After Saturday’s underwhelming performance against Birmingham Leeds welcomed a Fulham side with a 100% record to Elland road for their third league game of the season. Although the West London side had cashed in their star player over the summer their team looked stronger on paper than the one we played last year and buoyed by two wins already Fulham were going to be no pushovers……………a point not lost on the 21,000 fans heading into the famous old stadium.
Garry Monk made 4 changes from Saturday with Cooper, Roofe, Phillips and Dallas replacing Bamba, Sacko, Vieira, and Mowatt respectively as he stuck with the 4-4-2 formation. Wood kept his place up front despite a very indifferent display against Brum although it’s probably more a reflection on the paucity of options for Monk rather than his true faith in the Leeds front man. Doukara was on the bench.
Leeds kicked off with the home fans in good voice but it was Fulham who hit the front straight away with their midfield trio of Parker, McDonald and Cairney ably assisted by Ayite and Aluko slicing through the brittle Leeds centre midfoield almost at will with some very neat one touch football. The ex Leeds giant Matt Smith revelled in the supply into the box and as early as the 13th minute got free from his marker and headed too near to Green in the Leeds goal. Aluko had two shots blocked before Sessegnon went near from outside the box. Leeds were on the ropes but showing more fight than they did on Saturday. Ayite then headed wide before tormentor in chief Cairney skipped free and got his shot away. 20 minutes gone and Leeds were in real danger of been over run. Then there was a ray of hope for Leeds as the lively Antonsson escaped the high Fulham back line but pulled his shot inches wide of the post in a reprise of the chance he missed at QPR.
The game opened up as both sides looked for the opening goal but this was very much to Fulham’s advantage. Ayite found space on the penalty spot but hankfully has shot cannoned off the post with Green beaten. Leeds were struggling to put a foot on the ball but on 33 minutes Roofe released Wood only for the New Zealand striker to rush his shot and it sailed harmlessly into the South Stand. Encouraged by this the home side had a short spell of pressure resulting in headed chances for both Antonsson and Cooper all to no avail though. Half Time 0.0.
Most of the urinal philosophers were wondering how we’d got to half time without conceding but grateful that there was a bit more fight in the team this evening. Fulham were looking very good though especially on the counter attack. What could Monk do to change things? How he must of wished Mr Bridcutt was available for this game after completing his protracted move from Sunderland.
Fulham started the 2nd half as they’d finished the first dominating possession and almost toying with the home team. Sessegnon brought a good save from Green before Smith rose majestically and headed against the post from a corner. Just 50 minutes gone. Surely Leeds couldn’t hold out for 90 minutes could they? The Leeds crowd were doing their bit as they cranked up the decibel level and this seemed to inspire Leeds. Roofe cut inside on the edge of the box and forced a save from the Fulham keeper quickly followed by Hernandez sending a stinging shot goalwards. It was a brief respite though as the Fulham midfield just seemed to get stronger. On the hour Dallas gave way for Vieira.
Although Leeds were struggling to stay in the game they were battling and while the score remained at 0.0 there was always a chance of snatching a goal. On 61 minutes Hernandez slotted a perfect ball through to Wood but again he snatched at the chance and the ball went high and wide. Fulham were edging closer to the opening goal though as Ayite missed another two chances as the Leeds defence began to seriously creak. Antonsson missed a dificult chance for Leeds as the game entered the last 20 minutes but this just seemed to spur Fulham on looking for the opening goal. On 77 minutes they got their deserved reward.
Tom Cairney, who was deemed surplus to requirements at Leeds as a schoolboy, inevitably did the damage. Receiving the ball on the corner of the box he gave a shimmy one way turned and curled a lovely shot past Green into the bottom corner. A good goal but he’d been given far too much space in the build up to the goal. 1.0 Fulham and the familiar feeling of despair descended on me as Leeds tried to conjure up an equaliser. With 4 minutes left 21,000 fans thought we’d done the impossible as pantomime villain Wood found space at the back post to meet Antonsson’s cross unchallenged but he headed down from 5 yards out and the ball bounced over the bar. Credit to him not everybody could have got the ball to bounce over the bar from 5 yards! 4 minutes of added time started.
Leeds were now throwing everything forward in the desperate hope of an unlikely equaliser. Phillips tried a shot from 25 yards and the ball deflected for a corner. The corner came across and was headed clear but Phillips launched the ball back into the box in a “hail Mary”style……….Bartley won it and flicked it back into the box where as if in slow motion the much malinged Wood leapt and despatched the perfect bycyle kick into the Fulham net. Get innnnnnnnnn you beauty!!!!!!! Elland Road erupted with joy as Wood celebrated by putting his hand to his ear to the Leeds fans. Mmmm maybe he should concentrate on playing better and he won’t get the stick from the crowd in the first place?
Leeds even finished on the front foot but not enough to snatch an unlikely win. The game finished 1.1. Fulham will feel bitterly disappointed at conceding the late goal and not converting their 61% of possession into more goals. Leeds rode their luck precariously but thanks to a spectacular goal from Wood they shared the points. Smiling faces and excited chatter was the order of the day as we left the ground after all there’s nothing like an injury time equaliser to lift the spirits. Ayling had another good game and Cooper and Bartley looked more secure at the back but don’t be deceived by the scoreline. We still looked fragile and vulnerable. Fulham look a very good side who play neat confident football. Bridcutt should make a difference for Leeds but we need more than just his input to convert this team into one strong enough to withstand the championship campaign.
Onto Hillsborough on Saturday to see if we can add to their misery after their defeat to mighty Burton Albion tonight. Should be an interesting one?