Late Leeds rescue hope

Westwood heroics earns slender first leg advantage for Carlisle

An injury-time strike from Dougie Freedman rescued hope for Leeds in a 2-1 League One play-off semi-final first leg defeat to Carlisle at Elland Road.

Goals either side of half-time from Danny Graham and Marc Bridge-Wilkinson and a string of fine saves from Carlisle goalkeeper Kieran Westwood appeared to be sending John Ward's side home with a comfortable victory.

But veteran Freedman pounced in the 96th minute to set up a tense second leg at Brunton Park on Thursday.

On 32 minutes Carlisle took the lead as Leeds failed to completely clear a corner and Simon Hackney volleyed towards goal for the ball to deflect off the back of Graham and leave home shot-stopper Casper Ankergren stranded.

Leeds, though, did threaten in an enthralling opening 45 minutes as first Freedman and then Jermaine Beckford were denied from range by superb finger-tip stops from the highly impressive Westwood in the Carlisle goal.

After the interval Carlisle continued to dominate in possession and in the 50th minute the visitors doubled their advantage as Evan Horwood broke down the left and squared for Bridge-Wilkinson to comfortably convert.

However, just as the excellent Westwood looked set to keep Leeds out after a dominant final 15 minutes, Freedman was in the right place in the sixth minute of stoppage time to fire home from close range.

Leeds were roared on by a second successive sell-out crowd of 36,297 - but Carlisle almost silenced the home fans in the eighth minute when Graham's whipped-in cross was met first time by Bridge-Wilkinson, whose eight-yard volley hit the outside of Casper Ankergren's left-hand post.

Leeds launched a swift counter-attack three minutes later and would have taken the lead had it not been for Keiren Westwood's one-handed save that denied a curling 25-yard effort from Freedman.

The on-loan Crystal Palace striker went close again with a lob from the edge of the penalty area, but not before Ankergren tipped away Graham's header from Bridge-Wilkinson's cross.

Jermaine Beckford's curling effort was pushed away at full stretch by Westwood, but Carlisle stunned Elland Road less than 60 seconds later.

Leeds made a mess of clearing a corner and the ball fell invitingly to Simon Hackney, whose volley from the edge of the area took a decisive deflection off Graham before skidding passed the flat-footed Ankergren and into the net.

Westwood ensured Carlisle held their slender advantage just before the break with another smart save.

Neil Kilkenny's quick free-kick sent Beckford clear and his shot was smartly parried by the visitors' impressive goalkeeper.

Leeds looked all at sea immediately after the restart and could have fallen further behind when Jonathan Howson was caught in possession on the edge of his area and Ankergren blocked Bridge-Wilkinson's shot.

A jittery Leeds defence survived that scare, but were cut to shreds in the 51st minute.

Hackney released Horwood on the overlap down the left and the full-back's low cross was turned home at the far post by Bridge-Wilkinson without a white shirt in sight.

Tresor Kandol replaced an unhappy Beckford just before the hour-mark and saw his header at full stretch tipped over by Westwood in the 69th minute - but still Leeds struggled to find their range.

Leeds had two penalty appeals turned down in the space of a few minutes, the first more vociferous when the ball appeared to strike a Carlisle arm in the box and the second when Freedman went tumbling in the box under Peter Murphy's challenge.

Paul Huntington's shot on the turn was blocked by Westwood in the closing stages and Kandol was denied by the Carlisle goalkeeper soon after - but Freedman pounced on Huntington's ball forward in the dying seconds, giving Leeds hope for Thursday's second leg.