Won on the night, drew overall, but out on penalties. Despite a defiant comeback from a never say die Leeds United side who were unquestionaly the better team overall, it’s Carlisle that will play in this years JPT final at Wembley Stadium whilst Leeds United are dealt a bitter blow by the coin flip that is a penalty shoot-out.

I left Carlisle on Tuesday night feeling extremely bitter. The JPT for me was always a pointless competition I cared little about, but the opportunity to watch Leeds United play at Wembley once more was always tempting. My bitterness stemmed from quite possibly the worst referee I have ever seen. I usually try to ignore referee’s performances, because on the whole, the lower league ones are largely useless and both teams have to cope with their incompetence, but this referee was a special kind of moron.

Clearly, this ref had just got himself a new whistle and wanted to show it off to the 10,000 fans who he mistakenly believed had come to watch him. His whistle spent so much time in his mouth that the game hardly had a chance to flow early on, but he did seem to let up a little second half (presumably after a bollocking from someone) and the two teams were actually allowed to play football in small patches.

What was all the more irritating about this referee than the usual jobsworth was his inability to give a decision that actually mattered. If a player coughed near another one anywhere outside the penalty box then this was a definite free-kick in his mind. However, when a Leeds United player was fouled in the box for the most clear cut decision I saw all night, he gave nothing! The final blow for me though came at the very end when he decided to have the penalties taken infront of the Carlisle fans rather than at the opposite end which was split. The coin toss became a little more weighted in their direction at that point.

When the ref did stop to capture his breath, the game was actually a really good battle. The scoreline says it all really, but the comeback from Leeds United was magnificent. Both teams will be questioning some of the defending in the aftermath, most noticably Lubomir Michalik on our part who got himself two assists for Carlisle. Whenever it looked like it was over, Leeds United just didn’t give in and you could sense Mike Grella’s goal coming and just knew this was going down to the wire.

Carlisle for me didn’t deserve their place in the final, Leeds were the better team and but for some poor defending and a few dodgy decisions, we’d be playing in the most exciting JPT final the competition has ever seen infront of a capacity crowd at the national stadium. Without us, the final will hardly be thought of outside Carlisle, but we bow out of the competition with our heads held high and are now fully focused on what has been the number one priority all along. Promotion.

The ups

The fans – As always, the fans did Leeds United proud. We outsang the pitiful Carlisle fans throughout and even when our backs were to the wall facing a two goal mountain the songs just kept coming. MOT!

Never say die – The penalty shootout aside, this was a display from a spirited Leeds United who never gave up and carried on fighting no matter what the scoreline read and however stacked against us the odds were. This is the kind of display that will win Leeds United promotion, however bad the defence may be at times.

Attack, attack… attack, attack, attack! When the goals were needed and the referee kept his whistle out of his mouth for long enough and even without Jermaine Beckford (who would have probably got sent off with that ref) Leeds were good when on the front foot. Becchio should have done better with a couple of chances, but the build-up play from McSheffrey, Snoddy and Gradel was usually very good. Snoddy even managed to cross pretty well so long as the ball was moving. Corners on the other hand… Well, one step at a time…

The Downs

Luciano Becchio – Bitterly disappointed with Luci who bottled the penalty shoot-out, leaving our on-loan full-back to take the decisive penalty instead. Only one regular striker on the pitch in the absence of Beckford and he didn’t have the balls to step up and take a pen for Leeds. Whatever his reasons, he’s a striker and should always be taking them before the full-backs. Also could have done better infront of goal, but as a lone striker Grayson was asking a lot.

Max Gradel – Too much time with Jermaine Beckford has led to the youngster developing a serious attitude problem. The referee infuriated everyone, but shouting at him was never going to get you too far Max. There was one point where Kilkenny tried to calm him down only to receive a load of abuse too. His footballing display was good and he tried everything to give Leeds the edge, but his attitude overshadowed his performance. Lucky not to see a red card.

Lubomir Michalik – Dreadful. At times he made some good tackles and got the blocks in, but when taken into context with his mistakes, he was dreadful and cost us the game.

The tactics – Becchio as a lone striker? I know he’s found his shooting boots lately, but that was never a good idea. What on earth does Mike Grella have to do to get in the starting line-up at Leeds?