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Sunday, 6 November 2016

Norwich City v Leeds Utd. 5th Nov 2016

The soft autumn colours of the trees were bathed in sunshine against a cloudless sky as I gunned the car south towards Norfolk for our clash with the Canaries. Carrow Road hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for Leeds in recent years but with their recent impressive form surging confidence into the veins of everyone of Monk’s marvels confidence was high amongst the 2,000 travelling support. Icy rain replaced the sunshine as we took our seats ready for the 2nd clash with Norwich in two weeks.

Monk dropped Sacko to the bench in favour of the recently impressive Doukara in the only change to the team. Carrow Road is a compact stadium that always generates a good atmosphere…………especially with the away fans reminding their hosts of the cup game at Elland Road with a variety of chants….”we only had ten men” “2.1 and you f***** it up” and the old classic “We’re the famous Leeds Utd and we’re off to wemberley” Delicious.

Leeds looked sharp from the off as they crisply moved the ball forward. The resurrected Doukara struck fear into the Norwich defence just as he’d done at Elland Road. On 8 minutes he made space down the right and found Wood’s head in the middle but the ball flew over the top. Roofe followed up with a twist a turn and a shot but that went over as well. Norwich looked nervy at the back but their impressive midfield with the likes of Dorrans and Hoolahan strutting about looked dangerous. But it was the Yorkshire side who were on top. No sitting back and playing cagey Leeds were attacking the Canaries at every chance. Bartley headed over from an Hernandez cross and then Phillips hit a superb curling shot that tested McGovern to the limit in the Norwich goal.

Everything was looking fine for Leeds but suddenly they found themselves behind to a slightly fortuitous back header from Brady that beat Green at the far post. 1.0 Norwich. Bollox. Leeds didn’t deserve to be behind. Buoyed by the goal and the home fans finding their voice Norwich attacked Leeds with confidence creating chances to threaten the Leeds back four. But what has become a trademark of Monk’s team, the full body block, saw off a number of dangerous Norwich shots. At the other end Wood brought a good save from the home goalie and Doukara fizzed a shot over. The pace of the game was frenetic. Hoolahan received a yellow for a cynical foul on Roofe as the game reached half time with the score still 1.0 Norwich. Plenty of hope for the 2nd half for Leeds though.

The half time interval was interesting to say the least. Two Leeds fans, one with a poppy stuck to the top of his bald head, were in a heated debate regarding if that was an appropriate way of showing respect to the fallen. Then the stewards and Police decided that there weren’t enough seats for the returning fans from the concourse and blocked their way back into the stands………..bizarre! They relented when they realised that the crush of fans wanting to get back to their seats was becoming dangerous. The urinal philosophers were still confident despite being a goal down. “They’re shite at the back” one pundit stated whilst another thought ‘Hernandez is running the game, be patient”

Leeds laid an immediate marker down for the 2nd period with the first attack of the half. Clever play set up Hernandez who crossed for Roofe at the near post but his header was inches wide. Brilliant build up. Roofe was dazed from the challenge though and looked a tad groggy as he got back up. Sure enough 5 minutes later Sacko replaced the unfortunate ex-Oxford man. Leeds were now building up a real head of steam as chances flowed for Jansson, Doukara, Bartley and then Wood all from Hernandez and Sacko inspired moves. Surely Leeds must equalise? Corner to Leeds. Hernandez comes over to take it in front of the travelling army. The ball seemed to float into the box in slow motion to an unmarked Pontus Jansson who headed it back across the goalie into the net. Absolute scenes as Jansson launched himself into the away end in celebration. What a legend. The man is absolutely f****** nuts and adored by every last Leeds fan. 1.1 and definitely game on.

The game was now there for the taking by either team. The Norwich defence looked fragile and Leeds smelled blood. Phillips rattled a shot in after more good build up play. Minutes later Hernandez danced through but didn’t hit his shot cleanly. Prtichard and Dorrans had shots blocked for Norwich. Vieira replaced Doukara as Monk looked to push home Leeds advantage. He made an immediate impact. The young 18 year old who was Norwich’s nemesis in the cup won a free kick and moved the ball out wide right. Ayling hurtled forward……….played a delightful one two in the box to open up the Canaries defence like a skilled surgeon before laying it back to Wood who made no mistake from 6 yards! Get in and absolute carnage in the away end. 2.1 Leeds and the whites were in sight of a hard earned victory. 15 minutes to go.

Norwich surged forward to try and retrieve something from the game. Green saved from Pritchard but Leeds looked sharp on the counter and on 84 minutes Wood’s fierce drive so nearly killed the game for the visitors but just slid wide into the side netting. Lafferty came on for Norwich. Mmmm should Cooper come on to bolster the defence for the hail mary’s up to Lafferty and Jerome? Two minutes later and disaster struck. Hoolahan curled a hopeful ball into the middle…….Jerome flicked it onto Lafferty who netted from 5 yards. Leeds were appealing for a foul but the delirious 24,000 home fans signalled the ref had allowed the goal. Just 2 minutes to go!

This Leeds team are made of stern stuff and never know when they are beat. Grimes came on to replace the injured Hernandez. 7 minutes added time for either team to snatch it. Wood was hauled down some 35 yards out in a central position. The Norwich defence nervously set up to defend a cross from O’Kane but the Irishman laid the ball off for Vieira presumably for the youngster to cross from a wider angle? No the confident midfielder took one touch and then hit a rocket of a shot that bounced once in front of the keeper and up into the net. Get in you absolute beauty. More celebrations in front of the fans and more bedlam in the stands.

Just the 6 minutes to play out now. In truth Leeds should have added a 4th when Sacko broke free but the game ended 3.2 to Leeds to the sheer delight of the Leeds fans. The Canary fans were booing not singing at the end as they berated their players and manager. Their mood wasn’t helped by a chorus or two of “Can we play you every week” What a fantastic game and what a fantatsic result. The team celebrated with the fans to the background of the Leeds United song book. The good times are rolling back onto Planet Leeds and it feels fantastic. Jansson was a tower of strength along with Bartley at the back. Hernandez was simply stunning in midfield. His awareness and vision in his passes is sublime. Once again the “Band of Brothers” culture in the team was there for all to see.

For the second away game running we left the ground beaming from ear to ear and eulogising about how well we’d played. This is taking some getting used to but I think I’ll manage it! The journey home was a long one but shortened considerably by memories of the afternoon’s antics. Jansson jumping into the crowd was the most common flashback. Mint. Onwards and upwards it seems for Leeds. Into the top 6 and the mouthwatering clash against the Toon army in front of a sell out crowd at Elland Road to come? These are heady days at Leeds and the light at the end of the tunnel burns a little brighter tonight in West Yorkshire. Bring on the Toon!

Can’t wait.


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