Leeds United 1 PNE 0
Referee Gavin Ward was at the centre of a huge controversy as ten man North End lost 1-0 at Elland Road.
Jordan Pickford saw red on the half hour mark, official Ward very harshly adjudging the he handled outside the box, when video evidence strongly suggesting the ball hit his shoulder.
Steve Evans’ men grabbed their first goal in the first minute of the second half, Alan Browne accidentally diverting the ball past substitute debutant Matt Hudson, only on the bench due to an illness to Chris Kirkland on the morning of the game.
But it was North End who dominated the game in the second half, with Hudson not having a save to make but home ’keeper Silvestri making numerous fine stops to deny the Lilywhites a point they would more than have deserved.
The game had started with North End on the attack, with three excellent opportunities to go ahead inside the first ten minutes.
Firstly a Paul Gallagher free kick just 80 seconds in, was fired goalwards from 25 yards out in a left hand channel, but Marco Silvestri scrambled across goal to palm the ball behind for a corner.
Then two chances in a minute as firstly Will Keane was put clean through by Joe Garner, but a brilliant save from the Italian ’keeper, one on one, in left hand side of the box kept it 0-0.
Then moments later the Leeds No.1 was again required to at full-stretch get a strong left hand to a
Garner right-footed pile drive, tipping the ball around the right hand post for a corner.
It took until the mid-point of the half for the home side to test North End, but it was a good chance. On loan Sunderland man Liam Bridcutt played the ball through to Chris Wood, but Pickford saved one on one on the right hand side of box.
But controversy reigned on the half hour mark. A long ball through was played towards Wood and Jordan Pickford was adjudged to have handled on the edge of the box against the New Zealand forward and is sent off by referee Gavin Ward after a long wait.
Eventually youth team goalkeeper Matt Hudson, just 17-years-old, replaced John Welsh – who himself had come into the side for an injured Daniel Johnson, for his debut in a PNE shirt.
The home side had the lead just 30 seconds into the second half and in fortuitous circumstances, as Stuart Dallas’ left wing cross was inadvertently diverted into his own goal by Alan Browne from 12 yards out, giving Hudson no chance.
A snap shot from substitute Neil Kilkenny in the 66th minute tested the Leeds goalkeeper once again, with North End having settled into a formation again.
The former Leeds man and North End No.8 tested the stopper again with 18 minutes left, the ball tipped onto the roof of the net from 25 yards.
Silvestri again denied North End, keeping out a flashing header from Will Keane from Adm Reach’s excellent left wing cross into the on loan Manchester United man.
Five minutes were added on with Leeds trying to time-waste with North End throwing men forward, but they couldn’t get the goal their character and determination deserved.
: Silvestri, Wootton, Bellusci, Cooper, Taylor, Byram, Bridcutt, Murphy (Doukara, 64), Cook, Dallas (Phillips, 90), Wood (Antenucci, 83). Subs not used: Peacock-Farrell, Coyle, Bamba, Mowatt.Leeds United line-up
: Pickford, Vermijl, Reach, Clarke (c), Huntington, Cunningham, Gallagher, Welsh (Hudson, 34), Browne (Kilkenny, 55), Keane (Doyle, 87), Garner. Subs not used: Wright, Woods, Brownhill, Hugill.PNE line-up
: 22,641 (894 away fans)Attendance
: Mr G WardReferee