The second honeymoon period for Brian McDermott looks to be over as his Leeds United side produced a disappointing display to lose ground in the play-off race with a 1-0 defeat at Brighton.
The result saw the Whites drop back down to 11th in the table and left them five points behind sixth-placed Reading and four behind Brighton
In a game of few clear chances, Brighton scored the only goal of the game just after the hour mark when substitute Kazenga Lua Lua set up Leonardo Ulloa to fire past keeper Paddy Kenny.
There was little response from Leeds and their mini revival was over as they were left to regret a missed opportunity.
United sprang a surprise with their team selection with Danny Pugh brought back in on the left in place of winger Cameron Stewart, who missed the trip due to a break in his loan spell at the club.
Stewart joined Leeds on a 93-day loan from Hull City last month, with the loan due to end after the home game with Blackpool in April.
But with the next game not being until February 22 the club decided to break up the loan so that Stewart will be with the club until nearer the end of the season.
He has not set the world alight since his arrival at Leeds, but his presence was missed as United lacked a cutting edge and finished with an unbalanced side following the introduction of forwards Matt Smith and Noel Hunt in a failed attempt to make something happen.
Brighton created an early half-chance when Andrea Orlandi’s free-kick from the edge of the box was fired well over.
Leeds looked to hit their hosts on the break and Luke Murphy put Ross McCormack away, but his shot was comfortably saved.
Ulloa did hit the side netting and Orlandi sent a shot wide, but neither side produced much in the way of goalmouth action in a poor first 45 minutes.
Leeds made a slightly better start to the second half as Alex Mowatt forced a save from home keeper Kuszczak and Ross McCormack curled in a free-kick the former Manchester United stopper had to punch clear.
But it was Brighton who broke the deadlock in the 63rd minute through Ulloa following a run and cross by Lua Lua.
The game briefly burst into action following the goal with Kenny denying Solly March after his shot took a deflection and March finding the side netting with another effort.
Leeds looked to hit back with Mowatt’s shot kept out by Kuszczak. But the substitutions did not improve their play and the game fizzled out with Brighton holding on comfortably to their narrow win.
Leeds United 0
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Sky Bet Championship
Brighton: Kuszczak; Calderon, Upson, Greer, Ward; Stephens, Ince, March (Buckley 73), Orlandi; Rodriguez (Lua Lua 57), Ulloa (Obika 81).
Leeds: Kenny; Byram, Lees, Pearce, Warnock; Kebe, Murphy, Austin, Mowatt (Hunt 76), Pugh (Smith 68); McCormack.
Referee: D Deadman.