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.
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.
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.
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!!
I’ve intentionally allowed for some time to pass before I took to writing this blog. It’s not the first time I’ve watched Leeds United put in a woeful performance and I can guarantee it won’t be the last. The one thing that’s really left me quite scared and stunned is the manner and timing of this horror show at Sheffield Wednesday.
I like many was full of optimism and excitement at around 12pm today. Not only had we signed two new wingers, we were going to see them play in a new formation with a couple of other changes. The team on paper showed promise and I could almost picture our pacey wingers tearing up and down causing a lowly Sheffield Wednesday team no end of worries. It became apparent after 20 minutes that this wasn’t going to be the case and what unfolded in the next 70 minutes was quite soul destroying and extremely concerning.
Now I’m quite realistic when it comes to football matters and I understand it will take Kebe and Stewart to take some time settling into their new team. The one real concern is these two bright new sparks brought in to boost flagging morale were quickly absorbed by the mist of despair and looked completely out of place.
The turning point was quite clearly Smiths sending off within a minute of Brian changing tactics and bringing him into the attack. I was quite excited in all honesty, I really thought setting the side up with Smith as a target man could’ve worked as we frantically looked to find a way back into the game.
I personally think it was A Red Card, Smith was clumsy and never looked for the ball as he aimed his shoulder into the face of Johnson. It then caused a complete collapse as absolutely everything that could’ve went wrong did. In a nutshell:-
Paddy Kenny getting beaten at his near post, Mowatt & Austin misplacing passes in the middle, Zaliukas and Peltier trying their best to create chances for Wickham et all, A deflected free kick trickling in, A scuffed shot after our defense backed and backed away that went in off the post, Another Zaliukas error as he allowed Lavery to strike the 6th in injury time, Pearce trying his best to single handedly keep the defense intact, Kebe going off after an hour and looking like he injured his hamstring, Stewart wondering what he could do to stem the flow and Ross McCormack running around trying and trying with no reward.
I thought Brian McDermott interviewed very honestly and was quite frank about it after the game. There were far too many individual errors and the most alarming thing was how obvious it was that the towel was thrown in once Smith saw Red.
They will be at Thorp Arch tomorrow where I believe a full postmortem will be conducted. I personally think they should all pay £29 out of their pockets, sit down in a room and watch the entire thing just like we had to today.
It’s very easy to criticize individuals but after today’s performance I don’t think anybody did themselves anything of worthy note. Today was a complete team meltdown and one that Brian needs to address and understand how it happened. He is the right man for Leeds, maybe some of the team aren’t. Exciting times this week that could see some movements out of the club with a couple of new additions.
In other news, frustrating to see Wells score the winner in the 93rd minute of his debut for Huddersfield vs Millwall today. He is one player we really should’ve signed and for a fee of around £1.25 million someone we could have afforded!
Oh well it’s never easy being a Leeds Fan, we wouldn’t have it any other way!