West Bromwich Albion (WBA) v Leeds United 1st January 2020 at The Hawthorns

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I hope everyone had a great start to the New Year. Mine was “chilling” in the hot tub with my granddaughters and looking forward to 2020. As WBA was a 5.15pm kick-off for Sky, we didn’t leave Leeds until 11.00am on a lovely sunny day. As we headed down the M1 it didn’t take long for the weather to become overcast and miserable. At our stop in Sutton Coldfield, it looks like we upset some of the locals. They weren’t impressed with us as one said, “don’t know why they’re even in here when they’re playing Albion, it’s f**king miles away!” A pub stop with Leeds fans in it is why lol!

As we got to the ground over an hour before kick-off, we went straight in. It was nice to have very friendly and chatty police officers treat us nicely as well as their stewards. A very big contrast to games in the 80s when fans used to be arrested for cheering when Leeds scored a goal. Give me days like today anytime. After chatting to many fans and taking their photos, I went to take one last one of Gary and the Shropshire Whites flag. In doing so, I nearly threw myself down the steps but regained my balance. Luckily, I’d put the strap for my camera around my wrist as it flung into the air otherwise it would have become airborne without it.

The team: Casilla, Ayling, Alioski, Cooper, White, Klich, Dallas, Phillips, Nketiah, Costa and Harrison. Subs: Bamford for Nketiah (45) and Douglas for Alioski (45). The game ended in a 1-1 draw with Bamford equalising for Leeds (52). Attendance was 25,618 with 1,989 Leeds fans.

The game was less than a couple of minutes old before WBA took the lead when the ball was deemed to have crossed the line when Leeds failed to clear it. They had won a corner; the ball was headed back across the goal and their player’s attempt was awarded a goal despite Harrison clearing it off the line. Having heard this decision was inconclusive and another saying it had crossed the line, I’d like to see it again for myself. One thing, despite any differences with my opinion, it wouldn’t change the goal being awarded. I found myself shaking when they scored and hoped it was because it was getting slightly colder. WBA came close again a short time later, but this time hit the side netting. After we lost the ball in one incident, Bielsa looked to be getting frustrated on the side of the pitch. With Bamford on the bench, it was up to Nketiah to show what he could do but for me he couldn’t do the lone striker role. I kept screaming at him to go and put their keeper under pressure like Bamford does, but it took 30 minutes before he did that. We did get into the game more though despite Casilla making some fantastic saves to prevent WBA going further into the lead. The nearest we had come to a goal was their keeper saving from Costa. There was no doubt in my mind and those stood around me, that Nketiah was going to be replaced at half-time with Bamford which proved to be the case. Douglas also came on to replace Alioski which was another good decision.

We straight away looked stronger at the start of the second half with the substitutions and with Bamford putting players under pressure, we were getting the better of WBA. Harrison put a great ball over to the centre for Bamford to equalise within seven minutes of the restart, with a deflected header. WBA came back at us straight away but Casilla once again denied them a goal before we counter attacked with Bamford coming close to a second. Although WBA were always going to be a threat, Leeds continued to attack and we saw some brilliant moves, many with Harrison just in front of us and Costa at the other side. I felt we could get a winner at that time as we were getting on top and nearly did, but the flag went up for offside although I’m sure that decision was wrong. Yes, I am biased, but seriously would like to see that one again. With
Casilla making another save at the death, the game ended in a score draw which was a good point today and meant we stayed at the top of the table.

Bartley came to clap the Leeds fans at the end of the game and Ayling was having a laugh with him. When WBA had been attacking our end in the first half, I’d seen Ayling winding him up. This game also turned out to be the last game Nketiah played for us as he has returned to Arsenal cutting his loan spell short. He was a good super sub for me but his body language at times today showed his heart wasn’t in it. I’d thought at the Birmingham game that he’d been the happiest I’d seen him for a while, probably because he’d made the decision to leave. With Clarke’s loan also rescinded with him returning to Spurs, we will find out soon enough whether we bring anyone else into the team.

With our FA Cup tie against Arsenal next, I for one still love the magic of the cup regardless of those who chose to devalue the competition. Either by writing us off, saying throw the towel in, play the youngsters, rest the first team, it doesn’t matter etc., well I disagree. The last few years have proved that being out of the cup gives no guarantees in getting promoted either, often proving detrimental to the cause. Winning breeds winning and getting a good cup run in can help us achieve our aim. I’ll stand by that claim too having seen how our best cup runs in the past have kept that fighting spirit going. As I am racing to the game after work, it will be touch and go to make it for kick-off, but I’m looking for everything to fall into place nicely with no stress. See you there, LUFC – Marching on Together!

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, Leeds United in the 1980s
  • The Sleeping Giant Awakens, Leeds United 2016-17
  • Back to Reality, Leeds United 2017-18
  • Out now: Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United

 Website: www.followmeandleedsunited.co.uk Twitter: @FollowMeAndLUFC Facebook: Follow Me and Leeds United: Instagram: Heidi Haigh – lufcheidi @followmeandleedsunited