Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Leeds Win a Speed Tribute

Leeds paid the best possible tribute to former number 11 Gary Speed with an emphatic win over Nottingham Forest on an emotional night at the City Ground.

Applause before the match for Speed, who died at the weekend, was followed by 11 minutes of chants from the 11th minute by Leeds fans.

Robert Snodgrass put the visitors ahead and Jonny Howson smashed a second.

Luciano Becchio's header and Adam Clayton's finish sealed the win before Andy Reid was sent off for Forest.

Leeds manager Simon Grayson, who forged a friendship with Speed after they signed schoolboy forms with Leeds on the same day when they were 14, had asked his players to win the game in Speed's memory and they did not disappoint.

They bossed the game from start to finish, to the backdrop of constant chants from the away support about their former midfielder.

It was apt that Leeds's first goal came almost exactly at the end of the United fans' 11 minutes of concentrated chants for Speed, with Snodgrass picking up the ball midway into the Forest half before unleashing a crisp strike that beat home keeper Lee Camp.

The goal was reward for an opening the visitors had dominated and they continued to do so after with Becchio seeing two efforts blocked by defenders and Snodgrass denied a second goal by a last-ditch intervention from Wes Morgan.

However, Leeds did make it 2-0 late in the half when Snodgrass set up Howson to crash home a superb 25-yard half-volley into the top corner of Camp's net.

Forest had barely registered a chance in the first half and brought on Ishmael Miller after the break in a bid to remedy this, but they were left reeling again four minutes into the second half when Becchio headed home Michael Brown's cross.

Miller did get in on the action on the hour but his header was comfortably saved by Leeds keeper Alex McCarthy.

This was only a momentary spark for Forest, though, and Leeds were amongst the goals again soon after when Clayton was on hand to finish from close range after Camp had saved Howson's initial effort.

And Forest's awful night was compounded late on when Reid's game was cut short when he received a second yellow card for a foul on Aidan White.

Leeds United manager Simon Grayson: "It's been a difficult couple of days for myself and Gary's family, supporters of Leeds United and supporters in general."

"Gary Speed was a fantastic person and I wanted my players to go out and produce a performance for him tonight.

"That was right out of the top locker of our performances tonight. It was very poignant that the first goal [from Snodgrass] came right as the 11 minutes of singing ended and was a left-footed shot.

"Gary Speed scored many goals like that. It's been difficult, but I'm a very proud manager tonight. I'm delighted to have got a result for Gary Speed."