I hope everyone has had a Happy New Year, a great night seeing in 2018 and are not feeling too rough today. Luckily for me as I stopped drinking alcohol over 30 years ago, I don’t have that problem but had a lovely evening with my eldest daughter and family: I laughed that much my throat hurt! I also wish my sister Erica a very happy birthday for today too.
When we set off from home the sun was shining and it felt like good football weather but that soon changed once we got to Leeds. My daughter Dani, granddaughter Hannah and I didn’t arrive at Elland Road until 2.10 pm but then sat in the car a while listening to BBC Radio Leeds. Having done a preview of the game for them we wanted to listen to it, but once again it wasn’t played whilst listening to the programme. At 2.45 pm we gave up and went into the ground as the rain started so I’ve no idea if it did get played at all. My mum, sister Karin and friends Carole and Ashley had heard the one I did before the Birmingham game but I’d missed that one too. I do have the recordings myself anyway so I can listen to it again so never mind.
I was stood taking photos before the kick off and a steward came up to me asking me to move. I said I was taking photos for my blog and would move at the start of the game. Just as I was getting ready to move to my seat one of the stewards I knew came and spoke to me. He’d been told there was a woman taking photos and he said its okay it’s Heidi! Thanks for the support.
The team today was Wiedwald, Ayling, Berardi, Jansson, Cooper, Roofe, Hernandez, Phillips, Saiz, Alioski and O’Kane. Subs were Anita for Ayling (26), Lasogga for Alioski (46) and Sacko for Roofe (80). Attendance was 32,426 with 917 Forest fans. The game was a no score draw (0-0). Forest had sacked their manager the day before so I hoped it was not another game where the opposition raised their game.
As the game kicked off I felt that Forest were there for the taking as we had our first attack. If we thought Forest were going to lie down and die for us, then unfortunately we were sadly mistaken. We were nearly a goal down when their man was through on goal only for Cooper to make a fantastic tackle at the last minute to deny them a shooting chance. We had a goal scoring chance at the other end when Jansson’s header was cleared off the line and as the ball rebounded to Roofe he hit it over the bar. Forest were getting to grips with the game as we tried to break them down. Ayling went down after a tackle from Bridcutt caused him an injury. We’d seen Bridcutt go and say something to Ayling but didn’t realise he was the one who had fouled him in the first place and cut him by the sounds of it. He was treated and got up to carry on but was still limping. It wasn’t a surprise to see him go down again on 26 minutes and he was then subbed with Anita coming on. Straight away Berardi swapped to right back his correct position as Anita went to left back. It took a while for Berardi to settle down in that position in my opinion as he is so used to playing at left back. We didn’t play particularly well in the first half but it wasn’t as bad as the Birmingham game going in 0-0 at the break. I thought Saiz was a lot quieter but thought that was because he had come back from injury at the Birmingham game.
My friend Carole said we would be okay and the second half would be better. Lasogga came on at the start of the second half in place of Alioski. The second half was indeed better with Saiz back to his normal self but it ended up being a half of frustrations. We were unlucky not to take the lead after some great play from Saiz on the right hand side of the goal, when he passed the ball to Roofe. As we waited for the ball to hit the net, it hit the crossbar instead and rebounded to be cleared away. A short while after, Roofe should have repaid the favour and passed the ball to Saiz or Lasogga as they ran through the Forest defence alongside him. As there was a gap in front of him he shot instead and the ball went over the crossbar. That was probably a chance missed unfortunately. It could also have proved costly as Wiedwald had to make a fantastic save to tip the ball over the crossbar to prevent Forest scoring against the run of play at the other end. This gave Forest impetus to attack us and Wiedwald made another save to keep them out. We had a couple of chances with headers from both Jansson and Lasogga (didn’t have enough pace on his) but their goalie was leading a charmed life and saving whatever came his way. The referee at this time was making some atrocious decisions when our players were being rugby tackled and let Forest get away with it and pulling us up for innocuous challenges. The home crowd were up in arms at this stage and the linesmen were no better as one foul on the left of the pitch was right in front of one of them. It looks like they should have borrowed my glasses as they were terrible decisions. My fear at this late stage was that Forest would steal a winner but they didn’t and it looked like the game was going to end in a 0-0 draw. I was right in my thinking when another six minutes of injury time was put up and although we attacked some more we had to settle for the draw and one point. The positive is that it is better than losing by getting the point but it was an extremely frustrating game for us Leeds fans. The ref got some stick at the end of the game too which he deserved for an inept performance.
It was disappointing to only get a point overall from the last two games but we are still in the top six although it is very tight from 2nd place to 9th; Wolverhampton Wanderers being an impressive nine points ahead of 2nd at this stage of the season. Obviously things can change very easily in this division but we are still in the mix.
Next week sees us visit Newport County in the FA Cup 3rd round. I have a message for Leeds United especially after hearing Thomas Christiansen saying he would change the team for the visit. Please do not treat the FA Cup with disdain and disrespect the Leeds United support who will be getting up at silly hours to travel the miles to get there. I hold the FA Cup dear to me and am a traditionalist along with many other fans. Winning breeds winning and after the debacle at Sutton last year, something I would never forgive Monk for, I don’t want the same to happen next week. I’ve no problem with a few changes but we do not need to change the whole team. Having had the privilege of seeing Leeds United win the FA Cup at Wembley in 1972 and seeing my hero Billy Bremner get handed the cup from her Majesty the Queen, I can honestly say the feelings of winning were out of this world. It is also a chance to get in to Europe. If by any chance we do not manage to get into the playoffs or go up automatically (which we should aspire to do), we can still build on things by having the European games ahead of us next season if we actually win the FA Cup. It may be a pie in the sky moment but you never know and I’ll be optimistic providing we take the challenge seriously. As the club hierarchy seems to be looking at challenging for promotion next season and not this, I do believe we should still try to get there. Other fans are looking at us strengthening the team in the January transfer window but obviously time will tell if we do or not. As it is I am looking forward to visiting a new ground next week and look forward to progressing in the FA Cup. See those of you going next week – 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
OUT NOW! The Sleeping Giant Awakens, Leeds United 2016-17
Comments at the end of the game by Heidi Haigh