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Friday, 30 March 2018

Leeds Utd v Bolton Wanderers. Good Friday 30th Mar 2018.

The Easter weekend is traditionally a tense and nervous time for football fans as their team's promotion or relegation prospects are put under the spotlight with 6 precious points up for grabs over the long holiday weekend.  As for Leeds fans though it's time for the ritual self flagellation as to the reasons for once again entering the final straight of a testing season wallowing in mid table self pity.  The owner, the players, the coaches and even the Football League are in the cross hairs of the passionate Leeds support.  For me once again we're simply not good enough on the pitch to mount a consistent challenge for promotion.

Why then are 35,000 fans heading to Elland Road on a cold grey Good Friday afternoon to watch Leeds take on Bolton Wanderers with nothing at stake and on a run of horrendous form?  Those who are Leeds fans will understand those who aren't will continue to be have a mixture of begrudging admiration and amazement at how a team that has been out of the top flight for so long without ever really looking like returning continue to have a such a loyal, passionate and large widespread fan base?

For what it's worth I think some of the answer is that it's because Leeds have been out of the top flight that the fans have remained in a time warp where football was the true sport of the working class and going to the match was an event in its self  where you met your mates, had a laugh and a drink all interwoven with raucous support from the stands.  Nowhere in the sanitised, clapper infested singing sections of the Premier League do you get anything like that.  Add to that the obscene commercialisation, fuelled by TV money, at the top end of the PL where football tourists, corporate entertainment, extortionate ticket prices and soulless stadiums have completely changed the face of English football you start to realise that whilst we aspire to join the PL if we ever achieve that aim it will inevitably be a completely different Planet to the one we currently exist on.

Anyhow we certainly don't need to worry about that in the near future so back to today's game.  PH's selection raised a few eyebrows.  O'Kane and Vieira in the centre midfield, Dallas at right back, Ekuban up front behind Lasogga in what was a 4-4-1-1 formation.  Saiz was on the bench as was Cibicki.  The pitch was as immaculate as ever despite the recent rugby game as the match kicked off. After the two week international break Leeds were immediately on the front foot as they attacked their lowly Lancashire rivals goal.  Alioski latched onto a header from Ekuban but spurned his glorious chance after just 30 seconds.  Wow!  Leeds weren't to be denied though as just two minutes later Lasogga swung a ball into the box for Hernandez to bravely head against a Bolton defender, the ball dropped to Ekuban and the young striker smashed in his first goal for the club.  Get innnnnnn!

Could today be the day we resurrect our lost form and give some hope for next season to the home fans? Well we'd certainly started well.  Could it continue?  Leeds 1:0 Bolton.  Unfortunately it was Bolton who used the goal as a wake up call and then enjoyed a period of possession that tested the vulnerable home defence.  In front of the back four Vieira was back to his best after some poor recent performances though as he clearly had plugged in his perfect passes software before the start of the game.  On 15 minutes the other bright spark of the opening exchanges, Alioski, found space and ran at the retreating Bolton defence before picking Lasogga out with a diagonal ball only for the German's volley to go high into the South Stand.  On 28 minutes Dallas received a yellow card and in doing so created a classic Leeds fan dialogue.  A fan near me had been bemoaning the lack of steel in our tackling and the fact that we weren't getting stuck into them to "let them know you're there" since the first whistle.  So when Dallas did just that as he clattered into Buckley in true Norman Hunter style to receive his card the same fan was then vilifying Dallas for giving a stupid foul away!  Brilliant.

This was better from Leeds with the little Spanish magician, Hernandez, at his scintillating best assisted ably by Vieira, Ekuban and Alioski they looked dangerous every time they attacked.  On 35 minutes Alioski scorched away from his marker onto a pin point pass from Hernandez but fizzed his shot past the left hand post.  As the game headed for half time Leeds steadily built pressure on the Bolton goal and on the stroke of the interval they so nearly got their reward as Jansson rose at the back post to clatter the bar with a header from an Alioski corner.  HT 1.0 Leeds.

The Urinal Philosophers were in holiday mood.  Season ticket renewals seemed to be the main topic of conversation though.  Everybody seemed to have renewed even the fan who went on a rant about how shit the team, board, coach was and the fact that we'll never get promoted with this shower in charge.  His mate then asked "have you renewed then" to which he replied "Of course I have.  What else is there to do on a Saturday afternoon than to come and moan about this lot"  Mmmm not sure I understand that logic but each to their own.

Leeds started the 2nd half with a bang just like the first.  Within in a minute Hernandez brought a superb save from Alnwick in the Bolton goal and minutes later Lasogga wasted an excellent chance to double the lead as he snatched at his shot and it sailed into the kop.  Leeds needed a second goal though and on 50 minutes it came.  The peerless Vieira in midfield picked up a ball in the centre circle and caressed the ball 35 yards over the top of the full back onto Alioski's chest.  The diminutive winger never broke his stride as he took the ball forward towards goal where he unleashed a stinging shot that Alnwick could only parry..............Hernandez went bravely in for the rebound and netted in front of the adoring Kop.  His goal celebration seemed to be an imitation of an ungainly Swan landing on a frozen pond but the home fans didn't care.  Leeds were two up and surely heading for 3 points...........weren't they?

Ameobi, or as the guy sat next to me called him "that lanky twat", was causing Leeds the most problems and danger signals started to flash when he tested BPF on 52 minutes with a long range shot.  Minutes later my worries were justified.  Berardi conceded a soft free kick out wide.  Ameobi's cross was met by an unchallenged Le Fondre who's header thundered past BPF into the net and send the large away following into raptures.  2.1 Leeds.  Inevitably Leeds started to wobble.  Buckley missed a golden chance to equalise with his head as the Trotters surged forward looking for an unlikely equaliser.

Saiz replaced Lasogga on the hour.  Leeds were looking to hit Bolton on the break as they pushed forward.  Ekuban was having a decent game and giving the tall Bolton centre backs plenty to think about.  On 68 minutes he should have doubled his tally as he made room to reach a Dallas pass but Alnwick saved his shot with an outstretched boot.  Would we regret that miss though?  Leeds started to go into desperate defending mode as the game entered the final 10 minutes.  Saiz had a couple of nice runs but delayed his final passes too long. Grot replaced Alioski as the game headed for 5 minutes of added time.  Saiz split the Bolton defence for Ekuban but once again Alnwick denied the young striker.  After a hectic final few minutes the ref blew his whistle to signal only the 2nd win of the year for the mighty whites.

Hernandez was man of the match after a delicious performance laced with pin point passes and intelligent support play not to mention the winning goal and an assist for the first.  Vieira, Ekuban and Alioski all had Good Fridays as well.  It was pleasing to get the three points and yes Bolton aren't the strongest team in the league but there were a lot more positives from today's game for a change.  With better finishing we could have got 4 or 5 today but I for one was pleased to be leaving Elland Road with a smile on my face for a change.

Unfortunately I am away for the next few games but will return for the Norwich away game.  Now if we win every game up to then......................no don't be silly that's never going to happen is it?

Can't wait.

MOT

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Leeds Utd v Sheff Wed 17th March 2018.

Another Wintry blast was scything down Elland Road attacking any exposed skin amongst the hardy 31,000 fans heading for a Yorkshire derby between two misfiring teams from God's own county.  With League positions irrelevant at this point in the season there was just the not so insignificant matter of local bragging rights up for grabs between Leeds and the blue side of Sheffield.  With both teams desperate for a convincing performance to deflect  ever mounting criticism from fans, media and owners I was hoping for a good old fashioned no holds barred derby.  Well I was hoping!

Radrizanni's biting comments about the Leeds players in midweek had struck a nerve so would the players respond with a bang or would the current drift towards end of season oblivion continue?  We were about to find out.  PH chose to give Tom Pearce his debut at left back, brought back O'Kane into midfield, No Saiz due to a hamstring injury and retained Ekuban up front in a selection that got mixed reviews amongst the fans gathering in the Pavillion.  Is Ekuban's selection more to do with the likelihood of Lasogga not been at the club next year?  Has O'Kane got some blackmail material on Heckingbottom? Having braved a last minute blizzard to get to my seat the game got underway.

Both teams came into the game in horrendous form and the nervousness shone through in the opening 15 minutes as errors and misplaced passes littered the game.  Leeds began to take charge of the game though and on 23 minutes Hernandez couldn't finish with his head after a good cross from Alioski.  Leeds continued to look the brighter and minutes later a sublime move from  a free kick released Ekuban who spurned an absolute golden chance from 8 yards as he hit his shot straight at the goalie.  In lots of ways Leeds United's form since Boxing Day was summed up in that moment.  Flashes of potential let down by a poor final pass/shot/challenge.

On the half hour Ekuban again failed to take advantage of a half cleared corner from Wednesday as he snatched at a glorious chance and blazed the ball into the kop.  Heavy sighs and numerous expletives drifted around Elland Road.  Was this going to be yet another story of missed chances and frustrated fans?  The game bungled along to half time with neither team showing much quality in front of an amazingly large crowd.  Wednesday had the ball in the net just on half time only for it to be ruled out for offside.  HT 0.0 and both sets of frozen fans retired to the bar and toilets with little to enthuse about.  The Urinal Philosophers were in a resigned mood.  "This season can't finish quick enough" muttered one disgruntled fan whilst another thought "It's a but better than Reading but not a lot"  On the positive side BPF was having another good game, Pearce had settled well after a nervy start and Forshaw was looking good in midfield.  The half time blizzard left the pitch white over as the 2nd period got under way.

Alioski went near with a shot from the edge of the box 2 minutes into the half but neither side really looked as if they had the ability to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and entertain the frozen fans.  Ekuban was running the channels well but losing composure once he got in the box.  Pearce was now getting forward well and causing Wednesday problems but it was all a bit......well underwhelming if I'm honest.  Then on 70 minutes the game sprung into life.  Lasogga replaced Ekuban but within a minute powder puff defending from Leeds allowed a cross into the Leeds box for Reach to out jump the Leeds "defence" and head onto the post and Nuhiu to react first and tap the ball home.  1.0 Wednesday.  Once again shocking defending from Leeds.  Leeds nearly replied straight away through Hernandez but the Wednesday goalie parried away his shot.  The game was now being played in blizzard conditions so bad I could hardly see what was going on at the other end of the pitch.

PH threw Grot on to try and rescue a point with 12 minutes left quickly followed by Phillips.  Surprisingly the subs worked as Grot rose and headed home an Hernandez cross with just 4 minutes left on the clock.  1.1 and just maybe we could snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat as Leeds pushed forward to pile pressure on the creaking Wednesday defence.  6 minutes of added time encouraged the home fans as they bayed for a winner.  What they got was yet another example of why they have slipped out of the promotion chase so dramatically over the last 4 months.  Nothing to do with Coach but all to do with the players.  A hopeful hoof up the pitch by Wednesday found the soft underbelly of Leeds United in all it's glory.  Pennington, who up to then had had a decent game, was muscled off the ball by Nuhiu with embarrassing ease before slotting the ball past BPF.  FFS how difficult is it just to clear the ball in that situation.  I was absolutely apoplectic with rage.  A soft, soft goal to concede after dragging ourselves back into the game against a very poor Sheffield side.  Bollox.

The game ended with Wednesday the winners and although Leeds season has already gone there is the very real possibility that we won't win again this season on this form.  The players are just not good enough and don't have the heart or steel required not only to play for Leeds but to play in the championship.  The whiteout after the game made the journey home even more depressing.  At least we won't lose next week.  Onto Bolton at home on Good Friday and the forlorn hope we can resurrect  some of our early season form..........don't hold your breath though!

Can't wait.

MOT.

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