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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.


Sunday, 11 March 2018

Reading v Leeds Utd 10th March 2018.

York station was bustling with passengers going hither and thither as I boarded the train for Reading with The Happy Chocker for my birthday trip to watch the latest instalment of Leeds' season.  Even though we were playing a team with a worse run of form than Leeds expectation levels weren't high as we debated what combination of misfits would be selected this week.  As a reflection of how different this season has been since last year we reflected on the corresponding fixture 12 long months ago.  Then the two teams went head to head battling for a play off place in what was a pivotal game which Reading prevailed thanks to a Kermorgant goal. From that point Leeds faded away badly whilst Reading stormed ahead to a play off final defeat against some other team.

Today the pressure was on Jaap Stam as rumours circulated that another defeat for the Royals would mean a forced abdication for the cheerful Dutch manager.  The prospect of Leeds contributing to Stam's demise and getting a welcome 3 points lifted the spirits as the pre match refreshments began to increase Leeds chances of winning as kick of time approached.  PH had rung the changes from Wednesday's defeat to Wolves as De Bock, Pennington, O'Kane, Hernandez and surprisingly Ekuban all started leaving Dallas and Lasogga on the bench.  4,000 disciples of torture packed the away end with the usual raucous support as the game got under way.  There was a deep frustration with the lack of success this season percolating just under the surface with the majority of the Leeds fans though.

The opening salvos were littered with nervous tension both on the pitch and in the crowd.  The game was surprisingly open though as both teams looked to attack from the start.  Alioski brought a good save from Jaakkola in the Royal's goal after 10 minutes as Reading responded with their own pressure leading to a number of corners.  On 16 minutes the fragile confidence of the away team was shattered.  Ekuban lost the ball easily in the centre circle and Reading swiftly moved the ball through the Leeds team to release Bodvarsson one on one with Bailey Peacock-Farrell.  The Reading forward dispatched the chance clinically to give the Royals the lead.  The ease in which Reading were able to move the ball through midfield to create the chance highlighted one of the glaring weaknesses in this current Leeds team.  1.0 Reading.

Buoyed by the goal and the prospect of a rare home win Reading prospered. A schoolboy mistake by De Bock should have given Reading a second but BPF saved the day with a superb save.  His right royal blocking of De Bock and the defence warmed the cockles of my heart. Next up a desperate double save by BPF and Pennington denied the Royals again.  The best was yet to come as BPF added to his quickly increasing reputation with a flying save to tip a superb shot over the bar.  Leeds were rocking though and I feared another long day at the office for the 4,000 away fans.  Then Leeds dragged themselves up by their shoe laces and were back in the game.  Saiz picked the ball up 40 yards out and chipped a lovely ball to the advancing Forshaw who simply moved the ball to Jansson who flicked the ball with the outside of his boot into the net from 10 yards.  Jansson's subdued celebration fuelled the view that all is not well in the Swede's world. 1.1 and we were back in the game.

Alioski nearly snatched the lead just on half time as he wriggled through the Royals defence only to hit the post from a very tight angle.  HT 1.1. Reading had the better of the half but thanks to BPF and the late goal Leeds were still level.  The Urinal Philosophers were hardly in the most positive of moods.  "Why is O'Kane anywhere near the first team?" "How can Barrow turn into a world beater as soon as he leaves Elland Road?" finally one fan moaned "If it wasn't for BPF we'd be 3 down already.  I thought he was supposed to be shit?" Like football fans the world over Leeds fans do feel the excruciating pain when things aren't going well.  Still at 1.1 my birthday could still yield a 3 point present.  The next goal would be crucial.

Leeds started the 2nd half better and suddenly were playing with more purpose.  Barrow and Bacuna were still causing havoc when they got the ball but Leeds were now looking threatening too led by Saiz, Alioski and Hernandez.  Ekuban was settling into the game as well with some nice touches.  He is still very, very raw though.  On 54 minutes Leeds were rewarded for their more positive approach.  Once again Saiz was at the hub of the move as he danced through the centre of midfield and found Hernandez in the inside left position on the edge of the box..........a little Spanish shuffle later the ball was curling into the Reading net to give Leeds the lead and send the away following into raptures as the Spaniard celebrated in the corner.  Meanwhile on the half way Jansson was bent down adjusting his shoelaces?

In true Leeds style having dragged them selves in front they immediately threw away their advantage just two minutes later.  Somehow Bacuna had acres of space on the Reading flank while De Bock was 30 yards away on the other flank.  The Reading player lined his shot up and fired in a savable effort..............that is until O'Kane stretched out his leg and diverted the ball past the frustrated BPF.  2.2. Bollox! The game now turned into a no holds barred contest as both teams went in search of the winner.  Jansson and then Ekuban missed chances from corners the latter taking the ball away from Jansson who would surely have scored.  Leeds were looking the more likely now.  Lasogga replaced Ekuban. Alioski brought a superb save from Jaakkola on 81 minutes.  Could they get that all important goal?  A minute later the post denied Leeds again.  Lasogga chased down a back pass and charged down the clearance.........the ball rolled in slow motion towards the goal with the Reading keeper desperately trying to rectify his blunder......the ball hit the post and came out only for the keeper to nearly take the ball over the line in his attempt to save it!

The game ended with the scores level.  Much better in the 2nd half from Leeds but against a very average Reading team Leeds showed that the old adage of "the table never lies" is very true as the mighty whites wallow on 50 points and 13th position.  BPF had an outstanding game again which all augurs we'll for his future.  Jansson again looked out of sorts for me.  Even Saiz for all his creative work was guilty of poor final balls today.  After saying that he was instrumental in both goals.  The fact that O'Kane is picked in midfield shows how devoid of options we have in that area.  Defensively we are vulnerable.  Pennington manages to mix excellent tackles and blocks with some scary rabbit in headlights moments.  De Bock is vulnerable every time he is attacked and for all his effort Berardi is the same on the other side.

In the end it was a decent away day although disappointing we didn't claim all three points. The trip home was illuminated by the Sunderland team boarding the first class carriage of our train after their latest defeat at QPR.  The Sunderland fans with us in carriage class spent the whole trip plotting to get past the security guards to have a full and frank discussion on the finer points of their team's demise.  That is I assume what they were doing because their broad Wearside accent does take some understanding!  All in all a good birthday trip.  Sheff Wed up next at Elland Road.  Mmmm another chance for PH to assess which players he will want to keep next year.  It won't be a long list.

Can't wait.


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