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Saturday, 20 September 2014

Leeds United v Huddersfield Town. 20th Sept 2014

The last time these two fierce West Yorkshire rivals met at Elland Road it was the height of the Leeds managerial Pantomime season. Brian McD had been sensationally sacked by Cellino who was then chased around LS11 in his taxi by irate fans. This time round round the managerial waters around Elland Road are a lot calmer with caretaker coach Redfearn steering Leeds on a mini unbeaten run whilst the Mad Italian searches for a permanent replacement. The positiveness that a decent run breeds was evident as the Happy Chocker, Quiet One and yours truly made our way to the members bar for our pre match refreshment.

It made a nice change to quaff a pint of John Smiths with a healthy portion of pie and peas safe in the knowledge that if Leeds continued to play as they did against Bournemouth and Birmingham then Huddersfield were in for a torrid time given their dismal form. Redfearn had made one change to the system and personnel that dealt so clinically with Bournemouth. The 4-3-3 system was ditched in favour of a more conventional 4-4-2 with Sloth replacing Billy Sharp. Doukara and Antenucci started up front.

Just short of 30,000 expectant fans were packed into the Theatre of Italian Dreams as the match kicked off. The atmosphere was tingling with local pride as Leeds started on the front foot against a hesitant Town side. The passing game that improves each game was soon on show as the team in white pinged the ball confidently to each other trying to stretch the visitors. Antenucci nearly benefited from the early pressure as he fired a goalbound shot into the body of a desperate Town defender. It was Town who created the first real chance though as Peltier got to the bye line but Nahki Wells was high wide and handsome as he tried to convert the cross. Town's new coach, Chris Powell, had been vocal in the lead up to the game in saying his first priority was to stop his new side leaking goals. It was easy to see why as their back four was chaos personified whenever Leeds applied the slightest bit of pressure.

The decibel levels had been steadily rising for the first twenty minutes as the home fans gorged themselves on a Leeds team playing good confident football. The roof was about to come off the old stadium though. The impressive Antenucci chased a ball into the corner with Joel Lynch. The Town defender panicked and blasted the ball against the Italian only to see the ball balloon onto the edge of the box where Mr Austin was the first to react. Rudy didn't waste any time and just smashed an absolute screamer past the helpless Smithies. 1.0 Leeds and all of a sudden the pre match confidence looked absolutely spot on.

The goal sparked Town into life as they upped their game in search of an equaliser. Harry Bunn was causing some irritation to Berardi down the flanks and it wasn't long before the Leeds full back picked up a yellow card for an ill advised lunge on the Town winger. Bellusci soon followed him into Mr Foy's notebook. Fears of more red cards for Leeds started to worry me.

The game was heading for half time with Leeds regaining some control of the match when suddenly Leeds broke quickly out of defence and Antenucci was hurtling towards the Town goal with only two Town men anywhere near him.................he slipped a sublime ball to Bellusci (where the hell did he come from?) who clipped a perfect wedge shot over the oncoming Smithies only to see the ball rattle off the underside of the bar for Antenucci to pounce first and drive the ball into the open net. Get in! 2.0 Leeds and Antenucci was celebrating his 2nd goal in a week. He'll enjoy his pint in Spencers tonight!

The Urinal philosophers in the half time debate were in a strange mood. There were all smiling. Not one peep of negativity could be heard as the pre match refreshment was discarded. Very, very strange! "He can't replace Redders now" one fan commented reflecting the views of the majority of his peers.

Town tried to get some momentum as the 2nd half got under way but they had yet to trouble Silvestri with a shot on goal. Leeds on the other hand were almost strolling through the game with Austin, Cook and Bianchi totally dominating the midfield area as they passed there way out of trouble and onto attack on numerous occasions. This was good to watch and the home fans were lapping it up. The Town defence looked as weak as a newly born puppy whenever Antenucci, Doukara or Austin ran at them and not surprisingly it was this combination who were their final undoing.

First Doukara was caught just offside from an Austin pass but on 68 minutes Town were not that lucky. Austin slotted the big striker through with a peach of a ball which he converted sweetly to give Leeds an unassailable 3.0 lead. Doukara got a yellow card for his celebration, ridiculous, but he didn't care. Leeds were now cruising. Even Berardi's 2nd yellow and dismissal couldn't throw them off track as they toyed with their poor West Yorkshire neighbours. "We're taking the piss, We're Leeds United we're taking the piss" the home fans gleefully sang. Town's miserable afternoon was complete when Stead blazed over from 7 yards on 83 minutes. Antenucci was denied a fourth Leeds goal on 85 minutes by a finger tip save by Smithies as he sped away from his marker.

Both Austin and Doukara were replaced before the end to receive thunderous ovations from the home crowd. Mr Foy blew his whistle to signal the end of the game and a comfortable 3.0 win to Leeds. As we left the ground those strange smiles were all over the fans faces as they headed for home. Redfearn has moulded the impressive imports with the cream of the academy into a very useful unit. Cook was again outstanding for such a young lad ably supported by the rejuvenated Austin and the steadily improving Bianchi. Doukara and Antenucci looked sharp and mobile up front causing the creaking Town defence problems all afternoon. Pearce and Bellusci looked solid at the back whilst Warnock had another storming game. Silvestri didn't have a shot to save all afternoon. My man of the match went to Austin who was a revelation driving at the heart of the Town defence. He must have nuclear powered lungs?

That's 4 games unbeaten under Redfearn. Hopefully he will be allowed to continue by Cellino? Suddenly we are looking like a real team something a lot of fans are finding it difficult to relate to after the years of pure dross we have fed on. We are still work in progress though but if we carry on like this we'll be glancing at the league table and mentioning words like top six and even promotion. Steady on chaps its still early days.

Next week sees us at Brentford a match where we will allegedly be watching from the home terraces. A crash course in cockney needed then before our trip to London me thinks?

Can't wait.



Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Bournemouth v Leeds United 16th Sept 2014

As the only option of  travelling 270 miles to get to Bournemouth in time for a 7.45pm kick off from work was a Lear Jet I opted for the cheaper option of watching the game from the comfort of the members bar at Elland Road and the LUTV beamback. The Happy Chocker and the Quiet One joined me for this new experience of watching the mighty whites and despite being rationed to one pie each, with no gravy or peas, we settled down to watch the game with cautious optimism. Could we start where we left off on Saturday? Could we avoid the battering we got last season at the Cherries? Would the live LUTV link last the full 90 minutes? All questions eagerly debated as kick off time approached.

The room was packed as the team news filtered through. Doukara and Austin started in place of the injured Mowatt and Sloth who dropped to the bench to join Byram who was returning from suspension. Leeds set out with a 4-3-3 formation presumably to try and counteract one of the best footballing sides in the division. The game kicked off on the slightly out of focus big screen and it didn't take long for a familiar sense of foreboding to wipe out any sense of optimism as the Cherries flew at Leeds like a super sonic express train. Barely two minutes had gone before Fraser galloped at the Leeds defence and fired a searing shot that Silvestri expertly tipped behind for a corner.

The home side applied suffocating pressure to the visitors with wave after wave of attack inspired by Fraser and Surman. Memories of last season's capitulation when they conceded three goals in the first 28 minutes came flooding back to haunt us. The inevitable goal came on 6 minutes when the ex Canary, Surman, pounced on a ball on the edge of the box and finished superbly to give the visitors a deserved lead. An uneasy silence descended on the room as  we battened down the hatches for another battering at the expense of our South Coast opponents.

Bournemouth's speedy and forceful attacks yielded chances for Ritchie, Kermorgant and Wilson as a combination of desperate defending and outstanding goalkeeping kept the score at 1.0 as the clock ticked past the half hour mark. Ex Leeds left back Harte was exploiting the space down the left flank as Leeds tried to draw breath. Silvestri made a brilliant one on one save against Wilson when he looked certain to score. Leeds did have a couple of bright periods when Antenucci drove hard from midfield to create a half chance for Sharp before Doukara released Sharp but his cross came to nothing. It was Bournemouth who dominated the first half though and somehow Leeds got to half time without conceding another goal. "I'm glad I'd not driven all that f****** way to watch this" a rather frustrated fan muttered. Frustration was the name of the game as we contemplated the 2nd 45 minutes.

Redfearn didn't make any personnel changes at half time but his subtle tactical changes seemed to have some effect in quelling the Cherries domination. Now it was Leeds who were looking dangerous going forward................well sort of. Austin followed up a driving run with a poor shot. Sharp found some joy attacking the inside left channel and Doukara was coming deeper and deeper to get the ball. Lewis Cook had given the ball away a number of times in the first half but that didn't stop him trying to create something in the 2nd period. He has lovely burst of pace that he uses intelligently. Leeds were grinding their way back into the game as the hour mark approached. Silvestri still had to be on his toes to save a stinging shot from the illusive Fraser though.

Antenucci was again showing some lovely touches and tested the home keeper with a long range shot on 65 minutes as Leeds started to threaten the Cherries rearguard. Then out of the blue a superb piece of football changed the game. Bianchi strode onto a ball from the half way line and slid a laser guided pass through for Doukara who timed his run into the box beautifully before finishing in style to bring Leeds back on level terms. The room erupted in unexpected joy. 1.1 and very much game on.

Leeds picked up some much needed momentum from the goal and soon Billy Sharp was pouncing on an Austin ball into the box to worry the home defence. After the battering we took in the first half the sensible thing to do would have been to hold what we had and settle for the point but the home fans and team were now getting frustrated. They'd had a chance to win it and now Leeds were showing some attacking  prowess of their own. Austin went on a typical run powering forward but not quite knowing where he was going until he was brought down 25 yards out. "What's Bellusci doing standing over the ball? This is in row Z FFS" a puzzled fan commented. What Bellusci did next will be remembered for years to come. He hit what can only be described as the perfect free kick which rose over the wall and then dipped just enough to leave a 1mm gap between the ball and the underside of the cross bar before hitting the back of the net. Everybody jumped off their seats in the Members bar whilst it was absolute bedlam in the away end at Bournemouth. 2.1 Leeds.......How?

Bournemouth were stung into action and threw everything forward at Leeds in the hope of making up for their wastefulness early in the match. "we'll get a third here" I gleefully predicted to the Happy Chocker. "I hope not he replied the Quiet One's got £95 quid riding on a 2.1 win" Sorry as the Quiet One was when Antenucci broke away on 90 minutes and ran half the length of the field before coolly slotting the ball past the keeper for the third Leeds goal the rest of the room was in football heaven. From 1.0 and down and out we had turned it round into an easy 3.1 win. Football is beautiful game at times. The referee's whistle signalled the end of the game and the members bar celebrated a very welcome win snatched from the jaws of another mauling from the Cherries.

Antenucci was my man of the match with eye catching performances also from Silvestri and Cook but overall this was a gritty and impressive team performance from Neil Redfearn's team. The team is still work in progress but there are all the signs that out of adversity this season might just be one of the brighter ones from recent years. Uddersfield up next. 30,000 inside ER with Leeds playing attractive and effective football. that'll do nicely thank you very much.

Can't wait.


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