After all the Christmas celebrations over the last couple of days, it was back to normality today with our trip to Preston North End. With Simon Grayson our ex manager there it wasn’t going to be an easy game. We stopped off in Leyland for our pub stop where I took an interest in the history of it, before heading back to the coach. Someone passing by on the road beeped their horn and as I turned round saw the driver going mad and giving us the vs! With our backs to him the only thing visible from behind us was my Leeds bag which he obviously took offence to. He also has serious issues if he can take offence to four women walking down the street with a couple of blokes. All we did was laugh at him and I’m sure his boss would have been proud of him (not) as the van was emblazoned with M Hindle all over it! Not a good advertisement I’m afraid! As we reached the coach I waited outside it with Julie as I was going to take a photo of fans wearing their Christmas jumpers. Suddenly a Police car came past the coach and Julie waved at them. As I turned around I said they were obviously coming to look at what we were doing as they turned round at the mini roundabout to come back. We both waved back at them as they went on their way but it was nice to see them being civil with us.
We arrived at the ground in good time but instead of parking up outside the away end as usual we went past and parked up by the park. This meant a long walk back to the ground which wasn’t an issue for us despite the length of it, but it wasn’t good for our disabled fans. By the time we got into the ground it was approximately half an hour to kick off. I was going to find my seat when I was shouted at by Gill and Darren. They had received as presents for Christmas all three of my books, Follow Me and Leeds United, Once a Leeds fan, always a Leeds fan and the co-authored book The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Leeds United. I was happy to oblige by signing all of them and look forward to receiving feedback after they have read them.
The team today was Green, Berardi, Bartley, Jansson, Ayling, Phillips, Roofe, Sacko, Doukara, Dallas and Bridcutt. Subs were Hernandez for Sacko, Wood for Doukara and Antonsson for Roofe. Attendance was 21,255 with approximately 5,700 Leeds fans which was another fantastic turnout from us!
The game started off pretty even for the first fifteen minutes before out of the blue we scored our first goal. We had a free kick as the ball was heading towards the goal from Jansson, Roofe made sure and put the ball into the net from close range. Wow I wasn’t expecting that to be honest. After Preston came back strongly to try and equalise, we increased our lead six minutes later with our second goal scored by Sacko. Wild celebrations from the Leeds fans ensued with the fact we’d scored two goals in quick succession away from home. It also felt very surreal but that was possibly to do with the fact that I was only four rows from the top of the stand. Our jubilations took a knock a few minutes later as Preston pulled one back. They then put pressure on us to try and get an equaliser before Doukara ran at their defence. He took a shot at the goal and the ball somehow found itself over the line when it looked like the goalie had saved it, giving us a third goal! Going into half time 3-1 in the lead away from home was frankly unbelievable as I can’t remember the last time this happened recently. It was something to relish though and long may it continue.
At the start of the second half though, Preston came out looking to get back into the game. I said that they weren’t going to give up without a fight and it was up to us to make sure we stopped them putting up a fight. Green made a fantastic save to deny them a second goal though and that was probably a crucial save. Monk made an early substitution bringing on Hernandez who was back from injury in place of Sacko. It took a while for us to get a grip of the second half though. Preston then made a double substitution with the second one being Jermaine Beckford famous for scoring for Leeds against man u on January the third in the FA Cup. I was quite surprised at the standing ovation he got from the Leeds fans as he was now opposing us. Then I thought it was the psychological impact the chanting from our fans would have on him as I said he wasn’t allowed to touch the ball. In fact whatever impact it did have on him he lasted for the grand sum of five minutes on the pitch. He went up for a ball along with Bartley and Ayling and they were all determined to get the ball. The next minute they were all rolling about on the floor so I thought there was a head injury. All of a sudden there was a red card issued but we couldn’t make out what was happening. I hadn’t thought there had been anything in the heading of the ball that warranted a sending off. It was only afterwards that TV replays showed Beckford had kicked out at Bartley whilst they were on the ground and caught him in the face. Sorry Beckford but that was out of order and you deserved your sending off.
We made two late subs when we brought on Wood and five minutes later Antonsson. It was great that we didn’t settle to just see the game out and after another great attack when the ball was passed to Hernandez he hit it low to get our fourth goal of the game! That was the icing on the cake as we all celebrated and watched as many of the Preston fans emptied the stands. At the end of the game after the players came to clap our fans, someone behind me asked who was down in the penalty area at the far end which we’d been defending. All of a sudden we realised it was Bartley who then got to his feet. He amongst others had put their bodies on the line today as they fought for the shirt. This is something that had been missing for a long while and great credit to Monk for restoring this back into our players. Hopefully the ones who took a knock today will be fit for Thursday when we head to Aston Villa.
I couldn’t believe that at 10 past 5 we were still stuck at the top of the stand as getting out was a nightmare as no one seemed to be moving. Coupled with that was a 15 minute walk back to the coaches but as I was walking with others we had a good chat so it didn’t seem that long. The journey back to Leeds wasn’t bad either as I managed to sleep most of the way. That was a great Christmas present for all us Leeds fans today and for me quite unexpected. I thought we would possibly draw but the good thing is I don’t go to games anymore expecting us to lose! Long may this continue as we look forward to our last game in 2016 on 29th December. With all the changing of dates for games on Sky TV I had got myself totally confused as to what date we are playing on and have now had to change three other arrangements I’d made for Thursday. I will be heading to the game although we will be going straight to the ground. With a later set off time it means our pub stop will be in Billy’s bar. See you there and I’m looking forward to a good ending to 2016 as a Leeds United fan! LUFC – Marching on Together!