Crawley v Leeds United 10th January 2021 at The People’s Pension Stadium – FA Cup 3rd round

After the recent further lockdown measures were announced which sent me once again into a downward spiral with plenty of tears, I know I am not the only one. To all of you out there who are struggling, I know I rely on family, friends, and my Leeds United family to talk about things and help me through. Please do the same as we are all in this and can pull through together.

Team: Casilla, Cooper (back from injury), Davis, Struijk, Phillips, Costa, Poveda, Hernandez, Shackleton, Alioski and Rodrigo. Subs: Casey for Cooper (45), Jenkins for Struijk (45), Harrison for Rodrigo (45), Raphinha for Davis (58) and Greenwood for Poveda (58). Subs not used: Elia Caprile, and Niall Huggins. Leeds lost the game 3-0. Attendance: Zero – behind closed doors. Referee: Peter Bankes.

From the start Crawley were looking to attack us as much as possible and forced two early corners. A great ball from Poveda to Rodrigo saw him stretch for the ball in their penalty area. Maybe it would still have been in front of him and out of reach, but a flying header may have been a better option, but it was a good move though. We saw some nifty footwork from Costa and I’m hoping the run out today will start to give him confidence again, as he hasn’t done so well for me when coming on as sub recently. Crawley saw a deflected shot easily saved by Casilla. Leeds then had a couple of good chances and with one, a Poveda shot was saved by their keeper’s feet. There were a few good moves from both sides that didn’t come to anything. There were two great balls sent through at different times that were really close to Shackleton, but he couldn’t get on the end of them. We saw some great work from Poveda that ended with the ball across the box. Rodrigo waiting in the centre had his arm pulled back and went down so we should have been awarded a penalty. The referee played on as Leeds continued to put pressure on their defence. Poveda and Costa had made some great runs down the wings, but we couldn’t capitalise on them. We were up against some giants again so needed to keep the ball on the floor.  Crawley had a good run but were flagged offside.

My thoughts today were that we had to make sure we did not gift any goals to Crawley because a lot of the goals conceded this season have come from mistakes. This was highlighted when Poveda won the ball back from them, then a bad pass from Davis gave it back to them which I found frustrating. A great move involving Hernandez; he passed the ball to Rodrigo who turned and shot. Although the final shot wasn’t on target it was worth a go. A mistake from Phillips with a sloppy pass was pounced on by Crawley to ran at Leeds and win a corner. Crawley sent a great corner over everyone to their man at the far post which brought a great save from Casilla from the header. That should have been a wake-up call for Leeds. Hernandez tried once again to get his pass to Shackleton in the penalty area and it was a shame it didn’t come off. Costa and Poveda switched wings as we tried to change our attack with half time looming but with no injury time played the whistle blew more or less on time. The commentators were saying they were surprised Leeds had not taken the game by the scruff of the neck. For me, it was a different team playing for us again so I felt we would grow into the game in the second half and did not anticipate any changes.

Well, what do I know? Bielsa obviously disagreed with me and brought on three subs at the start of the second half. With Harrison, Casey and Jenkins brought on for Rodrigo, Struijk and Cooper we changed our formation to a back four. I could see that due to Cooper coming back from injury that may have been an issue but would not have made the subs so early as it changed the game and weakened us as a team. That is not having a go at the players who came on, but Crawley had been strong in midfield in the first half anyway. Within six minutes of the restart, they had scored two goals in two minutes to go into the lead with the second one beating Casilla at the near post. I felt we had gifted them the game on a plate, it looked like we were not bothered about going forwards in the cup and have thrown the towel in. I know my mood hasn’t been great recently anyway and this contributed to me getting very angry about the whole game.

We did get behind the defence in a good move but with Costa being offside in the build-up I don’t think it would have counted if it had gone in anyway. Sam Greenwood and Raphinha were then brought on for Davies and Poveda which provided a bit more to the team formation, but overall, we looked very ordinary and had no sense of urgency. To me Harrison playing in the middle had no effect and maybe we had too many playing out of position. Crawley were still the team looking more likely to score as Casilla put a shot around the post for a corner. There was a little and large situation with Shackleton man marking but we managed to clear the ball. The game was over and done when Crawley scored a third goal from a free kick which saw Casilla save the first shot and they smacked the ball in from the rebound. They nearly got a fourth goal when they got through, but with Casilla right out of goal he did enough to put their player off and we got the ball away.

Crawley deserve their win, but I am cross with the decision to bring three subs on at the start of the second half which killed the game for me. We looked so unbalanced then and it gave Crawley the impetus. To me the FA Cup is still sacrilege and we should fight for it, but it seems we don’t give a damn anymore which is unacceptable. For those fans who weren’t brought up with it like I was which I find very sad, they only want to concentrate on the league. Having a good cup run as well as doing well in the league would be my ambition and give us fans something to savour in these challenging times. Sadly, it was not to be, again! LUFC – Marching on Together!