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Saturday, 22 April 2017

Burton Albion v Leeds United. 22nd April 2017

Even though the hugely disappointing defeat to Wolves was just a week ago my optimism bank had been healthily replenished ready for the intriguing trip to Burton Albion. 3 games to go and if we win all three we're in the play offs, Fulham are at Huddersfield today and the Wendies on the last day. In between they have a tough local derby at Brentford. A win at Burton will act as a springboard for the final promotion push..............all seemed very positive on my Planet Leeds as the train trundled along heading for the Brewing capital of the East Midlands. Still I was in need of another can of Dutch courage just to cement my positive mood. Don't you just love being a Leeds fan?

Burton's ground was neat and tidy but very small. It certainly seemed a bit bizarre that in such a tiny arena Leeds were bidding to strengthen their bid to get promoted back to the glitz and glory of the Premier League. Garry Monk made three changes to his team as he tried to arrest the alarming drop in form that has seen Leeds stumble out of the play off positions albeit on goal difference. Without over doing the football cliche this was definitely a must win game. In came Vieira, Doukara and Taylor. Bridcutt was injured. With the ground bathed in sunshine we were under way.

Leeds started brightly with lots of possession and looking to attack the Brewers early. Hernandez got a shot away but it rose frustratingly into the stand behind the goal. Leeds had their fair share of corners and looked dangerous from them. News filtered through that Huddersfield had taken the lead against Fulham as Leeds kept up the pressure on the Brewers defence. Now if we could just get an early goal to settle the nerves? Then as if by magic we did. Jansson won a header from another corner, Bartley flicked it back into the path of Chris Wood who finished in style. I'd forgotten  how manic terracing can be when a goal is scored as the 1,600 travelling fans celebrated a vital goal for the whites..............but wait a minute the ref's blown for a foul and disallowed the goal. Bollox! We were too far away to see exactly what had gone on but like all football fans on the planet we knew the ref had made a big mistake. Worse still Fulham were now in front at Huddersfield.

The disallowed goal took the wind out of Leeds' sails as the home team enjoyed some pressure on the whites goal without really testing Rob Green. Worryingly it was the home team though who now getting the upper edge as they scrapped for vital points to avoid relegation. This wasn't going to the script as the away fans became more, more and more nervous. Fulham were now cruising at Huddersfield. On the half hour Ayling so nearly redirected a header from a corner into the net but it just went the wrong side of the side netting. Leeds were stuttering instead of purring. Bartley's distribution had suddenly left him and Wood was looking isolated up front, not for the first time this season. The game stumbled to half time then right on half time Leeds fans hopes were raised by the final attack of the half but Phillips half volley from the edge of the box sizzled over the bar. HT 0.0.

The urinal philosophers were despondent. With results elsewhere not exactly going our way we desperately needed to get into this game and quickly. "We're gonna fuck it up I just know it" one fan moaned whilst another was muttering "This is so Leeds United and against Burton fucking Albion" It was difficult not to sympathise with their views. After all the hard work and improvements this season we suddenly had just 45 minutes to rescue our play off hopes and to do so we needed to move up a couple of gears. At least they were firing towards the away fans this half.

Leeds did up the tempo at the start of the half as they went in search of that all important first goal. It was all still a bit nervy though. On the hour Sacko replaced the misfiring Doukara. Could his pace worry the Brewers? Within a minute Leeds should have gone ahead as a sweeping move down the left saw Charlie Taylor swing a lovely ball into the box where Hernandez's headed for goal but saw his effort go agonisingly wide. "He should have buried that" I screamed with optimism quickly draining from my body. Wood then got on the end of a Sacko cross. Get innnnnnnnnn! I screamed as his header from 8 yards nestled straight into the goalie's hands and the linesman's flag was up! A goal was coming though surely? Another corner to Leeds. Another perfect cross from Hernandez and all of a sudden Jansson had lost his man and was thundering towards the ball. He glanced his header goalwards with the goalie stationery.............but the ball missed the top corner by inches. That sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach just sank another inch. Worse was to come though.

A minute after Jansson's miss disaster arrived in the shape of Marvin Sordell. Leeds gave the ball away cheaply in midfield, Burton shifted the ball to Sordell on the edge of the box who turned with ease and hit a superb shot into the bottom corner of Green's net. Leeds play off dream seemed light years away as the home fans celebrated. 2 minutes later more slack defending allowed Kightly to double the lead and surely effectively end Leeds season there and then. The pit of my stomach was now in turmoil. 15 minutes to get at least two goals looked a nigh on impossible task for Leeds.

Leeds have never given up this season and to their credit they didn't now. More pressure on the Burton goal saw Bartley pull one back from a Wood headed assist which set up a frenetic last 10 minutes. Roofe then so nearly bundled a scrambled cross into the net after good build up play but somehow Burton got the ball away. Both Fulham and Wednesday were winning and realistically our play off chances now relied on rescuing a point in the 5 minutes added time. Despite a last assault on the jittery Burton defence Leeds couldn't equalise. FT 2.1 Burton. I stood lent on the crash barrier behind the goal absolutely gutted. We've punched above our weight this season but to blow an 8 point advantage over Fulham in this way is hard to take. Mathmatically we could still make it if Fulham, Wednesday or even Huddersfield have a disastrous final few games but we would still need to beat Norwich then Wigan and on this form that is unlikely.

The walk back to the station in the sunshine gave us time to reflect. Our usually rock solid defence looked vulnerable today. Although we didn't have the rub of the green with some decisions and bounce of the ball today I was never really convinced they could pull it off......and this against a team fighting against relegation. Finishing 15th was never as stressful as this was it? The long train journey home restored some hope...........now if Wednesday lose at Ipswich and Fulham at Brentford..........Nah it's not going happen I'm afraid. Let's be happy with our season ticket refund and build for next year.

A full house for the visit of Norwich up next. Let's at least finish in style.

Can't wait.

MOT

Monday, 17 April 2017

Leeds United v Wolverhampton Wanderers. 17th April 2017.

So after dramatically rising from the dead to snatch a point at Newcastle on Good Friday could Garry Monk's disciples cement their play off place with a victory over Wolves at Fortress Elland Road? Another huge crowd had assembled at the old stadium with anticipation, trepidation and expectation dripping from every Leeds fan as they made their way to their seats. How does Jansson avoid another yellow that would trigger a 3 match ban in the last 4 games? Will Wood need more than one shot to score a goal? Will Vieira give the ball away? All questions that were eagerly debated as we had some pre match refreshments. With all the teams around us picking up points over the weekend this truly was a "must win" game if the Leeds United juggernaut was to keep up it's destructive route to the Play offs.

The team news was almost non existent when it came with the starting 11 unchanged from Friday's heroics but Vieira missing from the bench due to illness. The game kicked off in bright but cold sunshine with Leeds attacking the kop for the first 45 minutes. Wolves, who are meandering to a mid table finish, dominated the opening exchanges as Leeds lacked any sort of cohesion in their play. Passes went astray and basic mistakes littered the first twenty minutes with Rob Green needing to be on his toes on more than one occasion especially when Berardi slipped and let Weimann in but the Leeds keeper swatted away his one on one chance. This wasn't in the script for the afternoon.

Eventually Leeds did put some pressure on the Wolves back four resulting in a corner. Hernandez clipped a perfect ball into the box where Bartley lost his man and received a blatant push in the back which grounded the big Leeds man. PENALTY 32,000 fans shouted but the ref bottled it and waved play on. Bartley's continued protests were waved away by the pretentious Ref. As if to rub salt into the Leeds wound worse was about to follow. Jansson strode out of defence with some purpose. He looked up and saw no options so he continued on his barnstorming dribble deep into the Wolves half before losing the ball on the edge of the visitors box. Wolves countered with the speed of a fleeing Gazelle as they sensed the disarray in the Leeds back four. Dicko made the perfect run through the gap where Pontus should have been and rolled the ball past Green. 1.0 Wolves. No more than Wolves deserved to be fair.

Leeds did respond quickly with Bridcutt releasing Wood in the box but his shot from a tight angle was deflected for a corner that somehow turned into a goal kick in the ref's eyes. Unbelievable!  The half time whistle blew after one of the most disappointing 45 minutes at Elland Road all season. Too many stray passes, too many mistakes and too little creativity from Leeds. Were the play off nerves getting to Garry Monk's men? A poor first half performance was one thing but the results from elsewhere were another. With Wednesday and Fulham both winning we had dropped out of the top six for the first time since November something the urinal philosophers were quick to jump on. "That's it we've fucked up the play offs now" announced one pessimist "We're playing too deep" offered another fan "Do we still get our money back if we don't make the play offs" one mercenary fan wanted to know!

What ever Leeds were trying to do it wasn't working. The midfield just weren't gelling and the tempo was far too slow to break down the resolute Wolves defence. Changes were needed if we were going to get anything out of this game. Leeds did look brighter as the second half got under way. Ayling finished a period of Leeds pressure with a thumping left footed drive into the South stand followed by both Jansson and Bartley going near with headers at corners. This was better but still not enough to rattle the Wolves rearguard. Sacko replaced Bridcutt as Monk tried get more urgency into the Leeds attack. Bridcutt and Phillips were spending more time in the Leeds back four than in midfield. Taylor then replaced Berardi to give a more attacking threat down the left. Leeds were still stuttering though rather than purring as the crowd became more and more agitated. Wolves retreated into their den and invited Leeds onto them. Doukara replaced Pedraza with just 18 crucial minutes to go. Could Leeds now get the vital equaliser?

Another penalty shout for handball was turned down as the clock ticked away. Doukara and Roofe went near but Leeds didn't really put any pressure on the visitors as a frustrating game petered out to a desperately disappointing defeat. Full Time 1.0 Wolves. Worse still we were now in 7th spot in the league albeit on goal difference. Squeaky bum time just got squeakier. This was a poor Leeds performance especially from the midfield combination. Passes weren't crisp enough and I can't remember a single one two that came off all afternoon. Taylor made a difference when he came on but I suspect there will be some tinkering with the team selection for the Burton game. Bridcutt and Phillips played too deep and again there was little support for Wood up top.

3 massive games left. Two wins should see us into the play offs but thank god Wednesday and Fulham play each other on the last day. The Juggernaut stalled badly today. It must find all the right gears at mighty Burton Albion or else our season might just be gone for the proverbial..............Time for cool heads and nerves of steel from Garry Monk's band of brothers. Tighten your seat belts this turbulence could hurt us. Something tells me I will have lost all signs of any fingernails long before we go to Wigan...........

Can't wait.

MOT.

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