Sky Bet Championship: QPR's class tells as Leeds unbeaten run comes to an end
The sun was cracking the pavements in Selby as the lunchtime kick off dictated yet another early start to our latest matchday. I will never get used to lunchtime kick off's. It's just not right. Even in Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution he cited 3pm Saturday kick off times as one of the exceptions to his rule that everything in life evolves. Clearly the TV and Football gods have never read his book! Still that wonderful feeling of confidence and optimism filled the air as the Happy Chocker and the Quiet One joined me for the trip to the Theatre of Hope. After their mightily impressive win at the Keepmoat Brian McD's team extended their unbeaten start to the season to 6 games and sent a shot of real hope through the veins of the extended LUFC family but the good news didn't stop there as Ross Mac signed a new deal to finally rebuff any possible move to the Smoggies or the Donkey Lashers. So for the first time in an eternity the vast majority of Leeds fans streaming to Elland Road had an unusual strange look on their face. For those who weren't sure what this phenomenon was it's called " a smiling face"
Selection permutations were the main topic of conversation as we quaffed our pre match refreshments. Would Mowatt and Wootton start? How can he not start with Smith and Poleon after their performance against Donny? What about Drury? Suddenly Brian McD had selection headaches of a different kind. In the end the team selection was relatively conservative as Wootton was the only change at the expense of Tom Lees. Mowatt didn't even make the bench.
'Arrys expensive array of talent with significant premiership experience looked formidable on paper, Barton, Hill, Johnson, Green, Dunne, Onouha and Wright-Philips with the likes of Jenas, Faurlin and Hoilett on the bench not to mention the goal machine Austin leading the line suggested this was going to be Leeds' toughest test yet. Leeds started brightly though with their patient build up creating a couple of early half chances for Green and Ross Mac but both shots ended up in the South Stand. At the other end pantomime villain, Barton, had the ball in the net only to be denied by the linesman's flag. The game progressed with precious few chances created as both teams cancelled each other out. Leeds were the more dogged of the two sides whilst QPR seemed to have just that bit of extra class. Wootton and Pearce were holding firm at the back though as the game crept towards half time still goalless. Wright-Phillips showed just why he is not quite good enough for the Premiership when he skipped past some desperate Leeds tackles only to pull his shot horribly wide. Leeds were restricted to long range efforts as the half finished with the scores level at 0.0.
The first half stalemate had tempered my pre match optimism. Having spent £25m on their team QPR look like being formidable contenders for the promotion places as their redoubtable defence swatted away Hunt and Varney's efforts with unruffled ease. If we were going to break the deadlock in the 2nd half we needed a different approach.
The 2nd half started with Warnock gifting Austin the ball on the half way line. He scampered away from the distant home defence only for Kenny to thwart him with a good save. Leeds responded with a rare attack that saw Ross Mac appealing for a penalty after Simpson handled in the box but referee Atwell waved play on. QPR were beginning to take control of the game as they dominated possession. Hunt and Varney gave way for Smith and Poleon on the hour as Brian McD tried to get Leeds back in the game. Smith went near with his first touch as his lunging header caused havoc in the visiting defence. Poleon also got a shot away to give the Leeds faithful hope. The home side's lack of width was holding them back though as far too few attempted balls into the box came from anywhere but near the bye line and were easily repelled by Dunne and Onouha at the heart of the Gers defence.QPR's greater possession finally told on 75 minutes when Hill scrambled the ball home from a free kick after the ball ricocheted around the Leeds box. 1.0 QPR. It looked a long way back for Leeds having hardly tested Green in the Ger's goal. Diouf replaced Green and as ever showed flashes of class and trickery but not enough to create a goal as the game headed for 5 minutes of added time. Leeds threw everything forward in an attempt to preserve their unbeaten record. Pearce's header flew wide whilst Poleon wriggled free of his marker only to hit a tame shot at Green. Then just as the final seconds ticked away Rudy Austin so nearly brought the house down as he hit a screamer from 35 yards that Green could only watch as it hit the bar. The whistle went shortly afterwards to signal a hard fought win for QPR 1.0. A reality check for Leeds in this very tough and tight division. The visitors just about deserved their victory and on this evidence will be challenging come May next year.
For Leeds Murphy did well as did Wooton, Pearce and Pelts. Warnock had an off day with too many misplaced passes. "The only positive is that we would have lost this 3.0 last year" HC muttered as we shuffled for the shuttle bus back to the town centre. The pre match buzz had evaporated from the majority of fans as they made their way home. Football is a cruel game at times.
The journey home was quiet as the disappointment of the defeat sank in. Cyber space was alive with doom and gloomers demanding we sign Messi before it's too late but we are only 5 games into the league season. We've made a good start and Brian McD has got the ship pointing in the right direction. Let's not panic just yet. Bolton at the Reebok next. Another tough test for Leeds. Can we bounce back against the Trotters? I do hope so.
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Leeds United achieve mid table mediocrity once again
After the excitement of the final game and all the promotion and relegation issues I thought it would be good to look back at another season on Planet Leeds before I hibernate for the summer.
I suspect the 2012/13 season will remembered more for the off the pitch activities rather than the consistently inconsistent affairs on the pitch. Ken Bates finally sold the club in one of the longest takeover saga's known to man and then somehow managed to secure himself a position as President of the club for the next 3 years. Needless to say this Presidential position is not one that the electorate voted on or Monaco's finest would have been in danger of finishing a long way behind the Monster Raving Loony candidate. The new owners, GFH, soon realised that they needed other investors if they were to take the club forward and so began Takeover 2 which is still ongoing. If we're not careful we'll have more sequels than the Rocky films before we get some real stability at the club.
On the pitch Neil Warnock's warm and fuzzy noises he made in pre season about how he was going to turn the club into promotion challengers soon began to look ambitious at best as we headed for the crucial Xmas schedule. His public berating of fan's favourite Becchio showed a lack of understanding of man management and fans management and by the time we were humiliated by Barnsley he had lost the last vestiges of any support on the terraces. His post match excuses were by now parodied by every twitter/facebook discussion and the numerous fans forums. "The lad's tried ever so hard" "I couldn't have asked any more from the lads" and "the ref's had a shocker" were repeated week after week as our our slim hopes of reaching the play off's disappeared without trace. His final piece of verbal suicide was to publicly blame Tom Lees for the defeat at Ipswich a move that confirmed to 99.99% of fans that he had completely lost the plot. When he finally went after another abject display against Derby we were seriously looking at the relegation dog fight. The change of style and approach that Brian McDermott immediately brought to the club showed what we were missing as we sneaked away from the mass fight to stay up. If only he had come 6 games earlier?
Leeds finished on the same points total as the year before and in my opinion have spent a season stagnating that is unless you believe's Mr Warnock's view that he left the club in a fantastic position to move forward? Keep taking the pills Colin. So what were the good and bad bits of the season?
What went well?The Cup runs. Victories against Southampton and Everton in the Carling Cup and a stirring first half against Chelsea before an epic FA Cup win against Spurs.
Sam Byram or as most fans said at the start of the first game of the season Sam who? Up until his injury in the warm up for the Brighton game he had been the only ever present in the team. He deservedly won every accolade going at the end of season awards. The irony is that he was the one player who performed consistently and yet NW clearly didn't have much time for any of the youngsters favouring his old soldiers, Brown, Tonge, Kenny etc. The unfortunate thing is Byram will probably be sold over the summer if offers come in over £6m.
Tom Lees has matured into a solid centre back with lots of potential to improve.
Winning a Yorkshire derby away from home.
The signing of Stephen Warnock. Filled the problem left back spot with assured ease.
The fantastic away support never ceases to amaze me. I think we all must be masochists.
Even better if:
We didn't have to sell players like Becchio, Snodgrass etc.
The ownership of the club saga hadn't dragged on all summer and all season.
Neil Warnock had been sacked after the Barnsley game.
Elland Road was full for every home game.
We didn't play hoofball for the majority of the season.
We took the chance to make the play offs in a season that lacked any team with real quality.
Aaron Cawley didn't support Leeds United.
We hadn't lost to Barnsley again at Oakwell.
Drummers, goal music and demented Tannoy men are banned from away grounds.
Howard Wilkinson was on the board of Leeds United.
There was a unified supporters club working hand in glove with the club.
Have a good summer and roll on August.
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