Footballing weather at it’s best awaited Leeds United and the in-form Norwich as the smaller than average Leeds United faithful took their seats for what would be another cold, damp night at Elland Road.
Since I’d been away for a couple of days prior, and was almost literally living in a cave, Sam Vokes’ name being read out on the Elland Road PA system was how I discovered we’d won the race for his signature. I knew we were in the race for the striker, but had no idea the deal had been completed or that he’d be starting the game tonight.
His performance didn’t do much to impress me over the course of the game. He clearly had a good first touch and was an excellent prospect, but his eagerness to get his name on the scoresheet meant he opted to shoot from 30-40 yards rather than play the ball to those with a much better chance infront of him.
Another suprise was the return of Shane Higgs who I’d been led to believe was out for another couple of weeks yet. As it turned out, he clearly wasn’t ready to return to the first team and was taken off early on and replaced by the ever-unconvincing Casper Ankergren. Robert Snodgrass and Jason Crowe were also welcomed back to the squad after the two week break gave them time to recover from their injuries.
Leeds started the game brightly and were rewarded early on when Bradley Johnson opened the scoring by netting his sixth of the season after converting a corner with his head.
Norwich weren’t going to be beaten easily though and it soon became clear as to why they’d moved up the league so quickly and won their last four games. Their passing was simply a joy to watch, they moved the ball well and created chances whilst Leeds struggled to deal with the constant threat.
Norwich’s efforts soon paid off as Grant Holt got the better of Bradley Johnson and scored to send the teams in level at the break.
The second half started well for Leeds with Beckford having the first chance for the Whites. However, Norwich soon re-established themselves and became the dominant force once more. A good save from Ankergren and a fair bit of luck were the only things that kept Leeds United level as they struggled for ideas and started to look like the away team.
No one so far this season has managed to make Leeds look so easily out-classed at Elland Road, but in Norwich we’d found a serious stumbling block. Grayson made his final two changes within minutes of one another, bringing on Tresor Kandol and another loan signing, Max Gradel.
It was the latter who made the biggest impact on the game, although Tres also had his chances. Max Gradel’s introduction changed the flow of the game completely and the youngster’s pace and vision gave Leeds United hope.
Only a brilliant save from Norwich’s keeper kept the scores level as Gradel did well to send Beckford through one on one. After trying his luck from distance, Gradel once again laid another chance on a silver platter for Jermaine Beckford to convert, but the striker missed a golden opportunity to give Leeds all three points.
After two golden opportunites to win it for Leeds, it looked like it wasn’t going to be our day and in all fairness, a draw would have been a fair result. However, Jermaine Beckford managed to redeem himself after a comical error from the Norwich keeper saw him gifted another golden opportunity, of which he made no mistake. It may have taken three attempts, but eventually the frontman came good and Leeds move back to the top of League One.
Overall, a game we probably didn’t deserve to win, but three points we’ll very happily take. You have to ride your luck at times when challenging for the title and we definitely did that here. Overall, the performance wasn’t terrible, but Norwich were definitely the better team.
Jermaine Beckford’s failure to convert several good chances was a bit of the worry, especially since he found himself one on one with the keeper twice (thanks to Max Gradel).
Another shocking referee that made some extremely poor decisions and refused to let the game flow spoilt the match a bit throughout and frustrated both sets of supporters. I was also extremely annoyed at the Norwich City team for their lack of sportsmanship when Shane Higgs was struggling with an injury and in desperate need of replacing. The ball went out for a throw, which was when the Leeds bench expected to make the change, only for Norwich to rush it so they couldn’t with no interference from the ref – perhaps the only time he kept his whistle out of his mouth for the entire game!
TSS man of the match
When David Beckham was awarded man of the match for his cameo appearence in the England game last week, Capello likened it to gicing Barack Obama the Noble Peace Prize for his eight months in office. Although I totally understand what he means by this, I think the only Leeds United player worthy of man of the match was Max Gradel. Much like Beckham did for England, Gradel changed the game for Leeds and created chances where there were none before. His contribution earnt us the three points in my eyes.