MANAGER Simon Grayson criticised his players after Leeds United were outfought and deservedly beaten by Sheffield United in the Yorkshire derby at Bramall Lane.
Grayson agreed the better side on the day had won and found it hard to explain what had gone wrong with his team after they were once again exposed at the back, lacked bite in midfield and unusually failed to make the home goalkeeper make a save of any note in the whole 90 minutes.
Max Gradel did squander a great chance to head Leeds in front when he somehow missed the target with a header from close range on 17 minutes, but eventually the visitors were undone by yet another own goal and a second Blades strike 16 minutes from time.
To compound their misery they had striker Billy Paynter sent off for an alleged head butt on Shane Lowry two minutes from time and he faces a three-match ban unless an appeal is launched.
It was little wonder Grayson was an unhappy man after the game.
He said: “We basically got out of the game what we deserved – nothing. It was hugely disappointing and frustrating.
“Right from one minute past one when the first ball was kicked and Doyly’s caught Robert Snodgrass with a challenge we never got going.
“We told the players it was going to be a horrible bobbly pitch, it was going to be frenetic and they would have to fight and scrap and we did not do any of those things. Even when we got possession of the ball we didn’t use it well enough.
“It seemed they wanted it more than us, which is hugely disappointing.
“We knew what Sheffield United would be all about. They were going to launch it and look for scraps and make it as ugly a game as possible, but we didn’t manage to compete with them.
“Too many of our team played as individuals and not as a team. When we press and close down as a team we are good and we can win the ball further up the pitch and create opportunities. Today we didn’t do the first part of the game in chasing and harrying, which led to us not getting many chances.
“We lost out all over the pitch. In any game you’ve got to earn the right to play and can’t expect to go out there and just pass the ball about, you have to battle no matter who you play.
“On another day Max Gradel would have scored and it was our best passage of play that led to the chance. Goals do change games and you sensed that it gave them a big lift, but we defended sloppily and were a little bit lazy as a team when we conceded both the goals.
“It was a big game for us and a big game for Sheffield United as well and they wanted it more.”
Grayson explained what referee Mike Jones told him about the sending off of Paynter near the end:
“The referee said that after talking to his linesman that Billy’s butted the player. Billy’s adamant he didn’t do and we will look at the DVD.
“It might be one of them that we have to put up with and It rounded off what has been a bad day for us.
“If there is enough footage there we could appeal, but if not you are wasting your time because they don’t change decisions easily.”
Leeds rarely got their passing game together and were hurried in their play from the opening minute when the first of the Blades efforts on goal came in from Ched Evans and Daniel Bogdanovic.
Leigh Bromby did head an early half chance over, but it was 17 minutes before the visitors put their first move of note together when Eric Lichaj’s cross found Gradel at the far post only for the winger to head wide from little more than six yards out.
Bogdanovic squandered two good chances for the hosts and Kasper Schmeichel made superb saves to deny Stephen Quinn and Leeds-born Nick Montgomery as the game remained goalless to the break despite the Blades’ dominance.
Leeds did manage to carve out one decent opportunity, but Snodgrass dragged his shot wide from the edge of the box.
Barry Bannan hit a 25-yard shot over and Bradley Johnson headed a Snodgrass free-kick over as Leeds started the second half better, but they were hit by a body blow on 55 minutes when Montgomery’s low cross was turned into his own net by Lichaj.
The hosts added a second when substitute Bjorn Helge Riise combined with Quinn down the right and was given the freedom of the box to place an angled shot past Schmeichel.
Any lingering doubts that it was not Leeds’ day were dispelled when in an almighty scramble the ball was twice blocked on the line with Gradel and Bromby denied from inside the six-yard box. That was the last chance for the visitors and the game faded out with a string of misplaced passes.
An off the ball incident two minutes from time looked innocuous enough as the ball went out for a Leeds throw, but after speaking with his linesman referee Jones produced a red card for Paynter and just a yellow for the hosts’ former Leeds loanee Shane Lowry.
Sheffield United 2
(Lichaj 55 og, Riise 74)
Leeds United 0
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Sheffield United: Simonsen, Nosworthy, Lowton, Lowry, Mattock, Montgomery (Riise 72), Doyle, Quinn, Vokes, Evans (Cresswell 83), Bogdanovic (Yeates 90).
Leeds: Schmeichel, Lichaj, Bromby, O’Brien, McCartney (Somma 74), Snodgrass (Watt 83), Bannan, Johnson, Howson, Gradel, Becchio (Paynter 67).
Referee: M Jones