Tranmere Rovers 4 Leeds United under-21s 1 - Stirring fightback proves in vain for young Whites at Prenton Park
A stirring second half fightback from a very inexperienced Leeds United under-21s side proved in vain as Tuesday night's EFL Trophy opener at Tranmere Rovers ended in a 4-1 defeat.
Leeds played some neat football and saw plenty of possession in the first half yet found themselves 3-0 down at the interval via a brace of goals from Nicky Maynard, either side of a Sam Foley header from a corner.
The Whites continued to pour forwards after the break and finally pulled a goal back when a majestic turn and pass from Archie Gray set up Amari Miller to hammer home a fierce drive.
Leeds dominated the second half but in keeping with the rest of the game, Tranmere proved more clinical in front of goal and added a fourth in the 87th minute when Foley slammed home his second goal from close range following another corner.
Leeds found themselves 1-0 down after just seven minutes as the Whites were carved open following a strong run from the experienced Peter Clarke from centre-back.
The 39-year-old stormed his way through the middle of the park and played in Maynard who cut inside from the right flank and fired a firm low finish past Dani Van Den Heuvel into the bottom left corner.
The goal came just one minute after a firm attempt from Maynard from the edge of the box had been blocked and Tranmere were already threatening to race away out of sight.
But a very inexperienced Leeds side kept their composure, held firm and then began to dominate possession, making particularly inroads down the right via a combination of Harvey Sutcliffe and Miller.
Sean McGurk was also causing problems on the opposite flank and a McGurk free-kick presented a half chance for striker Max Dean who headed over the bar.
From a McGurk corner, a ferocious volley from Charlie Allen was also blocked and Leeds had the ball in the back of the net moments later through Dean but the forward was offside.
The striker had been played in by Sutcliffe and rounded keeper Ross Doohan before slotting home but the flag had been raised for several seconds.
Nevertheless, Leeds were on top, albeit 1-0 down.
But just nine minutes later the young Whites found themselves 3-0 down as a clinical Tranmere twice cut through the Leeds defence with ease.
There was a clear warning before Tranmere's second goal as a ball was played across the box to Sam Foley whose attempted dink into the top right corner was tipped over by Dani van Den Heuvel.
But the subsequent corner was headed home by Foley and the hosts then began to pile on the pressure.
Just one minute later, Paul Glatzel fired just wide from the edge of the area but Tranmere bagged a third goal three minutes before the break as Maynard bagged his second of the game.
This time Stephen Walker stormed through the middle and played in Maynard who produced another clinical finish.
Leeds looked to respond and Dean's shot from the edge of the box forced a save from Doohan but the damage was done and the Whites were 3-0 down at the break.
The second half began in the same fashion as the majority of the first, Leeds seeing plenty of possession and completing plenty of neat passes but without creating clearcut chances.
Tranmere then twice went close on the hour mark as a cross flew through the area before Clarke headed over from a corner.
But Leeds kept plugging away and pulled a goal back after a superb piece of play from Gray in midfield.
The youngster produced an exquisite turn and then precise through ball for Miller who thumped a low shot into the bottom right corner.
The goal came just moments after McGurk had gone close with a firm drive that was heading for the bottom right corner until being tipped behind by Doohan.
After Miller's strike had brought Leeds back within two goals, a McGurk cross caused a goalmouth scramble but Rovers cleared.
Leeds continued to press and a driving run from Joe Snowdon ended with an attempt that flew wide.
The Whites continued attacking until the end and had chances to set up a grandstand finish but, in keeping with the pattern of the game, Tranmere bagged a fourth goal in the 87th minute when Foley blasted home his second goal from a corner.
Tranmere Rovers: Doohan, MacDonald (Maguire 58), Knight-Percival, Merrie, Glatzel, Foley, Maynard (Dieseruvwe 58), Walker, Duffy (Hawkes 78), O'Connor, Clarke. Subs: Jones, Davies, Watson, Feeney.
Leeds United under-21s: Van Den Heuvel, Sutcliffe (Carole 46), Moore, Kenneh, Mullen, Snowdon, Allen, Miller, McGurk, Gray, Dean. Subs: Christy, Hughes, Spencer, Coleman, Thomas, Andreucci.
Referee: Simon Mather.
Attendance: 1,209 (87 away).
A message from the Editor:
Leeds has a fantastic story to tell - and the Yorkshire Evening Post has been rooted firmly at the heart of telling the stories of our city since 1890.
We believe in ourselves and hope you believe in us too. We need your support to help ensure we can continue to be at the heart of life in Leeds.
Subscribe to our website and enjoy unlimited access to local news and information online and on our app.
With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content.
Click here to subscribe.
For more details on our newspaper subscription offers click here.
Thank you Laura Collins