Wednesday, 26 November 2008
Northampton Town v Leeds United Nov 25th 2008
A night that promised so much started to go wrong even before the Happy Chocker arrived for the 2 hour car journey to Sixfields with the news that the main arterial route, the M1, was closed. After picking up the Wakey Warriors we had to make a call between the various radio messages of doom and gloom on the M1 and an eye witness report from the Happy Chocker's brother who reported a clear run in front of us. By picking the latter we were able to negotiate a trouble free run down the same road we had encountered just over a week before.
Pre match refreshments were taken in the Ten Pin bowling alley at Sixfields together with a keenly contested game of Pool against Nelly's Knotla lads. The consensus view on the match was that we should pick up the 3 points with the unanimous concern over our frail defence. Macca stuck with the same team from Saturday that had fired 4 quality goals past the Monkey Hangers.
The atmosphere inside the small compact stadium was more muted than the recent cup game despite there being more fans.......................the near freezing weather and idiotic stadium DJ had a lot to do with that.
As soon as the game started it was clear a repeat of the cup game was not on the cards.........the Cobblers flooded the midfield and over ran a surprised Leeds team in the first half creating a number of well worked chances. Lucas' bar was hit with him well beaten before they took the lead with a wonder strike that left the Leeds goalie grasping fresh air. In fairness it was no more than they deserved but even with the Whites nowhere near their fluid best they still carved out a number of chances that the red hot Beckford and Delph tested both the improved goalie and the Northampton woodwork. So as the ref blew for HT and Leeds hurried off to the changing rooms frustrated boo's rang out from a significant number of impatient Leeds fans. Now nobody was as pissed off and frustrated than me at HT but booing the team? No that never does anything other than de-motivate the team in my view.
The cold weather and pre match pints ensured that the small away toilets were packed to the rafters with the air was filled with the smoke of clandestine smokers and disgruntled punters muttering words such as rubbish, crap, giving the ball away, as they struggled to co-ordinate zips with freezing hands.
In truth the first half definitely belonged to Northampton because they gave the ball away fewer times than Leeds and had been able to snuff out some of the threat of our attacking force by virtue of their vice like grip on midfield.
Macca's team talk had the desired effect as Leeds came out early from their HT cup of tea and proceeded to claw their way back into the game and started to pepper the young Northampton U21 international goalie, Frank Fielding. Now either the misplaced bating of him by the Leeds fans "If you can play for England so can I" they not so tunefully sang, or a determination on his part to improve from the woeful showing in the first game, whichever it resulted in him having the game of his life as he made save after save from the waves of Leeds attacks. It was no surprise when the dam eventually breached and Beckford equalised when he finished another flowing Leeds move to score his sixth goal in 3 games and fourth against Northampton. At this point I think the majority of fans in the ground expected the Leeds pressure to tell and whisk the precious 3 points back up the M1............................................but this is Leeds United and nothing seems to go to plan, especially away ticket applications, and things soon took a turn for the worse. Snoddy had replaced Dougie and was causing problems whenever he touched the ball. At the end of another Snoddy inspired move Beckford cleverly backhealed a pass into the path of the following winger who whipped in another dangerous cross. As the ball was cleared and the game moved on it was clear to the massed Leeds fans, but not apparently to the Leeds bench, that Beckford had injured himself and was now prostrate behind the goal clutching his hamstring. After what seemed an eternity the sponge man arrived with Aidey White as assistant to tend to the our 19 goal striker. Clearly in some trouble he was lead away to the cheers and concerns of the Whites fans. Now this loss was not lost on the home fans and they gleefully sang "Beckfords f***** and you're staying down" mmmm hope there wrong.
The match reached a climax with Leeds battering Northampton time and again but as Northampton broke not for the first time this season the soft underbelly of the Leeds defence capitulated at the death from a dreaded corner. It was a carbon copy of the headed goal that they scored in the cup game as the substitute ran across the static and imobile defence to plant a sickening blow to our promotion chances in the back of the net. In contrast to the joyous celebration by the Cobblers fans the goal was too much for a number of whites fans who immediately headed for the exits..............no 20 minute rendition of "We all love Leeds" or "European Champions" this week............our Achilles heel of defending set pieces had struck again and consigned us to defeat.
I wasn't the only fan who was boiling inside as we left the stadium and marched back to the car. Smirking Northampton fans were grinning like Cheshire Cats and one particular fat knobhead thought it was funny to liken Leeds to a "small town in Bradford" in my earshot and I responded by rather forcibly advising him to go forth and multiply.......................I know you should just ignore it and carry on because having lost the game you're on thin ice..........but I must admit I felt a lot better having done it.
Once in the car the prospect of the long drive home didn't improve the mood but more to the point how are we going to resolve the defensive frailty? Hunty & Rui were recycled as solutions as we pulled away from Northampton but we've been there before and neither offer a cast iron solution. The January sales can't come quick enough...............I just hope we are still in touch with the top two positions when they do because up to then we need to be scoring 3 goals a game to ensure a win. The night was a harsh reminder that life in the third tier of English football is not easy and despite our illustrious history escaping will take a bit more guile, skill and more pointedly defensive solidity than is currently on display at Elland Road. Just to add to the doomsday scenario the Histon scouts disappeared back up the A14 in buoyant mood ready for the cup game on Sunday.............at least we can't lose to a non league team..........can we?