That was a lesson in how to play in the Championship, wasn’t it? Unchanged for our fourth League game, we were outdone by a Leeds side that knew their stuff and scored in each half.
A tea-time start didn’t seem the most intelligent of choices given the history between the clubs, but thankfully nothing untoward happened off the pitch. On it – well, that was a different matter. With pre-match entertainment stretched over five hours rather than the usual two or three, folks arrived in a more casual fashion, probably taking the chance for a breather in the hectic schedule which brings matches thick and fast. After a warm-up that included the tallest mascot since Peter Crouch was a bairn (sign him up!) we set away…
Jones Kone Browning Galloway
Honeyman Catts Ndong McGeady
As if part of a script, we kicked south, with a large and noisy visiting contingent backing a Leeds side that didn’t include Woods, withdrawn because somebody (Burnley?) had offered daft money for him. Since when did being the subject of an offer make a player unfit for purpose? Anyway, the game followed the Championship blueprint of being at 100 mph, with an early corner, a block on Honeyman that was missed by the ref, and Catts looking like he’s been handed a bit of paper with someone’s name on it – thankfully he did nowt daft. Ndong, after covering lots of the pitch, played in McGeady on the left and the low cross fizzed across the box and past everybody. Vaughan picked up a stray back-pass by former Mag Anita, but was denied by a great block, then Grabban headed off target.
It was a fairly even contest, but there were danger signs on our left where Galloway had problems. I don’t want to have a go at the lad, but milk turns faster, and Leeds were quick to recognise this, putting most of their efforts down that channel. It didn’t help when Kone got careless, but we managed to scramble that one away, and when they evaded the crisp packets on our right (sort it out man, Quinny) they won a free kick 25 yards out which Steel held well.
We looked to have gone ahead – I for one, was celebrating – when Grabban got the ball from Vaughan and the effort glanced off a defender’s head, off the bar, and into the keeper’s hands. You don’t get much closer, but unfortunately, it’s as close as we got. It got worse, as barely a minute later they broke and the shot was low and across Steele, into the far corner on 21 minutes. McGeady and Honeyman were swapped, presumably in an effort to give more support to our left back, but still they came down that channel, having replaced Hernandez with Roote. Leeds headed over from a cross (from our left), then missed a really good chance to double their lead. (cross from our left), and many of us were calling, ever so politely, for Matthews to replace Galloway.
We did build some attacks, though, but when faced with some decisions in terms of having players to his left and right, Vaughan made the wrong one and slashed a shot wide. Honeyman let his frustrations get the better of him and was booked with about ten minutes of the half remaining, then Jones and Catts combined well to get a shot in, but it was comfy for the keeper. The visiting fans kept us amused with the 1972 clapping and their appreciation of Grayson, there were two added minutes, and we went in a goal down. Probably a fair reflection of the game.
No changes at the break, which was a disappointment, but it took less than ten minutes for Grayson to rectify that. On came Matthews for Galloway in one of the more obvious substitutions in the history of the game, with Khazri replacing Vaughan at the same time. Honeyman moved to a more central position to accommodate Khazri, meaning that things got a bit congested in the middle until the players sorted themselves out.
One of the things I’d noticed about the championship is that players spend less time play-acting, but Leeds bucked that trend, with a couple of their lads in particular taking the mickey. Their right back even had a man-bun – look, I’m not going to get all tonsorially righteous, but if your hair gets in the way of you doing your job, get it cut. Apart from that, you look daft, and we should have pulled his hairband out and taken advantage. Down at the other end, Steele did well to keep out a free kick and try to build an attack -but he’s no Jason Pickford. Vaughan on his own was no match for their two rather large central defenders, and wasn’t there when Honeymand and Khazri combined to fire in a low cross. Kone continued to look like he wants to play with a muscular display, meaning that there was always a chance we could get back into the game – but we’d need to get more shots in to do that. We duly won a couple of corners, and their keeper was rightly booked for taking an age to take a free-kick.
With 15 to go, Grayson shook things up by replacing Catts with Asoro and we went two up front again, but it was Leeds who took advantage. Our attack down the left broke down, they went up the other end and it was a text-book back post header that put them two up and the game beyond redemption. The last fifteen minutes were taken up with Leeds defending their lead, and their number 10 giving us another reason to dislike Dorty Leeds as he rolled about after a fairly harmless tackle, premier league style, and got Ndong booked. However, it could and should have been a nicer scoreline when McGeady crossed from the left and found Jones unmarked at the back. Being a full-back, Billy took an extra touch before firing into the side netting. Oh dear.
Somehow, the ref found six minutes to add on, and that would have been great had we been in full flow – but we weren’t, and all we got was an Asoro effort that was way over.
At the end of it, we were deservedly beaten, and perhaps (no, definitely) things should have been changed sooner, but it’s still early days. Just as I didn’t get too carried away with three games unbeaten, I’m not going to get too despondent with one defeat. Hopefully Grayson will learn from the mistakes made in this match, and use the squad more as games come more frequently and players adjust to that.
Man of the Match? No stand-out performer today, but I’ll give it to Ndong for his constant movement.
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