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Saturday, 12 August 2017

Leeds United v Preston North End. August 12th 2017.

There was something distinctly different as I parked my car and joined the human throng sweeping down Elland Road for the first home League game of the season. No it wasn't the smell of the burger vans and Graveley's Fish n Chips attacking my nostrils nor was it the Old Peacock packed to the rafters. It was the sheer joy of the home fans as they saw their old stadium now adorned with giant posters of legends past and present together with a pictorial journey back through the rich history of Leeds United. Add the memories of a two game winning start playing attractive, attacking football to the mix and you understand why there were lots of beaming faces marching together down Elland Road. What a time to be alive and follow the mighty whites!

TC's team selection saw Borthwick-Jackson and Jansson come in for the injured Berardi and Pennington in an otherwise unchanged side from Sunday. Hat trick hero from Wednesday, Saiz, was on the bench. No place in the squad for Klich or Bridcutt. The sun was shining as I took my seat for another season of ups and downs at Elland Road. The opening exchanges were scrappy in front of nearly 33,000 fans packed into Elland Road. Preston's manager Alex Neil deployed a physical pressing game to stop Leeds' attempts at free flowing football and that coupled with some wayward passing from the home team helped quieten the expectant crowd. Leeds first real chance came on 20 minutes but Alioski fluffed his shot and saw the ball go tamely wide. Barkhuizen then went close for Preston as the visitors fed on the spluttering performance from Leeds. This wasn't quite the script I was expecting.

On 30 minutes Ben Pearson finally earned a yellow card from the lenient ref after chopping down O'Kane and breaking up another promising Leeds move. The game stuttered to half time with Preston not frightened to attack Leeds. Goalless at half time as the very frustrated home fans sloped off for their half time pints. The urinal philosophers were on good form! "New owner, New players, same old shite" mumbled one disappointed fan. "Ref's letting them get away with murder" thought another whilst one opined that "Even Ayling's giving the ball away like there's no tomorrow" Ahh all you need is Leeds to be off the pace for 45 minutes and the season's finished. That's what happens on Planet Leeds I'm afraid. TC did need to change things though. Preston were giving us no room and the intricate passing patterns were coming to nothing. Even Pontus tried a fancy turn in his own box that nearly led to a goal. Improvements were needed in the 2nd period.

Preston's dogged approach continued to cause Leeds problems as the crowd became more and more frustrated. Alioski was struggling on the wing and very little service was coming in for Mr Wood but Leeds continued to try and overplay rather than shoot from outside the box. Then on 60 minutes there was a spark of a hope. Ben Pearson dragged down Phillips as he tried to skip away from the Preston enforcer. The ref had no hesitation in giving him his 2nd yellow and off he trotted for an early bath. Now could Leeds get the all important first goal against ten men? Vieira and Saiz came on for Phillips and Roofe. Surely now Leeds would crack the belligerent Preston defence?

All of a sudden space appeared down the Leeds left and Borthwick-Jackson eagerly exploited it as his tall lithe figure strode behind the desperate Preston defence and crossed a lovely ball into the box. Wood headed wide. This was better. A minute later Borthwick-Jackson was at it again but Wood failed to convert from 6 yards! The decibel level now lifted as the home fans finally felt a goal was coming. Alioski had a left footed shot saved. Suddenly Preston were creaking. On 73 minutes everyone was out of there seat..............Hernandez slid an immaculate ball through for Wood. The big Leeds striker left the Preston defence for dead with just the keeper to beat..............his firm strike was brilliantly saved but Alioski was there to tap in the rebound but in his haste he slipped and Preston cleared the ball. Leeds were now on a roll. Saiz's header from the far post was saved by the inspired Preston keeper.  Dallas came on for Borthwick-Jackson and with his first touch headed the ball goal wards........another fine save but Hernandez fired in the rebound bringing an even better save. 7 minutes left now with Preston in serious time wasting mode.

Leeds continued to attack looking for the winner but left yawning gaps at the back. We weren't going to fall for the ultimate sucker punch were we? Well the answer was very nearly yes. Preston broke in the 94th minute and Harrop so nearly broke Leeds' hearts with a shot that deflected onto the bar. Phew! Final score 0:0 Disappointing to say the least. Inevitably views on the performance were harsh as I joined the pack of fans streaming away from the game. "Phillips and Alioski are shite" was one of the more extreme quotes.......3 games in and we're already condemning players........Life is hard on Planet Leeds. Borthwick-Jackson was my man of the match with solid work from Cooper. Too many of the other players were off colour but Saiz and Vieira did well when they came on.

So attention turns the Fulham game on Tuesday. Will Cairney get his obligatory goal? Will Saiz start? Will Wood still be here? Another intriguing season is underway. Fasten your seatbelts it's going to be a bumpy ride!

Can't wait.

MOT

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Leeds Utd v Port Vale. League Cup 1st Round 9th Aug 2017.

I'm not sure I can get used to the new football club that Leeds United have become. Suddenly we're signing good players on good contracts and good young players on similar contracts. If we're not careful it will start to look as if we're putting together a long term plan for the club something that hasn't happened for years. Excellent work Mr Radrizzani. So with the news of Berardi's new contract and the arrival of Borthwick-Jackson to bolster the defence fresh in my thoughts I made the dash from work to Elland Road full of optimism for the League Cup clash with Port Vale.

The sun was dazzling as I took my seat in the East stand to digest a team with 9 changes from Saturday. Borthwick-Jackson, Ayling, Shaughnessy and Anita made up the back four with Klich and Vieira holding midfield and Dallas and Sacko out wide. Ekuban replaced Wood up top. Still a strong line up against a Port Vale side with ex Leeds players Tonge and Pugh in and managed by Michael Brown. 15,000 fans had made it for the game with a healthy, boisterous away support among them.

Leeds were into top gear from the off pinging the ball about with ease as the early attacks featured the left flank where Dallas and Borthwick-Jackson soon linking up as if they'd played together all their lives. It was no surprise when Leeds took the lead on 12 minutes. Dallas beat his man and hit a teasing cross to the back post that came off the bar back into the box. The little pocket battleship, Saiz, calmly controlled the ball and smashed the ball into the net with contempt. 1.0 Leeds. Mint. Leeds then went into cruise control with Saiz orchestrating a Spanish masterclass of sublime moves that had Port Vale chasing shadows ably supported by Vieira, Klich, Dallas and the overlapping full backs. Leeds were purring and were oozing class. Just when I was beginning to think this was going to be a landslide for the home side Michael Tonge popped up to punish some woeful defending to equalise for the League 2 side. 1.1. Mmmmmm.

The goal knocked Leeds off their stride and Michael Brown's side "robust" approach started to send danger signals to the hard core home fans in the stands. Surely we can't throw this away after totally dominating the game up to now? Half time came with the scores still level. A chance for TC to regroup his side. Leeds started the second period with a bit more urgency and started to gain control again but with Sacko playing with what seems a lack of confidence some of the momentum was lost. Time for substitutions. Bridcutt replaced Klich and Alioski came on for Sacko. Within minutes the whole tone of the game changed. While Sacko looked as sharp as a blunt butter knife Alioski looked as sharp as a gleaming rapier. Elland Road came alive. Now the ball was zipping between players as the Leeds attacking machine tore the Vale resistance to shreds. At the centre of all the magic was the Spaniard Saiz. He helped himself to two goals in a minute after glorious, sweeping play opened up the Vale defence to give Leeds a 3.1 lead. The speed at which Leeds broke and passed the ball between players was quite frankly obscene. I was in football heaven and there was still 25 minutes to go.

Alioski was having a ball down the right flank as he tormented the poor Vale full back time and time again. By now Saiz was untouchable despite Port Vale's crude attempts to stop him playing. This was football we have yearned for for years and I know it was only Port Vale but it almost brought a tear to my eye! Ekuban got the 4th goal after another dazzling move from Alioski and Saiz. Port Vale were still trying to kick anything that moved.............. a bit like Michael Brown would do! When Alioski teased Gunning he just kicked him earning a 2nd yellow and an early bath. Leeds saw out the game in style to run out easy winners 4.1.

Saiz was simply stunning. His touch, movement and vision was a pleasure to watch. Vieira, Dallas, Anita, Borthwick-Jackson, Shaughnessy were outstanding whilst Alioski was a revelation when he came on. Ekuban looked nervous initially but came more into the game in the 2nd half and took his goal really well. Sacko is just not at the races. TC's selection for Saturday will be difficult.

So 7 goals in 2 games and 5 of them from midfielders has opened the eyes of Leeds fans. TC's style is pleasing to the eye going forward and although still shaky at the back with Jansson back on Saturday things are looking rosy for the mighty whites. Special mention for young Shaughnessy. He had a really solid game at the back. Good times are coming back to Elland Road and it feels great.

Preston North End on Saturday.....................

Can't wait.

MOT


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