By Andrew Butterwick
The day of West Yorkshire's answer to some Spanish derby called El Classico had arrived. Admittedly El WestYorkio didn't have the same ring to it but there was certainly plenty of local passion, pride and pre match tension in the air as we made our way down the hill from the station to the aptly named John Smiths Stadium. Who needs the Nou Camp? Disappointingly the stadium might carry the name of a famous West Yorkshire Bitter but there wasn't a drop of alcohol on offer once inside the ground due to West Yorkshire Police's restrictions. Good job the Happy Chocker had brought plenty of emergency rations for the short train journey then!
All the pre match discussions involved Blackstock, Vaughan and Smith. Surely Smith would keep his place after his efforts against Brum? Brian McD's sensible pre emptive strike in signing Blackstock to prevent him continuing his fruitful run of scoring against Leeds might also benefit the mighty whites if he could also score a few for us. Off the bench to get the winner today was a possibility? The Puppy Dogs were going to miss their top scorer James Vaughan who kindly got him self sent off last week in preparation for the El WestYorkio derby. Town have had enough problems scoring when he was in the team this year never mind when he's sulking in the stands. But this was a derby.............anything goes in a derby as the form book flies out of the cliched window. This was a local difficulty with more than just three points at stake.........well at least for the Town fans it is!
The atmosphere inside the stadium reached boiling point as kick off time approached despite the ridiculous start time. As expected Brian McD stuck with last week's winning team with Blackstock on the bench. Town plumped for returning local lad Stead to replace Vaughan up front. The dazzling autumnal sunshine showered the rocking stadium as the game got underway. Leeds were immediately on the front foot and within a minute Smith drew a good save from Smithies with a looping header. Mowatt struck the resulting corner deep to the back post where Smith rose like a Saturn V space ship and thumped home a towering header. 1.0 Leeds. The packed away stand erupted in unexpected early joy. Leeds have never lost a lead after scoring first this season so hopes were high as the inevitable anthem of Marching On Together wafted into the Kirklees sky.
The early goal sparked a frenetic period of Leeds pressure as Town rocked from the unexpected early blow. Smith tried his luck again but his attempted shot was blocked. Town responded with an attack of their own which Tom Lees ended by conceding a corner in front of the massed ranks of Leeds fans. With a mass of bodies in the six yard box Hammill picked out Ward in acres of space on the edge of the box who had plenty of time to control the ball and then hit a screamer past the helpless Kenny. 1.1 and the home fans in ecstasy all with less than ten minutes on the clock. What a start to El WestYorkio!
The goal sent Leeds into their shell and encouraged Town to settle on the ball and enjoyed the majority of possession for next 30 minutes. Chances started to flow at both ends. Duane Holmes, who HC at first thought was a girl, nearly gave Town the lead from the edge of the box only to be denied by a fantastic Pearce block. Hammill was next to go near with Kenny tipping his shot over the bar. Leeds were constantly 2nd to the ball and struggling to stay in the game. Despite this Leeds sliced the home defence open with a lovely move down the right but Byram's cut back was gratefully hoofed into the stand by a Town defender. The game was slipping away from Leeds though as the midfield pairing of Mowatt and Murphy struggled to make any impact against a lively home midfield.
Half Time came with the game still tied at 1.1. Town had had the better of the first half but both sides had spurned chances to add to the score. The tannoy announcer had his usual dig at Leeds fans during the interval "entertainment" with his piece de resistance rolling out an ex Town player who apparently scored the winner against Leeds some 30 years ago in a Milk Cup tie................wow! Once he'd finished his comedy piece the teams were back on the pitch ready for the 2nd period. Confidence wasn't high amongst the fans around me. A lot had switched to doom and gloom mode such a short time after last week's triumph against Brum.
The early part of the 2nd half was scrappy and tense with both teams yielding the ball far too easily when in possession. Chances were still there though......... Danny Ward headed over from inside the box while Smith so nearly caught Smithies out with a left footed shot at the other end. Maybe we could snatch a win after all? Leeds enjoyed a burst of pressure culminating in Luke Murphy missing a golden chance as he dragged his shot from 8 yards wide with the goal gaping in front of him. What a miss! It was going to be one of those days. Austin was next to spurn a chance as he failed to convert a lay off from McCormack. As if to rub salt into our wounds after tantalising us with some serious pressure we then handed the initiative back to Town as Lees turned a cross into his own goal. 2.1 Town and their fans were dancing with delight.
What Leeds desperately needed was a quick response but what we got was the sight of Jon Stead rounding Kenny only to thankfully roll his shot against the post. Leeds were like a punch drunk boxer waiting for a knockout. Brian McD decided it was time for Mr Blackstock to enter the fray in place of the disappointing Murphy. Town had given a needless free kick away on the right hand touch line. Leeds' latest loan signing trotted into the penalty box and with his first touch glanced a delightful header past Smithies into the net. 2.2 and the roar of delight and relief from the Leeds fans must have been heard as far away as Nottingham. Not a bad way to mark the start of your Leeds career Mr Blackstock.
Now all we had to do was hang on for a point with just under 20 minutes left. That warm glowing post goal feeling didn't last long though. The local press headline writers were soon salivating as local lad Stead was somehow given the space in the box to rattle the ball past Kenny and into the bottom of the net. 3.2 Town and this topsy turvy derby took another turn. Leeds now had just 14 minutes to retrieve something from the game. Ross Mac went down in the box under a heavy challenge..........play on...........Smith climbed high at the far post but his header went inches wide whilst he ended up entangled in the net and then Blackstock was clearly dragged down in the box in added time only for the ref to bottle the decision and wave play on. It ended 3.2 to Town.
This wasn't a good performance from Leeds but they did have chances to get a result. The midfield struggled today and I thought the ball into Smith was used far too frequently at the expense of playing the ball on the floor and getting round the back of the fragile home defence. Blackstock looked good for the short time he was on but last week's flying wing backs were hesitant and disjointed this time round. In midfield we were far too easily muscled off the ball and even Ross Mac seemed to be off colour. This Leeds team is still work in progress. Smith showed his promise though and despite the defence shipping 3 goals Pearce battled gamely throughout.
The journey home was a muted affair. I suppose I should be used to losing in Yorkshire derby's by now but no matter how hard I try and how much practice I get it still leaves me with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Still Yeovil up next at Elland Road.........that should give us hope....................
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