Young duo of­fer fans a pos­i­tive sign for fu­ture

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - FOOTBALL - LEE SOBOT

DEBU­TANT de­fender Paudie O’Con­nor said he was ready for the rough and tum­ble of Cham­pi­onship foot­ball af­ter prov­ing a ray of light for Leeds against League One-bound Sun­der­land at El­land Road.

For­mer Lim­er­ick de­fender O’Con­nor was handed a Leeds de­but with United hav­ing a raft of de­fend­ers in­jured, in­clud­ing cap­tain Liam Cooper and Ever­ton loa­nee Matthew Pen­ning­ton.

Twenty-year-old O’Con­nor pro­duced a steady dis­play along­side Swedish in­ter­na­tional Pon­tus Jans­son at cen­tre-back but Leeds looked to be star­ing at an­other de­feat when Paddy Mc­Nair fired the sec­ond-bot­tom Black Cats into the lead three min­utes af­ter the break from Lyn­den Gooch’s clever flick.

Leeds equalised through a fine strike from Spa­niard Pablo Hernandez 18 min­utes from time but were un­able to net a win­ner with Samu Saiz’s late free-kick hit­ting the post be­fore cap­tain Gae­tano Ber­ardi was shown a straight red card for a late and high two-footed tackle on Cal­lum McMana­man in the 90th minute.

Ber­ardi is head­ing for a fiveg­ame ban fol­low­ing his third red card of the sea­son as part of a hugely dis­ap­point­ing cam­paign for the 13th-placed Whites, who only missed out on a play-offs by one place and five points last term.

Head coach Paul Heck­ing­bot­tom’s side again squan­dered plenty of chances with Ron­aldo Vieira also hit­ting the post in the first half in which Hernandez blazed a good ef­fort just wide.

But 21-year-old goal­keeper Bai­ley Pea­cock-Far­rell equally kept the Whites in the game with a string of im­pres­sive saves.

Hernandez’s ef­forts aside, the dis­plays of young­sters Pea­cock­Far­rell and O’Con­nor were the main pos­i­tives for Leeds and O’Con­nor has set his sights on keep­ing his place in the side.

“I have come from back home in Ire­land where it’s a fairly phys­i­cal league any­way,” said O’Con­nor.

“I have played nearly 50 games up against men who like to throw them­selves about so I kind of knew that if it was go­ing to go like that I would be able to deal with it and I think I have done okay in that re­gard.

“I have played for the Un­der23s for a bit now so it’s up to me now to try and hold on to the jer­sey.”

Leeds are des­tined for a midtable fin­ish, sit­ting 12 points off the play-offs and 17 clear of the drop zone with five games left.

Head coach Heck­ing­bot­tom said: “Af­ter go­ing be­hind you can’t be sat­is­fied with a draw but I do give the play­ers credit for com­ing back.”

Leeds United: Pea­cock-Far­rell, Dal­las, Jans­son, O’Con­nor, Ber­ardi, Phillips (Roofe 65), Vieira, Alioski, Hernandez, Saiz (Anita 90), La­sogga (Ekuban 79). Un­used sub­sti­tutes: Lon­er­gan, Pearce, Ni­cell, Grot.

Sun­der­land: Camp, Love, Kone, O’Shea, Wil­son, Cat­ter­mole (LuaLua 90), Mc­Nair, Honey­man (Ejaria 84), Gooch, Fletcher, McGeady (McMana­man 89). Un­used sub­sti­tutes: Steele, Matthews, Asoro, Clarke-Sal­ter.

Ref­eree: J Simp­son (Lan­cashire).

PIC­TURE: JONATHAN GAWTHORPE

OFF AGAIN: Leeds United de­fender and cap­tain Gae­tano Ber­ardi is red-carded for the third time this sea­son and is head­ing for a five-game ban af­ter dis­missal against Sun­der­land.

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