Tuesday, 13 December 2016
Leeds Utd v Reading 13th Dec 2016.
After our sobering trip to Brighton high flying Reading arrived at Elland Road looking to test Garry Monk’s band of brothers play off credentials. Mist and drizzle were swirling around the ground as we joined a crowd of 21,000 hoping to see Leeds bounce back from Friday’s defeat. Monk’s team selection was the main topic of debate as fans speculated who would replace the suspended Phillips in midfield….Diagouraga maybe? Grimes? even Jansson’s name was mentioned as a potential defensive midfielder and there was always the long shot of throwing Bridcutt straight back into the mix. I think I can safely say when the team was announced nobody had called it! Young Vieira played in front of the back four with an attacking midfield of Dallas, Roofe, Doukara and Sacko in front of him leaving Wood up top. Wow! Another bold move by Mr Monk.
Was the team selection through necessity due to the lack of defensive midfielders or was it an inspired tactical move to counteract Jaap Stam’s team or was it a bit of both? We were about to find out. The game kicked off with Reading wearing their ludicrous away strip that wouldn’t be out of place clothing a 3rd rate Sunday League team. It was a lively start with Leeds looking to attack their visitors. Roofe fired the first shot in on ten minutes. Reading soon settled though into their possession based passing style of football. Leeds were set up to let them have the ball and form a wall of steel across the pitch and hit them on the break. Admittedly a strange tactic for the home team but Reading are in 3rd spot in the league for a reason and Monk clearly felt this was the best chance of three points for his depleted team.
Reading were certainly content to pass the ball to death without actually creating any real chances. I suspect the only card game they play on the team coach is Patience? On 20 minutes Monk’s master plan was justified. Leeds broke quickly…….Wood secured the ball and fired it out to Sacko wide right. The young forward showed the ball and went to go by his defender and tried a shot which was half blocked…….the ball screwed into the area where Chris Wood reacted first to smash the ball into the top of the net. 1.0 Leeds and all of a sudden Leeds top six position looked safer.
The goal didn’t disrupt Reading’s rhythm as they continued to play in a very deliberate style but the very disciplined home side were not phased by long spells without the ball. Come and break us down if you can was the message from the confident Leeds team. Just after the half hour Leeds unlucky run with injuries continued as Wood retired with a tight hamstring. Who would replace him? Young Wilks for his debut or would he move Doukara up front and bring on a midfielder? Step up Liam Bridcutt and another change of formation as Leeds went back to their more familiar 4-2-3-1 arrangement with Vieira and Bridcutt in a defensive midfield duo. The game continued with Reading having the vast majority of the ball but seemingly content just to pass the ball sideways, backwards and sometimes forward as long as they didn’t give up possession. Leeds held their nerve and stuck to their game plan…. and it was working a treat. Half time Leeds leading 1.0.
The urinal philosophers were in a puzzled mood “ Imagine watching Reading every week……..I think I’d drop asleep” thought one fan who didn’t quite see the technical expertise that the Thames Valley team were showing. “ Green looks dodgy again” another commented whilst one fan raved about Vieira “For an 18 year old that Vieira is f****** brilliant” Could Leeds be patient enough and see off the Royals in the 2nd half though?
Reading continued to dominate possession but bizarrely it was Leeds who looked more likely to score when they broke. Roofe screwed a shot wide and Jansson fired a header just wide. Even Ayling got a shooting chance but his left footed effort was easily saved. Leeds continued their disciplined defensive unit when they didn’t have the ball but legs were getting tired as they shut Reading down when they dared to enter the final third of the pitch. When they eventually got a decent shot away Green save well from Beerens. Things were going well for Leeds but could they repel Reading for 90 minutes?
With 20 minutes left Mowatt replaced Roofe. Reading continued to pass the ball at will but found very few chinks in the Leeds well drilled armour. As has been the case this season the Leeds defence were throwing bodies at any shots from the opposition. The home crowd warmed to the gritty no nonsense display from Monk’s men and tried to sing them home with 15 minutes to go. There was a confidence almost bordering on arrogance in the Leeds defending. They weren’t going to let the Royals ruin their clean sheet if they could help it. Grimes replaced Dallas with just 8 minutes left.
Reading were now leaving gaps at the back as they went in search of a point. Sacko looked dangerous on the break. 2 minutes of added time. We were nearly there. Tired and bedraggled bodies in white shirts broke out of defence………it felt like the relief of Mafeking (Ask your History teacher)……Fresh legged Grimes got hold of the ball and gave it to Taylor who looked in trouble until he surged past Gunter and into the box where the Reading full back dragged him down….PENALTY! Get in. Doukara stepped up and coolly put the spot kick beyond the Reading goalie. 2.0 and game over.
There was still time for Reading to attack again but all it served to do was give Jansson the chance to clear off the line. As if Leeds were going to let Reading spoil their nice clean sheet? Not a chance. Final whistle and a Leeds victory 2.0. Fantastic! The crowd was buzzing as they left the ground. We are now in the play off mix and whilst there is still a long way to go it feels brilliant. Monk’s tactical plan was faultless and the team implemented it perfectly. With just 23% possession Leeds had triumphed 2.0. Delicious. Dallas, Vieira, Bridcutt were outstanding whilst the defence once again played with supreme passion and guile to keep the Reading attack at bay. These are heady times on Planet Leeds. Long may it continue……….now what date is the play off final on?