Saturday, 27 December 2008
Leeds Utd v Leicester City Boxing Day 2008
Boxing Day matches always have a distinctive feel to them. This is usually due to the fact that lots of the factors that form the normal mix of a match day have changed just for the day. No trains or shuttle buses were running so we reverted to the car, the crowd is swelled by occasional attending supporters, there is an inevitable air of recovery from the excesses of the day before and there is always a magnificent array of presents from Santa adorning fans in all shapes and sizes.
Today was no exception. So in the excited crowd making its way down Elland Road on a bright crisp day were numerous new hats, scarves, shirts and coats fresh from Xmas wrapping paper proudly worn by their owners. The Happy Chocker and I were with our respective brothers for the day who both looked slightly apprehensive as we squeezed into the Peacock that was already bursting at the seams with thirsty fans. Thankfully we were able to secure a couple of pre match pints to quaff despite big bruvver antagonising the bar staff and we settled into an optimistic debate over the possible outcome of the forthcoming match.
I say optimistic because in comparison with the mood leaving Stadium MK, "absolutely no chance on Boxing day", the introduction of a new manager had lifted the spirits of the battered Leeds fans and certainly I was quietly confident of getting something out of the game.
We entered the ground , crammed with over 33,000 fans, and after successfully resolving the Happy Chocker's ticket dispute with the LUFC gestapo, sorry stewards, we got sight of Larry's first team selection. 5 changes from last week with returns for Casper, Beckford, Robbo, Jesus & Capt Chaos. The large contingent of travelling fans ensured an atmosphere more in line with a Premier League match rather than one from the depths of Div 3 but once the whistle went for the start of the game nobody seemed to care.
The pace of the game was frantic from the start leading to a scrappy opening quarter where possession and skill were at a premium on both sides. Leicester had slightly edged the opening skirmishes and cemented their position with a well taken goal from Matt Oakley, who appeared in acres of space on the right with Robbo nowhere to be seen, who was then able to pick his spot with ease past a static Casper. Not the start the fans or Larry for that matter wanted!
Leeds battled on to half time and although they departed for their cup of tea 1:0 down they had rattled the wood work. In fairness the league leaders had the better of the half mainly due to the work of the front two of Howard and the free scoring Fryatt together with the strength and dominance of their centre back Tunchev. The inevitable Turkey and stuffing sandwiches were gratefully consumed by our party, generously provided by Big Bruvver, as we waited for the teams to reappear. On reflection Leeds had certainly had a bit more bite in the tackle and spirit than of late and not only that we had defended all of the set pieces successfully that Leicester had throw at us so even though we were behind all hope was not gone!
Leeds grew in stature as the 2nd half progressed and Becchio squandered a good chance for the equalizer early in the 2nd period. The Leeds momentum was increased with the introduction of 3 subs, Howson, Snoddy and the evervesant Hughes for Robbo, Dougie and Jesus. This didn't neccessarly quell some of the frustration in the kop spewing from the mouths of the more negative whites fans as calls for the sale of both Delph and Becks amazingly drifted above the general hum. Unbelievable! It never ceases to amaze me how Leeds fiercest critics are not to be found in opposing clubs bars or on the back pages of some southern based anti Leeds newspapers but in the very stands where they loudly and passionately claim to be Marching on Together!
Then just as it seemed Leeds were not going to get any reward for their considerable efforts Snoddy latched onto a teasing cross from Jonny Howson in the 91st minute and finished with more aplomb than you should expect in Div 3..............the ground erupted with all the frustration of the recent poor run of form bottled into one joyous celebration by fans and players a like.
Even on the restart Leeds poured forward for the last 2 minutes and could even have snatched a winner. So in the end we went away with a precious point deservedly ground out against the strongest team in the division, not only that there was enough evidence that Larry's new regime might just turn the ship around and get us back on course for the promotion places. The defence were more solid today and I can honestly say I don't think they were troubled by any of the numerous corners and free kicks around the box.......progress indeed. Not sure Big Bruvver was all that impressed though with the fare on offer as the two fallen giants slugged out a tense encounter like two aging heavyweights past their prime.
So a quick turn round and we are back on the road on Sunday for the trip to Stockport. If we can pick up where we left off in the 2nd half we could finish a troubled year with a precious victory that will send us into the new year with renewed hope. Here's hoping so.