Midfielder helps United to a late 1-1 draw with Birmingham...
UNITED 1 (Murphy 86), BIRMINGHAM 1 (Caddis pen 8).
United: Silvestri, Wootton, Bellusci, Cooper, Taylor, Byram, Austin, Murphy, Cook (Doukara 77), Antenucci (Sharp 63), Morison. Subs. S Taylor, Pearce, Bianchi, Sloth, Mowatt.
Birmingham: Randolph, Caddis, Morrison, Robinson, Grounds, Gleeson, Shinnie (Edgar 65), Davis, Cotterill (Zigic 83), Gray (Novak 78), Donaldson. Subs. Doyle, Thomas, Reilly, Hancox.
Referee: D Whitestone
Booked: Antenucci (United), Robinson, Shinnie, Zigic (Birmingham)
Att: 23,534 (1,136 Birmingham)
Birmingham City were the visitors at Elland Road for United's first home game of 2015 and head coach Neil Redfearn made two changes from the side held at Bolton a week earlier. Having returned from his loan spell at Rotherham United, Scott Wootton came in to replace the injured Gaetano Berardi at right back, while Mirco Antenucci was recalled in place of Casper Sloth.
The United defence was called into action early on, standing firm to turn behind a dangerous-looking David Cotterill free-kick, but Redfearn’s men were soon on the attack with two quick-fire chances at the opposite end.
Rodolph Austin had the first the sight of goal, dragging wide from range after being picked out by Luke Murphy’s pin-point cross, before Steve Morison fired over after working an opening inside the area.
But it was the visitors who found themselves ahead on eight minutes courtesy of Paul Caddis’ penalty. Liam Cooper was adjudged to have tripped Clayton Donaldson inside the area and, although Marco Silvestri guessed right, Caddis was able to pick out the bottom corner with his spot-kick.
Cotterill and Andrew Shinnie both then dragged efforts wide from outside the box as Birmingham pushed for a second, while United came agonisingly close to an equaliser as Wootton headed Murphy’s free-kick inches wide.
Blues goalkeeper Darren Randolph then held Morison’s header before the striker nodded across goal for Antenucci to flick just wide of the far post in a decent spell of pressure from the hosts. Silvestri was soon called upon, though, acrobatically tipping Stephen Gleeson’s long-range strike over the bar.
Despite the scoreline, United looked a threat and continued to carve out chances. First, Randolph stood firm at his near post to block Antenucci’s effort after again latching onto Morison’s header, before the Birmingham stopper pulled off a stunning one-handed save as Giuseppe Bellusci looked to poke home a Murphy free-kick.
But Birmingham too remained a danger and Silvestri flew across his line to palm away David Davis’ strike from distance on 37 minutes, before Andrew Shinnie saw his effort deflected narrowly wide as the visitors took their one-goal lead into half-time.
Both sides returned from the break unchanged and it was United who started the second half on the front foot. Lewis Cook surged down the left and floated a cross for the advancing Morison to glance towards goal, only to see it clip the post and bounce kindly back into Randolph’s arms.
Cotterill drilled an ambitious free-kick wide for the visitors but, urged forward by the Elland Road crowd, United continued to press in search of a leveller and Morison was millimetres away from finding it as he lashed wide after a corner had fallen into his path.
Redfearn made his first change of the afternoon on 63 minutes, replacing Antenucci with Billy Sharp in attack. But the next flurry of chances came Birmingham’s way as Demarai Gray burst into the area and forced Silvestri into a block at his near post, before Donaldson’s header flicked back off the post and United managed to scramble clear.
Cotterill tried his luck again with another long-distance free-kick which Silvestri managed to hold, before Souleymane Doukara was introduced in place of Lewis Cook with 13 minutes remaining on the clock.
United’s patience and persistence was eventually rewarded on 86 minutes as Murphy hammered home an emphatic equaliser from inside the area. Sam Byram’s right-wing cross was only half-cleared by the Birmingham defence and Murphy raced onto the loose ball to fire past Randolph and secure a late point.