This week has been a sad week on Planet Leeds with the news that Gary Sprake has gone to keep goal in the great stadium in the sky. Although he is unfairly remembered for his “careless hands” moments he was a top, top goalie who enjoyed the peak of his career between the sticks for Don Revie’s magical team who brought silverware to Elland Road through the 60’s and early 70’s. RIP Gary Sprake.
Today is a chance for Leeds to rectify the lost opportunities of the last two games against Wigan and Derby with a trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers. The Midlanders haven’t won in four so it was with a modicum of optimism I fired the car south towards the West Midlands for the 3pm kick off with Wolves with as usual some intriguing pre match debates. Can Leeds avoid 3 consecutive defeats on the road? Who will start on the left wing? Will Monk make any mystifying substitutions today? We were about to find out.
After navigating the bewildering number of stewards outside the stadium we arrived at out seats only to find out the catastrophic team news……Hernandez had picked up a dead leg against Wigan and wasn’t in the squad. Vieira replaced him alongside O’Kane with Phillips playing the No 10 role. Bugger! Bright West Midlands sun bathed the ground as the game got under way. It was a nervy start from both sides with lots of frantic pressing and possession swapping frequently between the two teams. On ten minutes Jansson came hurtling through the air to win a tackle he had no right to win against Bodvarsson that left the big Swede prostrate on the turf. We can’t lose him as well I muttered as the physio tended to the new cult hero. Thankfully he picked up his magic hat , dusted himself down and continued with the game. Phew!.
The lively Sacko had Leeds first shot on goal but it sailed harmlessly into the boisterous Wolves fans behind the goal. At the other end Phillips sold Green short with a headed back pass only for Jansson to save the day with a stunning goal saving tackle that left him once again prone on the turf with the physio patching him back up. “The man is like a Scandinavian god” purred the man next to me. I had to agree. Wolves were having the better of the game but not really threatening Rob Green’s goal while Leeds looked to hit Wolves on the counter. Sacko was the Leeds danger man and his swift feet earned Doherty a booking as he chopped the Leeds winger down with a horribly timed tackle. In truth the game was very scrappy and somewhat of a stalemate. Sacko should have broken the deadlock on 38 minutes as Bartley strode away from defence and released the winger with a lovely through ball. His chip cum shot grazed the bar with the Wolves goalie stranded.
Wolves responded straight away as Teixeira had his shot saved by Green after a goalmouth scramble but next it was Roofe who drifted onto a Charlie Taylor cross only to see his header miss by inches with the goalie motionless. A relatively forgettable first 45 minutes ended with yet another foul on Sacko and yet another yellow card for Wolves. HT 0.0. Not the most inspiring performance but at least we looked solid at the back with Jansson and Bartley peerless.
The 2nd half started similar to the first with lot’s of hustle and bustle but very little quality from either team. Just after the hour mark another quick break from Leeds saw Wood find space in the box and unleash a thundering drive that was turned away for a corner. That was better. Could Leeds now build some momentum and get the opening goal? Well slightly surprisingly the answer was yes. A hopeful ball behind the Wolves full back gave Sacko a chance to put the Wanderers man under pressure as he chased the ball back to the corner flag. He then sort of platted his legs and the ball bounced clear. Sacko didn’t need a second chance………….he snatched the ball and strode into the box before sliding the ball into the 6 yard box for Roofe who arrived at just the right moment to see the ball nestle in the net. 1.0 Leeds but who actually scored? Was it an own goal or was it Roofe? Nobody in the away end was bothered. Leeds were a goal up and all was right with the world. Could they hang on though?
Wolves now shook off their chains and went looking for the equaliser. The Leeds defence blocked, tackled and headed anything that came near as the home side became more and more frustrated. Wood spurned a chance to kill the game by hitting a half volley inches over after good work by Roofe. Mowatt replaced Vieira and then Cooper came on for Sacko as Garry Monk made it clear we were going to hang onto what we’d got without considering the shredded nerves of the travelling army of Leeds fans. Doukara replaced Wood in the 2nd minute of injury time as Leeds’ granite like resolve saw the game out for a precious away win. FT 1.0 Leeds.
Jansson gave his ripped battle torn shirt to a disabled Leeds fan at the end of the match. The man is just awesome! This was a solid team performance with Jansson and Bartley dominating at the back. Ayling, O’Kane and Vieira all shone through for Leeds. Roofe had his best game for Leeds. The raucous noise that accompanied the Leeds fans leaving the stadium told its own story. There’s nothing like winning away from home especially when we keep a clean sheet. Mint.
Norwich in the EFL Cup on Tuesday. A win and progression to the quarter finals would be good. Garry Monk has got a real togetherness in the team now. It’s not the most skilfull team in the championship but if they continue improving you never know? Bring on the Canaries!