TWO goals from Ramon Nunez on his first start in a Leeds United shirt enabled the Whites to come from behind to progress into the second round of the Carling Cup at the expense of local rivals Bradford City.
United were twice trailing and with 25 minutes to go looked to be heading for a shock exit, but they finished strongly to overcome their plucky League Two opponents in front of a healthy 17,667 crowd.
City were the better side in the opening half and led 1-0 thanks to a goal on the half hour when Jack Compton converted at the near post after a strong run and low cross from opposite winger Mark Stewart.
Before then Stewart was denied by Leeds keeper Andy Lonergan and pulled another shot wide when well placed while Michael Flynn fired a long range strike just over.
United, weakened without wide men Robert Snodgrass and Max Gradel on international duty and three absent centre-forwards, took time to settle, but did put some decent moves together in the middle of the half when Adam Clayton volleyed over and Nunez was off target with two efforts inside the box, one with just the keeper to beat after he had been well set up by the industrious Clayton.
But they were relieved to get to half-time still in the game and improved dramatically after the break.
It took them just 26 seconds into the second half to equalise when Lloyd Sam’s run into the box had the Bradford defence at sixes and sevens and Clayton teed up Nunez to score his first goal for Leeds with a strike that went in off the crossbar.
An exciting period saw chances at both ends as Ross McCormack went clean through only to hit a weak shot wide and Jonny Howson headed a half-chance over, but City threatened through Compton, who curled a shot over, and David Syers, who robbed Paul Connolly and sent an angled strike inches wide.
It was the visitors who scored next on 57 minutes when an initial error by home defender Andy O’Brien was pounced upon as Flynn turned well just inside the box to beat Lonergan with a powerful angled strike.
United manager Simon Grayson had little in the way of attacking talent on his bench to change things, but threw on two new defenders in Leigh Bromby and debutant Tom Lees for the out of sorts O’Brien and Paul Connolly and this seemed to steady the Whites.
They were back on level terms on 69 minutes as Lees produced a superb cross from the right and McCormack met it with his head to make it 2-2.
Suddenly there was more confidence to United’s play and they went in front six minutes later when Nunez was left with a tap-in for his second goal after Sam’s cross was deflected into his path.
McCormack went close to adding to his tally with four strikes in the closing stages and Clayton also had an effort saved by Oscar Jonsson as the hosts now moved the ball about well and created openings. City’s effort fizzled out and it was Leeds looking for a good draw in the second round.
Manager Grayson was pleased with his side’s first win of the season, but critical of the defending.
He said: “We’ve got to do better without the ball, we were too easy, we were a soft touch at times.
“People were in the wrong positions, we were punished. Experienced people were making wrong decisions. It cost us over the weekend and it‘s cost us again. It‘s obviously something we need to get right if we are going to be better in the championship this year.
“We knew that we were going to be in for a tough game. We played okay in patches, but we gave them too many opportunities.
“We showed a lot of character to come back after being 2-1 behind, but we know we have got to do much better.”
Leeds United 3
(Nunez 46, 75, McCormack 69)
Bradford City 2
(Compton 30, Flynn 57)
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Carling Cup, round one
Leeds: Lonergan, Connolly (Lees 62), Kisnorbo, O’Brien (Bromby 62), Parker, Sam, Brown, Clayton, Howson, Nunez, McCormack (Taylor 90).
Bradford: Jonsson, Moore, Branston, Williams, Threlfall, Compton, Flynn, Mitchell (Hannah 84), Syers (Jones 62), Stewart (Rodney 78), Hanson.
Referee: C Webster.