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Leeds United 2 Watford 2 (16/04/2011) 16/04/2011

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
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Five thunks from an exciting Elland Road

1- Raucous, boisterous, scruffy, gripping, intense, volatile, tremendous fun. Much as Norwich sounded, in fact, and one post-match suggestion drew that comparison directly. The result may lay our remote play-off chances to rest… but if this is what fizzling out looks like, I’m keenly looking forward to Barnsley, Leicester, QPR and Preston. Never tidy, never scripted, never elegant but never dull, matches like this are the reason why merely being us is no great tragedy, far from it.

For much of the game, the home side had edge in terms of possession; at the start of each half they came at us with venom (if limited guile, of which more below). And yet neither side was secure, with counterattacks rattling backwards and forwards like a puck on an air hockey table, keeping one on the edge of one’s seat (quite literally). Either side could have won it. Neither did, which is probably about right. Watford may have flirted with the play-offs for much of the season, but coming up to Leeds and competing, and making a good case for three points with a team of kids is still way beyond reasonable expectation. Afternoons like this will never get old.

2- It’s fair to say that the home support may not have perceived the outcome in quite the same way. In fairness, they were considerably more patient than I had expected… nil-nil after twenty minutes tends to provoke audible dissent at the City Ground, for example, or at Molineux. Not so here, where Leeds generally stayed behind their side throughout. Nonetheless, two home fans evicted from the away end, one having apparently vaulted over from the home enclosure, feels like par for the course. As do streams of supporters leaving at 2-2 with the game as finely balanced as a house of cards in a sandstorm. As does turning your back silently on your side at the final whistle. As does the bottle thrown at the celebrating Watford players after the equaliser. As does, the cherry on the cake, the skinhead in a First Aid bib whose reaction to the tediously persistent pitch invader after Leeds’ opener resisted eviction, was to implore the stewards to “kick him in the head”, accompanied by demonstrative fist punch from the far end of the pitch. If Leeds don’t go up, few tears will be shed elsewhere one suspects.

3- Noteworthy aspects to many of the goals. Working backwards, Troy Deeney’s bizarre own goal blotted another healthy copybook for the forward, who was involved at each end of the pitch and had denied what had seemed an inevitable opening Leeds goal with a magnificent block in the first half. Andi Weimann’s strike minutes earlier owed everything to the genius of Danny Graham and will surely feature heavily in any compilation that his agent might choose to circulate before the summer. The strength and persistence to chase down and hold off, the cleverness to turn his marker, and above all the awareness and calmness to square for Weimann to finish. Just magnificent.

But the highlight of the game was Lee Hodson’s equaliser. Nothing beautiful about this either, but just reward for a player whose return to form, as ig as already described, testifies to a strength of character. His performance today was not flawless, but positive and aggressive and committed. His Helgusonesque goal celebration in front of the away corner, a raw yell of furious excitement that was mirrored by much of the away end. Brilliant.

4- Not difficult to see how Leeds have scored so many goals. Admittedly in the first half an under strength side had far more vim and energy than guile; the impish Max Gradel provided what variety there was, and he drifted in and out. Otherwise, the lumpy, immobile Somma was the target for a predictable if relentless attack. Becchio’s introduction tipped the balance; he competed and held Leeds’ attack together, profiting from some slack marking to give Leeds the lead before departing again, presumably having aggravated the injury that was being gambled on – a gamble that might prove costly for Leeds. Throughout, the pace didn’t subside, although one suspects that Premiership defences might cope with that rather more comfortably than Championship rearguards have.

5- A word for the somewhat maligned Drinkwater, who had a tidy hour after replacing the injured Jenkins in a midfield where time and space were often at a premium… unfussy, Drinkwater made generally good decisions and kept possession well, keeping us moving alongsde John Eustace. Who was splendidly imperious. But you knew that.

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Comments»

1. CJ - 16/04/2011

As a Leeds fan, I found the whole afternoon to be a complete wind-up.
I think Simon Grayson must be losing his marbles! Playing Somma as a lone striker, aimless long-balls to Max Gradel, numerous formation changes made for a frustrating afternoon.
Deeney’s bizarre own goal was icing on the cake.

Matt Rowson - 17/04/2011

You’ll have been watching more carefully than me… but I thought Gradel started alongside Somma? And then went out wide when Becchio came on?

Not sure about Gradel… he was a bit Peter Ndlovu for me, inconsequentially tricksy. Somma was shocking, although I suspect he’s played much better. I’m not surprised that you weren’t as taken with the game as I was… but the changes in approach were surely attempts to force an opening that wasn’t coming, for all Leeds’ possession. Rather that than a manager who sits on his hands and hopes for a break?

2. Fran - 16/04/2011

This was one of those days that remind you why you spend a whole day travelling for 90 minutes of football. Tremendously entertaining and exhilarating. Hodson’s goal wasn’t quite in the Doyley category, but it wasn’t far off for the delight that it provoked. We worked so hard all over the pitch. This is a team that you just have to like and admire. It’s 7 hours since the final whistle, but I still have a huge smile on my face.

Matt Rowson - 17/04/2011

amen.

3. smarkymark - 17/04/2011

Why can’t I “like” this page by clicking on a thumbs up sign a la facebook?

4. Paul Wiggins - 18/04/2011

Having spent the afternoon sitting among the home support, courtesy of a Leeds supporting godson, I can only agree with Thunk 2. The silence at the final whistle was quite staggering, I had to stop my enthusiastic applause in case an afternoon of extreme restraint on my part came undone at the last moment. However, there were some similarities with Watford supporters: the stick that a couple of their players got from a few of their supporters reminded me of a Hodson abuser who sits near me in the Rookery and the exodus at 2-1 reminded me of the extra support we picked up in our premier league seasons.
My main memory of the afternoon was Martin Taylor, he wound the home support up from the first minute to the last, they absolutely hated him – an immense performance from the big man -player of the season ????

Matt Rowson - 18/04/2011

Big Martin would be a strong candidate in any other season. It speaks volumes that he might conceivably not make the top three despite being superb throughout (glossing over his marking of Becchio for Saturday’s opener). Graham will win it. Eustace and Mariappa have good shouts for a top three too… and Don Cowie?

Marcus - 18/04/2011

Graham is sure to get it and probably rightly so but martin taylor has been immense all season in my view probably our most important player – I’d have well him ahead of Mapps, Eustace and Cowie all of whom have had v good seasons with Cowie & Eustace proving influential.

5. smarkymark - 18/04/2011

@Paul: We have player at the club who has scored nearly 30 goals which is an incredible feat for a club with the second lowest budget.How can you possibly think that anyone other than DG is going to get player of the season no matter how marvellously Tiny has done!?

6. Lesley-Anne - 18/04/2011

I voted for Graham, Taylor and Cowie as my top 3. I didn’t know at the time of voting but those are our top 3 players in the Actim index so I’m very happy with my choice! Graham has to be 1st, no other serious choice; Taylor has been immense at the back and Cowie makes the top 3 for his assists ( 2nd only to Taarabt) and the fact that we usually do better when he plays than when he doesn’t. I just hope we can keep 2 out of 3 of them for next season!

7. Luke Fairweather - 18/04/2011

Urrrgh…what is that nasty advert on the sacred scrolls that is my BHappy? Is this an odius new development or did I miss something? What’s going on Matt and Ig?

Luke
Danny for top man…obviously, followed by Eustace and the real Buckley (not the other one)

Matt Rowson - 18/04/2011

I don’t see an advert Luke… unless I’m missing something…

Johnny Boy - 19/04/2011

Neither can I except – shock, horror – the reference to ‘facebook’

8. JohnF - 19/04/2011

Matt,
I can see an ad fro Thomson Local advertising kitchen appliances in Leeds. It is ads by Google so it may be down to individuals browser settings.

9. Luke Fairweather - 19/04/2011

advertising…And I got a nice selection of garments from White Stuff wafted in front of me. Not good given the context of a mighty whites match report.

Luke

Ian Grant - 20/04/2011

I’ll investigate and see if I can figure out what’s going on. It’s nothing we’ve consciously added ourselves – and certainly nothing that’s paying us any money! – so I wonder whether it’s a new addition to WordPress.com, possibly visible only to people who are logged into Google…

Ian Grant - 20/04/2011
10. Tim Turner - 20/04/2011

Re thunk 2, you can’t help thinking that Leeds fans and the thoroughly charmless Ken Bates deserve each other. His programme notes were extremely unpleasant, especially his character assassination of Rod Liddle (“the pregnant wife puncher”) – I know Liddle is no angel, but I felt slightly soiled after I’d read Ken’s rants.

I went to the game with a lifelong Leeds fan who rarely goes any more, simply because he doesn’t want to line Ken’s coffers. I’m sure he’s not the only one.

Tom Sayer - 24/04/2011

I had to read the Rod Liddle item twice to ensure that I had not misunderstood it! Bizarre stuff for a football programme.


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