By Andrew Butterwick
After Saturday's woeful showing against a poor Cardiff side it was difficult to imagine anything other than another defeat for Leeds against the high flying Canaries. That didn't stop me backing the mighty whites for a 2.1 win at 25:1 though. Funny how a couple of days of contemplation and the familiar drive to LS11 can suddenly spark a tiny bit of illogical optimism. Elland Road was bathed in warm spring sunshine as we parked the car and headed for our usual seats. Redfearn had rung the changes after Saturday's display with Cooper ousting Bellusci, Sharp replacing Antenucci and Phillips making way for Ngoyi. Glancing at the Norwich team sheet that was oozing with players with Premier League experience it was easy to see why they are challenging for an automatic promotion spot. Redfearn must have been envious as he continued to try and pick and mix a team that could compete with tonight's visitors.
The game started with an impressive number of away fans adding to a decent atmosphere for the penultimate home game of the season. The first 20 minutes was very much nip and tuck as Leeds gave as good as they got against the promotion chasing Canaries. Howson, Hoolahan and Dorrans knocked the ball about confidently in midfield supporting the pacy Redmond and the strong Pantomime villain, Thomas, up front. The referee Jones didn't exactly help the flow of the game with his incessant use of his whistle. A smidgen of confidence was beginning to creep into my bloodstream as the half hour mark approached. I should have known better!
After a decent opening half hour it suddenly turned sour for Leeds and inevitably it was ex Leeds hero, Jonny Howson, at the centre of the action. Silvetsri failed to come and claim a high looping ball into his 6 yard box leaving Cooper to climb all over Howson. The ref reached for his whistle and awarded a penalty to Norwich. A soft penalty that needn't have happened if Silvestri had come for the ball. Sol Bamba was livid with the Italian goalie and rightly so. Dorrans stepped up and thankfully smashed the ball against the bar and Leeds cleared the ball away to safety while the ref gave Leeds a free kick. Not sure we deserved a free kick just because Dorrans had hit the bar but hey ho!
Minutes later Dorrans had a chance to make up for his penalty miss but blazed a good chance high into the kop from 20 yards. Leeds had a rare attack and forced a corner from a misguided Norwich header that nestled on top of the goal. Ruddy in the Norwich goal was commanding in the area and easily caught the resulting corner as he did most crosses all evening. His quick distribution to Redmond and Jerome was causing Leeds problems but Murphy finished the half by drilling a free kick straight into the wall. Half time 0.0. Redfearn had deployed Ngoyi in a defensive role in front of the back four and all in all it had been effective in a first half stalemate.
Norwich seemed to move up a gear in the 2nd half, Redmond and Martin went close to opening the scoring as Leeds defended doggedly. On 56 minutes the Leeds resistance was broken by Howson after neat and swift build up play released the ex Leeds favourite with oodles of space in the box as he coolly poked the ball past Silvestri with the outside of his foot. The fact he didn't celebrate was appreciated by the majority of Leeds fans. Leeds needed a quick response and with the help of a superb through ball from Ngoyi they so nearly got it but right back Wootton cut the ball onto his left foot before his shot rebounded for a corner. Ruddy came and caught the resultant corner.
Good sides kill the game by keeping possession once they go ahead and that's exactly what the Canaries did as they changed up through all their gears leaving Leeds chasing shadows. Redfearn threw on first Antenucci then Montenegro at the expense of Taylor and then Byram to try get Leeds back in the game but time and again possession for Leeds lasted only a few seconds before it was back with the Canaries. Although we were only one goal down it was difficult to see where the goal would come from.The strong Canaries defence coped rather too easily with what Leeds threw at them for my liking. Mowatt gave us false hope as his strike forced the only save of the game from Ruddy.
With the clock ticking down Dorrans sealed the game for Norwich in added time as he converted a pull back from Thomas to give the East Anglian team a slightly flattering 2.0 scoreline. Leeds looked a broken team at the final whistle after giving their all but up against a team with genuine class and deep resources it was never going to be enough.
Ngoyi had a solid start with some good tackles to break up attacks and also good distribution of the ball. We again struggled up front with the statistics telling you all you need to know about our current attacking threat.......3 shots with only 1 on target. Neither Sharp, Antenucci or Morison can play the lone striker role with any impact. Norwich deserved to win and possessed the majority of quality and pace on the field this evening.
Charlton away on Saturday. Not many games left now of yet another disappointing season for Leeds. Can we halt this awful run of defeats? I'm not holding my breath.