Saturday, 30 March 2013

Away Days; Ipswich Town

Besides an uncontrollable love for Steve Morison, Neil Warnock and myself have one thing in common. We're both desperately unlucky. Sometimes we may bring it on ourselves. Other times however, its completely out of our hands. A causal link between the two could also be formed; every away game I attend ends in defeat. With an away record as dismal as Leeds' this season, that could be said for the majority of supporters. However, aside from a win at Bristol City in September my away record is like no others. In fact, with me in attendance we never seem to score away from home. The last three have all ended with clean-sheets for the home side and although the most recent away day at Middlesbrough was fairly entertaining the two before it, namely Hull and Barnsley were nothing short of embarrassing. It couldn't happen again could it?

I thought so. But Kez and James didn't and even if it was set to happen again, I was looking forward to it. Even at 7am when my alarm went off. After a quick Weetabix and some toast we piled into Kez's car and after a brief stop at Co-Op we made the coach with plenty of time. There were three of us and with the back seat stolen by one solitary woman, James was bullied into sitting on his own. I hate long journeys, especially after forcing myself to switch off my phone as to save its short battery life for the journey home. We stopped fairly early at Grantham where we bumped into hoards of Tunbridge Wells fans heading up to Shildon for their F.A. Vase semi-final replay. They were very friendly and clearly very keen and I was happy to find out they won the tie 4-3 on aggregate. Good luck to them in the final.

Four Four Two magazine is a routinelyaway day purchase for me and we passed forty five minutes or so completing its football quiz. I took the role of quiz-master in what was a dour 5-5 draw between Kez and James. Considering the quiz contained twenty five questions they should both be ashamed even if the questions were on the tricky side. For the last hour I risked my iPhone's battery life and put my iPod in. Through my earphones Liam Fray asked me if I was "scared to be proud". I wondered whether this would be a question I'd be best answering after the match. After some fairly irrelevant police stoppages we arrived at Portman Road at about 1.15. First stop - Nandos. Or not. It was shut...we think. Either that or Kez wasn't strong enough to open the door. Reeling in disappointment but still extremely hungry, we scurried off to McDonalds; our second trip there in two days. Again I failed to win an instant win Big Mac. I told you I was unlucky.

The away end at Portman Road is less than impressive and we found it quite small and dingy although the view from our seat was good. Half an hour passed slowly in what was a freezing Suffolk but eventually the game kicked off and here is when Neil Warnock began to get unlucky. For thirty five minutes, Leeds were fabulous, playing a brand of football I'd never associated with either Neil Warnock or my beloved club. The attacking midfield trio of Paul Green, David Norris and Michael Tonge were linking up well with Morison and Varney up front and despite pressure from the hosts in the first few minutes, Leeds soon took complete control of the game. The statistics highlight that the Whites had twenty shots and it seemed the majority of them came in the first twenty minutes as Scott Loach denied Varney, Green, Norris and Morison in the early stages. Michael Brown flicked a header wide and Paul Green saw a shot cleared off the line as Leeds threatened to run riot. I was bouncing and absolutely loving life.

Referee Adcock living up to his name.

Neil Warnock had been unlucky to not see his side take the lead early on, then things were about to get worse as Leeds were reduced to ten men. From our view, it looked fairly soft with the challenge by Tom Lees on Tabb, we thought, meriting a yellow card. However, given there were no complaints from Warnock and having watched it back myself, perhaps the correct decision was made. Leeds were rattled and despite having another excellent chance which Morison spooned over, Ipswich took the lead on the stroke of half-time. A cross from the right was headed goal-wards by McGoldrick who was on hand to nod in the rebound after the original header had rebounded off the crossbar. Again, Leeds found themselves behind, but I'd never felt injustice like it. The referee had however evened things up; the hosts had an excellent penalty shout turned down when the unpopular Tabb was bundled over in the box. Had he not already sent Lees off, I feel referee Adcock may have pointed to the spot. That was irrelevant though. We were losing and we didn't deserve to be. I wasn't best pleased.

The half-time entertainment did nothing to brighten up the mood in the away end although one poor Ipswich fan did make a complete tit out of himself. Checking Twitter wasn't a good idea either; the abundance of criticism I read had clearly been tweeted by a vast amount of fans not at the game. James' score prediction of 3-1 Leeds was looking very ambitious, Kez's 2-1 Leeds was looking doubtful and my negative, okay realistic prediction of 2-0 Ipswich was looking possible. Four minutes into the second half however, my prediction also began to look ambitious as Ipswich doubled their lead through a deflected McGoldrick half-volley. I looked at the ground, wondering why I'd spent £46 on what was sure to become a four or five-nil thrashing.

To give us some credit though, we kept fighting. There was none of the quality that we'd seen in the first half but chances were still created with Byram firing against the legs of Loach from a corner and Pearce having a header cleared off the line. It wasn't good enough though and the crowd were getting restless. It was only to get worse however and, after good work from the impressive Cresswell down the left, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas' turn and shot crept into the bottom corner for the home side's third. If we hadn't given in already, we had now and frustration turned to almost amusement. Differently to my trips to Barnsley and Hull, the away fans started to show their class and a rousing four minute long rendition of "we might be shit but we still love Leeds" rang round Portman Road. We also tried "let's pretend we scored a goal" and after four trials at it, we were 4-3 up and singing "3-0 and you fucked it up". If only.

I agree.
The full time whistle condemned the Whites to another away defeat, a defeat which now means we're closer to the relegation zone than the play-offs. Its hard to discuss player performances given the circumstances, but it was clear that the player's had given their all and they were greeted by mixed applause by the fans that had stayed till the end rather than complete negativity. A 3-0 defeat led to a long-journey home but I did have one of my favourite film-like moments as I listened to my iPod and looked out of the window. Today's film wasn't scripted and who knows what's in store for the rest of the season. Derby at home will surely end in its annual defeat but we do have a chance away at Charlton next week. I'm sadly on holiday but return just in time for a week that offers the Whites nine points with a trip to Birmingham following home games against Sheffield Wednesday and Burnley.

On the way home I decided I could also answer the aforementioned question Liam Fray poses in The Courteeners' outstanding 'Bide Your Time'. I'm scared of where we're going Liam, but I'm never scared to be proud of my club.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Leeds United 1-2 Huddersfield

I've always hated Huddersfield. I went to a secondary school full of Huddersfield fans. I have close friends that are Huddersfield fans. Its a game I always look forward to. And, after missing the game at the Galpharm whilst at university, I could not wait for today. But, as is common with the Whites, anticipation paved the way for disappointment.


A 2-1 defeat to our bitterest Yorkshire rivals was the final nail in a coffin that's been dragged along for a while. The conceding of late equalisers against the league's high-flyers and a wasted game in hand ensured today's game was a must win; a win that could potentially have moved us to within three three points of the play-offs. As it is, the defeat, combined with a late win for Nottingham Forest ensures that the coveted sixth position is eight points away. Unrealistic for any side. Very unrealistic for a side that continues to look void of confidence, pace and quality.

In a year and a half you grew genitalia on your head Adam.
We did start well though and could have scored more than once in the opening stages. Luke Varney had a header cleared off the line before Diouf forced an excellent save from Alex Smithies after some fine build-up play. The first half was full of niggling fouls and from one of these Varney had an excellent chance but screwed his shot over. As always, the visitors looked dangerous on the break and James Vaughan saw his header thunder off the crossbar, with the ball rebounding back to the onrushing Adam Clayton who's follow-up was blocked. The ex-Leeds man smiled up at the South stand, furthering angering the home faithful who continued to torment the midfielder all game. Clayton nearly had the last laugh on the stroke of half-time; flicking on a cross towards Danny Ward who's downward header was tipped around the post by Kenny.

Leeds' run of league games without a first half goal extends as far back as Boxing Day and so, a 0-0 scoreline at half-time wasn't that surprising. We hadn't played particularly badly, no worse than our opponents and were well set to push for the victory in the second half. However, eight minutes in, it was Huddersfield that took the lead through another preventable goal. Leeds failed to clear after a poor header from young Sam Byram and the dropping ball was volleyed past Kenny with style by loanee Neil Danns. The away end went wild; as well as being a stepping stone to easing relegation fears, Leeds away is a big game for them. But as I said, I'm not the majority of Leeds fans who don't care about Huddersfield. Its a big game for me too. And six minutes later, I was going wild myself.

It was a goal that will infuriate manager Mark Robins; it could almost be a goal that we'd expect ourselves to concede. A long, hopeful, some would call useless ball was played over the top and Aidy White somehow burst past Hunt to nod the ball over the on-rushing Smithies. After a fairly abject second half performance, we were back in it and should have had the momentum to go on and steal the win. Without David Norris, we always seem to miss something but his replacement Rudy Austin was having one of his best games in a while and the Jamaican came within an inch of putting Leeds in-front with an outstanding volley from twenty yards that struck the crossbar. Substitute Ryan Hall tested Smithies with a tame turn-and-shot and a Huddersfield player (I've forgotten who) forced a good save from Kenny as the momentum swung from one team to the other.
Away days.

James Vaughan; outstanding.
Remember the season in League One when we scored all them late goals? I do too. There's nothing better. There's nothing worse than conceding one. Except conceding one away at Wolves, away at Leicester and away at Crystal Palace within a month. Thanks to last minute goals, we pissed away nine possible points into three. It couldn't happen again could it? Oh, it could. Jack Hunt burst forward before playing the extremely impressive Vaughan through on goal and the Norwich loan-man had no trouble slotting past Kenny to give the Terriers an unlikely away victory. An un-composed and frankly terrible effort from Byram was the last action of the game and summed up the lack of quality that had been on show from the home side all afternoon.

The loss undoubtedly ends our season and it couldn't have happened to more irritating opponents. I'm one of the most fair Leeds fans on Twitter and still received some un-necessary tweets from Huddersfield fans who quite rightly celebrated their victory. I'll let them have their moment whilst I reflect on our own performance, one which despite being not very good, probably didn't deserve a defeat. Villain of the day was undoubtedly Adam Clayton (what a cunt), but he did have some stiff competition from Paul Green and Luke Varney who were both woeful. Tonge looked shattered, Habibou looked rusty, okay shit, and the back four looked un-settled. It was a performance again not worth the £31 price tag. It could be worse, I could have just paid £46 for Ipswich away, a game which now means nothing. Oh wait, I have. See you there.