LEEDS United players were jeered off as they produced a strangely subdued performance to suffer a first-ever home defeat against Reading at Elland Road on Saturday (writes Tony Harber).
Most of the 23,162 fans inside the ground were left wishing they had gone Christmas shopping instead of watching a display by the Whites that bordered on the clueless at times.
With just one win in their last six home games Leeds have hardly been setting anything alight at Elland Road, but the latest performance was among their most inept as they only managed two tame efforts on target in the whole game and fell to a second minute goal when their defence was caught cold.
Reading’s winner came while many were still settling into their seats as a long ball into space was only chased by visiting striker Simon Church. Returning United keeper Andy Lonergan fatally hesitated and was let in no man’s land as Church calmly lobbed the ball over him for what proved the only goal of a drab affair.
Brian McDermott’s men could have added to their lead twice in the first 20 minutes as they made a bright start. Jobi McAnuff got in behind the home defence on both occasions and saw one shot flash wide then another parried by Lonergan with Aidan White making a great intervention to deny the following up Adam Le Fondre.
Leeds huffed and puffed, but got nowhere apart from a Luciano Becchio shot on the turn that was blocked by a defender. In first half injury time they finally fashioned a proper chance only for Ross McCormack’s header from Robert Snodgrass’s cross to be easily saved by Reading keeper Adam Federici.
United started the second half brighter as they switched tactics to play 4-3-3 from the ineffective 4-4-2, but again they struggled to create openings aside from one decent move that saw Snodgrass set Paul Connolly free down the right. The full-back’s pull back was met by Adam Clayton only for his flick to again be easily dealt with by Federici
A triple substitution failed miserably to revive Leeds and Reading easily saw out the rest of the game and almost added a second when Kaspars Gorkss saw a header cleared off the line.
There was little action to get anyone excited in the last 20 minutes and it came as something of a relief when referee Colin Webster blew for full-time.
Leeds boss Simon Grayson (pictured) did not hide his disappointment at the performance of his players, on the back of a similarly ineffective display a week earlier at Watford.
He said: “It was pretty much like last week. It’s just not happening for us at this moment in time.
“We got off to the worst possible start conceding a goal in the first two minutes. It’s a decent finish, but the lad shouldn’t be on his own – it was a sloppy goal to give away against a team who you know are going to work hard, be organised and make it difficult for you.
“From then on we huffed and puffed and too many of our players in the last two weeks are not playing to the standards we set ourselves a few weeks ago when we were winning games. When we had possession of the ball we were giving it away far too cheaply and too many players when we have not got possession are not getting second balls or making it difficult for the opposition.
“It can change pretty quickly, but it was just an all-round disappointing performance. We know we have a lot of work in front of us to secure a play-off place at the end of the season.
“Give credit to Reading, they are a good team. Anyone who thinks they won’t be in the mix this year if very much mistaken. They’ve got the nucleus of the team that got to the play-off final last year, they have got some good individuals and are very hard working.
“It wasn’t as if we were losing to a team that will be in the bottom six, but there was no excuse for how we played.
“We played right into their hands. We knew they had two big centre-halves that were going to head it and we needed little balls round the side and needed more movement. We had to be more positive, get on the ball and play forward and not take the easy option.”
Leeds United 0
Saturday, December 17, 2011
Leeds: Lonergan, Connolly, Kisnorbo, Lees, White, Snodgrass, Brown (Vayrynen 65), Clayton (Keogh 65), Pugh, McCormack (Sam 65), Becchio.
Reading: Federici, Cummings, Pearce, Gorkss, Griffin, McAnuff, Leigertwood, Karacan (Tabb 61), Robson-Kanu, Church, Le Fondre (Antonio 90).
Referee: Colin Webster.