Sunday, April 26, 2009

Yorkshire Post 26/4/09
Hartlepool United 0 Leeds United 1: Beckford was difference, says Turner
Leeds United clinched a 1-0 win at Hartlepool United courtesy of a Jermaine Beckford goal.
United look set to face either Millwall or MK Dons in the end-of season play-offs, with Scunthorpe United and Tranmere battling over the final play-off spot.
The ankle injury that has been troubling Robert Snodgrass in recent weeks meant the former Livingston man was not risked at Victoria Park. Fabian Delph was also out as the teenager serves the second of a two-game ban for collecting 10 bookings during the season.
Chances were at a premium in the first 45 minutes, with the teams going in at the break goalless.
But the prolific Beckford finally broke the deadlock on the hour against relegation-threatened Hartlepool.
"That moment of class from Jermaine Beckford proved the difference between the two teams," Hartlepool boss Chris Turner said.
"I thought our players gave their all and there wasn't much between the teams chances-wise; they may have edged it on that but we had some decent openings at times.
"We got in to some good situations but the ball just didn't seem to fall right for us and there were a few occasions where we didn't quite get the shot off."

ITV 25/4/09
Snodin hails Leeds' ruthless streak
Leeds assistant manager Glynn Snodin believes the 1-0 victory over Hartlepool demonstrates their ruthlessness heading towards the League One play-offs.
United took the lead on the hour, Jermaine Beckford turning well on Ben Parker's cross in the area before slotting a low shot into the bottom corner.
Leeds hit the woodwork twice and had another cleared off the line in an open first half.
"The squad has the belief that no matter who we play we can win every game," said Snodin. "And that's what we hope to do between now and the end of the season."
Snodin also praised the finishing qualities of Beckford: "Give him the ball in the penalty area and he will punish teams.
"He is a class act, but just one of a few who played well in this game.
"The players have been magnificent in recent games, and they were again today. We perhaps had enough chances to win the game more comfortably, but we are just pleased with the win in the end.
"Hartlepool are lively when they attack and we felt the best way to beat them was to take the game to them, and that's how it worked out."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Yorkshire Evening Post 23/4/09
Grayson plots play-off path
The draw between Scunthorpe and Northampton which booked Leeds United's play-off spot on Tuesday night confirmed what Simon Grayson already knew.
After Saturday's victory over Tranmere, United's boss was confident enough to tell himself that, from the point of view of a top-six finish in League One, Leeds were home and dry. Nevertheless, official confirmation courtesy of Scunthorpe's stalemate gave him an understandable sense of satisfaction.
When Grayson took over at Elland Road four months ago a place in the play-offs was nothing like a foregone conclusion. Had it been, there would not have been a job available for him to fill. Striking that target with two games to spare is a good measure of the work he has done.
In his time in charge Grayson has maintained a win ratio of 61 per cent – 14 victories from 23 matches. As significant, he says, is a total of only five defeats during that same spell.
It was United's inconsistency that bothered him most when he took charge on December 23 and it is that weakness which he and his coaches, Ian Miller and Glynn Snodin, set out to cure.
It is only recently that they have been able to worry less about the solidity of their team and more about maximising the talent of the players available.
"One of the big concerns I had when I came here was the consistency of the results, or the lack of it," he said. "We'd won quite a lot of games but we'd lost almost as many and the small number of draws in between was something I noticed straight away.
"You don't set out to draw games, or not often anyway, but you have to show a desire not to lose and not to ruin good results with bad ones.
"It can become a case of one step forward, one step back and sometimes it's hard to feel like you're getting anywhere. You never feel real momentum.
"Okay, we've only drawn four times since I came in but the point is we haven't lost those games. One defeat might have been all it took to knock us off our stride and bring on a few more poor results.
"The 11 matches we went without losing really pleased me because that's the habit I wanted to get us into.
"I knew how much quality was here but the main priority wasn't producing expansive performances. First of all, I wanted to get together a team who were organised and solid.
"After that, we could encourage the flair to come out and I think you've started to see that."
Grayson is particularly proud of performances produced by his players in the latter part of his short tenure.He was deeply impressed by the discipline with which United closed out a 1-0 victory at Colchester earlier this month and equally satisfied with their contribution to an open attacking game against Leicester City on Easter Monday, albeit one which ended in an injury-time defeat.
The confidence of his squad was evident in Saturday's 3-1 victory over Tranmere, a game which hinged on several key moments but which Leeds deserved to win.
"The Tranmere win was a big one for us," said Grayson. "I wasn't going to count my chickens or say anything afterwards which might have jumped the gun but I think we all knew then that we were in the play-offs.
"Even so, it's good that we're definitely there and, as people always say, this is where the hard work starts for us. We've done a lot of that so far, but all of it was done to get us to this point.
"We've taken the first step, which we needed to do, but that doesn't make you relax. It just gets rid of any uncertainty over whether or not you'll finish in the top six.
"The signs have been there that we're getting better as a team.
"If we'd been 1-0 up at Colchester at the start of my time here, I'd have been very worried about the possibility of us conceding a goal.
"In that game, we didn't really look like scoring a second goal but at no time did I feel we were going to throw the points away.
"The confidence that gives players is massive. It's a sign that they believe in themselves and that's showing in how eager they are to be out on the pitch – I couldn't get some of these lads out of the team if I tried!"
Evidence of that is found in the players who Grayson is being forced to omit, not only from his team but also form his match-day squads.
Club captain Frazer Richardson – indisputably United's first-choice right-back during the first half of the season – last played at Brighton on January 17, and Bradley Johnson's outing against Tranmere was his first for six matches.
Liam Dickinson, Lubomir Michalik, David Prutton and Darryl Flahavan could not win places on the bench on Saturday and Andy Robinson's first start since February was largely due to Fabian Delph's two-match ban.
Grayson said: "The strength of the squad is as much about the guys who aren't involved as the guys who are. You've got someone like Frazer, who's a terrific player and the club captain, who can't make the bench at the moment, and he's not alone.
"That's what happens when you hit the form that we're in, and if I was to ask whether anyone wants a rest, I wouldn't get many replies. That's what you want to hear."

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Yorkshire Evening Post 18/4/09
Whites open play-off door
Leeds United 3 Tranmere Rovers 1
Leeds United climbed ominously to the threshold of the play-offs, where only a statistical improbability can deny them the key to the door.
The club flexed their muscles with a 10th successive home victory yesterday, echoing a record set by Don Revie's Leeds in 1969 and leaving little remaining doubt over their involvement in League One's post-season dramatics.United's defeat of Tranmere Rovers at Elland Road had the combined effect of realistically assuring their own qualification and badly damaging the ambitions of one of the two clubs mathematically capable of denying them a place in the play-offs.
Leeds led Tranmere by three points before kick-off and were protected by a six-point cushion and the considerable advantage of a better goal difference at full-time, placing United in a position where a bizarre turn of events during the final two games of the season would be necessary to lift Ronnie Moore's side above them.
United's involvement can be confirmed beyond any doubt by a draw in Hartlepool next weekend, though Tranmere's failure to take six points from their remaining matches would render Leeds' own results inconsequential beyond the matter of where exactly Simon Grayson's squad will finish.
His players could climb as high as third before the season concludes, and matches against Hartlepool and Northampton Town represent an attractive run-in. Nevertheless, Grayson was intent on seeing the uncertainty over a top-six finish removed at the earliest opportunity, and a 3-1 victory over Tranmere served that purpose.
Two goals inside 26 minutes, scored by Jermaine Beckford and Neil Kilkenny, eased Leeds into their stride, and an own goal conceded by Sam Sodje seconds after Kilkenny's effort did not affect their balance unduly.
Luciano Becchio sedated Tranmere with a third goal on 56 minutes and in holding out through the second half, Leeds established a magnificent sequence of home wins last produced by Revie's squad 40 years ago.
Grayson was able to recall Beckford after three games spent nursing an injured thigh muscle, and though Fabian Delph made way at the start of his two-match ban, the inclusion of Andy Robinson ensured United's line-up was not discernibly weaker than it had been at Leicester City.
The suspension on the plate of Tranmere manager Ronnie Moore – a four-game ban imposed on influential centre-back Ian Goodison – was a far greater handicap and seemed to require the removal of Antony Kay from midfield to fill the void in defence.
Moore had spoken beforehand about his reluctance to make that alteration, thereby stifling one of his more creative minds, and he took an alternative tact by moving Ryan Shotton into Goodison's role and leaving Kay in his favoured position.
The major effect that yesterday's match promised to have on the league table made for a crucial game which United were intent on making the most of.
The fixture was less than six minutes old when Jonathan Howson controlled possession four yards outside Tranmere's box and drove a volley against a post as goalkeeper Danny Coyne grasped for the ball, and it set an appropriate tone on a day when the value of victory was undeniably high.
Nine minutes later, United established the lead with a clinically-taken goal which oozed class.
Robert Snodgrass appeared with the ball outside Tranmere's box and fed Beckford with a beautifully-weighted pass that ran beyond Shotton and left Grayson's leading scorer to announce his return with a deft chip over Coyne's diving frame.
For all Tranmere's tidy passing during the early exchanges, Leeds had earned their goal, and Casper Ankergren protected it on 21 minutes when Ian Moore – United's former striker – stole a yard of space from Sam Sodje and tested Ankergren's strength with a powerful shot from a tight angle.
The chance reminded Grayson's defence to maintain their concentration, but there was little with which the visitors could restrain United's attacking players.
Luciano Becchio was sliced down by a fierce tackle from Steve Jennings as he marauded towards Rovers' penalty area, earning the Tranmere midfielder the first booking of the match, and a second goal which arrived on 26 minutes should have been a fatal blow to the visitors.
The makings of the strike was ridiculously simple, Jonathan Douglas' long ball forward finding Tranmere's defenders absent and Beckford and Neil Kilkenny roaming inside the box. Beckford's touch gave Kilkenny the chance to slip a controlled finish inside the near post.If Ronnie Moore was furious with the concession, his counterpart was every bit as bemused when United presented Tranmere with a goal they desperately needed less than 60 seconds later.
Sodje's attempt to deal with a bouncing ball on the edge of his area saw him send a header over Ankergren who had advanced from his line. The Dane scrambled backwards but could not gather Sodje's touch before it carried into the net.
The own goal revived a contest which was in danger of being settled before half-time, and United diced with an equaliser on 36 minutes when Charlie Barnett's free-kick drifted beyond Ankergren's reach and found Kay at the back post. With an open goal in front of him, the midfielder's header somehow drifted wide. The same lack of accuracy befell Edrissa Sonko when he chipped the ball over Ankergren and into the advertising boards after Bas Savage's pass sliced open the home defence, and the interval was a useful point for Grayson to reorganise his players.
Ankergren again prevented an equaliser six minutes after half-time, parrying Kay's goalbound volley with one hand and gathering Shotton's follow-up, but Tranmere's struggle ended on 56 minutes when a Snodgrass free-kick brushed off Beckford and reached Becchio, who saw the ball strike his shins, roll into the net and carry Leeds into the play-offs.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Yorkshire Evening Post 9/4/09
Leeds and Blackpool settle Grayson dispute
Leeds United and Blackpool have settled their dispute over Elland Road boss Simon Grayson - though neither side will disclose the details of their agreement.
United were facing allegations that they broke Football League rules in appointing Grayson as their new boss on December 23, hours after he resigned from the manager's post at Blackpool.
Blackpool were believed to be seeking around £200,000 in compensation for Grayson, and the case has been settled after a Football League disciplinary tribunal held in Manchester today.
No details of the verdict have been made public, and a joint statement from the two clubs stated that "no further comment shall be made be either parties".
United chief executive Shaun Harvey said: "We are delighted the matter is now resolved and Simon can concentrate on the work he has started in seeking to get the club promoted.
"We wish Blackpool well for the future."

Monday, April 06, 2009

Yorkshire Evening Post 6/4/09
In-form Whites just can't bridge the gap
By Phil Hay
Colchester 0 Leeds United 1Peterborough United are in that region of football's landscape known as dreamland, according to one of their supporters given airtime by a national radio show on Saturday night.
There is indeed an element of fantasy – something undeniably Ferguson-esque – about the club's heat proof exterior. Not for the first time, Leeds United asked questions of it at Colchester on Saturday and were met by the unhelpful answers they have come to expect from the team from London Road.
It was obvious to Simon Grayson from the outset that Leeds United's promotion this season would depend not only on the competence of his players but on the fallibility of other competitive clubs and he can be forgiven for asking if, during the past month at least, his squad have deserved better.
Leeds' efficient victory at Colchester United was the latest in a striking sequence of five, a passage of league results like no other they have maintained this season, yet it is painfully true that Grayson's squad are no closer to Peterborough – and, more pertinently, the golden goose of automatic promotion – than they were when that run began on March 10.
A gap in Peterborough's armour appeared fleetingly on Saturday afternoon as they shared parity with Oldham Athletic at Boundary Park, but a winning goal four minutes from time saw Ferguson's side safely through a potential moment of weakness.Leeds are to fulfil their game in hand over Peterborough at Leyton Orient tomorrow evening, raising the prospect that the Posh's overwhelming lead of 10 points will at last be trimmed, but each passing game widens the gulf between United and second position.
It is a helpless position for a spirited club whose own form could not be more stirring.The weeks of March, which proved sufficiently successful to earn Grayson a nomination for League One's manager of the month award, were characterised by Leeds' ambition and occasional brilliance and a more reserved performance at Colchester in their first April fixture was, nevertheless, the height of professionalism.
Caught in the mundane region of mid-table, Colchester have only pride to play for, though a manager with Paul Lambert's background would consider that enough of an incentive to keep his squad interested during the last few weeks of the season.
Dangerous at their best, ordinary at their worst and only a handful of well-chosen signings away from becoming a more competitive League One team, the Essex club were opposition against whom Grayson expected more than a routine test.
United's manager took stock of Colchester's strengths and adopted the appropriate tactics, encouraging his team to probe repeatedly for holes in their defence while holding their shape and stifling central midfielders Kem Izzet and David Perkins.
One opportunity created by Leeds' persistence in attack was all Luciano Becchio required to open the scoring in the 29th minute and United sensed immediately that one goal might be as much as they required to put Colchester to the sword.
The flawless defensive display with which Leeds saw out the remaining hour – an hour in which goalscoring opportunities were almost non-existent – was not encouraged by a lack of ambition but by a desire to guarantee a creditable and necessary away victory without needless extravagance.
It will, in Grayson's mind, stand out as one of the better performances of his three months as manager. His players were creative in patches, pragmatic in others and realistic enough to accept that the lead given to them by Becchio's finish was potentially match-winning against a team who score few goals at home and therefore worth protecting.
Peterborough may have refused to play into United's hand by shedding points at Boundary Park but, while automatic promotion is still a distant aim, the effect of nine matches without defeat – and more specifically their five straight wins – has been to leave Leeds perfectly placed to receive the valuable second prize of a place in the play-offs.
There was, at full-time, a temptation to feel deflated when news of Peterborough's winner seeped through to Colchester, but it is convenient to forget how challenging a target a top-six finish appeared to be when Grayson was recruited in December.
Nineteen games later, United's total of 71 points – 39 more than they held on the day of his appointment – shows the progress made.
The club have, to the 39-year-old's relief and delight, approached their peak at the most suitable time and Leeds' assurance at Colchester's Community Stadium underpinned their most convincing away victory since Grayson's first, a 3-1 win at Stockport County on December 28.
The pristine venue, which opened at the start of this season and which replaced the nostalgic but decrepit Layer Road, attracted a capacity and record crowd on Saturday, a factor which Leeds have not coped with consistently well this season.
Their form away from home was a concern for many months, but Grayson's players were untouched by the atmosphere and shaded a high-quality first half by producing the type of chances their two strikers have thrived on throughout the season.
United placed deliberate strain on a central defensive pairing of Pat Baldwin and Neal Trotman which seemed fragile from the start and Jermaine Beckford should have scored twice in the opening 16 minutes.
Firstly his heavy touch carried a through-ball from Jonathan Douglas out of play and then he chipped an inaccurate finish over advancing keeper Mark Cousins and wide of a post.
On both occasions incisive passing cut through gaps in the home defence, but Colchester were as ambitious in attack and ultimately more regretful about their failure to take the lead.
Karl Hawley was denied in the eighth minute when Casper Ankergren turned the striker's low shot around his right-hand post and an essential nudge from the keeper deflected Mark Yeates' effort over his crossbar on a rare occasion when Colchester disrupted United's shape.
The involvement of Beckford in the opening half-hour indicated that the match would be another in which his quality would prove decisive, but it was Becchio, his tireless attacking partner, who opened the scoring shortly after 29 minutes.
The forward received a pass from Jonathan Howson on the edge of Colchester's box and, in the absence of a firm challenge from either Baldwin or Trotman, he side-stepped into space and rifled a left-footed finish high into Cousins' net.
Becchio's goal was the least he deserved for a sparkling performance in a demanding role, always under pressure and often in isolation. Yeates soon retaliated by thumping a 20-yard shot inches wide, but Becchio headed onto the roof of Cousins' net and Beckford was denied by an excellent save in the final minute of the half, vindicating United's lead.
Grayson could not have realised it, but that was essentially that.
In contrast to the first 45 minutes, the second half passed without notable incident, other than a half-hearted scuffle five minutes from time caused by Simon Hackney raising his studs in a poor challenge on Robert Snodgrass.
Hackney was booked along with United captain Richard Naylor, who ended a day of collective professionalism with blood on his face and stitches in his scalp. His immediate task is to prove his fitness for tomorrow’s game at Leyton Orient and what may be United’s last chance to test Peterborough’s constitution.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Yorkshire Evening Post 4/4/09
Luciano savours his Community service
By Phil Hay
The spotlight so often held by Jermaine Beckford was grasped by Luciano Becchio yesterday, but his winning goal at Colchester was unable to give Leeds United a brighter view of automatic promotion.
Becchio's goal installed Colchester as the latest victims in Leeds' catalogue of five straight wins, but boss Simon Grayson was agonisingly denied the the opening he has patiently waited for at the top of League One.
In a race where United can only maintain their form and hope for the best, the Elland Road club kept their side of the bargain by claiming three points with a professional performance in Essex, but a late and decisive goal at Oldham maintained Peterborough's control of the fight for second place.
Becchio – the other half of League One's most consistent partnership – inspired United's victory with an instinctive finish after half-an-hour, producing the opening goal after a spell in which Beckford's clinical touch had briefly escaped him.
Though Becchio's first season in English football has been a revelation, his involvement has been routinely overshadowed by Beckford's ceaseless haul of goals, but the Argentinian forward took his first opportunity at the Community Stadium to give Leeds control of a difficult away fixture.
Becchio was on hand to stab the ball past goalkeeper Mark Cousins after Colchester's defence failed to deal with the forward on the edge of their box, and his authoritative finish opened the way to United's fifth win in succession.
The passage of results has come at the end of nine matches without defeat, and it is consistency on a level not seen by Leeds in league matches this season which has threatened to throw open the battle for second position, dominated for several weeks by Peterborough.
Grayson was able and naturally willing to field an unchanged line-up yesterday, rightly acknowledging the players responsible for the bulk of United's unbeaten spell.
On-loan centre-back Sam Sodje was fit enough to play despite the niggling hamstring which cut short his debut last weekend, but Colchester's team – unaltered after a victory at Millwall – served notice of the confidence in the mind of their manager, Paul Lambert.
Barring numerous favours from several clubs, the play-offs will be beyond Colchester's reach this season, just as second place might prove a target too far for Grayson, but their win at the New Den in midweek suggested that Lambert was refusing to see their campaign wind down tamely. The club's relocation from Layer Road to their Community Stadium was not the smoothest of transitions, but Colchester's players have gradually acclimatised to new, modern surroundings, and their perceived weakness at home – an apparent problem at the start of the year – is no longer an issue for visiting clubs to prey upon.
In Beckford, however, United possessed the country's most prolific predator, and it took only five minutes for Leeds to introduce Lambert's defence to their 31-goal striker.
Jonathan Douglas' incisive pass from the right was accurate enough to play Beckford in behind Colchester's back line but, although the forward evaded Cousins with a headed touch, the weight of his flick carried the ball behind when better control would have given him an empty net to attack.
His early thrust into Colchester's box was indicative of the attacking intent displayed by both teams, and a low shot from Karl Hawley brought a fine save from Casper Ankergren at his near post after only eight minutes. Though the stakes were tangibly higher for Leeds, Colchester could not have been accused of indifference.
The attendance at the Community Stadium yesterday set a record for a venue opened less than 12 months earlier, and the early exchanges did justice to the turn-out. Between them, Sodje and Becchio knocked a corner from Robert Snodgrass a fraction over Cousins' crossbar, and the chance that fell to Beckford in the 16th minute was asking to be finished.
The striker met a pass from Jonathan Howson and attempted to beat Cousins with a controlled chip which drifted a yard beyond the keeper's left-hand post, another situation from which Beckford would have expected to milk his opportunity.
It was no better than that which came Mark Yeates' way moments later, though, and Ankergren's instinctive touch was necessary to prevent the winger's shot from finding the top corner in the absence of any covering defenders. It was a vital save.
As the game approached the half-hour mark, an innocuous pass from Howson ran to the edge of Colchester's box where a kind ricochet, ponderous defending and a quick side-step left Becchio free to drive a fierce left-footed finish past a stationary Cousins. Leeds had attacked Colchester with enough regularity and variation to deserve their goal, and although a second shot from Yeates missed Ankergren's goal by inches, United's advantage was well protected before half-time.
Becchio could in fact have increased their lead when his header beat Cousins' dive and dipped onto the roof of the net, and Colchester's keeper dug Alan Maybury out of trouble by saving Beckford's close-range shot with his legs after his right-back badly misjudged the bounce of Fabian Delph's long pass.
It suited Grayson that the second half offered nothing to report, save only a late scuffle caused by Simon Hackney's foul on Snodgrass and an organised display from his players which cast their one-goal lead in stone.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Leedsunited.com 4/4/09
BECCHIO SECURES THE POINTS IN ESSEX
Colchester 0 Leeds 1

Simon Grayson named an unchanged side for the trip to a sell-out Weston Homes Community Stadium as United looked to extend an eight-game unbeaten and keep the pressure on the fellow promotion challengers.
United started the contest brightly and Jermaine Beckford went close inside the opening five minutes when he latched onto a Robert Snodgrass pass, but was denied by some quick thinking from Colchester goalkeeper Mark Cousins.
Casper Ankergren was also called upon to make a good early save when he got down well to deny Karl Hawley, who delivered a good strike from distance.
At the other end, two Snodgrass corners caused problems, Luciano Becchio heading the second one narrowly wide.
The home side were looking to snuff out the threat of 31-goal marksman Beckford, though, and they signalled their intentions early doors by holding a tight defensive line to claim a number of successful offside decisions against the United striker.
That still didn't stop Beckford getting in a shot on goal after 22 minutes, following a ball over the top, but his hurried effort was comfortably taken by Cousins.
Colchester responded immediately and Mark Yeates should have done better when presented with a good chance, but Ankergren spread himself well to claim a decisive touch.
Leeds were controlling the game leading up to the half-hour mark, playing some great football, and the reward came on 29 minutes when Becchio worked himself a good opening on the edge of the box before picking his spot and hammering the ball beyond a helpless Cousins.
Both sides exchanged further shots on goal in the period leading up half-time and there was a booking for Kem Izzet in the 40th minute after he caught Neil Kilkenny with a swinging arm.
The resultant free-kick - another quality delivery from Snodgrass - almost produced a second goal for Becchio, but the striker's looping header went the wrong side of the upright.
Kilkenny also created an opening for Beckford on 44 minutes, but the striker lost his balance when shaping to shoot. And in first half stoppage time, Cousins denied Beckford after the striker showed good anticipation to get the wrong side of the Colchester defence.
Colchester emerged early for the second period and, clearly fired up, they showed some early bluster after the re-start. There was also an early stoppage when Fabian Delph received treatment, following a challenge which incensed a number of United players.
Izzet also received a second talking-to from the referee for a foul on Jonny Howson on 59 minutes.
Shortly after the hour, Colchester made their first change, introducing former Carlisle wide man Simon Hackney to proceedings on the left flank.
On 67 minutes, Becchio protested he was hauled down in the box as he looked to meet a cross from deep, and the striker subsequently received treatment, causing another break in play.
The second period hadn't offered the same quality as the first, and United had more defending to do. But Grayson's men were looking solid at the back and, with 20 minutes left on the clock, United had snuffed out any threat and the home side hadn't troubled Ankergren in the Leeds goal.
The ball was in the net at the other end on 72 minutes after a Becchio shot was parried, but an offside flag raised against the striker saw the effort ruled out.
Ankergren was also called into action for the first time in the second period on 77 minutes when he collected an ambitious attempt from Yeates.
But the second half was a real stop-start affair, and Richard Naylor was also forced to leave the field for treatment on a head injury as the game failed to gather any momentum.
There was an 18-man scuffle three minutes from time when the simmering tempers finally boiled over. Snodgrass was the victim of a hefty challenge and Naylor and Hackney were both booked following a physical confrontation.
Snodgrass was immediately replaced, thankfully with no visible injury, and Andrew Hughes came on for the closing moments. And Grayson made his final change in the first minute of stoppage time when Becchio was replaced by Liam Dickinson.
Four minutes of stoppage time gave the home side hope, but it was Leeds who almost added a second with the very last kick of the game when Cousins denied Beckford.
But it mattered little as Leeds maintained the pressure and extended the unbeaten run to nine games.