A first senior goal by 17-year-old home-town hero Simon Walton helped United to a valuable
point against Reading at the Madejski Stadium on Tuesday evening.
Walton may have been the man to pop up with the goal but there were plenty of heroes in white
shirts on the night, showing both solid resistance and a refreshing determination to get the win. Why settle for a point when
three are on offer? That's exactly what Leeds were all about in the last 15 minutes of this game and with more luck
another three point haul would have led to the all to predicatable.talk of play-offs and automatic promotion again.
Kevin Blackwell was satisfied that he saw more evidence of improvement in this game. The road
back may be long, but the rewards are worth it.
United boss Kevin Blackwell was able to keep an unchanged side for the visit to the Madejski
Stadium following the 1-0 win over Preston North End at the weekend.
It meant that despite strong concerns over his calf, on-loan striker Brett Ormerod had managed
to shake off the knock he picked up whilst setting up the goal for that win to take his place upfront alongside Michael Ricketts.
The hosts made one change to the team that beat Stoke away at the weekend, with former Arsenal
youngster Steve Sidwell returning to the side after suspension in place of midfielder Paul Brooker, who picked up
a groin injury.
With less than two minutes on the clock Leeds shocked everyone inside the Madejski Stadium
when they took the lead through the youngest player on the pitch.
It was a lightening quick break down the right that eventually saw Ormerod put in a cross for
Walton to sneak in between defenders and send a crashing head past Marcus Hahnemann in the Reading net to put the Whites 1-0
Leeds escaped with their lead intact from an excellent goalscoring opportunity for the hosts
after 12 minutes when Shaun Goater got clear of the back four.
Steve Sidwell fed the ball through into the area, Butler failed to cut it out at full stretch
which left the former Manchester City striker with just Sullivan to beat, but once again the keeper saved United as he blocked
the shot with his feet and the ball was scrambled clear.
Sullivan was called into action again on 20 minutes when a low cross from the left was met
perfectly by former Burnley winger Glen Little from 12 yards out with a well struck volley, but it was fortunately straight
into the arms of the United No.1.
A few minutes later and Leeds were again living dangerously again when Goater was allowed space
in the box to get in a shot on goal and only thanks to Clarke Carlisle throwing his body in the way of the strike did they
survive at the expense of a corner.
Walton, playing with youthful exuberance and buoyed by his goal, was shown the first yellow
card of the evening when he pulled back James Harper just past the half hour mark. Mind you, referee Roger Olivier does have
a booking ratio of just over three yellow cards per game to maintain.
Goater, who had been presented
most of Reading's chances, surprisingly made way with just five minutes of the first half remaining for Lloyd Owusu, the former
Sheffield Wednesday and Brentford striker.
Although he had been a major doubt before the game, Ormerod showed little sign of the calf
injury that had been troubling him and was indeed afforded more space upfront than he enjoyed against Preston.
In the last few minutes Leeds rallied and Ormerod's shot from the right was only just kept out by Hahnemann.
Ricketts had his first shot on goal just before the break and it was inches away from becoming
his first league goal for the club, just passing the left hand post from a narrow angle.
It was Reading though who found the finishing touch to their late rally, and it resulted in
A corner from the right was headed down by defender Ibrahima Sonko, it was tipped onto the
post by Sullivan and the loose ball came back fortuitously for substitute Lloyd Owusu to bundle it home and make it 1-1.
No changes by either side at half-time, the scene was set for an enthralling second half.
Did United sit back and defend the point, or would they push forward for a winner?
The first chances fell to Reading. First Dave Kitson held the ball up, tried to shoot for goal
but skipper Paul Butler got the block in and inadvertently set Little up for a clean strike on goal but his effort was easily
saved by Sullivan.
The same player missed the chance of the game for Reading just three minutes later.
A cross from the left by Owusu bypassed everyone inside a crowded United penalty area and fell for Little just ten yards out,
but he somehow screwed the shot wide or Sullivan's left hand post.
Kevin Blackwell left it until the 64th minute to
bring Brian Deane on for Michael Ricketts. Deane had been influential in United's winner against Preston and it hopes
were high he could have similar impact on this night.
Simon Walton was given a rousing reception by the massed ranks
of United fans when he was substituted on 71 minutes for Matthew Spring. Apart from scoring the goal, the youngster
had worked tirelessly and competed for every ball in midfield.
With 15 minutes to go Leeds decided they were going to go for the win.
Sean Gregan came forward with purpose but fired just over and then a rash of harsh challenges
that saw Deane fouled, Ormerod brought down and numerous other potential free-kicks were waved away by the referee.
Leeds were playing good passing football but yet again it was the killer ball that was lacking.
Brett Ormerod was replaced by Julian Joachim with eight minutes of normal time left to play. The Southampton striker
has just one game remaining of his loan spell before he returns to St Mary's.
United could have lost this game
in the final two minutes when a ball was whipped in across the face of goal and Kitson, in acres of space, missed the ball
from six yards out.
The Whites won a corner deep into injury time and from it came within a whisker of winning
Matthew Spring delivered a great inswinging cross and Brian Deane stooped low to get in a fierce
header on goal that produced the save of the match from Readng keeper Marcus Hahnemann.
Leeds may have been denied all three points at the end, but the point they did
get was richly deserved.