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Monday, 2 January 2017

Leeds Utd v Rotherham Utd. 2nd Jan 2017.

Real optimism and expectation was rife at Elland Road as we welcomed the new year to the Theatre of Hope with the visit of lowly Rotherham United. With Leeds sat proudly in the play off positions the game was a sell out with the exception of the away end. The good times are back in LS11 and everybody wants a piece of it. Of course it wouldn't be Leeds if there was just a smidgen of negativity  to be worried about but that was consigned to the signing up the loanees plus Charlie Taylor and more importantly Garry Monk. So with me predicting a 3. 0 victory and everybody actually smiling in the North West corner I settled down for the kick off. Unbelievable.

The team sheet did have it's fair share of surprises. Hernandez started in a midfield bursting with attacking flair. Sacko, Doukara, Bridcutt, Roofe and Wood up top. Bartley ejected Cooper from the centre half spot but what formation would accommodate all the attackers? The scene was set for Leeds to rip into the basement side and tear them to shreds........wasn't it? Well not exactly. It was the away side who started better playing with a confidence that belied their position in the table. On 7 minutes their early enterprise so nearly paid dividends for them. Bridcutt fouled the impressive Izzy Brown 20 yards out. Forde hit a sweet free kick that Green saved spectacularly and then again as Adeyemi followed up from a tight angle. Maybe this wasn't going to be as easy as I thought?

Rotherham continued to give as good as they were getting with Ward, Brown and Frecklington all testing the Leeds rearguard with goal bound shots. At the other end the Rotherham bus was firmly parked and thwarting all but two of the Leeds attacks in the first half. Hernandez squeezed a shot wide whilst Doukara blazed a chance high and wide just on half time. The bumper crowd had been quietened by the Millers and they were far the happier as the teams retired to the dressing room for the half time break. Sacko and Doukara out wide had been ineffective whilst Bridcutt was struggling to win enough ball in the centre of midfield with Hernandez playing a roaming role. Whatever the plan Garry Monk had worked on all week it wasn't working. With steadier finishing the Millers would have been in front. Decision time for Garry Monk.

Meanwhile the urinal philosophers had been stunned into virtual silence by the staccato 1st half performance from the "New Leeds" There were a couple of token grumbles about the lack of final balls from Sacko but that was it. Maybe the increasing confidence with Garry Monk's management ability was at the heart of it? Back in the dressing room Monk was rewriting the game plan. Out went the 4-4-1-1 formation and back came the familiar 4-2-3-1 system. Vieira replaced the misfiring Sacko to shore up the middle of the park leaving Doukara and Roofe out wide with Hernandez now playing the No 10 role. With results elsewhere going to our way Leeds needed a big 2nd half to take advantage. It took just two minutes for the new tactics and personnel to click into gear to the delight of the bank holiday Leeds crowd.

From the kick off Leeds attacked down the right flank with a much higher tempo. Corner to Leeds. Hernandez swings a perfect corner into the box for Bartley to thump a bullet header into the Rotherham net. Suddenly Elland Road was alive and kicking although you had to feel sorry for Bartley as the crowd turned their attention to Pontus as he lay prostrate on the turf receiving treatment. I could just imagine Bartley thinking "even when I score it's still Pontus they sing about. Bastard!" Thankfully Pontus did recover and Bartley's goal set the scene for what would be a memorable 2nd 45 minutes. Leeds ripped into Rotherham like a hungry pride of Lions devouring a lone Zebra. Roofe and Ayling were on fire on the right flank whilst Doukara was all but showboating on the left in front of a snarling Berardi. In the middle Hernandez was the conductor of the orchestra who were now very much in tune and playing to a prestissimo tempo. Delicious!

The Leeds tidal wave couldn't be stopped by Rotherham despite the help of the linesman giving some baffling offside decisions against Leeds. I could only conclude that he couldn't see the Rotherham defenders in their awful away strip. Either that or he was just blind and guessing when to put his flag up. The inevitable 2nd goal came on 66 minutes. The tenacious Bridcutt won a tackle he had no right to win and chipped the ball into Wood's chest. The New Zealander controlled the ball and then somehow turned and hit a half volley into the Rotherham net in one move. Fantastic. 2.0 Leeds and Elland Road was now truly rocking. The entertainment didn't end there though. Leeds were now pinging the ball all round the pitch with quick and slick one touch football. Memories of a certain game against Southampton in the early 70's came to mind. I could almost here Barry Davies saying "It's almost cruel" again. This was champagne football Leeds style.

Dallas replaced Doukara on 73 minutes. Minutes later Berardi came storming out of defence like a marauding Tiger and played a one two with Wood to slice through the visitor's defence only to see his shot hit the post. Brilliant. By now Rotherham were punch drunk. Another swift passing move freed Roofe on the right.............his first time ball into the box was perfectly met by Wood.... 3-0 Leeds and goodnight Vienna. Leeds were just irresistible. As disjointed and lethargic Leeds were in the first half they were now purring like a well oiled wrecking machine as they ground the Millers into dust. There was still time for Hernandez to hit a post with a free kick after a foul on Dallas as Leeds closed the game out at 3.0 with the home fans oozing with superlatives at the 2nd half performance.

Smiles are certainly the order of the day at Elland Road now. Vieira was immense in the 2nd 45 minutes but it was another impressive team performance if only for half of the match. On this form Leeds look unstoppable. Garry Monk is an absolute genius. The team did a lap of honour at the end. The bond between the fans, players and management team is like the strongest super glue on the planet. These are intoxicating days for the followers of the mighty whites but I suppose we have waited long enough for this sort of team and performances. The giant is wide awake and devouring all in it's wake. Premier League look out we're heading your way!

Can't wait.



Unknown said...

As usual a fantastic report happy new year to you all

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ryan in Michigan said...

I just wanted to say thanks for these outstanding articles. I have been reading them for the last three seasons over here, across the pond and over the hills, in Michigan. Been a closet fan for many, many years now. You can thank a random chance late night tune-in and Strongbow Cider for that. (Hey! I've got a few of those. Capital idea!) I'm happy with the choice, better than being some bandwagon fan of the Manchester teams or one of the prissy London squads, which is all you will ever see over here in the U.S. A few years ago I saw a guy wearing a Celtic shirt though. Anyway, keep up the delightful reports and the urinal philosopher updates.

Andrew Butterwick said...

Kieran/Ryan. Thanks for the comments. Glad you enjoy my ramblings. Keep spreading the word Leeds are on a roll at last. MOT

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