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First Football Away Trip

This Saturday me and my friends Chris & Steve continued the traditional attendance to watch our teams Leeds and Birmingham play each other. This time around it was slightly more special as both Oli and Luke (Chris and Steves sons) were attending their first ever away match to watch their team Birmingham play.

After the previous meeting this season in Birmingham, which saw our sides battle out a 1-1 draw both our sides have had differing seasons. My beloved Leeds United just can’t buy a win and find ourselves one place above the relegation zone. Birmingham City on the other hand are the “form side” and with a new management team in place are up to the dizzy heights of 12th. Not bad considering they were all set to struggle yet again after their dramatic last day escape act at Bolton last season.

We met up at Leicester services and despite arriving safely had the first drama of the day. I’d sat in the car far too long with the heating and radio on and because of this drained the battery. What followed were comical scenes as we tried to jump start a power steered car around a car park on the M1. At the second time of trying we got there and were all relieved as my car whirred into action.

The drive up was equally dramatic with various periods of black skies throwing down sleet and snow as we got further North. At one point we saw the clearest rainbow and almost passed the end of it. It was so clear you could even make out the Indigo band, sadly no gold pot was to be seen.

With the car finally Parked up we wandered down a familiar path to me with some new additions, each footstep closer the buzz of anticipation grew. A quick stop at Greigs provided us with cheap food and hot drinks to keep us going.

As we arrived at Elland Road I showed Oli and Luke around our club shop which in comparison to Birminghams is about ten times the size. We had a walk around the outside of the ground, saw the Billy Bremner statue and had our photo taken outside the stand of the ground.

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As we peered through the gap from inside out to the ground the snow was hammering down. A bitter cold swirl of air felt as we pondered finding our seats. We were welcomed by wet seats despite being under cover, the wind can be cruel. A quick dry with our hats and coats and we were ready. The anticipation evident with just under 24,000 fans sat down following their prematch ritual be it a beer or a pie, or both.

The game was frantic from the off and despite an early penalty given to Birmingham which was duly converted by Caddis, Leeds were always dangerous. As the first half came to an end Leeds were knocking on the door and a cross looked to have been bundled in by Belusci only to see it somehow clawed away off the line by Randalph. Oli and Luke did well, I know how difficult it is not cheering when my team has scored, they were unmoved.

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The second half saw both sides hit the woodwork and debatable decisions not go the right way. Three penalty calls were all turned away as the tension grew. As the game headed into the last five minutes Luke Murphy was the saviour. He maintained his cool and steered the ball home on the half volley from just inside the penalty area.

A draw was a fair result and one that keeps Leeds United unbeaten against Birmingham City over the last two seasons. Everybody enjoyed themselves which at the end of the day is what it’s all about.

Luke and Oli both ticked off a big achievement from the life list and I look forward to having them both back next season. That is if we can hang onto our status in the Championship this season!

MOT

Mark

Leeds United battle Blues

Saturday 13th September saw the first live football match of the season for me. Leeds United have had what some would call an eventful season both on and off the pitch. The die hard supporters like myself would argue that this is quite simply the norm. The away trip to St Andrews is always a pleasure if not solely for the fact that Birmingham City seem to be treading on similar grounds to us.

The sun was out for what turned into a pleasant trip to the ground as me and my friends who are all blue noses greeted the lunch time kick off with similar uneasy expectations. The Sky cameras had their typically unwelcome effect by keeping some fans on their sofas at home. This however is not the problem for Leeds United as we managed to easily sell out our allocation of 2,600.

I was once again undercover sitting in the Home end with my friends and an uninspiring first half saw Birmingham take a deserved lead as the game headed into the last 10 minutes of the first half. The most entertaining moment to come from this dire situation was the fact the shot broke the post holding the net up. After almost 9 minutes the net was repaired and we were put through the torture of 9 minutes of fruitless injury time.
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The traditional half time Bovril couldn’t lift my mood as Birmingham City’s fans around me were talking positively of their first half exploits. I wasn’t exactly sure if it was because they were playing amazingly or more likely it was the fact that we were piss awful.

As the second half started our caretaker manager Neil Redfearn who is more commonly known on Twitter as #doitforredders threw an extra man in midfield which immediately put Birmingham on the back foot. A couple of changes at around the hour mark saw Doukara and Austin introduced to add muscle to the side.

It worked immediately and the slim line fuel efficient Austin seized control in the middle of the park. Doukara oozed power and purpose and the hard working Antenucci never gave up. Ironically it was a mistake my Birmingham that presented my man of the match Alex Mowatt with the opportunity to burst into the box and slot the ball past their keeper. This was a neat finish and a deserved equalizer.

As the game headed into the final ten minutes it became an end to end battle with Birmingham going the closest to snatch the win. A penalty call that bizarrely went our way prevented the opportunity to lose a hard fought point. It wasn’t a penalty but you just don’t expect those decisions to go your way when you are the away side. Another late chance saw a header flash wide and a superb goal line clearance by Warnock.

The whistle brought the game to a well deserved share of the spoils. Birmingham have certainly improved on last season whilst Leeds United displayed some fantastic quick passing moves which resulted in some positive attacking moves. Overall I was very happy with the point and am now very excited about the prospect of visiting Elland Road for the first time this season on Saturday against Huddersfield.

Leeds managed to follow this draw up with a splendid 3-1 at Bournemouth which saw caretaker boss Redfearn earn his 7th point from 9. Leeds United find themselves in the lofty position of 13th heading into this fierce Yorkshire Derby, it will be one titanic battle for sure!

MOT
DarcyB

Blues Beaten with Relegation Consequences

Saturday saw me and my friend Chris visit St Andrews for the “2nd leg” between our teams. After the totally unexpected 4-0 win for Leeds back in October the season has seen both of our sides struggle for any type of consistency. If anything Leeds record of 2 wins in our last 3 suggested we would go into the fixture as the form side. Either way Birmingham who currently have a European record of having the worst home form this season needed to win. Precariously positioned just above the relegation zone before kick off, it was a time for Birmingham to show some belief and fight for a result that their season depended on. In a strange twist to previous Away days, I found myself sat in the Home End, so saw the games events from a different viewpoint to normal.

Birmingham find themselves in a position that Leeds fans are all too familiar with. They are in an ownership quandary with Carson Yeung currently in jail for money laundering and are trying their best to keep the club running until the seasons end. The squad is unbalanced and there are a handful of players who are either young and inexperienced within the ranks or those who have been injured with very little playing time behind them. The fans that turned up today were very vocal in their support and managed to keep the 3,000 traveling support from Leeds quiet during a disjointed first half.

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A half that was full of probing intent from Birmingham should of seen them score within the first 5 minutes, when put through on goal the young Adeyemi could only lift his shot over the frame of Butlands goal. That was a warning shot in the arm for Leeds and despite lengths of possession the home side couldn’t test former star Jack Butland in the visitors goal. Towards the end of the first half Leeds produced the first shot on target, when Michael Tonge tested Randalph with a low shot. As half time came around there was a positive feel amongst the Birmingham City support who had earlier displayed a flag showing their support for the club whilst venting frustration with the current regime.

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Whilst drinking Bovril at half time the conversations between surrounding home fans suggested that this was the best they had seen Birmingham play in a while. From a Leeds point of view, I could see how by hounding the players, they were preventing us from having any real possession which in turn created rushed and hurried plays resulting in lost causes. The second half couldn’t be any worse and the feeling was if we could make some chances that a goal wouldn’t be beyond us. Quite how the second half would turn out following my brave +3.5 goal prediction before the game was a surprise to all.

The sun was out following a period of gloomy rain and the same confident, assured Birmingham side had suddenly appeared to have lost their game plan. The chasing down the ball and clean tidy passing had stopped and Leeds soon realised that there was an opportunity to take advantage of this. The home support could see what was happening and with Leeds first real attacking move of the game, Michael Tonge crossed to Matt Smith who duly headed past the stranded Randalph in the home goal.

Before the crowd could take breath and assess what had just happened, Leeds went straight back up and a cross wasn’t dealt with properly and Danny Pugh who I had earlier lambasted for being inconsistent drove the ball home from just inside the area to make it 2-0. These two goals in two minutes suddenly transformed the once positive St Andrews crowd into a frenzied vocally discontent bunch. Fans got up and left as a familiar ringing of Leeds fans started chanting “We’ve only come, to send you down” echoed around the ground. It was at this point Blackpool scored at Wigan to confirm Birminghams slip into the bottom 3.

As I sat there trying to show my concerns and frustrations, Leeds put together a passing move that felt like an eternity to the Home fans. Each pass was greeted with an Olay and it was at this point it was over as a contest. Leeds made it 3-0 when a McCormack cross was turned into his own net by Caddis and a farce of substitutions by a desperate Lee Clark caused a further wave of disgruntled home fans to leave.

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It was at this point Macheda the most recognized striker who was brought on, scored a consolation with his first real touch. The frustrations were clear to see as Birmingham suddenly looked like a team who could play. A second goal nearly came, but as the game fizzled out after a nasty injury to Alex Mowatt (who required stretchering off) the game ended.

Being a Leeds United fan isn’t easy and this season has had far more downs than ups, but the world hasn’t stopped turning around. This was a great win and it’s when things like this happen, you truly appreciate the frustrations of other teams who are in similar situations. We are very very fortunate to have an amazing fan base and it is because of this that we finally appear to have attracted an owner with the financial clout to manage our demanding expectations.

I really hope Birmingham City avoid relegation and our 7-1 aggregate win can be challenged again next season in a rematch. Birmingham fans deserve better and their summer will be an important one, Wigan at home this Tuesday is also their cup final.

For us it’s been a solid end to a season of unfulfilled promise. A final day win at home to Derby next week would be an unlikely strong end leading into a Summer of excitement and change. I’ve seen 6 away games this season and was fortunate to see 3 wins at Charlton, Yeovil and this game at Birmingham. The defeats at Reading and Burnley were frustrating but the one beating we took at Watford was deserved.

Onto next season!!

MOT
DarcyB

Blues Banished

Today was my belated first trip to Elland Road this season for the visit of Birmingham City. A Sunday lunch time televised match had the added spice, as one of my best friends whom supports the Blues joined me for the match. The two and a half hour drive was swift and the sunshine was out for our teams battle. I have been friends with Chris since the 3rd year of High School and football has been the primary interest that made us gel. We have been to Leeds and Birmingham games in the past, with the most notable back in 1996 when my Dad infamously threw a pork pie at Michael Johnson who was blocking his view whilst warming up. This story is still talked about in what’s referred to as Pork Pie Gate Scandal. It still makes me smile when I think back about it, it makes us all smile!

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As we walked down to the ground from my car, we were so engrossed in conversation that we missed the turning to the ground. Today had a good feeling about it, the usual superstitious rituals that I’ve carried out since I was a kid repeated, with the added spice of a return to Elland Road of Lucas Radebe. The chief was a big part of my child hood memories watching Leeds and to have him present gave the crowd a lift as kick off drew upon us.

As we walked to the new refurbished Peacock pub opposite the ground for a pre match ale and burger, I managed to get a photo with another Leeds legend…. Don Revie.

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The recently refurbished Peacock Pub which closed down during the Ken Bates era has certainly changed. Inside is smart, clean and modern with a nice open spacious feel despite many fans being present. We had a beer, mine was the much hyped Yorkshire Blonde and we made our way into the large rear Beer Garden with a burger in our hands.

One thing Leeds and Birmingham have in common, is the painful way in which we have been taken over and ran in a disheartening manner. The one thing that is very different, is that as Leeds seem to have seen the back of these uncertain times, Birmingham are in the middle of a control battle with current owner Carson Young on trial in Hong Kong. We talked about this in some detail which raised the subject again that football is a business. We finished our pint and made our way to the ground, blissfully unaware of what was to follow.

Leeds United and Birmingham City have had equally stuttering starts to this season. Leeds have slowly dropped down the table after an encouraging start, whilst Birmingham haven’t really got going and have been languishing near the bottom half dozen teams. There was nothing to suggest during the two week international break that we were going to be served a feast of football, what followed was simply breathtaking.

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The sun was out and for most of the game you would have thought it was an opening days fixture in August. Leeds United who were soundly beaten at Derby County on their last outing came out of the blocks firing on all cylinders. Within five minutes Leeds could have been a couple up with Ross McCormack having a one on one shot saved and another effort saved at the near post. Chris Burke had a break away effort which he fired wide as Birmingham warned Leeds of the danger they could pose. Another Ross McCormack effort went narrowly wide as the Elland Road faithful grew extremely frustrated at their inability to put away one of these early chances.

The frustration was short lived as Leeds capitalised on a defensive blunder which saw Birmingham City’s goalkeeper Randolph lose the ball on the edge of his area. Rudy Austin teed the ball up to McCormack who fired the ball into an empty net with two defenders desperately trying to stop the inevitable. This spurred Leeds on and the lead was doubled shortly after as Ross McCormack continued to terrorize their defense. McCormack took the ball wide before crossing the ball to Rudy Austin who headed the ball into the net past a hapless Randolph.

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As the game approached half time a dejected Birmingham team looked desperate for the half time whistle. Within a minute of me stating “that a third goal would kill off this game” Leeds promptly delivered it. More confusion in the Birmingham defense allowed a Ross McCormack shot to be parried out into the middle of the box for an unmarked Smith to tuck away what would be his first of the day. The whistle soon followed as a shell shocked crowd who hadn’t seen such a devastating display of dominance were left speechless. Chants of “what the f@&k is going on” were equally humorous.

Lee Clark made a couple of changes at half time and changed the formation around in a desperate attempt to stem the flow of one way traffic. This seemed to work and the second half was a far more even contest. Paddy Kenny was forced into making a couple of smart saves including a Murphy free kick which struck the post. Soon after withstanding this pressure Leeds broke clear and another McCormack cross was met by the impressive Smith who headed his second of the match past a hapless Randolph to make the score 4-0

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Another one on one this time by Rudy Austin was saved and a Sam Byram effort blocked as Leeds tried to add more to a dominant performance. The crowd of just over 21,000 were treated to a rousing performance as Leeds jumped up to 9th in the league. Brian McDermott was a relieved character as chants around the ground confirmed the support for their manager who has had a challenging month in the hot seat.

My player ratings as follows:-

Paddy Kenny – 9
Stephen Warnock – 9
Tom Lees – 9
Scott Wootton – 8
Jason Pearce – 8
Sam Byram – 8
Luke Murphy – 8
Rudy Austin – 9
Alex Mowatt – 8
ROSS McCORMACK – 10
Matt Smith – 9

Everybody played their parts well and when called upon Paddy Kenny was a rock. Matt Smith was used as a target man well and made many headers that set attacking plays up, his two goals on another day would’ve made him my man of the match. Warnock made three top sliding tackles and was dominant, whilst Tom Lees cleared two goal bound efforts off the line. Rudy ran the most and covered so much ground and deserved his goal. My man of the match went to Ross McCormack who was involved in everything. One goal, two assists and creating all the space. Some would say he was wasteful early on, I’d say he was conducting everything exactly how he wanted. An excellent team effort.

DarcyB