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Monday, 21 April 2014

Forest humble toothless Leeds.

Elland Road was grey and wet as the Happy Chocker, Quiet One and yours truly parked the car and made our way down the well trodden route to the Theatre of Hope for the televised clash with Forest. After back to back wins, albeit against two poor teams, and two clean sheets there was a spark of optimism in the air as we debated our chances against a Forest team still with an outside chance of making the play offs. The optimism did take a bit of dip when we saw the team sheet though. Hunt in for Smith????? "Smith must have have broken his leg" I surmised but then I saw he was on the bench. Bizarre! Austin was also in the starting eleven in place of Zaliukas who was injured so BM had reverted to a back four and a diamond midfield. "Well he must know what he's doing" I commented to HC with my tongue nearly protruding through my cheek.

Only 20,000 fans had turned out for tea time kick off as the game kicked off in steady drizzle. Within a minute the Leeds defence opened up wider than Moses parted the Red Sea as Derbyshire waltzed through the gaping hole to calmly slot home the easiest of opening goals. 1.0 Forest before most fans had settled in their seats. This didn't bode well. Minutes later a Osborn header tested Butland with a decent header as Forest once again carved through the disorganised home team with ease. This was going to be a painful 90 minutes. Tonge gave the home fans a flicker of hope as he latched onto a good pass from Austin but his shot screwed horribly wide but on 16 minutes a catalogue of errors saw Derbyshire round Butland to snatch his 2nd goal of the evening. 2.0 Forest and for the umpteenth time this season Leeds' lack of quality and organisation in the team had been cruelly exposed. Brian McD's "lucky" track suit wasn't going to work this time.

Forest now sat back and conceded possession almost challenging Leeds to break them down a task that looked highly unlikely despite the vast majority of the ball the home team had. Problem was Michael Brown became by default the playmaker in the middle of the diamond as no other player seemed capable or willing to beat an opponent with the ball. Leeds only really tested Forest's back up goalie, De Vries, with a Ross Mac free kick that missed by inches on 40 minutes. Hunt ran about a lot again whilst Wootton playing at wing back looked like a fish out of water. My Granny could have played better than him and she's been buried in Cottingley cemetery for over 20 years! Half time 2.0 to Forest.

As you would expect after a half of excruciating frustration the Urinal philosophers were on top form. "Why the f*** has he changed the formation again" one steaming fan shouted. "Why, why, why does he persevere with Hunt" another incredulous fan moaned. "we're f****** shite simple as. The sooner the summer comes the better" a weary fan bemoaned. Not for the first time this season I didn't hear a smidgen of positivity whilst emptying the remnants of the pre match refreshments.

Brian McD changed the formation again at half time leaving three at the back and pushing Warnock and Austin on as wing backs. At least this did put a bit of pressure on the Forest back four but they coped easily with the predictable balls into the box as Leeds still failed to try and go past a man in red. Hunt did win a free kick on the edge of the box though and the resulting free kick brought a great save from De Vries in the Forest goal. Somehow he injured himself in making the save. Smith replaced Hunt on the hour. He made an immediate impact on the Forest centre backs as he was dragged to the ground on the edge of the box going for another high ball into the box. Incredibly the referee didn't see anything wrong in a Forest hand grabbing his shirt as he was airborne and sending him clattering to the ground.

Forest were content to let Leeds have the ball as the game entered the last twenty minutes knowing, as we did, that they weren't going to create anything other than balls into the box. The match careered to an inevitable conclusion with Mowatt and Pugh replacing Tonge and Warnock. Fans were streaming out of Elland Road long before the finish though. There was no way we were going to pull back the two goal deficit although Smith did force a superb save from the substitute Forest keeper in added time. The game finished 2.0 to Forest putting them right back in the play off picture.

This game just confirmed what most fans have known all season. The squad is sadly lacking in quality, creativity and guile. We are just lucky there are far worse teams in the championship than us. Brian McD's reaction after the match highlighted the need to bring in some pace and quality to the squad. But hasn't he already tried to do that with Kebe and Stewart? That hasn't worked and looking at the other signings he's made Wootton, Murphy, Zaliukas and Hunt it's hardly surprising that there are very few fans who think he should be given Cellino's transfer war chest in the summer. This was our 21st defeat of a very disappointing season which has included some of the worst performances I've seen from a Leeds team..........and I went to places such as Histon, Hereford and witnessed total capitulation at home against Forest, Preston, Blackpool, Watford et al. The time is up for Brian I'm afraid. New blood is needed as soon as the Derby game is finished in my humble opinion.

Just two games to go now starting with Birmingham who are in free fall. I wonder what team will turn up at St Andrews? Which ever it is we should beat a team who haven't won at home since October shouldn't we?

Can't wait.


Saturday, 19 April 2014

McCormack's classy finish buries the Barnsley Hoodoo.

In recent years Leeds United have acquired more than their fair share of bogey teams such as Derby County, Millwall and of course Barnsley our noisy neighbours from South Yorkshire. No matter how poor Barnsley's form is or how low they are in the table a visit from the mighty whites to Oakwell is seen as a guaranteed three points by the followers of the Reds. It's like a hated Uncle visiting distant cousins and giving them a wedge of money to buy the week's shopping as payment for some mysterious family misdemeanour's way back in the mists of time. As a consequence the distant cousins always looked forward to the visit much more than Xmas even though they detested the said Uncle.

Today was the day Uncle Leeds paid their annual visit to Cousin Barnsley and as usual the Happy Chocker was dreading it. After all he has to put up with lot's of his Barnsley cousins day in day out at work. As usual Barnsley were in the middle of a desperate struggle against relegation but a battling win against fellow strugglers, Charlton, had given them extra confidence in front of the Easter showdown with Leeds. Would Barnsley resurrect their championship survival hopes or would Leeds bury the Barnsley hoodoo once and for all? We were about to find out.

After pre match drinks behind enemy lines in the Barnsley Snooker club HC, the Quiet One and yours truly joined the 4,000 nervous but noisy Leeds fans in the away end. Memories of the 11 goals we've shipped on the last 3 visits to Oakwell weighed heavy on my mind as we digested Brian McD's latest team sheet. Rudy Austin replaced Stewart on the bench in an otherwise unchanged team. The game started in bright sunshine with the hosts knowing that with games against Boro, QPR and Derby to come this was their best chance of 3 points to haul them away from the relegation trapdoor.

Leeds started brightly but it was Barnsley who had the first strike on goal when Jennings mistook the back row of the Barnsley kop for the goal as he sent the ball high wide and handsome. The first of many chants of "that's why you're going darn" rang out from the taunting Leeds fans. In previous visits to Oakwell Leeds have succumbed to a much more creative home midfield. Last year the blond haired Perkins was Leeds tormentor but this year the lack of quality in the red's engine room was thankfully there for everyone to see. Leeds first chance came when the hard working Smith planted a header towards the top corner but the alert Steele in the Barnsley goal was equal to it. Minutes later Murphy so nearly added to his two goals from last week when Ross Mac picked him out 10 yards out but his fierce header hit a defender with Steele struggling.

A combination of some early Leeds pressure and a hesitant Barnsley side started to give me a glimmer of hope that this just might be the day we actually do well at Oakwell. On 16 minutes the feeling got much, much better. A dangerous ball into the Barnsley box saw Smith out jump his marker and flick the ball in the general direction of Ross Mac who's first touch completely bamboozled the Reds defender freeing him to blast home his 29th goal of a very productive season. The away support roared as if we'd just scored the winning goal in a cup final. Some people would argue we just had. 1.0 Leeds.

 Barnsley responded to the goal with a lot of bluster but very little skill. This was turning into a game that was right up Michael Brown's street as the wild tackles started to fly in from both sides. Etuhu was booked for the home side closely followed by Brown as the match struggled to get out of second gear with the referee's whistle working overtime. Barnsley had another couple of shots blazed into the kop as the match reached half time with the sides still separated by the sublime McCormack strike. News that Millwall were winning 2.0 at Boro didn't lighten the mood amongst the home fans.

The 2nd half started with the home fans trying to rouse their team by singing the theme from the Great Escape which to me seemed a bit bizarre given that the Great Escape was a heroic failure and not actually an escape? Still if it keeps them happy? The home team responded to the encouragement though as Leeds seemed content to sit back and let Barnsley come onto them. Not a tactic that did my heart any good or the lady who was stood next to me who was urging Leeds to "close them bloody down" and "gerrout" every time Barnsley attacked. Brian McD changed things on the hour as Hunt replaced Zaliukas as Leeds went to a flat back four. This stemmed the Barnsley flow as Leeds regained some control of the game. Smith stole in at the back post but his downward header was saved by Steele. Minutes later Ross Mac sent a searing volley over the bar to check the potential Barnsley comeback. Butland was hardly troubled in the Leeds goal other than making a couple of decent punches from dangerous crosses.

Brian McD stood impassive in the technical area as Leeds loosened the relegation trapdoor for Barnsley. "Wear your track suit every week" chanted the knowledgeable Leeds fans as they sussed the real reason for Leeds sudden up turn in fortunes. The expected late charge from Barnsley never materialised as Leeds toyed with their South Yorkshire cousins. "It's just like watching Brazil" mocked the away fans as the disgruntled home fans headed for the exits knowing full well that League One football was almost certain after this defeat. Full time 1.0 Leeds and the Barnsley hoodoo well and truly buried.

This was a hard earned battling victory against a team short on quality and confidence but the 2nd win on the bounce together with a 2nd clean sheet sent the majority of Leeds fans home happy. Warnock was my man of the match with good performances from Murphy and Pearce. Ross Mac once again showed he has the class to play at a higher level as he heads for 30 goals in a season. The Happy Chocker couldn't stop texting and tweeting on the way home just to remind his many Barnsley supporting colleagues what the score was. Delicious! It might have been a game very short on quality but a win is a win and given the location this one was as sweet as it gets.

Forest head to Elland Road on Monday for another Televised clash. Can we keep another clean sheet or will it be another goal fest against the tricky Trees?

Can't wait.


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