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.

  • Ed

    The match ststs show we had more possession and more shots on goal. Also Norwich had nothing like the chances we had from Snodgrass’s free kick and Beckford’s one on ones with the Norwich goalie. Yes they played pretty, passing football but there has to be an end product and they didn’t have one on Monday. Yet every match write up has them unlucky losers and even robbed in the southern press. The reality is they ran themselves in to the ground for 80mins and faded in the last 10 when Leeds turned the screw. Fair result pity about the reports.

    Often when teams put extra in to a match they come up short in their next outing. Let’s see how Norwich do on Saturday.

  • Grumpy Older Man

    Firstly your criticism of the referee is well off the mark, he got all the decisions right, the idiot booing from the kop only showed how one-eyed we can be sometimes. In terms of Vokes I just sigh at a) the fact you feel it even useful to assess a player on his first 70 mins and b) I and most commentators saw he had a good game showing another one of our strikers how you can work AND have an eye for goal.

    We were lucky, playing like an away team for most of the game, the so called “screw” late on you mention was more of a end to end flow. We have now underperformed for 4 games on the trot, points still taken, that is either a sign of a change of luck or an indication work still to do, or maybe in a strange way both.

  • Henry V

    We were outplayed but not out fought against Norwich.
    Our defense was excellent.
    It is important that when Casper is in goal that he gets our 100% support.
    It is a tribute to his character that he gives his best, despite the sarcastic cheers when he
    catches the ball!!
    He did fumble the odd one (that’s Casper) but he made a fantastic blocking save from his mistake.
    The forward line did pretty well, bearingin mind the little good ball they got.
    The trouble with loan signings is that they are usually not 100% match fit.
    This showed with Sam Vokes, but I thought he looked clever and strong.
    I suspect Max Gradel may not be good for more than 45 minutes just now.
    Our midfield were overrun at times.
    We gave the ball away too cheaply in this area.
    It is easy to see why Simon Grayson has been linked with Wes Hoolihan in the recent past.
    Conclusion: A win is a win!!
    The boys gave everything for 94 minutes, and were not content with a draw.
    For that alone we deserved our 3 points!!
    Man of the match: Simon Grayson. What a man.

  • Ed

    In the last 10mins Beckford was one on one with their goalie three times and made one count. If it was end to end what chances did Norwich create in the same period?

    A game lasts 90+ mins so you get little for looking good for 80mins. Well, little apart from good reviews in the press.

  • Yorkshrman

    Ed, there are lies, damned lies and statistics. I find it hard to believe that we had more possession than Norwich – just as I didn’t believe that Charlton had more possession than us by 55-45 in the previous game.

    GOM – spot on about assessing players after less than a full match! Similarly, lets not all get too carried away about Gradel – he played for less than quarter of an hour, against a team who had visibly tired. Hopefully he’ll bring a different dimension to our play, but we’ve seen these false dawns so many times before – particularly with loan players …..

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