McCormack 8, 10
THE first defeat of United’s pre-season threatened to be an avalanche and turned out as almost a draw.
Two swift early goals from Ross McCormack in front of 4,000 fans evenly divided by both sides looked like the beginnings of a tough night but the Gulls dug deep to maintain the double deficit to half-time.
After the break, Lloyd Macklin and Danny Stevens added pace and verve to the Yellow attack, and then young defender Kirtys MacKenzie pulled one back from a corner. The result would stay 2-1 but an interesting night in the build up to the real stuff.
Looking at the team sheet, you could be forgiven for thinking this was a very possible starting line-up for the first competitive game of the season against Leicester in the Capital One Cup.
The two notable absentees were Joe Oastler, who sustained a broken nose in Tuesday’s win over Tiverton, and Danny Stevens, who is suffering from the early effects of shin splints.
Frustratingly for the Gulls, McCormack needed just eight minutes to find his range and plant a fine low shot beyond goalkeeper Michael Poke. It was a neat turn in midfield and the incisive shot was perfectly placed.
There was no need for disappointment just two minutes. Instead, sheer admiration for a sensational free-kick by the Scottish international, curled beautifully over the United and into the top corner. No denying, it was a brilliant strike.
Unsurprisingly, the Yellows were left somewhat bemused by the lightening start of the visitors and the barrage continued with McCormack attempting another blockbuster from distance, swivelling on a throw-in to spear a half-volley marginally over.
It was difficult to find an excuse for United’s defending from a Leeds set-piece on 23 minutes, as Tom Lees had bags of room to head back for Andy Gray, enjoying even bigger bags of room, but the powerful striker headed tamely wide from close range.
The chances kept on coming for the boys in White, Luke Varney bursting down the left and squaring a low pass for Paul Green, who wastefully blasted over from just inside the United area.
The Gulls finally breached the Leeds defence with a terrific through-ball from Ian Morris, who started his football education at Elland Road, and Billy Bodin raced clear, only to drag his final shot well wide of Jamie Ashdown’s far post.
Bodin sought immediate amends with a dazzling run through the Leeds backline and the only think lacking was a bulging net, as Ashdown saved well down to his left.
United manager Martin Ling rung the changes at half-time, introducing five new players in a bid to galvanise his side, although his opposite number, Neil Warnock, made just one switch, leaving McCormack on the field to continue his personal crusade with another drive sent narrowly wide.
From the yellow replacements, Nathan Craig looked very competent in possession and Thomas Cruise produced an excellent goal-saving challenge on Sam Byram.
Lloyd Macklin and Ashley Yeoman were drafted in just after the hour-mark, but it was Danny Stevens who was next to emerge, picking up a neat flick from Ryan Jarvis to drive a low skidder wide of the near post.
Macklin then bombed down the right and drove in a low cross for Yeoman, who missed his shot under pressure from the Leeds defence. Two more searing runs from Macklin once again had the visiting pedalling back with unfamiliar concern.
The transfer-listed winger was having a stormer and another superb dart ended with a shot deflecting wide off the head of Danny Stevens, but referee Brendan Malone generously awarded the corner to United.
As Lee Mansell strolled over to deliver the set-piece, MacKenzie was brought on for the impressive Aaron Downes and the youngster scored with his first touch, climbing highest to power a decent header beyond Ashdown.
It was a goal United’s second-half display deserved and Stevens almost conjured up an equaliser with a curling effort six minutes from time. Leeds responded with a swift break and Dominic Poleon forced an excellent save from Martin Rice.
In the end, Leeds earned the win their over display warranted on a satisfactory night or both clubs.
United (4-3-3): 1 Michael Poke (13 Martin Rice H-T); 12 Daniel Leadbitter (23 Ashley Yeoman 62), 5 Brian Saah, 4 Aaron Downes (16 Kirtys MacKenzie 76), 3 Kevin Nicholson (21 Thomas Cruise H-T); 7 Lee Mansell, 6 Damon Lathrope (18 Craig Easton H-T), 11 Ian Morris (20 Nathan Craig H-T); 15 Billy Bodin (14 Lloyd Macklin 62), 9 Rene Howe (19 Danny Stevens H-T), 8 Ryan Jarvis (22 Niall Thompson 72).
Leeds (4-2-2): 1 Jamie Ashdown; 2 Tom Lees, 5 Jason Pearce, 4 Martin Crainey (22 Sam Byram H-T), 3 Adam Drury; 11 Aidan White (23 Robbie Rogers 78), 7 Paul Green, 8 Michael Brown (15 Zac Thompson 78), 16 Luke Varney (14 Danny Pugh 65); 9 Andy Gray, 10 Ross McCormack (17 Dominic Poleon 65). Substitutes (not used): 18 Lewis Turner, 21 Nathan Turner.
Referee: Brendan Malone
Attendance: 3,925 (2050 away).
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