Guest writer Andrew Butterwick takes a look at Leeds United's Championship clash against MK Dons.
After Tuesday's hugely disappointing performance against Ipswich it was with no little apprehension that I pointed the car southwards for the trip to Milton Keynes for the latest instalment of Leeds United's championship campaign. There was plenty to discuss during the 3 hour journey. When will the mad Italian implode now Adam Pearson has left the club? Will Flapper Silvestri keep his place in goal? Will Botaka get his chance to show his You Tube skills? Yes there was plenty to keep the Happy Chocker, Quiet One and yours truly occupied as we hurtled down the M1.
Whilst Milton Keynes Dons have an army of critics for the way they stole Wimbledon's football club it's difficult not to admire their fantastic stadium. Admittedly the plush padded seats are rendered redundant when over 6,000 Leeds fans roll into town but everything else is top notch at Stadium MK.
Rosler had changed the team from Tuesday but probably not in the way most fans expected. Wootton came in for Berardi at right back and Byram and Mowatt returned to a 3 man midfield at the expense of Adeyemi and Antenucci. It's fair to say that there weren't many fans within my earshot who had anything complimentary to say about the Wootton selection although Berardi has been exposed by pacy wingers in the last two games. Why not start Byram there was the consensus view? Botaka made it onto the bench and Silvestri kept his place.
Warm late summer sunshine greeted the kick off as Leeds went in search of a performance and result to banish the memory of the midweek defeat to Ipswich. The away team opened brightly with both Mowatt and Taylor firing in shots at the MK goal within the first 5 minutes but that early joy was short lived as MK soon found their rythym and copious amounts of space in midfield to hurt Leeds. Baker, Hall, Murphy and Carruthers all had shots at the Leeds goal before the 20 minute mark was reached. The Dons midfield were simply passing straight through the Leeds midfield with virtually no resistance. The home side's dominance even managed to quieten the Leeds hordes packed behind Silvestri's goal as that all too familiar feeling of witnessing another less than pleasing performance from Leeds in front of a big away following unfolded in front of my eyes. Then just when it seemed inevitable that the Dons would take the lead Leeds woke up.
The impressive Charlie Taylor decided he'd had enough of pressure at the Leeds end and joined the next attack swooping in from the left and round Baker into the box where the flailing Dons defender sent Taylor crashing to the ground........... PENALTY! No doubts this time definitely a penalty but who would take it? As Wood stepped up there were groans from some fans who recalled his attempt to clear the stand at the Keepmoat but their fears were allayed as he struck the ball firmly home to give Leeds an unlikely lead and send the 6,000 fans behind the goal and a good number in the adjoining section of MK fans into ecstasy.
Wood should have doubled the lead minutes later when for some unknown reason he tried to chest a brilliant cross from Dallas into the goal. Why didn't he just head it? MK continued to slice through our midfield though and minutes later they should have been level when Gallagher smashed the ball over an empty net after a superb save by Silvestri from a shot from Hall. "We'll never hold onto this lead" forecast the Happy Chocker. Nobody disagreed..............but just a minute later Leeds doubled their lead as once again Taylor went thundering up field and shrugged off a couple of challenges before drilling the ball into the bottom corner of the MK net. 2.0 Leeds. "How the hell are we two up?" HC asked above the din of the delirious Leeds fans. I had no idea especially as the ref had missed a Bamba handball in the box that should have been a penalty. At times there is no logic in Football but we weren't bothered as the teams trooped off at half time with Leeds 2.0 in front. Unbelievable Jeff!
Even at 2.0 up Leeds had to stop the flow of MK chances if they were going to claim all three points. They started the 2nd half on the front foot but too many times we were second to the ball and giving MK too much space. If Silvestri was the villain of the peace on Tuesday he was going some way to make up for that with a string of decent saves from Poyet and Murphy. MK were not holding back as they looked for the equaliser which did leave space for Leeds to exploit but too many times the ball was given up easily by the men in yellow which just put pressure back on their overworked defence. Meanwhile in the stands the Leeds fans in the MK section were now been led into the away end by the stewards. What started as a trickle ended with a mass exodus of most of the section into the welcoming arms of their brethren. This lifted the decibel level as the Leeds fans tried to lift their team but disaster was lurking just around the corner.
Wood received a good ball in the centre circle and not for the first time he lost possession......MK swept the ball down the left flank and with Wootton exposed two on one Murphy slid an inch perfect ball into the box for substitute Simon Church to pull one back for the Dons. Jesus Christ! With 15 long minutes still to go the chances of a Leeds win were draining away quickly. Somehow the footballing gods were smiling on Leeds though as Carruthers clattered into Dallas way after the ball had gone earning him a straight red card and reducing the home side to 10 men. Surely Leeds could see this out now without too much trouble? Well no in fact exactly the opposite. Adeyemi replaced Mowatt quickly followed by Antenucci coming on for Byram as Leeds sat deep and invited MK to attack them, not only that when they did win the ball back they either hoofed the ball aimlessly up field or waste 3 golden opportunities to kill the game with a third goal. While the Leeds goal was leading a charmed life Wood fired a wonderful chance into the side netting and Byram wasted a simple chance by over hitting his pass to Dallas with the goal at their mercy. Nerves were jangling and nails were none existent amongst the Leeds fans as the sign went up for 6 minutes added time.
MK won their 186th corner of the game and their goalie joined the attack. I daren't look but somehow the ball landed at Cook's feet on the edge of the Leeds box with wide open spaces between him and the MK goal. He set off with the ball at his feet and the MK goalie well behind him and kept going the length of the field......."shoot" came the cry from the stands as he past the half way line but with only one defender left he continued on. Suddenly Bellusci appeared on his shoulder, the same Bellusci who had been sent on to shore up the defence, Cook took the ball into the box before shooting.........the MK defenders leg prevented the goal but the ball spun high in the air towards Bellusci who attempted a spectacular scissor kick volley that had it gone in would have caused a riot in the Leeds end but unfortunately just fizzed over the bar.Finally the referee blew his whistle and don't ask me how but we had won with the result far better than the
The Leeds fans streamed away from the ground in joyful relief. Cooper had an outstanding game but Taylor was my man of the match. The lack of protection of the defence by the midfield is a major concern in my view. The number of times all three of our midfielders were caught up field together was naive at best and undisciplined at worst. Still a wins a win when all said and done. MK will quite rightly feel hard done by but that's football and that's the championship for you.
The long drive home once we had eventually escaped Milton Keynes gridlocked roundabouts was a good one. It always is when we win. High flying Middlesbrough up next for Leeds. Always a good away day in the land of the smog!
By Andrew Butterwick
This article is taken from Andrew's very popular blog 'Travels of a Leeds fan' which you can find at leedsfan.blogspot.co.uk
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