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Leeds United 1 v 1 Plymouth Argyle
FA Cup
Saturday, 27th January 2024 Kick-off 15:00
Leeds face an extra trip to Devon after failing to overcome Plymouth
Sunday, 28th Jan 2024 16:49 by Tim Whelan

During the first half it looked as though Leeds were heading for a comfortable victory, but we allowed a resolute Plymouth Argyle side back into the game in the second half, and they duly equalised to take the tie to a replay.

When I bought my ticket for this game there seemed to be quite a lot left, so I wondered if the crowd would be down to just a few of us naïve romantics who still believe the FA Cup is still important. But it was a sell-out apart from the away section, due to the £20 price and the excitement of getting a rare home draw.

Daniel Farke made six changes to his starting line-up, though it was still a strong line-up, as all the incoming players had significant game time in the league this season, and two changes were enforced anyway due to injuries. We were back to the formation we had before Christmas, with Amapdu in midfield, and Piroe and Rutter as the front two.

In the first couple of minutes there were a couple of loose passes at the back which caused me a bit of anxiety, but after that Leeds seemed to be taking control of the game. At about this time I became distracted by a row taking place to my left, as the stewards were trying to move two men who were standing in the corridor with their young sons, as the boys couldn’t see from their allocated seats.

I was wondering why they hadn’t gone in the family stand, but perhaps they didn’t realise that everyone stands up in the Kop, because they can’t normally get tickets. I was getting the impression that quite a few in the crowd weren’t regulars, as some of them seemed to have difficulty in finding where they were supposed to be. But I managed to draw my attention back to the field just in time to see our first decent chance of the game.

That came when Rutter’s pass picked out Anthony moving into space on the left hand side of the box, but his shot came back off the far post. The rebound came back to Gnonto, and he took a second to adjust before his shot came back off the bar. I’m not entirely sure if Hazard got a touch, but I think he did, and if so, it was a wonderful save.

Piroe had our next chance as the ball came to him from what looked like a tight angle, but Hazard made another save. Then a through ball picked out Anthony in front of goal, but he looked far too casual and allowed the keeper enough time to recover and block his shot. So much so that when a series of passes ended up with him on the touchline a few minutes later I thought “do something, Anthony!”

And do something he certainly did! He accelerated as he came inside between two defenders and then past a third, before curling a wonderful shot inside the far post. And then took his shirt off to reveal a tribute to his recently deceased mother, but got booked for doing so. Inevitably the referee got abused by the crowd for doing so, but unfortunately it’s compulsory due to the idiotic guidelines dreamed up by the game’s governing bodies.

Shortly afterwards Gnonto was felled by a hefty challenge, but apparently that wasn’t worth a booking. At this stage we seemed to be heading for victory, and as the first Wembley chant rang around Elland Road the people behind me mentioned 1987. That was the year we reached the FA Cup semi-final and the play-off final, a scenario that could indeed be repeated this time around.

But the league game before Christmas showed us this Plymouth side will keep battling, and on that occasion we had a two goal advantage before they pulled one back late on to leave us hanging on to secure the win. With just the one goal lead this time we were always going to be vulnerable as they started to get back into the game in the second half.

Anxiety began to grow as the visitors forced no fewer than five corners, as Leeds seemed to be running out of energy. When ‘Walking Football’ appeared on the big screen I wasn’t sure if it was an advert or a comment on the Leeds performance. Gnonto in particular seemed to be struggling at this stage of his comeback from injury, and midway through the half Argyle created their first decent chance of the game.

A long ball was played forward and was met by Cooper, but his header came off Hardy’s back, and fell kindly for the Plymouth man. He lobbed the ball over Meslier, but thankfully Byram had read the situation perfectly, and was able to race back and head the ball off the line, before managing to get up again straight away after crashing into the post. That should have been warning enough, but they were able to grab the equaliser on 73 minutes.

Shackleton was drawn into making a challenge in the centre, which meant that his flank was exposed as we lost the ball again and it was played out to Bundu on their left. The winger played the ball across the edge of the area, to the spot where Randall was racing through unchallenged. Randall did well to control the ball at speed, before slipping it under the advancing Meslier to bring the scores level.

Farke has got some pelters on social media for not reacting earlier as the game started to slip away from us, but now he belatedly replaced Gnonto with Poveda. Poveda ran around enthusiastically for the rest of the game as he desperately tried to take the chance to impress, but didn’t always do the right thing with the ball when he got it. Such as the cross from a good position he sent straight out of play for a goal kick.

As time ticked away the manager bolstered our attack by sending Bamford, Firpo and then Joseph into the action, but all to no avail. As soon as he came on Bamford’s header forced Hazard to save with his legs, and the keeper produced another excellent save to tip a curling shot from Gruev over the bar.

And right at the end a scramble ended with Bamford sending a shot just past the post on the turn, when the Kop thought he was certain to score. Hazard complained bitterly that he’d been fouled, but in the end that didn’t matter. It would have been harsh if Plymouth had been knocked out by such a late goal, even if their keeper was probably their man of the match.

Several minutes of injury time were played, but not enough for Leeds to force a winner, and we now have to fit another game into the calendar. And a lot more travelling, as we face four long trips to the South-West and South Wales in a period of just over two weeks. Which would make a decent holiday for anyone who doesn’t mind missing the Rotherham home game.

And we now know that normal service has been resumed in the FA Cup draw, with another away tie, this time at Chelsea or Aston Villa. Which has probably ****ed our chances in the FA Cup, even if we can get through the replay. It’s been fun while it lasted, especially with the goal of the season contenders we’ve produced in each game so far, but it looks like we’ll be free to concentrate on the league before too long.


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