LEEDS UNITED brought an end to their run of 10 matches without a win and breathed life into their season with a 1-0 victory over Brentford at Elland Road.
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A 31st-minute header from Liam Cooper reversed a prolonged loss of form and earned new head coach Paul Heckingbottom his first win in charge, keeping the club in the hunt for the Championship play-offs.
Leeds are five points behind sixth-placed Bristol City, who play Cardiff City tomorrow, and they defended Cooper’s first-half goal to secure three points in a game for the first time since Boxing Day.
Cooper nodded home a free-kick from Gjanni Alioski on 32 minutes to draw blood with Leeds’ first serious effort on goal.
Heckingbottom’s side had struggled in the opening half-hour and were forced to repel steady pressure from Brentford, and a fine save from Felix Wiedwald kept United level early on.
Both sides were anxious for a victory to keep them in the hunt for the Championship play-offs and a flat start produced limited chances.Phil Hay
The German responded to recent criticism of him with a top-quality reaction to deny John Egan a top-corner finish after 13 minutes.
Both sides were anxious for a victory to keep them in the hunt for the Championship play-offs and a flat start produced limited chances, with Eunan O’Kane drawing a straightforward save from Daniel Bentley from 20 yards and Ollie Watkins wafting an effort wide of Wiedwald’s far post.
Wiedwald, though, pulled off a fingertip stop to prevent Egan dispatching a clearance from Pontus Jansson, gloving the ball over his crossbar, and Florian Jozefzoon sent a volley into the crowd after Romaine Sawyers’ long ball played him clean through.
United head coach Paul Heckingbottom had recalled Samuel Saiz to his starting line-up in the hope of increasing his side’s creativity but Saiz was took time to involve himself as Leeds struggled to maintain possession.
Brentford, who started the day a place and four points ahead of Leeds, controlled periods of the half but were also short of ideas up front and they were caught out when Alioski’s free-kick found the run of Cooper who guided a deadly header inside Bentley’s far post.
The second half was as tight as the first and the ineffective Watkins sent another shot wide before being substituted just before the hour. A penalty claim from Alioski was then ignored by referee Oliver Langford after Yoann Barbet collided with the winger.
Pierre-Michel Lasogga could have made the points safe on 63 minutes when he turned a shot past Bentley but found Ryan Woods waiting to clear on the goalline but Leeds continued to push forward and Brentford were restricted to a late half-chance which Neal Maupay volleyed over and a free-kick from substitute Alan Judge which Wiedwald parried.
Leeds United: Wiedwald, Berardi, Cooper, Jansson, Anita, Phillips, O'Kane, Alioski, Saiz (Vieira 90), Dallas (Sacko 83), Lasogga (Ekuban 73). Subs: Peacock-Farrell, Denton, Pennington, Cibicki.
Brentford: Bentley, Dalsgaard, Egan, Bjelland, Barbet, Mokotjo (Marcondes 69), Woods, Jozefzoon, Sawyers (Judge 69), Watkins (Canos 59), Maupay. Subs: Daniels, McEachran, Clarke, Mepham.
Referee: Oliver Langford (West Midlands)