Sunday, 22 December 2013

Leeds United 0-0 Barnsley

For the fourth time in five attempts, Leeds United failed to defeat neighbours Barnsley as the Tykes displayed immense grit and determination to scrap, fight and limp to a goalless draw at Elland Road. Back to back failures to breach the Barnsley back line was a disappointment for a home side in great form, especially following the final ten minutes in which the visitors soldiered on with ten men after Marcus Tudgay was dismissed for a lunge on Marius Zaliukas. The point lifts Leeds to fifth following Reading's defeat by Wigan Athletic, whilst Barnsley remain rooted to the foot of the division.

A crowd of over 30,000 at Elland Road was treated to an enjoyable opening to the afternoon as owners GFH Capital continued their good work with a parade in celebration of their one year anniversary as Leeds United owners. Their excellent work was displayed in a short video highlighting the key moments in a year which has seen David Haigh, Salem Patel and chairman Salah Nooruddin transform the club into from the darkest depths to a position of enjoyment and genuine optimism. Following the parade, the owners walked through the stand to their East Stand box, meeting fans along the way with the Football League Show's Clem there to witness the whole spectacle. Sadly, the football didn't live up to the introduction.

Leeds remained unchanged again with the only notable difference to the squad being the return of El Hadji Diouf after a tough month for the attacker. Barnsley, led by the returning Danny Wilson for the first time, made two changes with Lewin Nyatanga and Bobby Hassell back in the starting eleven, the latter of which was to sit in front of the back four in a 4-1-4-1 formation that was to deny Leeds all afternoon.

A point away from home; the Wilson Wonderland.
It was the away side's organisation that was to quell a Leeds side who went into the game unbeaten in six games on their own turf. Ross McCormack, the second most in form striker in English football after the incredulous Luis Suarez was kept quiet for ninety minutes; his tame effort straight into the hands of the impressive Jack Butland mid-way through the second half summed up the game for both himself and his team.

Despite a performance lacking any real quality, Leeds were thwarted by Butland on a number of occasions. A frustrating afternoon for Matt Smith began early as, after a fantastic chest down, his thumping half volley was wonderfully palmed away by the Stoke loanee. Just five minutes later, Smith was again sent through but could only scuff his chance under pressure from Ramage. As Leeds huffed and puffed, Barnsley started to grow and often found far too much time in the centre of midfield with Mellis instrumental. Under pressure from Kenny, the ex-Chelsea midfielder slotted wide inside two minutes before teeing up Tudgay for the best chance of the game. After holding off Zaliukas, the s
triker went one on one with Kenny and fired wide when it seemed easier to score. The returning Hassell also went reasonably close as an ambitious half-volley looped just wide before Paddy Kenny did well to help a Tudgay header over the bar.

Hassell's influence sat in front of the back four led to a packed midfield littered with niggly fouls and referee Keith Stroud was more than happy to get into the Christmas spirit early. Mellis and O'Brien both received yellows before Rudy Austin, Luke Murphy and Alex Mowatt were booked for Leeds. The youngster paid the price for his, being substituted at half time to same an inevitable second yellow. As it was, his replacement Michael Tonge survived two minutes before also being wished a Happy Christmas from Stroud. The whole of Leeds' midfield was now in the card-book but only Jack Butland was added to it late on for wasting time.

As well as Tonge, Sam Byram was also introduced at half time in place of the ineffective Lee Peltier down the right. Byram's first chance to get forward resulted in the young right back firing his cross straight into the South Stand, a recurring theme as Leeds' final ball continued to disappoint. A similarly bad cross from Danny Pugh nearly did open the scoring however as it hurtled towards the top corner before Butland tipped it over

Smith; frustrated.
Leeds' lack of quality was apparent throughout and only really created half chances. Butland was again on hand to tip a McCormack header over the bar after a knock-down from Smith, but aside from that Leeds only tested the stopper from distance. Tonge and Austin both tried their luck from distance before the disappointing Smith finally showed a bit of quality with a quarter of an hour to go. After holding three Barnsley defenders off in the box, he turned and shot, but his effort flew an inch wide of the far post.

It wasn't all one-way traffic as Barnsley rallied at times until the sending off of Tudgay. Tomasz Cwyka came within an inch of connecting with a fabulous Mellis cross ten minutes into the second half, with Mellis himself also finding the side netting as the half wore on. Jim O'Brien had the visitors' best chance of the half but shot tamely at Paddy Kenny.

It was to be O'Brien who was replaced by Jason Scotland with ten minutes to go as Danny Wilson showed real intent with two strikers on the field of play. As it was, they finished with just one as Tudgay's afternoon came to an early end. His lunge was a dangerous one which rendered Wilson's attacking switch completely useless and put Barnsley under pressure during a nervy six minutes of stoppage time. The Whites mustered up nothing though, as a number of long balls were dealt with fairly easily by the solid Barnsley back-line. Two points dropped and the Barnsley curse continues but a point that could have real significance come May.

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