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Sunday, 11 March 2018

Reading v Leeds Utd 10th March 2018.

York station was bustling with passengers going hither and thither as I boarded the train for Reading with The Happy Chocker for my birthday trip to watch the latest instalment of Leeds' season.  Even though we were playing a team with a worse run of form than Leeds expectation levels weren't high as we debated what combination of misfits would be selected this week.  As a reflection of how different this season has been since last year we reflected on the corresponding fixture 12 long months ago.  Then the two teams went head to head battling for a play off place in what was a pivotal game which Reading prevailed thanks to a Kermorgant goal. From that point Leeds faded away badly whilst Reading stormed ahead to a play off final defeat against some other team.

Today the pressure was on Jaap Stam as rumours circulated that another defeat for the Royals would mean a forced abdication for the cheerful Dutch manager.  The prospect of Leeds contributing to Stam's demise and getting a welcome 3 points lifted the spirits as the pre match refreshments began to increase Leeds chances of winning as kick of time approached.  PH had rung the changes from Wednesday's defeat to Wolves as De Bock, Pennington, O'Kane, Hernandez and surprisingly Ekuban all started leaving Dallas and Lasogga on the bench.  4,000 disciples of torture packed the away end with the usual raucous support as the game got under way.  There was a deep frustration with the lack of success this season percolating just under the surface with the majority of the Leeds fans though.

The opening salvos were littered with nervous tension both on the pitch and in the crowd.  The game was surprisingly open though as both teams looked to attack from the start.  Alioski brought a good save from Jaakkola in the Royal's goal after 10 minutes as Reading responded with their own pressure leading to a number of corners.  On 16 minutes the fragile confidence of the away team was shattered.  Ekuban lost the ball easily in the centre circle and Reading swiftly moved the ball through the Leeds team to release Bodvarsson one on one with Bailey Peacock-Farrell.  The Reading forward dispatched the chance clinically to give the Royals the lead.  The ease in which Reading were able to move the ball through midfield to create the chance highlighted one of the glaring weaknesses in this current Leeds team.  1.0 Reading.

Buoyed by the goal and the prospect of a rare home win Reading prospered. A schoolboy mistake by De Bock should have given Reading a second but BPF saved the day with a superb save.  His right royal blocking of De Bock and the defence warmed the cockles of my heart. Next up a desperate double save by BPF and Pennington denied the Royals again.  The best was yet to come as BPF added to his quickly increasing reputation with a flying save to tip a superb shot over the bar.  Leeds were rocking though and I feared another long day at the office for the 4,000 away fans.  Then Leeds dragged themselves up by their shoe laces and were back in the game.  Saiz picked the ball up 40 yards out and chipped a lovely ball to the advancing Forshaw who simply moved the ball to Jansson who flicked the ball with the outside of his boot into the net from 10 yards.  Jansson's subdued celebration fuelled the view that all is not well in the Swede's world. 1.1 and we were back in the game.

Alioski nearly snatched the lead just on half time as he wriggled through the Royals defence only to hit the post from a very tight angle.  HT 1.1. Reading had the better of the half but thanks to BPF and the late goal Leeds were still level.  The Urinal Philosophers were hardly in the most positive of moods.  "Why is O'Kane anywhere near the first team?" "How can Barrow turn into a world beater as soon as he leaves Elland Road?" finally one fan moaned "If it wasn't for BPF we'd be 3 down already.  I thought he was supposed to be shit?" Like football fans the world over Leeds fans do feel the excruciating pain when things aren't going well.  Still at 1.1 my birthday could still yield a 3 point present.  The next goal would be crucial.

Leeds started the 2nd half better and suddenly were playing with more purpose.  Barrow and Bacuna were still causing havoc when they got the ball but Leeds were now looking threatening too led by Saiz, Alioski and Hernandez.  Ekuban was settling into the game as well with some nice touches.  He is still very, very raw though.  On 54 minutes Leeds were rewarded for their more positive approach.  Once again Saiz was at the hub of the move as he danced through the centre of midfield and found Hernandez in the inside left position on the edge of the box..........a little Spanish shuffle later the ball was curling into the Reading net to give Leeds the lead and send the away following into raptures as the Spaniard celebrated in the corner.  Meanwhile on the half way Jansson was bent down adjusting his shoelaces?

In true Leeds style having dragged them selves in front they immediately threw away their advantage just two minutes later.  Somehow Bacuna had acres of space on the Reading flank while De Bock was 30 yards away on the other flank.  The Reading player lined his shot up and fired in a savable effort..............that is until O'Kane stretched out his leg and diverted the ball past the frustrated BPF.  2.2. Bollox! The game now turned into a no holds barred contest as both teams went in search of the winner.  Jansson and then Ekuban missed chances from corners the latter taking the ball away from Jansson who would surely have scored.  Leeds were looking the more likely now.  Lasogga replaced Ekuban. Alioski brought a superb save from Jaakkola on 81 minutes.  Could they get that all important goal?  A minute later the post denied Leeds again.  Lasogga chased down a back pass and charged down the clearance.........the ball rolled in slow motion towards the goal with the Reading keeper desperately trying to rectify his blunder......the ball hit the post and came out only for the keeper to nearly take the ball over the line in his attempt to save it!

The game ended with the scores level.  Much better in the 2nd half from Leeds but against a very average Reading team Leeds showed that the old adage of "the table never lies" is very true as the mighty whites wallow on 50 points and 13th position.  BPF had an outstanding game again which all augurs we'll for his future.  Jansson again looked out of sorts for me.  Even Saiz for all his creative work was guilty of poor final balls today.  After saying that he was instrumental in both goals.  The fact that O'Kane is picked in midfield shows how devoid of options we have in that area.  Defensively we are vulnerable.  Pennington manages to mix excellent tackles and blocks with some scary rabbit in headlights moments.  De Bock is vulnerable every time he is attacked and for all his effort Berardi is the same on the other side.

In the end it was a decent away day although disappointing we didn't claim all three points. The trip home was illuminated by the Sunderland team boarding the first class carriage of our train after their latest defeat at QPR.  The Sunderland fans with us in carriage class spent the whole trip plotting to get past the security guards to have a full and frank discussion on the finer points of their team's demise.  That is I assume what they were doing because their broad Wearside accent does take some understanding!  All in all a good birthday trip.  Sheff Wed up next at Elland Road.  Mmmm another chance for PH to assess which players he will want to keep next year.  It won't be a long list.

Can't wait.



Leeds watcher since 65 said...

I was one of the 4000 who made the trip and our own mistakes are costing us dear. Do you think like I do that we are missing Luke Ayling more than I thought we would. As for departures how about, De Boch, Pennington, Sacko, Wieldwald, Lonnergan, Okane, Grot, Cooper, and Phillips for starters. Great blog MOT

Andrew Butterwick said...

I think Ayling would have improved things but even he wasn't in the best of form before he got injured. As for departures you're not far off IMO.

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