By Andrew Butterwick
Birmingham was the destination for our penultimate away game of this hugely frustrating season. As ever the Happy Chocker and the Quiet One were on board
as we caught the Cross country train from York in bright Spring sunshine. A smattering of Geordie horse punchers and Wendies fans were also using the Iron Horse to reach their respective away games. The new optimism that Brian McD has brought to the club gave us the tantalising prospect of securing a 4th away win of the season and complete a hat trick of wins since he took over the poison chalice from Mr Hoofball. The change in style Brian McD has embedded in the team has been dramatic. Gone are the hopeful punts down field in the general
direction of Morison/Becchio/Varney replaced by a sweet passing game based on an ever changing diamond formation that illuminates midfield. If only he'd arrived after the Barnsley game?
After pre match refreshments in the Ibis Hotel we joined the massed ranks of the Leeds away faithful to wallow in our new found hope. Would Morison start? What about Peltier and Diouf? Even though this was a meaningless end of season fixture the away end was buzzing with expectation. Then the game started.
Brian McD stuck with the same team that did so well against Burnley but on a sunny afternoon in England's 2nd city Leeds new optimism was about to take a bit of a battering. The first 20 minutes sauntered by with not a lot to keep the crowd on the edge of their seat. The 2,500 away fans were in good voice but the entertainment on the pitch was definitely of the end of season variety. With both teams safe from the relegation dog fight inspiration was lacking in both sides. The giant Zigic naturally won every ball he challenged for but caused little problems in a robust Leeds back four..........even with Pearce starting!
The only shot of note that Leeds mustered in the first 45 minutes was a Ross Mac volley that just dipped over the bar. At the other end Kenny hardly got a sweat on as the first half stalemate played out to an ambivalent home crowd and a slightly frustrated away following. The euphoria that followed Brian McD's first two games was tempered by the realisation that he is going to be very busy over the summer if he is going to turn the mighty whites into promotion material next season. HT 0.0 yawn!
If the first half was a stalemate then the second became an awful procession of everything that is wrong with championship football. Chances were few and far between at both ends as both teams went through the motions. Birmingham were looking the most likely though as Redmond started to dominate the game and give the blues a slight advantage. Mullins broke the stalemate on 70 minutes as he pounced on a rebound from Kenny and slotted home the easiest of chances to put the blues in front. All of a sudden the home fans found their voice as they celebrated their one goal advantage. Brian McD rung the changes as Peltier replaced Green and Byram moved up into midfield. Almost immediately Byram so nearly got on the end of a cross to snatch an equaliser. Drury replaced Austin and slotted into the left midfield spot. Leeds huffed and puffed but struggled to trouble Butland in the home goal. There was an inevitability as the game entered the final 10 minutes. Leeds just didn't look like scoring as the game petered out to a 1.0 win to the Brum.
As the fans streamed away from St Andrews a Brum fan enthused "that was the best performance of the season" all I can say is that they must of watched some shite this season. A disappointing result but news that we were now statistically safe from relegation brightened the after match mood. It would have been a far different picture if we hadn't secured the two wins against Wendies and Burnley.
In summary this was not good to watch. A poor game with two teams that knew their places were secure. Difficult to pick a MOM for Leeds. Byram had another decent game but other than that we were distinctly average. Whilst the game was disappointing the fact that we are now statistically clear of relegation gave a warm feeling of satisfaction as we travelled back up north. Following Leeds this season has had it's ups and downs as most seasons do but the impetus that Brian McD has given the Leeds family has left massive expectations for next season. I get the feeling that our bald headed leader will match those expectations.
Brighton up next at Elland Road. No pressure so we might just upset Poyet's end of season hopes?