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Pearce’s first goal helps Leeds United to edge out Barnsley

Tom Pearce celebrates scoring his first goal for Leeds United. Picture: Simon Hulme
Tom Pearce celebrates scoring his first goal for Leeds United. Picture: Simon Hulme

Paul Heckingbottom got one over his former club as the head coach saw his Leeds United team beat Barnsley 2-1 at sunny Elland Road.

The victory - only the third in 14 since matches since Heckingbottom took over at Leeds - lifted the Whites up to 12th in the Sky Bet Championship and eased some of the pressure that was building on the head coach.

An entertaining game could have gone either way with Barnsley having a “goal” chalked off for a tight offside decision and missing an open goal, but Leeds also had plenty of opportunities in an open contest.

The first chance fell to United in the fourth minute as Ezgjan Alioski took the ball off a Barnsley defender and raced clear only to shoot wide in a one-on-one with keeper Adam Davies.

Kalvin Phillips headed wide from a decent Pablo Hernandez cross before Leeds went ahead as teenage left-back Tom Pearce seized on a loose ball, advanced strongly to the edge of the box and beat Davies with a shot that brought him his first-ever goal in senior football.

A second goal almost followed within two minutes as Davies blocked a scrambled effort in the box and the ball was played back in to Samuel Saiz, who then saw his goalbound strike well blocked.

Barnsley, desperate for points in their relegation fight, looked to hit back and home keeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell had to tip an Adam Hammill cross wide after Pontus Jansson mysteriously seemed to leave the ball.

Jansson did better soon after when he did well to get his head on the end of a goalbound Hamill shot.

Bradley Potts got a shot in from the edge of the box for the visitors, but Peacock-Farrell did well to gather the low effort.

Barnsley did equalise out of the blue on 36 minutes when Ezekiel Fryers’ low cross was sliced into his own net by Paudie O’Connor.

The visitors could then have gone ahead in first half injury-time as Connor Mahoney made space in the box, but saw his low shot superbly saved by Peacock-Farrell.

Leeds started the second half back on top and went ahead again when Kemar Roofe got in behind the Barnsley defence and his drilled in cross was put away at close range by Alioski.

Roofe got in behind again soon after, but this time his low cross to Alioski was well defended with the home player seeing his shot deflected wide.

Barnsley had the ball in the net with Oliver McBurnie finishing Mahoney’s low cross, but he was flagged offside.

Leeds corners caused the visitors problems. They could have had a penalty from one with a clear shirt pull that was not spotted and from another Jansson headed over at the near post.

Saiz saw a shot from the edge of the box deflected wide and Alioski’s snap shot from 20 yards out was not far wide.

But Barnsley still looked a threat and Peacock-Farrell was forced into a save to keep out Potts’ shot.

Gary Gardner then shot over from range while Phillips blasted a volley over at the other end.

Barnsley should have levelled when big substitute Kieffer Moore got on the end of Hammill’s low ball into the box, but with the net gaping he did not get good contact and his shot went wide.

The visitors knew it was definitely not their day when they had a big shout for a penalty turned down late on as Hammill went down under a challenge from Matthew Pennington. Instead of lining up a spot kick he found himself looking at a yellow card for a dive and with that Barnsley’s challenge was over.

United could have added to their tally in added time when they had men over in a break, but Pablo Hernandez curled a shot wide.

Leeds assistant coach Jamie Clapham reckoned the game had shown why Leeds have had the season they have with the ups and downs.

He said: “It summed up the season. The first 20 minutes we were exceptional and got the goal. But after that for some unknown reason we switched off. We weren’t on the front foot.

“That was a disappointment and you could see the goal coming, Bailey made a couple of good saves.

“We had to have a word with them at half-time because nothing had changed. We got runners again and we got another goal.

“They threw everything at us in the closing stages, but we got a foot in, headed it when we had to.

“Full credit to our players, they stuck in there and got their rewards. The back four did well.

“It’s good to get three points and not just because it was against our former club in Barnsley. It’s a shame to see them in the position they are in, but we needed the three points today.

“All the youngsters have done really well. They are doing a terrific job and have really given us a lift.

“It was good for Tom Pearce to get his goal. He has all the attributes. There’s some work for him to do, but he has come in and done well as all the youngsters have.”

Match facts

Leeds United 2

(Pearce 18, Alioski 50)

Barnsley 1

(O’Connor og 36)

Saturday, April 20, 2018

Sky Bet Championship

Attendance: 30,451.

Leeds: Peacock-Farrell, Pennington, Jansson, O’Connor, Pearce, Alioski (Ekuban 71), Vieira, Phillips, Saiz (Forshaw 84), Hernandez, Roofe.

Barnsley: Davies, Yiadom, Mills (Hedges 81), Lindsay, Fryers, Mahoney (Moore 62), Potts, Gardner, Hammill, McBurnie, Bradshaw (Moncur 73).

Referee: Stephen Martin.