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Saturday, 21 January 2017

Barnsley v Leeds United. 21st Jan 2017.

Memories of the superb demolition of high flying Derby were still fresh in the memory as we made the short trip to South Yorkshire for the derby clash with Barnsley. While Monk's men were overdosing on confidence and belief from their eye catching run of form surprise package Barnsley were suddenly having a wobble. Top scorer Winnall had departed to the Wendies and rumour has it that other stars of the Reds side will follow their erstwhile colleague out of the door at Oakwell. So logic was pointing to another Leeds win but this would be a fiercely fought local derby in which Barnsley were salivating at the prospect of a packed ground of partisan fans willing their team on against their much loved cousins from Elland Road! Not a night for the faint hearted.

5,300 Leeds fans had made the trip and the main pre match speculation once again surrounded Monk's team selection. Would the mercurial Ayling stay at Centre Half or will Cooper come back in? Surely Coyle did enough to retain his place? Is Sacko fit? All was about to be revealed as we trudged through the miserable South Yorkshire weather to the stadium. In the end Garry Monk kept the same starting eleven as the game kicked off in a white hot atmosphere with passion, hate and local pride oozing from every corner of the ground.

Barnsley flew out of the traps in a high energy, high pressing style that caught Leeds on the back foot. Barnsley won an early corner followed by shots from Watkins, Hourihane and Armstrong in the first 15 minutes. Nerves started to jangle amongst the vociferous Leeds following. Barnsley were supposed to be a club in crisis? They certainly didn't look like it as they scampered about the park looking to disrupt any rhythm Leeds tried to build. Leeds are nothing if not resilient under the tutelage of Garry Monk though and soon Leeds picked up the pace. Hernandez masterminded a quick break down field and suddenly Leeds had a corner. The Spaniard's teasing corner caused havoc in the home defence and Chris Wood fired home to send the travelling hordes into ecstasy 1.0 Leeds. Trouble flared in the Barnsley end as undercover Leeds fans couldn't help celebrating. Maybe a 5.30pm kick off and leaving half a stand empty where away fans can be housed wasn't the best decision ever made by the football big wigs who fall at the knees of the SKY TV God?

The goal lifted Leeds and out of the scrappy, breakneck tempo of the midfield Hernandez started to shine like a beacon in a storm of frenetic challenges and misplaced passes. Bridcutt, Wood and Doukara had chances to double Leeds lead but as the game headed for half time Barnsley started to come back into the game. With just a minute to go to half time Doukara bundled Bree over in a dangerous position. One of the characteristics of Monk's Leeds side this season is their mean defending coupled with never stopping until the final whistle. All of a sudden that mantra was forgotten.....Armstrong peeled away from his defender as the entire Leeds rearguard switched off. Armstrong curled a lovely cross onto Bradshaw's head who steered the ball past Green in the Leeds goal. Oakwell erupted in relief and joy. 1.1 HT. Bollox! Such a sloppy goal.

Leeds trudged off the pitch for what I assume would be a grilling from Monk for that fatal late lapse of concentration. So frustrating. Barnsley had battled hard to nullify the Leeds threat in the first half and shown that given the chance they are a danger going forward. Leeds needed a big change in the 2nd half if they were going to get anything out the game. The urinal philosophers were in unforgiving mood. Leeds might be on a run of form to die for but that didn't cut any ice with half time pundits. "That was S***" one fan screamed while another thought " We're getting over run in midfield" To be fair as good as Vieira was last week he was struggling this week. He is only 18 though.

Leeds needed a quick goal to settle their nerves but things took a significant turn for the worse as the buoyant home side went for the exposed Leeds jugular. Ryan Kent controlled the ball in the Leeds box and somehow got a superb shot away that beat Green low to the right. 2.1 was soon 3.1 as wanted star Hourihane hit a sublime free kick past Green in the Leeds goal. Oakwell was now on fire and the home fans celebrated like they were winning the Champions League. That's what local derbies do to fans. Leeds were under immense pressure. How would they respond? O'Kane replaced Vieira as Monk looked to stem the Red tide. Leeds still had 30 minutes to turn this round.

Leeds were now trying a lot of route one balls to find a way back into the game again and on 68 minutes they got a glimmer of hope. Wood chased down a ball over the top......Roberts knocked the ball away with his hand.......was it inside or outside the box? Mike Dean thought inside and pointed to the spot, Barnsley's Scowen obviously thought not and earned a yellow for his protests. Wood despatched the penalty with ease and suddenly it was game on! 3.2 Barnsley. The home nerves now began to jangle as Leeds attacked looking for an equaliser. It was all a bit clunky though. Leeds needed a cool head to pick Barnsley off but it was all a bit too gun ho for my liking. O'Kane wasted a good chance when he hit high and wide from the edge of the box before a goal bound Bartley header was blocked from a corner.

Dallas replaced Bridcutt as Monk changed to 4:4:2 to try and snatch an equaliser. On 90 minutes another blunderbuss attack from Leeds saw a lovely cross from the right find Roofe free at the back post but his attempt somehow missed from 5 yards out. Arrrrrrrrrrgh! There was still time for Dallas to hit a volley over the bar but time ran out for Leeds as Mike Dean's whistle ended the game and signalled celebrations amongst the home fans. Full Time 3.2 Barnsley.

Leeds paid heavily for some slack defending but credit to Barnsley they took their chances well and implemented a game plan that thwarted in form Leeds. As for Leeds they seemed to struggle to get their passing game going and whereas their attack was rapier like against Derby tonight it was a bit like a blunt butter knife. Still they did battle onto the end. In previous years we would have been well and truly hammered. This was disappointing to say the least not least of which having to walk through all the gloating Barnsley fans to get back to the car. We can't win every game though so heads up and bring on Forest on Wednesday.

Can't wait.


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