Thursday, 14 May 2009
Leeds United v Millwall May 14th 2009
The Happy Chocker was on driving duty for this vital 2nd leg game against Millwall. Nervous apprehension is the best way of describing the atmosphere in the car as we made our way down the M62 after a detour to pick up another two Chockers from Pontefract. One of them, Jamie, had yet to see Leeds win this season so his comment regarding not being a Jinx on the team didn't improve the nervous tension in the car!
With 37000 fans due at ER it was no surprise that the journey in was a little more crowded than usual and certainly Graveley's Fish & Chip shop on Elland Road was doing a brisk trade feeding the fans who had dashed from work for this vital game. With our routine already shattered due to the closure of the members bar and rendezvousing with long lost friends to pass on tickets for the game there was only 5 minutes to kick off when I finally took up my usual position in the Kop.
The atmosphere was already bubbling............now take note Millwall this is what a proper crowd looks and sounds like! The 1000 travelling fans struggled to make them selves heard above the cacophony of noise that greeted the kick off and away we went. 90 minutes that would define our entire season.
Leeds started brightly attacking the kop and the hoped for fast momentum was to the fore as buoyed by the crowd the whites tore into the Lions. Early robust challenges on both sides reflected the high commitment by both teams but it was Leeds who were getting the better of the opening salvos.
The Quiet one was extra quiet due to feeling a bit under the weather but his Dad was looking slightly more at ease as Leeds continued to push on for that all important first goal. As the early Leeds pressure squeezed Millwall Sammy appeared to be wrestled to the ground at a corner. "Surely that must be a penalty Mr Referee" I politely enquired but to no avail. The cut and thrust continued with Snoddy going close but his shot didn't match his excellent approach play. Last season's play off hero Jonny Howson was in the thick of the action but often his final ball landed at the feet of a blue shirted player. In all the hustle and bustle Neil Kilkenny was taking a battering and he limped out of the action just after the half hour to be replaced by Robbo. Much as Leeds pressurised the Millwall back four they were fighting a resolute rear guard action ably led by Zak Whitbread. The half finished with more Leeds pressure and Fabian went close with a shot after good work by Robbo leaving the score still tantalisingly goaless.
Both the HC and I felt that we were playing well enough to win the tie and all we wanted was a breakthrough and we could go onto to win.......simple!
As both sets of fans raised the decibel level as the 2nd period started the game moved up a notch. More Leeds pressure on the Millwall goal and a bit more pushing and tugging in the box and.......................what's he given? It can't be a goal kick the ref's pointing to? He's only given a penalty.................get in. Now I wasn't the only one surprised as JB strode to take the kick. Surely Snoddy or Robbo should be taking it? 50% of the fans around me couldn't bear to watch..............and with good reason as Mr Beckford had his weak effort saved by the Wall keeper. Cue wild celebrations in the cheese wedge!
This seemed to spur Leeds on if anything and we were soon knocking on the door of their defence again. As the Lions broke away on a rare attack a ball over the top was well covered by Ben Parker who turned and set off on a length of the field run..........after swapping passes with Robbo he crossed invitingly for Becchio to slide in the opener.............get in! Grown men were hugging complete strangers as the capacity Leeds crowd celebrated with gusto.
Leeds were now on the front foot and Millwall were definitely rocking but play came to an abrupt halt in what was to prove a key moment. Whitbread appeared to collide with his goalie and lay motionless on the pitch. By the players reaction it was serious and it was a good 6 minutes before thankfully he returned to his feet and carried on. The thing was Leeds seemed to lose the momentum they had and Millwall battled and scrapped their way back into the game and although they still didn't look to threaten Casper in the Leeds goal they had quelled Leeds' purple patch.
Then just when I thought we were looking like snatching the winner tragedy struck.................slack marking on the Leeds right allowed their tricky wing to cross to the back post and when the ball came back across the goal Abdou stabbed the ball home causing a fatal wound to Leeds promotion hopes.
The silence in the kop was deafening and the travelling fans were in wonderland. All was not lost though and to their credit Leeds pushed on for one last hurrah. Bradley Johnson fired a rasping shot inches wide but when Casper joined the attack for the last minute we knew it was all over. As the ref brought proceedings to an end the Millwall players celebrated a hard fought victory in front of their fans.................and for Leeds desperate disappointment. Simon Grayson had turned round a team that was quite frankly going nowhere fast when he took over and he has turned them into the form team of the league since the new year. Promotion wasn't lost at ER tonight it was lost in those dark days of December when we lost 5 games on the trot.
Strangely although obviously gutted at losing out on another crack at the play off final I was relatively resigned to the fact that Leeds had battled well over the 2 games and come up just short. If that penalty had gone in it could have been different. All that was left was for the team to get an ovation from the fans who had stayed with them to the end even if promotion was once again illusive.
Back in the car and reunited with the two Chockers, including Jamie the Jinx Mmmmmm!
I rang Andy Ritchie on Radio Leeds and had a rant after some knobhead had rung in slating Grayson and Ben Parker, not sure which game or games he's been watching this year but Parker must be the most improved player this season and his run to create the goal tonight was awesome...................and as for the guy who said Grayson was a disgrace and should be sacked I just hope he got back to the asylum before they locked the gates!
So after all the games and all the ups and downs of the season it's over and we're still in Division 3. Lots of other fans will delight in this but if I may pinch a song from Millwall.....We don't care because we are Leeds United and we will return someday........when that day will be I'm not sure but it will happen.
So roll on York City in the pre season friendly......can't wait.
Thanks to all the regular blog readers who have followed our travels this season. I hope my little blog has given you some of the atmosphere and feeling of match days, especially those fans who can't get to matches and those who are dotted all round the world in France, Canada, USA, Barbados, Singapore, Taiwan, Sweden, Oz, Qatar, Spain, Belgium, China, Russia, Germany, Austria, Denmark, Japan & New Zealand. Thanks to the 606ers who read and inevitably anyone else I've missed.
God willing hopefully I will continue next season.