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Saturday, 14 January 2017

Leeds Utd v Derby County. Jan 13th 2017.

Leeds United v Derby County is a fixture that always reignites special times deep in the memory bank for fans of a certain age. Hunter v Lee, Revie v Clough the cabbage patch that was the Baseball Ground and the infamous 44 days of havoc that Clough wreaked at Elland Road. In recent years though the rivalry has been a tad difficult for those of a West Yorkshire persuasion but times are a changing in LS11 and tonight's game was a real mouth watering clash of two teams with genuine promotion intentions.

Despite the ridiculous timing of the game Elland Road was alive with expectation and excitement as we headed for the stadium. Could Monk's Band of Brothers see off McClaren's rejuvenated Rams? Could Leeds keep yet another clean sheet without the rock that is Jansson? Would Doukara survive the chop after his aberration at Cambridge? All topics that were eagerly debated during the pre match refreshments.

Surprisingly Doukara did keep his place as Monk once again showed he wasn't afraid to be bold in his team selection. Vieira alongside Bridcutt, Ayling at centre half, Coyle at right back, Hernandez in the central role lined up against a strong Derby side. Over 25,000 were inside Elland as the game got underway after a poignant minutes applause for the late Graham Taylor. Many times this season Leeds have played it cagey in the first half. Not tonight. Plan A was clearly to hit the Rams with everything Leeds had right from the first minute and the Leeds players followed their instructions like brainwashed disciples of Monk the Messiah. Leeds were just irresistible. It was like watching Football porn. Leeds overwhelmed Derby with a quality of football that hasn't been seen at Elland Road for decades. Wave after wave of attacks submerged the early Derby efforts like a raging, unstoppable tsunami. Derby somehow survived a sequence of 5 corners in 3 minutes but Leeds just kept coming forward prompted by the sublime artistry of Hernandez. Vieira smashed a thunderous shot that Carson pushed away, Doukara hit a low shot inches past the left post, Bridcutt tested Carson with a 20 yarder. Bartley had two headers go close then a Doukara header just missed to the left. To say a goal was coming was like saying night follows day. This was awesome and Elland Road was bouncing. Delicious!

Half time was approaching though and Leeds still didn't have a goal to show for their dominance. Hernandez, Vieira and Roofe had carved up the Rams in ruthless style creating chance after chance. Bartley had missed a golden chance at the back post with the goal yawning in front of him. The only threat Derby had shown was thwarted by a superb block by Green when Bent found himself one on one with the Leeds goalie. If the home side didn't convert their overwhelming superiority into goals they could well regret it in the 2nd half. Then just when fans were drifting away for a half time pint Chris Wood finally breached the Derby goal. Hernandez swung in his 375th corner of the half and the New Zealander rose serenely to power a header past Carson. 1.0 Leeds and the roof came off Elland Road. There was still time for that Dad's son to rasp a superb shot at Green but the Leeds goalie wasn't going to let that spoil an almost perfect 45 minutes for Leeds as he expertly tipped the ball over the bar. Half time 1.0 Leeds. Wow. It might have been freezing but the vintage champagne football Leeds had served up warmed the cockles of the hearts of everybody inside the famous old stadium.

The urinal philosophers were beside them selves with superlatives. Stunning, awesome, sublime, jaw dropping oozed from the beaming mighty whites followers but the most common comment was simply "fucking brilliant" That summed up the first half nicely along with a consensus that this was the best football we'd ever seen, well at least since the likes of Giles, Bremner, Gray et al were in their pomp. If we're not careful we'll start to be other fans favourite 2nd team! That would never do would it?

McClaren had a challenging team talk. His team had been ruthlessly dismantled in front of a baying Elland Road crowd and millions on national TV. His response was to send on Hughes and Vydra and fire up his team to go in search of the equaliser. Suddenly the blonde haired Hughes was ghosting into space in the midfield causing Leeds new problems. A slack pass back to Green saw Bent charge down the ball and into the net but the ref judged the big Derby striker had used his hands. Phew. Sit down Derby fans. Bartley bundled Hughes over on the edge of the box earning himself a yellow card. 25,000 fans held their breath as Ince stepped up to take the free kick but the giant Leeds wall blocked the shot. For the first time on the night nerves started to jangle amongst the home fans. They needn't have worried though. Hernandez just stepped up another gear and it wasn't long before Leeds were back in control with the diminutive Spaniard scuttling about the pitch like a matador teasing the big burly Bulls, or in this case Rams, before placing strategic swords in their wounded body. The twirling scarves in the stands accompanying a joyous session of WACCOE added to the image. Suddenly Beeston was Barcelona!

Chances continued to flow for Leeds with the only nagging worry that we couldn't put the Rams out of their misery with a 2nd goal. Berardi so nearly brought the house down though when he returned a corner clearance with a dipping volley that missed by inches. Mint. Vieira, Hernandez and Roofe were almost obscene with the skills they were demonstrating in the middle of the park whilst Ayling had slotted into the back four so seamlessly that Jansson wasn't missed. That is some achievement for the bargain buy of the century, Ayling. At right back Coyle revelled in his opportunity. Such an old head on young shoulders. For a patched up defence this was an awesome foursome.

The game progressed towards the inevitable Leeds win with more chances for Leeds and a late red card for ex Elland Road favourite, Johnson. Final score a one nil roasting for the Rams and yet another home win for the mighty whites. I'm in heaven. You could feel the magnetic positiveness all around as we headed back to the car. What a performance from Leeds not just from Hernandez but the whole team. If the fans had picked the team Doukara would have been sat in the stands after Monday's dire showing but Monk stuck to his guns and was more than rewarded. Ayling and Bartley were like two Colossuses at the back. Both full backs were a threat going forward and like a pair of Yorkshire terriers at the back. The midfield was a slick well oiled defensive destroying machine whilst up front Wood continued his rich vein of form. It's all a bit surreal to be honest. Nothing to be gut wrenchingly disappointed about, nothing but positives. All of a sudden Elland Road has changed to the Theatre of Joy under the unbelievable direction of Garry Monk. Brilliant.

It's difficult to see Leeds ever losing again after that performance but Barnsley will try next Saturday. What a cracker that will be.

Can't wait.


Monday, 2 January 2017

Leeds Utd v Rotherham Utd. 2nd Jan 2017.

Real optimism and expectation was rife at Elland Road as we welcomed the new year to the Theatre of Hope with the visit of lowly Rotherham United. With Leeds sat proudly in the play off positions the game was a sell out with the exception of the away end. The good times are back in LS11 and everybody wants a piece of it. Of course it wouldn't be Leeds if there was just a smidgen of negativity  to be worried about but that was consigned to the signing up the loanees plus Charlie Taylor and more importantly Garry Monk. So with me predicting a 3. 0 victory and everybody actually smiling in the North West corner I settled down for the kick off. Unbelievable.

The team sheet did have it's fair share of surprises. Hernandez started in a midfield bursting with attacking flair. Sacko, Doukara, Bridcutt, Roofe and Wood up top. Bartley ejected Cooper from the centre half spot but what formation would accommodate all the attackers? The scene was set for Leeds to rip into the basement side and tear them to shreds........wasn't it? Well not exactly. It was the away side who started better playing with a confidence that belied their position in the table. On 7 minutes their early enterprise so nearly paid dividends for them. Bridcutt fouled the impressive Izzy Brown 20 yards out. Forde hit a sweet free kick that Green saved spectacularly and then again as Adeyemi followed up from a tight angle. Maybe this wasn't going to be as easy as I thought?

Rotherham continued to give as good as they were getting with Ward, Brown and Frecklington all testing the Leeds rearguard with goal bound shots. At the other end the Rotherham bus was firmly parked and thwarting all but two of the Leeds attacks in the first half. Hernandez squeezed a shot wide whilst Doukara blazed a chance high and wide just on half time. The bumper crowd had been quietened by the Millers and they were far the happier as the teams retired to the dressing room for the half time break. Sacko and Doukara out wide had been ineffective whilst Bridcutt was struggling to win enough ball in the centre of midfield with Hernandez playing a roaming role. Whatever the plan Garry Monk had worked on all week it wasn't working. With steadier finishing the Millers would have been in front. Decision time for Garry Monk.

Meanwhile the urinal philosophers had been stunned into virtual silence by the staccato 1st half performance from the "New Leeds" There were a couple of token grumbles about the lack of final balls from Sacko but that was it. Maybe the increasing confidence with Garry Monk's management ability was at the heart of it? Back in the dressing room Monk was rewriting the game plan. Out went the 4-4-1-1 formation and back came the familiar 4-2-3-1 system. Vieira replaced the misfiring Sacko to shore up the middle of the park leaving Doukara and Roofe out wide with Hernandez now playing the No 10 role. With results elsewhere going to our way Leeds needed a big 2nd half to take advantage. It took just two minutes for the new tactics and personnel to click into gear to the delight of the bank holiday Leeds crowd.

From the kick off Leeds attacked down the right flank with a much higher tempo. Corner to Leeds. Hernandez swings a perfect corner into the box for Bartley to thump a bullet header into the Rotherham net. Suddenly Elland Road was alive and kicking although you had to feel sorry for Bartley as the crowd turned their attention to Pontus as he lay prostrate on the turf receiving treatment. I could just imagine Bartley thinking "even when I score it's still Pontus they sing about. Bastard!" Thankfully Pontus did recover and Bartley's goal set the scene for what would be a memorable 2nd 45 minutes. Leeds ripped into Rotherham like a hungry pride of Lions devouring a lone Zebra. Roofe and Ayling were on fire on the right flank whilst Doukara was all but showboating on the left in front of a snarling Berardi. In the middle Hernandez was the conductor of the orchestra who were now very much in tune and playing to a prestissimo tempo. Delicious!

The Leeds tidal wave couldn't be stopped by Rotherham despite the help of the linesman giving some baffling offside decisions against Leeds. I could only conclude that he couldn't see the Rotherham defenders in their awful away strip. Either that or he was just blind and guessing when to put his flag up. The inevitable 2nd goal came on 66 minutes. The tenacious Bridcutt won a tackle he had no right to win and chipped the ball into Wood's chest. The New Zealander controlled the ball and then somehow turned and hit a half volley into the Rotherham net in one move. Fantastic. 2.0 Leeds and Elland Road was now truly rocking. The entertainment didn't end there though. Leeds were now pinging the ball all round the pitch with quick and slick one touch football. Memories of a certain game against Southampton in the early 70's came to mind. I could almost here Barry Davies saying "It's almost cruel" again. This was champagne football Leeds style.

Dallas replaced Doukara on 73 minutes. Minutes later Berardi came storming out of defence like a marauding Tiger and played a one two with Wood to slice through the visitor's defence only to see his shot hit the post. Brilliant. By now Rotherham were punch drunk. Another swift passing move freed Roofe on the right.............his first time ball into the box was perfectly met by Wood.... 3-0 Leeds and goodnight Vienna. Leeds were just irresistible. As disjointed and lethargic Leeds were in the first half they were now purring like a well oiled wrecking machine as they ground the Millers into dust. There was still time for Hernandez to hit a post with a free kick after a foul on Dallas as Leeds closed the game out at 3.0 with the home fans oozing with superlatives at the 2nd half performance.

Smiles are certainly the order of the day at Elland Road now. Vieira was immense in the 2nd 45 minutes but it was another impressive team performance if only for half of the match. On this form Leeds look unstoppable. Garry Monk is an absolute genius. The team did a lap of honour at the end. The bond between the fans, players and management team is like the strongest super glue on the planet. These are intoxicating days for the followers of the mighty whites but I suppose we have waited long enough for this sort of team and performances. The giant is wide awake and devouring all in it's wake. Premier League look out we're heading your way!

Can't wait.


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