Leeds United: Evans keeps confidence in misfiring marksman

Steve Evans talks to Chris Wood.
Steve Evans talks to Chris Wood.
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Steve Evans offered Chris Wood a vote of confidence by saying he would start him again at Birmingham City on Tuesday despite the striker’s costly misses in yesterday’s 1-0 defeat at Burnley.

Leeds United’s head coach laid the blame for the club’s loss at Turf Moor at the feet of two wasteful efforts from Wood, but he moved quickly to give the forward his support and promised to stick with him at St Andrews.

Wood, who recently returned from a period on the sidelines with hamstring problems, claimed his ninth goal of the season in last week’s 1-1 draw with Queens Park Rangers, but was guilty of passing up glaring opportunities at Turf Moor as Leeds dominated the Championship leaders.

Wood headed wide pin-point crosses from Mustapha Carayol and Charlie Taylor and Burnley held out to maintain their place at the top of the Championship through a first-minute strike from Scott Arfield.

But Evans said: “Chris will be back and he’ll lead the line on Tuesday.

“His performance apart from those chances was very good. He’s a terrific player and normally you’d expect him to take them.”

Evans had given vocal backing to Italian defender Giuseppe Bellusci ahead of the trip to Burnley after bad errors in United’s previous meetings with QPR and Rotherham United, but Bellusci was dropped at Turf Moor as Evans recalled club captain Sol Bamba.

United’s defence, however, conceded after just 59 seconds when Arfield fired inside Marco Silvestri’s far post.

Evans said he had taken the decision to drop Bellusci on the morning of the game, saying: “I made it after chatting to Peppe. Peppe didn’t seem like he was mentally right to start the game.

“He’s made a couple of errors but we’ve made a couple of errors (at Burnley), with the goal and the chances missed. He’ll come back into the thoughts for Tuesday, but I thought Sol and Liam Cooper did a great job on Sam Vokes and Andre Gray. They’re top class in the Championship.”

United will fulfil a game in hand at Birmingham on Tuesday and Evans’ side need a result after taking one point from their last four games. Leeds are effectively safe from relegation, but are just two points above 21st-placed Rotherham.

On-loan Liam Bridcutt missed yesterday’s defeat at Burnley after suffering a thigh strain, but Evans said he was pleased with the performance of midfielders Luke Murphy, Toumani Diagouraga and Lewis Cook.

“Liam’s gone for a scan,” Evans said. “That’s not a negative, we just want to be sure that if we’re going to reintroduce him to full training, everything is right.

“But I was really pleased with Luke and Toumani. The biggest compliment I can give them is that we never missed Liam. Cooky caused Burnley enormous problems.

“Their two central midfielders didn’t know where he was half the time.”

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