Sunday, 1 February 2009
Walsall V Leeds United Jan 31st 2009
After the welcome success since Larry arrived as manager it was with justified optimism and expectation the Happy Chocker, Quiet One and yours truly set off to the black country for the game with mighty Walsall..........of course I should have known better!
The train down from Leeds to Birmingham had a good number of fellow whites fans drawn by the recent unbeaten run and the promise of a new dawn in the chequered history of Leeds United. Even the less cautious Happy Chocker was inspired to place a bet on a whites victory and not wanting to be left out I went for broke with a dabble on a Delph first goal and a 2:0 victory to Leeds. Now in defence of our actions I must point out that as any football fan knows the most positive part of any match is that dangerous period of 2 to 3 hours before kick off when anything is possible and minor points, such as the skill & commitment of the team, are put to one side in favour of unbounded faith and belief that today is the day when all the past faults disappear and the perfect 10 performance is on the cards. So intoxicated by these thoughts and a couple of cans we rolled into Birmingham to catch the short connection to the Bescott Stadium.
On the last leg of the journey the atmosphere cranked up 300% as the train full of Villa, Walsall but mainly Leeds fans trundled through the suburbs of Englands 2nd city. The vociferous Leeds contingent were soon regaling their fellow football fans with the full range of Leeds anthems without any response. One very young Villa fan bedecked in claret & blue sat opposite us and surrounded by the more "boisterous" faithful enquired of his nervous Dad "Who are Leeds Dad" "Don't worry son......they're not in the Premier League and they won't be for a long time" the Happy Chocker looked at me and I don't think either of us could argue with the point.
Once we disembarked from the train vibrating with exuberant Leeds fans we were met with a cold awakening as a Siberian wind whipped off the adjacent M6 and we caught first sight of the "compact" Bescott Stadium. The floodlights certainly looked like Walsall were doing their bit for Climate Change!
The 4000 strong away support were housed in two stands making up over 50% of the crowd and as ever gave their heroes the full vocal treatment.
As expected the team was the same as Tuesday against a Walsall team under new management. It was the home team who started on the front foot, clearly buoyed by their intention to impress their new manager, and it was soon obvious that their central spine of Ince in the goal, Gerrard at centre half and the big black stiker Ibhere were going to dominate the game.
Some fans around me mistook Ibhere for the ex Leeds donkey Ricketts and started to give him some stick...........how an earth they could mistake the strong skillfull stirker on show for Michael "can't hit a barn door" Ricketts was slightly puzzling.
Leeds had started sluggishly and were given a rude awakening after 7 minutes when Deeney was allowed to get a deft head onto an unchallenged cross past a dithering Casper...............in an instant all the new found confidence evapourated into the freezing midlands air and the home fans were in dreamland as their favourites started to dominate the game. Beckford was having one of those games that give lot's of ammunition to the "anti Becks" brigade. He appeared to be lazy in chasing balls down and had too many speculative flick ons that didn't work. One move summed up the frustration he causes as he skillfully skipped away from his marker 50 yards out and sped away from him towards the giant Ince in the goal only to finish with a weak side footed effort from 20 yards out. I'm sure you could have heard the groan from the whites fans at Villa Park. His contribution to the match was effectively finished a minute later when Gerrard left him prostrate after an "old fashioned" centre halves challenge. Although he got up and gingerly trotted around for another 15 minutes he neither had the stomach or the willingness for the battle and was replaced by the eager Becchio just after half time.
In the meantime the happy Chocker had broken a world and Olympic queuing record at the only burger kiosk available to the 4000 away fans. His mood wasn't helped when he could only get a plain burger and not the requested cheese burger for the Quiet One..........but at least the 20 minutes he spent there spared him from some of the X rated fare on show on the pitch as Leeds went from bad to worse. They just didn't seem to be able to cope with robust and direct approach of the home team and got sucked into a bit of a slugging match with pure Football at an absolute minimum.
Erstwhile son of Walsall and hero of Leeds Sniffer Clarke was paraded at half time to the biggest cheer of the afternoon............cue a chorus of "who put the ball in the Arsenal net"......I'm sure I saw some moist eyes in the Leeds end!
As the 2nd half progressed Walsall's strong stirker Ibhere looked more and more likely to add a second goal despite Bam Bams best efforts as he toyed with the Leeds back four.
In recent matches Larry's substitutions have always signalled improvements on the pitch so when he brought on Snoddy, Becchio and Howson hopes grew of a last assault on the resolute home defence. Although Leeds did push on and chances were created, Robbo at his teasing best delivering 3 or 4 golden crosses, Snoddy hitting a searing shot millimetres over Ince's bar and finally Becchio glancing a goal bound free kick from Robbo into the frustrated Leeds fans behind the goal.
So the whistle went and yet another false dawn bit the dust. This was a game we should have been able to win but as ever with Leeds just when you think they've got it together they produce an anaemic performance lacking in true quality and penetration. The midfield was strangely at a loss of how to combat the bustling style of their opponents. Delph in particular had a worryingly average game.......just hope that's not due to transfer issues on his mind? It leaves us with two crucial games coming up against London teams and anything less than 6 points will seriously dent the possibility of promotion and consign us to another year in the 3rd division.
The trip home was eventful as the train was full of Leeds fans drowning their sorrows, some more than others! The Wakey Warriors were of the same opinion as the rest of the throng "We were rubbish" or words to that effect. A number of fans took out their frustrations with an over officious ticket conductor resulting in two fellow Selibians asked to leave the train at Derby.
All in all the long trip home seemed to go on for ever..........always does when we lose.........don't know why I do it really.........I should know better but you've got to have some passion in your life and mine's Leeds United ooh and not forgetting the present Mrs Marching on Together!
So roll on Tuesday and a trip to the Orient by car though and not the Orient Express!