Pugh gives Leeds scant consolation

Gillingham 2 - Leeds United 1
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The Independent Football

When Leeds United defeated Derby County at the weekend they could kid themselves they were still in the top flight, the fixture sounded as if it belonged there. Last night reality set in as they visited Priestfield Stadium for the first time in the Championship and lost to unglamourous but underrated Gillingham.

When Leeds United defeated Derby County at the weekend they could kid themselves they were still in the top flight, the fixture sounded as if it belonged there. Last night reality set in as they visited Priestfield Stadium for the first time in the Championship and lost to unglamourous but underrated Gillingham.

First-half goals from Darren Byfield and Iwan Roberts put the Gills in control and the hope offered by Danny Pugh's late reply proved illusory. Worryingly for Leeds they largely showed, as their former great Norman Hunter told his Yorkshire listeners: "No play, no cohesion, nothing. The ball's always in the air, it's just fight and chase."

Leeds had been to Kent's only league ground quite recently, in an FA Cup fourth-round tie in January 2003. However, only Gary Kelly of last night's XI also started that match.

Leeds had drawn then, despite the dismissal of Mark Viduka, and ought not have feared last night's trip. Gillingham survived relegation on the final day of last season - by a goal difference of one - and lost 12 home fixtures.

Money is as tight at Gillingham as it is at Leeds but they did manage to sign Byfield and Roberts in the summer.

The pair's experience was soon apparent with Roberts' ability to hold the ball enabling Byfield and Patrick Aygemang to trouble Leeds with their movement. Byfield's fourth-minute goal came after he found space in midfield then advanced unchallenged before shooting from 25 yards. The ball struck Jermaine Wright and left Neil Sullivan stranded. It was the first goal Leeds had conceded at this level since a youthful Gary McAllister scored against them for Leicester in what was then called the Second Division in April 1990.

Further home goals almost followed for Aygemang and Byfield. All Leeds had offered to this point was a brace of wayward headers by Julian Joachim but they had plenty of spirit and rallied as the half closed. From one of a series of corners Michael Ricketts set up Matt Kilgannon but his shot was brilliantly parried by Steve Banks.

Leeds' despair was doubled as, with half-time approaching, Aygemang broke down the right and Roberts beat Paul Butler.

Roberts missed a sitter on the hour but it seemed irrelevant for Gillingham were dominant. Then Blackwell belatedly brought on Steve Guppy to test stand-in right-back Mark Saunders. Six minutes later the one-time International squared from Brian Deane's pass and Pugh tapped in.

Gillingham (4-3-3): Banks; Nosworthy (Hessenthaler, 23), Ashby, Hope, Hills; Saunders, Smith, Spiller; Byfield (Sidebe, 72), Roberts, Agyemang (Jarvis, 75). Substitutes not used: Brown (gk), L Johnson.

Leeds United (4-4-2): Sullivan; Kelly, Butler, Duberry, Kilgannon; Richardson, Wright, Walton (Guppy, 74), Pugh; Joachim, Ricketts (Deane, 74). Substitutes not used: Carson (gk), Crainey, Radebe.

Referee: R Styles (Waterlooville).

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