There’s something about wearing the all white strip of Leeds United that makes players insist on doing things the hard way. Top vs bottom yesterday was a perfect example. What should have been a stroll in the park for the runaway league leaders, almost turned into a disaster.

Credit where it’s due though. For a team that’s just lost ten in a row and look like they’re already relegated, Stockport were determined to make life as hard as possible for Leeds United. Had it not been for one of the most pathetic defences I’ve ever seen and a goalkeeper determined not to leave his line, Stockport could have become only the second team this season to beat Leeds United.

First things first – the pitch. I can’t describe how bad it was. Within minutes of kick-off it started to tear up and was somewhat reminiscent of Histon’s last year. Fair’s fair though, the game came close to being postponed due to the weather conditions lately and had it not been for the efforts of the Stockport fans and ground-staff, we wouldn’t have been playing at all. Besides, I played on enough bad pitches as a youngster, as I’m sure the pro’s did and we still managed to have a game.

Within the first two minutes Leeds had already turned Stockport’s defence inside out and Snodgrass fired us into the lead. Three defenders were around Snoddy as he advanced on goal, but none of them put a tackle in and Snodgrass was allowed to shoot from just outside the box. His shot deflected off the foot of one of the defenders, wrong-footing the keeper and giving Leeds a dream start. 0-1, and things were going as expected.

Stockport soon equalised though when one of their stand-out players, Carl Baker – who, incidentally is leaving them next week – went on an unchallenged run towards the Leeds goal. Eventually he was stopped by the Leeds defence, but only at the cost of a free-kick, from which County equalised. Baker took the free-kick himself, firing it low into the bottom corner, via another deflection from the Leeds wall. 1-1, and before anyone points any fingers, there was nothing Casper could have done about it.

Both keepers were kept busy as the teams exchanged blows. Bradley Johnson came closest for Leeds when his volleyed shot came back off the bar. Becchio also thought he’d scored just after the half hour mark, but the linesman decided he’d used his hand to control the ball. As half-time approached, Leeds enjoyed the better of the match but never pressured Stockport’s weak defence enough for me.

The second half started with both teams having chances, but it was Stockport who would take the lead just after the hour mark. A corner taken short from Stockport, was whipped towards the back post from the edge of the area where Leeds’ defence was once again missing and Mullins converted to give County a rare moment of celebration. After losing ten in a row, this wasn’t what the league leaders were expecting, nor were the home sides fans who were in total euphoria.

Simon Grayson made two changes shortly afterwards in search of more ideas upfront. The most important change was undoubtedly Max Gradel, who the Leeds fans had already called for. He replaced Robert Snodgrass and immediately started to torment Stockport’s fragile defence. Howson was also brought on for Doyle.

It took just five minutes for the equaliser and it was Patrick Kisnorbo with an unexpected assist. His cross found Jermaine Beckford who headed home brilliantly to restore parity. Who said Beckford was rubbish in the air? 2-2.

Gradel was busy running the Stockport defence ragged and Grayson made his final change replacing Lucciano Becchio with Tresor Kandol. The better chances were going Leeds’ way by now as Stockport looked happy to take a point.

Relying on such a poor defence was County’s downfall and ultimately cost them points as Max Gradel’s cross was poorly cleared, landing nicely for Leigh Bromby who struck beautifully on the half volley to send Leeds back infront with just two minutes remaining. 2-3. Queue a hysterical celebration from Bromby, who clearly hadn’t rehearsed anything in training.

County tried to chase the game and get themselves a point, but the World’s greatest time-waster, Casper Ankergren had other ideas. When the ball went out for a Leeds goal-kick in the dying moments, Casper did his usual routine of lining the ball up, walking back slowly, re-aligning the ball, walking back slowly again, knocking the mud off his boots on the post… etc… etc. Understandably annoyed by Casper’s antics, one of the Stockport fans behind his goal launched a snowball at him, for what had to be the funniest moment of the match.

Casper’s time-wasting proved to be irrelevant though as Jermaine Beckford wrapped things up in injury. Tresor Kandol played him in and although his shot was a little tame, it found it’s way under the County keeper to secure the win for Leeds. 2-4, job done. Beckford clearly enjoying himself again and everything rosy once more in the Leeds United camp.

"The referee's a..."

Whilst the goalscoring had finished, the totally inept referee who had been handing yellow’s out like they were Christmas cards decided to go one better by sending off a County player. His challenge on Gradel wasn’t the best admittedly, but they’d already lost the game and Gradel was fine so I simply can’t see what the sending off achieved. 

Clearly one of those ref’s that was adamant the fans came to watch him rather than the football, he managed a total of eight yellow cards (six for Leeds) and one red. An impressive haul by anyones standards. His final booking was one of those rare moments I agreed with though. Patrick Kisnorbo – who’d otherwise had a relatively good game – decided to shout at David Poole as he was leaving the pitch. A stupid thing to do as the player had already been sent off and seen his team go from in front to two behind and was probably feeling bad enough already. Kis received a yellow card for his antics, but it could easily have been red with the way the cards had been dished out.

This was a poor game by our standards. We weren’t great defensively and never pressured a weak Stockport defence enough. The conditions didn’t help as players slipped all over so Leeds were never able to really take control.

Stockport deserve credit mind. Considering they’re struggling as much as they are it was a spirited display from them, but Leeds have more talent at their disposal. Having the luxury of being able to bring on Max Gradel, who can change games in seconds, is something most teams don’t have. Thankfully, we got the job done and end the year with a victory.

Elsewhere, Charlton could only manage a draw, so Leeds will start the New Year eight points clear at the top of League One. Back across the Pennines next for Leeds, who will be playing a largely unheard of team from Salford in the FA Cup.