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Sunday, 18 February 2018

Leeds Utd v Bristol City. 18th Feb 2018.

For fans of a certain age Bristol City at home will always stir painful distant memories of one of the biggest FA Cup shocks Leeds have had the misfortune to have played in.  In 1974 Bristol City were a developing team in the obscurity of Div 3 (League 1 in today's money) whilst Leeds were riding high as probably the most feared team in Europe.  A Don Gillies goal gave the Robins an unlikely victory in the replay in a game that kicked off at 2pm in the middle of the 3 day week in front of a sold out Elland Road.  Fast forward 44 years and Bristol arrive in West Yorks sat precariously in the top 6 of the championship with Leeds frantically trying to keep in touch from an ever increasing gap in 11th.  By any stretch of the imagination if Hecky is going to perform a miracle and get Leeds back on the promotion track this is definitely a must win game. On the evidence of our form since Christmas it looks like a lost cause not made any easier with the continued absence of Saiz, Berardi and Cooper due to suspension.  You never know though...............

The ridiculous Sunday 4.30pm kick off time and the recent awful form had trimmed the crowd below the 30,000 mark for the first time for a while but there were still plenty of home fans hanging onto the theory that if we beat them 3.0 at Ashton Gate we should be able to beat them at home?  They do say it's the hope that kills you. The pre match chat was focused on team selection.  Would Roofe and Alioski survive after their less than inspiring performances at Bramall Lane? What about the midfield three? Could Lasogga keep hold of his shin pads?  We were about to find out.

Hecky rang the changes for his first game at Elland Road with Anita, Ekuban and Hernandez starting in place of Roofe, Alioski and Phillips. Leeds started positively and after just 5 minutes swept down field and sliced through the Bristol defence with Ekuban finally feeding Dallas in the box but the Northern Irishman's shot was too near Fielding in the Bristol goal who parried it away to safety.  This looked good and gave the crowd some early false hope that was soon to be cruelly snatched away from them in an all too familiar fashion.

First Wiedwald came for a cross and punched the ball weakly away causing visible panic amongst the Leeds defence.  Bristol didn't need telling twice with their height advantage they knew exactly how to hurt Leeds...........put the ball in the box for their big men to win.  On 11 minutes this strategy paid handsome dividends for the Robins as Wiedwald came for a long throw and completely missed the line of the ball as he flapped like a dying Swan in his attempt to clear the ball.  The ball dropped into the Leeds area where Bristol's Diedhiou took two touches before sliding the home the opening goal.  The Leeds defenders apparently had concrete boots on coupled with the brain speed of a Sloth suffering from concussion as they watched the Bristol player score with ease.  Farcical bordering on comical defending from the men in white.  Worse was to come just 5 minutes later as Leeds again failed to react to a cross into the box as Pack snapped up the second ball and fired a pass to Reid who stabbed the ball home to double the Robins lead.  Shocking defending. 2.0 Bristol and the majority of the crowd feared this was going to get a whole lot worse.

Leeds capitulated in embarrassing style as Kent, Reid and Flint tormented Leeds.  The home fans were seething and when the ref blew his whistle for half time there was a well deserved chorus of boos to accompany them into the dressing room.  They couldn't deal with any ball into their box, they hadn't won any second balls and treated the ball like an exceptionally hot potato when they did have possession.  A truly awful first 45 minutes that left absolutely no hope for the 2nd period.  In all my times writing this blog I have never experienced a game where the Urinal Philosophers were stunned into silence but I had now.  The performance was so bad nobody had anything to say.  There was no point.  We all knew this was as bad as it gets and couldn't even raise an objection.  Their faces told a different story though.  Etched into their faces was a mixture of crushing disappointment and total despair that needed no words to elaborate.  In their eyes was a dullness you associate with death.  Surely Leeds couldn't recover from this?

The 2nd half progressed in the same sorry way as the first with a continuing comedy of errors from the men in white.  It got that bad that the home crowd reverted to cutting sarcasm as they cheered any catch by Wiedwald and any passage of more than three passes with Ole's.  Then with ironic chants of "We're gonna win the league" ringing around the ground the game suddenly changed.  Roofe replaced Ekuban and Dallas made way for Sacko.  Bristol decided they could just kill the game and take the three points back to the South West.  The ironic chants changed to spine tingling choruses of MOT and ALAW which the players picked up on.  All of a sudden we were stringing passes together and attacking with purpose.  Bristol began to look nervous especially after they had let a three goal lead slip last week.  On 72 minutes Elland Road erupted as Lasogga showed what a good finisher he is as he met Hernandez's cross at the back post to pull one back for Leeds.  2.1 and Elland Road must have felt like a seething Bear Pit to the Bristol players as the Leeds players suddenly changed into world beaters as they surged forward looking for an equaliser feeding on the incessant noise from the stands.

The fans smelt blood, the players smelt blood and tore into the Robins.  Gone were the errors and nervous defending.  Now we were pinging 40 yard balls to feet, we were confidently taking responsibility for the ball and we were creating real chances. On 80 minutes Roofe got the equaliser as he slid in a cross at the back post.  2.2 and Elland Road was absolutely bouncing.  At times like this there is no ground in England that creates as much noise and passion in all four corners of the stadium.  Unbelievable scenes and what was better was that there was still ten minutes left to chase the winner.

The last ten minutes saw Leeds surge forward with high octane attacks that had Bristol crumbling.  Forshaw saw his shot from the edge of the box go just wide, Sacko was causing havoc down the right whilst Hernandez was mesmerising on the left.  Into 5 minutes of added time with Leeds still looking for the winner.  Phillips, on for O'Kane, missed a header from 7 yards which he should have buried and then right at the death Lasogga rose like giant Salmon to thunder a header against the bar.  Wow.  What a game, what a 2nd half and what an atmosphere.  It ended 2.2 but that doesn't begin to describe the drama in this game.  From a first half where Leeds looked so inept and void of ideas to a 2nd half where they picked up on the crowd's incessant noise to pull off a most unlikely comeback this was a remarkable game.  Why can't we play like that for 90 minutes instead of 30?

This game was so Leeds.  They plumbed new depths of woefulness in the first half and climbed new heights of resilience in the 2nd.  Yes the failings in defence are still there and the seemingly inability to keep possession when under pressure is a big worry as is our vulnerability to set pieces but if Hecky can just get some consistency into our play then  we just might be able to build a platform for next season.

Life is never not dull supporting Leeds.  Derby away on Wednesday and God willing I should be there.  Which Leeds team will turn up? Will Saiz come straight back in? Can Hecky sort the defence out?

Can't wait.



Andy P said...

Thanks Andrew as always. Hopefully the second half late push can inspire the lads on Wednesday. MOT

Leeds watcher since 65 said...

The first half was as bad as anything I have watched for a long time,hoofball, inability to pass the round thing two yards and fear stood out for me.After the mood of the crowd changed so did whole dynamic which is interesting in itself. Unlucky not to win in the end probably but what it does show is how fragile the players minds are which I find staggering MOT

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