Saturday, April 30, 2011

Bradford Telegraph & Argus 25/4/11

Leeds United fading out of play-off hunt

Crystal Palace 1, Leeds Utd 0

Leeds crashed to their fourth away defeat in a row and slipped to ninth in the Championship table after losing 1-0 at Crystal Palace.

Nottingham Forest stay in the final play-off spot after beating Bristol City – while Millwall and Burnley climbed above Leeds, who are now three points behind sixth-placed Forest.

United’s 5,000 travelling fans could hardly believe how lacklustre their side were, lacking inspiration and toiling in the heat against a side threatened with relegation.

With games against Burnley and leaders QPR to come and a poor goal difference, the odds are against Leeds making the play-offs – but manager Simon Grayson will not give up hope until it is mathematically certain.

He said: “Until it’s impossible, we’ll keep going. But whatever happens, we can look back on a good season and if we don’t make the play-offs we’ll use this season as experience for next year.

“The result against Palace is obviously disappointing. In the second half we held them in their half for long periods but we didn’t have our usual quality in the last third. There wasn’t enough care in that area. Our crossing was poor.

“But there are still two games to go and we have to dust ourselves off and see where they take us.”

Leeds had a nightmare start, falling behind after only 73 seconds when Neil Danns’ shot took a deflection that flew past flat-footed keeper Kasper Schmeichel.

Despite that setback, United had plenty of possession but lacked a cutting edge in the final third and could well have turned round 2-0 down, only for Jermaine Easter to head an easy chance wide of the post.

Grayson had stuck with the team that drew 0-0 with Reading but he had seen enough by the break and made two changes at the start of the second period, taking off Paul Connolly and Jake Livermore and sending on Neil Connolly and Sanchez Watt.

Leeds stepped up the pace and jangled the nerves of Palace and their fans but still Grayson’s side were struggling to make a clear chance.

Bradley Johnson and Watt went close but, with time running out, Grayson sent on Davide Somma for Billy Paynter, who had been anonymous.

There was plenty of huffing and puffing from Leeds but their passing lacked quality and Palace keeper Julian Speroni was never called on to make a difficult save.

Palace scorer Danns was sent off late on for a second yellow card.