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Saturday, 30 December 2017

Birmingham City v Leeds Utd. 30th Dec 2017.

The train was taking the strain for the last game of 2017 as I headed to Birmingham to see if Leeds could finish off a very productive December with another away victory.  Statistics were very much on the side of Leeds who have not lost in their last four visits to St Andrews and in contrast to Leeds excellent run of form Birmingham are currently the strongest team in the league as the they hold everybody else up from their lowly position rooted at the bottom.  Their decision to part company with Gary Rowett when they were 7th in the table must go down as one of the most unfathomable decisions of the last few years of notoriously bonkers decisions by Football chairman.

News that Cardiff had lost a 3rd game on the bounce on Friday night warmed the cockles of my heart as I eagerly studied the League table with Leeds tucked nicely in 5th place as we enter another hectic weekend of holiday games. Somehow we seem to be in a much better place as a club than we've been for a decade and the real possibility of challenging for promotion in the new year is dripping with excitement. So with positivity coursing through my veins enhanced with the odd drop of alcohol I alighted at Birmingham New Street and headed to St Andrew's. By now beating Birmingham was going to be like a walk in the park wasn't it?

TC has made some bold selection decisions during his tenure at Leeds but the one Leeds fans were digesting today was definitely his boldest.  With Vieira and O'Kane injured he chose Shaughnessy to start in midfield alongside Phillips and left Saiz on the bench! Mmmm Was it Shaughnessy's height he felt Leeds needed to combat some of the Birmingham giants or was he looking to add a bit more steel to the boiler room?  But why leave Saiz on the bench? If he's fit enough for the bench he's fit enough to start?  Anyhow surely against the division's bottom team it wouldn't matter that much would it?

The game started with a rather flat atmosphere inside St Andrew's. Birmingham took the early initiative against a lethargic Leeds side as they belied their lowly league position.  Gallagher and Boga both found space inside the first 15 minutes but saw their shots blocked by the rock like Leeds defence.  Birmingham seemed to be winning all the midfield battles and with just 20 minutes gone  I began to get that horrible feeling of foreboding about this Leeds performance.  Birmingham were on top and there was no sign of Leeds upping the tempo or showing just a touch of quality to get back into the game.  Out of the blue Hernandez so nearly provided the perfect ball for Phillips to open the scoring but he couldn't quite reach the defence splitting ball. The half finished goalless with Birmingham in the box seat.

The urinal philosophers were in meltdown.  Everybody was shite including TC. "This is why we've had a rubbish December" complained one fan of a team who had won 4 and drawn 1 of the matches in December and sit 5th in the table! "Why the f*** is Saiz on the bench" shouted another bewildered fan. Football can be a fickle and frustrating game at times.  Today was definitely one of those times.  Still Leeds had 45 minutes to put things right.  To do that though they would have to support the isolated Roofe better and win some balls in the centre of midfield something that was sadly lacking in the first half.

The match continued in the scrappy dour mode which was contributing to one of the poorest atmosphere's I've witnessed at a Leeds game for a long time.  On 55 minutes Saiz came off the bench to replace the disappointing Cibicki and immediately made a difference with his twinkle toes footwork and eager running.  Suddenly Leeds looked as if they might just snatch a winner but too many times promising attacks failed with a poor final pass or shot.  This wasn't looking good and at the back of my mind I had that nagging feeling that Birmingham could pinch one.  Klich replaced Phillips just after the hour a decision that generated more puzzled looks from the Leeds fans.

Then just when it seemed the game was heading for a bore draw Hernandez forced a superb save from Stockdale after good work from Saiz and Ayling.  The ball bounced tantalisingly on the bar after the goalie's reflex save.  If only.................  Saiz was driving Leeds forward though looking for an unlikely win but we still weren't really testing Stockdale in the home goal.  On 77 minutes Birmingham brought on Jota for Boga bringing an interesting comment from a fan behind me who screamed "for F**** sake don't let that Gender fluid bastard score"  I'm not entirely sure what Gender fluid means but I suspect it wasn't a compliment for the substitute.

With 7 minutes left my worst fears came to fruition.  The afore mentioned Jota was given space on the right flank which he accepted gleefully as he danced inside and fired a low shot that Wiedwald could only parry straight to Maghoma who thumped the ball into the unguarded net.  1.0 Birmingham and no more than their persistence deserved.  Leeds were now looking down the barrel of an unlikely defeat unless they could find a way past Stockdale. Lasogga came on for Alioski.  Hernandez wriggled through the defence and got a shot away but it drifted wide.  Leeds's final onslaught was more like an assault by the Tellytubbies with about as much threat.  The game ended 1.0 to Birmingham with their fans singing "how shit must you be we're winning at home"  To be fair probably as good a summary of the performance as you'll get.  Roofe was far too isolated, the midfield just weren't in the game until Saiz came on.  Jansson was immense at the back though.

This was a bad day at the office for Leeds but even a performance like that didn't justify the bile and negativity coming from some fans towards the team as we streamed away from the ground.  Thankfully we're still 5th going into the New Year and in a good position to keep our challenge going through to May.............but not if we play like this again.

Notts Forest up next on New Years day.  Nerves will be jangling amongst the Leeds faithful for that one.  Hopefully Vieira and Saiz will be back as they were sorely missed today.  Onwards and upwards into 2018.

Can't wait.


A very Happy New Year to everyone.


Leeds watcher since 65 said...

Very disappointing I listened on Radio Leeds and you mirrored their commentary, I watched Joe Bryan on TV v wolves and if he would come or if we are prepared to pay big money he would be a useful addition, how about Stockdale as a keeper, Leeds fan after all anyhow still fifth and thereabouts MOT

Unknown said...

Tellytubies ha ha lol thank you Andrew for. All your match reports this year and all the best for 2018

Andrew Butterwick said...

Thanks for your comments. Thanks for reading my blog this year and look forward to reporting on a push for promotion in 2018.

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