Blackburn 1st February 2017

I picked up Gary and his daughter Ella before heading to junction 25 where the coach was picking us up. This worked really well and although we had some queuing we only had to do a diversion nearer Blackburn. We pulled into the services for the police escort but didn’t get off the coach as the police said that when they were going if you weren’t on the coach, we would be left behind! Most of the other coach had been in the services and got back on at the last minute. As it was we waited for approx. 15 minutes as there was only our coach and the South Kirkby one there before we pulled off in the escort and we were one of the first coaches to arrive there by about 6.30 pm.

As soon as we got off the coach there were a few police officers there who immediately started talking to Sue and I. They were very nice and it was good to have a nice welcome on arrival. The other good thing was that Blackburn had put on a fan zone behind the away end which was another good move. I had received a tweet from one of my Selby members on the way to the game who asked me if I remembered one of the Sweeting lads from Old Goole getting stuck in the turnstiles at Blackburn in the 80s. I couldn’t remember but I got the chance to ask one of them as he was in the fan zone. What a coincidence! He said yes it was his younger brother who ended up coming back out of the turnstile as he couldn’t get through, so they had to open the door to let him in!

I went in early to go and find a good position for my flag and got one right behind the goal. It was good to see the flags again from the different areas including the Bournemouth flag whose owners were stood behind me in the ground.

I decided to go down for a cup of tea and some others who had travelled to Sutton were talking about the day and agreed it had been a disgrace for the fans, the FA Cup and for Sutton who would have relished playing against our better players. We had quite a good conversation with a few more joining in. Unfortunately a young lad got the brunt of our displeasure when he started to say that this was the best chance of getting promotion, we didn’t need the cup and we should rest the players. Sorry lad it may be our best chance (I agree on that point) but I will never agree with the fact that the cup wasn’t important as winning breeds winning. It also meant a lot to the fans who travelled there too. One thing that I couldn’t really agree with though was the resting of players. I agreed that Pontus would have been one to rest just because he had played the required number of games to sign and also because he does seem to carry an injury.  But it was the fact the lad said that they needed to be kept for the league games and that he played football twice a week and always ached so how the team felt…. My retort was that they are professional footballers and after seeing how Billy Bremner showed what playing for Leeds is all about, they should have been trying to win both. He said even if we had no chance of winning the cup? I said we should never have thrown the towel in like we did and I never thought we would stoop to those levels. I hadn’t intended having a rant but there were quite a few around me in agreement with what I said.

I moved to the side and was waiting to see if Tony was coming in (who will be part of our group arranging the recording of all the old Leeds songs) and saw quite a lot I knew. A couple of fellas to the side of me then asked if I had gone everywhere in the seventies so we had a good chat about following Leeds. Of course I used the opportunity to showcase my books before heading into the ground for kick off. Once in my seat I realised that probably the reason why we had been welcomed so much by Blackburn was because their attendance looked very poor. I asked someone if the Venkys were still involved in the club and whether there were still protests going on hence the low crowd? I was told yes so I think that has had an impact.

The team today was Green, Bartley, Jansson, Berardi, Ayling, O’Kane, Bridcutt, Sacko, Roofe, Dallas and Wood. Subs were Hernandez for Sacko, Doukara for Roofe and Vieira for O’Kane. Attendance was 17,026 with 6,402 Leeds fans. This was also the first away game that our new co-owner Radrizzani was in attendance.

We didn’t start off too bad but Blackburn had the ball in the net very early on so I was glad when it was disallowed for a foul I think. In the first half Blackburn had a lot of the ball and at times seemed to skip around our players with ease. As time wore on we got a free kick and as I wondered who our free kick specialist would be, Wood stepped up to the mark but the shot went wide. The longer the game went on I could see that Blackburn were not going to give up in a hurry. I said they are not going to lie down and die as it’s up to us to make them. For some reason I kept looking back to the scoreboard to see how many minutes of the half were left and it was always only a couple of minutes had past! The half did seem to go on for a long while but we never tested the goalkeeper. Someone in front of me said that he was so glad that we had rested all our players on Sunday at Sutton! To be honest if felt like we had lost that momentum and had gone backwards. I felt that the midfield wasn’t working as well as it should and that was why Blackburn had plenty of the ball. I also thought that Monk should make an early substitution which is one thing that he does seem to get right more often than not. It hadn’t been a good half to be frank. The Leeds fans had started off well but it kept going quiet in places, probably due to the lack of things happening on the pitch. With a minute of injury time left I headed down to the front of the stand to get some photos of the Leeds flags on show before heading downstairs.

At the start of the second half Hernandez came on for Sacko and although Blackburn still had a lot of the ball we did look better. O’Kane wasn’t having the best of games in midfield and he got spoken to by the ref and when he fouled one of their player shortly after, I was quite surprised he didn’t get booked. As it was Pontus ended up in the book again. Doukara came on for Roofe and we changed formation slightly and things looked more positive. Up until the 70th minute though we didn’t look particularly effective and the Leeds fans were starting to get restless with some even booing them. We did start to up the pressure and the Leeds fans chanted attack, attack, attack, attack, attack. The Leeds players responded immediately and before we knew it the ball came over to Dallas and he struck the ball into the back of the net to put us into the lead! Relief all around from the Leeds fans as everyone celebrated. It was only then that I realised the upper tier of the stand was full of Leeds fans too! The game wasn’t over by a long shot though as Blackburn came back and before we knew it the ball was in the back of our net for them to equalise. The ball was struck from a long way out but as it bounced it looked to fool Green and he couldn’t save it. My heart sank then as that put them back into the game. I went down to the front of the stand just before the end of the game to ensure I could get to my flag. I stood on the steps and a steward was stood behind me. She said that I would be better moving because if Leeds scored all the fans would come hurtling down the steps. She was the second steward who had been really nice to us and she also must have had a premonition. I moved over to the seats near my flag as Leeds won a corner in the last minute of the game. As the ball came over all I saw was a figure loom out of nowhere with no one near him and I knew the ball was going into the net for a last minute goal! Unbelievable scenes followed with fantastic celebrations in the whole stand going nuts. It was only as the rest of the Leeds fans started singing Pontus Jansson’s magic hat that I realised it was him that had scored. I just assumed it was Wood! The majority of the game was forgotten in an instant because getting a last minute winner was just what was needed.

At the end of the game Jansson came across to throw his shirt into the crowd to the right of us. It landed on the netting at the front and as some fans were trying to get to it a steward stopped them and then got it and handed it to a little boy. I then realised it was Paul and his son Reuben from Halifax and as I got photos of them I was chuffed to bits for the lad.

The timing of the win couldn’t have been better because it has given us some momentum again and also, with our next game against Huddersfield on Sunday with an early kick off, that is something we will definitely need. They will be up for it as usual as they try to put one over us. Without our win today I could have seen us struggling but now look forward to us hopefully getting a win. At least we have enough points now to forget about relegation this year!! Those days do actually seem a long time off and shows how far we have come. See you at Huddersfield – LUFC – Marching on Together!