Luke to the rescue for battling Leeds United

Goal scorer: Luke Murphy.
Goal scorer: Luke Murphy.

Luke Murphy came to Leeds United’s rescue with a late equaliser as they earned a battling point against Birmingham City and ended a 12-hour run without a goal from open play.

A 1-1 draw was no less than the Whites deserved after they went one down to an early penalty and were unlucky several times in front of goal before their 86th minute leveller.

United came close to winning the game as well with a late chance and a massive injury-time shout for a penalty denied by referee Dean Whitestone although the ball hit the outstretched arm of Birmingham’s David Edgar.

The official left the pitch to shouts of “you’re not fit to referee” and there was no doubt Leeds did not have the rub of it with his decisions after another big penalty shout was waved away in the second half when Sam Byram appeared to be tripped in the box.

Whitestone did point to the spot, however, for Birmingham in the seventh minute with Liam Cooper lunging into a tackle and taking the feet of Clayton Donaldson. Up stepped Paul Caddis to score the penalty and the visitors had a flying start.

By then they could have already been behind as Leeds started well and Steve Morison chested the ball down in the box to create space for himself only to shoot over.

Another great chance followed for the hosts in the 14th minute as Scott Wootton met Byram’s free-kick, but headed just wide from little more than eight yards out.

Morison saw a header easily saved by Darren Randolph and was a real threat up front for Leeds who had switched to a 4-4-2 for this game and were getting plenty of crosses into the box.

Mirco Antenucci scuffed a volley wide from a morison knock down in the box and the Italian striker hit another effort wide and a shot from a tight angle parried by Randolph as further pressure was exerted.

Birmingham looked sharp going forward, however, and their shoot on sight policy almost brought dividends as Andrew Shinnie went close with two strikes from range and David Davis saw two piledrivers well saved by home keeper Marco Silvestri.

But Leeds should have been level on 35 minutes when Giuseppe Bellusci saw his close range volley saved by Randolph after he did not put full power in the effort.

The second half followed a similar pattern with United doing most of the pressing and they could not believe their luck six minutes in when Morison met Lewis Cook’s cross with a glancing header only to see the ball hit the post and come straight back to keeper Randolph.

David Cotterill fired inches wide with a free-kick for the visitors to show they still carried a threat, but Murphy hit a shot wide as the hosts got back on the attack and Morison was close again with a toe poke after a corner had dropped nicely for him in the box.

Leeds boss Neil Redfearn put on Billy Sharp for Antenucci as he looked to find a player who could get on the end of Morison’s countless knock downs, but the team then strangely lost their way for a period and it was Birmingham who could have scored again.

First, Demarai Gray went on a strong run into the box and saw his angled shot saved by Silvestri then Donaldson’s flicked header hit the post in similar fashion to Morison’s effort earlier.

Leeds had finally received some luck and they took advantage to build some big pressure in the last 10 minutes.

Byram’s big shout for a penalty was waved away, but this was soon forgotten as the player again playing in an advanced position instead of his more favoured right-back did well to create some space to get a cross in. Birmingham failed to clear and Murphy met the ball on the half-volley to send a great effort into the net for a massive equaliser.

Three minutes later Murphy was again in the right place for a volley on the edge of the box only to see his well struck effort saved by Randolph.

There was still time for more drama as Edgar got away with his handball as the ball bounced up off Sharp’s flick up in the box. No penalty was forthcoming and Birmingham were relieved especially when within seconds the referee blew for time and a draw was the result.

Leeds head coach Redfearn believed he should have been celebrating three points.

He said: “We played well today and deserved to win. The performance, the grit and determination was all there.

“You could see we hadn’t won for a while, but we created enough to have won two matches.

“We are fighting and when you are fighting you’ve got a chance.

“In the second half we more or less camped in their half and if we hadn’t got a point it would have been a travesty.

“We looked better with width. We’ve found a different way of playing now

“Luke Murphy played well and he has been playing well in recent games. He was the best player on the pitch today.

“The boy’s brave because he keeps going. He’s done well today.

“Lewis Cook had a great game. The left hand side is not his natural position, but we have to find somewhere for him in the team. I think he can play anywhere and he’ll get goals as well.

“Scott Wootton came in and did a good job for us at right-back.”

Match facts

Leeds United

(Murphy 86)

Birmingham City 1

(Caddis 7, pen)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Sky Bet Championship

Attendance: 23,534

Leeds: Silvestri, Wootton, Bellusci, Cooper, C Taylor, Byram, Austin, Murphy, Cook (Doukara 78), Antenucci (Sharp 63), Morison.

Birmingham: Randolph, Caddis, Morrison, Robinson, Grounds, Cotterill (83), Gleeson, Davis, Shinnie (Edgar 65), Gray (Novak 78), Donaldson.

Referee: Dean Whitestone