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Saturday, 25 April 2015

Sheff Wed 1:2 Leeds United. 25th April 2015

Hillsborough was the destination for our last away game of another hugely frustrating season. Dark clouds hung over South Yorkshire as the Happy Chocker, Quiet One and yours truly headed down the M1 for the lunchtime kick off. There were no last minute withdrawals from the squad this week although none of the "sick note 6" were available for the clash with Sheff Wed but I don't think any of the 4,000 away fans heading for the Leppings Lane end could give a flying f***.  They only want to see players who want to play for Leeds. The one's that don't know where the door is.

The minutes silence before the game for the 56 Bradford City fans who lost their lives in the Valley Parade fire 30 years ago took on a more poignant meaning as I stood in the very stand where 96 Liverpool fans also perished in tragic circumstances. Such sad memories of so many lives wasted unnecessarily.

Redfearn had switched back to the 4-5-1 formation with Billy Sharp making way for Barardi. The atmosphere inside the stadium was nicely warming up as our latest Yorkshire derby got under way. Leeds went oh so near in the first minute as Byram hassled the hesitant defence and slipped a sublime ball through to Mowatt as he strode into the box but Westwood spread himself to deny the young midfielder the opening goal and me £90 in winnings for the first goal scorer. Bastard! Leeds took inspiration from the early chance and took the game to the Owls. Murphy tried a shot which Westwood easily held whilst Lavery jinked into the Leeds box before curling his shot high into the Leeds fans behind Stuart Taylor's goal.

The frenetic start was littered with free kicks as you expect in a derby and Helan got the first yellow for the home side as he scythed down Byram 20 yards out. Right in Mowatt territory. Mowatt stepped up and struck his shot just the wrong side of Westwood's post as once again I sniffed the possibility of a successful bet.  Leeds continued to have the better of a scrappy game as the away fans sang Neil Redfearn's name. Then just when everything was going well for Leeds we once again fell to the curse of the penalty. Byram tussled with Isgove in what seemed to be a good yard outside the area but the referee calmly pointed to the spot to outrage of the travelling fans. The fans outrage was nothing compared to Sol Bamba who went absolutely ballistic and had to be restrained by both sets of players. "he'll get a red for this" I wrongly commented to HC. Mcguire stepped up and dispatched the penalty with ease before goading the Leeds fans on his way to celebrate in front of the ecstatic Owls fans. 1.0 Wednesday.

The goal rattled Leeds and it was the Owls who were now pushing forward looking for a second as half time approached. Tom Lees sent a header goalwards but Taylor tipped the ball over for another corner just before the half time whistle. HT 1.0 Wednesday. The ever critical Leeds fans were not happy. "Morison's a waste of space" one assistant coach sat behind me declared before slating Redfearn's tactics from a half that we were on top up to the dubious penalty. Football is a funny old game at times.

Leeds recovered some composure after the break and started to test the Wednesday defence. Austin hit a shot into the ground and just past the post from a corner as Wednesday looked to hang onto what they had but on 55 minutes the away side got just what they deserved. With Aidey White warming up to replace Taylor the referee penalised Semedo for grappling Bamba on the edge of the box at a free kick. Leeds lined the ball up with both Murphy and Mowatt positioned to take the shot. Murphy strode forward and hammered the ball into the wall but the ball fell to Morison who tried a shot with legs flailing all around him from 8 yards.......the ball deflected onto the 6 yard line where Charlie Taylor toe poked the ball home to the delight of the travelling hordes. I could hear Noel Whelan shouting get innnnnnnnnnnnnn! along with 4,000 other passionate battle weary fans. 1.1 and definitely game on. Poor old Aidey White put his bib back on and slumped to the bench!

The game was now nip and tuck as both sides looked for a winner.  Stevie May came on for the Owls and he escaped his markers to head wide from a dangerous cross. For a game with nothing to play for suddenly the tension levels were lifted. Billy Sharp entered the fray at the expense of Mowatt and immediately lifted the away side with a couple of niggling runs at the tiring home defence. Wednesday were starting to wilt and Leeds smelt blood. On 71 minutes Leeds broke quickly out of defence. Byram glided onto the ball on the half way and motored forward before releasing "waste of space" Morison with a defence splitting pass. The much maligned Leeds striker bore down on Westwood's goal with 4,000 fans trying to suck the ball into the net...............his first shot was saved but that didn't worry the Leeds forward he just picked up the rebound and dispatched it into the Owls net from a tight angle to give Leeds a 2.1 lead. The Leppings Lane end erupted with even Morison's harshest critic doing cartwheels behind me.

Leeds should have killed the game two minutes later when Morison broke away again but this time he chose to the pull the ball back to Taylor on the far post with Billy Sharp wide open on the penalty spot. A few nervy minutes later we were all celebrating a welcome victory as the ref blew his whistle to give the signal for about 1,000 riot police to trot across in front of the away fans to keep them off the pitch. Comical really especially when the Leeds players walked through them to throw their shirts to the crowd.

In the end a good win for Redfearn's men. Barardi had an excellent game at left back with Bamba and Cooper commanding the centre of the Leeds defence. The pitch wasn't the best and the ball spent a hell of a lot of time in the air so it won't go down in memory as a classic but it was a win. It seems inconceivable that Redfearn will be sacked after the Rotherham game next Saturday after all he's done to turn a season round that was heading for disaster as a result of the barmy decisions of our mad Italian owner but I fear this will be the unassuming Redfearn's last away game in charge. Absolutely ridiculous.

So another season of away games comes to an end. We've seen the highs of victories at Bournemouth, Huddersfield, Fulham and Boro mixed with the usual lows that we now accept as part of the membership of the LUFC family. As ever the travelling support has been phenomenal and I do wonder it would be like if we ever put up a real promotion challenge? Maybe next year?

Can't wait.


Saturday, 18 April 2015

Charlton Ath 2:1 Leeds United. 18th April 2015.

Brilliant Spring sunshine greeted us as we boarded the London bound train at York for our latest away day at Charlton. As is now normal on Planet Leeds the turmoil surrounding the club had escalated significantly since the 2.0 defeat to Norwich way back on Tuesday. Leaving aside the investigation into the alleged problems with the posting of the clubs latest accounts and Cellino's two latest court cases in Italy the Happy Chocker, Quiet One and yours truly focused on the 6 mutinous players who apparently decided they were injured and wouldn't be travelling to London for this game. Dom Matteo had summed up the situation eloquently the night before on Twitter "Send them packing.....absolute disgrace. #Shitbags. Not a lot to argue about there then although Silvestri did take a hell of battering from Jerome against Norwich. Still at least the team Redders is taking will be "up for it" me thinks. We always knew that Cellino was as mad as a box of Frogs but credit to the Italian he is making Ken Bates reign at Elland Road look like a walk in the park.

The immaculate pitch at the Valley was in stark contrast to last year's visit when the game was delayed due to a lack of drainage. Redfearn had to change the team from the one that lost to Norwich as he brought in Austin for Ngoyi, Taylor in for Silvestri and Morison in for the injured Barardi and also switching back to a 4:4:2 formation. Charlie Taylor dropped back to the left back spot. Just over 3,000 fans had followed the team to South East London for this end of season game and they soon made their feelings known regarding the missing 6 players. "Play for Leeds or f*** off home" Followed by "Sell the club and f*** off home" and the inevitable "there's only one Neil Redfearn" Definitely no sitting on the fence from the long suffering loyal Leeds fans.

Leeds started the game on the front foot as they took the game to their hosts. Austin took immediate control of the midfield after his enforced absence as he sprayed the ball intelligently around the park. Morison and Sharp looked eager up front whilst Bamba and Cooper were commanding the back line. After all the chaos off the pitch it looked as if we were in for an improved performance on the pitch. Vetokele went close for Charlton with a header but Taylor did just enough to put him off before Austin clattered a free kick into the Charlton wall at the other end. Leeds were knocking the ball about with confidence and on 22 minutes neat build up play freed Mowatt on the right. His cross was flicked on by Morison straight into the path of Murphy with the goal gaping in front of him but the Leeds midfielder blazed the chance over the bar with me and another 3,000 Leeds fans already screaming "get in".

Chances began to flow for Leeds augmented by a Morison charge down that nearly sneaked in as the Charlton goalie hesitated on a clearance. Sharp was next to get the raucous Leeds fans excited but his header just went the wrong side of the bar. Murphy also tested Henderson with a rasping shot as Leeds continued to turn the screw. "Surely a goal is coming" I mused to HC. Cue a chance for Charlton as Vetokele deflected a wayward shot onto Taylor's post when the majority of the fans behind the goal thought it was going in. Phew. Leeds pushed forward again and swift interpassing saw Byram hurtle into the box onto a lovely through ball only for Buyens to bring him down. PENALTY. Surprisingly no card of any colour for Buyens despite the fact Byram was 10 yards from goal with nobody else covering?

Sharp and Austin had a discussion before Sharp put the ball on the spot. His spot kick was fingertipped away by Henderson to keep the scores level. Bugger! Leeds kept attacking though and soon Mowatt drew a save from Henderson with a sweet shot. From the corner the impossible happened and suddenly everything was right with the world. Luke Murphy swung in a low corner and Morison glided past his marker and volleyed the ball firmly past Henderson to give Leeds the lead and send 3,000 Leeds fans into incredulous celebrations. First goal for 2 years but what a goal! 1.0 Leeds.

The first half ended on high for Leeds with the goal as they deservedly went in for their cup of tea one nil up and really should have been more. Clearly the late withdrawals of the 6 foreign players hadn't had any detrimental effect on the team in fact it was the opposite as noted by the away fans singing "We don't need Italians" which was slightly incorrect because there was an Albanian and a Frenchman amongst the stayaways. Leeds were well worth their lead but could they convert the lead into much needed win?

Charlton upped the tempo in the 2nd half and pushed Leeds back without too much pressure on Stuart Taylor. Vetokele attempted a shot but was wide and Murphy headed weakly at Henderson before Austin struck a twenty yard shot that had Henderson scrambling to save but it was the home team who were beginning to take control of the game. Mowatt so nearly relieved that pressure when he weaved his way through the Charlton defence but hit his curling shot too high with the goalie beaten.

With 15 minutes left on the clock Charlton broke quickly after Leeds had given up the ball far too easily.............a long cross to the back post found Watt all by himself and unlike Murphy in the first half from a similar position he powered his shot firmly into the net. 1.1 and game on. 5 minutes later Gudmundsson was once again hurting Leeds as he danced into the Leeds box and fired a stinging shot that Taylor parried out straight to the feet Vetokele who he then tripped as he tried to recover his mistake. Penalty. Bollox. Of course Buyens was never going to miss. A fact made harder to swallow knowing that he went so close to a red card in the first half when he brought down Byram. 2.1 Charlton and all of sudden it was a long way back.

Montenegro (he's Paraguayan not Italian) and Dawson came on for Byram and Sharp as Leeds looked for the equaliser. Cooper had a back post header deflected for a corner on 90 minutes but the ref gave a goal kick and Dawson swung a lovely ball into the box deep into added time but all to no avail. Final score 2.1 Charlton and a 5th straight defeat for Leeds.

A disappointing result especially after we had much the better of the first half but we lost our way in the second period. Austin was my man of the match. Morison took his goal well and had a much better game than usual. If Leeds had taken their chances in the first half then we could have taken all three points........but they didn't. This game showed both the potential of this Leeds team and the glaring weaknesses namely up front and out wide but with the club in the current turmoil I'll be happy with a different owner, preferably a fit and proper one this time, together with Redfearn still at the club come the start of the next season. Unfortunately I doubt I will see either of those come true.

Wednesday away up next with just two games remaining of a very trying season. Will we win again this season? Mmmmm answers on a post card please.

Can't wait.


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