Before the game I couldn’t have told you what day we were one never mind who we were playing, plus I’d forgotten the game had been moved for Sky. Suffering from extreme lethargy I needed a pick me up that’s for sure. The Navan Whites were bringing their new flag with them and I’d arranged to meet them for a photo. We also had a “spy” in the camp today as Jeff Astle’s daughter had travelled with some Leeds fans to the game. For anyone who doesn’t know, Astle scored a goal in 1971 at Elland Road when referee Ray Tinkler let them play on with a player in an offside position. Tinkler has never been forgiven for that decision by Leeds fans which cost us the league. It also resulted in us having to play our first four games of the next season away from home, two at Huddersfield, one at Hull and one at Hillsborough due to a few fans running on the pitch in protest.
There was a fantastic atmosphere in the Peacock before the game and lots of singing which was great. I’m not sure if Dave Aalbers had got in there prior to kick off. I’d spoken to him the day before about Leeds United for a story that will be published on the Dutch site VICE Sports. He couldn’t have chosen a better game to come to either.
The team: Casilla, Jansson, Cooper, Phillips, Hernandez, Harrison, Roberts, Bamford, Alioski and Ayling. Subs: Dallas for Harrison (77) and Shackleton for Roberts (90+2). Leeds won the game 4-0 with goals from Hernandez (20 seconds), Bamford 28 & 63 and Alioski (90 + 2). Attendance was 35,808 with approx. 2,500 WBA fans (they’d had official transport put on for them to attend the game today which forced them to stay until the end of the game!) It was also another sold out game.
I’d just made my way to my row and was on my way to my seat when I stopped in my tracks. Our first attack of the game had seen us go straight to the opposite end and I thought we’re going to score! As the ball hit the back of the net from Hernandez, Elland Road erupted as I tried to keep my beret on my head and take photos amongst the celebrating fans. What a start that was. In my last blog I’d said that Leeds have to remember that the best form of defence is attack so I’m pleased that Bielsa had taken my advice lol! As the crescendo of noise erupted around Elland Road with an electrifying atmosphere, we couldn’t have asked for a better start. Leeds were fighting for every ball and it was great to see. That raised the tempo of the game even more as Leeds drove forward in search of more goals. As is the norm at Elland Road, the ref was giving free kicks galore to West Brom as every little tap saw them go down whereas we didn’t get the same benefit. Admittedly some were free kicks but others were questionable especially when he let things go against us. That did not deter Leeds though as Bamford was put through by Roberts to score a second goal for us ramping up the atmosphere even more. The celebrating Leeds fans couldn’t believe what they were seeing after the recent defeat at QPR, what a contrast as each player was fighting for each other and playing as a team. It was a fantastic sight to see and the only game that came close in my point of view was the Derby home game. West Brom did come close to scoring as their long range shot tested Casilla who was off his line. Luckily for us he tipped the ball over the crossbar making a great save. To be honest though, we limited West Brom to rare chances such was our domination of the game. We had further chances before half time but it was great to go into the break in a two goal lead.
The one thing I did notice though which Peacock-Farrell got loads of stick for, was Casilla’s positioning in goal from free kicks outside the area. For example when the free kick was taken in front of the Kop, the wall was lined up to the right and he stood to the left of that leaving a massive gap at the other side of the goal. West Brom only had to lift the ball over the wall for a clear chance, as there was no way Casilla would have got to the ball and would have needed a man on the line. The only thing I will say on that score is that to me, it obviously isn’t down to the player but the way they are trained that makes them leave the big gap.
It was great having a half time chat after the first half we’d just seen as everyone was in good spirits. I said I needed to get back to my seat just in case we did a repeat of the first half by scoring immediately. I did have to wait a little bit for that to happen though. Admittedly I did get a little nervous at the start of the second half as that was when West Brom were at their most dangerous. You can always tell when I get nervous as the lad in front of me said I had started swearing, oops! It didn’t take Leeds long to get back into the game though, closing them down and fighting for everything. Roberts was having his best game of the season for me although I’d forgotten he’d come from West Brom as it was so long ago, plus Bamford then scored his second goal of the game to put us three goals up. Fantastic scenes all around the ground as the crowd never stopped with their support and singing. I loved every minute of that and it is the best therapy I could ask for. We had even more chances but their goalie made the saves to keep us out. When Shackleton came on during injury time, one of the first things he did was run down the wing to the left of us and cross the ball. When this happened a second time the crowd erupted as the ball hit the back of the net. I thought he’d scored, but it turned out Alioski was in the middle to put it in the back of the net to give us a convincing win at 4-0 to put us back to the top of the table. Happy, happy Leeds fans, players and staff, in fact everyone connected with us were ecstatic that the game had turned out that way. Prior to the game someone said we would get beaten 2-1. My response was I didn’t predict scores and would make my judgement on what I saw on the pitch but it was a must win game for us. Thank you Leeds United for making my night as I loved it. This is what makes supporting Leeds United special, our fans and the team playing like this. It was lovely to see a photo of Bielsa after this game smiling away but he still wouldn’t take any credit, it was always everyone one else who should be given the praise. What a humble man and a fantastic ambassador for the game and it’s a shame there are not more people like him. The bonding he has done with the team is fantastic to see, all for one and one for all, I love it!
We have a nice weekend to look forward to now but as I’ve said, we should just concentrate on Leeds United and forget about everyone else. We stood up to be counted today and will have sent shivers down the spine of others around us. Keep going Leeds and onto Bristol next week so see you there, LUFC – Marching on Together.
Heidi Haigh – A fanatical Leeds United supporter of over 50 years
Author of the following books:
Follow Me and Leeds United
Once a Leeds fan, Always a Leeds fan
Co-author with Andrew Dalton of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Leeds United
The Sleeping Giant Awakens, Leeds United 2016-17
OUT NOW! Back to Reality, Leeds United