As I headed to Elland Road with my granddaughter Alexis the sun was shining making a great day for football. On arrival at our parking spot all the stresses from a manic week slipped away because all that mattered was being at the game. Although I’ve had to limit going on social media recently, I was still aware that we had a lot of nervous fans about this game but had not really thought about it myself. That saying I saw a lone magpie (damn you), also the stat of us scoring first and not losing suddenly came into my head (why?) and us being turned around to play facing the Kop made me think that things just may not go our way today. I also found lots of messages appear on my phone that I’d missed over the last few weeks that somehow hadn’t shown up until today. I had hoped to bring my husband to the game as I thought it would help his recuperation but he wasn’t well enough to be on the terraces sadly.
We headed to the Peacock as I was meeting Martyn and a colleague from Holland who wanted to do an article for a Dutch magazine Staan Tribune. A few friends joined in with the conversation and it was good to have this opportunity and I look forward to seeing it when it is released in the summer. Whilst meeting my daughter Danielle and niece Sonya at Billy’s statue, I took some photos. It was great to get some feedback from one of the Irish lads who thanked me and said he loved my blogs. I couldn’t have a better compliment than being told that what I do is fantastic as it makes him feel like he is there at the games with me. There was also Tom from New York who was attending his first Leeds game too. Future stars are two girls who play for the Leeds United Academy. Marta Parodi had arrived in Leeds from Argentina to attend the Villa game. I’m not sure if she’d made the game today or not but someone had told her to get to the Peacock to enjoy the atmosphere pre game. Hopefully I’ll catch up with her at the Villa game as it would be nice to record her visit with a photo; I wonder if she travelled here with Luciano Becchio lol? It was also nice to hear during the week that my book Follow Me and Leeds United was being read in Costa Rica and that Mark was enjoying the read. His son will also read it after Mark, so it will be interesting to hear a younger generation’s view on what it was like following Leeds United during the seventies.
The team: Casilla, Ayling, Jansson, Berardi, Phillips, Klich, Alioski, Hernandez, Harrison, Roberts and Bamford. Subs: Forshaw for Phillips (45), Roofe for Roberts (45) and Clarke for Klich (70). Leeds lost the game 2-1 with Bamford scoring our goal (17). Hernandez’s penalty had hit the post a minute earlier meaning we failed to score from another penalty. It also meant Wigan were reduced to 10 men as their player had handled on the line and received a straight red card. Attendance was 34,758 with 743 Wigan fans.
With Sheffield winning their early kick off game putting them back into second place, it was vital that we followed suit to go back above them in the table. Leeds were turned around at kick off for the second home game in a row which I felt was a shame. It didn’t deter us from starting out on the attack though and we were unlucky not to get on the score sheet with our first attack. Wigan looked as if they’d be up for it today though as they were a big and strong side. Once their player got sent off and with the penalty miss, I said we’d have to score even more goals then. Within a minute Bamford had indeed scored a great goal to put us into the lead. I was looking forward to us scoring more despite first a bad back pass, then Casilla being rounded far out from goal, which nearly presented Wigan with an equaliser. We had a couple of shots on target which meant at that moment, I felt we would be able to score more and Roberts was unlucky not to score when the ball was headed off the line. With another attack which should have been a corner to us which wasn’t given, Wigan raced to the other end and put the ball into the net to equalise just before the break. This was a bad time for them to score against us and really deflated the Leeds support.
I went back up to my seat before the start of the second half when I suddenly felt very weary. When the team came out it was a surprise to see that both Phillips and Roberts had been subbed by Bielsa. It seemed a strange sub so early on in the game as they both hadn’t been playing badly. It also became apparent to me quite quickly that this hadn’t worked in the way he’d expected it to. It was more of the fact that the wrong players had been taken off in my opinion. What we were up against were a team of very tall, strong players who had built a wall across the back line as well as wasting time. When they attacked they ran straight through the middle at us and just shook our players off. I felt we were losing the game in midfield because we were attacking high up, but our defence was constantly on the back foot. The worst thing happened when Wigan took the lead as the game had already had that déjà vu feel about it. Their goalie made some great saves to keep us out but we never looked like getting that breakthrough again. We continued to play the same move along the left hand side which didn’t work and I felt Harrison had a poor game along with many other players today. I thought he was the one being subbed when Clarke came on but it was Klich taken off instead. Our crossing was poor a lot of the time but with tall players in the opposition they found it easy to mop them up. Although we did try to take shots many a time, it would have been great for that first time ball to be hit rather than passing it again to the left as we couldn’t make them count. There was lots of tension on the terraces which along with the team looking the same, meant it didn’t bode well with the score line. When the ball went out in front of the West Stand as Wigan forged another attack, this could have resulted in another goal when the throw in wasn’t given. Luckily for us they didn’t and despite the hope that we could get an equaliser and a point, sadly this didn’t materialise as we ended up on the losing side.
With all the Wigan celebrations I didn’t realise until we spoke to one of their fans after the game that they’d been in a relegation battle. It wasn’t a surprise that once we gave them that lifeline before half time that they’d reacted better than us to get the win. They deserved that win on the day though sadly for us. One thing I must mention that has to stop is those fans who think it is okay to throw things at the opposition players. I know it’s frustrating when their player went down in front of the South Stand as it looked like he was play acting, but please, please think about what you are doing. This will go on the referee’s report as he went around the penalty area picking all the coins up and handed them to the fourth official. We cannot give the EFL/FA any more opportunities to clamp down on our club as this also happened at a recent game and I hadn’t heard any outcome of those charges. We have had enough battles on our hands to get to where we are and the last things we need are any more to deal with. It matters to me and many others that we take the upper hand as the Kop did with the provocation shown to us when Wigan scored their first goal.
With Norwich getting a late equaliser in the late evening kick off and obviously the Sheffield United win, we are back in third place and out of the automatic spots. As a support we all want automatic promotion Leeds, so please do all you can to get those full nine points from the last three games to give us that chance. As today showed, anyone can beat anyone in this division and with Brentford not being a happy hunting ground for us, that is one statistic I would like to change. Over to you Leeds United, please do those of us going to the game proud and change that one! 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
Back to Reality, Leeds United 2017-18
www.followmeandleedsunited.co.uk Twitter: @FollowMeAndLUFC, Facebook: Follow Me and Leeds United