Fulham 1 Leeds United 1: Leeds respond as Evans makes good impression

Steve Evans pumps his fist after taking a point in his first game in charge. (Picture: Tony Johnson)
Steve Evans pumps his fist after taking a point in his first game in charge. (Picture: Tony Johnson)
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AT his press unveiling on Tuesday afternoon, new Leeds United head coach Steve Evans spoke about his longevity in the dug-out coming down purely to results.

Last night’s first date may not have yielded a precious victory, but given the sort of burdensome week that troubled Leeds had endured, a point was something that all those who came to the capital with some trepidation would have gladly taken beforehand.

Leeds celebrate after Chris Wood scores from the penalty spot. (Picture: Tony Johnson)

Leeds celebrate after Chris Wood scores from the penalty spot. (Picture: Tony Johnson)

The 3,500 away contingent were entitled to fear the worst after a glum few days and they displayed their audible anger towards owner Massimo Cellino at junctures with cries of “Massimo, time to go.”

But in terms of matters on the pitch, they were in for a welcome surprise, although it was a night in the final analysis when United should have been heralding a first victory since September 19.

The moans and groans at the end came from the Fulham fans, with disquiet arriving in calls for Kit Symons to be sacked.

Who was that who said that football was a funny old game?

For Evans, who saluted the Leeds fans at the final whistle with the applause reciprocated, it was a first night of substance, with his only frustration being that he was not savouring three points.

The Evans era may have begun without the significant managerial bounce of a win, but there were detectable strides in the right direction.

He has pledged that Leeds would play attacking football and have a go – and his first outing in charge provided that.

Offering his take, Evans said: “I don’t think there was anyone in the stadium who did not think we should win the game.

“We saw a goalkeeper make a couple of wonder saves and a couple more should have been penalties, which I don’t know why they weren’t given.

“But I was proud of the performance and the way we played, especially in the second half. We played with a real energy.”

Leeds were the better side by some distance, with their reward coming from the spot on 64 minutes when Chris Wood’s effort beat Joe Lewis after Ben Pringle, a player who left Evans’ former club Rotherham United with a few parting shots in his direction, was penalised for handball.

It cancelled out Moussa Dembele’s 23rd-minute opener on a night when United possessed far more urgency and conviction going forward.

The Scot, in his first team selection, handed returns to Sam Byram and Mirco Antenucci in a 
4-4-2 formation, with Lewis Cook starting on the left, with Liam Cooper also starting in the heart of defence.

United’s punters, with their heads collectively spinning for the umpteenth time in the past decade after another maelstrom at Elland Road, vented their spleen early on in the direction of Cellino.

But on the pitch, they were at least afforded a bit of a diversion by a workmanlike opening, which had bright points.

Leeds were growing into proceedings and the chance they sought arrived when Stuart Dallas was found on the edge of the box, with Lewis palming away his stinging effort.

Wood was then afforded a chance at the back post, but Lewis saved before Fulham’s first moment of real assertion yielded an opener – albeit aided by some meek defending.

Another largely self-inflicted wound saw both centre-halves caught cold with Ross McCormack slipping in Dembele, who fired low past Marco Silvestri, with the Italian beaten rather too easily.

Given the dereliction of defensive duty on a number of 
occasions in the past month, it wasn’t a wholly surprising development.

It was a half in which Fulham were decidedly average, but crucially took their opportunity when it presented itself.

Leeds ended the half with purpose with Gaetano Berardi’s angled strike parried by Lewis before a half-shout for a handball by Dan Burn fell on deaf ears.

Referee Keith Hill was also unmoved eight minutes after the break when Tom Adeyemi tumbled after Lewis raced out of goal.

United were not to be denied and parity was restored as the visitors started to lay siege, with Hill awarding a spot-kick after spotting a handball.

Wood’s effort just about beat Lewis, with United dominating the rest of the game, despite losing their top-scorer to an ankle injury six minutes later.

Leeds went for the jugular, roared on by their support.

Lewis acrobatically turned away Stuart Dallas’ 25-yarder before he again earned his corn to claw away Antenucci’s late effort.

Fulham: Richards, Stearman, Burn, Garbutt, Tunnicliffe, O’Hara, Christensen (Kacaniklic 68), McCormack, Pringle (Fredericks 68), Dembele (Woodrow 84). Substitutes unused: Rodak, Hutchinson, Parker, Husband.

Leeds United: Silvestri; Byram, Cooper, Bamba, Berardi; Dallas (Phillips 86), Adeyemi, Murphy (Botaka 58), Cook, Antenucci, Wood (Buckley 70). Substitutes unused: Horton, Bellusci, Wootton, Mowatt.

Referee: K Hill (Hertfordshire)