Smith goal not enough as Leeds United lose at home again

Sam Byram, who returned to the Leeds United team against Burnley.
Sam Byram, who returned to the Leeds United team against Burnley.

Leeds United produced a big finish, but could not pull back a first half two-goal deficit as they went down to a second successive home defeat.

Although substitute Matt Smith came up with a trademark headed goal the Whites lost 2-1 to Burnley at Elland Road to slip down to 12th place in the Sky Bet Championship.

They were up against opponents flying after a fine start to the season and Burnley’s early confidence was rewarded when they opened the scoring on 17 minutes.

Scott Arfield beat Paddy Kenny at his near post after he reacted quickest to a loose ball in the box following a tackle by Sam Byram - included for the first time this season after injury.

They could have already been three up at this stage as Arfield and Sam Vokes both forced home keeper Kenny into saves, although Leeds also missed a great chance when Luke Varney headed over after it looked easier to score.

Varney forced Burnley keeper Tom Heaton into his first save after turning in the box to get a shot away and Ross McCormack headed wide as United appeared to be getting on top.

But the Whites were hit by a sucker punch three minutes before the break as referee Lee Probert somehow saw Jason Pearce’s clear tackle as a foul and following the free-kick the visitors scored their second goal.

One-time Leeds loanee Vokes was left with a free header and although Kenny got down to save the initial effort the Burnley striker was able to put away the follow-up.

The referee further infuriated home fans when right on the stroke of half-time he ignored a massive shout for a penalty when the recalled Aidy White went down in the box and United were left with a mountain to climb in the second 45.

Burnley made the better start to the second half with Vokes shooting just wide and Kenny saving efforts from David Jones and Danny Ings. But after making changes in formation and personnel Leeds bossed the last half-hour and created a succession of chances.

McCormack headed wide when well placed, then had a shot deflected wide before visiting keeper Heaton made a stunning save to keep out El Hadji Diouf’s header.

Dominic Poleon hammered a shot wide, McCormack hit another long range shot off target and Smith somehow saw his close range flick deflected wide.

It seemed a goal had to come and so it did as Diouf crossed and tall striker Smith headed home his first goal at Elland Road.

United pushed for an equaliser and Poleon shot wide after Heaton could only parry a Diouf cross.

But a succession of niggly free-kicks allowed the game to be broken up in the closing stages and Leeds had just one more chance when Rudy Austin flashed a volley wide from the edge of the box.

In the end they were unlucky not to get a point, but manager Brian McDermott conceded that his side had not started well enough.

He said: “We got beaten up in the first half. Their two strikers were a handful and we haven’t had that since I’ve been at the club.

“To play the brand of football we want to play you have to earn the right to do so and we didn’t.

“In the second half we had to go longer to try and get a result and we nearly did. Credit to the players for that.

“We were 2-0 down and it was an uphill battle. All you can do in those circumstances is keep going the way we did. The crowd kept going as well. But it wasn’t good enough in the first half.”

Match facts

Leeds United 1

(Smith 79)

Burnley 2

(Arfield 17, Vokes 42)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Sky Bet Championship

Att: 26,465

Leeds: Kenny; Byram (Green 57), Wootton, Pearce, White; Tonge, Austin, Murphy (Poleon 57); Diouf, McCormack, Varney (Smith 75).

Burnley: Heaton; Trippier, Shackell, Duff, Mee; Kightly (Stock 83), Jones (Edgar 70), Marney, Arfield; Ings, Vokes.

Referee: Lee Probert