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Saturday, 25 February 2017

Leeds Utd v Sheff Wed. 25th Feb 2017

Saturday morning dawned with yet another mouth watering Yorkshire derby awaiting 35,000 fans at Elland Road. With both Yorkshire giants sat nicely in the play off positions as we enter the very squeaky bum time of the season the scene couldn't be set any better. This is what being a real football fan is all about. The pre match pathological fear that you might lose to your neighbours coupled with the contagious optimism that we will send them home with their tails firmly planted between their legs and move another 3 points nearer promotion. What's not to like?

The wet blustery weather in LS11tried to dampen the spirits of both players and fans alike but after a session of the Pigeon Detectives in the Pavilion I took my seat in the boiling Elland Road cauldron. Monk had made two changes to his team to match up to the in form Wednesday side. Bridcutt and Doukara came in for Vieira and Dallas. The atmosphere was crackling as the game got underway. Leeds started well and within a minute Hernadez had released Wood on the edge of the box but he screwed his shot wide. At the other end Sasso went close with a header as both teams duelled for the early advantage. Jansson clattered into Forestieri leaving the theatrical Wednesday star rolling on the floor but the ref quite rightly played on. 20 minutes flew by with both teams prodding and poking at the opposition's defence looking for a chink of weakness. On 24 minutes the prodding and poking from Leeds suddenly paid dividends. The hard working Doukara shovelled the ball out to the tenacious Berardi on the left. The make shift left back cut back inside and drilled an exquisite cross into the Wednesday box where Wood calmly controlled the ball and tapped it past Westwood into the visitors goal with almost arrogant contempt. 1.0 Leeds and Elland Road erupted in a cavalcade of joy. Mint!

Leeds gorged themselves on the confidence the goal brought. Bridcutt and O'Kane were strutting their stuff in midfield.......the defence was rock solid and out wide Leeds carried a threat. Wednesday were not taking the setback lying down though as their expensively assembled forward line battled to get the Owls back in the game. Bartley, Jansson, Berardi and Ayling were in super mean mood though while behind them Green was the epitomy of cool defiance. The game headed to half time with Leeds still in front and really should have added to their single goal lead as the frustrating Sacko twice spurned good chances to play Wood in having left his man for dead. HT 1.0 Leeds.

The urinal philosophers were up beat and cautious all rolled into one. "Wood is f****** awesome" beamed one fan......... "we need to close them down quicker" worried another........"Why do we always get shit ref's" asked another with some justification. The half time entertainment consisted of the now grown up famous kid who was pictured crying at Bolton when Leeds got relegated taking the dizzy penalties. Just a poignant reminder of how long the Premier League has been without the mighty whites.

The wind was now in favour of Wednesday and they surged forward looking desperately for an equaliser. Leeds were fortifying the kop end to repel the South Yorks invaders. Tackles were won, Headers were propelled away with venom. Wednesday were now enjoying the majority of the possession but Green was still yet to be really tested in the Leeds goal. The crowd were shoulder to shoulder with the players as they belligerently dug in to protect their slender lead. Everything was going well until Doukara gave away a needless penalty as he grappled Hutchinson in the box when he was facing away from the goal. FFS what a sloppy penalty to give. Up stepped Jordan Rhodes in front of a sea of snarling, baying Leeds fans on the kop........he shoots low to Green's left but the 37 year old keeper swooped like a Harrier Hawk to tip the ball onto the post and away. Absolute bedlam all around as the home fans celebrated the expensive forward's miss and Green's brilliant save. "Leeds are going up" tumbled from the massed ranks in the stands. This just might be Leeds day?

Wednesday weren't finished though. A Rhodes header and then one from Loovens looped over the bar as the corner count mounted for the Owls. Jansson and Bartley were magnificent though and when they were breached the pocket battleship Mr Berardi was on hand with a goal saving tackle. 70 minutes gone and Leeds still in front one nil but 33,000 bums in the stadium were squeaking like an old neglected wheelbarrow wheel. This was a cracking game. The ref didn't do himself any favours with his inconsistent approach to the game no more so than when O'Kane was felled by a heavy tackle in the Wednesday box but waved play on. Roofe was on for Sacko followed by Vieira replacing O'Kane as we entered the final 10 minutes. It was torture watching the clock tick away as Wednesday piled forward looking for the equaliser.

The last 5 minutes were excruciating but every time Wednesday battered on the Leeds defensive door they were firmly repelled by Monk's warriors. This was high octane stuff but gradually the fight drained out of the Owls as Leeds managed the 4 minutes added time in style. FT 1.0 and the stadium erupted. Fantastic. If this is the tension level with still 12 games to go what are the play off's going to be like? None of the Leeds fans noticed the cold wet weather as they streamed out of the ground pumped full of adrenaline and beaming from ear to ear. Awesome.

There wasn't a man of the match for me as this was a belligerent, determined team performance of the highest degree where it would be churlish to pick one individual out for special praise. The defence dealt admirably with the talented and lively Owls attack. The midfield seemed to always have a foot in where needed and when we did attack sprung the Owls defence whilst up front Wood just bullied the Wednesday defenders for the whole of the 90 minutes. On this form it's an absolute pleasure to be at Elland Road in front of a full house. Nothing else beats it.

So onto Birmingham on Friday night as the promotion juggernaut gathers speed. What a job Monk has done with his relative sparse resources. Another 3 points on Friday night please?

Can't wait.

MOT.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Leeds Utd v Cardiff City. 11th Feb 17

There was a chill wind blowing down Elland Road as we parked the car and headed for the stadium. If the miserable weather was dampening the mood the team news arrived like a nuclear bomb to shatter any pre match confidence. Pontus wasn't in the squad due to illness! Still we should have too much power for an average Cardiff side shouldn't we? Even with the jinx of a returning manager and player in Mr Warnock and Sol Bamba. Would Colin inspire his team to work their socks off? Would Bamba have one of his worldie games against his former colleagues? Could we bounce back after last week's derby defeat? We were about to find out.

Monk handed a first team start to Pedraza in place of Doukara, Cooper replaced Mr Brickhead. Over 31,000 were packed inside Elland Road as the game got under way. Leeds took control of the game from the off with the Welsh side content to sit deep and deny Leeds any space behind their defence. Pablo Hernandez was at the forefront of most of the early Leeds moves as they attacked the South Stand. Leeds were enjoying nearly all of the possession as Warnock's men dug in to try and thwart the home side. Clear chances were at a premium though and it was Cardiff who had the best chance of the first half hour as Halford headed straight at Green from a corner.

Leeds continued to have the lion's share of the possession with Pedraza getting a couple of mazy runs at the Cardiff defence together with the illusive Hernandez look dangerous when he had the ball. As half time approached it all began to unravel though. First Ayling was penalised for taking a throw 6 inches from the wrong spot which infuriated both the crowd and the Leeds players then Bridcutt's continued verbal assault on the ref earned him a yellow card. Half Time. 0:0. Leeds had dominated but hadn't really tested McGregor in the Cardiff goal. Leeds needed a goal to settle the nerves. The Urinal philosophers were subdued by both the cold and the frustrating 45 minutes they had just witnessed. "We need somebody to support Wood" one fan complained whilst another moaned "The ref's having a mare" Mmmm A few nerves about but if we up the tempo in the 2nd half we should be ok I mused. Looking at the HT scores elsewhere we needed to as Huddersfield, Brighton and Norwich were all in front.

Leeds started the half with a bang. Quick one touch football orchestrated by Hernandez saw a fizzing shot from Dallas balloon away for a corner. Cooper met the corner having lost his marker but headed high and wide. "He should have buried that" I moaned to nobody in particular. Leeds were about to regret that miss though.  Minutes later Cardiff got another free kick in what should have been a harmless position. 40 yards out just in from the right touchline. Noone hit the cross deep into the Leeds box.........instead of the ball routinely headed out, as we've come to expect this season, Morrison was given the freedom of Leeds to head a simple goal past Green and stun the large home crowd. What a soft, soft goal! 1.0 Cardiff. Where was Pontus when you needed him?

I wish I could report that this was the kick up the backside Leeds needed and they responded with wave after wave of incisive attacks but they didn't. They were stuttering in attack and when they did get round the back of the Cardiff defence there was only Wood in the box with his two Cardiff security guards smothering him. Where were the midfielders bursting a lung to get in the box? Where was the determination and guile to open up the firmly parked double decker bus? Sadly lacking I'm afraid. As Leeds pushed forward they looked more and more vulnerable at the back. With 20 minutes left Leeds self destructed in a fashion I thought Garry Monk had consigned to the dustbin. First Vieira  lost the ball softly in midfield to allow Gunnarson to stride away past some powder puff tackles before he laid the ball back for Zohore on the six yard line to tap in the 2nd and killer goal. Bollox! 2.0 Cardiff. There was still time left for Leeds but they were now a disjointed rabble not sure whether to play the ball on the floor or pump it long to prise open the Welsh defence.

As if the afternoon couldn't get any worse for Leeds Bridcutt picked a 2nd yellow with 4 minutes to go. A horrible end to an ultimately miserable afternoon. The game finished 2.0 to Cardiff. Fair play to Warnock's team they implemented his game plan to a tee and deserved the 3 points. Leeds were poor in the 2nd half after a bright first 45 minutes. Two awful mistakes cost them the game but more worryingly is the recent indifferent form. We're still in the play offs, something beyond my wildest dreams earlier in the season, but we need to steady the ship against Bristol and Ipswich in the next two games.

Interesting times ahead on Planet Leeds me thinks?

Can't wait.

MOT

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