Leeds ended their 2011 pre-season campaign with a fine 3-2 victory over premiership outfit Newcastle United. Alan Pardew didn't name Alan Smith in his squad therefore Smith, who has been linked with a move back to Leeds all summer, didn't get to make his first appearance at Elland Road after leaving for Manchester United after all. Leeds boss Simon Grayson gave Alex Mendy and Boldiszar Bodor a final chance to earn a contract with the club naming them among his substitutes.
On a warm afternoon in LS11, it was only 5 minutes before the toon army, who had travelled in their usual large numbers were silenced. Robert Snodgrass swung in a cross from the left hand side which looked like a routine catch for goalkeeper Fraser Forster, however, the young goalkeeper made a terrible error and dropped the ball right at the feet of returning fans favourite Patrick Kisnorbo who put the icing on the cake of his first appearance at Elland Road since March 2010 with a goal. Forster of course is no stranger to errors at Elland Road, his poor goal kick whilst on loan to Norwich allowed former Leeds goal machine Jermaine Beckford to snatch a last minute winner for Leeds back in 2009.
Leeds, who started with Ross Mccormack rather than Billy Paynter up front continued to look the better side and the little Scot was making some intelligent runs and creating some good chances for the team. Leeds thought that they were two up minutes later when Max Gradel had the ball in the net only to see his goal ruled out for offside.
When Newcastle finally started to get into the game, they were finding it hard to get past Kisnorbo and O'Brien, who was playing for the first time this pre-season due to injury. However, with one of their first shots of the game, Newcastle were level. Defender Steven Taylor converting a corner that was aimed to the back post with a powerful volley straight past United new boy Andy Lonergan, who was making his home debut in goal.
There was only one change at the break for Leeds as Andy O'Brien was replaced by Leigh Bromby. The excellent new club captain, Jonny Howson looked inspired all afternoon and he was the first to carve out an opportunity in the second half, unfortunately his powerful effort went just wide.
Leeds boss Simon Grayson made a number of changes around the hour mark but this did not take the emphasis away from Leeds as they continued to press. It was Lloyd Sam, on for Robert Snodgrass, who didn't give up a lost cause and won the ball back when it looked like it was going to go out. Sam then slotted home giving the whites the lead for the second time. Again there was a question mark over whether Fraser Forster should of done better but Leeds weren't complaining. The Leeds born winger continued to look lively and after some good work down the right hand side was unlucky not to see his cut back converted.
In what looks to be Joey Barton's last game for Newcastle he almost equalised for them and would have done but for a very good save from Lonergan who pushed away Barton's powerful header. Showing the Elland Road faithful what he is capable of for the first time. A few minutes later though, he was beaten. Although the former Preston shot stopper got something on it, he could do nothing to stop Harry Vuckic's thumping drive getting the toon army back on level terms for the second time in the game.
United were determined to finish pre-season with a win and more good work from Lloyd Sam resulted in his cross being nodded in at the back post by Billy Paynter. Chants of 'if Billy scores we're on the pitch' were thankfully not carried out despite signals from the man himself to do so. The front man clearly feeling the pressure after growing unrest from the United fans, who will hope that he repeats this goal scoring feat many times across the course of the new season which starts next weekend away at Southampton.
Newcastle finally looked a beaten side and there was no coming back for them this time. Leeds running out deserved 3-2 winners.
I think it is fair to say there has been a lot of panic from the majority of Leeds fans over the course of the summer but this performance can put a lot of that to bed. After all, Leeds have completed pre-season without registering a single defeat and whilst Newcastle looked a poor side, they will still be competing in the premier league next season and Leeds looked a lot better than them. With a few more additions to bolster the squad maybe it won't be such a long hard season after all.
Leeds: Lonergan, Connolly, Kisnorbo (Lees 59), O'Brien (Bromby 46), Parker (Bodor 59), Snodgrass (Sam 59), Howson, Clayton (Nunez 66), Brown, Gradel (Mendy 66), Mccormack (Paynter 65). Subs: Rachubka, White.
Newcastle: Forster, Cabaye, Williamson, Barton, Simpson, Gosling, Gutierrez, Ba, Shola Ameobi, Taylor, Tavernier. Subs: Krul, Taylor, Best, Vuckic, Sammy Ameobi, Dummett.
Referee: A Haines