God knows why Leeds can't seem to win cup matches, but they really can't. Bury, currently residing a league below Leeds, held on for a dramatic victory last night that knocked Leeds out of the running for the Johnstone's Paint Trophy and dashed Dennis Wise's hopes of a return to Wembley this season.
Leeds fielded a substantially different team to Wise's first-choice eleven, but given the size of the team's squad, it wasn't - on paper, at least - a substantially weaker one. The team changes in full:
David Lucas replaced Casper Ankergren in goal after a good performance in keeping a clean sheet against Darlington. I still think Ankergren is a much better goalkeeper than Lucas, but Lucas did well, and was probably not at fault for Bury's brace in this match.
Paul Huntington, Simon Madden, and Ben Parker (for a profile of the latter, click here) were slotted into the United defence to give Frazer Richardson the chance to recover from a stomach bug and Jamie Clapham a chance to rest before this weekend's league match against Swindon. Paul Huntington is a more experienced defender than the other two, but is still very young and only a fringe-first-team player; Ben Parker is young but shows a fair bit of promise and may get the chance to cement a first-team place if Dennis Wise opts not to bring in a replacement for Jamie Clapham, who returns to parent club Wolverhampton Wanderers at the end of the month. Simon Madden's selection came out of nowhere, to be honest, but he played reasonably well and certainly didn't embarass himself. Leeds's defence proved a little shaky throughout the match, especially during set-pieces. On paper, there's nothing wrong with playing the defence used in this game; in practice, it can be difficult for players who have never played together competitively to gel quickly enough for a serious match, and that may have been a problem here.
In midfield, Leeds selected Filipe da Costa for his home debut, a decision which will haunt Dennis Wise and Dave Bassett after he received a straight red card for a dangerous challenge in the 42nd minute. He'd played pretty well up until that point, and he's still my favourite Leeds player outside the first eleven, but I imagine the poor guy's in hell right now.
Wise's most controversial selection decision was to bench both Jermaine Beckford and Tresor Kandol, instead offering a debut to the pairing of Leon Constantine and Mark de Vries. Jermaine Beckford's absence was enforced by the stomach bug currently afflicting the Leeds squad, but Tresor Kandol spent the first half of the game on the Leeds bench. Given Beckford's absence, trying an alternative strike pairing was probably a good idea, and Leon Constantine's first goal was good enough to erase any doubts about using him in the future. Mark de Vrie's finishing wasn't fantastic, but he played well and Leeds certainly created enough chances to win, even if they couldn't quite bring them all to fruition.
All three goals, plus Filipe da Costa's red card, are here:
First up, Leon Constantine: an excellent goal created by winger Sebastian Carole, whose beautiful upfield pass gave Constantine a perfect opportunity to put Leeds ahead. Carole really is turning into a class player this season, after spending most of the last season trying (with great success) to convince Leeds fans he was rubbish. I'm glad to see him developing, and at his current rate of improvement, he'll be more than good enough to play on our wing in the Championship next season.
Then come the goals from Bury: both from corners, both a result of frankly abysmal set-piece defence from Leeds. It's one thing to concede two goals having been outplayed; it's another thing to concede from a set-piece situation, the defence of which should be simple and well-practiced. Especially in the case of the second goal, Leeds's defence looked simply shambolic, and it's not on at all - two Leeds defenders, having failed abjectly to communicate, both jumped for the same high ball and ended up slamming into each other, leaving an opening for Bury to take the lead and, as it turned out, the game. Defending a corner isn't complicated and Leeds should not have had such difficulty with it in this game, especially considering that the game against Carlisle was lost on the back of more shoddy set-piece defence. Assistant Manager Dave Bassett agrees, so hopefully Leeds's defence will spend some time this week learning how to defend a corner.
As for Filipe da Costa's red card: it may have been a little harsh, but the tackle was certainly reckless and possibly dangerous, and the referee was well within his rights to issue a straight red. Assistant Manager Dave Bassett has already endorsed the referee's decision, telling the Yorkshire Evening Post: "He's distraught, the kid. He's not that type of player to be fair. Filipe is more of a mover, but obviously if you make that sort of challenge, the ref is going to send you off. He gave the rest of the boys an uphill task and he'll do his running today that he didn't do in the second half."
The Leeds Offside Man of the Match: Jim Provett, Bury's goalkeeper, for a number of exceptional saves without which Bury would have sunk without a trace.