I’ve spent the last two weekends in Leeds so now seems as good a time as any to update on the fortunes of my football (soccer, I don’t understand American Football) club, Leeds United. On Saturday, we played Huddersfield Town in Football League One (old third division) in a game which because of the geographical nearness of the two opposing teams drew over 32,000 fans, making it the 5th best attended game in England on the day and 6th best attended in the whole of the UK. Only 4 premiership games , none in the Championship and only Glasgow Rangers’ home game in Scotland, had a larger crowd. Football, then, is very much alive and kicking in Leeds but the team is not what they once were. But the hard times seem to be lifting. Prior to the game, we were third in the division, compared to Huddersfield’s standing in 16th. Despite this apparent advantage and the promise that a win, in this early kick-off, would take Leeds to the top of the division (at least until later in the day), we managed to lose 2-1 as Huddersfield scored in the last minute. Leeds had taken the lead through Snodgrass in the 4th minute but couldn’t hold on to the lead despite having the lion’s share of the quality individual performances.
What did this game reveal about the team?
1. Casper Ankergren. Ankergren has been sharing ownership of the goalkeeper’s jersey with David Lucas despite being the hot favourite to be the regular between the posts at the start of the season. His momentous error which led to the first Huddersfield goal undid an otherwise reasonably solid performance and did nothing to guarantee he will be in the side in a week’s time.
2. Frazer Richardson. Long serving captain, Richardson, looked more confident pressing forward than in his defensive duties. He provided a good overlapping presence on the right side with winger, Robert Snodgrass and the two gave the Huddersfield full-back a torrid time in the first half.
19. Ben Parker. Left back is a problem position for Leeds and Parker is the current incumbent. Again, better going forward than anything else and the Huddersfield attackers could have made more of the Leeds’ lack of enthusiasm to work on the left, particularly in the first half.
6. Lubo Michalik. The Slovakian central defender is good in the air and clears his lines well but doesn’t contribute much more than that. He will do at this level but it is hard to see him continuing in the team if they were promoted to the Championship.
26. Paul Telfer. The 37 year old central defender looked out-paced and wobbly on Saturday. There are more capable defenders in the squad and it is hard to see why McAllister is favouring him.
4. Jonathan Douglas. Douglas looked a class apart from most of the others on the field for most of the game. The manager replaced him and Delph just at the point when we seemed to have Huddersfield pinned in their own half. His maturity and vision were outstanding but he is let down by a suspect temperament. Our hopes of winning disappeared when he was removed.
15. Fabian Delph. Delph has silky skills and is fast developing into a great young player. I’m not sure who was meant to be playing on the leftside of midfield on Saturday but nobody seemed to fancy that role. Delph, particularly, had a tendency to cut inside when he received the ball rather than being tempted to explore the left side of the pitch. Good game otherwise, if a little too easily knocked off the ball and another regrettable substitution in the late stages.
8. Neil Kilkenny. I spent most of half time trying to remember who was the 11th player on the Leeds side (there is no scoreboard at Elland Road at the moment!). Kilkenny was that invisible presence and, thankfully, he was removed early in the second half, having contributed nothing I could remember.
18. Andy Robinson. Robinson played wide on the left side of the forward line. He suffered from lack of support and got himself needlessly cautioned. He has a tendency to appear a little lazy when disposessed and didn’t chase back well on Saturday. Having said that going forward, he appeared to be one of the more solid Leeds players and can shoot from distance.
23. Robert Snograss. Wide on the right, Snodgrass was Leeds’ best player on the day. He scored Leeds’ only goal. Skilful, with a good touch and willing to run at opponents with vigour, he was our brightest hope – particularly in the first half.
10. Luciano Becchio. A lone central forward for most of the game, Becchio was persistent and solid. When Beckford was brought on, Becchio had more freedom, showed more flair and might have scored.
9. Jermaine Beckford. Top scorer, Beckford, entered the game very positively, early in the second half. In truth, he might have scored within minutes of his arrival. However, his contribution lessened after a couple of heavy challenges knocked him to the ground and the midfield line behind him was rearranged. The sooner he is fully match-fit and can start every game, the better.
7. David Prutton. Suffered by comparison with the players that he and Howson were required to replace, but in truth did well and looked sparky and bright. A poor free kick from him was our last scoring chance.
14. Jonathan Howson. Like Prutton, he was solid but not spectacular. Tried in difficult circumstances.
Unused substitutes: 12. David Lucas. 21 Enoch Showunmi
So a disappointing result before a large crowd. Danny Cadamarteri had something to prove when he came on as Huddersfield’s last substitute and he was responsible for single-handedly creating the chance which led to the second goal but the changes in midfield ended Leeds’ dominance and it wasn’t only the players on the field who had reason to blush.
This looks like another season when we will make the playoffs – and then anything can happen.
Maybe this lad could do a job for us – Lucas the Kop Kat turns away having slammed in a penalty during the warm-up
Darren & the late Billy Bremner