Blues exited the FA Cup with Budweiser tonight as visiting Leeds came from behind at St. Andrew’s to clinch victory and a place in round four.
Wade Elliott had fired Blues into an interval lead but goals in the second half from Ross McCormack and an impudent penalty from birthday boy El-Hadji Diouf completed the turnaround. Lee Clark’s men did rally and were incredibly unlucky not to equalise as Leeds keeper Jamie Ashdown produced two impressive saves to deny Peter Lovenkrands and Nikola Zigic also saw a header cleared off the line. But it wasn’t to be Blues’ night.
Marlon King returned to lead the Blues attack with goalkeeper Colin Doyle also recalled between the posts, as he was in the first match between the sides at Elland Road. Callum Reilly had not recovered from the virus which forced his half-time withdrawal at Huddersfield at the weekend so Ravel Morrison dropped back into his more orthodox central midfield berth.
Elliott tried his luck from distance early on but couldn’t repeat his net buster of ten days ago as his low shot drifted well wide of the target. That was the closest either team came to opening the scoring during a scrappy first half-an-hour of the contest.
The first corner of the game went to the visitors and it caused a concerning moment in the Blues defence as the ball bounced around the penalty area but no Leeds player was able to get a decisive touch. Visiting keeper Jamie Ashdown had to be alert to dive low to his left and save Marlon King’s fierce drive from the right side of the area. But the Leeds custodian could do nothing to prevent Blues from edging ahead on 36 minutes.
Nathan Redmond raced clear down the right and the young winger produced a terrific pinpoint cross to pick out Elliott at the far post. The winger still had plenty to do but finished with aplomb as he sidefooted a shot high into the top right corner.
Leeds almost responded immediately as Luke Varney’s header drifted only inches wide of the Doyle’s left-hand post but Blues held a narrow advantage going in at the interval.
Neil Warnock’s side came out in a more determined fashion after the break as they went in search of an equaliser but Blues’ resolute defence stood firm. Doyle struggled to grasp Rodolph Austin’s vicious effort from the edge the area but did enough to clear the danger.
However, Leeds’ pressure eventually told on 70 minutes as McCormack pounced to level the scores. The former Cardiff man latched onto El-Hadji Diouf’s pull-back and sidefooted past Doyle from eight yards.
Blues threatened to regain the lead almost straightaway as fantastic trickery from Elliott and then Chris Burke almost set up a golden chance but Paul Green produced a last-ditch clearance with King waiting to tap the ball into an empty net.
The Leeds midfielder then went up the other end and was close to putting his side in front but his header from Varney’s cross was clawed away by Doyle. The game was to complete its turnaround soon after though as the referee awarded the visitors a penalty.
Austin’s driven cross cannoned off Robinson’s hand. It certainly wasn’t an intentional handball from the unlucky Blues full-back but the referee’s assistant immediately signalled that an offence had taken place but it was the referee that ultimately decided it was inside the area and awarded a spot-kick. Diouf converted in cheeky fashion by chipping the ball straight down the middle of the goal as Doyle dived to his right.
Clark responded by immediately sending on Peter Lovenkrands and the big Dane twice went agonisingly close to restoring parity. His first touch was a shot from the left side of the area that was flying towards the far corner but Ashdown’s fingertips averted the danger. Lovenkrands went even closer when he made perfect contact to a volley that looked a goal all the way but Ashdown pulled off an incredible stop.
In between those two chances, the Leeds keeper was beaten but this time Aidy White was in the right place to hack fellow sub Nikola Zigic’s header off the line. Blues put up a sterling effort to try and get back into the contest but it’s Leeds that progress to the next round, leaving the hosts to concentrate on league matters, starting with Saturday’s visit of Brighton.
Blues: Colin Doyle; Paul Caddis, Steven Caldwell, Curtis Davies, Paul Robinson; Chris Burke, Morgaro Gomis, Ravel Morrison (Peter Lovenkrands 77), Wade Elliott, Nathan Redmond (Nikola Zigic 83), Marlon King.
Subs not used: Nick Townsend, Pablo Ibanez, Mitch Hancox, Reece Hales, Ryan Higgins.
Leeds: Jamie Ashdown; Sam Byram, Tom Lees, Lee Peltier, Adam Drury (Aidy White 11); Paul Green, Rodolph Austin, Michael Brown, Luke Varney; El-Hadji Diouf (Jason Pearce 90), Ross McCormack.
Subs not used: Paddy Kenny, Aidy White, Alan Tate, David Norris, Davide Somma, Ryan Hall.
Goals: McCormack, Diouf (pen)
Referee: Andy Woolmer
Attendance: 8,962 (1,547 away fans)