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Saturday, 27 August 2016

Nottm. Forest v Leeds Utd. 27th Aug 2016.

The last week on Planet Leeds has been unusually positive. On the pitch we followed up a hugely impressive win at Hillsborough with an EFL Cup win at Luton after making an eye watering 11 changes from Saturday’s team. Cue another of the Leeds academy graduates, Tyler Denton, making a stunning debut capped off by scoring the winning goal. It was even good enough to get him selected for the EFL team of the week. Off the field Garry Monk seems to be negotiating the precarious minefields of the Leeds United back office environment with some success. So it was with real optimism that I pointed the car south for our trip to the City Ground Nottingham to take on Forest and hopefully another fruitful trip down the M1.

What would today’s team be? Will Wood down the Forest? Will we keep an unheard of three clean sheets on the bounce? All questions that were eagerly debated as we headed for the Notts County Sports bar and the compulsory pre match refreshments. When the team sheets came there was only one change from the the team that sunk Wednesday with Hernandez ousting Mowatt from the left midfield spot. Everything was set for an intriguing game as the skies darkened and the heavens opened ready for kick off.

Leeds were the first to threaten with Pablo Hernandez dancing to the edge of the box before firing over but it was the home side who soon gained the upper hand. Burke, Osborn and Lansbury were the main troublemakers for the Leeds defence looking to make it three clean sheets on the bounce. The signs were ominous on 12 minutes though when Burke flashed a near post header from a corner goalwards forcing a superb reaction save from Green. Leeds didn’t heed the warning and were made to pay just 4 minutes later. Forest won another corner and once again Lansbury whipped in the same ball to the same man, Burke, who this time could only flick the ball onto the far post where Kasami finished well with little resistance from the visiting defence. Why can’t we defend set pieces? It drives me nuts. 1.0 Forest and the home fans were dancing with delight.

Forest started to dominate what was a very open game. The Leeds midfield was narrower than last week presumably in an attempt to nulify the Forest midfield. But it wasn’t working. Kasami had two efforts to add to his first goal but the Leeds defenders held firm. At the other end Antonsson made a lovely run into the box and picked up a slide rule ball from Hernandez but his low shot was just saved before booted away to safety. This prompted a short period of pressure for Leeds as the first period ended with Forest still ahead by the single goal.

Forest had had the better of the first half especially on the flanks. Ayling was struggling to cope with the swift attacks and Taylor was over worked on the other flank. Cooper and Bartley weren’t winning enough of the high balls into the box. Things were looking a bit glum for the 2,000 fans who had made the trip down the M1. What could Monk do with his half time team talk?

The 2nd half started scrappily with the referee incensing the travelling support with some very strange decisions in favour of the Home team not least when Wood chased down a back pass and then chraged down the goalie’s kick only to be pulled up for handball as the ball thundered into his arm. The Leeds fans were getting nervy as Kasami and Osborn went near to doubling Forest’s lead. Monk needed to change something and on 66 minutes he sent on Phillips for Vieira quickly followed by Roofe surprisingly replacing Sacko who I thought looked the most dangerous Leeds player. Forest continued to have the better of what now was a stop/start game. On 71 minutes they won another corner. Osborn floated a long ball into the box where Perquis rose and headed home from 6 yards. Jesus H Christ how can he be given a free header in the 6 yard box? The ever so brittle Leeds defence strikes again. 2.0 Forest and most of the away fans were resigned to another disappointing away day.

The 2nd goal did kick Leeds into life. Hernadez delivered a superb cross for Wood to head wide just before he was replaced by Mowatt. There was a bit more vigour in the Leeds play as they looked for a way back into the game. 83 minutes and Antonsson won what I thought was a dubious free kick 25 yards out. Up stepped Phillips to take the kick. Now I don’t know if it was the fact that the Leeds fans expectations were at rock bottom for the kick but when the young midfielder struck a sweet free kick into the left hand corner of the net there was a muted response more in shock than celebration. 2.1 and Leeds had dragged themselves back into the game. Leeds were now throwing everything forward and Forest started to creak. Cooper headed inches wide from a corner and then Antonsson ghosted into the box and forced another superb save from the home goalie. Why didn’t we play like this earlier?

As Leeds pushed forward they left gaps at the back and Cash should have made Leeds pay on 90 minutes but his shot went high and wide. Phillips spurned a chance as the 5 minutes added time started but at the death Burke sealed the win with a 3rd goal for Forest after more sloppy defending allowed the big striker through. 3.1 Forest and game over. Forset deserved their win and in Lansbury had a player who Leeds struggled to cope with all afternoon. Sacko had another good performance for Leeds showing his undoubted quality in going past defenders. Phillips had a good session when he came on but it was too little too late for Leeds. All three goals conceded were right out of the Leeds United back catelogue of brittle defending a fact that wasn’t lost on Garry Monk in his post match press conference.

So another hugely frustrating away performance from Leeds just a week after beating Sheff Wed on the road. There are some good signs in the performance and team but we have to stop conceding sloppy goals. Leeds had the majority of the possession and did have their chances. The difference was that when Forest got their chances they converted them. The snarled up congestion in Nottingham didn’t help my mood as we tried to escape back North. It’s early days yet though but we need to get some consistency into the team by hook or by crook. We now have the international break before the happy clappy Terriers arrive unbeaten and top of the league at Elland Road for the West Yorkshire derby. What could possibly go wrong?

Can’t wait.

MOT

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Sheff Wed v Leeds United. 20th August 2016.

In recent years the trip down the M1 to Hillsborough has been a less than enjoyable experience for the Leeds travelling army so forgive me for not being overly confident in front of today’s high noon showdown with Sheff Wed. Wednesday have built on their solid foundations from last season and seem to be everybody’s tip to make the top six this time out. Their midweek loss to mighty Burton Albion and Forestieri’s childish tantrums might just give us a ray of hope though in our first Yorkshire derby of the season.

Back in West Yorkshire the signings of Bridcutt and the wonderfully named Pontus Jansson should shore up Leeds brittle midfield and centre of defence as Garry Monk attempts to mould his team into his preferred style. Will the late, late equaliser against Fulham give Leeds the lift needed to overcome Wednesday? Will Hernandez cut out his penchant for giving the ball away? Will Taylor rediscover his top form? Plenty to ponder as I headed south for the early kick off.

After dodging the showers I was in the Leppings Lane end along with 4,000 Leeds fans ready for kick off digesting some surprising team news. Garry Monk had dropped the entire midfield from Tuesday’s draw with Fulham as Bridcutt, Vieira, Sacko and Mowatt were given the starting shirts. Wood and Antonsson started up front with the back four remaining the same. Jansson didn’t make the bench. Wow. A bold move from Monk as he tries to add some steel to the Leeds midfield.

As you expect from a local derby the opening exchanges were frenetic. Taylor got the first shot away for Leeds after good work by Sacko on the right flank before Cooper was judged to have pulled Fletcher down in a dangerous position on the edge of the Leeds box. Wallace’s free kick was blocked by the synchronised jumping Leeds wall. Wednesday were looking to atone from their defeat at Burton and tested the Leeds back four with searching balls behind the whites back line. Forestieri should have done better when he got free on 11 minutes but scuffed his shot wide…..”Forestieri he doesn’t want to play” belted out from the taunting away fans in the Lepping Lane end as the atmosphere reached boiling point. Abdi and Forestieri both missed further chances before the resolute Leeds side started to gain a foothold in the game.

Vieira made a hash of his shot after good approach play on 16 minutes and soon after ex Leeds stopper Tom Lees headed wide from a corner. The home fans were enjoying the Wednesday pressure as they regaled the away support with “you’re f****** shit”……….Mmmmm a bold chant when it’s still 0.0. On 20 minutes Leeds drew a 2nd breath and started to build some pressure of their own. Mowatt found Wood with a lovely cross but his header fizzed just wide. In the meantime Sacko was running riot on the right flank as he toyed with the Wednesday full back time and again. On 26 minutes he nearly opened the scoring as he drifted behind the Wednesday back four and received a lovely through ball from Vieira but he couldn’t just steer the ball into the net. The Swede Antonsson was next to break the home defence but his shot screwed wide to the left. In midfield Bridcutt was like a shining beacon of organisation and breaking up play, something Leeds have badly needed in previous games.

As the game hurtled to half time Wednesday won yet another free kick on the edge of the box. This time Abdi rattled the bar with a curling free kick. Leeds finished the half on the front foot as Sacko again went past defenders like they weren’t there but his shot was blocked on the edge of the box. Half Time 0.0. This was a lot better from Leeds. Cooper was immense with Bartley at the back with Bridcutt inspirational in front of them. Sacko wasn’t just on fire on the wing he was a raging inferno. Fabulous. The urinal philosophers were well pleased with the first 45 minutes. “We look half decent in midfield for a change” opined one fan while another thought “Sacko is f****** dynamite on the wing” All was well on Planet Leeds for once but could we take advantage in the 2nd period?

Our nemisis from last season Hooper replaced Abdi at half time for Wednesday. The 2nd half got off to a slow start not helped by niggling decisions from the ref but on the hour Leeds showed some class as a sweeping moved freed Sacko but his shot was just too high. The raucous Leeds fans didn’t have long to wait for the opener though. Two minutes later Leeds broke quickly with Wood, Bridcutt and Ayling involved before Sacko got into the box on the right and dropped an inch perfect cross onto the unmarked Antonsson at the back post. 1.0 Leeds and the travelling support exploded in sheer delight as the Swede celebrated with his team mates in front of the adoring fans.

The Leeds fans were still celebrating the goal when Fletcher got free on the right hand side of the box before pulling the ball back to Hooper on the penalty box only for Green to pull off a superb save and Ayling to hoof it into the safety of the Kop. The goal scorer made way for Doukara on 69 minutes to a standing ovation from the travelling hordes. Wednesday poured forward looking for the equaliser but Leeds stood firm. Roofe replaced the injured Mowatt as the clock crept towards 90 minutes. Forestieri found room to test Green from the edge of the box. The Leeds keeper grabbed it at the 2nd attempt as my heart jumped into my mouth. Things were getting a bit too tight for my liking. Sacko was making hay though as Wednesday surged forward. He found Doukara on 85 minutes after a speedy break but the Duke pulled his shot agonisingly past the post. The squeaky bums of the away fans were about to be set free though!

On 86 minutes Bridcutt again fed the ball wide……..Roofe gleefully scampered into the box and pulled a teasing cross straight onto Chris Wood’s boot as he arrived at the front post. 2.0 Leeds and game over. It was carnage in the Leeds end as the Leeds centre forward took the plaudits from the baying fans…………what a difference a week makes?

There was still time for Taylor to create another chance and Wednesday to try desperately to get a goal back but by the time the final whistle went the stadium was almost empty but for the celebrating away fans. Final score 2.0 Leeds. Not bad for a team that are f****** shit? Bridcutt had a superb game but Sacko was my MOM with his dazzling skills impressing the oh so difficult to please Leeds fans. This was a solid team performance though with the defence for once looking relatively firm. All credit to Garry Monk for his team selection.

One swallow doesn’t make a summer but if Leeds can build on this performance then things will start to look a whole lot better on Planet Leeds. Luton away in the EFL Cup on Tuesday, a game I will miss due to work, before we head to Nottingham on Saturday to take on Forest.

Can’t wait.

MOT.

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