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Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Leeds United v Birmingham City 31st Jan 2012

The dash from Trafford to the Theatre of no ambition wasn’t as torturous as it might have been as I traversed the M62 into West Yorkshire.  Birmingham City were lying in wait for Lord Larry’s men for this Tuesday night Championship clash.  The chill winter air was bracing to say the least as I stepped out of the car to make take the well worn route from the car park to the Pavillion bar.  The Happy Chocker and the Quiet One mirrored the consensus view of most Leeds fans that tonight’s game was not going to be easy.  After all Birmingham had hit a rich vein of form and had recently added a touch of goal scoring to their miserly defensive efforts.  A lethal combination!

Most of the talk in the Pavilion revolved round the total lack of any decent transfer activity.  Alright we have brought in Adam Smith from Spurs on loan and Andy O’Brien has miraculously returned to training after suffering from depression and refusing to play against Burnley.  At first the noises Leeds were making on their website sounded unusually supportive and almost caring about one of their employees who had in effect been off sick.  The more cynical amongst you might think the change of heart by Leeds had more to do with a potential industrial tribunal hearing though?  Anyhow despite the underwhelming transfer activity we faithfully trudged off to take our seats in the Capt's Lounge.  You never know we might just scrape a win?

The team on paper looked strong with a midfield foursome of Townsend, Snoddy, Clayton and Delph that had a nice balance to it.  Aidey White replaced Pugh at left back presumably to counteract the electric pace of the highly rated Burke on the Blues wing.  Leeds’ back four had a very youthful look to it.  “I do hope they can cope with the giant Zigic better than they did at St Andrews”.

So off we went with Snoddy starting the game at least scotching rumours that he was on his way out of ER................for now at least!  Leeds started like a house on fire and sent a ripple of optimism around the half empty arena.  By the time the clock reached 4 minutes Becchio had spurned three excellent chances. First Ross Mac broke free in the box and fired the ball across the goal but the Argentinian mis hit his shot weakly at the Brummie goalie.  Then he beat Myhill to a cross only for a defender to clear his header off the line and then Ross Mac released him with a pin point through ball that he slid wide of the post.  Jesus......we haven’t had a start like this since.....well since I don’t know when!  Birmingham were rocked but would we regret not taking those precious chances as Brum have the best conversion ratio of chances to goals in the division?

Snoddy was at his illusive best as he ripped into the Blues down the right flank creating havoc every time he got the ball.  Maybe this wasn't going to be a bad night after all? Leeds kept up the pressure on the visitors goal playing some delightful football.  At the other end Lonergan tipped over a Burke lob just to keep us on our toes.  On twenty minutes we were deservedly in front.  Birmingham failed to clear their box and the ball ballooned to Ross Mac on the edge of the box..................shoot was the cry from the Capt's Lounge........but the Scot coolly controlled the ball shimmied past the static Brum defender and drove the ball into the corner of the net.  1.0 Leeds. Get in!

The goal didn't faze Birmingham though as they knocked the ball about with the confidence a long unbeaten run gives a team and when Burke left White for dead on the left flank alarm bells started to ring amongst the Leeds faithful in the 19,000 crowd.  Then the blues were level, somewhat against the run of play, but level.  Birmingham were given far too much space on the Leeds right allowing a simple cross to pierce the heart of the Leeds box where the giant Zigic serenely headed the ball into the net unchallenged.  The few fans who had travelled from the black country celebrated whilst heads were planted firmly in hands by the frustrated Leeds fans.  Sometimes football is just not fair?

The goal gave Brum confidence as their patient controlled game began to frustrate the men in white.  But Leeds were attacking with vigour as the game hurtled towards half time.  A deep cross found Snoddy who turned it back towards Ross Mac who smacked a shot against a Brum defender.  Leeds were attacking well but Birmingham continued to look dangerous on the break.  The half time whistle went to bring to an end possibly Leeds' best 45 minutes of the season.

All we needed to do was continue the good first half form for the second period and we might get something out of the game...............but we have had too many "game of two halves" this year and we were about to get another dose of just that painful medicine!  In the first half Leeds had found no answer to the 9ft 8" Zigic and he had made Leeds pay with his one chance. There was no evidence that the Leeds defence had learnt the lesson as the final 45 minutes got under way as once again he won the ball with ease in the air.  But Leeds were still battering on the Birmingham door.  Becchio forced a stunning save from Myhill with his header before slamming a 25 yard shot that the ex Codhead goalie just tipped over the bar.  Leeds surged forward looking for a second goal whilst Birmingham calmly soaked up the pressure and looked to hit Leeds on the break through the speedy Burke haring down the wing.

On the hour Burke waltzed into the Leeds box and despite the attention of two defenders spun round and picked out Zigic who rammed home his second goal of the night.  2.1 Brum.  Does he ever miss any chance against Leeds?  Birmingham now had the measure of Leeds as they exposed the young home defence ruthlessly on the flanks.  Zigic soon headed his third with ease and then his forth almost immediately once again untouched by anybody in a white shirt.  Yet another forward who plays against Leeds with a bad case of BO so nobody goes too close to him.  Such an underhand tactic!  The game was over at 4.1.  Zigic had gorged himself on the slack marking and frankly total lack of ability by Leeds to cut the supply of crosses off from the flanks.  It was like taking candy from a kid.

The kop ironically sang "1st of Feb emergency loans" as gallows humour became the order of the day.  Birmingham are a class team make no mistake but the way Leeds capitulated reflects their ability in this league with the current quality or lack of it they have in the squad.  As Capt Birdseye gloated in the programme notes that it was a "no brainer" when Norwich offered £2m for Howson so the Leeds faithful think it's a "no brainer" that we have no chance of progressing with the current batch of loanees, hand me downs and free transfers.  The dwindling crowds and lack of Season ticket renewals tell a stark story of a once famous and proud club being strangled to death by a management team with no ambition or vision for the future.  Yes Mr Bates you might think that Delia's mob must be mad for stumping up £2m for our club captain but have a glance at the League tables..................the Canaries are singing a sweet song in the Premier League playing to sell out crowds every week whilst we stumble about in the Championship playing to a half empty stadium and a set of totally disenfranchised customers.  Which one is the better business model Kenneth?  I would suggest that's the "No brainer"?

Bristol City on Saturday.  Will Lord Larry still be in a job?  How much more can Leeds fans take?  Despite all this and just maybe because I'm a masochist?
Can't wait.

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