Last-minute penalty condemns Leeds to defeat at the New York Stadium...
ROTHERHAM 2 (Frecklington 27, Halford pen 90), LEEDS 1 (Murphy 79)
Rotherham team: Camp, Kelly, Broadfoot, Doyley, Mattock; Halford, G Ward (Richardson 90), Smallwood (Newell 80), Frecklington, Derbyshire, Best (D Ward 64). Subs: Kenny, Wood, Thomas, Clarke-Harris.
Leeds team: Silvestri, Berardi (Murphy 74), Bamba, Bellusci, Taylor, Diagouraga, Bridcutt, Mowatt (Carayol 58), Cook (Dallas 58), Antenucci, Wood. Subs: Peacock-Farrell, Coyle, Cooper, Adeyemi.
Referee: Kevin Friend
Booked: Best (Rotherham), Bridcutt, Bellusci (Leeds)
Sent off: Derbyshire (Rotherham), Silvestri (Leeds)
Att: 11,418 (2,311 Leeds)
The Yorkshire derby trip to Rotherham United saw Leeds head coach Steve Evans make three changes to face his former side from the humbling defeat to Huddersfield Town a fortnight earlier. There was a first start since January for returning striker Chris Wood, who replaced the suspended Souleymane Doukara in attack, while Toumani Diagouraga and Lewis Cook were recalled to the midfield as Luke Murphy and Stuart Dallas dropped to the bench.
The hosts were first to threaten in front of a capacity crowd at the New York Stadium, Lee Frecklington racing onto a loose ball before lashing wide on the half-volley from 20 yards out inside the opening two minutes, before Leeds looked to assert some early pressure as Cook’s powerful strike was blocked on the edge of the area and Mirco Antenucci curled a first-time effort over from a difficult angle.
Evans’ side had started brightly and were looking the more dangerous of the two teams during the early exchanges. Alex Mowatt sent a rasping 25-yard strike flying over Lee Camp’s crossbar after seizing upon a loose pass from Kirk Broadfoot, before Camp was tested for the first time in the 19th minute as he beat away Antenucci’s low effort after Wood had teed up his strike partner on the edge of the area.
Despite Leeds enjoying the better of the early opportunities, it was the hosts who managed to break the deadlock on 27 minutes as Frecklington launched himself at a deep cross from the left and turned it beyond Silvestri from inside the area on the half-volley.
The visitors looked to mount a quick response but Camp was untested as Antenucci squeezed a low shot through a crowded Rotherham penalty area, before the Italian fired agonisingly wide of the far post moments later.
The Millers were buoyed by their lead, though, and chased a second shortly before the half-time whistle as Broadfoot towered a header over Silvestri’s bar after rising highest to meet Greg Halford’s long throw-in.
The sides re-emerged from the break unchanged and it was the hosts who were first to threaten during the early stages of the second half, with Richie Smallwood blazing over from inside the area and Leon Best sending a back-post header wide of Silvestri’s near post after meeting a free-kick from deep.
At the opposite end, Wood forced Camp to tip his looping header onto the roof of the net after turning Giuseppe Bellusci’s mis-hit volley towards goal, before Evans was prompted into his first changes of the afternoon as the hour-mark approached, introducing Mustapha Carayol and Dallas in place of Mowatt and Cook.
The 61st minute then brought the biggest talking point of the game so far, as Rotherham’s Matt Derbyshire was shown a straight red card for an aerial challenge on Gaetano Berardi which needed the Leeds full-back to sport a head bandage and fresh kit for the final half-hour.
Leeds looked to make the numerical advantage count as Carayol’s speculative strike from range flew wide before a superb one-handed save from Camp somehow denied Antenucci’s curling, low effort from finding the bottom corner after a weaving run from the striker.
Camp was the difference between Leeds forcing an equaliser and he again kept Antenucci at bay with another fine save from inside the area before Dallas was blocked on the rebound after charging onto the loose ball. Sol Bamba then towered a back-post header inches wide from Dallas’ pin-point corner as the visitors were urged forward in front of the travelling fans.
An equalising goal eventually, and deservedly, came on the 79th-minute mark through final substitute Luke Murphy, who had replaced Berardi just five minutes earlier. The midfielder’s first goal of the season owed a lot to a huge deflection on his long-range strike, leaving Camp rooted to the spot as it found the net, but it was no less than justified after waves of Leeds pressure.
Liam Bridcutt then saw his swerving effort from distance tipped over by Camp and Wood towered a header over from the resulting corner, before some last-minute drama at the opposite end saw the hosts snatch the three points from the penalty spot.
Silvestri was dismissed for tripping Frecklington inside the area, forcing Bellusci to go in goal for the final few minutes with Leeds having used all three substitutions, but the defender’s first involvement was to pick the ball out of the net as Halford calmly slotted the penalty into the bottom corner to claim the victory.