Storm clouds were gathering ominously over Elland Road in more ways than one as I parked the car and headed to the stadium. The unusually balmy September weather had a sting in it’s tail as the heavens opened literally just as the game kicked off. Garry Monk under immense pressure after Leeds’ poor start to the season had rung the changes from Saturday for what was a must win game against basement club Blackburn. O’Kane replaced Phillips, Dallas came out of the wilderness to oust Mowatt and Hernandez displaced the mis-firing Wood in a changed formation to the inept one used against Huddersfield.
The mood amongst the fans matched the jet black skies as the game kicked into life. The chastening defeat to Town had badly shaken the confidence in the team and what was now needed was some spark of hope from a performance against another team in apparent melt down already in the relegation zone. It was a nervy start from both sides as they battled against the monsoon type rain. Blackburn had the first half chance as Gallagher chased a through ball but clashed heads with Green as he came careering out of his goal to thwart the attack and give a free kick away earning himself a nice yellow card for his troubles. After a long delay for the injuries the ref seemed to forget Gallagher needed to leave the field after treatment. I wasn’t amused as he scrambled in the box from the free kick. If that had gone in…………….
The match had a similarity to Saturday’s game as both teams approached it cagely. Blackburn had a couple of shots blocked before O’Kane tried his luck for Leeds from distance after 20 minutes but it went high into the South Stand. The 19,000 fans were in good voice despite the paucity of the quality on the pitch but Leeds were working hard in difficult conditions as the thunder and lightening brought ooohs and ahhhs from the crowd as it lit up the West Yorks sky. Antonsson was leading the line with purpose and holding the ball up well but the somewhat patient approach from a Leeds team now dominating possession didn’t please all inside Elland Road.
Jansson was seeing plenty of the ball and wasn’t afraid to stride into midfield to start attacks. Dallas and Sacko both started to get some joy on the flanks against the Blackburn full backs but real chances were at a premium. Dallas had a header saved quickly followed by a shot over the bar. It wasn’t scintilating stuff but Leeds were gradually feeling their way into a match they really couldn’t afford to lose. The muffled applause that greeted the half time whistle told the story of an underwhelming first 45 minutes in the pouring rain. The positives were the defence did look solid again. O’Kane had eased himself into the game nicely and the wingers were looking slightly lively. Charlie Taylor looked out of sorts though. He seems to have lost some confidence of late?
Bridcutt went off injured just after the restart to be replaced by Phillips. Dallas and Sacko now started to hurt Blackburn more. Sacko jinked into the box and had his shot blocked before Dallas forced a save low down to the left as Leeds tried to the pick up the pace. On 56 minutes the crowd were roused from their stupor by a sublime piece of football when Dallas cleverly found Antonsson on the edge of the box who controlled the ball and thundered a shot at the Blackburn keeper leaving his marker for dead. That was more like it. Leeds now started to apply some pressure to the nervous Blackburn back four. Hernandez tried a shot quickly followed by Bartley missing a header from close range. Would the pressure yield a goal though?
On the hour Antonsson went off to a good ovation to be replaced by Wood. Now would an hour on the bench fire up the Leeds striker to light up the game? Thankfully the answer was yes. He’d only been on the pitch five minutes when he was in the right place at the right time to steer home a cross from Sacko who had glided past his marker with ease before laying the ball on a plate for Wood who gladly accepted the chance to score. 1.0 and an enormous sigh of relief rose from the Elland Road stands. All we needed to do now was defend the lead against the worst team in the league! As you would expect Blackburn turned up the pressure looking for the equaliser. The Leeds defence held firm though and looked to be coming through the worst until………………..exactly the same happened as happened against Huddersfield. Some loose defending allowed the ball to be laid back to Emnes on the edge of the box who was able to pick his shot unchallenged to give Blackburn an undeserved equaliser. Unbelievable! 1.1.
Worse was to come as Leeds brittle confidence shone through like the fires of hell. With five minutes left Green pulled off a remarkable double save from Emnes and Gallagher to keep Leeds in the game. The Leeds crowd was quietened. We’d seen this scenario far too many times in recent years as Leeds looked to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory but just when things were looking glum some solace came from our pantomime villian striker Wood. A hurried clearance from the back was going nowhere but the big New Zealander chased the lost cause and won a free kick out on the right flank. Mowat, on forO’Kane, floated a decent cross into the box for Bartley to head home in front of the kop. Get innnnnnnnnn!. 2.1 Leeds and the good times were back at the Theatre of Hope. In true Leeds style they put their fans through the wringer in the remaining minutes with Jansson heading anything that moved in the box as we conceded late corners. Sacko broke away and should have wrapped the game up but tamely shot into the side netting with Mowatt and Wood screaming for a simple pass. The ref blew his whistle after 8 minutes added time. Phew! Final score 2.1.
There were happy faces, sort of, as we streamed away from the ground. “At least we won” said one fan as we crossed the car park whilst another shouted down his phone “ Yes we’ve had a downpour here as well It must have been bad because they’ve cancelled the Man City game" ????? In the end Leeds got the win they needed but it wasn’t a massively convincing win. Sacko was man of the match with Jansson close behind. Dallas added a much needed spark to the attack begging the question where has he been up to now? Antonsson held the ball up well and showed sharpness around the box. O’Kane had a good debut and the defence looked solid. Taylor looks out of sorts to me going forward. Both teams gave the ball away far too much though. Monk has still a lot of work to do if he is going to mould this squad into more than a mid table team.
Cardiff up next for a Lunchtime kick off in South Wales. Can we repeat last year’s success in the Principality? Time will tell.