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Sunday, 19 November 2017

Leeds Utd v Middlesbrough. 19th Nov 2017.

A lovely bright and crisp West Yorkshire morning greeted the hordes of fans heading for Elland Road and the Sunday lunchtime clash with Garry Monk's Middlesbrough. We had all had the annoying international break to figure out how Leeds could halt their horrendous run of form that has seen an excruciating 6 defeats in the last 7 outings for the mighty whites? I was focusing on our decent recent record against the Smoggies who had failed to score in 4 of the last 5 games against the men in white.  Could the leaky Leeds defence step up to the plate against the formidable Boro strike force though?

Away from the concerns with Leeds' recent form the big debate amongst the fans surrounded #Flaggate. Would the free flags being dished out around the ground qualify Leeds for a tin pot club award or would it enhance the seething atmosphere inside Elland Road? It seemed a tad ironic to me that the message on the fan boards in the East stand would read "Together" whilst creating another topic to divide the populous on Planet Leeds? There's one thing for sure life is never boring in the rarefied atmosphere of LS11.

TC's team selection was always going to be interesting for what had turned into a seminal game in Leeds' season. Would Lasogga retain his place? What about Lonergan? Would Ekuban return? What were the odds on Berardi slide tackling Monk in the technical area? Plenty to muse on as I quaffed the pre match refreshments. As I suspected the team selection was bold from the under pressure TC. Roofe started up front in place of Lasogga with Hernandez, Saiz and Alioski behind him and Phillips and Vieira binding the midfield together. There was no Dallas or Lasogga on the bench. Interesting?

The flags and mosaic display in the crowd as the teams came out was spectacular and set the scene for a rip roaring game. Garry Monk received the expected brutal reception as he took his place in the technical dug out. But would he have the last laugh on his former team? We were about to find out. After the poor recent performances from the men in white it was good to see them "at it" from the very first kick as everyman in a white shirt harried and badgered the Smoggies. Their expensive array of talent seemed to struggle in the white heat of the cauldron that is Elland Road on a day like this. Jansson went close from a corner after just 6 minutes. This was much, much better than the Brentford  performance as the eager Leeds players fed on the huge vocal support. Jansson, back to his best, brought the crowd to it's feet with a clattering challenge on Tavernier as he won a header and then reminded him what he thought of him as he lay prostrate on the ground awaiting attention.  Alioski found space to get a shot away after a good Leeds move quickly followed by Berardi appearing on the edge of the box and steering his shot high into the South Stand. That pitch invasion will be epic if he ever does score before he retires!

Middlesbrough were looking to quieten the home crowd and on the 20th minute they so nearly did as the obnoxious Assombalonga got free down the right flank and fired a low cross in front of Tavernier who froze in front of the kop and missed his chance. Ex Leeds boy Howson retrieved the ball and laid it back to Downing who brought a superb save from Lonergan in the Leeds goal. This was all very frenetic and high intensity from both sides. Tavernier wasn't having the best of days. He conceded a petty foul on Ayling about 35 yards out near to the touchline. Alioski clipped the ball into the box where the industrious Phillips was first to the ball but his header drifted to the back post where Herndandez struck like a hungry Cobra to finish in style. Elland Road exploded with joy as the players celebrated the opening goal. 24 minutes 1.0 Leeds.

George Friend is probably the best left back in the division but Alioski was giving him a real Sunday roasting. Friend picked up a yellow card on the half hour for a crude challenge on the Macedonian. From the free kick Jansson won the header and the ball fell to Saiz but the ball wouldn't sit down for the Spaniard as he saw his lob go high over the bar. This was all very encouraging though and a joy to watch. Roofe was winning more headers than Lasogga ever has and also stretching Ayala and the Boro defence whilst at the back Jansson and Cooper were playing with less generosity than Ebeneezer Scrooge on Xmas Eve as they dealt brutally with Assombalonga and his chums. Saiz was causing the usual havoc in midfield ably helped by Hernandez and Alioski whilst Phillips and Vieira were dogging out the centre midfield. The good times were creeping back to LS11.

The ref wasn't having the best of games as he booked Jansson for obstructing Braithwaite on the halfway much to the Swede's annoyance. Cooper went near with a header and Alioski had his shot blocked after more good work from Saiz as the half ended with Leeds a goal to the good. Magic.  The Urinal Philosophers were back on fine form eulogising about Saiz, Jansson, and Hernandez. " Nice to see Jansson's got his mean head back on today" thought one fan whilst another was slavering at the mouth with superlatives for Saiz " The man's a f****** magician" he gurgled starry eyed. Finally one fan nailed it "we deserved that lead let's not let them off the hook in the 2nd half"

Ayling was the first player to get the fans off their seats after just two minutes of the second period as he weaved his way through and exchanged a one two with Alioski before hitting his shot just over the bar at the kop end. After the tortuous performances in the last few weeks this was a pure joy to watch as the Leeds team reprised the effort, skill and commitment that took then to the top of the league not that long ago. On 54 minutes Elland Road exploded again. After Tavernier pulled his shot wide at the South Stand end Leeds moved the ball quickly down field...........Roofe picked the ball up and danced around three Boro defenders like a slippery Eel before laying the ball wide to Hernandez who hit a superb low cross to Alioski at the far post who steered the ball high into the net and sent 31,000 home fans into ecstasy. This was the ultimate Sunday afternoon delight. 2:0 Leeds and Boro were wilting. 3 minutes later Saiz mesmerised the Boro defence and beat the goalie with a low shot that somehow hit the inside of the post and came out. Wow!

Just after the hour Cooper should have killed the game off but he made a hash of what was a free header from another Hernandez cross. He'd even got time to bring the ball down and score. It wasn't going to matter though because Boro's attacks were just shipwrecked against the two rocks that were Jansson and Cooper in the Leeds rearguard. Then just when I was thinking Leeds would get another as Boro pushed forward looking for a way back into the game the linesman and ref conspired to help them. Ayala grabbed Ayling around the neck and threw him to the turf from a corner before trying to walk over him as he ran back to his position. Ayling grabbed his leg as he was about to what's called in Rugby rake him and somehow that was a penalty in the eyes of the ref and linesman. Pandemonium in the South Stand as the flag sticks suddenly rained down onto the pitch in protest. Unbelievable. Assombalonga converted the penalty with Leeds players still protesting to the ref. Outrageous decision. 13 minutes left 2.1 Leeds. All of a sudden bums started to squeak amongst the home fans as Boro piled forward now looking for an unlikely equaliser.

O'Kane came on for Saiz and then Pennington for Alioski as TC tried to shore up the creaking Leeds defence. Surely Boro weren't going to equalise? My fingernails screamed in protest as 7 minutes of added time started. Ayala headed a corner just over the bar as by heart sank about three rows of seats. Finally the ref blew his whistle and looked for the nearest armoured car to leave the stadium in as the home fans celebrated a welcome three points from an impassive display. Suddenly two men appeared on the pitch in strange overcoats and hugged the Leeds players as if they were their long lost friends. Apparently they were two famous Italian comedians who are friends with our Chairman. It certainly added an unusual end to a cracking game.

Saiz was peerless, Jansson back to his aggressive best and Alioski showed yet more improvement on the wing. Overall I couldn't fault anybody it was very much a "together" performance from the men in white. This was the Leeds side we saw earlier in the season playing with pride, passion and no little skill epitomising the club's "Side before self" mantra. Delicious! The smiles on the faces of the fans streaming away from the ground told it's own story. Leeds are back.

Just the small matter of Wolves away on Wednesday followed by a trip to our bogey ground Oakwell on Saturday lunchtime. In what is a bonkers championship this season don't be surprised if this is the start of another unbeaten run for Leeds.

Can't wait.


Sunday, 5 November 2017

Brentford v Leeds Utd 4th November 2017

The skies were grey and the rain was depressingly persistent as I made my way to Doncaster station for the train to London and another away day following the mighty whites. The weather matched the mood though as suddenly Brentford away looks like a gargantuan challenge after our recent run of abysmal form. What would TC do to arrest the slump? Will we ever come from behind again and win? Can we keep a clean sheet something that was a given at the start of the season. Yes there was plenty to muse over as the train  headed south ready for the tea time kick off in West London. For once my uber optimism was in short supply but my spirits were lifted by the bizarre sight of a woman on the train wearing a cat suit stroking a cat in a designer bag on her knee all the way to London! There was lot's of sniggering when I innocently mentioned she must love her pussy.

Griffin Park is famous for having a pub on each corner of the ground so we squeezed into one of them to watch the afternoon results come in and debate the team changes made by TC. Cooper, Berardi and Phillips returned after suspension. Lasogga retained his place up top despite some disappointing recent performances. The results elsewhere had gone well for us all we had to do now was get a result against Brentford and we we would be back in the top 6. Mmmmm.

The match started with smoke from premature bonfires drifting over the ground as the home side went straight for the Leeds jugular. Yennaris, Watkins and Jozefzoon all went near prompted by the impressive Ryan Woods in midfield. Leeds looked shell shocked and struggled to cope with the fluid Brentford attacks. This wasn't looking good but also had an all too familiar pattern to our recent games with missed tackles and a lack of tight marking by the men in white there for all to see. On 16 minutes Leeds escaped their own half and showed that given half a chance they could be dangerous as Alioski finished off a good move with a shot that tested the Bees goalie. A minute later Saiz snaffled up a ball in midfield and headed goal wards but his choice to slide Alioski in with a pass rather than shooting was the wrong one.

Brentford were looking the more composed and dangerous team but just when we seemed to have somehow weathered the storm disaster struck. A hopeful cross to the back post was dropped under no pressure for Lonergan and Maupay had the easiest header he'll have in his life to put the home side in front. A schoolboy error you'd expect on a Sunday morning not in the Championship. The goal inspired the home team and Leeds were under immense pressure that quite frankly they couldn't cope with. Woods was running riot in midfield and the Brentford front runners were destroying the Leeds back line. This could end up embarrassing I thought. How have we gone from top of the league to a team resembling a pack of ultra sensitive dogs cowering under the table on Bonfire night in a few short weeks is beyond me?

Lasogga had a chance to lift the gloom as he latched onto a long ball from Lonergan but his lob over the goalie had all the subtlety of an Elephant trying to enter a library unnoticed. The attempt sailed into the home fans easily clearing the bar. Things got worse for Leeds just before half time as Jansson brought down Maupay in the penalty area for a blatant penalty. Thankfully Watkins modelled his spot kick on Lasogga's effort at the other end and hit the ball over the bar much to the delight of the travelling fans. The half finished with O'Kane and Watkins having a session of handbags that earned them both a yellow card. Leeds were as poor as I've seen them in that half. TC had to do something. The solutions from the Urinal Philosophers were brutal "Lasogga is a f****** waste of space" growled one fan........."I'd substitute the lot of em" another thought whilst another aimed his anger at Cooper "He's League 1 standard at best" he thought of the Leeds captain.

TC did make changes and drastic ones at that. Waste of space Lasogga came off with Roofe going up front with Hernandez replacing O'Kane in a bold attacking move. Phillips and Vieira dropped into central midfield with Alioski, Saiz and Hernandez spread wide in front of them. This could be interesting!

The changes made an immediate difference. It was now Leeds who were on the ascendancy. Berardi got to the bye line and floated a lovely cross to the back post where Alioski just couldn't get high enough to keep his header down. This was better. Hernandez was like a slippery Eel on the wing and Roofe was running intelligently off the shoulders of the defenders and suddenly we looked like we could retrieve the game. Roofe saw a header saved by Bentley in the home goal but just to remind Leeds that they still carried a threat Watkins fired a rocket shot that hit the bar at the other end. The pressure was mounting on Brentford though. Vieira had two terrific goal bound shots blocked as the desperate away fans tried to suck the ball into the net. Then on 67 minutes the kind Footballing gods smiled on Leeds. A cross into the Brentford box was spilled by Bentley in the Brentford goals and Alioski reacted the quickest to head the ball home and send the travelling fans wild. 1.1. We could win this now.

Leeds surged forward with no thought about defending. Roofe and Saiz went close to snatching an unlikely lead as the revised personnel up front were running Brentford ragged. Leeds were back! Well they were until the 80th minute when TC made what 99.9999% of the fans behind the goal thought was an unbelievable substitution. He could have brought Dallas on for the tiring Alioski, he could have brought Pennington on to hold what we had but I can only think there must have been some mis-communication on the bench because Jay Roy Grot came onto replace Alioski and Roofe moved out to the wing??? Nobody in their right mind would make that substitution. Had Brentford somehow switched the numbers on the display board and sent Grot on themselves? Had TC been eating magic mushrooms at half time? There was no logical explanation. Alioski dejectedly sloped off and Grot came on with the dangerous Roofe now anaemic out on the wing.

The momentum not surprisingly swung back to the home side and 5 minutes later Barbet fired a free kick past Lonergan from way out.  FFS another mistake and another goal conceded. Ayling should have equalised in added time but missed an easy header. Ryan Woods finished off a hugely impressive display from him with a 3rd Brentford goal deep into added time. Game over. 3.1 Brentford.

To say the Leeds fans were seething as they made their way back up the road to the tube was a massive understatement. Such a disappointing defeat now confirms we are in deep trouble. The margins of success and failure in the Championship are wafer thin but we seem to be on the wrong side of them in each match of late. We were awful in the first half and looked disorganised. Once the substitutes were made at half time we looked the better side but all of that was undone when Grot came on. He is a million miles away from Championship quality at the moment. I still can't figure what the plan was with that move. Roofe was causing problems to their back four. Why change it?

The journey home was a long one with the train detouring through Lincolnshire to avoid the engineering works on the East Coast main line. Plenty of time to digest another reverse. Plenty of time to worry how we pull ourselves out of this abysmal run of form or lack of it. Forthcoming fixtures against Boro, Wolves and Barnsley away hardly give any comfort. These are dark days on Planet Leeds once again. Will TC still be here after the international break? Time will tell. Bring on the Boro!

Can't wait.


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