I had a later set off time today but at least it meant that I could get to the game and thanks once again to fans who helped me achieve that. We arrived at the game not long before kickoff but got there in time. Getting through the turnstiles was an achievement in itself whilst carrying my bag and coat. Whoever designed those turnstiles wants shooting as they were so narrow I was sure I was going to get stuck in them, but luckily by coming out backwards I ended up inside the ground. I bypassed the bag searches and the sniffer dogs with no issues or checks and got into the stand ready for the teams to come out. Although there was a ‘neutral’ part in the stand we were in, this had been taken over by the Leeds support so there were at least 7,200 Leeds fans there as we had sold out our own allocation. There were also another 1500 watching the live beam back of the game at Elland Road in both the Pavilion and Billy’s bar which were also sell outs. Fantastic support again from the Leeds fans with a Norwegian and Irish contingent there also.
Ayling was missing due to his partner giving birth to a baby girl and congratulations to both of them and Wood was injured. Because of this we had Taylor coming back in at left back for his first game after his Achilles injury with Berardi switching to right back. The team was Green, Taylor, Berardi, Jansson, Bartley, Phillips, Pedraza, Bridcutt, Roofe, Sacko and Doukara. subs were Barrow for Sacko, Dallas for Pedraza and Vieira for Roofe. Attendance was 22,239 with 7200 Leeds fans. Phillips was sent off in the 90th minute for a second bookable offence although with the retaliation of their man he should have gone too! At the time I thought Phillips shouldn’t have been sent off and the more I see his tackle on TV, in my opinion he got the ball!
The Leeds fans were in good voice and it was good to see the whole stand being Leeds. Within five minutes Leeds were ahead after a free kick was put into their net with an own goal and one of our first attacks. I nearly got sea sick then and had to hold on to the seat in front of me as the entire stand started to shake with the celebrating Leeds fans. Omg I didn’t like that at all and kept expecting the stand to collapse under us. Also trying to take any photos with the shaking stand was nigh impossible. Up until then Fulham had been pretty quiet but that was soon to change as within 10 minutes they were constantly attacking us. With Leeds fans chanting if Berardi scores we’re in the Thames, some may have been sweating when his shot at goal was on target and saved easily by their goalie! Although a lot of the attacking was coming down Berardi’s side, he defended well often putting his body on the line. We couldn’t get the ball off Fulham and again Bridcutt’s passing was very poor often giving the ball away to their players. We were under the cosh for most of the first half and then they hit the crossbar, (I was told after that the ball had gone over the line but the ref didn’t see it) so we got away with that decision. To be honest it all happened that fast when it came down onto the goal line, that I couldn’t tell one way or the other at the time. It was good to get to half time without them equalising though.
Getting to the toilets and back under the stand at half time was absolutely manic with everyone in high spirits. As I made my way back to the section stairs I needed to go up, I heard alot of banging and then four stewards came past giving an escort to a green dustbin. I noticed then that lads were lining up at the fence to dive into the Leeds fans seemingly having fun. There was also a Leeds fan at the other side of the fence and up a tree who obviously hadn’t got into the ground. He got his Leeds flag out, started waving it and then had the Leeds fans singing about him being up a tree! It was funny though as I laughed to myself on my way back to my seat just in time for the second half.
At the start of the second half we had a bit of a respite with us doing some attacking before Fulham got the game by the scruff of the neck again meaning we had to defend. As we were playing deep I don’t think that helped but at times we were our own worst enemy. After being on the attack we ended up passing the ball back to Green and then they won possession again putting us under pressure. The best form of defence is attack Leeds! The fans were fantastic from start to finish with great singing and a Roofe, Ayling and Berardi, Pontus Jansson’s barmy army rendition going on for at least 10 minutes which was quite a tongue twister to begin with. (I’m hoping I got that right as I saw someone write Luke Ayling and Berardi etc). Green made two fantastic saves to keep Fulham out and there were a few nervous fans around me although I did try to stay calm most of the time! We did have a chance to put the game to bed with a breakaway when the ball should have been buried in the open goal, only for the ball to be too close to the post and rebounded off it. I honestly thought there was no way that the ball wasn’t going to end up in the back of the net, unfortunately I was wrong. Just as we got to 90 minutes with Leeds battling as a team, Phillips was sent off when he tackled a Fulham player who reacted badly. I’m sure that’s what got him sent off and will have to see a replay but the lad was so upset when he went off. I was so disappointed for him. With five minutes of injury time shown it was obvious that Leeds were going to defend with being down to 10 men, but I wasn’t sure how good we would be by doing that. Although we did break for a couple of attacks the ball kept running well for Fulham and with time up and seconds left on the clock, Fulham shattered us with an equaliser. As soon as the ball left their player’s boot at the edge of the penalty area you could see it was going in and Green had no chance. It was a killer blow although at least it wasn’t a winner thank goodness. Yes we had been riding our luck for a lot of the game but to get so close to three points and end up with one was hard and a real shame.
Whilst we didn’t get the three points the team battled really well. Bridcutt although giving the ball away had defended well to prevent them scoring in the second half. Barrow needs to toughen up a bit though as he kept getting bundled off the ball by Fulham. All in all we got a point out of the game which was always going to be difficult despite the gut wrenching timing off their equaliser. Fulham would have found it hard to get nothing out of the game though with all the possession and chances they had. Still I’m very proud of the Leeds United team and the fans today which felt a bit like old school Leeds. I loved the atmosphere, the singing and chanting even telling Fulham to stick their clappers (sideways). Long standing Leeds fans will know the words to that one!
As we headed back after the game I couldn’t believe the sight of our disabled fans struggling on the long walk back to their coaches with no assistance from the Police. Some were parked so far away from the ground that I was disgusted to see that they hadn’t been provided with some transport. Having seen some police forces look after these fans well in the past, I really feel that this is something that should be done automatically at all grounds and should be standard.
It was a late night made worse by motorway closures on both the M1 and A1 and then I was due to get up early for work in the morning. As it was I got home at 4.35 am but as soon as my head hit the pillow 15 minutes later, I found myself wide awake. I got up and had a quick shower then went back to bed for 1½ hours before my alarm went off. Luckily I managed better at work than I dared hope although I was kept going with pro plus and black coffee! The things we do for Leeds!
Saturday sees us back at Elland Road for the visit of QPR and another big crowd getting behind Leeds. Just keep going Leeds, enjoy yourselves and play to our strengths, let the other teams worry about us! Another three points will do please – see your there – LUFC – Marching on Together!