A shocking refereeing performance cost Leeds United a result at Elland Road, and with it back-to-back defeats in the league.
Before kick-off the Leeds faithful voiced their opinions regarding the ownership of the club, protesting outside the ground for a good hour before kick-off. Once inside the crowd continued to show their anger at the lack of spending that has been done at Elland Road.
Simon Grayson made 5 changes to his starting 11 that narrowly beat Bradford on Tuesday. Andy O'Brien was dropped for Leigh Bromby, Tom Lees replaced Paul Connolly and Darren O'Dea replaced Ben Parker at left-back. Robert Snodgrass and Max Gradel were back after international duty, with Lloyd Sam and cup saviour Ramon Nunez on the bench.
Both sides started well with some good short passing from the home side. Leeds had the first chance, young Tom Lees went close with a header from a corner. As a unit the team looked strong and composed, Michael Brown and Adam Clayton were doing the dirty work and breaking up the Boro attacks. The referee was loving his moment in front of a loud Elland Road crowd, giving petty free-kicks for the merest of touches. Max Gradel tangled with Tony McMahon after a strong challenge, and both were shown yellow cards. Gradel's afternoon didn't last much longer when he was shown his second yellow of the match. The decision was a poor one, the second challenge deserved a card, but the first was handbags and it had cost Leeds dearly.
Leeds for a while looked shaky following the dismissal, Marvin Emnes had a chance at the back-post. His header was stopped by a superb save from Andy Lonergan. Adam Clayton then went close with a cheeky long distance shot which made Ikeme in the Boro goal race back and tip the ball over the bar. Lonergan was called upon once again making two more crucial saves to keep the score at 0-0. Just before half-time Boro were down to ten men when Tony McMahon was shown his marching orders.
Leeds once again started brightly in the second-half with Tom Lees going even closer to scoring, this time his header was cleared off the line by Nicky Bailey. In the 55th minute Grayson decided to attack by taking off Michael Brown, and bringing on Ramon Nunez. Moments later the game was turned on its head once again when Jonny Howson was sent-off for his second yellow card. The referee's original decision was to award Leeds a free-kick for an Emnes dive. However he consulted his linesmen a good 60 yards away, and the decision was made and Leeds were down to nine men.
Leeds were all over the place due to the lack of men, with Snodgrass and Nunez having to play centre midfield to make up the numbers. Grayson reacted by replacing Snodgrass with Zac Thompson who made his debut for Leeds. Leeds failed to settle and Boro capitalised by taking the lead. Emnes was given the ball out wide and he cut inside and blasted the ball into the top corner.
Lloyd Sam was introduced late on but didn't really do anything with or without the ball. Middlesbrough had several chances to finish the game off but Lonergan and the defence somehow kept it at 1-0. Leeds tried in vein to even the score but it just wasn't to be, and Boro went home with all three points.
The game was spoiled by a referee and up until his first dismissal Leeds looked better than the previous two games. Tom Lees was solid and also provided aerial support thanks to his skills at centre-back. The suspensions now give Simon Grayson even more of a headache ahead of the game against Hull. Howson and Gradel are two of Leeds' best players and the bench will look even thinner on Tuesday. Unless we get two signings in 48 hours though eh Simon?
Man of the match
For me Andy Lonergan was fantastic today especially at coming out for crosses and controlling his box. The saves he made were first class and he looked composed throughout the game. Many fans via Twitter and Facebook voiced their concerns at the signing of Lonergan, but I think today he showed he does have ability. Adam Clayton was once again a close second, putting in yet again another good shift.