I have a big thank you to say to the Square Ball. They shared a recording of Greavsie announcing my daughter’s birth 30 years ago, live on air just after half time, at our game at Highbury on 17th March 1971. I hadn’t missed a game home or away for 7 years and my husband rang Highbury and managed to get the announcement read out. It was also announced on their scoreboard too and it was a fantastic thing that my husband managed to get done. Sadly, she wasn’t celebrating her birthday here on earth but up in heaven, as she died suddenly at 17 days old from an undiagnosed heart defect. The Square Ball were not aware of this when wishing her a happy birthday but for me, I am grateful for the poignant memories as it keeps her memory alive. She also attended her first game at six days old against Crystal Palace the following week albeit in the crèche in the South Stand.
Team: Meslier, Struijk, Llorente, Phillips, Roberts, Ayling (Captain), Alioski, Harrison, Dallas, Raphinha and Bamford an unchanged team. Subs: Klich for Bamford (injured 77) and Koch for Roberts (90 + 3). Leeds won the game 2-1 with goals from Bamford (29) and Raphinha (58). Subs not used: Casilla, Berardi, Costa, Poveda, Gelhardt, Shackleton and Jenkins. Attendance: Zero – behind closed doors. Referee: David Coote. Booked: Bamford and Phillips.
They ran straight at us from kick off and got a corner after a clearance from Alioski, hit Struijk and their man got through. A great through ball from Llorente to Bamford nearly got us through at the other end and that was all in the opening two minutes. It was nice to hear Meslier at 21 years old, get praise from the commentators for the number of clean sheets he had kept this season. Fulham had a good run through us but their final pass to the side was not good, so we got the throw in. A Leeds attack saw passing between Alioski and Harrison who then sent a great pass for Roberts. When his cross was headed in at the far post by Ayling to put Leeds into an early lead the cheers went up only to see VAR once again stick the boot in and disallow it for offside. How I hate that thing!
Some good harrying from Harrison saw the ball go out for a throw. Roberts won a free kick in a good position which was taken by Phillips but blocked by their wall. We then came under pressure from Fulham who started forcing us back and nearly came a cropper when Alioski sent a long ball back to Meslier and nearly put us into trouble. Remember Leeds the best form of defence is attack. Bamford was injured in our next attack from a free kick. One thing I had noticed was how physical Fulham were and they got away with quite a few fouls in the opening minutes of the game. Raphinha then put the ball in the net again but this time I had no arguments as it was offside. Replays showed that if we would have released the ball straight away in the build up, it might have just counted. Leeds had been chasing everything up till then, but Fulham started putting us under pressure. They won a free kick after Alioski let their man know he was there on the touchline and won a corner from it. Leeds were then dicing with death as we couldn’t clear the ball then Meslier made a great save and with Ayling behind him, he cleared it off the line. Fulham were closing us down and not letting us have any room but I am hoping our fitness will tell in the end. Roberts did well to keep the ball and not get shoved off it when surrounded by their players.
A good cross from Alioski put Fulham under pressure and the ball came back out for a throw. Alioski throw it back into Harrison who sent a great ball over to the middle for Bamford to hammer in and definitely put us into the lead just before the half hour mark. Bamford then found himself in the book, but I think he was unlucky as he was trying to pull back from the foul. Bamford’s goal meant that we had been involved in 90 goals this season. As I was trying to work out what they meant, it was explained that Leeds had scored 44 goals this season and conceded 46.
Fulham won a second corner which they equalised from when their player managed to outwit Ayling in the penalty area. Fulham then started to pile the pressure on as we messed about, with Struijk’s short header pushed away by Meslier and he then made a further great save to prevent Fulham taking the lead. The ball was just not running for us as we kept giving the ball back to Fulham and finally a save from Meslier brought their attack to an end. Roberts kept changing sides and won a free kick. Reed should have been booked already when he kicked out at Alioski after the ball had already gone out for a throw to us, but he got away with this too. Earlier when we were on the attack, he ran off with the ball as it went out for a throw to us to prevent us carrying on. Raphinha took a great free kick which had four of our players running in behind the wall, but it was possibly offside anyway if it had gone in. As the commentators said that Leeds fans do not like to hear any praise for Raphinha as they don’t want to raise his profile with other clubs, my retort was, “It’s called gallows humour and we are taking the pi*s”.
As we started the second half on even terms at 1-1, Mitrovic came on for Fulham and as he put his shirt on it showed he’d bruises all over his back from cupping. Straight from kick off Fulham forced us back winning a couple of corners. They carried on pressing us, which made mistakes happen. When Phillips lost the ball, he got back in defence and forced their player over the line who then carried on down the slope and hit his head on the advertising boards. When Dallas got the better of their player winning the ball back, he was brought down which earned a booking for Fulham. As Leeds won a corner, Fulham pulled everyone back in to defend it. We still managed to have three in quick succession with the third one after a great run from Harrison which brought a save from their keeper that rebounded off their player. Fulham started attacking again and Dallas fouled their player. From their free kick luckily, their player fluffed his shot and Leeds won the ball and turned it into an attack. A great through ball from Bamford for Raphinha to run onto and take forward and slam it into the net on the hour mark gave us a second goal 28 seconds after their attack broke down. That is the Leeds way and I love it.
The game wasn’t over yet though as Fulham shouted for a penalty after the ball hit Dallas. Roberts then made a late challenge but hurt himself in the process. With another late challenge on Raphinha which didn’t even get us a free kick, the ball was put out for him to receive treatment. At that point Ayling was stood at the side of the pitch not looking too good but had a pouch of something for energy. Leeds started to pile the pressure on after great pass from Roberts saw Raphinha nearly through again, but he just couldn’t get a shot in and another chance went wide. With another tackle from behind on Raphinha, I couldn’t believe they didn’t warrant a booking. Bamford eventually went down injured and was subbed by Klich with around 15 minutes left. It was important we didn’t let Fulham back into the game when they won a corner straight after the substitution. Leeds cleared it and ran straight to the other end and won a corner themselves. The corner from Raphinha to Alioski at the edge of the box was a good move but he caught it wrong, and the ball went way over the top. A shot from Dallas went narrowly wide but it looked like the keeper had it covered, then some good work from Harrison won Leeds another corner. An Ayling header across the goal from the near post saw Harrison coming in at the far post but he couldn’t get on the scoresheet. Klich saw his shot go wide and Alioski’s shot was saved by the keeper. Leeds were digging deep into their reserves and battled to keep Fulham out with some great defending. As Leeds ran out of defence, Raphinha was brought down from behind again but this time it earned the Fulham player a booking. About time! Koch replaced Roberts deep into injury time as Leeds prepared to battle until the end of the game. As Phillips kept hold of the ball when Fulham were awarded a free kick, he didn’t get the same leniency from the referee as the Fulham player in the first half and was booked. It was no different to what happened in the first half so why didn’t their player get booked too? Just because Fulham were running out of time to get something out of the game perhaps. Well done Leeds as they fought until the end to win the three points and end our London jinx at long last. We now have a break until the Sheffield United game on 3rd April so this should give our players time to recuperate as we took some knocks today. LUFC – Marching on Together!