United go down 2-1 at home to Blackburn Rovers...
UNITED 1 (Smith 53), BLACKBURN 2 (Rhodes 13, Gestede 36).
United: Kenny, Lees (Poleon 77), Zaliukas, Pearce, Pugh, Byram, Mowatt (Brown 88), Murphy (Ariyibi 46), Austin, McCormack, Smith. Subs. Cairns, Wootton, Peltier, Varney.
Blackburn: Eastwood, Spurr, Hanley, Marshall, Dann, Williamson, Taylor, Gestede, Cairney, Campbell (King 65), Rhodes. Subs. Kean, Kilgallon, Songo'o, Judge, Mahoney.
Referee: A Taylor
Booked: McCormack, Austin, Zaliukas, Brown (Leeds), Dann (Blackburn).
There was a major boost for Brian McDermott prior to kick off when United goalkeeper Paddy Kenny was passed fit for the New Year's Day clash against Blackburn Rovers. The boss made two changes to his starting line-up and included young duo Sam Byram and Alex Mowatt from the start in place of Lee Peltier and Michael Brown.
There was a high tempo to the game with United doing much of the early pressing in the opening 10 minutes.
There were early warning signs for United as Blackburn showed what they had to offer from a Tom Cairney corner. The ball that was crossed in was met by Grant Hanley whose header went just over the bar.
But on 13 minutes Scotland international Jordan Rhodes broke the offside trap when he was played through by Cairney and the striker guided the ball past Kenny to give the away side an early advantage.
United responded well to going behind and the returning Mowatt had a great shot from just outside the penalty area. The midfielder worked the space for himself but his strike was saved well by Simon Eastwood.
The away side threatened moments later when Ben Marshall skipped a challenge on the edge of the box, but United defended well and his shot deflected wide of the mark. The resulting corner also brought a good chance for Blackburn but the ball was just too high for Scott Dann to connect.
It was an open game in the first 20 minutes at Elland Road and Smith was just inches away from meeting a Danny Pugh cross with only the keeper to beat with the midway point of the half approaching.
In the 25th minute Tom Lees saved his side from going two goals down when he made a goalline clearance following a DJ Campbell shot. Kenny softened the strike and the United defender was on hand to make the vital clearance just before it crossed the line.
Prior to the half-hour mark United enjoyed a good spell of possession but on 36 minutes it the away side that doubled their advantage. The goal came about after a succession of Cairney corners that were causing United problems at the back and Rudy Gestede smashed one through the defence and the goalkeeper.
There was further danger for United with half time approaching when Cairney played a delightful ball to Gestede who only had Kenny to beat, but fantastic tracking back from Luke Murphy prevented the striker getting his shot away.
With his side two goals down the United manager made one change at the break by introducing Gboly Ariyibi for his Elland Road debut, in the place of Murphy. The boss also made a change to his formation by playing four at the back, which saw Byram move to the right wing and Ariyibi operating on the left.
United had an early chance at the start of the second half after they came out on the front foot. United striker Smith was the man with the final shot but his strike crossed the face of the goal and went wide.
United continued to push forward and following a Pugh cross Ariyibi had the chance to make an instant impact in front of the Leeds faithful, but his looping effort went just over the bar.
The early pressure from the home side was rewarded in the 53rd minute when Smith pulled one back for United. Great work by Ross McCormack led to Byram poking the ball across the penalty area for the big striker to sweep home into an empty net as the keeper tried the block Byram's ball across the box.
With the 60-minute mark nearing United needed to clear one of the line again following Cairney's ball in. The Blackburn attackers rose highest at the back post but Smith was on the line to head the ball clear.
A second half turnaround was almost complete moments later when Byram broke forward once again and played in the United goalscorer, but this time Smith stroked the ball just wide.
On 70 minutes United came even closer to getting a second goal when a Smith shot rebounded into the path of Mowatt. The young midfielder took a touch to set himself and struck at Eastwood's goal, but the 18-year-old could only watch as his shot smashed back off the crossbar.
The United pressure in the final third of the pitch continued and Brian McDermott added to his attacking options by bringing Dominic Poleon on for Lees. A switch that saw Byram move back to the right side of defence and Poleon to the right wing.
With 10 minutes remaining United survived another scare when the away side got a cross into the box and Rhodes outjumped his man but his header hit Kenny's bar.
The final minutes of the 90 saw very little action as the away side restricted United to play in their own half and stopped any breakaways. The game went into five minutes of injury time but United couldn't take advantage of the time and saw in the New Year with a defeat at home.