It’s been a while since we had to rely on a last minute goal to net us the points, but none of us had forgotten that capability as the match neared the final whistle tonight. One of the oldest football clichés states that it’s ‘a game of two halves’ and that’s certainly what we witnessed tonight.
For much of the first half Leyton Orient had the better chances. Leeds probably had more of the ball, but the end product just wasn’t there. Orient meanwhile were carving out more chances than most teams manage in 90 minutes at Elland Road.
Maybe it was complacency from Leeds, afterall tonight would provide us with the opportunity to go twenty games unbeaten at home and in the last three games we’d scored eleven, with no reply. Whatever the case, the Leeds United that so effortlessly cast aside Brighton on Saturday had been replaced with a much scrappier side that seemed to have lost their flair.
It’s not that we were bad, far from it, but in the first half Orient were definitely the better team. We’d had the better of the possession, but a few stray passes – most notably from Robert Snodgrass – were making the team frustrated and we just didn’t do enough with the ball. The best chances from a Leeds point of view in the first half were a shot from range by Kilkenny and a skied effort from Sam Vokes. Neither troubling the Leyton keeper.
The second half started slowly, but Grayson made a couple of impact substitutions that proved decisive. Aidy White replaced Andy Hughes shortly after half-time, but it was Grayson’s next change that would prove the difference when Max Gradel replaced Sam Vokes.
It took half the second half for anything of interest to happen, but Leyton had definitely been pinned back by this point and were finding chances to break far more scarce than the first half. Gradel meanwhile was starting to make a real nuisance of himself in Leyton’s half, putting in a couple of good crosses and striking the first real chance of the half with his back to goal. The shot ultimately went over, but Gradel had once again sparked a resurgence in Leeds.
Although the frustration was evident in the faces of the fans and players alike, Leeds continued to try and work an opening. Two penalty appeals were denied by the ref (again) although one was admittedly a bit soft, but the other looked like a clear handball to me.
Grella was the next player to come on in place of Howson as Simon Grayson continued to look for options. Interestingly, Davide Somma was the other striker on the bench with Tresor Kandol nowhere to be seen, despite his return from suspension. Maybe the sending off was one chance too far for the frontman?
Both Max Gradel and Mike Grella forced saves from the Leyton keeper as Leeds continued to pile on the pressure in desperate search of all three points. News from Charlton was that they were in the lead and we certainly didn’t want to give them a chance to close the gap.
The ball was forced forward again and again with pretty much everyone in White in the opposition half at times, whilst Orient’s entire squad were back defending. It just didn’t look like the goal was going to come and the game was beginning to feel like a lost cause.
This Leeds United however is a different breed from ones in the past. This Leeds United doesn’t give up until the fat lady has sang and we’ve developed a bit of a reputation for snatching late winners over the last couple of years, so why change such a profitable habit? Since Gradel had come on, he’d changed the game and it seemed somewhat inevitable that if anyone was going to change the score, it would be him.
The youngster didn’t disappoint. With just a minute of normal time remaining, he picked the ball up inside the box, created a nice angle and fired home to give Leeds a 1-0 win. With only injury time remaining, it would have been easy for Leeds to run the clock down, but with Leyton still pinned back, they carried on and went for another with Snoddy hitting the side of the net.
Overall and despite Leyton’s early dominance, Leeds deserved the win. Credit where it’s due to Leyton, they put us under the kosh at times in the first half, but they never kept the momentum going and eventually Leeds punished them for it.
As for Leeds, it wasn’t the most inspired performance but job done and another three points. Hard to complain when you’ve just gone twenty matches unbeaten at home, but Snoddy was off his game tonight and the jury is definitely still out on Vokes who contributed nothing. Aidy White deserves a mention as he gave a very good performance in the second half.
Elsewhere in the top six
Charlton and Colchester both won so no change in the top three. MK Dons lost 4-3 at home to Carlisle whilst Huddersfield lost away to Swindon. Norwich were the big movers of the night who capitalised on those defeats thrashing Brighton 4-1. Honeymoon period well and truly over now then for Gus.
On Sunday we play Kettering Town (29/11) in the FA Cup, followed by a trip to Oldham Atheltic in the League (01/12). That’s followed by the local derby at Elland Road against Huddersfield next Saturday as the heptic Christmas fixture list gets underway.