Tell me why we don’t like Tuesdays
Wednesday, 23rd Feb 2011 17:16 by Tim Whelan
You could say this was a good evening’s entertainment for the 26,289 crowd, but more shoddy defending ensured that we dropped points to Barnsley despite goals from Gradel and Becchio. This result maintained our proud record of not having won a league game all season other than on a Saturday.
Simon Grayson decided to stick with the same starting line-up, which meant that there was still no place for Somma despite his goal on Saturday, and we were playing with only one up front at home to little old Barnsley. Some folk might think that’s being excessively cautious. For their part, Barnsley went into one of those team huddles while we were standing there ready to kick off, and I thought we should have started without them and tried to sneak down their end and score before they noticed.
When the game finally did begin, Barnsley began at a furious pace and looked the more determined of the two sides. (I would say that it was Barnsley’s cup final, but last time I said that about another Yorkshire team a few folk told me I was patronising. So I won’t). And it took only 90 seconds for the Tykes to go in front, as Trippier sent a free kick into the area, and everybody missed it until it reached Haynes beyond the far post. He knocked the ball back for Shackell to hammer it past Schmeichel from close range.
We were fortunate that Haynes was flagged offside a few minutes later, but after that we began to pass the ball around well. Even though Barnsley were still well up for their cup final we were looking comfortable on the ball, and started to create a few chances of our own. Gradel was unlucky with a free kick that Steele pushed onto the bar, before it came down onto the keeper’s head and bounced clear. Becchio then shot wide from a difficult shot on the turn, but Leeds drew level in the 23rd. minute.
After a short corner Gradel tried to beat two defenders, and we were lucky that the tackle went straight to Kilkenny on the touchline. He sent over a beautiful cross which Steele failed to collect, and it dropped nicely for Becchio to head home at the far post. We were in front 15 minutes later as Premiership referee Mark Clattenburg pointed to the spot after Gradel tussled with Hill on his way into the box. I thought if anything Gradel had pulled the defender back first, but he made no mistake with the penalty, putting it to the keeper’s left.
I wanted to see the incident again on the big screen, but of course they’re not allowed to show controversial decisions inside the stadium, so the incident was omitted from the first half highlights and I was none the wiser as to whether it should have been a penalty or not. By then we could have been two goals in front, but just before the break Johnson smashed a shot against the post when he seemed certain to score from close range.
At that stage we looked likely to go on and win the game comfortably, but Barnsley began the second half as they had the first, with a goal in the first couple of minutes. Tipper found Hill in acres of space on the Barnsley left, completely untroubled by any marking from the Leeds defence. Hill accepted the invitation to run on and smash an excellent shot across Schmeichel inside the far post. From this point on the Dane seemed to get angrier and angrier with the defenders in front of him, and started to send a few wild kicks straight into touch.
You blame me for what happened next. I showed the bloke next to me my betting slip, backing a 5-2 Leeds win at odds of 100/1, to reverse the scoreline from earlier in the season. For a few minutes that result looked quite plausible, but then my hopes of such a decisive win were dashed as we went down to ten men. Johnson had already been booked for a bad foul, and in his frustration at mis-controlling the ball and losing possession he clattered into the back of Mellis. Simon Grayson has said it was a harsh second yellow, but there’s no doubt it was a stupid challenge to make when he was already booked.
Once we’d gone a man down we were reluctant to push too many players forward, but Bruce went close with a header from a Kilkenny corner. After 66 minutes Grayson made a double change to freshen things up, with Somma and Watt replacing the tiring Becchio and Snodgrass, but it was Gradel who put Leeds back in front. Watt knocked the ball to him on the edge of the area and Gradel did the rest, beating a couple of defenders before curling a superb shot inside the far post.
You might have thought that we would be able to close out the game during the remaining time to claim the win, but no. With nine minutes left Howson tried to bring Mellier down outside the area before Watt finally got him, to concede a free kick in a dangerous position. Schmeichel did some more shouting as his defenders as they struggled to build a proper wall, and then stood rooted to the spot while Trippier curled the ball past him as Kilkenny obligingly moved out of the way. This sent the Dane into a completely apoplectic rage and he belted the ball into the East Stand before kicking the post in frustration.
There were five minutes injury time to play, but Barnsley were now looking the more likely to win the game, and O’Brien, Howson and Lichaj all had to make decisive interceptions before the ten men of Leeds had held out for a draw. The closing stages were played out to the sound of a police helicopter overhead, and the old bill had quite a presence on the ground outside the stadium, but there was no repeat of the scrapping in the streets that followed the game at Barnsley in September.
You could say that the result didn’t do that much damage as several other play-off contenders dropped points on the night, but on the other hand it was a missed opportunity to move above sixth place. We’ve now conceded 52 goals in the league and you have to go down the table as far as Doncaster in 18th place before you find a team who have let in more. On the evidence of last night we’re going to fall short in the battle for the play-offs, and it’s not hard to see where we need to improve.
Photo: Action Images
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