Leeds United: FA Cup run is still a priority - Pearce

Jason Pearce.
Jason Pearce.
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Defender Jason Pearce denied that an FA Cup replay was a hindrance for Leeds United after a 1-1 draw with Birmingham City left the club facing a trip to St Andrews next Tuesday.

Leeds will make a second attempt to reach the fourth round a week tomorrow following a tightly-fought game between the clubs on Saturday.

Luciano Becchio’s 60th-minute goal was enough to keep United in the draw for round four, cancelling out a first-half strike from Birmingham’s Wade Elliott, but neither side were able to force a winner in the final half-hour at Elland Road.

The stalemate will send Leeds to Birmingham in the days between important Championship matches against Barnsley and Bristol City, and an attractive home tie against Tottenham Hotspur is at stake following yesterday’s fourth-round draw.

Neil Warnock’s squad have already enjoyed one lengthy cup run this season, reaching the quarter-finals of the Capital One Cup last month, and centre-back Pearce said: “The important thing is that we’re in the hat for the next round.

“I love the FA Cup and as a player you definitely want a run. We’ve got to win the replay before we start thinking about the next round but we had a good run in the Capital One Cup and we want to do that in the FA Cup. The gaffer knows the importance of the league and that comes first but it’s good to have a cup run.

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“Birmingham played some good stuff and we were disappointed with our performance at half-time. The lads were a little quiet but we had a chat and were much better in the second half.

“We showed a bit of pride and determination to get back into it and we could have won it. We won the second half but sadly didn’t win the game and a draw in the end was probably a fair result.

“They’re a decent side and their two strikers up top (Nathan Redmond and Ravel Morrison) were lively.”

Pearce carried the captain’s armband on Saturday with regular skipper Lee Peltier named as a substitute, and six changes were made to United’s starting line-up after a virus swept through the squad last week.

Warnock was among the victims of the bug and assistant manager Mick Jones took charge of Leeds in the absence of the club’s manager.

Elliott’s 33rd-minute finish – a fine strike from 20 yards – threatened to eliminate United at the first hurdle but Becchio’s effort restored parity and Leeds’ defence held firm against the persistent threat of Redmond and Morrison.

Pearce appears to have regained his place in Warnock’s team after dropping to the bench in the wake of a three-match ban imposed for the red card shown to him in a defeat to Watford on November 10.

Warnock signed Alan Tate on loan from Swansea City in the final hours of the emergency loan window and Tate’s initial form kept Pearce, a £500,000 signing from Portsmouth, among United’s substitutes until his recall late last month.

Pearce said: “Since Tate’s come in I’ve been out of the team but that’s made me hungry to get back in. Bringing in players does that and you need those challenges.

“Tate’s a good player, he’s played in the Premier League and when I wasn’t playing I looked at his game to try and take it into mine.

“We’ve got a great battle going on at the back with me, Tate and (Tom) Lees who’s an England Under-21 international now. He’s got a great future ahead of him. Bringing in players is good for the squad.”

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