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Saturday, 15 April 2017

Newcastle Utd v Leeds Utd. Good Friday 14th April 2017.

In recent years Easter has traditionally been a time followers of the mighty whites to start thinking about where they'll be going on their summer holidays, whether they'll renew their season ticket and speculating over the next occupant through the creaking Elland Road revolving door. The last thing on anybody's mind would be our league position given that it was always 15th, far enough way from relegation and light years away from the top six. Not this year though. We head into the hectic Easter period scrutinising not only our remaining fixtures but also those around us with forensic precision as dreams of the play offs get nearer to reality with every game we play. In some quarters hotels have been provisionally booked for the Play off weekend and train tickets bought. Suddenly the comatose footballing giant from West Yorkshire has risen and is on the move. Glory be!

Newcastle Utd at St James Park is the first obstacle for the Easter weekend so naturally I joined the travelling army heading to the north east for the titanic clash between two passionate football clubs who both yearn for a return to former glories. St James Park is a fantastic arena almost worth the trek up 7 levels to the away section in the clouds of Northumbria. Thankfully oxygen masks were on hand for those who found the 797 steps just a few too many! Once I got my breath back I digested the team news. Bridcutt returned at the expense of Vieira in an otherwise unchanged team. The Toon team sheet was dripping with the quality you'd expect from a team that has occupied an automatic promotion place for most of the season............and backed by the ridiculous £90m parachute payment they won for getting relegated from the Premier League. The scene was set for an epic clash with SJP packed to the rafters with both sets of fans desperate for the points for slightly different reasons.

Leeds started brightly in the first 10 minutes culminating with Pedraza clattering the Newcastle bar with a rasping shot that Roofe followed up with a header that so nearly gave the visitors the lead. The decibel level in the away fans eyrie lifted a couple of notches. That early chance was a bit misleading to the hopes of the 3,200 Leeds fans though as the Newcastle machine moved up a gear and driven by Shelvey, Perez and Ritchie started to gradually turn the screw. The Leeds defence was as committed as ever with Green, Bartley and Jansson forming a granite like jaw to the frequent punches thrown their way by the Toon. Bodies were flung routinely in front of shots and when that failed Rob Green again showed why he's the best guardian of the goals in the division. Back up in the eyrie the rhythmic chanting of "Ronaldo Vieira never gives the ball away" beat out consistently to supplement the never say die spirit of the team. Shelvey was purring, Ritchie was like a barbed thorn in Leeds side and when Newcastle hit the post just before half time it looked like it was just a matter of time before the Leeds back line would be breached. Ronaldo Vieira was still not giving the ball away as the HT whistle blew......which technically was correct as he was sat on the bench. HT 0.0 Phew.

The urinal philosophers were philosophical through the alcoholic haze of an all day refreshment session. "Green is awesome" slurred one fan. "Still not sure about Pedraza" queried another! "We need to get something out of this after today's results" moaned a despondent worrier. A big 45 minutes awaited. Leeds somehow needed to stem the Toon tide or they could be submerged without trace.

The pattern of the first half continued with Newcastle now constantly knocking on the Leeds door. Corner followed corner with Lascelles going close numerous times. Something had to give surely. Jansson and Bartley were booked by a ref who at times seemed to lose the plot. He certainly wasn't making Leeds herculean task any easier. Ronaldo Vieira was still a teenager and not giving the ball away in the eyrie as the hour mark approached. Sacko replaced Pedraza. Maybe just maybe we could see this out? Mmmmm not quite. From yet another corner Lascelles finally got the ball over the line despite an heroic attempt to keep the ball out from Green. 1.0 Newcastle and suddenly the 49,000 Geordies found their voice as Leeds now looked even more vulnerable. Bollox.

Doukara and Taylor joined the fray as Mr Monk looked to create a chance of an equaliser but Newcastle were still battering the granite jaw of the Leeds defence. An equaliser looked about as likely as Vieira giving the ball away while he was sat on the bench. The clocked ticked towards 90 minutes as Newcastle went into time wasting mode to protect their one goal lead. It was still only one goal though and the added time board was shining in the distance with 5 minutes of opportunity for Leeds. Time for one last, or probably first, assault on the Newcastle goal. But wait...suddenly a rather portly Leeds fan emerged from the home end to bow down in front of Green and congratulate Jansson. Not what you want when you're trying to build up a head of steam! The home fans were streaming away from the ground safe in the knowledge that they had equalled Brighton's victory in the race for the title..............but just a minute. Leeds never know when they are beaten and despite been absolutely battered for 94 minutes in the words of Bill Shankley "it only takes a second to score a goal" the men from West Yorkshire were going to prove that in the most dramatic way.

Hernandez, with his head bandaged, probed for an opening in the Toon defence and slid a pin point pass through to Roofe on the edge of the box.......the ex Oxford and turned inside and clipped a perfect cross deep into the heart of the Newcastle defence where Chris Wood arrived like a white Knight to steer the ball high into the Newcastle net get innnnnnnnnnnnnnnn! The eyrie went absolutely mental celebrating the most unlikely equaliser with the last kick of the game and only the second meaningful kick at the Newcastle domination. Football doesn't get any better than this. To say it felt like a win is the biggest understatement you will ever hear. Delicious!

The ref blew the whistle, Rafa put his "hard done by" face and berated the referee for scoring the Leeds goal. The away fans stayed to salute the granite jaw and the band of brothers who never gave up and then streamed out of the ground to the rhythmic beat of the Vieira song. This was a draw snatched from the jaws of a suffocating defeat and for those Leeds fans present will stay long in the memory. The defence was awesome with Jansson and Green particularly outstanding in an absolutely amazing rearguard performance.

The train journey home was still to the soundtrack of Ronaldo Vieira even when we disembarked just after the witching hour at York station the beat was still belting out. This point will be so, so important come the final places for the play offs. As unlikely as it was is it a sign that this might just be our year? The Wolves await on Monday and Elland Road will be rocking again. Monk's juggernaut is going to take some stopping now!

Can't wait.



Andy P said...

Fantastic report and phenomenal result given the Newcastle possession and shots on goal, but there seems to be no one this team fears at the moment. MOT.

Andrew Butterwick said...

Thanks Andy. The dream is still very much on. MOT

Unknown said...

Great read as always
Not only are people booking trains etc... for the playoffs, I've booked flights to come over in May from Western Australia MOT

Andrew Butterwick said...

Wow I really hope they make it for your sake. I'll buy you a beer at Wembley if they do! MOT

Unknown said...

Superb as usual Andrew and may I Thank you for letting our little blog site include your superb articles. Maybe, just maybe we just might do it this season

Unknown said...

Thanks, I'll hold you to that ;)
Luckily it's not the only reason, I just made sure that they coincided

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