By Andrew Butterwick
Cardiff are one of our many "bogey" teams not having beaten them since 1984 a fact which put a bit of a damper on the old pre match optimism as I gunned the car bleary eyed southwards for our clash with the red Bluebirds. As ever the Happy Chocker and Quiet One were on board as we discussed the chances of a victory for Neil Redfearn's 69th debut as Leeds manager. Safe to say that by the time we hit the M1 there was a small black cloud of depression hanging over this intrepid group of ever faithful mighty whites fans. After all we never beat Cardiff do we?
The 250 mile journey flew by and we were soon inside the impressive Cardiff City stadium dissecting our new leader's team selection. Berardi still preferred to Byram and a 4-5-1 formation with Morison leading the line and a midfield of Cook Mowatt and Bianchi with Ant & Douk playing wide. No place for Austin, Sharp or Adryan on the bench due to injuries. Mmm if Darko was still in the chair I suspect there would have been howls of protest from the hordes of away fans on the concourse quaffing their final pre match drink?
The game kicked off against a cacophony of noise from the 2,000 travelling fans reminding the home fans that once upon a'time they used to play in blue as the compulsory inflatable sheep bounced about amongst Neil Redfearn's Barmy army. On the pitch both teams cancelled each other out in the opening half hour with just a stinging Whittingham free kick and a Morison header over the top to trouble the statisticians. Redfearn had clearly set his team up to nullify the significant threat from the home side by taking the sting out of the game with some calm and deliberate possession football. Chances were few and far between at both ends of the pitch though with Cardiff's two wide men, Pilkington and Noone, posing the most threat with their teasing balls into the box. The game limped uninspiringly to half time goalless. Neither keeper had been troubled by more than one shot on target a piece.
The half time urinal philosophers weren't sure whether to stick or twist on their views of the first 45 minutes. "I hate the tippy tappy stuff we go nowhere with it" one slightly disgruntled fan chuntered whilst another thought "at least we're still in the game" In truth Leeds had frustrated Cardiff with a dogged if not spectacular first 45 minutes. The challenge was now to build on the first half with a better 2nd period something that had proved impossible this season up to now.
The 2nd half burst into life immediately as first Cardiff pressurised Leeds culminating with a fizzing volley from Whittingham just over the top of Silvestri's bar before Bellusci tried to reprise his fantastic Bournemouth free kick but this time Marshall in the home goal easily caught the Italian's shot. The game had opened up though after the cautious probing of the first half both teams were looking to snatch the all important first goal. Doukara had a shot blocked after good work from Warnock as the away fans lifted the decibel levels. A goal was coming but at which end?
It was Cardiff who were looking the most likely though and after yet another well timed block from the ageless Warnock the home side had yet another corner. The ball swung in dangerously for Cardiff's Morrison to head back across goal for the unmarked Manga to simply head past Silvestri from 7 yards. Bollox. All the hard work undone in a flash. 1.0 Cardiff. The Bluebirds were now flying high and when Macheda bagged a second 6 minutes later courtesy of a wicked deflection off Pearce the game seemed over. The Welshmen were leading 2.0 and Leeds were definitely struggling. The home fans showed they do have a sense of humour with a chorus of "You're getting sacked in the morning" to Neil Redfearn. Leeds new coach acted swiftly and threw Dawson on in place of Morison as Leeds changed to 4-4-2 with Ant and Douks up top. Could this help Leeds claim an unlikely point?
Young Dawson caught the eye straight away with some nice touches and tenacious tackling despite his small stature. Leeds now threw caution to the wind as Cardiff replaced Macheda with the giant Kenwyne Jones. Suddenly Leeds were back in the game. Warnock started a move deep in his own half which after some slick passing found Mowatt running at the defence exchanging passes with Doukara before smashing in a terrific goal. The Men of Harlech were quietened as the Yorkshire hordes celebrated their glimmer of a hope. 2.1 Cardiff.
At last we had seen a bit of penetration in the last third of the field. Now all we needed was to build on that and get the equaliser. Hopes foolishly began to rise in the away end of a dramatic Redfearn inspired comeback before a calamitous cock up brought us day dreamers back down to earth with a resounding thud. A hopeful "Hail Mary" ball was pumped forward for Jones to chase.......Silvestri came out to clear only to half heartedly boot the ball against the big Cardiff forwards shin and leave him a yawning open goal to roll the ball into and continue the 30 years of Cardiff hurt. The goal was a sickener for the Leeds fans and team. It was too late to pull 2 goals back and the game finished with a victory for the red Bluebirds. A victory they deserved on the balance of play but frustratingly won with one goal coming from a wicked deflection and one from a farcical comedy gold moment from the otherwise impeccable Silvestri.
Warnock and Mowatt both had good games for Leeds who showed confidence on the ball for most of the game but just lack penetration in the last third of the pitch. We are missing a player who can go past a defender and create chances. Both Bellusci and Pearce were getting a bad press amongst the frustrated Leeds fans as we made our way to the car for the long trek home. A bit harsh I thought but we do lack height at the back. In the end we got nothing for our 530 mile round trip something we fully expected when we set out. We never beat Cardiff. I think it's some kind of retribution for pinching John Charles from them all those years ago.
The next two games against Charlton and Blackpool at Elland Road give us an excellent chance of ending the worrying 7 game winless run before we go into the international break. Over to you Mr Redfearn!