United boss Kevin Blackwell carried out his threat to make changes after the Wigan defeat by
dropping two players.
Clarke Carlisle was the highest profile casualty as Blackwell wielded the axe, with Jermaine
Wright the other man to also make way.
Wright's place in midfield was taken by Simon Walton whilst Matthew Kilgallon came in for Carlisle.
United and West Ham lined up for the biggest game of the day in the Championship and neither
team needed reminding that not too long ago this would have been a high profile Premiership fixture.
For the first time this season Blackwell had the luxury of leaving players out through choice
rather than necessity due to the recent arrivals of Michael Gray, Rob Hulse and Shaun Derry and it was one of those new arrivals
who had the first sight at goal.
On loan Baggies hit man Hulse tried his luck from all of 25 yards but his shot sailed harmlessly
over the bar.
Leeds were really fired up for this one after last weeks abject showing at Wigan and Derry
and Gregan in particular won some crunching early challenges in the middle of the park.
The diminutive Aaron Lennon was once again causing Leeds' opponents problems down the right
flank and a good looking cross was headed over the bar by the returning Simon Walton.
David Healy had stated before the game that he was going to be wary of West Ham players seeking
retribution after the last match between the sides when Healy won an injury time penalty and Repka was the first to scythe
down the Northern Ireland international.
The resulting free-kick from Kelly caused Bywater to come flapping out of his goal but no Leeds
player was on hand to tuck the ball in to an empty net.
The United midfield was looking more mobile than in recent weeks which could have partly been
due to the all action style of Walton hustling up the Hammers engine room.
The first twenty minutes were dominated by Leeds but no real clear cut openings were fashioned.
Hulse did head over the bar from a Walton cross though.
West Ham failed to make any impression early on and Kilgallon was looking assured on his return
to the starting line up. Former Manchester United and England striker Teddy Sherringham was being kep very quiet by Leeds
skipper Butler and the danger for Leeds was being caught on the counter attack.
After half an hour Lennon forced a corner and the ball just evaded the on rushing Hulse but
the Leeds players were incensed when a penalty wasn't given for a handball by Malky Mackay.
Healy was causing the Hammers all sorts of problems by dropping deep to pick the ball up and
the claret and blue's weren't sure whether it was a midfielder's job or a defender's.
The first incident of any note was when Hulse found his way in to the referee's notebook for
an ugly challenge on Tomas Repka. The defender cleared the ball but the Leeds striker arrived late and jumped in to him with
his elbow out.
As the first half was drawing to a close all Leeds' bright moments where coming from the young
winger Lennon and his jinking runs and teasing crosses had the Hammers defence on tenterhooks.
West Ham finally strung a couple of passes together after forty minutes and fashioned an opening
for former Yeovil man Gavin Williams but his shot sailed harmlessly over Sullivan's crossbar.
On the stroke of half time Derry was tripped on the edge of the area and Healy tried to fire
the free-kick under the wall. The ball deflected along the ground and looked to be heading to Hulse's feet but Bywater was
brave and denied the striker.
The second half got underway in much the same way as the first half ended. Leeds had most of
the pressure but were struggling to create clear cut chances for the front men.
It was Lennon once more though who tried to give Leeds a lift as he cut in from the right on
his left foot and fired a shot the Bywater claimed well at his near post.
There was nothing Bywater could do though a minute later when yet again Lennon tortured Chris
Powell on the right hand touchline and whipped in an inviting ball into the box for Hulse to volley Leeds in to the lead in
the 51st minute.
It gave the watching chairman Ken Bates something to smile about sat in the freezing stand.
Leeds had to be careful not to sit back and try to hold on to their lead though, something
they have been guilty of on more than one occassion at home this season.
And they were given a warning as Williams hit a half volley that just scraped the outside of
the post only a couple of minutes after Leeds had taken the lead.
Since the goal, for some reason a certain edgieness seemed apparent. On the pitch and in the stands.
As the game approached the hour mark, West Ham were certainly enjoying their best spell of
pressure as their game plan of playing for a draw had gone out of the window.
Sheringham was beginning to have more of an influence on the game but Leeds were still looking
pretty solid at the back. They were doing a good job snuffing out the service before it got to their lethal striker Harewood.
Tempers flared on 65 minutes when the bad blood between the two sides resurfaced after a foul
by Gregan on Harewood. The Leeds midfielder was then involved in a squirmish that involved nearly every player on the pitch
but Gregan's booking will now mean a suspension. From the resulting free-kick Sheringham hit the wall and the ball safely
West Ham were certainly matching Leeds now and at last were starting to show the sort of form
that had brought them three straight championship victories.
There was a sense in the stand that Leeds would have to grab another goal to make sure of the
points but West Ham struck first.
Lomas pumped a hopeful ball in to the box but there still looked to be no danger as Sherigham
had his back to goal. He deftly chested the ball in to William's path though and the midfielder half volleyed over Sullivan
to get the Hammers back in the game. It was a classy strike and there was no doubting that the Londoners now had the momentum.
Leeds nearly went behind when Williams broke free down the right and bared down on Sullivan's
goal. But young Simon Walton came up with a last ditch tackle to save the day.
In Leeds's haste to grab a winner they were leaving holes at the back and Blackwell decided
that a pair of fresh legs were needed. Crowd favourite Danny Pugh was introduced for the tiring Simon Walton on 76 minutes
but the youngster could be pleased with his performance on his return to the side.
Harewood was now causing Kilgallon a few problems and he cutely found Sheringham in space but
the veteran fired a good chance wide.
With ten minutes to go Gary Kelly rashly tried to win the ball back from Etherington after
it became trapped between his legs on the edge of the area and with someone like Sheringham in the side it was not the wisest
place to give away a free kick.
But West Ham surprised everyone as the left-footed Etherington curled it around the wall only
for the ball to hit the outside of the post with Sullivan beaten.
The latter stages of the game were once more dominated by Leeds as they pushed for three points.
Pugh was giving Leeds much needed width on the left at last and forced a corner from which he himself shot wide but then Shaun
Derry endeared himself to the Leeds faithful after only two games.
Healy worked wonders twenty yards out and skipped two tackles before feeding the mullet-haired
He took a touch to take it round the final defender before expertly firing past the on-rushing
keeper with the outside of his right foot. Could Leeds hold on for the final five minutes?
It was a nervy final few minutes for Leeds with West Ham punting hopeful balls in to the box
but lung bursting runs from Lennon and Healy relieved the pressure for a vital few moments.
When Lennon was brought off in the final minute for Clarke Carlise the whole stadium rose to
acclaim the new United hero.
It was a man of the match performance from the teenager and the decision not to cash in on
him in January when the big clubs came calling is beginning to look inspired. It could be the best bit of business Leeds have
done in the transfer market for years!
When the final whistle went Elland Road errupted to chants of Marching on Together and with
a few more perfomances like this between now and the end of the season who knows where Leeds might be able to march to.
The three points doesn't move Leeds up the table, they stay tenth, but the gap to the
final play-off place which West Ham currently have is now tantalisingly only four points.
West Ham United