By Andrew Butterwick
Brilliant Spring sunshine greeted us as we boarded the London bound train at York for our latest away day at Charlton. As is now normal on Planet Leeds the turmoil surrounding the club had escalated significantly since the 2.0 defeat to Norwich way back on Tuesday. Leaving aside the investigation into the alleged problems with the posting of the clubs latest accounts and Cellino's two latest court cases in Italy the Happy Chocker, Quiet One and yours truly focused on the 6 mutinous players who apparently decided they were injured and wouldn't be travelling to London for this game. Dom Matteo had summed up the situation eloquently the night before on Twitter "Send them packing.....absolute disgrace. #Shitbags. Not a lot to argue about there then although Silvestri did take a hell of battering from Jerome against Norwich. Still at least the team Redders is taking will be "up for it" me thinks. We always knew that Cellino was as mad as a box of Frogs but credit to the Italian he is making Ken Bates reign at Elland Road look like a walk in the park.
The immaculate pitch at the Valley was in stark contrast to last year's visit when the game was delayed due to a lack of drainage. Redfearn had to change the team from the one that lost to Norwich as he brought in Austin for Ngoyi, Taylor in for Silvestri and Morison in for the injured Barardi and also switching back to a 4:4:2 formation. Charlie Taylor dropped back to the left back spot. Just over 3,000 fans had followed the team to South East London for this end of season game and they soon made their feelings known regarding the missing 6 players. "Play for Leeds or f*** off home" Followed by "Sell the club and f*** off home" and the inevitable "there's only one Neil Redfearn" Definitely no sitting on the fence from the long suffering loyal Leeds fans.
Leeds started the game on the front foot as they took the game to their hosts. Austin took immediate control of the midfield after his enforced absence as he sprayed the ball intelligently around the park. Morison and Sharp looked eager up front whilst Bamba and Cooper were commanding the back line. After all the chaos off the pitch it looked as if we were in for an improved performance on the pitch. Vetokele went close for Charlton with a header but Taylor did just enough to put him off before Austin clattered a free kick into the Charlton wall at the other end. Leeds were knocking the ball about with confidence and on 22 minutes neat build up play freed Mowatt on the right. His cross was flicked on by Morison straight into the path of Murphy with the goal gaping in front of him but the Leeds midfielder blazed the chance over the bar with me and another 3,000 Leeds fans already screaming "get in".
Chances began to flow for Leeds augmented by a Morison charge down that nearly sneaked in as the Charlton goalie hesitated on a clearance. Sharp was next to get the raucous Leeds fans excited but his header just went the wrong side of the bar. Murphy also tested Henderson with a rasping shot as Leeds continued to turn the screw. "Surely a goal is coming" I mused to HC. Cue a chance for Charlton as Vetokele deflected a wayward shot onto Taylor's post when the majority of the fans behind the goal thought it was going in. Phew. Leeds pushed forward again and swift interpassing saw Byram hurtle into the box onto a lovely through ball only for Buyens to bring him down. PENALTY. Surprisingly no card of any colour for Buyens despite the fact Byram was 10 yards from goal with nobody else covering?
Sharp and Austin had a discussion before Sharp put the ball on the spot. His spot kick was fingertipped away by Henderson to keep the scores level. Bugger! Leeds kept attacking though and soon Mowatt drew a save from Henderson with a sweet shot. From the corner the impossible happened and suddenly everything was right with the world. Luke Murphy swung in a low corner and Morison glided past his marker and volleyed the ball firmly past Henderson to give Leeds the lead and send 3,000 Leeds fans into incredulous celebrations. First goal for 2 years but what a goal! 1.0 Leeds.
The first half ended on high for Leeds with the goal as they deservedly went in for their cup of tea one nil up and really should have been more. Clearly the late withdrawals of the 6 foreign players hadn't had any detrimental effect on the team in fact it was the opposite as noted by the away fans singing "We don't need Italians" which was slightly incorrect because there was an Albanian and a Frenchman amongst the stayaways. Leeds were well worth their lead but could they convert the lead into much needed win?
Charlton upped the tempo in the 2nd half and pushed Leeds back without too much pressure on Stuart Taylor. Vetokele attempted a shot but was wide and Murphy headed weakly at Henderson before Austin struck a twenty yard shot that had Henderson scrambling to save but it was the home team who were beginning to take control of the game. Mowatt so nearly relieved that pressure when he weaved his way through the Charlton defence but hit his curling shot too high with the goalie beaten.
With 15 minutes left on the clock Charlton broke quickly after Leeds had given up the ball far too easily.............a long cross to the back post found Watt all by himself and unlike Murphy in the first half from a similar position he powered his shot firmly into the net. 1.1 and game on. 5 minutes later Gudmundsson was once again hurting Leeds as he danced into the Leeds box and fired a stinging shot that Taylor parried out straight to the feet Vetokele who he then tripped as he tried to recover his mistake. Penalty. Bollox. Of course Buyens was never going to miss. A fact made harder to swallow knowing that he went so close to a red card in the first half when he brought down Byram. 2.1 Charlton and all of sudden it was a long way back.
Montenegro (he's Paraguayan not Italian) and Dawson came on for Byram and Sharp as Leeds looked for the equaliser. Cooper had a back post header deflected for a corner on 90 minutes but the ref gave a goal kick and Dawson swung a lovely ball into the box deep into added time but all to no avail. Final score 2.1 Charlton and a 5th straight defeat for Leeds.
A disappointing result especially after we had much the better of the first half but we lost our way in the second period. Austin was my man of the match. Morison took his goal well and had a much better game than usual. If Leeds had taken their chances in the first half then we could have taken all three points........but they didn't. This game showed both the potential of this Leeds team and the glaring weaknesses namely up front and out wide but with the club in the current turmoil I'll be happy with a different owner, preferably a fit and proper one this time, together with Redfearn still at the club come the start of the next season. Unfortunately I doubt I will see either of those come true.
Wednesday away up next with just two games remaining of a very trying season. Will we win again this season? Mmmmm answers on a post card please.