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Saturday, 21 March 2015

Blackpool 1:1 Leeds United. 21st March 2015.

After another positive week on Planet Leeds which saw the mighty whites pull off the perfect smash and grab raid as they eclipsed high spending Fulham the white army was on the march again this time heading for the seaside to sample the delights of Blackpool. The Happy Chocker, Quiet One and yours truly are slowly getting used to travelling to an away match with confidence high but after years of toil and continuing heartache on our travels we are taking it one step at a time............we wouldn't want to get carried away and think we might just have the beginning of something good at Elland Road would we?

Much of the pre match chat involved debating the stunning interview with Russell Crowe and the possibility of the Gladiator buying into the club he is so passionate about............that and the pros and cons of actually jumping in the sea if Mr Morison finally breaks his scoring drought at relegation doomed Blackpool. Blackpool was bathed in sunshine as we made our way to the stadium past the fans protest outside the main entrance. The "Oyston Out" campaign was spawned after many Blackpool fans understandably responded to a call to arms after years of their chairman bleeding the club dry and continually slagging off his own club's fans.............Mmmm sounds familiar I thought. Well at least he's judged to be fit and proper by the Football League so he must be ok?

Redfearn had kept the same starting eleven that did so well at Fulham in midweek as Leeds looked for a 6th away win out of the last 7 games away from West Yorkshire. The 1,600 away fans were crammed into one corner of the ground whilst the home stands were sparsely populated with a very few die hard Tangerines. The much criticised pitch looked shocking. It was already cutting up after the warm up and there must have been more sand on the pitch than on Blackpool's beach. The game kicked off in a strange atmosphere with 3 quarters of the ground eerily quiet and the other quarter not quite sure who to sing at!

The first ten minutes gave a strong indication of how the rest of the match would play out. It was dreadful as both teams struggled to cope with a surface that penalised any player who tried to run the ball or pass it on the floor. Luke Murphy did manage a rasping drive from 20 yards after a short run in the first minute but that just raised unrealistic expectations. At the other end Jacobs should have done better with a fast cross into the 6 yard box but chances were few and far between as both teams chose to keep the ball in the air to try and thwart the awful surface. No wonder the Blackpool fans were protesting if they have to watch this every fortnight?

Gary Madine was causing problems for Bamba and Bellusci with the continual stream of balls into the box but the Leeds defence held firm with Silvestri called into action rarely. Leeds were struggling to get a grip of the game and the surface but on 30 minutes they nearly took the lead as Murphy battled hard on the left before floating a perfect ball to the back post for Byram to volley inches wide. At least that lifted the crowd as we craved for some semblance of quality to brighten the afternoon. Charlie Taylor also went close after dancing through the home defence but couldn't beat Lewis in the Blackpool goal. The game was limping to half time when all of sudden Leeds got a rude wake up call. Cook gave away a needless free kick 20 yards out when chasing another bobbling ball. Orlandi hit a lovely curling free kick against the bar and Madine reacted first to head home the opening goal. 1.0 Blackpool. The half ended with boos ringing out from the away end. Probably the worst 45 minutes of football this season largely due to the dreadful playing surface.

Two groundsmen came out to try and replace some divots during the interval with all the enthusiasm of a Turkey writing his Xmas cards. I think we now understood why the pitch was like it was. If Leeds were going to get anything out of this game Redfearn needed to change his tactics and personnel to counter the conditions.

The 2nd half carried on just as the first with pass after pass bobbling away from it's intended recipient in between short bursts of football pinball where the ball pinged between the two teams mostly in the air. Madine missed a decent chance from a corner as the away fans got more and more frustrated with the absolute lack of quality and guile from the team in dark blue. On 55 minutes Redfearn had seen enough and made a double substitution with Morison and Antenucci replacing Sharp and Mowatt. Leeds were now playing 4-4-2 and looking a bit more likely. Antenucci thumped a screaming volley just over the bar and high into the stand from inside the box. Leeds were now playing with a smidgen of urgency and were rewarded on 60 minutes with an equaliser. Antenucci found himself unmarked in the box as yet another ball bounced between the two teams this time our top scorer calmly lobbed the ball over the advancing goalie and into the net. 1.1. The away end erupted in a mixture of surprise and celebration.

Leeds now had their dander up and surged forward looking for another goal............Cook slid a lovely ball through for Morison but his slight hesitation allowed his shot to be blocked. Redfearn threw on Doukara for Taylor as Leeds went for all three points. Antenucci tried a difficult lob from 25 yards after Lewis had punched the ball lamely to him but this time it went high over the bar. Morison was injured after a clash of heads in the Blackpool box. When the game restarted he had a Kisnorboesque bandage around his head. After the tawdry nature of the first 70 minutes the last twenty provided plenty of talking points. Morison again made a good run into the box but his shot was blocked just as the Leeds fans were reaching for their swimming suits. The referee appeared have bet his match fee on a 1.1 draw as he continually penalised Leeds. Orlandi thought he'd got the winner with a 91st minute free kick before Silvestri acrobatically turned the ball round the post as Blackpool pushed for a winner. Next it was Leeds breaking on attack from their half. Antenucci fed Beradi who hurtled down the left wing and swung a delicious cross into the box for Belusci to appear from nowhere and head past Lewis Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeees get in you beauty! The away ends celebrations were cut short when the referee found some reason to disallow the goal that was a complete mystery to the Leeds fans? Maybe he had got 1.1 on SkyBet?

The game ended 1.1. In truth a dreadful game on a dreadful pitch. How Blackpool put up with that pitch for each home game is beyond me. Why they don't get any sort of sanction for producing a playing surface that wouldn't pass muster at your average Sunday League game is also a complete mystery to me. I was disappointed we didn't snatch all three points at the end for what seemed to be one of the only flowing moves of the match. There wasn't a man of the match. Good performances from Berardi, Bellusci, Bamba and Antenucci for the goal. Morison continues to fire blanks.

Two weeks before we entertain Blackburn at Elland Road. Hopefully we can keep our late season momentum going then? At least there will a bit of grass to play on then.

Can't wait.

MOT


Saturday, 14 March 2015

Leeds United 0:0 Nottm Forest.

The prospect of two of the form teams in the championship meeting head on had enticed over 30,000 fans to Elland Road despite the chilly weather. The Happy Chocker, Quiet One, brother Chris and yours truly joined the happy throng making their way down Elland Road for a match that always has that bit of extra spice due to a certain Mr Clough and the deep scars of the miners strike. Leeds were still without Byram and Austin so Redfearn stuck with the starting eleven that won at Wigan. Cooper and Sloth returned to the bench.

Leeds started brightly with Cook and Mowatt eagerly prompting from midfield. Morison headed an early chance straight at the keeper before a combination of Mowatt and Murphy set up Charlie Taylor with a glorious chance in the 10th minute but the Forest goalie Darlow spread himself wide to block his shot. Billy Sharp was going ballistic on the penalty spot screaming for a lay back from the young full back. In Burke and Antonio Forest have two wingers who in very different ways cause problems to most teams. Antonio's supersonic pace saw him glide past Wootton a couple of times but thankfully other parts of his game are not quite of the same quality as he shot weakly at Silvestri. On the other flank Burke was testing Berardi with his trickery but the Swiss international was more than holding his own and resisting the urge to launch a two footed karate assault on his opponent. A tactic that always seems to be just a quick flash of temper away for our new left back. Pretty much the same as Mr Bellusci in the centre of the Leeds back four.

Chances were at a premium as two good sides cancelled each other out. Morison glanced a header just wide from a deep free kick for Leeds while Silvestri coped with efforts from Osborn and Lascelles with ease. Silvestri has shown he is a top shot stopper this season but he's not always the most convincing when the ball is played high into his box. It would seem that the goalkeeping coaches at Thorp Arch had been encouraging him to come out and punch the ball from crosses this week as the young Italian punched anything that moved in his area..............problem was it looked like we've suddenly employed Graham Norton as a goalkeeping coach from the evidence of some of his punches. Where's Jeremy Clarkson when you need him?

The first half ended with the scores still goalless. It was a tight and tense game but overall there were more fans pleased with the first half efforts than those in the negative. Leeds were struggling up front though with Sharp well marshalled by Wilson and Lascelles down the middle and Morison looking a bit forlorn out on the right flank.

The second half kicked off with Leeds attacking the kop but it was Forest who were now looking the most likely. Bellusci earned a yellow card for trying to wrap his legs around the midriff of an unsuspecting Forest player whilst simultaneously attempting to head the ball. Impressive! Forest were enjoying the most possession but Taylor tried to relieve their stranglehold on the hour as he drove hard from the half way before hitting a rising shot over the bar. The game was now lurching towards scrappy rather than tense as both teams struggled to create a breakthrough. Bamba and his defenders were immense at the back in repelling anything Forest could throw at them. Silvestri continued to punch at any cross into the box and most fans continued to wonder if catching the ball was allowed in Italy. In between the punches he pulled of a superb save to deny Burke low down to his left.

Redfearn looked to change the game as he brought first Antenucci on for Taylor and then Doukara on for the misfiring Morison. The fresh legs inspired a short spell of Leeds pressure but Mowatt's shot from a Sharp lay off and Antenucci's drive were both easily dealt with by Darlow in the Forest goal. There was still time for late drama at the other end though as Bamba was harshly adjudged to have fouled on the edge of the Leeds box giving Forest a dangerous free kick with just seconds remaining. Henri Lansbury stepped up to take it as my heart took refuge in my mouth but thankfully the Red's free kick expert drifted his shot over the bar and into the grateful south stand. The ref blew his whistle to end an intriguing 0:0 draw.

Bamba was my man of the match with another towering performance at the back. Despite his less than convincing punches Silvestri performed admirably. Cook, Mowatt and Murphy more than held their own in midfield but too often the final ball was rushed and ended promising moves with frustration rather than finesse. The Morison debate will continue to rage as long he remains goalless and with Antenucci adding some pace and craft when he came on I wouldn't be surprised to see him start on Wednesday at Fulham.

In the end a point was a fair result and one a lot of fans would have accepted before the start of the game against a more than decent Forest side who have had a remarkable turn around in fortunes since Stuart Pearce left. Leeds are now basking in mid table safety and take their good form to Craven Cottage on Wednesday looking for another away three points. Hopefully we can show a certain Ross Mac that Leeds are now the team he fell in love with?

Can't wait.

MOT

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