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Saturday, 12 April 2014

Leeds rock Blackpool with a Murphy double.

Blackpool arrived in LS11 with a worse recent record than their struggling hosts.........a fact most Leeds fans find impossible to believe. I mean how can any team be worse than the abject imposters of Leeds United players we have seen over the last six weeks? The Donkey Lashers have won only 2 of their last 25 games and have failed to win any of their last 14 away games as they have slowly sunk into the smelly quicksand of the relegation quagmire. Leeds have tried really hard to keep up with that standard of ineptness as they have only a lucky win over Millwall in their last 12 games to shout about. "Today's match should be a classic then" I suggested to the Happy Chocker as we boarded the train at Selby station. He just chuckled and rolled his eyes. As has become the norm we had more than enough off the field antics to debate and dissect as the train trundled along into Leeds. Haigh's resignation, Cellino's night out with the fans in the Peacock, a million fan friendly quotes from the mad Italian and of course the incredible saga of the spy cameras in the boardroom and even the toilets. Urinal Philosophers beware! Just another week on Planet Leeds then?

We heard the team announcement in the members bar. A back 5 including Zaluikas with Wootton at wing back. Tonge, Brown and Murphy formed the midfield three with Ross Mac and Smith up front. It felt weird discussing the paucity of right back cover whilst watching Forest loanee Peltier on the big screen. Ah well. The minute's silence in remembrance of the 96 fans who went to a match and never came home was impeccably observed. I am sure I wasn't the only fan thinking "there for the grace of god go I" thinking of games attended with similar crowd congestion on the old terraces.

Leeds started the game on the front foot for a change and within two minutes Pearce put a half chance high and wide. Leeds were playing with a bit more purpose than of late against a hesitant and nervous Blackpool side. It wasn't difficult to see why they were in such poor form. The recalled Murphy looked eager and created a good chance for him self as he ran intelligently onto a pass from Ross Mac only to be denied by a last ditch Blackpool tackle in the box. After the dross we've had to put up with recently this was almost liquid football..............almost! Blackpool didn't show too much of a threat going forward with Butland only having a soft Goodwillie shot to deal with in the first twenty minutes.

Leeds were looking comfortable and converted their early pressure into a goal on 22 minutes. Smith rose and flicked on a long ball forward to Ross Mac who had drifted off his man on the edge of the box. The Leeds captain calmly picked out Murphy steaming into the box at pace.......Murphy's first touch forced him to pull the ball back instead of shooting before slipping the ball between Gilks and a Blackpool defender into the net. The cheers rung around Elland Road like a volcano of relief. We were 1.0 up in a game we really needed to win to avoid an unseemly end of season relegation fight. The goal fired up the crowd who in turn fired up the team. Minutes later Ross Mac ghosted into the box only to see his header drift wide from a superb Wootton cross after more good work by Murphy. Blackpool then had a mini revival as first Bishop missed a glorious headed chance before Goodwillie went near with two shots. "We need another goal" I muttered to HC.

The game headed for half time with Leeds still trying to take advantage of a poor Blackpool side. Murphy was bundled to the floor on the edge of the box after another surging run. Free kick. Tonge stepped up and rattled a shot that Gilks only just held onto in the Blackpool goal. HT 1.0 Leeds and the home fans gave the team a decent ovation as they trooped off for their cup of tea. The Urinal Philosophers were shocked. "unbelievable we've still got a clean sheet and we're one up" one cheery fan announced. "We'll be getting a nose bleed if we keep this up" another one shouted.

Leeds might have felt pleased with their first half performance but they got an early reminder of how precarious a single goal lead is as Bashem slid a shot just wide of Butland's post from six yard out after just 90 seconds of the second period. Leeds hit back with a good chance of their own as Ross Mac controlled the ball in the box and laid an inviting ball into the path of Warnock who's shot ballooned wide. The game became increasingly scrappy as Blackpool looked for a life saving equaliser. Hunt replaced Smith on the hour to be greeted by boo's as he entered the fray. He might not be the best player in the world but booing him before he's touched the ball is just crass.

The boo boys were soon feeling a tad guilty though as Hunt rose to flick a delightful ball into the path of Murphy who beat the oncoming Gilks with a delicate finish to give Leeds a welcome two goal lead. Get innnnnnn! 2.0 Leeds. Minutes later Murphy turned provider as he set up Ross Mac with a delightful ball through the middle but Gilks thwarted the Leeds captain with a good save.

Aidey White replaced the injured Zaliukas with 15 minutes left. Blackpool put Leeds under pressure for the last 10 minutes without really looking like spoiling the home side's rare clean sheet. Even 5 minutes of added time couldn't spoil a much needed and welcome win for the struggling home side. Final score 2.0 Leeds. There was a mixture of relief and well relief as the fans streamed away from the ground. News that Barnsley had lost and Millwall had equalised late on meant we were in the rarefied atmosphere of 16th place a full ten points above the relegation places with just 4 games to go. Phew!

Murphy was the man of the match with a much improved performance from his last outings in a Leeds shirt. Zaliukas also looked assured at the back. Good as it was to win and keep a clean sheet most fans were conscious of the quality or lack of quality of the opposition. It was a battling performance though and after Tuesday's inept efforts I suppose we should be thankful for small mercy's? Barnsley away next week and a chance to not only lay the Oakwell hoodoo but also to virtually condemn our bottom of the table neighbours to relegation. That would be nice tha know's

Can't wait.


Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Abject Leeds plumb new depths at Watford.

Taking half a day off work and travelling half the length of the country on a Tuesday night to watch the mighty whites play when they are in decent form is difficult enough. To do it when they are on an awful run of continuous defeat after defeat takes either outstanding loyalty or unfathomable stupidity. The Happy Chocker, Quiet One and yours truly decided it was a potent mixture of both as we sped down the roadwork infested M1 in the late afternoon sunshine for the clash with Watford. There was even a tinge of excitement in the discussions as we anticipated the dawn of another new era on Planet Leeds............The Cellino Supremacy!

The publication of Leeds United's last year's accounts took some of the euphoria out of the celebrations for our new Italian owner's victory over the Football League. Directors salaries up by 140% whilst income was falling like a stone and taking the club from a half million profit to a £10m loss with £30m debts is some achievement. Also discovering that for a good part of the year there was no one party in effective control of the club was an eye opener but on reflection probably not given the shambolic way GFH have "run" the club since they took over and the indelible stain of the previous owner's fingerprints are all over the official accounts. Carlsberg don't destroy the very fabric of a football club..........but if they did they would consult Leeds United on the most effective method.

Pre match food was taken at the wonderfully named "Football Cafe" on Vicarage Road. An institution that had an ecletic mix of fans from both sides all tucking into "something & chips" whilst debating the forthcoming game. Under fire boss Brian McD had shuffled his pack yet again bringing in Mowatt and Poleon for the injured Byram and Matt Smith. Mmmm we then spent the next twenty minutes trying to second guess the formation. Hunt up front? Ross Mac up front? Poleon up front? Where's Mowatt playing? Who's at full back? Clutching at straws was the conclusion we came to. Inside the ground the new stand to replace the missing 4th side of the ground was under construction. Nearly 2,000 Leeds fans had made the trip and as ever were in good voice as the game got underway. Wootton was at right back with what appeared to be Hunt playing a lone striker role in front of a midfield five with Ross Mac floating about all over the field.

Within 9 minutes Watford had cruelly exposed Leeds wafer thin confidence and defence to take the lead. For the record Abdi headed home a cross from an Anyi cross after the simplest of balls over Wootton found the Watford flyer in acres of space who found his team mate unchallenged in the box. Simples. 1.0 Watford. "here we go again" HC muttered as I shook my head in frustration. Leeds did try to play possession football but with no creative pass or incisive run at the end of it. The ball went from one side of the field to another and then back to Butland who would play it long. Repeat, repeat, repeat..................

Ross Mac hit a speculative shot from 45 yards on the half hour mark which the goalie easily dealt with as Leeds looked like a team devoid of ideas, confidence and passion. In short we looked pathetic. Anya added to our woes shortly afterwards when yet more powder puff defending allowed another cross and another header to fly into the Leeds net. 2.0 Watford and even at this early time the game was over. The game drifted to half time with Leeds in a permanent state of chaotic, disorganised dross. They tried to play out from the back but nobody either wanted the ball or could control the ball when given it. It was like watching somebody trying to attack an Elephant with a toothpick. The visiting fans were reduced to ironic cheers when we did try a shot even though it went high and wide. The early songs about Cellino had now given way to "You don't deserve a wage" aimed at the rabble in white on the pitch. HT 2.0 Watford.

The half time debate around me was a relatively calm discussion debating if this was the worst team ever wearing the Leeds colours. Resigned nods of the head by everyone put a quick end to that topic before we anxiously checked how the teams below us were doing. "We won't go down" one fan asserted but nobody heard him they were all checking the Millwall, Barnsley, Brum, Blackpool and Charlton scores. Jokes about Hunt scoring a hat trick and Leeds winning tried to lift the gloom but we decided it would be more likely to find the Malaysian plane with Lord Lucan at the controls and Shergar in the hold.

Stewart replaced Mowatt at HT but the inept and frankly embarrassing Leeds play continued. Ross Mac had been playing some sort of deep lying midfield role in the first half but he returned up front which is where you'd expect the league's leading scorer to play? Hunt continued to run around a lot. Wootton continued to look as if he'd lost all interest in the game, Lees tried hard but seemed to make more mistakes. Warnock shone in the gloom whilst Poleon showed why BM has been reluctant to pick him. Brown clattered a few Watford players and the ref gave some daft decisions. Deeney got a third goal and would have added a fourth but for a fantastic save from Butland as Leeds disintegrated. It finished 3.0 but I was already pulling out of the car park ready for the long trek home. A shocking, inept and abject performance from Leeds that plumbed new depths of awfulness............something I thought would be impossible after some of the woeful showings this season. The fans deserve better and the club deserve better. Cellino has a massive task in front of him. If he didn't know that before the game he certainly did after it.

8 points clear of Millwall in the final relegation place with 5 games to play, three of them against teams below us. I'm afraid it's time for the bum to squeak. Blackpool on Saturday is the first chance to allay any fears of the dreaded drop. If we play like we did against Watford we will have no chance..........and that's coming from the ultimate optimist! Brian McD has lost the plot and it must surely be only a matter of time before he gets the chop. It's the dawn of a new era though so hopefully Cellino will be good to his word and we'll be back in the Premier League within two years! *Crosses fingers and whistles Always look on the bright side of life*

Can't wait.


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