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Friday, 30 March 2018

Leeds Utd v Bolton Wanderers. Good Friday 30th Mar 2018.

The Easter weekend is traditionally a tense and nervous time for football fans as their team's promotion or relegation prospects are put under the spotlight with 6 precious points up for grabs over the long holiday weekend.  As for Leeds fans though it's time for the ritual self flagellation as to the reasons for once again entering the final straight of a testing season wallowing in mid table self pity.  The owner, the players, the coaches and even the Football League are in the cross hairs of the passionate Leeds support.  For me once again we're simply not good enough on the pitch to mount a consistent challenge for promotion.

Why then are 35,000 fans heading to Elland Road on a cold grey Good Friday afternoon to watch Leeds take on Bolton Wanderers with nothing at stake and on a run of horrendous form?  Those who are Leeds fans will understand those who aren't will continue to be have a mixture of begrudging admiration and amazement at how a team that has been out of the top flight for so long without ever really looking like returning continue to have a such a loyal, passionate and large widespread fan base?

For what it's worth I think some of the answer is that it's because Leeds have been out of the top flight that the fans have remained in a time warp where football was the true sport of the working class and going to the match was an event in its self  where you met your mates, had a laugh and a drink all interwoven with raucous support from the stands.  Nowhere in the sanitised, clapper infested singing sections of the Premier League do you get anything like that.  Add to that the obscene commercialisation, fuelled by TV money, at the top end of the PL where football tourists, corporate entertainment, extortionate ticket prices and soulless stadiums have completely changed the face of English football you start to realise that whilst we aspire to join the PL if we ever achieve that aim it will inevitably be a completely different Planet to the one we currently exist on.

Anyhow we certainly don't need to worry about that in the near future so back to today's game.  PH's selection raised a few eyebrows.  O'Kane and Vieira in the centre midfield, Dallas at right back, Ekuban up front behind Lasogga in what was a 4-4-1-1 formation.  Saiz was on the bench as was Cibicki.  The pitch was as immaculate as ever despite the recent rugby game as the match kicked off. After the two week international break Leeds were immediately on the front foot as they attacked their lowly Lancashire rivals goal.  Alioski latched onto a header from Ekuban but spurned his glorious chance after just 30 seconds.  Wow!  Leeds weren't to be denied though as just two minutes later Lasogga swung a ball into the box for Hernandez to bravely head against a Bolton defender, the ball dropped to Ekuban and the young striker smashed in his first goal for the club.  Get innnnnnn!

Could today be the day we resurrect our lost form and give some hope for next season to the home fans? Well we'd certainly started well.  Could it continue?  Leeds 1:0 Bolton.  Unfortunately it was Bolton who used the goal as a wake up call and then enjoyed a period of possession that tested the vulnerable home defence.  In front of the back four Vieira was back to his best after some poor recent performances though as he clearly had plugged in his perfect passes software before the start of the game.  On 15 minutes the other bright spark of the opening exchanges, Alioski, found space and ran at the retreating Bolton defence before picking Lasogga out with a diagonal ball only for the German's volley to go high into the South Stand.  On 28 minutes Dallas received a yellow card and in doing so created a classic Leeds fan dialogue.  A fan near me had been bemoaning the lack of steel in our tackling and the fact that we weren't getting stuck into them to "let them know you're there" since the first whistle.  So when Dallas did just that as he clattered into Buckley in true Norman Hunter style to receive his card the same fan was then vilifying Dallas for giving a stupid foul away!  Brilliant.

This was better from Leeds with the little Spanish magician, Hernandez, at his scintillating best assisted ably by Vieira, Ekuban and Alioski they looked dangerous every time they attacked.  On 35 minutes Alioski scorched away from his marker onto a pin point pass from Hernandez but fizzed his shot past the left hand post.  As the game headed for half time Leeds steadily built pressure on the Bolton goal and on the stroke of the interval they so nearly got their reward as Jansson rose at the back post to clatter the bar with a header from an Alioski corner.  HT 1.0 Leeds.

The Urinal Philosophers were in holiday mood.  Season ticket renewals seemed to be the main topic of conversation though.  Everybody seemed to have renewed even the fan who went on a rant about how shit the team, board, coach was and the fact that we'll never get promoted with this shower in charge.  His mate then asked "have you renewed then" to which he replied "Of course I have.  What else is there to do on a Saturday afternoon than to come and moan about this lot"  Mmmm not sure I understand that logic but each to their own.

Leeds started the 2nd half with a bang just like the first.  Within in a minute Hernandez brought a superb save from Alnwick in the Bolton goal and minutes later Lasogga wasted an excellent chance to double the lead as he snatched at his shot and it sailed into the kop.  Leeds needed a second goal though and on 50 minutes it came.  The peerless Vieira in midfield picked up a ball in the centre circle and caressed the ball 35 yards over the top of the full back onto Alioski's chest.  The diminutive winger never broke his stride as he took the ball forward towards goal where he unleashed a stinging shot that Alnwick could only parry..............Hernandez went bravely in for the rebound and netted in front of the adoring Kop.  His goal celebration seemed to be an imitation of an ungainly Swan landing on a frozen pond but the home fans didn't care.  Leeds were two up and surely heading for 3 points...........weren't they?

Ameobi, or as the guy sat next to me called him "that lanky twat", was causing Leeds the most problems and danger signals started to flash when he tested BPF on 52 minutes with a long range shot.  Minutes later my worries were justified.  Berardi conceded a soft free kick out wide.  Ameobi's cross was met by an unchallenged Le Fondre who's header thundered past BPF into the net and send the large away following into raptures.  2.1 Leeds.  Inevitably Leeds started to wobble.  Buckley missed a golden chance to equalise with his head as the Trotters surged forward looking for an unlikely equaliser.

Saiz replaced Lasogga on the hour.  Leeds were looking to hit Bolton on the break as they pushed forward.  Ekuban was having a decent game and giving the tall Bolton centre backs plenty to think about.  On 68 minutes he should have doubled his tally as he made room to reach a Dallas pass but Alnwick saved his shot with an outstretched boot.  Would we regret that miss though?  Leeds started to go into desperate defending mode as the game entered the final 10 minutes.  Saiz had a couple of nice runs but delayed his final passes too long. Grot replaced Alioski as the game headed for 5 minutes of added time.  Saiz split the Bolton defence for Ekuban but once again Alnwick denied the young striker.  After a hectic final few minutes the ref blew his whistle to signal only the 2nd win of the year for the mighty whites.

Hernandez was man of the match after a delicious performance laced with pin point passes and intelligent support play not to mention the winning goal and an assist for the first.  Vieira, Ekuban and Alioski all had Good Fridays as well.  It was pleasing to get the three points and yes Bolton aren't the strongest team in the league but there were a lot more positives from today's game for a change.  With better finishing we could have got 4 or 5 today but I for one was pleased to be leaving Elland Road with a smile on my face for a change.

Unfortunately I am away for the next few games but will return for the Norwich away game.  Now if we win every game up to don't be silly that's never going to happen is it?

Can't wait.



Anonymous said...

Amazing Hernandez starts to play for his life when his contracts almost out, where has he been since before xmas, he's just like the rest of the team, most of them have gone to complete rubbish now they are on 3 year contracts, no chance of getting rid of any them now, be warned if we give him the same, he will also disappear, hes putting a shift in for a final pay off.

Andy P said...

Thanks Andrew nice to read a more positive report and a much needed win,rather than reading of us throwing it away in the last few minutes. Albeit we still like to concede to keep the blood pressure raised! MOT

Ed said...

AB, don't know what your day job is but you write better match reviews than most of the pros out there. All the better for not being cocooned in the Press Box but being part of the 'faithful'.

Just wondered when you wrote about 'different planet' did you consider 'different fish tank'? On second thoughts, maybe not eh, that's where dreams turn to nightmares for those of us that survived Ridsdale's Folly.

Would Alnwick be worth a punt for us next year?

p.s. Not being churlish/smart but typo in 7th para. I guess all the proof readers are in the Press Box!!!!!!!!

Andrew Butterwick said...

Andy P,

Thanks for your comment. As you say it was nice to be slightly more positive but with the inevitable squeaky bum time at the end.


Thanks for you comments.....May day job is a Flour Miller btw. I've always rated Alnwick and yes he would be worth a punt but BPF hasn't done much wrong since he took over. Thanks for the proof read! All sorted now.


Leeds watcher since 65 said...

Your writing gets better and better, top man. MOT

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