Collins' last-minute strike denies Leeds victory
Leeds United 1 West Ham United 1
Sunday 18 March 2012
Elland Road attracted its biggest attendance for 18 months but for long periods of a contest high on sweat but low on sparkle, the 33,366 present could have been forgiven for wondering what all the expectation had been about.
Eventually, a game that appeared to be meandering to a goalless draw came to life in an exciting denouement as Luciano Becchio headed Leeds in front before Danny Collins nodded West Ham level in the 90th minute to seal a result that did no favours to anybody.
West Ham may be unbeaten in eight matches but after slipping out of the top two in midweek they lost further ground because of Southampton and Reading's away wins, and they are now three points behind the latter in third.
Sam Allardyce, the visiting manager, was grateful for the point but did bemoan his team's recent run of home draws. "It is not a slip-up today for me, it is a slip-up at home against Palace, Watford and disappointingly Doncaster, that has been the crux – too many draws," he said.
It might have been even worse for West Ham after Leeds struck with seven minutes remaining. When a Robert Snodgrass corner was only partially cleared, the Leeds winger put the ball back into the six-yard box where Robert Green palmed the ball only as far as Paul Connolly at the far post. The full-back headed against the crossbar, with Becchio first to the rebound.
Leeds appeared to have a significant victory in their grasp but instead Danny Collins, West Ham's on-loan Stoke defender, got free of his marker Tom Lees and headed Mark Noble's corner past Andy Lonergan.
Manager Neil Warnock was unhappy with a "blatant push" by Carlton Cole on Darren O'Dea as the corner came over, and voiced his frustration that Leeds' last two home performances, against Southampton and West Ham, had yielded only one point.
"I don't think they had a chance other than the set piece," Warnock said. "I am disappointed because we are running out of games and should have had four wins out of five since I've been here. We have played West Ham and should have won and we battered Southampton but have come away with one point."
There was little to entertain the crown in a scrappy first half. When Taylor handled just outside his box Snodgrass went close with a dead-ball strike that curled just past the far post. Then Adam Clayton was wide with a shot on the turn. On the stroke of half-time Leeds got the ball in the net but Snodgrass's volley from Becchio's flick was ruled out by Peter Walton for a foul by the Argentinian.
West Ham lost James Tomkins, playing in a holding midfield role, after he suffered a trapped nerve, meaning Gary O'Neil came on for the second half in his place. The arrival of Carlton Cole, replacing Maynard in the 56th minute, "made a difference" according to Allardyce and certainly the visitors were now carrying a greater threat, as both Abdoulaye Faye and Cole himself went close with headers from set pieces.
Allardyce also introduced Ravel Morrison, whose two goals for the club's development squad in midweek earned him his first senior outing since joining West Ham from Manchester United in January.
With 20 minutes remaining, Green made his first save of a tight second period to keep out a Paul Connolly header and the tension threatened to boil over with an outbreak of handbags after Michael Brown's late tackle on O'Neil. Allardyce admitted his team are "a little edgier" after falling out of the promotion places but hopes for better at home against Middlesbrough on Tuesday.
Leeds (4-4-2): Lonergan; Connolly, Lees, O'Dea, Robinson; Snodgrass, Brown, Clayton, White (Webber 76); McCormack (Forssell 76), Becchio.
West Ham (4-1-4-1): Green; O'Brien, Faye, Collins, McCartney; Tomkins (O'Neil 46); Collison (Morrison 81), Nolan, Noble, Taylor; Maynard (Cole 56).
Referee: Peter Walton
Man of the match: Snodgrass (Leeds)
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