By Andrew Butterwick
In the dim and distant past match days used to be all about the football, the pre and post match refreshments and enjoying the company of most loyal and crazy band of brothers in the English game. As each week goes by match day for Leeds United fans now necessitates a good understanding of economics, corporate law and cash flow to have any chance of working out what the f*** is going on at our once mighty club. The cataclysmic financial meltdown our owners, the investment bank GFH capital, have overseen has left the club handing round the begging bowl just to pay the wages this month not to mention the army of creditors queueing up on Elland Road hoping to get paid for their services. With the club losing £1m a month the main focus of the media and fans has been who can fund the day to day running of Leeds United a task that up to this week Massimo Cellino has undertaken.
What a difference from the end of December when the grinning, PR frontman for GFH, David Haigh, assured fans that "Funds were in place for Brian McD to strengthen the team in the January window" That clearly was at best an optimistic untruth and at worst a deliberate lie to paper over the cracks of the most incompetent mismanagement of the club since...........well the last regime. Speaking of which the White Bearded One put his own interesting view on recent events in a "Lord Haw Haw" type broadcast from his new mouthpiece, Radio Yorkshire. In a speech rich in irony he berated GFH for the incompetent running of the club and blasted Cellino for trying to sell Ross Mac to Boro in January! Outrageous Ken.....fancy selling our best players to raise cash............hang on a minute haven't we been down this road before?
So with a background of Leeds waging war against an inevitable financial Armageddon the Happy Chocker, Quiet One and yours truly once again pointed the car towards LS11 and set off for the clash with the mighty Donny Rovers a team struggling in the relegation zone but worryingly hitting a bit of decent form of late. "So where has all the money going?" HC thought out a loud. "Very good question young man but there's only 2 hours to kick off so let's talk about the football. After all the pathetic run of spineless results from Brain McD's team can't continue can it?"
There was a strange smell around Elland Road as we parked the car and headed for the members bar. No it wasn't the excited droves of young scouts and junior football teams heading for the cheese wedge it was fear. The fear of defeat against Donny Rovers something that only a few short years ago would have been ludicrous but not today. Today fear had permeated the souls of the faithful Leeds fans after a string of shocking performances. Question was what changes would BM make after Tuesday's horror show? The answer was one as Stewart came in for Noel Hunt on the left wing. Mmmm not the boldest of moves I commented to HC.
The game started with the home crowd immediately raising the decibel level but it was the visitors who took the early initiative as their midfield strolled around the Elland Road pitch seemingly untouchable by any player in white and passing the ball for fun to each other. Things were not looking good as that all too familiar feeling of hopelessness drove away the slightest bit of pre match optimism. We were in for another long afternoon. On 20 minutes my worst fears were confirmed when another piece of woeful defending led to the opening goal for Donny. Rovers made good use of the wide open space on the right flank to fire a teasing ball into the box which Pearce flung himself at to prevent a certain goal from Brown. Cotterill took the resultant corner. Leeds failed to clear and with the defence strolling out as if on a Sunday afternoon walk the ball found it's way out to Cotterill who casually advanced into the box before hitting a searing shot via a slight deflection past Butland. 1.0 Donny. The atmosphere in the ground changed. "F*** off to the GFH" chanted the kop.
Confidence drained from the Leeds team as they floundered against a team fighting for their championship lives. Leeds looked leaderless and all at sea. The midfield pairing of Austin and Murphy were quite frankly shocking. They didn't close anyone down and couldn't pass to a fellow team mate. Apart from that they weren't bad! Quinn escaped with a yellow card after cynically bringing down Stewart as he sped away towards the box but chances for Leeds were as scarce as money in their current account as the game headed for half time. This was shaping up to break the record for the worst half of football seen at Elland Road for the tenth time this season. The icing on the cake was a well taken Billy Sharp goal just before half time after more lackadaisical defending. Smith nearly got one back deep into added time but the team trooped off with boos ringing in their ears and me with my head firmly planted in my hands. Rovers were well worth their 2 goal lead. Leeds were just shocking.
It's got to the stage where even the most vociferous urinal philosophers just can't be arsed anymore. We've seen far too many shocking performances this season even to get upset. We just expect it now. At least Brian McD realised the ineptness of his starting midfield duo and dragged both Murphy and Austin off at half time replacing them with White and Tonge. Mowatt dropped into a deep midfield role with Tonge now the play-maker. White went on the wing. Suddenly Donny were on the back foot as both the subs made an immediate impact. White, who struggled to get in the Blunts team whilst on loan, looked a breath of fresh air as he attacked with pace and passion. Half chances fell to Ross Mac and soon the kop were baying for a penalty as a clear Doncaster hand blocked a cross from Byram. Stewart also started to chance his arm on the other wing as the Leeds crowd hopefully roared on the beleaguered mighty whites.
On the hour the Leeds pressure finally told. A deep free kick found Smith towering at the back post and his header dropped invitingly in front of Ross Mac who expertly converted with his head to send the home fans into unexpected delight. 2.1 Donny. Now could Leeds get up a head of steam and complete an unlikely comeback? Well for the next 15 minutes the answer was most definitely yes. Smith and Pearce went agonisingly close with headers while both Stewart and Pugh tried their luck with fizzing shots. Donny were hanging on and for once in recent weeks I was out of my seat urging the penniless home team on.
Ross Mac was now showing all the quality that will have the vultures circling in the summer as he ran the visitors defence ragged. Johnstone in the Rovers goal was yellow carded for taking the Scot out after foolishly coming too far out of his box to clear. Marching on Together belted out all round the ground in hope of inspiring an equaliser. 4 minutes of added time gave Leeds hope but despite some heavy artillery into the Rovers box our South Yorkshire cousins held firm for a rare
victory against their Yorkshire neighbours. Full Time 2.1 Doncaster.
There were many grim faces as the crowd streamed away from Elland Road. If we suffer administration and the inevitable 10 point deduction we would be sat precariously just two points ahead of Barnsley in the final relegation place. Not a pretty thought. The 2nd half performance couldn't make up for a woeful first 45 minutes from Leeds. None of the off the field problems are an excuse for that showing. Tonge made a good impression when he came on simply by showing for the ball and passing to his fellow players. White added some pace and determination even if his final ball is still not the best. Overall this was another case of too little too late though. I'm not sure we have put two good halves of football together all season?
Struggling Charlton arrive at Elland Road on Tuesday the day after the FL hearing of Cellino's appeal. These are really dark days in LS11. I can only see it getting much worse before it gets better I'm afraid. Can we grind out 3 points against the Addicks? Will Austin and Murphy join Diouf, Kebe et al in the Leeds United rest home for failed players. Will Cellino be strutting his stuff in the directors box? Roll on Tuesday.