ANDY LONERGAN admits to being relieved to have handed the Leeds United captaincy on to Robert Snodgrass.
The summer signing from Preston North End was the man of the match in Tuesday’s goalless draw at Hull City.
A string of impressive saves by Lonergan in the 15 minutes before half-time ensured Leeds claimed a second clean sheet in three games under Neil Warnock, who was full of praise for his goalkeeper after the game.
For Lonergan, two shutouts in quick succession represent a welcome return to the high standards he set in the opening weeks of his time at Elland Road.
He puts that improvement down to Warnock deciding to hand the captaincy on to Snodgrass ahead of his first game as United manager.
Lonergan, who had been handed the armband by Simon Grayson in the wake of Jonny Howson’s sale to Norwich City, said: “Not being captain does feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.
“It shouldn’t but it does. I won’t say it was too much pressure but it was almost like I was doing too much.
“I have only just come to the club and need to concentrate on my own game. I feel to have found a bit of confidence again.”
That much was evident during the closing stages of the first half at the KC Stadium as the Leeds goal came under heavy pressure for the only time on Tuesday night.
Lonergan’s save to deny a low drive from Corry Evans was a particular highlight along with the block that kept out Cameron Stewart.
The Leeds goalkeeper said: “It was pleasing to keep another clean sheet. I think it showed we have the Neil Warnock mentality of not conceding a goal and being horrible to play against.
“I appreciate the fans probably felt it wasn’t the best game to watch but it was a tough game at a tough game that was played on a horrible pitch.
“We are defending as a team, every one of us. We don’t take too many chances. We have often given the opposition the chance to score.
“They were not having to create and that was frustrating. Six weeks ago, we would have had to score to get something out of the game.”
As impressive as taking a point off a Hull side who sit above Leeds in the table was, there can be little doubt that the result did not do Warnock’s side too many favours in the quest to force their way into the play-offs.
Last season, for instance, Nottingham Forest finished sixth on 75 points – a tally that if Leeds are to match it then they must take 25 points from their final 11 games.
Despite that, Lonergan said: “I always prefer playing away because you tend to be in the game more. At Elland Road, we take the game to the opposition.
“A 0-0 away is never two points dropped. It is a point gained and one that keeps us in there. If we go to Middlesbrough and don’t concede again then we have a chance of moving up that table.”
In three games under Warnock, Leeds have claimed two points and kept two clean sheets. They are yet to score but, on the plus side, have only conceded one goal, against leaders Southampton last Saturday.
That record compares favourably with the 48 that United conceded in the preceding 32 games this term and the 70 that flew into their net last season.
The challenge now is to return the goalscoring touch to the Leeds side, who as recently as last month were the third highest scorers in the division.
Lonergan added: “We have got goals in the team, even though we haven’t scored in three games. Once that clicks, we will be a force to be reckoned with.”
Hull are also looking to improve their goals return after failing to find the net for the seventh time in their last 11 league outings.
Manager Nick Barmby is not, however, unduly worried.
He said: “A lack of goals might be a concern for everyone else, but it isn’t for me. I believe in the lads – the forwards and midfielders – and I believe we will come good.
“We have got to learn to be a bit more patient but it is a learning curve for the younger players. We have got to be a little bit cuter.
“We played really well in the first half and we were the better team, so I was a little bit disappointed we didn’t win the game. But we go again on Saturday at home to Ipswich Town.”