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Saturday, 21 November 2015

Leeds United 0:1 Rotherham United. 21st November 2015.

As ever after an international break I was chomping at the bit to get back to watching proper football and what more could you wish for than an intriguing Yorkshire derby laced with fascinating sub plots to ease you back into the routine...............and with a 3 pm kick off! Winter was in commando mode though as the bitter biting wind arrived under the camouflage of brilliant sunshine and a spectacular bright blue sky to pick off any piece of exposed skin amongst the 26,000 fans heading to Elland Road. To be blunt it was f****** freezing!

The Happy Chocker and Quiet One were joined in the car by two fans of today's enemy, the mighty Millers from Rotherham, which made for an interesting debate on the managerial qualities of Mr Evans and Redfearn respectively. By the time I had parked the car at the Theatre of Despair it felt like we had been fine tuning the script for a sequel to that iconic Eddie Murphy film, Trading Places. We headed for our different stands with all the usual pre match anticipation burning through our minds, Will Byram start? Will Mowatt score another screamer? Will the managers sit in the correct dug out? Has Cellino been sectioned yet?

Evans replaced his injured captain Bamba with Cooper in a starting eleven that still didn't include Byram. A poignant minutes silence for the victims of the Paris terrorist attacks preceded the start. Redfearn received a warm welcome as he headed for the unfamiliar away dug out and then we were underway. The game took some time to warm up but on 18 minutes Leeds had the ball in the net after good work by Wood presented Dallas the opportunity to side foot a parried save from Camp into the net. Luckily for the Millers Wood was adjudged to be offside. This did spark Leeds into life though and a spell of pressure on the hesitant Millers defence saw chances for Mowatt, twice, and Cook wasted. Camp did deny Mowatt with a decent save though before he attempted another long range stunner but this time the ball ended up nearer the corner flag than the goal.

Rotherham did threaten Silvestri's goal after a foul gave Smallwood a chance from 25 yards out. His free kick rattled the post with Silvestri stranded before the ref made him take it again due to Antenucci's encroachment. What would he have done if the ball had gone in the net? The half time whistle blew with the game at stalemate. 0.0. Not the most uplifting 45 minutes of football I've seen at Elland Road and soon the urinal philosophers were in agreement. "I could have been in Asda with our Lass rather than watching this rubbish" one disgruntled fan thought whilst another moaned "What an earth is Wootton doing on the pitch?" To be fair he wasn't having his best match in a Leeds shirt.

Leeds came out for the 2nd half fired up and within a minute Antenucci got on the end of a slick move but steered his shot wide followed quickly by two corners. This warmed the crowd up and all of a sudden there was a feeling that Leeds were moving up a gear to brush off Redfearn's team and secure a welcome 3 points. Then came a horrible crunching of the gears as Leeds engaged reverse. The ball was lost meekly in midfield and Rotherham attacked down the left flank where Smallwood looked up in amazement to see Newell all alone in the box. His cross was headed home with ease by the Rotherham front man to the delight of the travelling fans. Bellusci had apparently gone walkabout like an aged Australian with Alzheimer's disease. 1.0 Rotherham and suddenly it seemed a long, long way back for Leeds against the division's basement club.

Leeds started to huff and puff in their search for an equaliser. The long ball from the back became the weapon of choice for Steve Evan's men much to the delight his former team who gobbled up the majority of the aimless balls with glee. This had all the hallmarks of another deeply frustrating Leeds performance at Elland Road. Antenucci should have done better on 65 minutes when he snatched at a decent head down from Wood before Evans made a double substitution. Adeyemi on for Murphy and Botaka for Dallas. A glimmer of hope for the Leeds fans was soon extinguished as the illusive Botaka didn't get a touch of the ball for fully ten minutes.

Just when I was thinking things couldn't get any worse they did. Leon Best smashed his elbow into Berardi's face...............the mild mannered Berardi jumped to his feet and pushed the smirking Best to the ground before nearly sending the linesman with him as the official attempted to separate the pair. The inevitable two red cards eventually followed from the referee after an elongated discussion with his colleagues. Leeds now had just over 15 minutes to rescue the game from the ashes of a another woeful performance. They did give it a go as Erwin came on for the unusually quiet Cook. Botaka eventually began to get the ball and gave the Millers plenty of trouble. Wood missed a glorious chance as his header went straight at the goalie from 8 yards but it was too little and too late. Rotherham ran out winners at 1.0 as the frustrated Leeds fans streamed home from yet another home defeat.

Too many long hopeful balls and too few men in white prepared to get on the ball were the building blocks of this defeat. The midfield was bypassed time and again as we tried to get our forwards in around the back of the Rotherham defence.............which seemed a strange tactic for a team with little pace up front. Especially when the Rotherham centre backs looked most vulnerable when Leeds did get the ball on the floor and run at them. Very, very frustrating.

So Redfearn enjoyed his first win of his new assignment back at his spiritual home. Rotherham just about deserved their win because they took one of the few chances that came their way even though it was gift wrapped in a way that the long suffering home fans are all too familiar. It's still one step forward and two back for Leeds. Onwards to QPR next week to do battle with two more members of the burgeoning Ex Leeds managers club in Mr Warnock and Mr Blackwell. That should be interesting?

Can't wait.


Saturday, 7 November 2015

Huddersfield Town 0:3 Leeds United. 7th Nov 2015

Nothing generates the passion, tension, fear and unbridled joy all in one heady mix of rollercoaster emotions than a good old blood and thunder local derby. Fans from both sides will sometimes deny it but beating your nearest neighbours brings with it all the excitement of winning a cup final but without the silverware. It somehow seemed appropriate then that our first clash of the season with our West Yorkshire cousins was on FA Cup weekend.

As ever on Planet Leeds this week had thrown up the usual mix of jaw dropping events, actions and comments that now infest our once great club on an almost daily basis. Cellino perfected the expected U turn on selling the club to the fans group and then accused the same group of making up fairytales! Peter Lorimer then comes out with a robust defence of the mad Italian and berates fans for forcing all previous owners out of the club, especially the paragon of honesty Mr Bates, whilst insisting that the vast majority of Leeds fans are fully behind Cellino. I think our all time leading goal scorer must have  been on a "Truth and Publicity" seminar in North Korea recently? Despite all the off the field turmoil the Happy Chocker, Quiet One and yours truly joined the travelling army of mighty whites fans eagerly heading west to Huddersfield for the lunchtime clash with the Puppy Dogs with just one thing occupying our minds............a win preferably like last year with the last kick of the game!

The miserable Huddersfield weather couldn't dampen the electric atmosphere inside the John Smith's stadium as the game got underway. Evans had kept the same starting eleven but dropped both Doukara, understandable, and Byram, puzzling, from the bench. Bamba and Adeyemi returned after suspension and ineligibility respectively but  had to make do with a place on the bench.

The opening exchanges were turgid and scrappy with Huddersfield having much the better of the possession but failing to really test Silvestri in the Leeds goal. Dempsey looked lively in midfield for the home side as they looked to impress their new manager, Wagner, who was sitting in the stands composing his notes on the mighty Terriers. Leeds struggled to get the ball from the home side but on 12 minutes they did conjure up an attack that led to Davidson giving away a corner. Before the corner could be taken Cooper lay motionless in the box as worried medics rushed to his aid. What had happened? Had he collapsed? After a lengthy delay he was carried off the pitch concussed apparently due to a collision with Wootton. I know we're not very good at set pieces but you'd think we could at least avoid taking a fellow Leeds player out before the corners even taken? Cooper's exit was Bamba's opportunity as he strode onto the pitch to join Bellusci at the back. Needless to say we didn't score from the corner.

Town continued to have the better of the possession and on the half hour Harry Bunn stung Silvestri's hands with the first meaningful shot of the game. This was by no means a classic game. God knows what the Sky viewers thought of it but even the ultra loyal Leeds fans were a tad cheesed off with the lack of any real action. Then Mr Wootton lifted the decibel levels in the stadium with a scything tackle on Bunn as the home fans screamed for a red card for Byram's replacement. The ref gave him a yellow much to the incredulity of the Huddersfield fans. Many fans around me pointed out that what the home fans didn't realise was that it would be to their advantage to keep him on the pitch. A bit harsh I thought.

The game became more scrappy the nearer we got to half time. Huddersfield had a couple of half chances as Leeds managed a couple of blocked shots at the other end but this game was heading for the vault for the most forgettable Leeds games.............then the game burst into life in spectacular fashion. First Bellusci tried to lob the goalie from fully 50 yards but only succeeded in waking up a snoozing Town fan way behind the goals. Better was to come though as 8 minutes of added time began with the home side appearing to switch off. First Wood battled well for a ball just over the half way and exchanged a sweet one two with Dallas who shot down the wing before pinging a delicious cross into the box where Antenucci skilfully finished with a flying shot. Get in! 1.0 Leeds and the away fans were in dreamland. What a fairytale finish to the half! But we weren't finished within a minute we were on the attack again as Antenucci beat the half hearted offside trap and rounded the home keeper..................his attempted pull back to Wood hit a defender's leg but the Leeds striker calmly side footed the ball home for an unbelievable 2.0 lead. Absolutely mint. The home fans were stunned as their team trooped off for their half time drink 2 goals adrift in a game they had dominated possession. HT 2.0 Leeds.

Ian Holloway was having some friendly banter with the Leeds fans from his vantage point of the outdoor Sky studio as I tried to figure out how we ended up two goals to the good in one of the poorest halves of football we'd played this season. Football is a funny old game.

Huddersfield as you'd expect came out with all guns blazing in an attempt to get back into the game. Lolley, Dempsey, Bunn and Wallace all had shots flying Silvestri's way in the first ten minutes of the half. Then just as the nerves were beginning to jangle in the away end up stepped Alex Mowatt to banish any ideas that Town had of a comeback with another absolute screamer from 35 yards that left Murphy in the Town goal clawing at fresh air as the ball whistled into the net. It was carnage in the Leeds end as we celebrated yet another absolutely stunning strike from the 20 year old Leeds midfielder. 3.0 Leeds and the home fans were all sick as dogs.

Huddersfield continued to have plenty of possession without any real threat on the Leeds goal. Bellusci was commanding at the back and Silvestri was solid in goal with neither player causing any flutters amongst the massed ranks of Leeds fans enjoying the 3.0 lead. A poor Huddersfield fan in a pair of less than flattering chino shorts was mercifully taunted by the delighted away contingent. Adeyemi replaced Wootton at full back before Botaka made a late appearance replacing Dallas on the wing. Botaka nearly brought the house down with his first touch of the ball as he jinked into the box and brought a finger tip save from Murphy.

Leeds saw the game through with ease although Town should have got one back late on. By the time the final whistle blew the Huddersfield fans had long gone leaving the joyous Leeds fans celebrating with the players and especially Steve Evans who seems to enjoy a good fist pump to the fans when we win. Mowatt's goal will stand out from this game but there were encouraging performances from Bellusci, Silvetsri and Wood. Dallas gets better with each game as does Berardi. Cook once again showed what an exciting young talent he is. All in all a very solid team performance............light years away from what we saw against Blackburn.

Back to back wins and clean sheets for Leeds something that seemed impossible just a couple of weeks ago. Next up are struggling Rotherham after the international break with a return to the Theatre of Hope for Neil Redfearn against Steve Evans former team. What price another screamer from Mowatt?

Cant wait.


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