Tom Cairney came back to haunt Leeds United again as he came up with a last-gasp goal to deny them what would have been a huge three points in their away game at Fulham.
United were holding on to a lead given them in the fifth minute by a Tim Ream own goal and were down to 10 men with Kalvin Phillips red carded when with the last kick of the game the one-time Thorp Arch junior produced a terrific strike to earn the Londoners a precious point.
Cairney has previously scored three times against Leeds and his latest goal means seventh-placed Fulham stay eight points behind Garry Monk’s men with a game in hand.
Defeat would have put them 11 behind so the value of the late goal is clearly massive. Cruel it may have been after United battled so well, but in truth Fulham deserved their point after they had what may have been a good goal ruled out.
Leeds were much changed from the side that won at Birmingham with changes in every department.
Charlie Taylor returned from injury to play at left-back with Gaetano Berardi, who has deputised so well for him, reverting to his natural right-back in place of Luke Ayling, who was absent to be at the birth of his baby.
In midfield Kalvin Phillips replaced Eunan O’Kane and was alongside Liam Bridcutt after his impressive display as substitute at Birmingham.
Hadi Sacko returned on the wing and Alfonso Pedraza also came in on the left after scoring as a sub last week. Kemar Roofe replaced Pablo Hernandez in the number 10 role and the big news was Souleymane Doukara up front with 25-goal top scorer Chris Wood out through injury.
The question on who was going to score for United was answered within five minutes as home defender Tom Ream sliced the ball into his own net under pressure from Doukara as he tried to deal with Kyle Bartley’s floated free-kick.
Leeds dealt well with Fulham attacks in the early stages and Berardi got forward to fire in a volley that forced a save from keeper David Button.
Former Leeds junior Tom Cairney tried to get his side going and sent a curling effort just wide from outside the area.
The hosts then felt aggrieved when Neeskins Kebano’s fierce strike hit the crossbar and replays suggested the ball may have gone over the line.
Scott Malone fired over following a free-kick and Leeds survived their first serious pressure of the night.
They broke out of defence for Pedraza to go through, but the Spaniard was denied by Button and it stayed 1-0 to half-time.
Taylor joined the attack from left-back at the start of the second half only for his shot to be off target.
The dangerous Kebano threatened again for Fulham, but his shot from a tough angle went into the side netting.
Leeds were playing better than in the first half, however, and only a good save by Button denied Roofe.
Ryan Fredericks was well off target with a strike from distance for the home team before Pedraza came within inches of a second goal for Leeds with an effort that hit the post. Roofe put the rebound over.
Fulham substitute Scott Parker sent a low shot wide after good work by Cairney as the hosts kept looking for an equaliser.
They came closer on 81 minutes when it needed a good save from Rob Green to keep out a Stefan Johansen free-kick and Parker put the ball over following a scramble.
United were reduced to 10 men in the 90th minute when Phillips was sent-off following a late tackle on Parker, having earlier been booked. Despite protests that he won the ball he had to go off, leaving Leeds with an anxious five minutes of added time to see out.
Fulham pressed for a goal and Green had to save Cyriac’s header then Sone Aluko sent a shot inches wide.
But Leeds could not hold out as in the final attack of the game Cairney found the top corner to score for the fourth time against the club that gave him away as a youngster.
Leeds United 1
(Ream og 5)
Tuesday, March 7, 2017
Fulham: Button, Fredericks, Kalas, Ream, Malone (Sessegnon 61), Johansen, McDonald (Parker 73), Aluko, Cairney, Kebano, Martin (Cyriac 73).
Leeds: Green, Berardi, Bartley, Jansson, Taylor, Bridcutt, Phillips, Sacko (Barrow 61), Roofe (Vieira 87), Pedraza (Dallas 82), Doukara.
Referee: Lee Probert.