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Saturday, 23 April 2016

Hull City v Leeds Utd. 23rd April 2016

There was a bright blue sky with fluffy white clouds and Mr Sunshine beaming brightly on us as we headed east on the M62 for the derby with the troubled Hull Tigers. Resentment at controversial plans for next season's ticket arrangements, lack of faith with the manager and a significant section of fans unhappy with the owner are all familiar themes for Leeds United fans but today for once we were playing a team who seemed to have more problems than us...............and they're guaranteed a play off place as well! Should make for an interesting atmosphere at the KCOM Stadium.

For once there was an almost relaxed atmosphere amongst the travelling army heading for Hull. Our season ticket arrangements have been met positively if not with amazement in some quarters, 3 wins on the bounce and no lingering relegation worries together with a distinct end of season frivolity combined to give a party atmosphere in the away end in stark contrast to the tense and simmering fumes wafting across from our East Yorkshire cousins. Bridcut replaced Murphy and Dallas came in for Coyle on the right flank in an otherwise unchanged team. Bellusci wasn't even in the squad?

Hull hit Leeds hard in the opening ten minutes with wave after wave of attacks. Snodgrass and Maloney saw a lot of the ball on the flanks as Steve Bruce's men sort to undo Leeds out wide. Taylor and Berardi were standing firm though as the away side battled to keep their classy opponents at bay. Akpom and Huddlestone missed half chances as the atmosphere reached boiling point around the KCOM Stadium. As ever the Leeds travelling support were in good voice as Leeds drew breath and forced a corner themselves. Bamba popped up at the back post but could only guide the ball back across the box and away for a goal kick. Hull, with Huddlestone prompting from midfield, were having the Lion's share of the possession but on 15 minutes Leeds silenced three quarters of the stadium......well it wasn't that noisy in the first place!

Cook stripped Hull of the ball in the centre circle and glided a ball into Wood who cleverly spun and hit a first time ball into the path of Charlie Taylor who was steaming down the left........Taylor fired the perfect cross right into Wood's flight path and the big Leeds striker gobbled up the chance before the Hull defence could move. Get innnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn! The away end exploded with joy. 1.0 Leeds. Hull responded immediately and had Leeds on the back foot defending as if their live's depended on it. You'd think it was Leeds in the play off places not Hull. Akpom, Maguire, Hernandez and Davis all went near but just when you thought Silvestri's goal was under threat a white shirt was there to block or deflect the chance away.

Hull were dominating possession as Leeds sat off them in a tight defensive formation. Huddlestone was getting too much freedom for my liking though as he strolled around pinging passes at will. As the game inched into first half added time Leeds resistance finally failed not once but twice in a minute. First Leeds lost the ball in midfield which left a gaping hole on the Leeds left flank. Snoddy exploited the space before laying back to Hernandez to side foot home the equaliser. Suddenly the home fans woke up and the stadium was alive. It was even more alive 60 seconds later as Huddlestone was given space to pick his spot from the edge of the box. Bollox! 2.1 Hull. Leeds trudged off at Half time shell shocked. Having held a good Hull side at bay for 45 minutes they conceded two confidence draining goals in added time.

The urinal philosophers didn't know what to make of the first half. "Lovely goal from Wood" one optimist chimed in whilst another had a slightly different view "Why does Bridcutt always give the f***** ball away" Steve Evans replaced Erwin with Botaka at half time presumably in an attempt to open up the miserly Hull defence?

Hull carried on their dominance of the game in the early part of the 2nd half but Leeds have found some steely resolve of late and when Cook prompted a quick counter attack Charlie Taylor once again caused havoc down the left flank with his jinking run which was finally ended with Obudajo scything down the flying full back in the box. PENALTY! The Hull fans in the stand behind the goal couldn't believe it. All the dominance and Leeds were about to pull level.........weren't they? Wood stepped up to take the spot kick and hit the ball to McGregor's left but the Hull goalie flung himself the right way to deny Wood his 2nd goal of the game.

Murphy replaced Diagouraga just before th hour as Evans tried to disrupt the dominant Hull midfield. Leeds were still battling hard but struggling to breakdown the resolute Hull defence. Hull seemed to be happy to sit back and pick Leeds off on the break but with just the one goal in it Leeds kept plugging away. On 70 minutes Livermore caught Berardi from behind and the Swiss international went down in agony. Livermore got booked for the tackle as Berardi was stretchered off. A minority of the Hull fans behind the goal showed their class as they pelted Berardi with missiles and chanted "wanker" at him as he was carried away. Thankfully the other Hull fans did show him some respect as they applauded him off.

Botaka gradually got into the game with some nice touches and dribbles that gave Leeds some hope of retrieving the game. Hull still looked dangerous on attack though as the away fans kept up a continuous "All Love Leeds" chant to try and inspire the whites to an equaliser. Hull continued to defend deep as full time approached. Then Maguire fouled Dallas with 5 minutes to go. Dallas swung the free kick in onto Wood's head forcing a save from McGregor. The Leeds fans lifted the chant another notch.Leeds had had a sniff of blood though and back they came at the Tigers. Botaka picked the ball up on the right and went round two defenders as if they weren't there........shoot I screamed as he had one more jink but he ignored my advice and laid the ball back to Dallas who took one touch and then slotted the ball past McGregor for the equaliser. The roof flew off the stand behind the goal as the 2,300 travelling fans revelled in the late, late equaliser. Delicious!

There was still time for Hull to hit back as Cluclas twice and then Snodgrass had shots blocked by desperate Leeds defenders as the Tigers looked for a belated winner. It wasn't to be though as the game ended 2:2. What a game. Marching on Together thundered around the Hull stadium as the happy Leeds fans headed out of the ground mingling with the disgruntled home fans. Cooper, in his home town, and Bamba were immense at the back today. Botaka showed some lovely touches when he came on but my man of the match was Taylor who generally kept Snodgrass quiet, made the first goal and got the penalty that Wood missed.

It might have been just a point but it felt like a win. Leeds have hit some decent form at the end of the season. Today was a real battling performance against what are a better Hull side with some real Premier League class in their ranks. Just two games to go now............and just when I was starting to enjoy it! Bring on relegated Charlton for the final category A game of the season!

Can't wait.


Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Leeds Utd v Wolves 19th April 2016.

Something strange happened on the way to the game tonight. After enough negative news oozing out of Elland Road to last a life time over the last few weeks we finally had something really positive to get excited about with the announcement of the new season tickets prices. Prices frozen and money back discounts if we don't reach the play offs. Did I hear that correctly? I turned the radio up so as not to be mistaken. "50% money back if Leeds don't reach the play offs if 15000 season tickets are sold" confirmed Popey as I parked the car. Unbelievable! "Might have a few fans wavering if we're 7th at this time next year" I commented to the Happy Chocker.

A cloudless sunny sky greeted us as we joined the 17,000 die hards inside Elland Road chattering about the season ticket shock and Steve Evans' latest team selection. In came Erwin, Coyle and Bamba and out went Antenucci, Dallas and Bellusci from Saturday's team as Leeds went in search of a 3rd win on the bounce against another mid table side, Wolves. Josh Warrington, fresh from his boxing triumph on Saturday, was sat a couple of seats away almost anonymous to the majority of the crowd. Either that or Leeds folk don't like to make too much of a fuss!

Wolves started the game on the front foot with Saville having the first chance of the match on 5 minutes but pulled his shot wide from the edge of the box. Wood countered at the other end and fizzed a shot onto the post with the Wolves goalie well beaten. Once again there was an end of season feel about the game which struggled to pick up any real tempo early on. Wolves were having some joy attacking on the flanks though and gave Leeds a scare on the quarter hour when Henry somehow failed to convert a pin point cross from Sigurdasun from just 6 yards out. Wood was looking lively up front for Leeds as he continued has strong run of recent form. The imperious Cook slid him in with a lovely pass and the big striker tested the Wolves goalie with low shot. On 20 minutes he saw a 25 yard free kick fly inches past the Wolves goal. Meanwhile the South Stand were amusing themselves at the expense of a Jimmy Savile lookalike amongst the Wolves fans with some amusing little ditties.

After their bright start Wolves started to go into their shell as the game headed for half time. Wood looked dangerous up front and Cook was at his imperious best in mid field which was good and bad for Leeds. Good for this game but bad for Cook's future with Leeds as Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe sat drooling in the stands as he watched the Championship young player of the year showing just why he got that well deserved accolade. Erwin, having his first start for Leeds, struggled early on but found space and got a good shot away just before the half time whistle. HT 0-0. All in all a bit of a tepid first 45 minutes but could Leeds turn on the style in the 2nd period as they did on Saturday?

By now the Leeds Warrior had been recognised by a few more fans and he was holding a mini photo session. Leeds could do with a bit more more fight in their game if they were going to spark the game to life. As on Saturday Evans half time pep talk appeared to have an affect as Leeds immediately picked up the initiative. Murphy was fouled 30 yards out in the inside left channel. Taylor whipped in a dangerous free kick but nobody got on the end of it. On 57 minutes Dallas replaced Coyle and all of a sudden Leeds looked a different side. The Northern Ireland international looked threatening and illusive and not only that he chased every ball down. It wasn't long before the Dallas affect was instrumental in Leeds taking the lead.

Wood broke from half way and laid a lovely ball off to Dallas who's deflected shot went for a corner. Diagouraga's shot was blocked from the corner but Dallas shovelled the ball to his big captain Bamba on the edge of the box. It was the sort of ball that you wouldn't expect a certain Mr Messi to control but right before my eyes  Bamba somehow controlled the ball and then shaped to shoot! As the ball dropped to the floor the centre half hit the most delightful half volley you are ever likely to see. More to the point it was actually flying straight towards the top corner of the goal at the speed of sound. The goalie never had a chance as the net bulged under the incredible pressure of the shot. Bamba took off like a demented schoolboy in celebration and Leeds were 1.0 up. Wow! The goal fired Leeds up and they were now all over Wolves like a rash playing silky football and ripping the Midlanders apart. 4 minutes later Diagouraga doubled the Leeds lead after a Cook inspired move culminated with a cool finish from the tall, black midfielder. 2.0 Leeds and the 2nd goal in a week for the ex Brentford man.

Leeds were now looking good but just to remind fans that they don't really do that "closing a game out" thing Wolves got a goal back on 77 minutes. Botaka had replaced Erwin a couple of minutes earlier and he was bizarrely instrumental in the build up to the visitors goal. Leeds were on the attack and forced the Wolves defence to pass back to the goalie. Botaka pounced like Panther and forced the goalie into an error as he nearly dispossessed him. Problem was the desperate clearance kick proved a perfect pass to set the Wolves attack going.............a couple of passes later and Saville, no not that one, put the ball in Silvestri's bottom corner. 2.1.

Leeds hit straight back with Wood setting Botaka up only to see the sub's lovely curling shot come back off the bar. Minutes later Cooper headed wide from a corner as Leeds threatened to finish in style. In the end it was Wolves who came nearest to scoring as a breakaway saw Silvestri pull off a superb save to deny Mason. If they had of equalised it would have been rough justice on an impressive Leeds side. Final score 2.1 Leeds. Cook was awesome and my man of the match by a mile. Erwin did better in the 2nd half but Dallas and Botaka both had a huge impact when they came on against tiring legs. Cooper was again very solid at the back. This game will be remembered for Bamba's supersonic strike though. If it had missed the goal it would have decapitated somebody in the kop!

So three wins in three for Steve Evans men as we look forward to the clash with Hull on Saturday. This was an impressive display especially in the 2nd half. If we could just play like that for a full 90 minutes..............
The pressure is off Leeds now and they are playing better for it. It would be nice to spoil the Codheads promotion push in the East Riding at the weekend me thinks?

Can't wait.



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