After tearing across the country at breakneck speed I arrived at The Riverside in time for kick off of Leeds United's latest championship test against Tony Mowbray's Boro side. The Riverside is one of the few away grounds where we have had plenty of joy in recent years so I was hopeful that we could put the frustration of Saturday's disappointing draw behind us..............not to mention the renewed speculation of another takeover/investment/sale in LS11.
As ever an impressive number of Leeds fans had shuffled work and family commitments to make this midweek fixture, especially considering this was the 2nd of three away games in a week. Leeds United are criticised on many levels but the loyalty and volume of our away support is a welcome constant in the increasingly turbulent atmosphere on Planet Leeds. Warnock's team selection saw him keep the same team as Saturday with Diouf and Austin returning to the bench after missing out at Wolves. With Boro pointless this year but still in 6th spot and Leeds seemingly inability to win away from Elland Road something had to give on a wintery night on Teeside.
The game started brightly with mistakes on both sides aiding some adventurous play from both teams. Boro so nearly took the lead after two minutes when Williams found himself all alone at the far post but shanked his shot just over the bar. Our marking in the box is not the best! But before a dark cloud of depression could descend on me it was Leeds who were suddenly carving out chances with some decent football. Norris had two chances from the edge of the box after excellent build up play involving Morrison, Ross Mac and Green. Varney, fresh from his goal scoring on Saturday, sort to add another as he took advantage of good set up play from Morison but failed to trouble Steele in the Boro goal. Boro looked dangerous when they attacked though as the Leeds defence stood firm. This was turning out to be an entertaining and lively game but don't be fooled..........quality was at a premium on both sides.
The referee wasn't helping the flow of the game as his finicky style frustrated both sides. Pelts got a yellow card for a perfectly good tackle in midfield. Sometimes I thinks ref's and managers watch a different game to me? Shortly after that the best move of the game saw Ross Mac latch onto a pin point ball from Green and helped by Steele's timely slip in the Boro goal Ross Mac had the open goal wide in front of him. He chose to control the ball back onto his right foot before firing the ball at ex Leeds favourite, Woodgate, on the line. A golden chance spurned. Boro's confidence looked fragile. If we could just put one of the chances away they could crumble.
The game flew towards half time with misplaced passes and high balls a plenty dictating that neither side held onto the ball for much longer than 2 nanoseconds. Boro so nearly stole the lead right on half time though as a lovely ball over the top brought a stunning one on one save by Kenny. Half time 0.0. A strange half quite entertaining with a good number of chances but the quality of the football was average at best.
Leeds were now playing towards their 2,000 fans behind the goal and whilst their was plenty of endeavour from the men in white too often than not the final ball didn't match the approach play. A Morison header was easily dealt with by Steele whilst at the other end a free kick from the edge of the box fizzed inches wide. The scrappy play yearned for a goal to fire up the match as both teams played an open game helped by lots of passes going astray. The longer the game went on the more frustrated the away fans got. The lack of quality in the team that has been evident all season can wear you down especially when a team is there for the taking as was this nervy Boro side. But whilst the score remained goalless the match remained in the balance.
Morison was struggling to make an impression and Green was having one of those games where nothing seemed to go right for him typified when he was inches away from a Ross Mac cross in the 6 yard box. Boro were gaining in confidence and they so nearly took the lead when an almighty scramble in the Leeds box saw Lees, Byram and finally Kenny stop the marauding home team. As the game entered the last 10 minutes the deadlock was broken though.
Leeds attacked down the right but when possession was given away for the umpteenth time Boro broke quickly and a long ball to the far post found Main all on his lonesome and his looping header found the back of the net. 1.0 Boro. Another late goal damaging Leeds. The frustration of the weary Leeds fans boiled over. "Warnock, Warnock time to go" rang round the ground. His tactics are not pretty which is palatable when we are winning but on our woeful run of form away from home is something that is very difficult to digest time and time again.
Diouf, Austin and then Habib Habibou came on for a final fling. Main got himself sent off for a second yellow card just before Yabadabbadoo's first touch saw Steele expertly tip his header over the bar. Maybe he can play after all. Morison spurned a superb chance to equalise when he planted a firm header too near Steele. Even 5 minutes added time couldn't help Leeds as the game finished 1.0 to Boro.
Not for the first time this season I've left a match frustrated by the sheer lack of guile and quality in the present Leeds side. This was an end to end game with no little entertainment value but neither sets of fans were kidding themselves. They had watched two very average teams play and one of them is even in the play off places. Frightening!
Driving back down the A1 and reflecting on another away defeat didn't offer much hope for Sunday's cup clash with City............and as for reaching the play offs, that I'm afraid is a dream for another season. Unless there is complete turn round in form our season is drifting away into another anti climax for the second year running. Very disappointing.
Still we can dream of some more cup success? Well at least until 4pm on Sunday we can!