By Andrew Butterwick
The new found optimism that has accompanied recent Leeds games was once again in evidence as the Happy Chocker, Quiet One and yours truly boarded the London bound train for the clash with the mighty Brentford. After Redfearn's excellent job in steadying a sinking ship the focus now shifts to Mr Milanic to see if he can build on the 4 match unbeaten run that has pumped new belief into both the team and the fans. It wouldn't be a normal week on Planet Leeds though if there wasn't another batch of off the field "issues" to discuss on the journey with today's specialist subjects including the sacking of Mr Bean and yet more speculation surrounding Cellino's suitability to run the football club.
Outside Griffin Park the clamour for spare tickets from Leeds fans was substantial as kick off time approached. Luckily we had acquired some tickets albeit in the Brentford end so with our best cockney accents we took our places behind the goal on the Brentford terrace. This was going to be an interesting exercise in self control! Milanic had made two changes to the team bringing Byram in for the suspended Berardi and Mowatt in for Sloth. Murphy, Tonge, Wootton and Morison were all on the bench but no place for Billy Sharp or Adryan?
The opening exchanges were frenetic as both sides kept the ball on the floor and pressed looking for an early advantage. Austin carved out Leeds first shot on 8 minutes whilst Pritchard, Gray and Jota all had chances for the home side. The fluency that saw off Huddersfield was missing though and it was the Bees who looked the most dangerous with ex Leeds midfielder, Jonny Douglas, enjoying far too much possession for my liking. Shots were now raining in on the excellent Silvestri in the Leeds goal as Jota, Odubajo and Judge were all allowed chances to snatch the opener. His double save from Judge's free kick and then Odubajo's follow up was worth a much higher stage than the Championship.
The momentum was with the home side and the pressure finally told in the 26th minute as a desperate lunge from Pearce gave the Bees a deserved penalty and me an awkward moment as I had my head in my hands whilst the fans around me celebrated. I was the perfect diplomat when Tarkowski blasted the spot kick over the bar though unlike a certain Mr Cellino who was ejected from the main stand for celebrating the penalty miss. His cult hero status raised a couple of notches as the stewards led him to the Leeds end together with Salerno to join the bemused away fans in a chorus of Marching on Together!
Silvestri was soon in action again as he brilliantly turned a Douglas header round the post. Leeds were struggling to keep possession as the home side pressed hard. The lack of penetration when they did have the ball was all too evident as the ball went square and backwards time and again. Warnock and Byram were the main attacking threats as they made space down the flanks but too often the final ball was disappointing. A disappointing half for Leeds got a whole lot worse bang on half time as Jota finished off a smart move again instigated by Douglas to give the Bees a deserved half time lead. Our non celebration amongst the happy home fans didn't go unnoticed but neither a number of other conspicuous non celebrators. Somehow I think we weren't the only "new" Brentford members on the terrace. Half time 1.0.
It was interesting to hear the opposing fans views at half time. "Worst team we've seen here this year" one lag commented whilst another thought "we should have been three up" Mmmm couldn't really disagree. Thank god for Silvestri. The Leeds midfield hadn't got out of 2nd gear and if we were going to get back into this game there would need to be a dramatic 2nd half improvement.
There was an early sign of change just 5 minutes into the 2nd period as Pearce's header was well saved by the home keeper but it wasn't long before Silvestri was working overtime to keep the score down to one. Saves from Jota, twice, Gray and a header from Odubajo all contributed to that old familiar sinking feeling that I get when Leeds are taking a battering. Sloth replaced Mowatt on 66 minutes but the inevitable 2nd goal for Brentford came just 10 minutes later as McCormack (no not that one) pounced on a loose ball and steered it past Silvestri assisted by Douglas. The home fans celebrated around us as our body language stood out like a sore thumb. I couldn't see any way back from this but Milanic had a last throw of the dice as he replaced Bianchi and Cook with Tonge and Murphy. Mmmm not exactly a game changing duo I'm afraid but interestingly Milanic had now replaced three of his starting midfielder's. Clearly he wasn't impressed and it was easy to see why.
The fresh legs on for Leeds didn't spark anything different in the Leeds play and the game finished in a disappointing 2.0 defeat. Brentford fully deserved the victory with Douglas pulling the strings in midfield despite his ageing limbs. Not a good start for Darko. After last week's euphoria today was a reminder that this team and club are still in significant transition. Undoubtedly there will be a lot of fans asking why Redfearn wasn't given the job full time but Milanic is here now and he will need time to adjust.
A week is a long time in football and with games against Reading and Sheff Wednesday this week I suspect Darko Milanic's induction onto Planet Leeds is going to be a rocky one. What team will he put out on Wednesday? Will Cellino relocate to the South Stand? What about Billy Sharp? Looking forward to it already!