THREE goals In the last 16 minutes following the sending off of Ipswich keeper Alex McCarthy saw Leeds United come from behind again to earn three vital points in the Npower Championship.
Amazingly it was the third league game running that the Whites found themselves up against 10 men with McCarthy – who was on loan at Elland Road last month – seeing red this time in what proved the game’s turning point in the 70th minute.
With Leeds struggling and trailing to a first half goal when their own goalkeeper, Andy Lonergan, had made a howler they were given a lifeline as Ipswich defender Ibrahima Sonko tried to head the ball back to McCarthy.
He did not see that his keeper was racing out to clear the danger and with his headed back pass having too much pace on it McCarthy had no option but to catch it. As he was a few yards outside his area referee Geoff Eltringham then had no option but to send him off.
Robert Snodgrass was unable to convert the resulting free-kick, but within three minutes United had their equaliser following another comedy or errors.
Snodgrass could not believe his luck as he was presented with a gift close to goal by a Sonko back pass and did not hesitate to finish confidently.
The way he raced back to the half-way line to place the ball for a quick restart suggested he believed Leeds could now go on to win and he was proved right.
Where the Whites’ play had earlier been hesitant and lacking in confidence suddenly the players were flooding forward and they benefitted from another error to go in front on 82 minutes as substitute keeper Arran Lee-Barrett hesitated to come out of goal to get to an overhit Adam Clayton pass and Ross McCormack reached the ball first to be gifted his 13th goal of the season.
Luciano Becchio, impressive as substitute after being left out of the starting line-up, put the icing on the cake with a smart angled finish from close range in injury-time and the transformation was complete.
What a difference to earlier as the game started to shouts all round the ground of “Bates out” and general anger at the end of a week in which Leeds had agreed to sell their captain, Jonny Howson. A small demonstration outside the ground took place before kick-off.
Against this backdrop it seemed that every player error was greeted by groans and in the first 45 minutes the Whites barely mustered an effort on goal.
Even the return of former favourite Fabian Delph could not give United the boost they had been looking for as Ipswich used their extra man in midfield to control the opening half.
They went ahead in fortunate circumstances when Andy Drury’s dribbler of a shot from distance somehow went straight through Lonergan, but they were full value for the lead and could have been further in front had Jay Emmanuel-Thomas’s ferocious 30-yarder not hit the woodwork and had Lonergan not saved well at the feet of Lee Martin after he had been put clean through.
The visitors remained in control into the second half and looked comfortable until McCarthy’s sending off led to a late collapse that showed why they have the worst defensive record in the division.
Leeds United 3
(Snodgrass 74, McCormack 82, Becchio 90)
Ipswich Town 1
Saturday, January 21, 2012
Leeds: Lonergan, Thompson, Lees, O’Dea, Pugh, Snodgrass, Clayton, Delph, Townsend (White 59), McCormack, Forssell (Becchio 59).
Ipswich: McCarthy (sent-off 70), Edwards, Smith, Sonko, Cresswell, Emmanuel-Thomas, Drury, Hyam (Bullard 85), Martin, Murphy (Chopra 83), Scotland (Lee-Barrett 71).
Referee: Geoff Eltringham.