Leeds United 0 Brentford 1: Bees take points at Elland Road

Neil Redfearn.
Neil Redfearn.
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LEEDS UNITED’S four-match unbeaten league sequence came to an end as promotion-chasing Brentford secured their fourth Championship victory in their last five outings in a 1-0 win at Elland Road.

It was an afternoon when referee Graham Salisbury took centre stage for all the wrong reasons after incurring the wrath of United’s seething faithful on a whole host of occasions - to the ire of the vast majority of the 23,164 crowd.

But what could not be denied was that on the balance of play, Mark Warburton’s Bees thoroughly merited victory - their first at Leeds since 1947.

Both Warburton and Redfearn were among the nominees for the Championship manager of the month award for January, but it was the former who was able to savour a sweet start to February.

Leeds dropped to 20th as a result of the setback.

After a handy start, Leeds lost their way with Brentford possessing the poise and looking increasingly threatening on the counter attack.

The decisive moment arrived on 65 minutes when eye-catching midfielder Alex Pritchard - on a season-long loan from Spurs - fired home his sixth goal of the season to enable the Bees to register their eighth away success of a flourishing campaign.

Leeds made one change from the side who started last weekend’s win at Huddersfield Town, with derby hero Billy Sharp handed his first start since Boxing Day in place of Alex Mowatt, who had to settle for a spot on the bench.

New signing Edgar Cani was also named among the substitutes.

The Bees, whose previous two road trips had yielded victories at Norwich City and Brighton and Hove Albion, were unchanged from last weekend’s encounter with Middlesbrough.

Leeds lined up with Rudy Austin handed a role on the left, with Sharp supporting targetman Steve Morison and it was Redfearn’s side who started the brighter and displayed the early insurgency and urgency.

But as the half wore on, Brentford grew into proceedings and displayed menace on the break with Leeds’ back four afforded little protection at times in front of them.

The best two chances fell the visitors’ way, but Marco Silvestri was on his game to deny Andre Gray and Jota.

The first cameo of action saw nice build-up play between Sam Byram and Lewis Cook end in the latter’s cross being saved by David Button before Pritchard dragged a shot wide of goal, with the high-flying Bees attacking the Kop in the first half.

Charlie Taylor, handed plenty of space down the left, then served out Leeds’ first meaningful chance on nine minutes when his deep, hanging cross latched onto by Morison, whose steered header was held by Button.

It was a decent enough opening from Leeds, with visiting centre-half Harlee Dean soon receiving a caution after blocking the run of Sharp after clever build-up play from the hosts.

From the resulting free-kick, Luke Murphy, hero of the previous home game against Bournemouth, saw his effort diverted for a corner off Jake Bidwell.

From the resulting corner, the Bees were handed a scare with skipper Liam Cooper’s header following Murphy’s flag-kick flashing across goal, with Button stranded.

But on 17 minutes, it was Leeds’ turn to heave a sigh of relief after Gray was sent clear with Sol Bamba, on his home debut, in pursuit, but the Bees’ frontman was denied by a point-blank save from Silvestri, who blocked his effort after he was originally played onside by Scott Wootton.

Play soon switched to the other end with Austin firing over before Cooper was carded for a foul in a dangerous position on Pritchard, who threatened on goal.

But Pritchard’s effort was easily held by Silvestri.

Emboldened after a quiet start, Brentford started to take a stranglehold on proceedings and four minutes after the half-hour mark, they spurned another excellent chance to take the lead.

Leeds were again undressed at the back, but Jota’s shot was saved impressively by the alert Silvestri.

Brentford’s fans briefly had their hearts in their mouths when Dean glanced Sharp’s cross wide of goal before the last major action of the half provided a spot of controversy.

Moses Odubajo, who toiled defensively in the first period and looked a weak link, clumsily brought down Austin perilously close to the box, but Salisbury was unmoved - a sign of things to come.

Leeds had a bit to ponder at half-time, which came at an opportune time to perhaps regroup after a half when Brentford had the best moments.

The restart saw a half-appeal for a penalty rejected when Austin went down after being challenged by Odubajo, but in the main, the action followed the pattern of the second half of the first period, with Brentford taking a semblance of dominance in midfield.

Fortunately for Leeds, substantive chances never arrived although Silvestri had to be quick out of goal to save at the feet of Stuart Dallas.

Increasingly, Salisbury started to incur the wrath of the home supporters, with a number of decisions going against Leeds, with fans almost growing more angry by the minute as each appeal fell on deaf ears - with the home players possibly guilty of getting a little distracted.

It took until just after the hour for Leeds’ first sniff on goal of the second period, with Morison latching onto Murphy’s deep corner and finding space before seeing his rising effort fly over the top.

Another half-shout for a penalty went unheeded when Sharp went down after a challenge from Dean before another moment of drama arrived when Brentford took the lead.

A handball offence in the build-up failed to be spotted with sub Jon Toral playing the ball out to Toumani Diagouraga on the right and with Leeds stretched, his low cross was dispatched into the net from close range by Pritchard.

It was becoming an increasingly frustrating afternoon for Leeds, with Salisbury the villain of the piece with every decision.

Despite the perceived inadequacies of Salisbury, he could not be culpable for Leeds’ patchy performance as they failed to seriously trouble the Bees rearguard, attacking the Kop.

Brentford went mighty close to sealing victory with 15 minutes to go, when a well-struck volley from Toral struck the post, with Leeds’ defence again creaking.

Soon after, the Bees substitute fired just wide as the visitors again were within inches of a killer second.

Top-scorer Mirco Antenucci was thrown into the fray for Morison on 73 minutes and six minutes later, Leeds produced their best moment of the half thus far as they almost conjured a leveller.

A rare break-away saw Austin afforded space on the right and after his cut-back was half-blocked by a Bees defender, the ball fell invitingly in front of goal for Sharp, whose low shot from just inside the 18-yard box flashing inches wide.

Toral, who made his presence felt when coming on, then provided fellow sub Chris Long with another chance to rubber-stamp the win as Brentford powered forward, but his shot was blocked by Silvestri from eight yards out.

Cani was thrown on for his debut with time running out and Leeds running out of ideas.

As stoppage-time kicked in, Leeds were handed a very presentable free-kick opportunity, but in keeping with a distinctly ordinary afternoon, the chance was fluffed with Austin’s shot meekly hitting the defensive wall after Dean was penalised for a foul on Antenucci.

Deep into added-on time, a rare old scramble almost ended in a home leveller with Cani seeing an effort blocked in front of goal, before Sharp had two bites at the cherry, only for last-ditch defending from Brentford to save the day.

Leeds United: Silvestri; Wootton, Bamba, Cooper, C Taylor; Byram, Austin, Murphy (Cani 85), Cook; Sharp, Morison (Antenucci 73). Substitutes unused: S Taylor, Berardi, Bianchi, Sloth, Mowatt.

Brentford: Button, Obubajo, Dean, Tarkowski, Bidwell; Douglas, Diagouraga; Jota (Toral 58), Pritchard (Smith 83), Dallas; Gray (Long 67). Substitutes unused: Bonham, Craig, Saunders, Yennaris.

Referee: Graham Salisbury (Lancashire).

Attendance: 23,164 (1,022 Brentford fans).