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Sunday, 6 May 2018

Leeds Utd v QPR 6th May 2018

Elland Road was bathed in glorious sunshine against the bluest of blue sky's as I parked my car for the last time this season.  Yet another Groundhog season for Leeds who at one time promised so much, not least of which when we beat today's visitors at Loftus Road, but in the end delivered a reheated version of many of the disappointing campaigns from the last decade and beyond.  The only surprising thing is that the loyal and emotionally battered fanbase continue to turn up in amazing numbers.

The need for change throughout the club has never been as pressing with a squad sadly lacking in quality, leadership and sheer bloody mindedness coached by a Head coach lacking in experience and success at championship level overseen by Owners who's overall plan for the future is baffling at best.  It's difficult to see where the improvements will come from I'm afraid.  Still supporting Leeds United is easy and hugely rewarding...................said nobody ever!

Today I was joined by an old school friend and his son from the deep south, Surrey in fact.  We reminisced about Clarke's goal at Wembley, the magnificent 7 against Southampton and lots of other joys of following the mighty whites in those halcyon days in a different century.  Misty eyed we took our seats in readiness for today's pauper's feast at the same ground Bremner, Giles, Lorimer et al strode in their pomp.  PH had rung the changes for the last game.  Ayling made a welcome return at right back, Ekuban started up front with Alioski and Roofe out wide.  Phillips, Vieira and Forshaw formed the midfield triangle.  Tom Pearce kept his place at left back with Cooper and Jansson at centre backs.  16 year old Ryan Edmondson was on the bench.

The pitch looked in perfect condition as ever as the game got underway with just over 30,000 inside the sun bathed Elland Road.  The opening salvos were typical of an end of season game with nothing at stake but Leeds did look to have a bit more spark in them than in recent outings even though it was against a QPR team who looked desperate to get the game finished and away on their holidays.  Just before the half hour Ayling made a barnstorming run before unleashing a shot that tested the QPR goalie.  This was shortly followed by a goalmouth scramble ignited by an Ekuban shot on target that was blocked before QPR conceded a corner.  From the corner Roofe finished spectacularly as he hooked in a loose ball home from close range to open the scoring for Leeds.  1.0 Leeds and all of a sudden life was just a little bit better on Planet Leeds.

Leeds continued to have the better of the game and could have gone into the half time break with more than the one goal advantage as first Roofe and then young Pearce rifled in shots that had the QPR goalie pulling off decent saves.  Pearce's shot especially had the Elland Road faithful purring.  Alioski also nearly added a second but saw his header just drop inches past the post.  Half time 1.0 Leeds.  The urinal philosophers were already on the beach.  Leeds season finished a long time ago and it seemed nobody could be arsed complaining about anything.  The combination of the lovely sunshine and a reasonable first half display from Leeds had pacified the notoriously critical philosophers.

Pennington replaced Jansson as the 2nd half got under way.  For a big strapping lad the Swede doesn't half pick up his fair share of injuries of one sort or another?  Any fans who were late back from their half time refreshments missed the 2nd goal.  Under pressure the QPR goalie made a complete hash of his clearance and passed it straight to Phillips 35 yard out.  Mr Pineapple head coolly controlled the ball advanced to the the edge of the box before despatching his shot clinically past the forlorn keeper. 2.0 Leeds and all was well with the world.  QPR didn't seem to have the heart to fight back as Leeds took control of the game.

Leeds were playing some nice football at times with Ayling making a huge difference to the Leeds right flank and young Tom Pearce looking dangerous every time he went forward on the left.  Vieira was in good nick in the middle ably supported by Forshaw and Phillips looked more comfortable in a more advanced position.  Ekuban was again struggling to make any impact up front though.  Bailey Peacock Farrell was sat in a deck chair lathered in factor 30.  On 72 minutes Alioski was so unlucky as met a superb Roofe cross only to see yet another good save from the goalie deny him a goal.  Shortly after Roofe left the field to a well deserved ovation to be replaced by 16 year old Ryan Edmondson.  Now this lad is a big lad and I mean a big lad especially for just 16 years old and he immediately secured a rousing ovation himself as he obliterated the QPR full back in a tackle that would have made Norman Hunter proud.  He received a dubious yellow card for his troubles as the QPR player played dead on the turf just long enough for the ref to book him before jumping up and walking away.

Minutes later Edmondson nearly brought the house down as he found space in the box to hammer a cross goal wards only to see a deflection from a desperate defender's leg prevent a debut goal.  On this evidence he has a bright future.  There was just time for a Leeds breakaway by Alioski to be stopped by a foul on the edge of the box.  Alioski then despatched the free kick into the Kop before the ref brought the curtain down on the game and Leeds season.  FT 2.0 Leeds.

I'm glad we finished with a decent performance albeit against a poor QPR team.  Our final position of 13th tells it's own story though.  There are some useful building blocks in the squad already but the need to add quality and experience is there for everyone to see.  Ayling was my man of the match today with good showings from Roofe, Forshaw and Vieira.  An interesting summer ahead for Leeds and as ever we will be looking to try and find a formula that will make Leeds competitive in the championship once again something we haven't really seen other than our first year after relegation from the Premier League which was a long time ago.

Thanks for reading my musings on Leeds United this year and hopefully I'll do it all again next season.  In the meantime fingers crossed for some positive signs of progression over the summer?

Can't wait.

MOT

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Norwich City v Leeds Utd 28th April 2018.

Norwich away is always an endurance test for Leeds fans given the geographical location of Norfolk's senior football team.  So after passing what seemed like a million flat fields on the train journey through the soulless Fens I arrived at Norwich station to be greeted by a slate grey sky and persistent rain dampening the last away game of a massively disappointing season.

The pre match banter on the train and in the pub was subdued and laced with gallows humour as we desperately searched for some positives to draw from the latest campaign.  Bailey Peacock Farrell's emergence as the No 1 goalie and Pablo's contract signing was as far as it got.  The negatives are too many to list here but suffice to say there was a rebellious mood from fans who have just had enough bubbling under the alcohol fuelled preparation for the clash with Norwich.  The fear was the final away performance would mirror the disjointed, rudderless and quite frankly embarrassing efforts that we have witnessed since Xmas.  Bums were clenched and fingers optimistically crossed as kick off approached.

This was Wes Hoolahan's last home appearance for the Canaries and Delia's Yellow army were there in force with kleenex at the ready to give their star player a fitting send off.  PH had made the one change from the Barnsley game with Cooper's experience getting the nod over O'Connor in the back four.  Leeds kicked off and immediately were on the attack with a good move that ended with Vieira testing the Norwich goalie in the first minute. Soon the season's weaknesses started to show through though in all their glory.  Lost possession far too easily in midfield allowed Norwich to move with ease towards the Leeds goal.  Maddison should have done better with his first chance but he blazed it over the bar.  The first 30 minutes were scrappy with both teams guilty of bad decision making and even worse implementation of attempted moves.  This was a game that would only remain goalless if the finishing was as bad as the ball retention on both sides.

Handley received a yellow for a cynical foul on Saiz as he turned the Norwich centre half on the halfway line.  Then on 39 minutes the game came to life.  Another Leeds free kick was drifted into the Norwich box where Gunn punched half clear.............Vieira lined up a speculative volley which he made a complete hash of but the ball fell to Phillips who hit a sweet shot past the despairing Gunn to give the visitors a surprise lead.  1.0 Leeds.  Minutes later Leeds tore through the groggy Norwich defence again but Roofe failed to convert the chance from 14 yards.  Leeds would regret that miss dearly as the game progressed.

Leading one nil and heading for the break was a comfortable position for Leeds but in true self destruct Leeds style they chose the 45th minute to present Hoolahan with his leaving present.  Vieira lost another ball in midfield.........the ball was moved quickly to Hoolahan who advanced towards the retreating Leeds defence and lined up a shot from 25 yards.............Jansson half heartedly stuck a leg out to block the shot but all it did was deflect the ball in a loop over BPF........the ball hit the inside of the post and rolled agonisingly across the goal and just over the line.  Bollox. Carrow Road erupted as if Mustard had just been announced as the ultimate cure for Cancer.  The local hero had scored on his final home appearance..........well actually I would have chalked it down as a Jansson own goal but that might have been a tad pedantic?  HT 1:1.

The sad thing with the urinal philosophers is that they don't get mad anymore.  Nobody was surprised Norwich equalised.  Nobody was surprised we gave possession away without the slightest shrug of the shoulders.  Nobody was surprised the team lacked shape and cohesion.  This is a team in serious relegation form after all.

The second half was so predictable.  Leeds had their chances, Alioski, Roofe, Saiz and Forshaw but all failed.  Alioski's was the best effort of the bunch.  At the other end BPF kept the score down to a reasonable level with another performance beyond his years.  Inevitably Norwich got the winner when Murphy fired home from inside the box after yet more good work from Hoolahan on 70 minutes.  When Murphy shot there were 4 Leeds players within 5 yards of him.  Nobody got tight on him before he received the ball.  Nobody closed him down before he shot.  It appeared nobody gave a fuck!

Grot came on for Alioski and then Lasogga made an appearance.  You will not be surprised to hear that their combined impact on the game was equal to that of trying to trace the impact of dropping a tennis ball with a seismometer.  The game ended in a Norwich victory by 2.1.  Two very average teams on show with little quality other than Hoolahan to brighten up a gloomy day.  BPF had an excellent game.  Cooper also put in a good shift but the sum of the total effort was shocking.  No real passion, no leadership and no hope.  PH has had a negative impact on the team since he arrived.  The team lose shape when they lose the ball which is often and seem incapable of stringing more than three effective passes together.  The team was booed at the end and the pre match feeling of rebellion in the ranks was now boiling over.  Still I'd just the 4 hour hour train journey home to reflect on another shocking performance.

Thankfully just the final game of the season to go next week at Elland Road.  I fear for what will happen over summer.  At least I will be protected from weekend depression until August!

Can't wait.

MOT

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