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Saturday, 29 August 2015

Derby County 1:2 Leeds United. Aug 29th 2015

After 2 weeks away on holiday I was looking forward to our away day at Derby. With the exotic food and drink of the holiday replaced by a few cans and Dawson's best Cornish Pasties all was well with the world as we boarded the Derby train at York for the lunchtime clash with the Rams. As usual the Happy Chocker and the Quiet One were on board as we debated the possible outcomes of Leeds's 5th championship game of the campaign. Would Byram show better form than of late? Would Wood silence his impatient critics? Would we lay the bogey of not winning at Derby since goldfish had the pride of place in the Leeds United offices? After some lively debate we settled for predicting a 5th straight draw for the mighty whites.

By the time we reached the Harvester pub in Pride Park and quenched a few more refreshments the predictions shifted to a 2.0 Leeds win as we headed towards the newly named iPro Stadium. Rosler had brought back Cook and Mowatt to replace Phillips and Antenucci in an otherwise unchanged team from the draw against Sheff Wednesday. Despite the ridiculous kick off time of 12.05pm the stadium was rocking as the game kicked off with the flag waving drum led Derby fans matching the raucous away support to produce an electric atmosphere.

Leeds flew at Derby from the off with both Dallas and Wood firing in shots within the first two minutes. Leeds early impetus was halted as Keogh received lengthy treatment after trying to head Cook's boot. The Leeds midfield began to dominate their opponents as Cook took control with his quick thinking, strong running and neat incisive passing. Dallas smashed a good chance high into the crowd before Wood had a good shot blocked in a crowded area. As the clock ticked past 30 minutes the decibel level in the away end increased as Rosler's stormtroopers continued their assault on the Rams with delightful efficiency. All we needed was a goal to reward the impressive build up play...........and to stop the dangerous Derby attackers at the other end! As if to emphasise the point Martin drifted a header just over Silvestri's bar from a teasing Russell free kick. With ten minutes to go to half time Cook snatched at a chance on the edge of the box at the end of another lovely Leeds move.

Fans from both sides were sneaking out for an early half time pint when Leeds won yet another corner. Dallas took a short corner which drew groans from some Leeds fans but the groans soon turned to ecstasy as he clipped in a searching cross which was met by Adeyemi's thunderbolt header giving ex Leeds goalie, Carson, absolutely no chance and Leeds a fully deserved lead. It was carnage in the away end as the travelling Leeds hordes smelt Ram blood. 1.0 Leeds. Minutes later the referee's half time whistle was greeted by a thunderous ovation for the team in yellow.

The half time chatter was positive after possibly the best 45 minutes from a Leeds team in recent years. Would they regret not taking more than a single goal lead into the 2nd half though?

Paul Clement the new Derby coach may have coached at Real Madrid and PSG but he was now feeling the heat as his team sat a goal down at half time still searching for their first win of the season. What ever he said in the 15 minute break worked wonders though as Derby reappeared with an extra spring in their step as they launched a fierce assault on the Leeds defence. Russell fired a chance high and wide less than a minute into the half to be followed by a thumping Hendrick shot that Silvestri tipped over the bar for a corner. The kitchen sink was raining down on the Leeds back four. Leeds cleared the corner but Derby fed the ball back into Martin on the edge of the box who gave Cooper the slip before firing a low shot past Silvestri to equalise for the home side. The flag end erupted in joy as the home fans celebrated their immediate reply to Leeds opening goal. 1.1 and game on.

Both teams went at each other throwing caution to the wind as both looked to avoid a 5th straight draw. It was the home side who now on top though with Russell, Ince and Hendrick all going near for the Rams. Leeds dug in though and on 70 minutes Rosler replaced Byram with Murphy as he tried to stem the Rams midfield dominance quickly followed by Antenucci coming on for Mowatt. The changes stiffened the away side's resolve and within a couple of minutes Antenucci squirmed his way past a couple of Derby players and placed a pin point cross on Wood's head but from just 8 yards out but the big Leeds striker's header flew over the bar. Bollox!

Bent came on for Derby as both teams looked for the winner in a hectic finale. The winner when it came was a thing of beauty. The imperious Cook swooped on a ball like a Rolls Royce and glided the ball into Wood on the edge of the box who took one touch and then bent a stunning shot wide of the motionless Carson to win the game and send the 2,400 away fans into delirium. Get innnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn! 2.1 Leeds. Even five minutes of added time couldn't prevent Rosler's stormtroopers from taking a deserved 3 points back up the M1 to Yorkshire. The away end was still reverberating to the full Leeds United songbook as a forlorn Derby steward collected all his flags up from the fast disappearing Rams fans. Rosler and his team drunk in the adulation of their adoring fans after maintaining their unbeaten record as we head into the international break. Mint!

As we streamed away from the ground beaming from ear to ear a Derby fan whispered "Scum" as he hurried past making my smile even bigger. I do love winning away. Come to think of it I love winning full stop. Cook was my man of the match for another sublime performance. Berardi, Bamba, Taylor and Wood also had more than impressive games for a Leeds team that is beginning to look not only pleasing on the eye but hard to beat. Still early days yet but it's been a good August for Leeds......except for the penalties at Donny!

Brentford at home next after the international break. I don't want to tempt fate but if we maintain our run against the West Londoners I might just feel the stirrings of a good season ahead?

Can't wait.


Saturday, 8 August 2015

Leeds United 1:1 Burnley. 8th Aug 2015

No matter how poorly we performed last season and no matter how much turmoil off the field corroded my Teflon support for the mighty whites it's amazing what the summer break can do to inject dangerous amounts of optimism into my willing veins.
Adam Pearson appears to have done the impossible and kept the mad Italian locked in a cupboard all summer and away from the media whilst Uwe Rosler has impressed with his steely organisation and preparation for the new season culminating in the impressive victory against Everton in the final pre season game. Add to that a decent session in the transfer market where none of our crown jewels were sold off, unless you count Steve Morison, coupled with some decent acquisitions and unusually things on Planet Leeds look remarkably positive as we start another campaign in the championship. Could this actually be the dawn of a new era at the Theatre of Hope? Time will tell.
The Happy Chocker and the Quiet One were on board as I gunned the car towards South Leeds for the lunchtime televised kick off on Sky Sports Leeds. The excitement and anticipation of another season of ups and downs increased as we parked the car and joined the stream of fans swarming down Elland Road in glorious sunshine to the famous old Stadium. Would Dallas start? Would Berardi or Bellusci see red? Would the 4.3.3 system work? All questions eagerly debated as we refreshed ourselves ready for the game. As an aside we amused ourselves counting the number of fans who had "misjudged" the sizing of the new figure hugging Kappa replica shirts.
Rosler had replaced Doukara with Dallas much to the approval of the majority of fans congregating in the bar. There were also league debuts for Wood and Adeymi. Burnley, fresh from their dalliance with Premier League, had a strong team despite losing Shackell, Ings and Trippier over the summer. Nearly 28,000 fans were inside Elland Road as the game kicked off in a cacophony of raucous noise that generated a nerve tingling atmosphere. It was good to be back even though it was a lunchtime kick off.
Leeds started brightly feeding on the vociferous home support but it was Burnley who had the first shy at goal as Jutkiewicz tried a spectacular overhead kick that drifted over Silvestri's bar. Leeds were on fire though as Dallas capitalised on excellent work from Byram down the right to rifle a stinging shot at Burnley's goal that had the visiting goalie Heaton scrambling the ball over the bar. Bamba got booked in the aftermath by the fussy referee as the decibel levels reached new heights from the optimistic home support. Leeds were pressing the Clarets hard and unsettling the Lancastrians with Rosler's high tempo tactics. Bellusci fizzed a shot in from 25 yards on 20 minutes as Leeds tried to convert their pressure into that oh so vital opening goal.
Burnley drew breath and slowly began to ease them selves into the game. Kightly fired a shot far too close to Silvestri's post for my liking quickly followed by both Vossen and Jutkiewicz testing the Italian goalies reflexs with goalbound shots. As the half drew to a close Bamba missed the best chance of the match after his back post header found the wrong side of the post. Half Time 0.0.
The Urinal philosophers were in positive mood during the half time gents debate. "Dallas doesn't look bad" commented one hardened Leeds fan whilst another thought "midfield looks a bit better than last year, that Adeymi seems OK" High praise indeed from the notoriously hard to please Leeds fans. Bamba and Bellusci were looking strong at the back and we were creating good chances. We just needed to convert a couple?
The 2nd half followed a similar pattern to the first with the referee Mr Friend's whistle in constant use. Arfield received a yellow card on 55 minutes for a classic cynical professional as he dragged back Cook as he galloped away from a Burnley corner with the ball and the visiting defence in disarray. Bastard! Two good chances followed for Leeds though as Mowatt shaved Heaton's post with a thumping drive before Adeymi finished off another sumptuous Leeds move by volleying over from 7 yards. Surely Leeds were going to snatch the lead if they kept this up? Jutkiewicz fired in a low shot that Silvestri did well to cling onto just to temper the building optimism amongst the Leeds hordes.
The game was finely balanced as the hour mark was past. Wood spurned two good chances and Dallas finished off  a good move with decent shot that cannoned off a desperate Burnley leg. 70 minutes gone and both coaches made some substitutions to try and win the game. Sordell and Vokes came on for the Clarets whilst Antenucci replaced the tiring Dallas. The Northern Ireland debutant received a standing ovation from the home crowd. Would this break the deadlock?
 On 80 minutes Kightly got a yellow for another cynical foul when Berardi was scampering away into the Burnley half. This time though Leeds did get some reward. The free kick was taken and Leeds set up another attack. The ball has cleared but only to Berardi who headed the ball back to Antenucci. The Italian turned smartly and ran at the retreating Burnley defence before jinking inside and curling a superb shot into the top corner. Get innnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn! 1.0 Leeds and the place was rocking. Just reward for a combination of perseverance and no little skill from this new look Leeds side. Only 8 minutes left as well. All we need to do now is hold on or even snatch another one?
Mmmm. 3 minutes later that old saying "you're at your most vulnerable straight after you score a goal" proved true yet again. Boyd danced down the right wing teasing Charlie Taylor before laying the ball back to Darikwa who swung the perfect cross into the Leeds box............ex Leeds loanee Vokes, who else, leaped high and thumped an unstoppable header past Silvestri. 1.1. The pit of my stomach reminded me of the joys of watching Leeds United. Bollox! The Burnley travelling support were in heaven as their favourites snatched a draw from the jaws of defeat. Antenucci nearly pinched a winner in added time but the game ended with honours even.
In some ways it felt like a defeat as the fans streamed away from the ground. A draw against a strong Burnley side with good Premier League experience is not the worst result in the world but if only we'd hung on...................... Bamba was my man of the match closely followed by Byram who just gets better every game. Dallas had a promising debut with some nice touches and some much needed width to the Leeds team. Adeymi looked solid in the holding midfield role. Wood worked hard up front and with a bit of luck could have finished with two goals. All in all a decent performance in an entertaining game in which Leeds played some lovely football at times.
 It seems light years since the awful opening game last year when Wackaday's team meekly succumbed to Millwall.
Next up Donny away in the cup. A good chance for Leeds to progress to the next round?
Can't Wait.
PS. My next report will be Derby away as I am away for two weeks on a well earned holiday.

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