By Josh Grainger
Brighton 2 – 2 Leeds
Mackail-Smith 16' (pen) Diouf 37’ (pen)
Mackail-Smith 48' Becchio 68'
Paddy Kenny was the hero last night, after he prevented Craig Mackail-Smith from a hatrick, with a late penalty save.
Leeds twice came from behind to deny the home side from a first win in eight. Brighton started the better of the two sides, with some slick passing and good chances. Craig Mackail-Smith looked a danger from the start, as he got behind the Leeds defence on multiple occasions early on. After early Brighton pressure Leeds slowly came into the game, however failed to create any real chances. Luke
Varney impressed in the air, winning numerous headers, however his strike partner, El-Hadji Diouf struggled to break down the physical Brighton defence. Brighton got the goal that their early efforts deserved, when Whites captain, Lee Peltier tripped Will Buckley in the box. Leeds transfer target,
Mackail-Smith smashed the penalty down the middle, and the 2,000 Leeds fans who’d made the trip to the South coast were left wondering if Leeds had the character to get back into the game. The opening goal failed to wake Leeds up, and Mackail-Smith struck the post minutes later, after Leeds had failed to clear the ball.
Warnock’s men finally appeared to come into the game, retaining possession well, however created little to test Brighton keeper, Thomas Kuzczack. Warnock was forced into making an early substitution when Tom Lees was caught in the eye after an aerial battle and was subsequently replaced by Danny Pugh. Pugh went to left back, and Lee Peltier was moved into his arguably more
comfortable role, as centre back. The Leeds players were showing signs of frustration, El-Hadji Diouf was involved in several heated arguments, most notably with Adam El-Abd. Michael Brown was also riding his luck, after picking up an early yellow card, Brown twice pulled down Brighton men on the edge of the box, and was fortunate not to pick up a second yellow. Despite their poor start, Leeds drew level in the 37thminute, when Bruno Saltor pulled down Luke Varney in the box, off the ball. With regular penalty taker Luciano Becchio on the bench, El-Hadji Diouf took the responsibility, and powerfully placed the ball in the bottom corner, despite Kuzczack diving the right way.
Leeds knew they didn’t deserve to be level at the break and knew they would have to improve in the second half to keep the score the same or indeed better it.
Leeds however started the second half disastrously; a skilful exchange in the corner, left Craig Mackail-Smith with a chance in the box, and the prolific striker grabbed his second, despite two deflections of Jason Pearce and Lee Peltier. This Brighton goal was justice for their first half domination, however there was still plenty of time for Leeds to get back into the contest. Brighton switched to a slightly more defensive strategy after taking the lead, however still threatened Leeds on the counter attack. Leeds again seemed to be slowly imposing themselves on the match, yet the equaliser didn’t look like coming.
Aidan White came close, after a good run, the winger’s low drive was comfortably saved by Kuzczack.
Warnock decided to introduce Luciano Becchio into the game, who replaced the tiring Luke Varney. The Argentine seemed fresh and his physical presence put pressure on the Brighton defence. Leeds finally seemed to be dominating the match, and their efforts were rewarded in the 67th minute. After some good short passing in the final third, Aidan White played the ball across the edge of the area, Michael Tonge left it, and Michael Brown sweetly finished in the bottom corner. At first the goal seemed a great strike from Brown, however upon seeing the replay’s it was obvious that the shot took a late deflection of Luciano Becchio. Despite Brown leading the celebrations, the goal was awarded to Becchio, and the Argentine had scored after only being on the pitch for a minute, just as he had done midweek against Southampton. Again Brighton had a right to feel hard done by, they had truly outplayed Leeds until that point, however credit to the Whites for battling back.
their pressure, Mackail-Smith again causing problems, however the Leeds defence had improved and were throwing their bodies around in a brave fashion. Leeds however undid all their work, when in the 76thminute; Sam Byram foolishly clattered Mackail-Smith in the penalty area. Mackail-Smith had the
perfect opportunity to get the hatrick that his performance had deserved, and grab his second penalty goal of the day. It wasn’t to be however, Mackail-Smith struck the ball hard and low to the left of the goal, but Paddy Kenny went the same way and denied Brighton from going ahead. Kenny was mobbed by his team-mates, whilst Mackail-Smith looked horrified. Leeds failed to build on this lucky escape however, Luciano Becchio’s flicked header narrowly went wide. Brighton continued to pile on the pressure, however struggled to break down the vastly improved Leeds defence. In the dying embers of the game, Brighton found a way through the Leeds defence, Andrew Crofts fired the ball across the goal, and however Kenny was again on hand to produce a wonderful save to thwart the Seagulls.
Kenny’s heroics meant the match finished 2-2. Brighton will have felt desperately unlucky not to get the win, however Leeds’ battling efforts were worthy of a point. In the post match interviews, former Leeds assistant manager, Gus Poyet claimed ‘Leeds had not come to play football’ and that ‘Varney should be banned and fined for diving’.These claims were fairly out of the blue, the penalty won by Varney seemed a fair one.
Overall Leeds can be happy with a point, on many other days this season, Brighton’s performance would have been far too good for the Whites, however on this night it wasn’t to be. Leeds’performance was an improvement from their recent league outings, made more impressive as Leeds had had to play midweek, whilst Brighton hadn’t.
Judging on this performance there is still a long way to go before Leeds can be regarded as promotion material. However, it has been very promising that GFH Capital have promised Warnock the money he wants this January for transfers. Warnock has publicly said that his first target is already at the club in El-Hadji Diouf. Warnock will be hoping to give Diouf a long-term deal. Leeds however need a tricky winger, Aidan White has the pace, however the ability sometimes seems to evade him.
Leeds travel to Burnley on Tuesday night, and will hope to get their first league win, since beating Barnsley in early October.
I’ll be doing a preview for that match on Monday, so make sure to look out for that, and in the meantime you can follow me on twitter @joshgrainger16