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Saturday, 20 January 2018

Leeds Utd v Millwall. 20th Jan 2018.

It's fair to say that there's been a bit of January turbulence on Planet Leeds this week.  This is not unusual as the low pressure front of Leeds United's transfer spending meets a high pressure front of fan's over expectation that has been building through December and creates storms over low lying parts of Twitterscape and in exposed areas of Facebook. Laurens De Bock and Adam Forshaw made it through the inclement weather to bolster the Leeds squad with Cameron Borthwick-Jackson being blown back across the Pennines to Old Trafford which also increased the squad's ability. There are a number of strikers in the cloud of possibility hanging to the North of Elland Road but none have landed in West Yorkshire despite massive pressure from Leeds's extended scouting network on social media.  Watch this space.

Our friends from South Bermondsey are today's visitors to Elland Road and they are sure of a warm reception by the locals.  News that Forshaw is injured for the game is a bit odd given that apparently one of the reasons he was brought in was to cover for injuries and suspensions after O'Kane's moment of madness at Ipswich? On the flip side Vieira was fit again.  To say the Leeds midfield has been poorer during his absence is like stating the bleeding obvious at a World conference for stating the bleeding obvious alumni. Another near capacity crowd was heading for The Theatre of Hope as I pondered what had become another "must win game" for the mighty whites.  Would De Bock start? Can we keep 11 players on the pitch?  Would Morison prosper against Jansson on his return to Elland Road?  We were about to find out!

TC had to shuffle his pack due to injuries and suspensions.  In came De Bock at left back and Vieira in for O'Kane. Lasogga started up front with Roofe in the ten role and Hernandez and Alioski out wide.  A nice attacking selection against a team who have yet to taste the sweet taste of victory away from South London this season.  The game kicked off and immediately exploded into life as first O'Brien tested Wiedwald in the first minute after good work by ex Leeds man Morison then Lasogga got on the end of a cross from Alioski but headed wide with barely a minute gone!  Both teams clearly had no intention of playing defensively as chances came and went at both ends. Millwall had a goal chalked off for an offence in the box before Lasogga wasted a glorious headed chance when he was unmarked just 8 yards out.  Then Phillips released the much maligned striker again in the box but the Millwall keeper thwarted him with a good save. At the other end Wallace, Morison and Gregory were all enjoying time and space against the less than frugal Leeds back four.  Gregory should have scored when he got beyond Cooper but pulled his shot wide.  Phew!  "You're f****** shit" belted out the Kop to the grieving striker.  "You only sing that when you're 3.0 up not 0.0" I shouted to anybody that would listen. 3 minutes later I was sadly proved correct.

Leeds again stood off their Millwall counterparts allowing Morison to ping a cross to the far post for O'Brien to head home unchallenged at the far post.  A good goal but schoolboy defending from Leeds.  We were falling into the same trap as we did at Millwall and losing all the 2nd balls and winning no headers in our half of the field.  This didn't look good.  1.0 Millwall.  Leeds were wobbling and couldn't find an answer to any ball launched into their box where Millwall were winning everything with a simple tactic of keeping the ball away from Jansson and also keeping Jansson away from the ball.  Leeds were looking very vulnerable and were in desperate need of some inspiration.  What they got was another wild error of judgement by Liam Cooper as he lunged after a ball he'd mis-controlled and got a straight red for an over the top challenge on Saville.  3rd Red card on the trot for Leeds FFS.

So after the two benches had a heated debate over the sending off the Millwall fans celebrated and the  32,000 Leeds fans once again were left in utter despair and frustration at the plight of their team.  Of course in true Leeds style it soon got worse as Jansson conceded a so called free kick and got a yellow for his protestations in the meantime Millwall took a quick free kick and while the Leeds defence were still feeling sorry for themselves Morison clipped a ball into the path of Gregory to double the Lion's lead and kill the game with just 42 minutes gone.  Surely Leeds couldn't back from this with eleven men never mind ten? Half time came just in time to avoid Leeds conceding again.  Boo's rang around the Theatre of Frustration as the teams headed off for their cup of tea.  Shocking.

As you can imagine the Urinal Philosophers were in unforgiving but humorous mood......"I'm going to need to drink a lot more if I continue to watch this shite just to numb the pain" said one disgruntled fan whilst another was livid because "No passion, no f****** fight and no idea......just like at Millwall"  " If Lasogga had only put those two chances away early on....." bemoaned one hopeful fan.  Yes at this moment of time the Urinal Philosophers had decided our season was finished such is the raw emotion of following a football team like Leeds.  TC now needed to change something and fast.  The team needed also to get a grip and play as if they wanted to win despite being a man short.  Thankfully we were about to witness an unbelievably emotional 45 minutes of football!

Pennington was on for Vieira.  Leeds erupted like a team possessed to rock Millwall to the core.  A minute into the half and a mistake by Millwall gave Roofe a chance with the ball in the inside left position.  He drove into the box and laid back a perfect ball for Lasogga who made no mistake as he thumped it into the back of the net.  2.1 Millwall and Elland Road was bouncing.  Millwall were visibly wilting as the ten men of Leeds changed their approach.  Gone was the hesitancy and lack of passion of the first half replaced by raw determination and commitment something the crowd sucked up with joy.  Leeds were now counter attacking with speed and intensity.  On 51 minutes Wiedwald somehow clawed away a header from Gregory and Leeds immediately sprung an attack.  De Bock overlapped and fired in a cross that Archer dropped in the Millwall goal......three Leeds players pounced like hungry Hyenas on the loose ball in the Millwall box with Roofe finally getting the ball over the line.................2.2 and the decibel level went off the scale as the home fans celebrated a remarkable and courageous comeback.  Unbelievable.

The Lions were licking their wounds but Leeds now smelt blood and went in for the kill. Hernandez saw his shot squeak wide as Leeds applied the pressure making light of the one man disadvantage.  On 62 minutes the impossible happened.  Leeds flooded forward again.........Hernandez teased the Millwall defenders before finding Lasogga in the box.  The big German turned and fired a sweet shot into the bottom corner to give Leeds the lead at 3.2.  Absolutely incredible and Elland Road was a sea of bodies apart from the 1,200 away friends.  This is why I love football.  One minute you are in the depths of despair and then you're on cloud nine.  Just the 28 minutes left for Leeds to hang on though.

Another ex Leeds man, Tom Elliot, came on for Millwall as the Lions tried to get back in the game.  15 minutes left and suddenly Pennington is flying out of defence and hurtling down the right wing on attack.  Very entertaining but FFS we're one nil up with ten men!  Sure enough the ball was lost and swiftly moved down field by Millwall through the space he'd left and Leeds conceded a corner.  Leeds now started to sit deep and invite Millwall onto them as tired legs took their toll.  Shaughnessy came on for Lasogga so with Roofe already departed for Dallas Leeds now didn't have a striker.  Mmm this could be interesting.

With just three minutes left on the clock Leeds conceded yet another corner.  Jake Cooper won the header and Tom Elliot finished in style to break the hearts of fans and players alike.  3.3 and still 4 minutes added time to go.  2 minutes into added time saw Dallas lose the ball on the half way and Morison sprint into the open space in front of the Leeds box before releasing Wallace who's deflected shot flew agonisingly into the Leeds net and give the Lions the lead.  4.3 Millwall and utter dejection in the Leeds stands.  How was that possible?  Why couldn't we just hold onto possession?  I was still in post goal shock as the final twist of a remarkable game played out.  Leeds attacked again and with possibly the best move of the game sliced Millwall in two for Shaughnessy to get on the end of Phillips cross but somehow Archer made the save in the Millwall goal.  Unbelievable.  The game finished 4.3.  In the end an absolutely thrilling game that saw the full rollercoaster of emotions over the 90 minutes.

Leeds paid for a very poor first half and poor defending against a hard working and resolute Millwall side.  De Bock had a good debut and Lasogga showed why TC brought him back into the starting line up.  Ultimately Leeds paid a heavy price for Cooper's red card and some naive defending which spoilt a courageous 2nd half comeback.  Football is a 90 minute game though. Conceding 4 at home to a team that hadn't won away all season is not the hallmark of a top six team in this ultra competitive league I'm afraid.

Hull City up next which for me working in East Yorkshire has added spice.  Please don't let me down?

Can't wait.

MOT.


Saturday, 13 January 2018

Ipswich Town v Leeds Utd. 13th Jan 2018.

A week after the woeful performance at lowly Newport County and over 3,500 Leeds fans are heading to Portman Road, a place where Leeds have won only once in their last ten visits.  Add the sobering news that Saiz is suspended, Ayling is out for the season and the new left back De Bock has not travelled with the team and you begin to get an inkling to the DNA of your average Leeds fan.  It's a potent mixture of bloody mindedness, blind loyalty, unswerving passion and that addictive belief that no matter how bad we played last week this week would somehow be different especially with the assistance of a few pre match refreshments.  We might have given a very good impression of a team falling apart this week but the Leeds away family was once again on the road and once again hoping for a decent performance.

The journey to Ipswich was a bit more eventful than usual as Virgin Trains kindly cancelled my train from Doncaster to Peterborough and then the following train refused to let me on with a Virgin ticket unless I paid full fare.  After a short and unsuccessful discussion with the train guard I thanked him for his understanding and returned to the car park to continue the journey by road.  Thankfully I arrived in Ipswich in time for kick off and to dissect TC's latest team selection.  Anita was at left back with Berardi moving to the right.  Phillips and O'Kane were in midfield with Roofe up front.  Cibicki, Hernandez and Alioski completed the line up with Wiedwald returning in goal.

The game got underway with the vociferous away support belting out the Leeds United songbook into the murky Suffolk sky.  Leeds started very much on the front foot with Hernandez, Alioski and Cibicki all seeing half chances saved or blocked in the first 20 minutes.  There was real purpose in the Leeds play in sharp contrast to last week's performance in South Wales.  Jansson and Cooper were solid at the back and Leeds midfield were causing the home side problems with their attacking intent. All was going well for Leeds but then on 30 minutes came the first blow of the afternoon.  Cibicki went off with a hamstring problem to be replaced by Sacko.  Mmmm this could be kill or cure for Sacko I mused.

Leeds were soon back on the attack and Hernandez slid a perfect ball through to Roofe but the Leeds striker couldn't convert the golden chance as the Ipswich captain blocked his shot after Roofe tried to turn inside rather than hitting the shot first time.  Leeds would regret that miss just minutes later.  O'Kane chased a ball to the bye line and clashed with Knudson off the pitch.  The ref had no hesitation in giving the Leeds midfielder a straight red.  Bollox! Down to ten men and just 37 minutes gone.  This was now going to be a big ask of the Leeds team. Ipswich now grasped their opportunity and with McGoldrick pulling the strings the Tractor Boys started to put pressure on Wiedwald's goal as the game neared half time.  Celina rattled the Leeds post before Ipswich hit it again direct from a corner as Leeds tried to compose themselves.  Half Time 0:0.

The Urinal Philosophers had the referee in their sights during the HT gents debate.  "Why do we always get shit refs?" enquired one fan mirroring comments by many fans across the country during the half time break. "We should have scored before he got sent off" moaned another disgruntled fan whilst someone else thought "We need to nail McGoldrick or he'll run the show in the 2nd half" TC clearly had to reorganise the team for the 2nd half and he did just that. Shaughnessy came on for Alioski as Leeds strung two banks of four in front of Ipswich leaving Roofe to plough a lone farrow up front.

The new formation seemed to steady the Leeds ship and shortly after the restart Phillips fired in a dangerous shot that the keeper just held onto.  At the other end Connolly found space and fired in a testing shot that Wiedwald flapped out to Garner who should have scored but thankfully pulled his shot wide.  Sacko was seeing plenty of the ball on the right flank and got a couple of shots away but he never quite seems to co-ordinate his legs, arms and brain in the right order so he might bamboozle the defender but then choose the wrong sequence for his next pass or shot.  It's such a shame because he has all the right tools but struggles to use them effectively.

As the clock ticked towards 70 minutes Leeds were still in the game albeit with a number of tired legs and bruised bodies.  Then just when I was contemplating the thought of a backs to the wall performance yielding dividends for Leeds disaster struck. Phillips lost his man, Celina, in midfield and the Ipswich man took full advantage as he drove forward and hit a superb 25 yarder beyond Wiedwald and into the net.  1.0 Ipswich. Garner nearly added a second minutes later but suddenly Leeds got a second wind and attacked the home side with new found energy dredged from the bottom of their bloodymindedness bottle.  Sacko got his co-ordination in perfect sync for once as he thundered forward onto a lovely pass and fired a superb ball into the box where Roofe connected but was foiled by a brilliant block by an Ipswich defender.  The away support lifted the decibel levels as Leeds looked for an unlikely equaliser.

Lasogga came on for Anita as Leeds went to 3 at the back. Leeds pushed forward in style.  Hernandez  fired a pin point ball to Roofe in the box............he clipped the ball to the far post where Cooper stuck out his foot only to see the ball go inches over the top.  This was better.  Next Hernandez cut inside and hit a stinging shot inches over the bar.  Leeds were giving it a good go if nothing else.  4 minutes added time and Ipswich were hanging on. Jansson strode forward from the back......he fed the ball through to Lasogga who turned and thumped a shot goal wards but the Ipswich goal palmed it away to safety and the game was over.  1.0 Ipswich.

In the end it was a battling performance from Leeds.  Chances were missed but the loss of O'Kane to a stupid red card was the turning point.  A game that was there for the taking turned into a fight for survival that ultimately failed.  The defence looked strong today and even Anita looked the part.  The injuries and suspensions do expose the thinness of the squad though.  If we are to continue to flirt with a top six place that needs addressing in this transfer window.  Fantastic support from the Leeds fans again.  It would be nice to see us do better than last year's 7th position though.  At this moment in time we will need to pick up some form running into the daunting run of games in February if that's going to happen though.  It's never dull on Planet Leeds is it?  Bring on Millwall next week!

Can't wait.

MOT.

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