Wednesday, 19 August 2009
Walsall v Leeds United Aug 18th 2009
Night games are always a rush and this was no exception. I had criss crossed eastern England but made it back in time to pick up HC who had swapped shifts, Jason who had raided his piggy bank and Beefy who had dashed from Bradford to Ferrybridge services to rendezvous with us for the trip to Walsall. The Quiet One made up a rather full car. But all the obstacles to getting to the match add to the unique "night match feeling" Much chatter on the way down, Beefy was as pessimistic as ever, Jason was worried all the tickets would be gone by the time he got there and the Happy Chocker was reminiscing other iconic away days in Leeds' glorious past, Bournmouth, Villa, Millwall, Tranmere etc. This is what footballs all about! We endured a last minute hitch as the horrendous queues off the M6 threatened to delay our presence at KO but after some tense moments......"will there be any tickets left" Jason nattered.........we arrived at the ground to see two stands bursting with 4000 other Leeds fans who had made yet another pilgrimage to the Whites faith.
The team was unchanged from Saturday so Hughes was still a square peg in the round hole of left back and Jason Crowe had recovered from his injury scare. Beckford still had his comfort bandage on his right knee. Bright evening sunshine and a humidity that would have made the ball swing at Headingley greeted the kick off. Right from the off the away fans were relieving all the tension of actually getting to the match on time with some lusty choruses of MOT. Magic!
On the pitch we started better than the two previous games and dominated possession for the first 30 minutes. The ratio of possession to chances was poor though with a weak shot from Howson the only one of note until a crisp move down the Leeds left engineered the ball into the path of the dangerous Beckford who's volley was turned onto the post by Ince and Doyle vainly attempted to steer in the rebound from the post. A goal then would have been just reward for the first half endeavour but instead the half stuttered into a scrappy last 10 minutes with a number of niggly challenges and lots of air time for the ball. Walsall had a good penalty shout turned down by the referee and Snoddy wriggled his way through just on HT only to skim the ball just over Ince's bar. A frustrating end to a frustrating half. We found ourselves stood in the midst of the "everybody's rubbish" section of the Leeds United supporters club and Beckford, Hughes, Higgs, Johnson, Snoddy, Crowe, Rui & Howson would all have been substituted by Half time if the main protagonist had his way! In reality the first half was a definite improvement on Saturday but the passing in midfield was again too slow, probably due to the lack of "showing for the ball" from our front 2.
Larry's HT team talk sparked Leeds into life again and as Leeds attacked the end housing their adoring, vociferous, raucous fans chances started to come..............and go, by now Mr"everbody's rubbish" had dismissed the whole team as complete wasters especially Beckford, just emphasising how the same match can be viewed in different ways.............No I'm sorry he was a complete tosser who wouldn't know good football if it hit him in his bigoted face!
As the match progressed and the clock ticked away a Leeds goal looked inevitable. Our defence was as solid as a rock and the Walsall goal was leading a charmed life, helped by some over eager finishing from Becks, Snoddy and Johnson. Beckford's petulance nearly got him sent off for a striking out at a Walsall defender after a particular robust tackle. Will he ever learn?
The Leeds fans were getting restless. A substitution was needed and with 15 minutes left Robbo and Killa were introduced for a tiring Doyle and Hughes, Johnson dropping to left back. Mr Knobhead in front was by now apoletic at every move that didn't end up with the ball in the Walsall net as lot's of nails were being chewed to the wick.
Then disaster struck as Rui felled the tricky Walsall winger Jones enabling Parkin to drive home a sickening penalty. Bollocks! How could we be behind after all the chances we'd had? The Leeds fans were stunned into momentary silence as the Saddlers fans celebrated with abandon as they suddenly realised they were on the brink of a third successive win against Leeds at the Bescott stadium. I rather unconvincingly assured the Happy Chocker that we still had time to win this one.
The goal stung Leeds into action and they launched their final assaults with the burning desire of a team that never knows when to give in shining through. A Becchio shot was deflected for a corner. This time Robbo took it instead of Snoddy, who's previous efforts had justified Mr Knobheads vile, and he struck a perfect far post ball where Johnson appeared as if if by magic to meet the ball with a swallow dive that planted the ball into the net despite a vain attempt from the defender on the line. Absolute bedlam broke out in the away stands as we celebrated a goal that most thought would never come. The Leeds players wanted to celebrate but Robbo was badgering them back to the centre circle. We could win this! The momentum was with Leeds and there was still 5 precious minutes left. Walsall were on the ropes like a punch drunk fighter and Leeds went for the kill. The yellow shirts were everywhere fetching and carrying the ball forward. Beckford had had enough chances on the night to score a hat trick but failed. The reason he gets so many goals is that he never gives up no matter how crap his last effort was and when he received the ball just outside the box and shimmied onto his left foot there was only one place the ball was going...........BACK OF THE NET! The place exploded, fans danced a jig of delight on the pitch, was that you Beefy kissing the turf? and the whole evening culminated in a glorious unlikely ending that makes football the great game it is. There was still time for 3 minutes added time and when Snoddy needlessly gave a foul away on the left I feared the worst from the resulting free kick. But this year's defence is hewn out of granite like features and cleared the ball with ease for Snoddy to run the length of the pitch and nearly snatch a 3rd.
The final whistle sealed a third straight win in the league to give us a perfect 9 points on a par with Charlton and Colchester. The players paid homage to the fans at the end as the Leeds fans streamed out of the ground with a spring in their step. Mr Knobhead now thought Beckford was a god?
As we crossed the car park the Happy Chocker's attempted good Samaritan deed in trying to save a stumbling old gentleman from falling resulted in him doing what appeared to be a Viennese waltz with the 18st pensioner before he landed on top of the gasping HC. How the Quiet One laughed at his Dad's misfortune!
So in the end we snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in a hectic last 10 minutes that made up for the previous 80. Good teams win ugly and that's exactly what Leeds had done. Even the news that the Puppy dogs had won 7.1 against a goalieless Brighton or a 40 minute wait to get out of the car park didn't dampen the mood. The car was still buzzing when we arrived home just after midnight. Only 43 games to go now...........if we can keep this up who know's.