Leeds United were in London for their second game in a row on Saturday as they faced a Crystal Palace side buoyed by their 1-0 semi-final first leg victory over Cardiff City earlier in the week. Simon Grayson made two changes to his United side that were beaten by a Thierry Henry strike at the Emirates Stadium on Monday evening. Michael Brown came into the side in place of Mika Vayrynen while top-scorer Ross McCormack won back his place in the side at the expense of Ramon Nunez. Robert Snodgrass was also back for the visitors but had to make do with a place on the bench as the Scotland International returned after having appendix surgery.
Boss Grayson opted to continue with a young defence in Zac Thompson, Tom Lees, Darren O’Dea and Aidan White and they were under pressure early on as the hosts looked to race out of the blocks. The Whites shot stopper Andy Lonergan, who was again the captain for Leeds, had already been called upon to make two early saves when Chris Martin’s sixth minute strike hit the back of the net. United’s young guns at the back held off the Palace forward who made no mistake about guiding the ball into the corner of Lonergan’s net and Leeds had that familiar feeling and were a goal down in the opening 10 minutes.
Martin’s early strike spelt the end of Palace's period of dominance and the home side never really threatened Lonergan’s goal again after the goal. Leeds went in search of an equaliser for the 5,000 strong travelling army from West Yorkshire but in a similar fashion to a lot of recent games, struggled to create any clear cut opportunities. Ross McCormack had two opportunities with free kicks just outside the box. However the Scot couldn’t do what he did against Barnsley back in November and missed both of them. Adam Clayton did create a chance for himself though when he cut inside the Palace box and his curling effort would have pulled Leeds level but for a terrific save from Palace keeper Julian Speroni. Danny Pugh collected the rebound and drilled the ball back into the box where the ball fell to Tom Lees just in front of goal. Unfortunately for United, Speroni was up, he had dusted himself down and was ready to deny Leeds again just seconds later with another great save and the score was still 1-0 to Palace.
Just before half time, just like against Burnley, United were given a big helping hand by the referee. Sean Scannell had already been booked when he made a silly tackle on Danny Pugh. Mr Coote taking charge of the game wasted no time in brandishing another yellow card and Palace would have to play the second half with only 10 men.
Leeds looked to dominate right from the start of the second half but again were failing to create any meaningful chances. Grayson brought Robert Snodgrass on at the earliest opportunity but in a surprising move, opted to bring Aidan White off while Danny Pugh reverted to left back. United needed a spark and the introduction of Snodgrass certainly got the approval of the travelling Leeds fans who met his introduction with a roar. In a ‘Thierry Henry’ style comeback, Snodgrass only needed one chance and it was 1-1. The ball found its way to McCormack just behind the defence and he unselfishly cut the ball back to his fellow Scot. Snodgrass’ outstretched leg made no mistake in bringing Leeds back on level terms and with just under half an hour still to play, United had every chance of coming away with all three points.
United were dominating possession and Michael Brown was pulling the strings for Leeds’ midfield. The veteran was playing well, coming to collect the ball and then playing it simple, keeping things ticking over for Leeds. There was still very little creation from Leeds, though Snodgrass did have the beating of Palace full back Jonathan Parr on a few occasions. However once Parr had been beaten, Snodgrass’ final ball couldn’t find a team mate and the ball was cleared. Mikael Forssell replaced the once again disappointing Luciano Becchio as United looked to get a late winner for the second league game in a row. The best chance to do so fell to substitute Forssell who found the ball at his feet in a congested penalty area. Speroni was in no mood to let United score again though and once again rebuffed United’s effort and with that Simon Grayson and Leeds had to settle for a point as United slip to eleventh in the table.
I actually think we played better than we have done in comparison to our performances in the last month or so but the lack of creation is worrying. Despite a shaky start to the game, Zac Thompson improved and had a really solid second half and other than some lacklustre defending for their goal, the rest of the defence did okay as well. Luciano Becchio continues to be ineffective and it can’t be said that it is because he isn’t getting the service. Ross McCormack managed to get involved plenty of times during the game while Becchio was poor and not involved. Surely it is time to give Forssell a start because, for me Becchio doesn’t warrant his place in the side at all.