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Saturday, 11 February 2017

Leeds Utd v Cardiff City. 11th Feb 17

There was a chill wind blowing down Elland Road as we parked the car and headed for the stadium. If the miserable weather was dampening the mood the team news arrived like a nuclear bomb to shatter any pre match confidence. Pontus wasn't in the squad due to illness! Still we should have too much power for an average Cardiff side shouldn't we? Even with the jinx of a returning manager and player in Mr Warnock and Sol Bamba. Would Colin inspire his team to work their socks off? Would Bamba have one of his worldie games against his former colleagues? Could we bounce back after last week's derby defeat? We were about to find out.

Monk handed a first team start to Pedraza in place of Doukara, Cooper replaced Mr Brickhead. Over 31,000 were packed inside Elland Road as the game got under way. Leeds took control of the game from the off with the Welsh side content to sit deep and deny Leeds any space behind their defence. Pablo Hernandez was at the forefront of most of the early Leeds moves as they attacked the South Stand. Leeds were enjoying nearly all of the possession as Warnock's men dug in to try and thwart the home side. Clear chances were at a premium though and it was Cardiff who had the best chance of the first half hour as Halford headed straight at Green from a corner.

Leeds continued to have the lion's share of the possession with Pedraza getting a couple of mazy runs at the Cardiff defence together with the illusive Hernandez look dangerous when he had the ball. As half time approached it all began to unravel though. First Ayling was penalised for taking a throw 6 inches from the wrong spot which infuriated both the crowd and the Leeds players then Bridcutt's continued verbal assault on the ref earned him a yellow card. Half Time. 0:0. Leeds had dominated but hadn't really tested McGregor in the Cardiff goal. Leeds needed a goal to settle the nerves. The Urinal philosophers were subdued by both the cold and the frustrating 45 minutes they had just witnessed. "We need somebody to support Wood" one fan complained whilst another moaned "The ref's having a mare" Mmmm A few nerves about but if we up the tempo in the 2nd half we should be ok I mused. Looking at the HT scores elsewhere we needed to as Huddersfield, Brighton and Norwich were all in front.

Leeds started the half with a bang. Quick one touch football orchestrated by Hernandez saw a fizzing shot from Dallas balloon away for a corner. Cooper met the corner having lost his marker but headed high and wide. "He should have buried that" I moaned to nobody in particular. Leeds were about to regret that miss though.  Minutes later Cardiff got another free kick in what should have been a harmless position. 40 yards out just in from the right touchline. Noone hit the cross deep into the Leeds box.........instead of the ball routinely headed out, as we've come to expect this season, Morrison was given the freedom of Leeds to head a simple goal past Green and stun the large home crowd. What a soft, soft goal! 1.0 Cardiff. Where was Pontus when you needed him?

I wish I could report that this was the kick up the backside Leeds needed and they responded with wave after wave of incisive attacks but they didn't. They were stuttering in attack and when they did get round the back of the Cardiff defence there was only Wood in the box with his two Cardiff security guards smothering him. Where were the midfielders bursting a lung to get in the box? Where was the determination and guile to open up the firmly parked double decker bus? Sadly lacking I'm afraid. As Leeds pushed forward they looked more and more vulnerable at the back. With 20 minutes left Leeds self destructed in a fashion I thought Garry Monk had consigned to the dustbin. First Vieira  lost the ball softly in midfield to allow Gunnarson to stride away past some powder puff tackles before he laid the ball back for Zohore on the six yard line to tap in the 2nd and killer goal. Bollox! 2.0 Cardiff. There was still time left for Leeds but they were now a disjointed rabble not sure whether to play the ball on the floor or pump it long to prise open the Welsh defence.

As if the afternoon couldn't get any worse for Leeds Bridcutt picked a 2nd yellow with 4 minutes to go. A horrible end to an ultimately miserable afternoon. The game finished 2.0 to Cardiff. Fair play to Warnock's team they implemented his game plan to a tee and deserved the 3 points. Leeds were poor in the 2nd half after a bright first 45 minutes. Two awful mistakes cost them the game but more worryingly is the recent indifferent form. We're still in the play offs, something beyond my wildest dreams earlier in the season, but we need to steady the ship against Bristol and Ipswich in the next two games.

Interesting times ahead on Planet Leeds me thinks?

Can't wait.

MOT

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Huddersfield Town v Leeds Utd. Feb 5th 2017.

Way back in September when Huddersfield's star midfielder, Mooy, hit a sublime winner at Elland Road the storm clouds were once again gathering above Elland Road. Leeds weren't playing well, questions were been asked about Garry Monk's management and the fear of a relegation season weighed heavy on the shoulders of the battle weary Leeds fans. I doubt there was anybody inside Elland Road that day who would have predicted by the time the two old rivals met again Leeds would not only be above Town but both sides would be pushing hard for promotion to the Premier League. Unbelievable but true! Garry Monk's unwavering belief in his system and players has paid off massively whilst Wagner's German stormtroopers have continued their dalliance with the top six. All this means that today's high noon meeting down the A62 is the most mouth watering of West Yorkshire derbies for decades. So it's safe to say I was more than a little excited as I boarded the early Sunday morning train at Selby heading for Huddersfield, well I tried to board the train but it had been cancelled due to the lack of a conductor. Even more galling the train sauntered through the station with a "Not in service" sign on the front! Bollox. So a quick dash to pick the car up saved the day and ensured that we didn't miss another kick off..

Most of the pre match chatter amongst the Leeds fans was about the team selection and new arrivals. Will there be any changes to the starting eleven? Will any of the new lads start? Just how many Leeds fans have got tickets in the home end? As it turned out Vieira, Doukara and Hernandez came into the starting line up with  Pedraza and Barrow on the bench. The stadium was absolutely bouncing as the game got under way as the 2,000 Leeds fans were drowned out by the drum led home fans. They do like a cup final!

After a frenetic and hectic start it was Leeds who crafted the first chance as Hernandez released Chris Wood down the inside left channel but the Town goalie just managed to deflect his fierce drive for a corner. Huddersfield then picked up the pace and attacked the resolute Leeds defence. Green made a terrific one on one save from Quaner to keep the game level shortly before watching helplessly as a Jansson clearance cannoned off a Town player and looped back towards the unguarded Leeds goal only to nestle thankfully on the top of the net. The game was hurtling along at breakneck pace with tackles flying in from both teams in front of a baying crowd. This was a real quality raw boned derby and the crowd were loving it. On 27 minutes the home crowd were loving it just a tad more than the Leeds fans though.

Another Town attack probed the Leeds defence.......Jansson stuck out his telescopic leg to thwart the first wave of the attack but Tommy Smith reacted first to cross the ball back into the box......it took a deflection and Izzy Brown was first to react and smash it into the net. The home fans self combusted as the scorer celebrated by gesturing to the Leeds contingent. Classy. 1.0 Town. Leeds were now under tremendous pressure and needed everyman to step up to the plate and get the mighty whites back into the game. Huddersfield piled forward which was just what Leeds wanted as long as they could retrieve the ball and counter attack. In the 35th minute that's exactly what happened. A swift Leeds break relieved the pressure and ended with a corner for the away team. Hernandez fluffed the corner but got a 2nd bite of the cherry as the ball was weakly cleared. The Spaniard didn't need any encouragement to cross for a 2nd time and this time hit Bartley at the back post who nodded the ball into the path of Wood who walked it into the goal. 1.1 and the drum was silenced in the home end as the 2,000 away fans danced with delight.

The match was like two old heavyweight boxers slugging it out without any consideration for anything cautious. This was full blooded who dares wins football at his best. Kachunga so nearly restored Town's lead within a minute but a heroic block from Berardi saved the day. Phew! Town finished the half on top as Green once again pulled off a great save and then saw unmarked Hefele's header go tamely wide. HT 1:1. What a game!

The urinal philosophers were breathless. "We're giving the ball away too much" observed one fan whilst another thought we "Needed to nail Brown and Mooy" Certainly when Brown replaced Palmer from the bench he had changed the game and looked a class player as he did when he played for Rotherham against us. Everybody took a deep breath ready for the 2nd half to begin. Could Leeds quieten the eager home team?

Dallas had the first chance of the 2nd half but his volley from the edge of the box was blocked but it was Town who now had the upper hand as attack after attack rained down on the battling Leeds defence. Bartley and Jansson were defiant as ever as they tried to blunt the Town attack. Van La Parra missed a chance from a through ball and then Quaner made a horrible hash of a clear chance in the box supplied by the impressive Brown. Leeds needed some inspiration to fire them up for one last effort. They got it from new signing Pedraza, on for Doukara, who's first touch was a length of the field run followed by a vicious swerving shot that Ward did well to save in the Town goal.

The game entered the last ten minutes with the scores still level and 22,000 squeaky bums in the stand. Town seemed to be running out of ideas. Leeds seemed to have all but squeezed the life out of their attacking intent but then disaster struck. Mooy hit a hopeful long shot that was going well wide but took a deflection right into the path of Hefele who gleefully smashed the ball into the net from close range. The stadium erupted as the ecstatic home fans celebrated an 89th minute goal. The celebrations on the field led too an unseemingly brawl in the technical area as Garry Monk took exception to Wagner's theatrical celebrations. Both coaches were dispatched to the stands by the referee.

There wasn't time for Leeds to respond to the heartbreaking last gasp winner as Town picked up all three points. The way the home fans were celebrating you'd think they'd already been promoted but credit to Town they were the better side and look to be hitting their straps just at the right time of the season.........but there's still a long way to go and I get the feeling this isn't the last time we'll play them this season. Leeds never really got into top gear today although they battled admirably. Too many balls passed to a blue and white shirt I'm afraid but to lose to two goals that resulted from deflected shots is hard to take. Rob Green was man of the match for me which probably tells you enough about the Leeds performance. Two good teams in a cracking game though.

Cardiff up next at Elland Road. We need to dust ourselves down and go again. We are still very well placed in the play off spots. No need to panic. Stay calm and support Leeds!

Can't wait.

MOT

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