By Andrew Butterwick
After the euphoria of Billy Sharp's late, late winner on Saturday there was the unusual whiff of optimism in the air as we parked the car and headed down Elland Road for our clash with Brighton. The Happy Chocker, Quiet One and Brother Chris were in good form as we debated the possible team and how we can take advantage of a Seagulls team who had lost their first two games and were yet to score a single goal. Add to that their fans disenchantment with the current management and everything was set for an all too rare successful Tuesday night championship game in LS11! Then we entered the ground.
Mr Hockaday had made two changes to Saturday's team with Smith replacing the injured Doukara and Tonge demoting Ajose to the bench. New signing Bellusci was on the bench along with Norris. Brighton were supposedly low in confidence and struggling to adjust to their new manager Sammy Hyypia's tactics. Well all I can say is I'd hate to play them when they're on top form because right from the first minute they dazzled Leeds with simple effective one touch pass and move football that was very easy on the eye. Within 5 minutes Teixiera opened the scoring after Warnock committed himself in the centre circle and lost the ball leaving acres of space down the left flank which the Seagulls quickly exploited to give Silvestri little chance in the Leeds goal. The boisterous home crowd were stunned into relative silence as the crashing thud of a harsh reality check could be heard all around the ground.
Brighton absolutely dominated the first half leaving Leeds embarrassingly chasing shadows for the vast majority of the half as the visitors made the most of the wide Elland Road pitch. Time and again the ball was switched from wing to wing with ease as bewildered Leeds seemingly had no answer to this style of play. Worse still they stuck doggedly to a tight narrow diamond formation which in effect give Brighton carte blanche to run the show without breaking sweat. "This could get really messy" I mused as the natives got more and more restless as the game headed for half time. Brighton finished the half with a sublime move that left Calderon with a free header on goal that he thankfully put wide. Remarkably the score was only 1.0 at half time after Brighton had enjoyed what seemed to be 98% possession with most of our 2% taken up when we were taking throw ins. Our best chance was when Austin nearly charged down Stockdale's clearance in the Brighton goal. Not good to watch. Safe to say none of the verdicts of the Urinal philosophers were repeatable even in my broad minded blog.
Hockaday had to change something and he did. Smith was sacrificed up front to allow Ajose to give the Leeds midfield some much needed width. After keeping Brighton waiting before the start of the 2nd half Leeds hit the ground running straight away as they strung numerous passes together on their first attack culminating in Rudy Austin doing a step over and a dummy as he strode through the Brighton midfield with ease. This fired the crowd up and all of a sudden there was a chance we could drag our selves back into the game. Now it was Leeds who were using the flanks to attack. Byram was now bombing forward causing trouble for the Seagulls defence. Austin was the playmaker as he pinged 40 yard passes to each flank. Chances were few and far between though. Ajose cut inside and blazed over before Tonge missed the one and only golden chance Leeds created after Byram had got to the bye line and pulled the ball back to the midfielder who screwed his shot wide from 7 yards with the goal gaping in front of him.
Leeds mustered a bit of a last hurrah with Poleon on for Sharp and Cook on for Murphy but they left themselves horribly exposed at the back. Ince exploited the space to hit the post when he really should have scored before Lua Lua ended the agony with a firm free kick under the Leeds wall and into the net. 2.0 Brighton and game over.
Overall a very poor showing from Leeds against a Brighton side who oozed confidence and class when they had the ball and fully deserved their victory. Leeds are definitely still work in progress. Murphy and Tonge struggled along with Bianchi in midfield but Austin gave probably his best display in a Leeds shirt.....or was he just average amongst some poor performances? Tactically Leeds got it very wrong in the first half and although they rectified it at half time it was too little too late. One shot on target all night from Leeds at home tells it's own story.
Onwards to Watford on Saturday. Will there be more new arrivals by then? I do hope so.