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Saturday, 13 December 2014

Leeds United 0:1 Fulham. 13th December 2014

Elland Road was in the grip of the first cold blast of the winter as the Happy Chocker, Quiet One and yours truly arrived for our clash with Ross McCormack's struggling Fulham side. Despite last week's dismal showing at Portman Road Redfearn decided to keep the same starting eleven as Leeds looked to maintain their decent home form in front of a very healthy crowd of 27,000 inside the Theatre of Hope. The main talking point during our pre match refreshments was how Pearce would cope with the undoubted danger posed by the Fulham front two of McCormack and Rodallega. Suddenly my natural optimism started to fade as memories of last week's powder puff "defending" came flooding back.

Late drama forced Austin off the bench to be replaced by Dawson after an injury during the warm up put paid to any chance of the Jamaican contributing to the match. Even more dramatic was Silvestri's new bleached hair do.....weird! The game kicked with Leeds attacking the packed South Stand and just as last week they enjoyed the best of the opening exchanges. The mighty whites forced two early corners followed by Sam Byram latching onto a lovely ball from Mowatt only to see his rasping shot finish inches the wrong side of the post. Leeds continued to press the high spending Londoners and nearly took the lead on the half hour when Mowatt powered a header against the bar and back onto the scruffy Fulham keeper who turned it round for another corner. How it didn't go in was beyond me?

Leeds were shading a tense game that was high on energy but sadly lacking that bit of quality that turns ambitious approach play into decent chances. The impetuous Leeds had from the early part of the half faded the longer the half progressed with Fulham happy to sit back and try and hit Leeds on the break which they did with regularity the nearer we got to half time. Byram brightened proceedings though just before the break with a thumping shot that the scruffy Fulham keeper was glad to parry away. Half Time 0.0.

The urinal philosophers were not impressed. "we've no penetration" one fan moaned. Another thought "We're giving the ball away too easily, especially in our own half" whilst another just declared "I'm f****** frozen" and he wasn't referring to the film! Still we had another 45 minutes to snatch a goal and three much needed points from this eminently winnable fixture.

Leeds were now attacking the kop looking for the all important first goal. Adryan tried an impossible overhead kick after good work by Mowatt and Warnock down the left before Byram chose to shoot high wide and handsome when he had space to attack the Fulham back four. It was beginning to look like a frustrating pre Xmas game as Leeds stuttered and stammered against a very average Fulham side. McCormack had been largely anonymous whilst Rodallega had flitted in and out of the game but driven by the home side's lack of cutting edge the Londoners started to grow in confidence and went in search of the classic smash and grab goal as I started to fear this was going to turn into yet another of those "afternoons" I have endured in my long history of following the not so mighty whites.

On the hour the pit of my stomach felt as heavy as lead as inevitably Fulham snatched the opening goal. Christenson easily slipped Bianchi in the box...........Silvestri advanced to block his shot but the Fulham player simply turned the ball back to a grateful Rodallega who tapped the ball into the empty net. So easy and yet so very predictable. 1.0 Fulham and my hopeful White Christmas was suddenly turning into what Elvis Presley described as a Blue Christmas.

Stung by the goal Redders sent on Sharp for the ineffective Doukara as Leeds rallied to try and find an equaliser. Sharp made an immediate impact and was noticeably like his surname as he held the ball up and made incisive digs into the Fulham defence. Was it too little too late for Leeds though? The substitution seemed to have worked as Sharp jinked and turned out wide before hitting a perfect cross right onto Adryan's head who somehow missed from 6 yards with the goal gaping in front of him. What was needed was an Ian Baird type determination to head the ball not a Brazilian's rather delicate attempt to flick the ball in with one eye on the goalie? With the chance missed the blood drained out of the Leeds fightback. Dawson replaced Adryan but found it difficult to pick up the pace of the game. Rodallega should have doubled Fulham's advantage as Leeds pushed forward but blazed wide. The frustrated Leeds crowd turned their frustration on McCormack as the game headed for an excruciating finale to yet another disappointing performance from the mighty whites. Final score 1.0.

Boos accompanied the final whistle as the masochistic Leeds fans headed home contemplating more a bleak mid winter rather than dreaming of a white Christmas. The spark of hope that the victory over Derby had given had been well and truly extinguished by successive defeats to Ipswich and now Fulham. Difficult to pick any positives out of this showing other than Sharp's impressive cameo. Surely he will start in front of Doukara at Forest? Man of the Match was a toss up between my half time steaming mug of Bovril or the empty plastic bag that fluttered across the pitch near the end. Leeds are lacking that essential steel needed in the middle of the park that successful teams always have. Some of the tackling in 50/50 challenges today would have had the late great Billy Bremner turning in his grave.

Forest at the City Ground next for Leeds. On the evidence of today not much hope of improving our dismal away record there me thinks and with the January transfer embargo looming I'm afraid it's beginning to look a lot like a very bleak mid winter for us long suffering followers of the mighty whites. Mince Pie anyone?

Can't wait.

MOT.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Ipswich Town v Leeds United. 6th December 2014

A combination of a bright, crisp winter's morning and memories of last week's defeat of table toppers, Derby, filled the car with extra positivity as the Happy Chocker, Quiet One and yours truly headed south for our clash with Mick McCarthy's high flying Tractor Boys. Despite Leeds' awful record away from LS11 this season the Derby win had given everybody at the club a large dose of optimism for our fortunes on the pitch to balance against the disturbing events off the pitch with the Football League seemingly hell bent on getting their man Cellino come hell or high water. Neither the Sheriff or his followers were going to come quietly though as illustrated in the Riverside Inn at Ipswich as the boisterous pre match songbook was blasted out by the passionate, massed away fans.

 The injured Bellusci was replaced by Pearce but interestingly Warnock kept the captain's armband in an otherwise unchanged team. After the mixed team photo in remembrance of Xmas football match between the British and German troops during the 1st World war the game was underway. Leeds picked up just where they had left off against Derby with crisp decisive passing troubling the home side although it was the dangerous Murphy who had the first shot of the match which deflected  harmlessly into Silvestri arms. Soon Leeds were on the attack again though as they pushed forward looking for an early goal. The evergreen Warnock supported his young midfielders, Cook and Mowatt, and found space beyond the Ipswich full back before picking out Antenucci on the penalty spot who finished coolly to give Leeds the lead and send the 2,000 visiting fans into raptures. 4 minutes gone 1.0 Leeds.

Could we be on our way to beating another high flying championship side? I dared to dream for one fateful minute. Of course I should have known better after years of watching Leeds on their travels I should recognise the phrase "flatter to deceive"

Ipswich stung by the goal flew back at Leeds with gusto. Luke Chambers swung in a deep cross for the tiny Stephen Hunt to rise high at the back post and head wide. Leeds failed to heed the warning and two minutes later it was the impressive Daryl Murphy timing his run to perfection to connect with another Chambers cross and leave Silvestri with no chance as his bullet header nestled in the back of the net. Capt Warnock berated ex Capt Pearce for his inept challenge on Ipswich's top scorer. Poor, poor defending. 1.1.

Leeds responded immediately. First Antenucci was caught offside against the tightly drilled home defence after a lovely ball from Warnock and then Bianchi finished off good work from Leeds with a volley that was blocked before Antenucci slipped his marker again but shot high, wide and handsome. Leeds were giving as good as they got in a very open game but both Murphy and McGoldrick were digging out chances for the home side as the game headed for the half hour mark.

The referee, Mike Dean, is not the most popular ref amongst Leeds fans and he added to that reputation as he gave a soft penalty after Warnock had jumped to clear a ball on the edge of the box before bundling Anderson over. Very harsh. Needless to say McGoldrick dispatched the penalty with ease to give the Tractor Boys a 2.1 lead and a head of steam that Leeds now struggled to contain. Chances began to flow to the home side as Leeds' early confidence on the ball disappeared to be replaced by hesitancy and numerous errors especially in their own half. Byram in particular was having a match to forget. Murphy killed the game right on half time with his second and Ipswich's third from what looked like an offside position with the Leeds defence in absolute meltdown. 3.1 Ipswich at Half time. Suddenly the long trek to Ipswich was looking like yet another fruitless away day in the search of Leeds United perfection.

"Still if we can just get a goal back early in the 2nd half" I forlornly hoped.................Instead Ipswich increased their lead almost immediately as a Tommy Smith header was helped into the net by Berra. 4.1 Ipswich. "This is going to end up 6 or 7" the not so Happy Chocker piped up whilst the fans in front of me were already heading back to the sanctuary of the Riverside Bar to drown their sorrows. We might aswell have followed them as Ipswich never relinquished their stranglehold on the game as they passed through the now dishevelled and well beaten Leeds team. Sharp, Austin replaced Adryan and Doukara but to little effect. Austin summed up the visitors afternoon as he strode free from his marker and hit a shot from the edge of the box that ballooned away to the corner flag. Embarrassing to say the least. We were already in the car heading home when the final whistle went signalling a 4.1 victory to the Tractor boys.

The long trip home was a quiet one as we tried to understand how we could go from beating a very good Derby side one week to losing so tamely to a good Ipswich side the next? Defensively we looked very vulnerable. Was it because Pearce was back in the back four or did the midfield allow their counterparts just too much space to run at the defence? 12 hours after setting off I turned the key in my door and let myself in. Another hugely disappointing day in the life of this travelling Leeds fan. Still there's always Fulham at home to look forward to next week. We should beat them shouldn't we? I'm already nervous.

Can't wait.

MOT.

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