Sunday, 11 January 2009
Leeds United v Carlisle United Jan 10th 2009
Today we had the pleasure of Welly and the Happy Chocker's brother on our road trip to ER. This made for an entertaining and amusing pre cursor to the match as subjects ranging from Welly's golfing prowess to the dangers of the after match walk to the station at Tranmere were aired as we made our way along the M62. We even managed to have a "healthy debate" about which junction was the quickest/best one to get to ER! Welly was still chuntering about the M621 and parking in Holbeck when we got to the members bar for some well earned pre match refreshment.
It was clear from the non playing players on view in the members bar that today's selection was an "interesting" one as Jesus, Jonny Howson and Paul Telfer swapped pleasantries with Peter Lorimer whilst trying to hide their disappointment at not making the squad. Into the team came Malcolm Christie in place of the injured Beckford, whilst new signing Lee Trundle, the returning Bradley Johnson, Robbo and the French tsunami returned to the bench. Stood there listening to Peter Lorimer and Sniffer Clarke reminiscing about how they used to defend under Don Revie, I couldn't help reflecting that with a squad as strong as we have it is a travesty that we remain outside the play off places ..........we must be on the cusp of a long unbeaten run?
After chatting with a healthy contingent of the neighbours, including Paddy the Liverpool fan, (don't worry he's undergoing a religious conversion by Jason & Denby) we took our seats ready for another "must win" game.
The game started with lots of hustle and bustle with ball possession at a premium and if the truth's known it was the strugglers from Carlisle, who last tasted victory on the road back in August, who settled the better ably led by their veteran advert for "Just for Men", Graham Kavanagh. It was the wily general who created the opening for the first goal when he delivered a sublime pass behind Sheehan for the eager Carlisle winger to pull a perfect ball back for the ex Leeds Donkey, Graham, to beat the bewildered Leeds defence to the ball and steer it past Casper. The silence from the kop was deafening in contrast with delirious Cumbrians celebrating in the cheese wedge.
Going froward we weren't playing that badly and chances were appearing but the tall, scruffy Carlisle goalie was in excellent form denying among others Becchio with class saves. Add to that he commanded his box with authority and gobbled up any cross that came near him the more knowledgeable Whites fans looked on in envy knowing that this is exactly what our stuttering team is in dire need of.
Before HT Carlisle struck another blow when the other Ex Leeds player on show, Michael Bridges, slid in a second goal after another bout of dithering defensive work and slack marking had exposed Casper who's attempt to stop the less than powerful shot compared poorly with the scruffy git at the other end of the field. The players left the field for their cup of tea with sporadic boo's in their ears. If Larry didn't know the size of his task he did now.
There was light relief during the interval as the cross bar challenge participant was of the more older variety carrying significant "good living" baggage but the joy with which he entered the hallowed turf struck a chord with the ER faithful and he so nearly capped his moment of fame as his first attempt went agonisingly close to winning the signed Leeds shirt. It was HC's brother who pointed out he'd probably got the better of the deal by missing as he picked up a DAB radio as a consolation!
In the second half changes were needed if Leeds were going to get anything from the match and it wasn't long before Robbo, Lee Trundle and Bradley Johnson were given the chance to rescue at least a point. There introduction and the change of formation to 3-4-3 added extra vigour and life to the team and we went close on a number of times but a combination of last ditch defending and the obvious skills of scruffy git between the sticks denied Leeds a sniff of a goal that would have triggered a last hurrah chasing the equaliser. Both Johnson and Trundle gave promising performances and the rotund Robbo scooted about causing panic whenever he got the ball. Ironically it was Carlisle who should have scored the next goal as they squandered an easy one on one with Casper with a pathetic attempt that ended up with the grateful South standers.
The final whistle was met with half hearted boo's from some disgruntled Leeds fans................once again good work going forward was negated by poor defensive lapses and marking............the need to get 2 centre halves and a commanding Goalie is overwhelming in the brief transfer window.
But I fear it will be too little too late. Our promotion chances are at best dependent on the lottery of the play offs, and even with 22 games to go whoever comes in will need to hit the ground running if we are to endure the shredded nerves of play off games. The atmosphere at ER is noticeably muted, understandably so, driven by the realisation that all that matters in this league are points, not the massive fan base, not the strength of the squad, not the still impressive stadium, not the famous old players on show, not the belief we should be in the Premier League and the fact is we are not collecting enough of those precious points to buy our passage out.
The car on the way home was vociferous in analysing the game, especially when a couple of muppets made less than astute observations from the comfort of their armchairs on the Yorkshire Radio phone in.
Anyhow there's always next weeks 6 hour journey to Brighton to look forward to....................can't wait!