RUDDERLESS Leeds United’s faltering season slumped to a new low as they lost to bottom of the table Coventry.
Two penalties by one-time Leeds loan player Gary McSheffrey - the second in injury-time - sank the Whites, whose hopes of reaching the play-offs in the Npower Championship are beginning to look slim.
A second successive defeat, this time to a team with only three wins in their last 19 matches, would also appear to have put paid to any chance caretaker boss Neil Redfearn had of taking over as manager full-time.
Redfearn was unable to lift the team after their home defeat to Brighton - when they also lost out to an injury-time goal - and he perhaps surprisingly chose to go with the same team, his only change being to bring back defender Andy O’Brien on the bench in place of Alex Bruce.
He had no complaints with the penalty decisions that gave Coventry vital points in their relegation fight and was left to reflect on a performance that saw United fail to dominate.
They started well enough, but after Coventry survived early pressure they broke out to open the scoring when Danny Pugh was adjudged to have brought down Alex Nimely and Gary McSheffrey put away the resulting penalty.
United’s response was good as Tom Lees sent a header over then they equalised when Adam Clayton and Luciano Becchio combined to set up Ross McCormack to net his 16th goal of the season.
But the hosts ended the half on top and it needed two good saves from Andy Lonergan to keep Leeds level at half-time. United did have one more effort before the break as McCormack sent a free-kick wide.
Clayton came close with a fine effort early in the second half, but Coventry were always n the game and also went close through Carl Baker and Gary Deegan.
Leeds suffered a blow just after the hour mark when they lost midfielder Fabian Delph to injury, to be replaced by Michael Brown. They pressed on for a winner, however, with Aidan White being denied by the legs of home keeper Joe Murphy and McCormack shooting over.
They appeared to run out of gas and it was Coventry who did much of the pressing in the last ten minutes only for Clive Platt to squander a great chance when set up by McSheffrey.
United thought they had a chance to go for it in injury-time when awarded a corner, but their opponents instead broke away to get the ball to danger man Nimely, whose run into the box ended in a foul by White.
A second penalty was the result and McSheffrey kept his nerve to shoot his side to a win that could prove crucial in their fight to avoid the drop.
Coventry City 2
(McSheffrey, pens 20, 90)
Leeds United 1
Tuesday, February 14, 2011
Coventry: Murphy, Keogh, Clarke, Cranie, Christie, Norwood, McSheffrey, Baker, Deegan, Nimely, Platt.
Leeds: Lonergan, Smith (O’Brien 74), Lees, O’Dea, Pugh, Snodgrass, Clayton, Delph (Brown 61), White, McCormack (Nunez 82), Becchio.
Referee: Pat Miller