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Sunday, 18 December 2011

Leeds Utd v Reading. Dec 17th 2011

The winter chill in the air meant a first outing of the season for my woolly LUFC hat as the Leeds faithful gathered at Selby station for the trip to LS11.  After last week's woeful showing at Watford hopes were high of a more commanding performance by Leeds to send us into the Xmas break nicely placed in the promotion play off spots.  Surely we couldn't play as badly as last week could we?  Much of the pre match discussion was focused on Jonny Howson's injury and hole he has left in the Leeds midfield.  Expectations were high of a return to the 4.5.1 formation with Vayrynen supplementing Clayton and Pugh in the key central midfield zone. It was somewhat of a surprise then when the team was announced as a 4.4.2 formation with Clayton and Brown in midfield with Pugh and Snoddy on the flanks.  Ross Mac and Becchio started up front and Lonergan made his return in goal. A 2.1 win for Leeds was the most popular prediction amongst our band of foolishly optimistic fans as we took our seats ready for kick off.

A reasonable pre Xmas crowd of just over 23,000 were hardly settled in their seats when Reading struck a devastating early blow.  A long ball up field into the heart of the Leeds defence was allowed to bounce, Lonergan started to come for the ball then thought better of it which left Simon Church with the chance to lob the ball unchallenged into the empty Leeds net.  1.0 Reading with barely 90 seconds gone.  The handful of Royals fans celebrated their dream start as the Leeds fans digested another goal from a defensive mix up at the Theatre of Hope.  We do make life hard for ourselves?  "Still we've got plenty of time to comeback" I commented accompanied by the sound of a clutching straw.

Despite the early setback Leeds had the better of the opening 15 minutes as they gave the home crowd hope with some neat football.  Worryingly though the Leeds defence opened up again down the left flank as McAnuff left White for dead and drove into the Leeds box.  Thankfully his shot curled wide but the over used alarm bells signalling a dodgy Leeds defensive performance were now ringing loud and clear.  Lonergan partly amended for his earlier error with an agile save from a low shot which Aidey White just managed to scramble clear.  A harsh cold reality check was already blowing through our chances of getting anything out of this game as the lack of any real midfield authority or control strangled Leeds' efforts to put any pressure on Reading. Ross Mac battled and won a ball and then tried to wriggle through the resolute visiting defence before being dragged to the ground on the edge of the box.  Hopes rose momentarily as the Scot prepared to the kick himself but the wall smothered his shot and the chance fizzled out.  Reading had rightly identified that Snoddy was the only real threat Leeds carry and had deployed double marking when ever he got the ball.  As the game drifted towards half time Reading continued to look dangerous on the break forcing a number of corners but somehow we remained just the one goal down.  In fact we should have gone in level as Ross Mac headed a golden opportunity straight at Federici after a fantastic delivery from Snoddy.  HT 0.1 to Reading.

The gents debate was as ever illuminating as the anger of watching another poor 45 minutes from the mighty whites spilled out.  "Grayson's clueless" one fan spat out with venom.  "he's lost the dressing room cos he's too busy shagging at Thorp Arch" was another view.  Now you wouldn't get that sort of incisive assessment of the game on the Match of the Day sofa would you?  In general there was a "here we go again" theme running through most of the comments as Leeds' lack of any real creativity or ideas on the pitch were there for all to see. Back on the pitch Sky's "Take it like a fan" team were filming the Leeds fans' attempt at a penalty in front of the kop.  The poor fan made a complete hash of the spot kick and sunk to his knees in embarrassment.  Mmmmm there was something about his attempt at winning the Sky money that matched Leeds' efforts in the first half...............both were excruciatingly poor after a good build up!

The 2nd half got underway with Leeds now playing towards the kop but they still struggled to get any grip at all on the game with nearly every move reverting to a hopeful punt down field for Becchio to flick onto nobody.  The exception to the rule was when Snoddy cleverly released the overlapping Connolly who's pull back from the bye line just lacked a bit of pace as Clayton's back heeled flick was easily saved by the Reading keeper.  The crowd were now getting extremely restless as Leeds huffed and puffed as they tried to  get themselves back in the game but they carried little threat as Becchio and Ross Mac tried to survive on almost non existent quality service from their midfield colleagues.  After 65 minutes Lord Larry moved to change things.  But why was he holding up Ross Mac and Clayton's numbers?  Surely they weren't destined for an early bath................but they were as Sam, Vayrynen and Keogh replaced Ross Mac, Clayton and Brown.  Very strange move but one that might rescue something from this game? Errrr no.  The remaining 15 minutes of the game were just as disjointed as the previous 75 as Reading coasted to an unexpected victory.  Deserved boo's rang round the ground for a Leeds team that showed no real creativity, ideas or nous as the final whistle went.

White had his poorest game in a Leeds shirt but the real worry for the freezing fans as they streamed away into the bleak West Yorks night was where Grayson goes from here.  Without Howson the midfield looks rudderless and ineffective.  The ever changing permutations he has used in mid field emphasises the lack of both talent and depth in this vital area of the team.  So the answer to "we couldn't play as badly as we did at Watford could we?" was a resounding yes.  All of a sudden Leeds look a very vulnerable and one dimensional team as we head for the important Xmas batch of games.  Can Lord Larry turn this round and come up with a formula that puts Leeds back on course for the play off's or better?  Time will tell but I suspect time is something that will be in short supply come the New Year if this form continues.

A Boxing day trip to Derby awaits the battered mighty whites fans.  Despite what's happened today another massive away following will follow the team down the M1 for the lunchtime kick off.  I just hope that Leeds somehow conjure up a game plan that befits such blind loyalty?  Guess what?
Can't wait.
MOT and a very Merry Xmas to all blog readers.


Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas to you too, Just want to say it has been fantastic to have the privilege to read blog after every game this year. Living in Aust can be very difficult to get anything but radio. first thing i do when i wake on Sunday is read match report and enjoy every one of them. Keep up the fantastic work for all us mighty whites fans.

Andrew Butterwick said...

Thanks for the kind comments. Really appreciate them.........especially after such a poor showing by Leeds yesterday!
Have a good Xmas.

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