LEEDS United have been handed a big incentive to win their FA Cup third round replay at Birmingham with the winners being drawn out at home to Premiership big boys Tottenham.
The Whites had to settle for a replay after failing to make the most of home advantage on Saturday when a Luciano Becchio goal earned them a 1-1 draw and now face the prospect of a trip to the Midlands on Tuesday, January 15 if they are to earn the lucrative fourth round tie.
Birmingham were the better side for long spells with their pacy attack causing the hosts problems, but United hung in and could have snatched victory if Becchio had made the most of another great chance and if Jason Pearce’s first half header had not struck the post.
It was no surprise that Leeds were a little under par with a virus sweeping through the club and denying them the use of several first team players as well as manager Neil Warnock, who was not at the ground and had to stay in touch with the game via radio.
Birmingham were without a number of first teamers also through suspension and injury and with only 11,447 spectators the magic of the cup was far away with a flat atmosphere present throughout.
United’s assistant manager Mick Jones admitted he was pleased that the Whites were still in the competition.
He said: “The fact that we turned it around showed a bit of character. To come back from one down, it is a good result.
“Neil was in constant touch with us during the game. He made the decision to change the team at half-time and it worked.
“We hadn’t created anything from wide positions. Becchio and Ross McCormack needed the ball in the box and they got it in the second half.
“Luciano missed a good chance before he scored, but he doesn’t freeze and went on to take his next chance so well.”
Birmingham started the sharper with Wade Elliott, Nathan Redmond and Ravel Morrison all getting in shots early on before Pearce met Ross McCormack’s free-kick to send a diving header against the woodwork.
Midfielder David Norris got in behind the visitors’ defence twice in a good spell that followed for Leeds only for a cross to evade everyone in the area and for his angled shot soon after to be kept out by keeper Colin Doyle.
Redmond sliced a shot wide when well placed as City continued to threaten on the break, but the visitors took the lead on 33 minutes as Elliott dribbled past Norris on half way and was allowed to run unchecked to the edge of the box where he then unleashed an unstoppable shot into the top corner of the net.
With Sam Byram and El Hadji Diouf sent on as half-time substitutes Leeds started the second period strongly with Becchio sent clean through only to fire his volley too close to keeper Doyle.
Birmingham responded with Redmond and Chris Burke going close with strikes from distance and Redmond forcing a good save from home keeper Jamie Ashdown. But it was the Whites who scored on the hour as Norris put Becchio clear again with a clever pass into the box and the Argentine striker finished confidently for his 19th goal of the season.
Leeds could not capitalise on their comeback, however, as they failed to create any more chances and their opponents continued to break out well only to fail to make the most of several shooting opportunities.
Birmingham also had to contend with the loss of 19-year-old defender Will Packwood, who was taken from the ground straight to hospital after breaking his leg in two places in a horror injury that followed an accidental aerial clash with Becchio.
Leeds United 1
Birmingham City 1
Saturday, January 5, 2013
FA Cup, round three
Leeds: Ashdown, Lees, Tate (Somma 79), Pearce, Drury, Hall (Byram 45), Brown, Norris, White (Diouf 45), McCormack, Becchio.
Birmingham: Doyle, Parkwood (Hancox 67), Caldwell, Davies, Robinson, Burke, Gomis, Reilly, Elliott, Morrison (Hales 85), Redmond.
Referee: Chris Foy.