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Becchio goal rescues Leeds United from FA Cup exit
VIRUS-HIT Leeds United had to dig deep to fight another day in the FA Cup.
They escaped with a 1-1 third round draw against fellow Championship side Birmingham City at a low-key Elland Road on Saturday.
Winners of the replay at St Andrews a week on Tuesday will host Spurs in the next round.
Blues boss Lee Clark was left wondering why his side didn’t win first time round after his side carved out numerous chances against a lacklustre Leeds, whose supporters gave the game a miss in their thousands.
In recent encounters it has been Birmingham’s big forwards that have given United problems, this time it was the pace and movement of the coveted Nathan Redmond and former Manchester United junior Ravel Morrison.
Redmond, normally a winger, was pressed into service as a striker and although his pace created several chances he couldn’t take any and the Whites were let off the hook.
It’s hard to say how much United’s lethargy was down to the illness that spread throughout the club, but it was no surprise when the visitors took a 32nd-minute lead. Wade Elliott moved forward unchallenged before arrowing a superb 25-yard shot into the top left corner of Jamie Ashdown’s goal.
Absent Leeds boss Neil Warnock, another virus victim, listened to the match on the radio and kept in touch by phone with assistant Mick Jones and coach Ronnie Jepson.
Unhappy with the contribution of his wide players, Warnock ordered El-Hadji Diouf and Sam Byram off the bench in a half-time reshuffle.
It did lead to some improvement and in-form Luciano Becchio slammed in the equaliser on the hour with his 19th strike of the season after latching on to a fine threaded pass by David Norris.
Shortly after the leveller, Birmingham’s 19-year-old defender Will Packwood broke his fibula and tibia after an innocent collision with Becchio. The snap could be heard in the West Stand and several of Packwood’s younger team-mates were visibly distressed by the injury but they regrouped and continued to take the game to Leeds.
Birmingham, under financial pressure, may have to sell some players in the transfer window, while Leeds expect top-flight clubs to come in for top-scorer Becchio and young York-based defender Byram.
Jones said: “If I was a Premier League manager I would be chasing them. All the top clubs are watching Sam. They would be daft if they weren’t, but we have to keep those two and I think we will.”
Leeds United: Ashdown, Lees, Pearce, Tate (Somma 79), Drury, White (Diouf HT), Norris, Brown, Hall (Byram HT), McCormack, Becchio. Subs (not used): Kenny, Peltier, Varney, Pugh.
Birmingham City: Doyle, Packwood (Hancox 64), Caldwell, Davies, Robinson, Burke, Reilly, Gomis, Elliott, Morrison (Hales 85), Redmond. Subs (not used): Butland, Ibanez, Gordon, Henry-Francis, Gnahore.
Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside).