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Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Leeds United 2:1 Ipswich Town.

Elland Road under floodlights always adds a special ingredient to proceedings even when there's only 19,000 inside the old stadium. Ipswich arrived in West Yorkshire fresh from their loss in the Old Farm derby but still harbouring real hope of promotion after a promising season under the stewardship of Mick McCarthy. The team news was intriguing. With Austin out Redfearn had selected four centre halves but who would play where? Bellusci replaced Austin in a formation clearly designed to stop the carnage the Tractor boys wreaked at Portman Road when they peppered the Leeds box to devastating effect in their comfortable 4.1 victory. Cooper was at left back with Taylor in front of him in midfield with Wootton and Byram forming the same partnership on the right flank. Certainly a bold move from Redfearn coming off the back of two successive defeats for the mighty whites. Sharp kept his starting slot with Morison on the bench.

McCarthy preferred on loan striker Chris Wood to their top scorer Murphy up front with ex Leeds striker cum diver Varney alongside him in attack. Looking at the 6ft plus Wood alongside Varney who we know can win his fair share of balls in the air you didn't need to be Sherlock Holmes to work out what tactics Ipswich were going to deploy. The ball could well feel air sick before half time.

The game kicked off and Ipswich were immediately into their stride with a long ball to their right flank which Wood won and turned Cooper before feeding Varney who's shot was blocked by Bamba. Within a minute Varney had the ball in the net with a header but thankfully he was ruled offside. Leeds did settle and after Sharp forced a save Bamba looped a header over the bar from a corner. As the half progressed each team seemed to cancel each other out with clear chances few and far between. The tall Tyrone Mings showed why he has been attracting admiring glances from Premier League clubs with some classy touches down the left.

Leeds hardly troubled the Ipswich keeper although Sharp felt aggrieved when he headed high and wide from a Byram cross whilst being lent on by an Ipswich defender. Byram tried to emulate Austin's volley from Saturday but only managed to threaten the fans on the back row of the South Stand. Bellusci hit a harmless free kick from 20 yards. Leeds just couldn't seem to put the final pass together whilst McCarthy's artillery tactics were meeting stiff resistance from the Leeds back four. Not the most aesthetic 45 minutes of football ever seen at Elland Road but we went in all square and still well in the game. Half time 0:0.

There were some interesting suggestions by the Urinal philosophers as to how to break the deadlock ranging from putting Charlie Taylor up front to substituting the "useless" Billy Sharp! Thankfully Redfearn was a little more patient as Leeds started the 2nd half unchanged. Murphy, Mowatt and Cook were working tirelessly in midfield and credit to them that Austin's undoubted powerhouse running was hardly missed.

Silvestri came to Leeds rescue early in the second period as he leapt to turn a towering header from Mings around the post for a corner. At the other end Sharp nearly got free in the box but his shot was blocked and bounced safely into the arms of the Ipswich keeper. Both teams were locked in a stalemate and what was needed was one flash of inspiration to kick start the game. Step up Mr Alex Mowatt. Ipswich had brought on the dangerous Murphy whilst Redfearn had replaced Taylor with Antenucci and changed the formation to 4-4-1-1. Leeds also started to press the visitors deeper in their half with Byram forcing Mings into an error on the edge of his box as he wrestled the Leeds man to the ground. In a position similar to the one Mowatt scored from against Millwall the young midfielder stepped up and hit a sweet curling shot into the net giving the goalie no chance. 1.0 Leeds and Elland Road was now alive and kicking. Could we hold onto this lead though?

The answer to that question came just two minutes later as Freddie Sears, on for Wood, saw his soft shot evade Silvestri's grasp and roll into the net. 1.1 and here we go again. The game exploded into life. Mings went close with a shot just past the post as the rollercoaster emotions of watching Leeds United clicked into top gear. Leeds were rocking and in danger of going behind but all of a sudden Leeds broke and found Antenucci in space who calmly released the rampaging Cook down the right flank............the talented midfielder drove into the box before picking out Sharp on the penalty spot who turned the ball past the flailing goalie into the bottom corner of the net. Get innnnnnnnn! 2.1 Leeds and 3 goals in just 6 minutes had turned the game on it's head. But the drama hadn't finished.

Ipswich piled forward looking for another equaliser but also leaving themselves exposed at the back. Cook so nearly sealed the game for Leeds but his shot was saved after a lovely lay off from Sharp. Ipswich went straight back down the pitch and more hearts were in the mouths of Leeds fans as the ball pinged about in the Leeds box. Bamba raised his hands as he went to stop another attack. Penalty! Yet again Leeds were trying to snatch a draw from the jaws of a victory. That horrible sick feeling of disappointment returned. The Happy Chocker reminded me that Silvestri never saves penalties. Add to that the sight of the prolific Murphy putting the ball on the spot and I feared the worst. Murphy ran up and hit a decent penalty but then in what seemed like slow lotion Silvestri flung himself to the right to tip the ball onto the post and away from danger. Elland Road exploded again.

There was still 5 minutes of squeaky bum time left plus 4 minutes of added time. Still time for Mings to thump a header high and wide and also Antenucci and Morison to combine to nearly snatch a third for Leeds. The ref's whistle blew to end a dramatic 2nd half and signal three more precious points for Leeds and another top six team leaving Elland Road pointless. Final score 2.1 Leeds.

As we streamed away from the ground there were smiles on the faces of most Leeds fans. Murphy and Cook were immense in midfield with Sharp getting his second goal in two games. The Leeds back four just about coped with Mick McCarthy's artillery and Silvestri bounced back from his clanger to ensure Leeds took all the points with his penalty save. After worrying about the absence of Austin in the end he was hardly missed.

This was another battling performance from Leeds who sparked into life when Antenucci came on. Onwards to Wigan on Saturday with a healthy dose of confidence and a large travelling army of Leeds fans looking for revenge after that woeful showing against the pie eaters at home. Redfearn's selection should be interesting? Antenucci to start? Same back four?

Can't wait.


Saturday, 28 February 2015

Leeds Utd 2:3 Watford. 28th Feb 2015

After Tuesday's wake up call at Brighton I was unsure of what to expect from the mighty whites in their clash with Watford who's impressive form has seen them in the play off positions for most of the season. Could we shackle Deeney and Vydra who always seem to relish a game against Leeds? Who the hell would play up front in place of the injured Morison? Would Byram's return provide the spark for a team that looked jaded at Brighton? These were all debating points as the Happy Chocker, Quiet One and yours truly took on some much needed pre match refreshments. The sight of Doukara speeding out of the car park in his car gave an indication that perhaps he hadn't made the squad as we hurried to our seats.

Byram and Sharp replaced Sloth and the injured Morison with Adryan and Walters on the bench. Sharp took his place up front in an unchanged 4-2-3-1 system. "They'll need to play it into his feet" HC commented as the game kicked off with Leeds once again out of the blocks quickly. Our nemesis, Troy Deeney, was into the action early breaking our back line but thankfully the linesman's flag stopped the move. Although he looked like he's got a penchant for too many kebabs he still looked quick off the mark. Should be an interesting battle with Bamba I mused. Leeds early pressure soon paid off as the Watford centre half sent a wayward header back to Gomes in the Watford goal who saved the goal but the ever alert Sharp pounced to send the parried save back into the open goal. 1.0 Leeds and only 6 minutes gone. Mint.

The early goal gave Leeds the confidence to push forward with Cook buzzing around in midfield picking up the ball and setting up Leeds attacks. It was all looking good for Leeds despite Watford looking dangerous when they broke with the porky Deeney and the whippet like Vydra testing the Leeds back four at every opportunity. The Football gods were smiling on Leeds again though just as they had at Middlesbrough and when Austin hit a superb volley on 18 minutes the ex Spurs goalie, Gomes, could just stand and watch as it looped spectacularly into the net. 2.0 Leeds and what a goal. Elland Road was bouncing and the disappointment of Tuesday's reverse at Brighton was a distant memory.

Watford didn't panic even though they were two goals down. They continued to play their precise passing game coupled with significant pace up front to work their way back into the game. Leeds were still attacking though and Wootton went close to giving Leeds an unreal 3 goal lead. At the other end first Vydra then Paredes tried their luck  against the Leeds shotstopper Silvestri. The game was very open and which was very much to Watford's advantage and on 40 minutes they made Leeds pay for their generous approach. Leeds lost the ball in midfield and Watford moved the ball swiftly through Vydra to Deeney who powerfully held off the attentions of both Cooper and Bamba to coolly slot the ball past the advancing Silvestri. 2.1 Leeds and I was left bemoaning the fact that Deeney had once again hit Leeds where it hurts most. The 1,200 travelling fans were now awake and roaring the Hornets forward looking for the equaliser as ominously for Leeds the away team created two more good chances before going into the break 2.1 down.

There was a large dose of worry amongst the urinal philosophers. "I'd have taken 2.1 up at half time before the game" one fan said rather unconvincingly whilst another frustrated whites fan declared "That bastard Deeney's scored again.......he's fat as me yet we still couldn't stop him scoring" A tad harsh I thought but for a forward carrying a couple of pounds over weight he seemed very fleet of foot to me.

Leeds started the 2nd half like a house on fire. Austin found himself one on one with Gomes......his first shot rebounded off the goalie and his 2nd attempt was cleared off the line by a desperate Watford defender. Then before we got our breath back from that attack Murphy found space in the box but just curled his shot wide of the post. Sharp was next to draw a frustrated ooooh from the kop as he just failed to clip in a cross from 6 yards. Anybody late back to their seats had missed three good chances for Leeds to extend their lead with only two minutes of the 2nd half gone. Things were looking good for Leeds.............too damn good!

In the first half Watford had shown how quick and dangerous they were on the counter attack so the last thing we needed was to give up the ball meekly when we were attacking leaving ourselves exposed at the back but that is exactly what we did on 55 minutes as Deeney, Abdi and finally Vydra cut through our back pedalling defence like a knife through rancid butter. 2.2 and the alarm bells were ringing loud and clear around Elland Road. Squeaky bum time and we'd still got 35 minutes to play.

Leeds were now struggling to get any grip on the game as they succumbed to an impressive Watford team who were now slicing through the Leeds midfield at will. Deeney, Abdi and Vydra were all over Leeds as the Hornets went for the winner. Mowatt's tame 25 yard effort into Gomes' arms summed up Leeds fall from grace. On 73 minutes Redfearn looked to his bench for a game changer and boldly brought on Adryan for the tiring Austin. "This could be an inspired substitution or a complete fucking disaster" HC opined. Initially Adryan did bring some much needed fresh legs to the Leeds midfield as the home side spurned the chance to shut up shop and went for the winner.

On 80 minutes they regretted not shutting up shop well at least I did. Yet another ball was lost in midfield and Deeney pounced releasing Vydra...........Silvestri initially saved his shot but with the ball rolling free and both he and Bamba hesitating Vydra slid the ball home to put Watford 3.2 in front. Bollox! Although Watford deserved to be in front it didn't stop me feeling sick to the pit of my stomach having lost a precious two goal lead.

Antenucci and Cani came on for Leeds in a vain attempt to rescue a point but despite 5 minutes injury time Leeds ended up empty handed and went down to their 2nd defeat in 5 days. Watford looked as good a team as I've seen this season with a very potent attack if not a slightly shaky defence. They did show how far we are realistically away from having a team who can challenge for promotion though. We lack the strength in depth needed to change a game when things start to go against us.

The journey home was a grumpy one. I hate losing at the best of times but to lose a two goal lead is especially galling regardless of how unexpected that lead was. I thought Sharp struggled willingly up front in a position he is clearly not suited for whilst Deeney made Cooper and Bamba look vulnerable for most of the match. If only we could have stretched the lead straight after half time with the three chances we had? If only?

Ipswich on Wednesday up next and then Wigan away on Saturday. This last week has been a long time in Football...............I wonder what this next week holds in store for the battle weary followers of the mighty whites? Answers on a postcard please...............just don't mention Russell Crowe! Roll on Wednesday.

Can't wait.


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