Monday, 22 March 2010
Leeds v Millwall Mar 22nd 2010
Warning: Anyone of a nervous disposition or receiving treatment for depression please do not read this post.
As the Happy Chocker, Brother Chris and the Quiet One picked me up for the drive to the Theatre of Hope optimism was relatively high considering our last performance against the Saints and the red hot form the Lions were showing. The first inkling that this wasn't going to be the most enjoyable night watching the mighty whites came when rumours of an injury to Beckford started to spread like wildfire around cyberspace and the bars inside Elland Road. Still we're not a one man team are we? I offered to our little clan over the pre match pie and pint. The lack of response was deafening.
So with Dickov up front and Bromby in at full back and Johnson in for McSheff the most vital game of our season kicked off. The small band of Wall fans were making themselves heard as the nervous Whites fans peered on desperately looking for positive signs from their heroes. The match was live on Sky so the rest of the league could see in glorious HD who would prevail in the clash of the two clubs most likely to contend the 2nd automatic spot. This definitely was a match of cup final proportions a statement that only a lunatic would have thought possible as we sat 20 points clear of our opponents on New years day!
Leeds early vim and vigour was punctured cruelly after less than 10 minutes as the imperious Kisnorbo pulled up with a serious achilles heel injury allowing Morison to have free run on goal. His shot went agonisingly close to the post. The stretcher that carried the fallen Aussie off the field was a sad sight. Not only out of this key game but more than likely the rest of the season. Leeds were visibly shocked as White filled in at full back and Bromby moved to the middle.
They were still sorting themselves out when clever build up play by the Lions created room on the right and when a simple ball found the former Stevenage player Morison he bundled in the opener with too much ease for most fans on the kop. Bollox.
The next 20 minutes Leeds took a battering. Kenny Jacket's men were executing the perfect game plan by pressing hard when they didn't have the ball and passing sweetly when they retrieved the ball back. This was painful to watch. Mr Stick waver was berating Casper and the stewards at every opportunity as the natives grew decidedly restless.
Remarkably the score remained at 1.0 and as the half drew to a close Leeds started to grind their way back into the game. A surging run from White and a jinking Howson run and shot were the nearest we came though. Half time and still 1.0.
Dickov and Becchio had made little impression against the strong centre back pairing of the visitors although the controversial veteran striker did make one or two intelligent runs and was holding the ball up well.....................when it was on the grass and not down the throats of the centre backs.
The Happy Chocker's worried face reflected my feelings to a tee. Groundhog Day was a live and well at ER.
Leeds were attacking the kop in the 2nd half and started well. First Dickov drifted away from his marker and found himself with only the giant Forde to beat in the Wall goal. An offside flag saved his embarrassment at not converting. Leeds were now on the front foot though and when more pressure brought a corner hopes were raised in the kop. Mr Dickov decided to stamp on the goalie's foot which raised the temperature both on and off the field. Mr Stick waver was out of his seat once too often for the stewards liking and when he continued to spit bile into the face of the head steward there was only one place he was going and that was out of the ground along with his "carer"
Leeds continued to push but with confidence at a premium too many passes went astray or were mis controlled. This was fast becoming like watching a particularly nasty car crash. At the other end Millwall exploited the gaps Leeds were leaving by pushing forward with ease. My nerves were as taught as drum. We can't afford to lose this one with a visit to Norwich and a home game against Swindon to come. The melee caused by the removal of Mr Stick Waver subsided as the game entered the last 20 mins. Gradel and Kilkenny came on for the disappointing Doyle and Johnson. To be honest it made little difference as our key issue since Xmas, a failure to hit the target, was draining the blood from our automatic promotion ambitions once again. The game was over when some abysmal defending allowed a 2nd goal for Millwall. The 300 south London fans were delirious whilst the rest of the ground were resigned to a defeat that leaves us in a precarious position just 3 points above our visitors. " What the Fuck is going on" and "Bates out" spilled out from the frustrated fans in the Kop and when the final whistle finally put us out of our misery a cacophony of boos filled the air.
We were poor tonight. All credit to Millwall they look like a team heading in one direction and that's up......... probably at the expense of our current 2nd spot. We seemed to have lost that belief we had before Xmas and fallen into the trap of playing with fear. Becchio, Johnson, Doyle and Casper were all way below their best tonight resulting in yet another easy ride for the opposing goalie. The phone ins after the match resembled listening in on a Samaritans training session as fans who have remained stoically loyal to the whites cause started to unravel on air. On this form the play offs are our only hope of promotion unless Larry can somehow conjure 6 wins and a couple of draws out of the last 9 games. On tonight's showing and with the absence of Kissy I'd say the chances of that are about as high as that of Graham Norton taking up cage fighting.
Football can be a cruel game but the way Leeds have capitulated and surrendered not only their lead at the top of the league but soon their 2nd spot is hard to take. What's becoming more difficult to stomach is the lack of any investment in the team and the reliance on picking up loan players and frees to bolster the squad. Failure to get promoted on this policy will quite rightly resurrect the old chestnut "Just where has all the money gone from Season tickets, gate receipts, transfer monies and cup runs?"
Another 13 hour round trip to look froward to on Saturday as we head for Norwich. Masochism is painful.