LEADBITTER’S LATE SHOW SEALS POINTS
AFRANTIC finish left the travelling support in raptures, but for Huddersfield boss Chris Powell the late drama at the John Smith’s Stadium left a bitter taste.
Grant Leadbitter was the architect of the Terriers’ downfall, just when it seemed Powell’s first match in charge might end on a positive note.
Powell was celebrating in his technical area when former Sunderland striker Jon Stead pounced to cancel out Leadbitter’s stunning first-half free-kick.
The leveller arrived completely against the run of play and appeared to make Boro pay the price for failing to add a second – until Terriers full-back Tommy Smith intervened.
With a ball in to the box halfcleared, Smith naively tugged on the shirt of Adam Reach deep in to stoppage time and referee Kevin Wright pointed to the spot.
Leadbitter – the coolest man on the pitch – sent goalkeeper Alex Smithies the wrong way and spoilt the occasion for Powell, who took over last week following Mark Robins’ sacking.
“I thought we were in for a point when we got that late goal,” he said.
“I have ended up with a really disappointing end to a day I was looking forward to.We fought our way back in to the game.
“When you get a leveller that late you look to baton down the hatches, take a point and build from there. It was an individual error by a young player. He shouldn’t be doing that kind of thing in the 92nd minute but he will learn from situations like that.
“But what pleased me was the manner we stuck at it against a Middlesbrough side who are quite rightly well-fancied to do well this season.”
After back-to-back home defeats in the Championship Middlesbrough needed a lift and got one, even if it took a dramatic ending to finish off a resilient Huddersfield.
An eventful first half which had more cards than clear cut chances after a few tough challenges, Middlesbrough edged ahead when Leadbitter delivered in style.
The former Ipswich midfielder arrowed a powerful free-kick from 35 yards straight into Smithies’ top left corner, leaving the goalkeeper with no chance.
After that Kike and Adam Clayton both spurned chances to extend the lead before the break.
There were also further chances after the restart, but the crucial second goal failed to arrive and when Huddersfield counter attacked with four minutes remaining Stead enjoyed his moment of glory.
Ward’s centre, after a lovely pass from former Boro man Jacob Butterfield, was perfect for Stead to move ahead of his marker and beat Dimi Konstantopoulos from close range.
Huddersfield thought they had done enough but then Smith’s error handed Leadbitter the ideal chance to take centre stage. He did not disappoint.
“Leadbitter is a very good player, who deserved his goals because he leads by example,” said Boro boss Aitor Karanka.
“He is a player who really impressed when I came here and now he is the kind of player we need. He is a strong character, he is always working hard and a player who can also score goals. The first goal, especially, was a special one.
“We are improving with the new players but we will need a good fully fit squad because we have six games in 19 days coming up. I shall need them all to be ready to be involved.
“I couldn’t believe it when their equaliser went in, I don’t know how many chances we had had to go further ahead before that. Kike,Vossen and Bamford all had opportunities. I still thought we were the better side and deserved to win the game.”
GOLDEN BOY: Grant Leadbitter celebrates his winning penalty in front of the Middlesbrough fans Inset: The midfielder slots the spot kick home