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Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Leeds United v Leyton Orient 24th Nov 2009

The most famous street in Leeds was ominously blustery as I strode towards the members bar from the car park to meet up with the Happy Chocker & not that one he's a boy and he's Welly's nephew!
Everyone was full of new found optimism built on our impressive form & even HC was predicting a 9.1 win for the whites. Now that was a tad over the top but given that Leeds have let in fewer goals in 16 games than Wigan did in one on Sunday I wasn't going to knock him............well at least not til half time!
Litter was swirling around all areas of ER as the game got under way with the same starting 11 as Saturday. Just under 20,000 fans had braved the November evening to watch the game and the majority were in buoyant mood. Unfortunately the stewards in the kop did their level best to dampen spirits with an incessant chant of "Lets have you sitting down guys" funny how there always seems to be more for a night match than on a Saturday?
Anyway back to the game. The O's from London clearly had not read the script and started the brighter with some nice passing movements that began to worry the Leeds back line. Maybe Orient weren't as bad as we all thought? And when Casper stopped a fierce shot that bounced out of his hands there was a collective sharp in take of breath in the Kop. At the other end Leeds were struggling to play the crisp Football that delighted the away fans at Brighton as the home team failed to come to terms with the less than helpful conditions.
One thing title winning teams do though is battle and Leeds were certainly fulfilling that description as first the ever reliable Kissy and then the workhorse that is Andy Hughes threw there bodies in the way of goal bound shots. Clear evidence of the commitment embedded in Leeds' play this season and one of the main reasons for so many clean sheets. Leeds' best chance of the half fell to Vokes after good work from Becks but his shot ballooned over the bar and into the upper tier of the South Stand. Half time came and the southern side trotted off the happier having shaded the first 45 minutes, whilst the champions elect skulked off to take a verbal beating from Lord Grayson. Too many long balls and too many mis-directed passes were the bain of the first half for Leeds. Lubo summed up the efforts up with his attempted 40 yard passes to pick out Beckford and Vokes. Out of 15 attempts I think maybe two were anywhere near.
Lord Grayson sent his troops out early presumably after venting his spleen over the first half efforts. Surely attacking the kop would inspire a goal for Leeds? Almost immediately White replaced Hughes at left back and for 15 minutes we got some real joy attacking down the left flank but frustratingly time and again the final ball was poor. The natives were getting restless the longer the game went on and the small band of Orient fans were beginning to believe they might just pinch the winner. News that Charlton were winning didn't lift the mood.
Leeds gradually began to wrest control from the away team by keeping the majority of the balls on the deck but time was ticking away and still the O's keeper had yet to make a save in anger.
Then the turning point. 30 minutes left and Mad Max was stripped and ready for action. Vokes made way and Gradel fitted in a 4.3.3 attacking formation. The crowd was lifted by his appearance and suddenly we were creating chance after chance with Max at the heart of most of the moves. Beckford nearly connected with a fizzing cross and when Gradel himself tried an audacious overhead scissor kick lob that went inches over the bar the belief began to seep back in to the faithful fans. Grella joined the fray for one last push at the expense of the hard working Howson. Nerves were shredded around me as Charlton secured their victory with a 4th goal. Were they going to pull 2 points back on us? Or even worse 3? Well I had a feeling that the now familiar late late show was on the cards as Leeds piled forward and I wasn't wrong. The clock ticked onto the 89th minute as the ball found the effervescent Mad Max with his back to goal on the edge of the box. He jinked one way and then the other and by some miracle he'd left 2 defenders for dead and then smacked a searing shot past the helpless O's goalie. Get in you beauty!
The ground erupted with an equal mixture of relief and joy, not for the first time this season. Leeds had won it at the death and the site of the distraught O's players laying prostrate on the turf as Leeds celebrated told it's own story.
Far away at the Valley I'm sure the news that we'd pulled another rabbit out the hat would have been like a sickening blow to the solar plexus just when they thought they'd pulled some ground back! Tough shit!
A battling performance from a battling team that never know when they are beat with a defence who sees it as an insult to let a goal in. Those are qualities of a title winning team. Yes it was harsh on an Orient team that looked good tonight and are certainly in the top three of teams I've seen this season but another win for Leeds. 20 games unbeaten at Citadel ER now.
Lord Grayson strides impressively on. "In Grayson we trust" should be imprinted on every right minded Leeds fan's mind.
Kettering in the Cup on Sunday. Can't wait.

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