By Andrew Butterwick
Barnsley away. This is a fixture that has given Leeds fans nightmares in recent years as utterly woeful performances against Barnsley teams that are far more up for it than our own eleven have resulted in severe beatings at the hands of the Dingles. Today would be different though. After all Barnsley have just sold their top scorer, got rid of their manager and are rooted to the bottom of the championship.
Even an inconsistent Leeds side should gain a comfortable win here shouldn't they? The Barnsley jinx was about to be dispensed to the annals of history. Well that's what we thought as the Happy Chocker, Quiet One and
myself headed for Dingleland and Joe Johnson's snooker hall for our pre match refreshments amongst the "enemy" fans.
Considering their record against Leeds the battle weary Barnsley fans weren't that confident though as we discussed the forthcoming game fortified by the biggest Hot Dog in the world. For once we had an air of optimistic confidence in South Yorkshire and it felt good. Warnock's team sheet showed seven changes to the team that played Brum as once again he tinkered with the starting eleven. New boy Barkley joined Norris, Austin and recalled signing Tonge in the midfield with Green left on the bench? That seemed odd as Green has been one of the more consistent performers in recent weeks. Diouf and Becchio started up front whilst Pelts, Byram, Pearce and Tate formed the back four. Pelts at left back again? I just don't get it! Nearly 5,000 travelling fans packed into the away end to warm the atmosphere on a very parky day.
The new found confidence started to disappear almost immediately as Barnsley flew at their Yorkshire neighbours and had by far the better of the opening exchanges. Paddy Kenny was soon diving about like Gareth Bale on speed to protect the Leeds goal and last minute blocks from Pearce and Tate repelled good early chances for the Reds within the first 5 minutes. This wasn't looking good. Barnsley were first to every ball and very average opposing players were soon looking like superstars. One player who fell into that category was Marlon Harewood. Now even his Mother would struggle to describe him as a classy player but he was soon dictating play in the Leeds half as he put his considerable frame between any Leeds defender and the ball before laying the ball onto the advancing midfielders who ran past our midfield arrangement as if they weren't there. "This could get messy" I suggested to HC. "Mmmm same old f****** Barnsley game"
Jim O'Brien and Dawson, those well known footballing aristocrats, were dictating most of the play with Harewood as their foil. One of these teams were bottom of the league and it certainly didn't look like the team in red. Leeds' new boy, Barkley, had a couple of neat touches early on but the Leeds midfield was just swamped by a red tidal wave. Norris, Tonge and Austin looked like they'd never played together before as the ball was given up time and again. Some respite came Leeds way on 30 minutes when O'Brien left the field on a stretcher after a heavy challenge but the one way traffic soon resumed............all into Paddy Kenny's goal. Leeds got to half time level at 0.0. I honestly don't know how. Barnsley should have been at least three goals to the good but were guilty of wasting a good number of decent chances. The only oasis of decent football from Leeds was when Barkley released Becchio inside the box with a lovely pass only for Steele to smother his shot. Loud boo's wafted down
from the frustrated away fans as the teams left the field. I sat with my head in my hands. Yet again I had witnessed a dreadful showing from the mighty whites. No passion and certainly no skill or guile. I am not sure we won a tackle in the first 45 minutes and we definitely didn't have a shot on goal. This was depressing. Still there was always the 2nd half to get us back in the game?
The Leeds side returned to a big roar as the fans tried to lift the team. Ross Mac replaced the stuttering Diouf and Green swapped with the awful Norris. Leeds started the 2nd half with more vigour and Barkley drilled a shot inches wide of the home goal within minutes and when he turned his man and rattled a shot onto the underside of the bar things were looking up for Leeds. Ross Mac injected some urgency into the game for Leeds and for a short moment I thought we just might take control of the game...........then my nurse came with my medication and normal service was resumed!
Dagnall, Mellis and Harewood continued to dominate the game for the reds against an out of sorts Leeds team. The inevitable goal came on 63 minutes as Dagnall enticed Byram into a rash challenge in the box. Penalty! Dagnall got up and dispatched the spot kick with ease. 1.0 Barnsley and I feared the worst. Two minutes later we were in humiliation territory again as Dagnall netted a second from a
Harewood pass. 2.0 Barnsley and the long suffering Leeds fans had seen enough. "We're shit and we've had enough" drowned out the minimal noise coming from the Dingles fans soon to be followed by a song advising Warnock it was time for him to go. It might only be 2.0 and there might be 25 minutes to go which is plenty of time to come back but any reasonable fan knew there was more chance of seeing professional Barnsley fan, Dickie Bird,doing a streak across the pitch with a Rose in his mouth than Leeds saving this game. And so it was. The game meandered to a limp conclusion with Barnsley looking more likely to add to their tally rather than Leeds scoring. Full time 2.0. The 5,000 Leeds fans vented their anger at the players and more specifically Warnock as they left the pitch. Ross Mac, Becchio and Barkley were spared the vitriol.
Warnock has been in charge for a year now and the team is no better than when he took over despite completely changing the personnel. The style of play is awful with any sequence of more than three passes being greeted with ironic cheers from frustrated fans. After the Forest game last season Warnock publicly stated that you would never see a Leeds team of his capitulate like they did that night. Well in my book I did today.......and at Hull......and at Forest............and against Watford. Need I go on? Crowds are dwindling worryingly as fans just give up. The new owners have a big, big job on their hands to resurrect this comatose sleeping giant.
Credit to Barnsley they looked far from a bottom of the table team but Leeds look poor. I'm dreading the trip to Birmingham. The natives are restless on Planet Leeds. We might only be "just outside the play offs" but we are light years away from promotion with this motley crew of players. We still lack quality in the team and we still lack a decent left back. Add to that a reluctance to play any sort of system that involves passing the ball as a strategy and Leeds are a ship heading for the rocks at breakneck speed.
So it's onto Birmingham for the cup replay. God help us. Leeds need some serious surgery to revive this former giant of club. I do hope our new owners act and act fast. At least we can build for next year then?