Fluid Manchester show Leeds the way
A Steven Hall inspired Manchester side handed Leeds University their second successive defeat, easing to a comfortable 3-0 win.
Centre back Anthony Osho headed in his first goal in Manchester colours after just 10 minutes from Steven Hall’s early corner. Manchester then proceeded to affirm their control with two further strikes either side of half time with Hall turning goal scorer and becoming provider once more for Josh Rogers’ 62nd minute header.
With both sides being comprehensively beaten in their last outings 4-1 and 5-1 respectively, the victory sends Manchester 6 points clear of Leeds in the battle to retain league status.
The home side’s first team coach Stuart Leicester had mentioned beforehand that he felt Leeds were a side “we should be beating” whilst simultaneously showing caution and respect to a Leeds team that perhaps was short on confidence following their defeat to Northumbria University. The stakes were high and as Leicester asserted, this was a ‘must win game’, just as much for the home side as it was for Leeds.
It was Manchester who responded with the most valour and resilience to their most recent result, showing high levels of energy and commitment right from the first whistle. This was epitomised by Amar Dhesi who within the first minute of the encounter threw himself into a high challenge, which sadly meant he had to depart with a head injury.
In the opening 8 minutes both sides displayed an attitude of tentativeness and a touch of nerves as passes went astray and the only thing visibly noticeable was the incessancy of crunching tackles.
However, the home side quickly began to settle and show signs of the threat they posed. With their first corner a quickly taken ball from technician Hall followed up by an effort from forward Callum Botham cleared the crossbar, providing the warning signs to the Leeds defence as Manchester sought to make a statement of intent.
Interestingly, it was Hall’s corner once again just two minutes later that would prove to be the deadlock breaker.
This time, taken from the left corner flag, an inviting delivery from Hall saw centre back Anthony Osho rise highest to head with conviction low past goalkeeper Jack Lonegran.
It began what would be a spell of concerted pressure from the home side, and Manchester nearly doubled their lead immediately after grabbing the opener.
A great passage of play involving captain Robert Sissons and Josh Rogers saw a chance open up for the imposing forward Botham. However his left foot shot once again rose over the bar when a pass to left winger Akeeb Ahmed appeared to have been the better option.
After 18 minutes, the away side had still not had an attempt on goal and were certainly failing to cause any real concern to the home sides defence. This was encapsulated by the sideline antics of Leeds’ assistant coach Brian Deane, with the former Middlesbrough and Leeds United marksman kicking water bottles in an air of frustration.
Leeds University winger Liam Turner had earlier stated that his side were perhaps suffering due to the fact that they had recently assembled a new back four, and it was showing as Manchester began to pick holes in the Leeds defence. Robert Sissons saw a 25 yard volley deflect and trickle just wide, and a string of set pieces looked to be providing Leeds with much discomfort before the away side began to threaten. Striker Daniel Cunningham who had been identified as a potential match winner, wasted an opportunity when sent through on goal whilst a header from captain Jamie Doyle was cleared off the line.
These missed chances were to be their undoing as playmaker Hall, who was beginning to pull strings in the middle of the park, burst through the middle before unleashing a crisp low 25 yard strike into the bottom corner on the half hour mark to double the score.
Leeds began the second half in much stronger fashion and efforts from Doyle and Cunningham forced good saves from Will Jones who had been a spectator for most of the match.
As it had been before, another set piece from Hall would settle the match as a contest as the lung bursting Josh Rogers beat Pat Newsome in the air to glance a header into the back of the net from Hall’s free kick on 62 minutes.
Hall was not finished yet, playing a delightful ball onto the wing before receiving the ball again only to see his 20 yard effort cannon off the post.
Manchester continued to create chances with ease but spurn them; however it marked an important 3 points for them and another worrying result for a Leeds side who’s coach Ian Burchnall feels are still getting used to playing with each other.