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Saturday, 9 December 2017

QPR v Leeds Utd. 9th Dec 2017

A 3pm kick off on a Saturday is something of a luxury for Leeds so I was especially looking forward to the delicious combination of the 3pm kick off blended with a London away day and lashings of Xmas goodwill. With the obligatory Xmas jumper making up one of the many layers to keep Jack Frost out I boarded the train for the Capital.  Life was good as the eclectic mix of football fans, Xmas shoppers and hen parties added their own seasonal input to the boisterous atmosphere as the train headed south. My thoughts strayed onto Planet Leeds. Can we build on the recent improved performances and take 3 points from QPR? Will the Matt Smith v Pontus Jansson bout go the full distance? Will I be able to see all the pitch from the upper tier at Loftus Road?  With the pre match spirit flowing well we arrived at Kings Cross.

As expected the only change in the team was Roofe replacing the injured Hernandez. O'Kane, Borthwick Jackson and Cibicki were all on the bench as Leeds looked to continue their recent good form. With over 3,000 Leeds fans squeezed into the double deck away stand the game got under way. Ex Leeds centre forward Matt Smith showed there was no love lost with his old team mates as his first two challenges saw him lead with his elbow leaving Jansson and Phillips rubbing their heads. It was a scrappy opening with passes going astray on both sides. The first chance of the match went to QPR as Berardi slipped and let Wszolek free to run into the box and cross for Smith but a last ditch block from Ayling prevented the opening goal. Soon after Freeman clipped a ball beyond the Leeds back line for Washington but his shot went tamely into the baying away fans.

Leeds didn't have the same energy and confidence that prevailed at Barnsley as they stuttered and spluttered trying to get some fluency into their game. It took 18 minutes for Leeds to threaten Smithies in the home goal when Alioski swung a lovely cross into the box for Ekuban but his header was just too high.  That was better. The game wasn't a classic by any stretch of the imagination though as Leeds continued to struggle to stamp their authority on the game. Just before the half hour Smith got free from the limpet like marking of Cooper and Jansson but his header drifted over the bar. Phillips picked up a yellow for a clattering tackle that left the QPR enforcer, Luongo, writhing in agony. The natives were getting restless in the away end though and when Ekuban went down injured it started to look as if it was going to be one of those all too familiar Leeds days. As it happens this was the turning point of the game although we didn't know it at the time.

Cibicki replaced Ekuban and Roofe went up top. We now looked ever so small against the burly QPR back four. Could we keep it on the floor and play to feet of the front men? Cibicki was about to silence the doubters who are always too quick to judge players ability without really seeing what they can do. This was his first team debut and he formed an immediate understanding with Ayling down the right flank. I'm not sure we've ever had two players patrolling the right wing both wearing ponytails though.  I wonder what King Billy would have made of it?

Leeds finished the half well with chances for Roofe, Ayling and Vieira all putting pressure on Smithies. Half time 0.0.  I'd love to tell you what the Urinal philosophers thought of the first half but the concourse leading to the gents was absolute carnage. The crush in the tiny area leading to the toilets was as bad as I've experienced. The flare didn't help neither. It's a wonder there weren't serious injuries. Having survived the crush and returned to my seat the 2nd half got under way.

Leeds started the 2nd half brighter and with more purpose.  Cooper and Jansson were rock solid at the back and at last the talented Leeds midfield started to shine with Cibicki looking a real threat each time he got the ball although his first shot was a bit tame after excellent approach play. The visitors started to turn the screw as they played towards the hordes of away fans trying to suck the ball into the net. On the hour Alioski was fouled on the halfway by Luongo but somehow the ref not only gave the free kick to the home side he booked Alioski, presumably for allowing Luongo to kick him? On 63 minutes Leeds were rewarded for their improved 2nd half showing.  Saiz shovelled the ball out to Alioski.........the Macedonian stood his full back up and clipped a delicious ball into the box where Roofe leaped between the two centre halves and planted a superb header past Smithies and into the net.  1.0 Leeds and the 3,200 travelling army were in raptures behind the goal.  What a lovely goal.

QPR started to unravel. 3 corners in quick succession for Leeds as they piled on the pressure.  Jansson saw his header just go over the bar. Leeds were swarming all over QPR with Cibicki, Saiz, Alioski and Roofe all to the fore. The head of steam became a crescendo on 68 minutes as the impressive Cibicki fizzed a ball into the box where Roofe swooped to steer the ball past Smithies to double the lead and cause yet more carnage in the away end. Another sweet goal as the team celebrated in front of their fans. What's Roofe got on his neck I wondered? Looked like two pieces of tape on the back of his neck? Whatever it was it was working.

After the goal TC replaced Alioski with O'Kane. Is this the first time he has made a sub to see the game out I thought? Leeds were now in control. Pennington came on for Vieira to match QPR's threefold strike force but the game was meandering to a comfortable conclusion for Leeds.  Saiz should have completed the rout when released by Cibicki but he over elaborated and his shot went tamely wide. Then just as the home fans were streaming for the exits, despite Holloway's berating, QPR got a goal back on 90 minutes with a bizarre goal that was as sloppy as a Mr Whippy ice cream. Leeds defended a corner and headed the ball clear.  Wszolek hoofed the ball back into the box over everybody's heads straight to Wiedwald in the Leeds goal.  Unfortunately the German goalie must have been hit with a tranquillising dart as he appeared to freeze and let the ball bounce over him into the net.  Double Bollox! 2.1 Leeds and 5 minutes of added time still to go.  Suddenly QPR had a sniff of hope and piled forward.  Surely they couldn't could they?  Well actually they nearly did as Sylla escaped the vice like Leeds defenders and was one on one with Wiedwald but the German redeemed himself with a wonder save............well he saved it to keep the Leeds one goal advantage.  Phew! Heart attack alert in the away end.

Right at the death Saiz broke away after a QPR attack and fed Roofe who finished off to claim a well deserved hat trick and win the game for Leeds. A 3.1 win for Leeds that they deserved due to their 2nd half performance.  Cibicki had an excellent game as did Roofe especially when he went up top.  Cooper and Jansson were immense at the back.  Saiz was frustrating at times today intermingled with his usual magic. All in all a good three points and our run of good form continues.  People will look at the score and thing it was an easy win for Leeds but minutes after Wiedwald's aberration it felt nothing like easy.  Standard Leeds I suppose?

Norwich up next at home.  Could we get back into the top six by Xmas? At this rate yes and with games against Hull and Burton to follow there is a nice glow tonight on Planet Leeds. Mint. Here's to a white Xmas!

Can't wait.

MOT

Friday, 1 December 2017

Leeds Utd v Aston Villa. 1st Dec 2017.

With temperatures hovering around zero hats, scarves and plenty of layers was the order of the day for the 30,000 fans scuttling to Elland Road for the Friday night clash with Aston Villa. Villa on the back of an impressive run of form had gatecrashed the play off positions and with their expensively assembled squad looked formidable opposition for TC's men in yet another televised game featuring Leeds. After the weekend's defeat of Barnsley could Leeds follow that up with victory against Steve Bruce's charges? Would ex Leeds star Snodgrass terrorise Berardi? Would Ekuban continue his impressive initial form? We were about to find out.

As expected Vieira replaced O'Kane in and otherwise unchanged side. Dallas and Lasogga were still injured although there was plenty of speculation on social media and in the ground as to the real reason for Lasogga's absence. Leeds fans do like a good conspiracy theory. The game got under way with the sold out away section adding to the atmosphere inside the Elland Road cauldron. Leeds were on the front foot from the start and didn't allow Villa to settle. Passes were whizzing from one white shirt to another as the crowd warmed to the positive start from Leeds. Phillips and then Hernandez both missed the target with shots from outside the box after neat build up play. At the other end Snodgrass and Odomah had weak shots that Wiedwald dealt with easily.

As the clock approached the 20 minute mark the lumbering ogre like Villa centre half, Samba, conceded a corner. Hernandez trotted across to take the corner and swung an inch perfect ball into the Villa 6 yard box and onto Jansson's head. 1.0 Leeds and the ground was rocking. Leeds deserved the lead with a goal to warm the cockles of the fans hearts. Leeds were dominating possession with Vieira and Hernandez the stand out players. Young Vieira was bossing much older and experienced midfielders with some youthful panache. Leeds were making a good Villa side look average as they looked for a second goal to consolidate their advantage. Things were all going to plan until 2 minutes before half time when Hernandez went down with an injury and had to leave the pitch to be replaced by Roofe. Mmmm we were going to miss the little Spanish playmaker. The half finished with Cooper missing his usual header unmarked in the box. He will score from a set piece I'm sure but I just don't know when? Half time 1.0 Leeds.

The Urinal Philosophers were in a subdued mood despite the dominating first half performance. "We're well on top" one fan piped up but straight away one of the glass half empty brigade shouted "We were against Derby as well but let that one slip" Another thought that "We need a striker and quick" Strange how I can enter the Gents full of the joys of the first half and come out slightly depressed and shaking my head. We were one nil up against one of the strongest teams in the league let's at least enjoy that little oasis of happiness while it lasts!

Steve Bruce clearly had "livened" his team up at half time and made some subtle tactical changes. Suddenly it was the West Midlanders who were on the front foot. Odomah finished off a decent Villa move with only Wiedwald to beat but the German stood tall and saved the day. The first half creativity from Hernandez had gone for Leeds as they were forced back by Bruce's team. Maybe misery guts in the Gents was right with his Derby comment? The game became a bit scrappy with a number of niggly fouls. Alan Hutton seemed to think he could kick anybody and not get booked as did the ref. Leeds needed some inspiration and not for the first time this season they got it from Saiz who whipped a wicked ball into the box where first Ekuban then Roofe then Alioski were inches away from doubling the lead. How did that not go in. On the hour Cooper did get a header in the net but was offside. Frustration began to eat away at the Leeds confidence. Villa brought on Grealish and Lansbury after 65 minutes. Not a bad 2 to have on the bench?

The Villa subs gave them extra impetus and the Leeds back four started to creak as the visitors turned the screw. On 71 minutes the Leeds defence buckled. Jansson made a superb sliding tackle only to see the ball ricochet to Lansbury who was unmarked 35 yards out. He drove nearer to the goal but by the time Cooper went to challenge him it was too late as the super sub smashed a low shot via the post past Wiedwald. 1.1 Bollox! Could Leeds hang on or would they fall apart again?

Desperation ran through both teams as they tried to steal the winner. Sacko came on for the tiring Ekuban. Hutton finally got booked after his 456th foul of the night as the game went into 7 minutes of added time. Grot replaced Alioski but the game ended all square 1.1. A draw was a fair result in a game of two halves. Leeds lost momentum when Hernandez went off just as Villa picked up their game in the 2nd half. Hernandez, Vieira and Jansson were the stand out players for Leeds. Ekuban put a good shift in up front again but just the one shot on goal by Leeds tells it's own story.

Leeds are in a better shape than they were a few weeks ago and are set well for what should be a decent run of games in the run up to Xmas which hopefully will see us back in the play off positions. QPR away is next on the agenda for TC's men. Let's hope we can start with a little bit of pre Xmas cheer at Loftus Road?

Can't wait.

MOT.

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