Leeds United put their shaky form behind them as they enjoyed their most emphatic win of the season in beating Birmingham City 4-0 in front of the TV cameras at Elland Road.
Two goals from Matt Smith and one each by Ross McCormack and Rudy Austin saw the Whites take well to a new formation in which they fielded three centre-backs.
The final score did not do full justice to Birmingham’s efforts in the second half, but Leeds were well worth their four-goal tally and could have doubled their score with all their chances they had.
They were already three up by half-time and found it easy to carve open a Birmingham side whose own formation with a back three was anything but stable until they altered it at the break.
After only seven minutes McCormack found himself clean through with only keeper Darren Randolph to beat, but he hit his shot straight at the Birmingham man.
McCormack was denied by Randolph again as he latched on to Austin’s great low cross while Jason Pearce headed over from six yards out and the visitors survived an early onslaught.
But United did go ahead on 18 minutes as tall striker Smith chased a through ball and was beaten to it by Randolph only for the ball to go loose where Austin quickly set up McCormack to chip into a net unguarded by a goalkeeper.
Birmingham twice went close through Chris Burke shots that flashed just wide, but they were fortunate to escape a big penalty shout as McCormack appeared to be pulled down in the area and Austin fired a shot wide after a good run by McCormack.
It was no surprise when Leeds made it 2-0 just after the half-hour and it was a great goal, Austin heading in after his sweeping 40-yard ball had found McCormack on the left wing and he then got in the box to meet the Scottish forward’s perfect cross.
A third followed on the stroke of half-time when Smith flicked on Tom Lees’ long ball and was in the right place at the right time to score with a clever finish after McCormack had seen his shot parried by Randolph.
Birmingham responded in the second half after manager Lee Clark made changes and put on big striker Nikola Zigic, who has a huge scoring record against Leeds.
They immediately looked a different team and put the hosts under pressure, although the Whites did create another good chance when Randolph’s fine save denied Austin in a one-one-one with the keeper.
Burke could not believe his luck when his chip beat Paddy Kenny only for Tom Lees to make an incredible clearance underneath his own crossbar. Zigic then saw his powerful shot from the edge of the box well saved by Kenny.
Birmingham definitely knew it was not their day when soon after David Murphy hit the post with a well struck free-kick and the ball bounced away from forwards following up.
Burke saw another effort well saved by Kenny and it seemed the visitors must score. But it was United who created another chance when Smith’s header from McCormack’s cross was superbly saved by Randolph and they then did add a fourth goal.
Smith netted his second with a strong header from Alex Mowatt’s cross and it was game over.
It was a triumph for manager Brian McDermott after he made four changes to his starting line-up from the previous game and successfully changed the formation, revealing later that it had been worked on over the last fortnight and tried out successfully in a behind closed doors game against Rotherham.
Leeds United 4
(McCormack 18, Austin 33, Smith 45, 74)
Birmingham City 0
Sunday, October 20, 2013
Sky Bet Championship
Leeds: Kenny, Byram, Lees, Pearce, Wootton, Warnock, Austin (Brown 89), Murphy, Mowatt, McCormack, Smith.
Birmingham: Randolph, Caddis, Bartley, Burn (Shinnie 45), Robinson, Murphy, Burke, Lee, Elliott, Lingard, Novak (Zigic 45).
Referee: Paul Tierney.