Sunday, 21 December 2008
Milton Keynes Dons v Leeds United Dec 20th 2008
Milton Keynes away............................It's a fixture that not so long ago would have been unimaginable, other than in the Cup, but today Leeds were preparing for another make or break league game against the new football team from a new town somewhere in the home counties. Not only that but as the Happy Chocker, the Quiet One, Denby and the Brainbox assembled at Selby station it's safe enough to say that none of us were confident of anything as unlikely as a victory. An early morning group of Mackem fans en route to Hull were at the station, already well refreshed, scampering to catch their connection. I've got to admit I have a certain affinity to Sunderland fans. They are similar to Leeds in lots of ways, they have a large passionate fan base who follow them to all ends of the country, they never quite match performance with fans expectations and they are always good for some witty banter. They boarded the Hull bound train for the short leg to Codhead country for what was going to be a long a successful day for them.
Although our initial thoughts on the match were negative to say the least this didn't necessarily dampen our spirits as we made our way via Manchester Piccadilly to catch the London bound connection to MK. In fact the nearer we got to our destination the more optimistic we became and by the time the roly poly Virgin Voyager train rolled into MK Central we had raised our expectations to a possible draw.
Now Milton Keynes is a "New Town" conceived and developed in the 1960's from an amalgamation of existing villages/towns linked by a new central district that was planned with the latest architectural and planning concepts to the fore.....................mmmm yours truly's first impressions were a little less complementary as we walked away from the spacious rail station and onto a mass of concrete boulevards and squares leading to the centre. It seemed to me that the inspiration had come from some ex soviet bloc city with a passion for silver glass fronted buildings and the result was a drab soulless epicentre inhabited by latter day yuppies.......that is until the hordes of whites fans descended on their fine creation and cranked up the atmosphere.
We found some pre match refreshment in Wetherspoons, where we met the Wakey warriors and Darlo Liam, before catching the special shuttle bus up to the stadium. As we approached the stadium it had the air of a building that looked well sort of not finished, and of course that is the case, with the upper tier of the stadium still to be commissioned. Once inside though we were suitably impressed with the lay out and facilities of one of the best stadia outside the Prem...........even though there was no alcohol on sale to away fans!
Monkey Hanger made his way over to meet us as the match started. Those of a delicate disposition stop reading now as the match played out the now familiar tale of poor defending, especially from corners and crosses and more frustration for the fantastic Leeds support.
They scored in the first 10 minutes from a corner where confusion reigned in the Leeds defence even before they took the corner with Sheehan covering the post then not then on the post and then finally going to win the ball as the MK player sneaked the ball in at the post he had nearly defended! With the lack of confidence already evident in the Leeds end it was not surprising that the majority of fans had a look of familar resignation on their faces with less than a quarter of the game gone. Worse was to follow as MK added a second after farcical defending resulted in MK adding a second killer goal. This was all too much for two Leeds fans in front of me who came to blows over an argument from the goal. It's a pity there wasn't as much aggression in the penalty box as the goal would not have been scored.
Gary Mac had thrown a desperate debut to the new French signing at right back in place of Capt Chaos and he had an understandably jittery start but as the teams reappeared after HT he was installed at centre half in place of the woeful Lubo. this seemed to spark Leeds and with Capt Chaos adding more bite and penetration on the right and Tsunami winning some good ball at the back things started to look a bit brighter. So much so that when the ever improving Snoddy pulled one back with a superbly taken volley early in the 2nd half I even hoped that we could salvage a point from the game.............................but I should know better.................within a couple of minutes we'd had a strong penalty claim turned down, by the ref who was no more than 3 yards away from the hand ball, and then MK sealed the game with another headed goal from another cross. Leeds never gave up trying but in the end they could neither find the guile or the resolve to rescue the damage that their inept defending had caused. So a 5th straight defeat was absorded gloomily by the whites fans streaming away from the stadium. We didn't do much streaming for 45 minutes as we waited with other unfortunate fans for the shuttle bus back to Red square. At least it gave me time to ring Radio Leeds and vent my frustration over the dis- organised defending to Andy Ritchie. An over officious steward with a striking likeness to Garth Crooks didn't help the mood as he insisted on counting everyone onto the bus when it finally arrived to ensure it wasn't overcrowded. Just goes to prove the theory that give a man a hi viz coat and a hat and he suddenly loses all his common sense and thinks he rules the world.
The journey home seemed to take an eternity...........funny how that's the case when we lose...... although it did give us plenty of time to reflect on the game. How can a professional side be so slack at defending set pieces? Will Gary Mac keep his job? When will we win again? How many will Matty Fryatt score against us on Boxing day?
As the train stopped at Huddersfield to pick up revellers on their way into Leeds for the night my old toggy views came bursting out as a trio of girls with coloured hair like characters from "The Pirates of The Caribbean" Don't they have any mirrors in terrier Town?
So another long day ended with the realisation that we are now well out of contention for the automatic promotion places and unless we can plug the defence immediately we have no chance of even making the play offs. We ended the night recognising that it was indeed tough times for Gary Mac and his team.....................I don't think anyone in our party expected the swift action that was to follow the next morning.