By Andrew Butterwick
Leeds United might have designated today's game a "Paint it White" game but the West Yorks weather wasn't joining in with the spirit of the initiative as a horrible grey drizzle descended upon Elland Road. Neil Warnock had injury problems that curtailed his selection options so Habibou, Diouf and Austin all got a starting place at the expense of Ross Mac, Morison and Norris. "Well the fans who have clamoured for Habibou to get a start will be pleased" I muttered to the Happy Chocker as we had a pre match pint of last of the play off wine. Still Huddersfield were in shocking form and leaking goals for fun so we should get three points that would keep the play off dream alive? Shouldn't we?
The Paint it White salute was impressive as the players ran towards the kop. All we needed now was a passionate performance and a few goals to saviour. Leeds started as if they meant business. Luke Varney met a Warnock corner at the front post only to see his header beat Smithies in the Huddersfield goal but cleared off the line by a desperate defender's head. Minutes later Diouf's low shot from the edge of the box had Smithies stretching every sinew to tip the ball round the post. This was a good start and Huddersfield were rocking. Habibou's first three touches showed some promise as he defied his big frame to engineer neat passes that released Leeds attacks. The sheen soon wore of the mighty whites though as the game became almost attritional as the lack of quality on both sides shone through like an embarrassing Uncle at a family wedding. It was a local derby but there wasn't much to stoke the atmosphere on the pitch.
Vaughan should have put the Dog botherers in front when he inexplicably found acres of space in the box but headed a perfect cross onto the bar with Kenny well beaten. Clayton was having by far the better of his midfield tussle with his ex colleagues despite his liking for giving the ball away cheaply. This wasn't a match that was pleasing to the eye. Jermaine Beckford got the loudest cheer of the half as he warmed up in front of his adoring ex fans. Mmmmm I'm sure he used to be a lazy bastard in a lot of people's eyes? The first 45 minutes finished with Kenny saving superbly from a Danny Ward header after some head tennis in the Leeds box. Half Time 0.0. "I can't seeing this staying goalless" I suggested to HC. "I don't know about Paint it White the first half was more like Paint it Shite" HC moaned.
Austin was sort of industrious in midfield with his two best bits of play ending up with two Town players in the advertising hoardings. Diouf was an eager beaver in the first half reminding fans of his undoubted skill but also his fast reducing speed on the ball. Habibou started well but looked laboured as half time approached. The game desperately needed a goal as the 2nd half got underway.
From the stands neither team appeared to have the usual derby day passion. I'm not sure if that was as a result of the disjointed nature of the game or what but the match needed a spark and it got it with just over 50 minutes gone. Leeds indulged their neighbours with some generous defending as first Byram headed the ball back into the box from the right and then Green stood by motionless as Danns got goal side of home volleyed home the opening goal. The travelling Huddersfield fans celebrated their precious lead whilst there was a group shrug of the shoulders by the home fans. After all we are now far to well used to our favourite team flattering to deceive us into thinking we might just have a chance of the play offs and then delivering a stunning body blow. 0.1 Huddersfield.
The goal shook everybody up. Was that the subs board being prepared by the Leeds bench? It can't be there's still over thirty minutes left I thought but no I was right NW was making not one but two subs and it wasn't the 90th minute. Unbelievable. More unbelievable that it worked almost immediately. White and Hall replaced Habibou and the seriously out of touch Green. "If we're relying on those two to pull us out of the shit were in big trouble" I depressingly muttered to HC. But how wrong was I? White's first touch was a cushioned header into the goal after ghosting round the back of the Town defence to equalise from an inevitable long ball into the box. 1.1 and game on.
Each team now looked for the winner as they slugged it out toe to toe like two aging overweight heavyweights looking for the knockout blow. The game entered the last ten minutes with the scores still level. Could Leeds reverse the trend of recent weeks in conceding late goals? Well Austin nearly pinched all three points when he latched onto the ball on the edge of the box and screamed a volley onto the bar. Varney had a penalty shout turned down as he was nudged in the box as Leeds pushed forward looking for the win. Hall looked off the pace though and when he lost possession on a promising attack Leeds looked stretched at the back. Town broke quickly and exposed the sparsely populated Leeds back line........Vaughan easily found space in the box and slid the ball coolly past Kenny. 2.1 Huddersfield and the final drop of the Last of the Play Off wine emptied from Leeds' cracked glass.
Leeds still had time to miss a glorious chance to equalise in added time as Byram made a horrible hash of a chance at the back post. The referee blew his whistle to end the game and Leeds' season. What has been excruciatingly obvious all season, the fact that we are just not good enough for the play offs, was finally confirmed. Our chance to put pressure on the top six by beating a poor Huddersfield side was refused. In truth we never looked like winning despite hitting the post twice. This was a poor match between two poor teams in a poor division.
The win will ease the relegation fears for Town ensuring we can renew this rivalry next year. For Leeds a massive cloud of uncertainty continues to thrive in a low depression over Elland Road. Who will takeover from NW? Will there be any money to strengthen the team? Will NW leave before the end of the season? Whatever happened to Adam Drury? One thing is for sure and that is the current team are nowhere near good enough to go up.
A weekend off next week due to the international break. Hopefully Morison and Ross Mac are fit for our trip to Ipswich. Difficult to see much joy during the final games of this season now?
Hopefully a new manager and few new players could lift spirits over the