That winning feeling

Just before I set off to Middlesbrough for today’s game I was reading through the editorials and forum posts on a Middlesbrough site where the old ‘Dirty Leeds’ tag was doing overtime. As Boro hacked away at the Leeds United team (injuring two of our players in the process) any neutrals watching must have been wondering if this ‘Dirty Leeds’ they’d told us so much about were wearing red?

Aside from an impressive ability to injure the opposition, the SPL rejects struggled early doors; it wasn’t difficult to see why Gordon Strachan’s job was on the line as Leeds United settled in early and looked threatening. It took just 11 minutes for the Whites to take the lead when a deflected cross found Davide Somma who volleyed home his sixth of the season.

A lack of pace and creativity in the Boro side made life easy for Richard Naylor and Neill Collins, and as our chubby stand-in keeper pondered a walk to the pie stand, Kris Boyd was starting to regret the easy life he left behind in Scotland – I sincerely doubt he’ll be hitting 30 goals a season in this league!

Sanchez Watt was the first victim of Middlesbrough’s suspect tackling and looked like he was going to be replaced just after the half hour mark, only for the board to show Andy Hughes on in place of George McCartney who is believed to be suffering from a severe strain of man-flu – we wish him well!

Watt tried to continue but lasted only five minutes before the gaffer was forced to bring on Bradley Johnson in his place. The first time Grayson drops the ineffective Bradley Johnson, and he worms his way on to the pitch after just 35 minutes or so… Conspiracy? Most definitely. But credit where it’s due, Johnson had a very good game defensively and didn’t hit one ball onto the roof of the stand! I don’t think he took a shot either mind, but that’s beside the point.

The substitutions took the pace out of the game and little else happened before half-time. The Boro fans weren’t impressed and booed their team off the pitch. As great as it was to be in front away from home, it was painful to see Leeds United legend, Gordon Strachan being booed from the pitch.

Boro responded to the boo’s as the second half got under way and for the first time in the game they started to peg Leeds back. It was a poorly defended, but nonetheless beautiful cross that handed an unmissable equaliser to Kris Boyd. A brief moment of joy for the SPL reject, but they’ll be few and far between this season.

Middlesbrough’s renewed belief was short-lived though. Just minutes later Luciano Becchio’s persistence paid off as he scrapped the ball into the path of Bradley Johnson. Johnson hit the ball across the area, by which point, Becchio had made space for himself to strike home beautifully off the post to put Leeds back in front.

Both teams had chances after that, but it was Becchio again with the most notable one. From the edge of the area, Becchio blasted a shot at goal, which rebound back off the part of the woodwork where the bar meets the post. A goal of the season contender for sure had it been a couple of inch lower!

As Middlesbrough tried to scrape a point, Leeds United sat back and played some horrible time-wasting football. Boro hadn’t finished injuring our players yet either, with the impressive Amdy Faye forced off the pitch late on. Hopefully nothing too serious for Faye, as the midfielder was a big improvement in the role Killa usually fills. He showed a lot of experience on the ball, providing Leeds with a calming influence in possession and always finding a good pass.

Five minutes of stoppage time did nothing to help Boro, and as the final whistle blew it was a thoroughly deserved three points for Leeds United. A slightly bittersweet moment for myself though as it seemed the writing was on the wall for former Leeds great, Gordon Strachan.

TSS man of the match

I imagine the general consensus is Luciano Becchio, and I won’t argue with that. What I will say however, is that Amdy Faye really stood out for me as a positive and calming influence on the rest of the team. Fingers crossed his injury was nothing serious and the gaffer was also impressed by him today.

  • Kevin O’Connor
    • TSS

      @Kevio17

      No, haven’t been back long. Have the game Sky+’d and have been flicking through but wasn’t up to that bit yet. Gotta love our Argentinian son, haven’t you?

    • Colin

      well picked up i didn’t catch it at the time

  • Bill Fox

    Loved the game, whole day out. Becchio MOM for me but Snoddy and Faye excellent.

    Hope we get the treatment room open early tomorrow mind.

  • check this out! The most shockingly innaccurate match report i’v ever read! According to this, Snoddy scored our first, Boyd scored a header etc etc! Proof that the bloggers for the smoggies can’t even be bothered going to the game! match report link below-

    http://www.comeonboro.com/programme/leedsh/10111311.php#comms

  • henry vincent lewis

    Great display by my hero Lucciano!!
    He would be the first name on my team sheet.
    I hope we sort his contract soon! His stock is rising.
    Somma got his goal but he is no defender. Like Becks really, and he had few opportunities.
    The back line were solid and goalie did what he had to.
    He does look a little chubby. Just filling the goals sideways instead of upwards I suppose.
    Faye had a sound game, but he is not yet match fit.
    He was glad to come off. Hope he is OK!
    Watt had a fine game until that nasty tackle!
    The ref was a bit lax on a few occasions.
    The Boro chairman looked very disappointed, but I hope he gives Gordon more time. It’s too early in the season to judge anything.
    Bradley Johnson had a solid game and shook one or two Boro players up! He could be a real powerhouse.
    He was more sensible with his passing, and crosses also.
    Jonny worked hard, but still goes missing too often.
    Still think he will be a great player before the seasons out!!
    Finally Mr Naylor had a splendid game, and is as brave as a lion!

  • paulg

    Good result, and a solid performance – but the opposition really wasn’t up to much ….. I’m afraid as a manager Strach is like so many of the Scots in his side – it’s one thing winning league titles with Celtic, but he’s done precious little with any of the English clubs he’s managed.

    Turning to Leeds, I know Johnson isn’t the most popular of our players, but I’d rather see him in the side than Howson – who seems to be one of those who can do no wrong in SG’s eyes. Thought he was totally anonymous (again) yesterday, other than when he was either losing the ball, or playing suicidal passes across the middle of our own half …..

  • White to the core

    Have to agree tss. Amdy Faye is a big improvement in centre of midfield, and will only get better with games. Becchio and Somma are starting to have a good understanding up front. Watt was looking good and Snoddy. Still not sure bout Howson. Defensively we still have a long way to go, but at least with Roy chubby Brown wedged between the goal posts there is not a lot of space left for the opposition to shoot at. Most amazingly Bradley ‘hoofer’ Johnson not once tried to relocate the match ball on the roof of the east stand, big improvement but hopefully he will be back warming the bench next game. Those dirty smoggies were lucky to finish with eleven men on the field and like you its heart breaking to see our Gordy being boo’ed and heckled. They dont deserve him on Teesside. MOT

  • timm

    I’d hardly call Kris Boyd a ‘SPL’ reject! The Championship is a stronger league than the SPL & he’s on far higher wages than he was at Rangers. Calling him a ‘SPL reject’ is like calling Jermaine Beckford a ‘L1 reject’! I actually think Boyd would score a sackful if he wasn’t playing in a team of Celtic rejects though!!

  • Clarkeonenil
    • TSS

      @Clarkeonenil

      Hi MG, I’ve said for a long time that Becchio needs to be more selfish and develop a striker’s instinct, and yesterday he took a great leap forward in that respect. Maybe the pressure of Paynter and McCormack being at ER was the motivation he needed.

  • Will

    A great away result though nail biting as the team sat further and further back in the 2nd half and offered very little in attack.

    There is still much work to be done at Thorp Arch on this evidence.

    It is still too far a disfunctional team for comfort. But, in facing a Boro team with greater difficulties meant we just did enough to fall over the line to collect three points and we actaully closed the game out very well in the last 10.

    The biggest plus though was the defensive covering skill of Faye, the man of the match for me with Becchio a close second.

    We know of the defensive frailties, hence Faye’s introduction, but yesterday there were problems with the link up play betwen midfield and attack with possession lost far too easily as soon as we crossed the halfway line.

    Faye’s starting place, coupled with the Howson’s continuing inability to dominate & create from the centre mean that something was sacrificed yesterday. The only conclusion is that Kilkenny is needed in place of the lightweight Howson, alongside Faye.

    Snodgrass was particularly guilty of wayward passing and did little to impress in attack. He is clearly playing catch up on his fitness and all being well the concentration of games coming up will see him return to former glories of the first half of last season.

    Despite early pleasing passing in the opening 20, the performance ebbed away, but with Boro being in crisis, their threats were limited thanks to the supply line to their front two being worse than ours.

    Our opening quarter momentum was probably lost once the two subs were on as McCartney and Watt had both impressed in both defence and attack.

    The team looks far better with Watt on the pitch with his ability to move away from players when on the ball, providing that quality still seriously lacking in our team – pace.

    Thankfully for Hughes & Johnson the potential danger of Kink was thwarted as much by Kink himself as by our subs.

    Anymore decent crosses from Kink, as he provided for their equaliser, would have panicked the panicky Collins & Naylor who I am sorry to say are a pairing that will see us lose as many games as we win this season.

    With four in the next six at home the next month is vital if we are to pull away from the bottom three and get closer to that 50 point mark.

    50 points seems a long way off, especially as we will not be playing a very poor Boro side every week,

    So, I’m firmly keeping my eyes on the bottom three, not the unrealistic play-offs, and can only hope that there a some clean sheets ahead in the next six games to give us those much needed points.

    MOT

  • Anthony Lewis

    That is an excellent three points for the mighty Leeds! We played well in the first half, started the second half a bit dodgy but when becchio put us 2-1 up we looked good again! Two really well taken goals, Somma looks different class! I thought Jason Brown looked solid and our defence was much improved from recent weeks! All in all a very positivie result with very few negatives!! MOT! We are Leeds!

  • superhoops

    Nice piece, but not sure I’d be calling the SPL’s all time top scorer an ‘SPL Reject’

  • tim campbell

    The championship is really living up to its reputation as a really open league. I still think we are adjusting to this level, but I’m sure the longer the seaon progresses the better we will get. Still don’t think a play-off spot is beyond us.

  • Raph

    Glad your back tss, where you been so long?! Great game last night, could see their equaliser coming a mile off, they really pegged us back and couldnt seem to get out of our half for 2nd part of 1st half and opening part of 2nd. For majority though, was very pleased with the show. Chuffed davide scored after a couple of games without, so confidence is still there, and lucci…legend

  • Howard Bartle

    I think the loss of Watt was the reason boro came back into it in the latter part of the first half and we started very sloppily in the second it took the boro goal to get us going forward with any sort of purpose. A really classy strike from Becchio deserved to win any match

  • richard

    A good win but we couldnt keep the ball very long, plus boro were very very poor so i`ll take the 3 pts but much room for improvement methinks.

  • Colin

    Just watched the highlights on LUTV and Becchio’s goal looks better everytime you watch it (even if it did deflect off Howson and I’m not sure but i think Howson might have been offside).

    It all seems to be coming together. If we can get everyone fully fit, then there seems to be a team developing there. Just seems like consistency is the problem at the moment.

    The next 2 games are going to be tough – Leicester and Cardiff – I presume the Cardiff game is on Sky as it’s a Monday night match??

  • Jacques Cockell

    Just seen that Davide Somma is the most efficient striker in the whole of england, beating Florent Malouda and Didier Drogba on his way!

    http://www.imscouting.com/global-news-article/Leeds-Davide-Somma-is-most-efficient-scorer-in-England/11111/

  • Matt BB

    blooming heck, one win and its all ok once again.
    We urgently need some pace in the centre of defence, i still think we need one more signing there. Faye looked pretty decent and the central holding midfielder we’ve needed, will the young lad clayton learn his trade from faye, he seems to have disappeared into thin air.

  • TSS

    @mattbb

    It’s going to be a season of euphoric ups and insufferable downs I’m afraid Matt, so best to enjoy the good times while you can.

  • steve underwood

    lets look at the facts boro are a poor side we did ok at times but still look nervous when players run at us faye played well i dont get howson he gives nothing to the the team its like playing with 10 men.I thought connelly was great starting to look good,one point i would like to say fans last season a lot was said about becks apart from his goals he gave nothing to the team well starting to see same in somma hope he scores same amount of goal has becks,the one worry for me is his contract is up at the end of this season so he can sign for any team in jan need to sort asap last thing on becks he looks lost at everton ill say this to him in jan come home to leeds you know you want to

  • Matt BB

    I have to agree on Howson, and the best thing with him is, leave him on the bench and he will be a supersub, probably scoring a goal.

    I think though that he’s a player who needs rest periods, a little like Becchio, playing week in week out is too much for him, he isnt as physically tough as someone like Johnson, or even Kilkenny.

    Again I’d like to see what Clayton has to offer, and counting the days for Parkers comeback.

    @TSS a season of euphoric highs, yes I can see a few of those, but I thought that Middlesbro were as poor a side as we’ve played, they had plenty of free headers though in our area and that is a concern.

    • TSS

      The thing with the “free” headers was that Leeds forced Boro down the middle so they resorted to humping balls in the box (as we so often do ourselves). Whilst it may look dangerous from our rose-tinted vantage point, a couple of half decent centre-backs and a sturdy keeper will have the easiest day of their lives as none of the balls coming in are particularly threatening. Strikers want the ball in front of them, and for the majority of the game, Leeds prevented Boro doing that.

      On another point several people have raised, have I been watching a different Jonny Howson from everyone else because he’s the first player I’d have in the team! He gets back and defends, feeds players in going forward and usually picks out the right pass. He makes a couple of mistakes, granted, but what player doesn’t? Do we just need someone to hate as Leeds fans, and have turned on Jonny now Bradders has been dropped?

  • Benjamin Newsome

    Let’s see if we can get a few wins back to back now. Glad Somma and Becchio are starting to do what Beckford and Becchio did last season with Becchio doing alot and Somma being the main poacher.
    It’s gonna be hard for Paynter and Mccormack to make the side now, I doubt either will take it well because there both good strikers, there not gonna want to sit around on the bench all season.

    • Colin

      @benjaminbunny

      I completely agree. I think McCormack could be excellent if he had a good run of games, but I can’t see how you can drop Somma/Becchio at the moment.

      But it will be interesting to see what happens with Becchio’s expiring contract – I’m pretty sure he’ll be asking for a big pay increase, but I’m not sure Leeds will want to give him a 3 year deal on big(ish) money. Hmmmm.

  • Colin

    @banditsteve123 @mattbb

    I have to defend Jonny Howson. I think he’s one of those players who isn’t appreciated because he does all the interplay work that keeps the team ticking over. His hardwork often goes unnoticed in the commentaries and the highlights but the stats back Howson up over the full 90 minutes.

    http://actimindex.files.wordpress.com/2008/08/champ_index_top10059.gif

    This is the best free (i think you have to pay for Opta?, i’m not sure) and latest stats ranking index that I could find.

    Highest ranked Leeds player: Jonny Howson at no.46. The only other 2 Leeds players in the top 100 were Somma (58) and Becchio (67).

    For me, Howson and Snodgrass go straight into the midfield line up for any game. Faye goes in if he’s fit, if we’re playing away, if we play 4-5-1 or we’re playing someone who’s better and more attacking than us. The rest depends on what SG fancies – pacey wingers/attacking midfielders like Gradel, Sam or a traditional wide winger like Bradley Johnson.

    As an aside, there’s been a lot of raving about Faye, and he has done well so far, but its early days. Put him up against Adel Taarabt of QPR and Faye will get destroyed.

  • TheReaper08

    @colin Just out of interest what did you think of the ridiculous little pirouette Howson did on the edge of our box before giving the ball to a Boro player. He looked like a rabbit with a truck bearing down on him, not a clue. We were lucky to get away with that.

  • Colin

    @TheReaper08

    I think all the judges gave him 6.0’s for the pirouette, apart from the Middlesbrough judge who gave 5.5 but was obviously biased.

    I honestly can’t remember seeing that, but I was wearing a pair of Ray Bans Wenger special edition at the time.

    All I can say is that if it was a game of poker I’ll see your Howson mistake and raise you a dozen Naylor errors. That said, Naylor had a good game. Yes, I admit it, I just said that Naylor had a good game, in fact a very good game.

    I’m not saying that Howson is the next Steven Gerrard, but what’s the alternative? Kilkenny? Give me a break. SG’s found him out thankfully.

  • TheReaper08

    @colin I don’t think it’s fair to compare the two, Naylor can fall over just standing still.

    It really did happen though, although it was probably a little less pirouette and a little more running around in a tight circle if I’m honest.

  • Bill Fox

    I rate Howson very highly although he continues on a learning/experience curve and this league will expose him at times. Feel Faye may prove an ideal partner.

    The circles incident was a shocker but he did 2 or 3 great things in 2nd half.

    Stand by (y)our man!

  • Benjamin Newsome

    Wheres Sam gone?

  • henry vincent lewis

    I can only see Jonny getting stronger and more confident as the season progresses.
    It was interesting to hear the interview with Faye.
    He said he talks a lot to the players around him, and pulls people up if they give the ball away too cheaply. This may explain why Bradley has stopped letting fly at every opportunity.
    He also said we have a tendency to panic!!!
    We have all seen this!
    I think the way we closed out the game against Boro was a change for the better.
    Jonny did a good job along with Robert and Lucciano near the corner flag.
    You cannot have all eleven playing well every game, but as Jonny gets stronger
    and more confident, he will be a star man!!
    Bradley has a lot of good qualities and does battle for the team, like Hughesy!!
    I wonder who taught Lucciano those naughty words???

  • Matt BB

    gentlemen! i rate howson, i really do but i think he’s a player who benefits from rest, a lot of expectation on him so that’s hard for a youngun to live with too. i just happen to think kilkenny should start a few games too. as long as there is a holding mid there what would the problem be?