FANS came to jeer Ken Bates over the lack of spending on the team, but found another villain to vent their anger in referee Anthony Taylor as Leeds United’s Championship game against Middlesbrough was completely ruined by an incompetent performance from the so-called Premiership official.
Fans of both sides and both managers were left shaking their head at the decisions of Taylor and in particular his issuing of 10 cards in a match that could never be described as dirty.
Leeds came off worst with eight yellows shown to their players and two reds for Max Gradel and Jonny Howson, who will now miss tomorrow night’s home game against Hull City. The club will also be fined for the number of bookings, hardly ideal in the current climate when money cannot be found for players.
Their nine-man team could not quite hold on for a point as Marvin Emnes, the player who had blatantly cheated with a dive to get Howson sent-off showed just how much cheats prosper by banging in the only goal 23 minutes from the end.
What made the Howson red card all the more frustrating was that the referee originally pointed for a free-kick to Leeds and was about to book Emnes for a dive only to mysteriously change his mind while the Boro player reckoned to be injured on the floor.
United had fewer complaints about their first sending off as Gradel’s mistimed tackle was rash after he had already been booked, admittedly more unfortunately for a tangle with Tony McMahon that smarter officials would not have punished with yellows.
The referee evened things up when he ordered Boro right-back McMahon off at the end of the first half, again controversially, after it did not look much of a foul on Howson and the decision to show the red card only seemed to come after a plea from the Leeds captain.
It was all a shame for the Whites after they had looked the better side 11 v 11 and were holding their own at 10 v 11 for 20 minutes. But when they were down to nine men they were also down to one midfielder on the pitch and found themselves overrun for a period when the visitors got their winning goal.
Young defender Tom Lees, on his first start for the club, came closest to a goal for United with a looping header that was cleared off the line while the impressive Adam Clayton almost scored a wonder goal from more than 50 yards out with a chip that was tipped over by Boro keeper Carl Ikeme.
But all their efforts were ruined by the referee, who came in for stinging criticism from United boss Simon Grayson.
He said: “The referee made a rod for his own back in the first five minutes when decided to book the first two players.
“How can he book two players going for a 50-50 challenge in the first five minutes of a Championship game with the passion involved? Nobody was going over the top and he could quite easily said to both players get on with the game. But he decided to make a rod for his own back then went downhill from there.
“McMahon shouldn’t have been sent-off just before half-time. It wasn’t a second booking, he’s done it to even it up and it was a bonus for us at half-time.
“But Jonny Howson shouldn’t have been sent-off. We got caught on the break and he took one for the team in the first half, but in the second half the lad’s broke away (Emnes) and the referee’s given us a free-kick – and he’s told me this – he was going to book him for diving. But he can’t do that until he gets up off the ground and in the meantime the fourth official, who’s 60 yards away, has given him the authority to change his mind and book Jonny.
“The lad has clipped Jonny as he’s run away from him. Jonny has not stuck his leg out or tripped him up or anything like that. How can the fourth official make such a big decision as that? The game was spoiled by the sendings off.”
Grayson was pleased with the way his players kept battling despite having the odds stacked against them.
He added: “They never stopped chasing and ran themselves into the ground. Obviously it’s extremely hard when you’re down to nine men, but they defended with their lives and we could quite easily have got something at times.
“The first half I thought we were bright and had a decent shape.
“I’m delighted with Andy Lonergan. He made some good saves and kept us in it at times. Adam Clayton never stopped running, he was tackling and passing the ball around and his enthusiasm is there for everybody to see. He’s got some quality and I’m delighted at how well he’s done. His long distance chip was very nearly in and was a great effort.
“We’re obviously disappointed with the result, but there were positives from the game and we’ll regroup and hope to get a result against Hull City on Tuesday night.”
Leeds United 0
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Leeds: Lonergan, Lees, Kisnorbo, Bromby, O’Dea, Snodgrass (Thompson 65), Brown (Nunez 56), Clayton, Howson (sent-off 60), Gradel (sent-off 27), McCormack (Sam 75).
Middlesbrough: Ikeme, McMahon (sent-off 45), Bates, McManus, Bennett, Hoyte (Martin 65), Bailey, Williams (Hines 90), Robson (Arca 65), McDonald, Emnes.
Referee: Anthony Taylor.