Saturday, 28 March 2009
Leeds United v The Franchise Dons 28th Mar 2009
As The Quiet One was showing off his silky footballing skills in Altofts in the morning I was meeting the Happy Chocker and his aspiring offspring at ER. That meant a return to the delights of the Trans Peninne express to transport me to Leeds. Jason, Denby, Brainbox and friends were amongst the throng joining the already full train at Selby station. The late arctic weather had caught some unsuspecting fans out and Jason was soon deciding that perhaps today wasn't the day to have the rolled up sleeves cool look as he shivered in the vicious northerly wind. On the train the consensus view on Larry's loan signings of goalie Flahavan and defender Sam Sodje was very positive. I felt that Flahavan could even get a starting place on the logic that why bring a goalie in with 8 games to go and then not play him. Seemed a reasonable assumption but as I was soon to find out it was way off the mark as the ex Crytsal Palace stopper didn't even make the bench! Sammy SodOff, who is one of a Nigerian brotherly sporting quintet, was a different proposition and I didn't hear a negative word against his signing, with all and sundry agreeing that he will be a more than adequate replacement for the lumbering giant Lubo glossing over the fact that he's only played one game in the last 2 years. One of the Hull Whites on the train treated us all to an exclusive viewing of his new tattoo of the famous LUFC badge as he proudly, if not a little gingerly, rolled his sleeve to reveal his devotion to the mighty whites adorning his upper arm.........ouch!
After a brisk walk to the Theatre of Frustration from the station I was glad to seek the warm refuge of the members bar and meet up with HC and the Quiet One, fresh from netting 2 goals in his clash with Altofts. The debate over the return of Capt Chaos (Fraser) from injury and whether he would regain either his right back place or Capt's armband was soon answered as he joined Peter Lorimer, fresh from the premiere of The Damned United, for the fateful pre match interview......................so that answered one selection query..............and other speculation was finished as Beckford and Sodje were announced as the only change to last weeks starting line up. Robbo and Hughes made welcome returns to the bench from injury to form a formidable Leeds line up.
The Franchise Dons arrived at ER on the back of a stuttering run that has seen them fall out of the automatic promotion places and as they sat 4 points above Leeds at the start of play they were well within Leeds reach. Their confidence has been drained by the recent hiccups and I can't believe they were looking forward to the tussle with Leeds in front of a buoyant crowd of just under 28,000 fans.
The game kicked off under a leaden sky and the now familiar swirling biting wind. The early exchanges were very much nip and tuck with the Dons matching Leeds with some neat touches. It wasn't long though before the dynamic eagerness of the confident Leeds team started to get on top and carve out chances for the busy front two of Becchio and Beckford. All wasn't perfect though and when our petulant talisman..............you know who I mean............decided to kick out at the Dons centre half after he'd been fouled I feared the dreaded red card appearing once again.
Thankfully the Premiership ref bottled the decision in front of the baying Leeds crowd and restricted his sanction to a rather pitiful "word in his ear" I'm sure the late Mr Clough would have told Jermaine that "he's a very lucky young man" in that distinctive midlands drawl if he'd still been alive.
The pressure Leeds were applying was soon to tell and who else but JB twisted the knife in the Dons defence as he expertly despatched an intelligent head back from his partner Becchio past the despairing Dons goalie to notch his 30th goal of this campaign. It was no more than Leeds deserved and as they headed for the break they could have another as Delph and Beckford tormented the confused back four with yet more delightful football. News that Peterboro had put the Foxes of Leicester in their place with a 2:0 win didn't dampen too many spirits at HT.
Leeds were well in control and I was certainly in the majority in looking forward to a comfortable 2nd half with more goals for Leeds and another 3 points................hang on a minute that's the same speech from last week and look what happened then! With Hughes back on the bench he can usually be relied upon to brighten up the interval activities and he did'nt disappoint as he bundled Lucas Kop kat into the back of the net in front of the Kop much to everyones amusement.
So Leeds opened the 2nd period firing towards the South Stand with the hopes of at least 27,000 of the fans inside the stadium focusing on getting a quick addition to Mr Beckfords opener. It was at this precise moment I noticed something odd. I looked at my watch and yes we'd played over 50 minutes of the game....................I looked around me and there were plenty of men in orange coats with steward written on the back, but there was something missing? What was it? Then it came to me...............nobody had asked any fan to "kindly take your seats" or stand in front of the kop doing an impression of the Yeboah salute in an attempt to get everyone to sit down. Weird! Maybe they'd been on a common sense course at last?
Back to the match and we were soon in 8th heaven as Beckford latched onto a Snoddy through ball and the game was over at 2:0. Yes a bold statement but it was a reflection of how well Leeds were playing and how much confidence has risen since Larry took over. Not even an injury to Sammy SodOff and the appearance of Lubo as his replacement could change things. Sammy got a richly deserved standing ovation from the appreciative crowd for a thoroughly encouraging debut in which he won the ball in the air time and time again and looks to have good potential. only problem is that he left the field with a hamstring injury that may keep him out for the next few games.
The only scare we had was late in the game when a Dons cross evaded attackers, defenders and of course Casper only to squirm parallel with the goal line and out for a corner. The final whistle came without the preceding nerves, tension and "can't bear to watch moments" that accompanied last weeks win this was very much a measured stroll to victory over a now disconsolate franchise team.
On the way out of the ground I engaged a disappointed MK fan seeking his views on his teams plight.........."we're rubbish and need a new striker" "Our confidence has gone and we're struggling" he rather gloomily assessed. Nice to know that one of our potential play off opponents are on the downward spiral then!
Man of the match has to go to Beckford for his 30th and 31st goals of the season but it could have been oh so different if he'd correctly received a red card in the first half. He's got to learn that all teams will try and wind him up and the more he responds the more they will do it. I mean how else do you stop a goal machine like JB? The midfield was again purring with precision and in particular Jonny Howson who was all over the pitch like a rash. The defence looked sound all afternoon, even with Lubo, again defiantly led by Bam Bam Naylor. He's got to be the signing of the season.
The only blot on the afternoon came as we left the stadium and found out that not only had the Posh won but a last minute goal from our nemesis from last season, Jason Price, had secured 3 crucial points for Millwall. The 2nd automatic spot has drifted further away on today's results despite our decimation of the team from a town that sounds like a literary colleague of Agatha Christie. We have further cemented our play off position though and given our rich vein of form we will face the lottery of the play offs in confident mood............I think?
Colchester away next week and another 3 points? Bring it on.