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Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Leyton Orient v Leeds United 7th April 2009

Midweek games are always a rush and today's 390 mile round trip to the Orient was no exception.  The Happy Chocker fresh from his shift in the bowels of West Yorkshire seeking out the black gold arrived at our rendezvous first closely followed be Welly with The Quiet One in tow.  So once we had picked up the Turkey Twizzler from The Swan we were on our way.  
Confidence was high after extending our unbeaten run to 9 games at Colchester on Saturday so the journey south was sprinkled with positive views on how we were going to continue piling the pressure on the top two by beating the O's.
Welly had brought his own music CD's..............somehow don't think he's a big fan of "Steve Wright in the afternoon" I was treated to an airing of the latest Doves album as we gobbled up the miles on the A1.  After rendezvousing with Jacko on the M11 we negotiated the last 10 miles to Leyton together.
After Saturday's visit to the U's new stadium and all fun of their park and ride scheme tonight we were back to a more traditional game of finding a parking space in the warren of small streets that surround the stadium.  After negotiating with an understanding Asian gentleman to park outside his abode we finally parked the cars but only after being berated by his next door neighbour "you can't park there guvnor" she spat out of her toothless mouth in an almost unintelligible cockney accent.  The fact that she looked like an extra for some Hammer House of Horror film after 6 hours in make up brought chuckles from our motley crew.
Pre match refreshment was taken in a good old fashioned East End boozer, Coach & Horses, which was packed to the rafters with another massive away following.  Leeds can be criticised for a number of things but their loyal fan base is not one of them.
Once in the ground the first concern of the trip emerged as we watched the whites warm up.  Whilst one of the injury worries, Snoddy, appeared to be praying to Mecca there was no sign of either Mr Beckford or for that matter our new hero Sammy SodOff.  Various "experts" amongst the fans suggested both were injured but there was a hint of the conspiracy theory with regards JB.  He'd not been mentioned in dispatches as on the injured list so as they would say in "Eastenders"  "What's going on"
Still even without Sammy and Becks we would still be too strong for the East Ends poor relations to West Ham Utd and so it proved as the game kicked off.  
Leeds took control with Killa pulling the strings in midfield and Delph making the most of the acres of space he was given on the left flank.  Liam Dickinson was a willing worker up front standing in for Becks but had all the signs of lack of match practice with his touch.  Dickinson is not a rumbustrous centre forward, with his coiffured hair and mincing run, but he was winning over the majority of whites fans with his intelligent runs along the line.  It was Killa who first tested the Orient goalie though as Leeds continued to build up a head of steam.  The voiciferous away following sensed we were going to break our Tuesday night away game duck and cranked up the volume and this optimism was rewarded with a superbly worked goal for Snoddy as he was realised with a pin point ball from Delph.  The East End air was soon filled with the sounds of Marching on Together belting out from the packed East Stand and I could feel both Posh and the Foxes fans shuffling uncomfortably in their seats in front of Sky Sports News.
Leeds continued to have the better of the play but as the half came to a close Orient started to get more of the ball and cause some ripples in the Leeds defence, especially through the ball winning skills of their big centre forward.  We were missing Sammy.
The Happy Chocker's HT view was more pessimistic than mine in that he felt they were looking good for a goal whereas I thought we were still well in control and would go on to win comfortably.  Mmmmmm.
The second half started with Leeds in the ascendancy but what had happened to Delph at Half time?  He'd gone from someone who was taunting Orient with his silky skills to a player who was placing misplaced passes and failing to find anyone in a yellow jersey.  Had someone slipped something in his HT tea?  Even this didn't detract from the Leeds machine as they drove on to make the game secure as they sliced the porous home defence open almost at will.  So when a Becchio effort was handled on the line and Snoddy (no you can't take it Lucciano)  coolly slotted the ball home for his second of the night we were cruising.  The Leeds fans celebrated with gusto and I'm sure they could be heard across the river in Bermondsey.  We even sang a chorus of "Ee Ei Ee Ei Ee Ei Oo up the Football League we go"........................................oh dear a bit previous.
As Orient were down to 10 men with the sending off of the ball handler on the line it was now a case of killing the game off and moving on to Saturday's home game.
But that didn't take into account Orient's fighting spirit and rather like Crewe did when they were 3 down the East end men threw everything forward in an attempt to rescue something from a match that up to then they had deserved nothing.  There was an air of predictability then when they got a dubious free kick on the edge of the box.  Casper appeared to leave a massive gap to his right as he lined up the wall and sure enough that's exactly where the ball ended up via what I thought was a slight deflection?.  This lifted both the O's and their fans who up to now had matched Colchester for their polite quietness.  Still at 2:1 against 10 men we can kill them off can't we?  I thought we had when Jonny Howson finished off a well crafted move with a delightful shot from the edge of the box only to see the ball rebound off the post to Becchio who's rebound attempt was bundled away by their keeper.
Nerves were beginning to tighten and finger nails were disappearing as the Leeds defence started to creak under the onslaught from the men in red.  It was at this point that Larry substituted our playmaker Kilkenny for Robbo allowing Delph to move inside and leave Robbo to attack them on the left...............but also defend on the left.  Which as it turned out weakened the defensive barriers down the left to our cost.  Hughes also came on for the tiring Dickinson as the game entered the last tense 5 minutes.
What happened next would have sat nicely in a Hammer House of horrors film, EastEnd Nightmare, as Naylor for once failed to clear another high ball into the box and the ball bobbled to Robbo and an Orient player who rather too easily brushed him out of the way before delivering a powder puff cross which Casper fumbled in front of the the Orient forward Church who dispatched the ball gleefully into the net. An answer to orients prayers!  "2:0 and you fucked it up" sang the O's fans.  Sort of summed the game up.
Even with 4 minutes added time we couldn't snatch a late winner and the game ended in what definitely felt like a defeat.  
A sombre mood descended on the car as we tried to extricate ourselves from Leyton and find the M11.  On reflection we did enough to win this game with plenty to spare but our difficulty in killing teams off was there for all to see.  It also emphasised what all Leeds fans know, even the Lazy Beckford brigrade, that when he's not playing we are a much less potent team.  Just to put the icing on the cake of a disappointing night Delph picked up his 10th booking of the season which will see him miss two of the crucial forthcoming games.
Journeys home from night matches always seem long and this was no exception.  As the clock ticked towards 12.40am on an otherwise deserted A1 a car with Leeds scarves proudly flying from the windows flew by.  Blowing the car horn in support somehow vented some of the frustration of the evening.
In the end, as the match track suggests, this was a match we gave away and come the final reckoning the two points we lost could be the difference between the play offs and automatic promotion.  Ah well............roll on Saturday.  Can't wait.

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