By Andrew Butterwick
A festive spirit was in the air as the Happy Chocker and the Quiet One joined me for the short journey to the Keepmoat Stadium for our clash with Doncaster, a team we've triumphed against in all 5 meetings since that painful play off final defeat back in 2008. Slade were belting out "Merry Xmas Everybody" on the radio,
or was it Wizard I never can tell the difference, as numerous twinkling Xmas lights lit up our way into South Yorkshire. The growing confidence driven by our recent excellent form and in particular last week's comeback contributed to a large dose of positiveness as we parked up ready for the pre match refreshments.
The disappointment at this week's news that Blackstock would be out for the season was countered by the signing of the wonderfully named ex Southampton youngster, Gboly Ariyibi, and the return of both Lees and Wootton after injury. Donny were not to be taken lightly though as the mighty QPR found to their cost on their recent visit to the Keepmoat add to that a certain Billy Barndoor lurking on the bench waiting to come on and score his inevitable goal against Leeds and all was set for a riveting local derby with another huge contingent from LS11 in the away end.
Brian McD somewhat surprisingly dropped Byram to the bench to accommodate Lees return to the centre of defence with Pelts moving to the wing back slot. A cold blustery wind was blowing behind Leeds' back as the game got under way. In the opening exchanges both teams struggled to cope with the difficult wind. This was definitely a day for putting your foot on the ball and not giving the ball air but neither team figured that out in the first scrappy 15 minutes. Ross Mac had the first decent chance of the match as the burly Smith nodded the ball back into the six yard box from a deep corner but the prolific striker's header went over the bar. A third of the stadium was full of Leeds fans who were trying to lift their favourites and get some control of the game but there weren't many players happy to bring the ball down from high and play on the deck. On 20 minutes Rudy Austin made a typical barnstorming run out of his own half with Furman in hot pursuit. The Donny player couldn't match the Jamaican's pace and foolishly dragged him down on the Leeds right flank. Referee, Phil Dowd, had his trademark smirk as he gave Furman a yellow card. Mowatt lined up the free kick and with help of the wind curled a teasing cross into the heart of the home box where Matt Smith bravely dived between flying boots and headed home the opener. Get innnnnnnnnnnnn! 1.0 Leeds.
The away end celebrated the goal with glee as the prospect of a 6th straight win against Donny in all competitions loomed into view. Leeds were having the better of a difficult game and chances started to appear for the mighty whites as they went in search of a second goal. Ross Mac fired a couple of shots fizzing over the Donny bar, Mowatt tested Turnbull in the home goal with a right footed shot before Austin made a complete hash of a golden chance on the edge of the box. At the other end Zaliukas, Lees and Pearce were battling well to nullify the home attack in a less than classic game. As half time approached Leeds had the best move of the half as Ross Mac, Pelts and Mowatt opened up the Donny left flank with some sweet passing before Ross Mac swung in a lovely cross for Matt Smith to rise like a salmon and head inches over. Half time. 1.0 Leeds.
Some of the urinal philosophers had clearly been watching a different game to me. "we haven't created a chance" one fan moaned whilst another thought "Austin is shite and should be subbed". It was a half that Leeds had applied some good pressure when they had got the ball down and played but too often the ball was in the air. Smith was battling well and Ross Mac had showed glimpses of his undoubted class. We needed a second goal though and facing the strong wind in the 2nd half might cause one or two squeaky bum moments for the Leeds faithful?
My fears were realised as Donny started the half on top as they tried to keep the ball on the floor to good effect. Leeds assisted Donny by continually giving the ball back to their South Yorkshire hosts in an early bout of seasonal goodwill to their neighbours. Paddy Kenny was soon flinging himself about as shots curled in from the men in hoops without really troubling the best goalie in the division. The travelling hordes were getting restless as Donny piled on the pressure. Robinson had the ball in the net on 55 minutes but a late linesman's flag rightly chalked it off for offside. I wasn't the only one heaving a sigh of relief as a torrent of doom and gloom oozed from the away end.
The Pantomime season is upon us and the classic Pantomime villain, Macheda the Italian Stallion on loan from the Theatre of Shite, began to irritate both the Leeds midfield and their fans with his touches of class. To say Leeds were having to dig in was an under statement. Brain McD has got his team organised and the defensive pattern held up well against the home onslaught but the midfield threesome were beginning to sink. What was needed was a dose of Michael Brown to spread his unique bit of festive cheer on the game. So local lad Mowatt made way for number 96 Michael Brown. He immediately steadied the ship with simple control and short passes.......together with the usual bite in his tackles!
The Brown effect soon paid dividends. Finally Leeds passed the ball across the pitch and suddenly Ross Mac was free and bearing down on goal..............the leading striker in the championship coolly slotted the ball past the advancing Turnbull for the killer 2nd goal. The away support erupted in mass relief as once again the Leeds talisman came to their rescue with a class finish. Soon the old classic "You should have gone Xmas shopping" belted out from the joyous Leeds fans. The stadium started to empty as Leeds suddenly found their MoJo. Ten minutes later Austin finished superbly from a Ross Mac cross to give Leeds a flattering 3.0 lead and game over. It was party time in the Leeds end whilst the trickle of home fans leaving the ground was now a deluge of Tsunami proportions. Final score 3.0 Leeds and the mighty whites back up to 6th spot in the table.
Leeds have played better than this and lost this season but the undoubted joy on the faces of the 4,000 fans spilling out into the cold South Yorkshire evening told it's own story. Leeds had won convincingly in the end in a game that they looked like possibly losing after an hour. Zaliukas was outstanding again whilst Smith and Ross Mac caused problems all afternoon for the home defence.............when they got the ball! Michael Brown deserves a special mention for his effective cameo that in lots of ways changed the game. Funniest moment of the match was when Brown broke free with the ball in the Leeds half and was hauled down by the last Donny defender a good 60 yards from goal. "get him off" we all shouted at the Donny player as he got only a yellow card......well Brown would have outpaced the rest of the defenders and scored the 4th wouldn't he?
Another solid but not spectacular performance from Leeds to lift them into the play off places as we approach the crucial Xmas period. Barnsley up next for Leeds. Traditionally a game we are always over generous to our South Yorkshire neighbours. I've got a feeling this year might just be different?
Ohhhh Brian McDermott!