, who always does his best, but he is an extremely slow and cumbersome player and maybe his best is now not good enough for Leeds any more. The central defence has to be Cooper and Bellusci from now on surely, due to Cooper and Pearce both being left footed players.
    Billy Sharp is an outstanding signing and he is a brilliant replacement for McCormack and is a faster player than Becchio ever was.
    It was a smash and grab win for Leeds, but how many times have Leeds suffered in smash and defeats over the last 10 poor years?

    • Rupert 90

      Potentially the making of the best Leeds side I have seen for several years.
      These players have only just began their journey of togetherness and more signings to come !
      I saw a game where the whole team wanted it so badly they forced a win out of a draw.
      The season will be a ride and we can get out of this league sooner rather than later.

      Well done coach and well done owner !

  • RContini

    I’m feeling even optomistic this week, thanks to the result and recent additions, despite the smash and grab nature of it. I think that criticising the standard of football we produced at this stage is wrong, we have had no time to gel, and with so many transfers in and out, any lineup is going to be makeshift and relies on the players to make it work. By that measure we did very well, the players were clearly fired up and they defended very well and also tried (with varying success) to play passing football. The commitment and desire helped them beat what looked a strong team in this division, i think they will be going for the playoffs at least. This tells me that they are playing for Hockaday and they are listening to him because the defence didn’t look like strangers. I think Bianchi and Silvestre are a noticable upgrade, Bianchi looks to be technically proficient, as I would expect from an Italian and I think once he gets a feel for the championship he will start to run the team. Doukara has some promising attributes and unfortunately picked up a knock before we had chance to serve him something decent, he showed that he’s a strong finisher againt accrington and again once he learns the Cship he’ll start performing.
    The Pearce debate wil be ended by Bellusci, who I’m certain the best player we have, maybe the best defender in this division, a little rough round the edges perhaps but he will get stuck in no doubt about it.
    Next move has to be Adryan, at any cost, Cellino will know this and will do all he can withing the budget of course, he signed this player himself and knows his potential, he was a star at the u17 world cup for Brazil and will be easily the most exciting player in the team if he comes. The only concern is that Zeman doesnt seem to want him for Cagliari, he is an all out attack coach who always puts faith in youngsters, so maybe he has concerns on the fitness side as it doesn’t make sense otherwise.