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Saturday, 2 May 2009

Leeds United v Northampton Town May 2nd 2009

It doesn't seem two minutes since we were travelling down the M180 to Scunny for the opening match of the season back in August and here we are making the trek to ER for the final League game of the season.  It seems rather fitting that the Happy Chocker, the Quiet One and yours truly are on the 1.09pm from Selby, our favoured form of match transport, for the seasons last hurrah.  With over 34,000 fans attending the game everywhere was just that bit  busier than usual from the shuttle buses to the members bar.   As the Happy Chocker battled with the crowds in the club shop in order to buy the Quiet One the new home strip I battled with the queue to the bar.  Traditionally the last game in a long season is one with a slightly carnival atmosphere and this one was no different.  There were a fair sprinkling of fans adorning fancy dress costumes, never understood that one but each to themselves, and generally there was a distinct air of optimism about the place. There was a surprise when the team was announced with Sammy rested to protect an injury, giving Rui a chance at the side of Bam Bam and Robbo keeping his place in front of Snoddy.  Delph came straight back in on the left midfield.  The ground was packed and with the sun shining warmly down on the Leeds faithful we settled down for an afternoon of more relaxed entertainment seeing as we had already secured our play off spot.  The same couldn't be said for our visitors from Northampton who needed at least a point to be sure of staving off the dreaded drop into League 2.Leeds attacked with gusto right from the off and were soon in control with Killa orchestrating the tempo from the centre of midfield.  Northants started doggedly and it wasn't long before the first of some healthy challenges from the visitors left Delph prostrate on the green manicured Elland Road turf.  For all their early superiority Leeds had yet to really test the Cobblers goalie.  In fact we had to wait until the half hour mark before the first chance, created by the highly effective Howson, for who else but JB to streak behind the Northants defence to test the goalie with a stinging shot.In the crowd the carnival atmosphere percolated through everyone, that is except our friends the stewards who had obviously been briefed to stamp out any enjoyment and frivolity they might find in the paying customers otherwise known as fans.  So just to put a minor blot on the afternoon we had a chorus of "can you please take your seats" every nano second to put up with.  The little lad who comes to every home game in the wheeled frame (to help him walk) thought he'd take matters into his own hands and he shot out to the front to lead the singing of "stand up and sing for Leeds"  Classic!Back to the game and the more the match progressed the more likely Leeds looked like scoring with Robbo, Delph, Howson and Beckford all to the fore when we attacked.  The breakthrough came just before half time when Becchio scored with a trademark header from a cross by the hard working Ben Parker.  It was no more than Leeds deserved.  So Leeds went for their HT cup of tea in front and with Millwall losing at Carlisle things were looking good.
The successful reserve team paraded their championship trophy during the break after their midweek victory against Rotherham.  I took the chance to meet up with some other facebook addicts and as we chatted and took some photos we managed to really upset an old lady who was complaining we were blocking her view of the reserve team.  Maybe she was afraid to stand up so that she could see better?  Those stewards have a lot to answer for!
In the 2nd half Leeds picked up where they left off and battered a dogged but lacking in quality Northampton team who by now were aware that the relegation trapdoor was well and truly open and they were the team that were dangling over the precipice.  This stark reality sparked the visitors into life but whenever they threatened to create a chance there was always a body in a white shirt, usually Naylor, launching themselves in the way of any shot or header going in the general direction of Caspers goal.  What a difference from games earlier in the season!
The game was effectively killed when Mr Beckford notched his 34th goal in his 34th game of the season on the hour.  Snoddy, who was on for Killa, cut a sweet ball into the path of the lightening quick striker who coolly slotted the ball past the hapless Northampton goalie..............cue celebrations both on and off the pitch, although I think Jermaine needs to go back to the drawing board with his dance?
The crowd, buoyed by Beckfords safety net goal, started a number of Mexican waves as they began to get in the party mood.  News that Millwall were now 2 down to Carlisle and that we would be at home in the 2nd Play off leg only added to the joy.  It was a different picture in the cheese wedge where the loyal Cobblers fans started to realise that fate had conspired against them and despite starting the match 2 places above the dreaded drop zone they were now well and truly in it.
As the visitors pushed on in the forlorn hope they could pull back two goals, well they might have seen the Orient video?, it only left bigger holes at the back which the marauding whites took full advantage of without actually scoring as a number of chances went begging, most notably one for Robbo who uncharacteristically smashed a shot over the bar when it was easier to score.  But Leeds persistence finally paid off in the last minute as a Robbo cross set up Snoddy to flamboyantly volley the 3rd goal into the Cobblers net and consign them to League 2 Football next season.
All that was left was for the players to do a lap of honour before their adoring fans, amongst them Enoch and Sammy, before we walked back into town for our end of season Curry.  An excellent performance, just what's needed going into the play offs, and the mood was summed up by the Kop as we left the ground "bring on the Millwall" rang around the famous old stadium.
Eddie and Al joined us for a satisfying Curry at Akbars.  The Quiet One understandably removed his gleaming new Leeds shirt before devouring his meal and everyone had that contented look that fans have when they know their team are playing well...........and playing well they are.  Millwall will be quaking in their boots!!!!  So next Saturday we've got a trip to the welcoming home of Millwall in Bermondsey sarf London.  The atmosphere will be white hot............can't wait.

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