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Saturday, 2 April 2011

Leeds Utd v Notts Forest 2nd April 2011

Lunchtime kick off's never feel quite right to me?  They upset the natural rhythm of a proper Saturday matchday but as the BBC had decided our clash with Forest should start just after Football Focus nearly 30,000 fans had to reschedule their normal Saturday morning chores in order to arrive at Elland Road ready for kick off.  The early start wasn't the only change for me as I had the pleasure of joining Eddie Gray and Thom Kirwin on the Yorkshire Radio commentary team as this weeks chosen member of the fans panel.

Once I had found my place up the gods of the West Stand press gantry the pre match questions and debate was just the same.  "Surely McCartney will lose his place after the Sheff Utd performance" I suggested to Eddie and Thom.  No disagreements from my illustrious colleagues for the day.  Then the team sheet confirmed an unchanged team.  Just goes to show how football is a game of thousands of different opinions?  In front of the tunnel Gabby Logan was waiting to do her pre match introduction with an assistant fussing round her constantly adjusting her hair and making sure she looked her best for the cameras. Eddie just rolled his eyes.  The game kicked off late thanks to Gabby's hair and an over running Football focus.  The sun was shining brightly as Forest kicked off playing towards the South Stand.

Forest, with the prickly Billy Davies in charge, were in need of a much needed win to boost to their faltering promotion challenge having not won in seven games and they started the game with a solid purpose. The gusting wind and the less than perfect playing surface didn't help either side settle in the first 10 minutes.  Leeds won a free kick on the edge of the box.  Mad Max and Snoddy had an argument over who was going to take it before Max planted the ball straight into the kop.  Eddie was not impressed.  Within a couple of minutes Forest had a similar opportunity from almost the same position but their attempt crashed into the wall and fell harmlessly away.  Forest were having the better of the scrappy opening exchanges as they adapted to the conditions the better. Howson and Bannan seemed to be swamped in mid field by the team in red.  A speculative shot by Forest deflected tantalisingly the wrong side of Kasper's post and then the away team should have taken the lead as a vicious cross evaded all of the Leeds defence only for Tudgay to blaze over with open goal yawning in front of him.  Leeds were still in their Bramall Lane malaise as they struggled to string more than two passes together and thus reverted to the long ball up to Becchio, who was having his own personal wrestling match with the huge Forest centre half, Morgan. The Leeds crowd fell silent as the away fans fed by half a dozen corners cranked up the volume.

As the clock ticked past 35 minutes the game erupted into life.  George McCartney chased a loose ball towards the dug outs and was second best to a Cohen tackle. Both benches and the crowd reacted to the fact that Cohen's tackle was a flying lunge that left our left back writhing on the floor.  Both Eddie and I didn't see it as a Red card but that's exactly what Mr Halsey produced from his pocket as he dismissed one of Forest's key players for an early bath.  Billy Davies and his saintly bench were fuming and added to the general melee.  Richard Naylor tried to play peace keeper as the Forest coach, Kelly, did a very good impression of a Football hooligan invading the pitch.  Once the game restarted Leeds were left with a one man advantage.  Surely they could make this count and wrest control from Nottingham's merry men?  If anything it was Forest who had the better chances in the remaining 10 minutes of the half as they finished in the ascendancy, so much so that Billy Davies, the Forest manager, felt the need to gesture encouragement to the away fans to lift the volume.  You'd think he would have learnt his lesson when his premature touchline antics and words back fired on him in the Preston play off semi final last time we were battling for promotion from the championship?  Football is a 90 minute game Billy!

The first half wasn't good for Leeds.  We hadn't got hold of the ball for any periods of possession and in the main been muscled out of the game by a stronger Forest side.  On the press gantry it was agreed that Leeds needed to push the ball wide and stretch Forest if they were to win this one.  The only positive from the first half was that Forest had lost two of their play makers in Anderson (injured) and Cohen for his red card.  I could only imagine what the urinal philosophers were making of it back in the stands?  It wouldn't have been good.  Billy Paynter gave a quick half time interview with Thom that quite frankly I struggled to understand.  He does have a very broad Scouse accent.

Immediately the 2nd period got under way it was clear Leeds were going to utilise their extra man advantage and the space our full backs had to attack Forest.  Suddenly the ball was on the floor and Leeds were moving forward.  Both McCartney and Lichaj were surging forward to support mad Max and Snoddy.  This was better as Eddie nodded approvingly.

It wasn't long before Leeds were in front.  Snoddy wriggled free and chipped a sublime ball into the path of the advancing Lichaj who crossed a lovely ball to Capt Fantastic who slammed the ball home.  Get innnnnnnnnnnnn! 1.0 Leeds and Eddie was purring alongside me.  Leeds were rampant now as they went for the killer blow against opponents with a fragile confidence and 10 suddenly very tired men.  Further pressure won Leeds a corner and when the deep cross was headed against a post by Bromby, Becchio was first to react to slot home a welcome 2nd goal.  Elland Road was in raptures as Luciano celebrated in strange style.  Either he'd had too much curry last night or his wife is pregnant again?  Leeds were now well in control and the groggy away team were there for the taking.  Mad Max latched onto a superb through ball turned his man................shoot 28,000 Leeds fans shouted.  But he tried one too many turns and lost the ball.  Not only that the ball was soon in the Leeds box and his opposite number, McCleary, showed him just what he should have done as he curled a lovely shot into the top corner. 2.1 Leeds and nerves started to rattle.

The next 15 minutes were nervy ones as Forest looked to do the impossible and come back from 2.0 down with only 10 men.  Again the Leeds crowd fell quiet as the team in red hit a purple patch.  But it wasn't to last as fatigue started to kick in Leeds again looked dangerous.  The ball went into the Forest box it was scrambled clear only for Johnson to head it back towards the penalty spot for Mad Max to control and swivel before firing in a fantastic goal.  Gooooooooooooooooooooooal Leeds and Job done!  My rather loud celebration of Max's strike played out over the airwaves of Yorkshire Radio!  Jake Livermore came onto replace the disappointing Bannan and immediately showed his class as he picked up the pace and flow of the game with aplomb. His impact on the game was complete when he set up the 4th goal after leaving his man for dead in the box and firing in a shot too hot to handle for the Camp Forest goalie......... Becchio tried to convert but the ball bobbled to Mad Max who swallowed up the chance with glee. 4.1 Leeds and definitely job done now Mr Davies.

Mr Halsey brought the game to an end and a welcome 3 points plus an increase of 3 in our goal difference for the mighty whites.  You wouldn't have bet that at half time?  I remained with my new chum Eddie for the phone in which included a rather bizarre call from a "Mrs Bates from Monaco" who gave Eddie a polite bollocking for not been positive enough as "all the lads had played Jolly well".  I was pissing myself as Eddie answered with a smirk on his face!  Man of the match for me was Leigh Bromby.  He seems to be forming a relatively solid partnership with Andy O'Brien at the back.  Hope it lasts for the next 7 games or even 11?

So in the end a comfortable victory for Leeds and one that keeps them right in the promotion mix. "A classic game of 2 halves and it was certainly Job done for Simon Grayson" was my final summing up for the Yorkshire Radio public.  Still lot's of twists and turns ahead in the promotion race though.  Millwall next week.  I think we're due a win on your manor, Jim, don't you think?  Guess what?
Can't wait!

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