Leeds avenged last season’s 7-3 drubbing at the hands of Nottingham Forest with a hard-fought 2-1 victory, watched from the stands by 4 of the ‘top people’ from the possible investment/takeover group. With the Chairman revealing the latest just ninety minutes before kick-off, the atmosphere inside Elland Road was one of optimism which transferred onto the pitch as Leeds produced a confident first half performance.

Following their much maligned midweek outings against Hull City, both Aidan White and Luke Varney were dropped to the bench by manager Warnock. Into the team came Adam Drury and Dominic Poleon, giving the team a stronger looking back line and youthful exuberance in attack. Drury and Poleon lined up on the left hand side of defence and midfield respectively, with Warnock clearly mindful of the area from which Hull’s three goals came on Tuesday night.

The remainder of the starting eleven was as expected, but as the players lined up for kick-off it was clear that an unanticipated positional change had been implemented. Captain Lee Peltier and Tom Lees had been tactically swapped, with Lees pushed into right-back and Peltier taking up a centre-back berth alongside Jason Pearce. An interesting tactical move – but who are we to question a manager of Neil Warnock’s experience and success.

The game began promisingly, with both sides attacking dangerously and sharing possession equally. Most notable during the opening 5 minutes was the ferocity of the ‘Bates Out’ chanting. The Chairman’s statement on Yorkshire Radio had predictably included his usual brand of supporter-aimed derision, and the Kop faithful responded in kind early on.

On the pitch, Forest had the ball in the net after ten minutes. However, the capacity away following were delightedly cut short in their celebrations by the home fans as the referee blew for a foul.

Minutes later El Hadji Diouf’s cross was headed back across the area and fell to Luciano Becchio in the middle of the penalty area, who lashed left-footed into the roof of the net. For a player who sometimes earns mixed reviews, Becchio was excellent today and continued his underrated goalscoring exploits by bagging his sixth league goal of the season. In a week when we have felt the damaging loss of Ross McCormack, perhaps it would be more pertinent to consider what a long-term injury to Becchio would mean and thank our lucky stars that he as robust as Argentineans come.

That opening goal was greeted by dignified applause from the executive boxes, which would be on show again just twelve minutes later as Leeds doubled their advantage. As Becchio tried to find room for a shot on the edge of the area, a Forest defender managed to nick the ball away and into the path of youngster Poleon, who lashed the ball into the bottom corner. With such a small available budget, it must relieve the manager that our academy has produced players such as Poleon and Sam Byram, both of whom put in solid performances for this level of football.

For all of their wealth and expectation, Forest were failing to match their reputation and were being comfortably held at bay by Pearce, shackled by Austin and outstripped by Diouf. Just minutes before the interval, Becchio blazed over from a low Byram cross and as the referee blew for half-time, the only disappointment was that Leeds were not another goal to the good.

The second half was a different story, but an effective one for Leeds.

Forest immediately made a double substitution, highlighting their clumsy opening half. An even match slowly began to turn in favour of the away side as pressure mounted on Paddy Kenny’s goal. The deficit was halved on the hour mark as Leeds were caught out by a long throw, which was nodded into the net by Dexter Blackstock.

With the memory of Tuesday’s defeat to Hull and last season’s 7-3 thrashing, Elland road became anxious. Leeds’ confident opening half had turned into a disjointed second half performance, which wasn’t helped by an injury to Captain Peltier who had to be helped from the field. Tom Lees reverted to his usual position, Byram dropped to right-back and Aidan White entered the fray as a right-sided midfielder. On the other flank, Luke Varney replaced Poleon as Warnock opted for experience over youth in the effort to maintain the slender lead.

Forest pressed and gained confidence, but a mixture of good goalkeeping, good defending and good fortune kept the score at 2-1. As the match edged towards its conclusion, Rodolph Austin and El Hadji Diouf did more than most to take the pressure off as both produced possession-retaining play of the highest order. In spite of a ridiculous 6 minutes of injury time, Leeds held on with relative comfort to record their third victory of the Championship season.

For a cheaply assembled team with a number of high profile injuries, Leeds are competing admirably this season. With an equal number of wins and defeats and a level goal difference, we sit mid-table with the play-offs in reach. No team has beaten us by more than the odd goal, nor have we beaten anyone by more than a single strike. Gone are the days of heavy defeats. Leeds currently epitomise the adage that the Championship is a tough division, in which all teams are closely matched and ‘anyone can beat anyone’.

The question is, how long can the squad continue to compete this well? The signs are promising. Warnock is tactically shrewd and the injury situation may alleviate, with Paul Green nearing fitness again and murmurings of Davide Somma returning to training. If Bates’ comments today are to be believed, there could be money (yes, actual money) to spend in the January transfer window, and if Leeds are still in the mix then the second half of the season could yet be an interesting and competitive one at the right end of the table.

Many thanks to those of you who entered my ‘predict the score’ competition on Twitter. The closest guess came from Gerard O’Hagan (@Leedsunited32) who correctly predicted a 2-1 victory and a goal from Becchio. Send your predictions (including goalscorers) for the next home match to me @Matt_K_Burton for the chance to be mentioned in the match report.

  • Matthew

    Not a great performance, but have always said, its the 3 points that matter in the end. The season starts here. We need at least 35 points from our first 23 games, which equates to roughly 10 wins, 5 draws and 8 loses. or 11 wins, 2 draws, 10 loses. Reason being if we better this with our next 23 games after, we’l have over 73 points min come the end of the season, and a playoff spot.
    7 more wins. 7 more wins. Assuming this takeover happens before 23 games have been played, and we strengthen in Jan, just keep telling yourself 7 more wins, if we get 7 more wins sooner, then our playoff hopes are all the more brighter, whatever happens we need 7 more wins. And no I haven’t gone crazy :P

    • Matthew

      Forgot to add. I would love to see us blaze a trail in this league. It doesn’t matter that we’re not near the playoffs at the moment, as long as we blaze a path up this league slowly but surely, the Leeds United way, we’l be fine.

      • LUFCforever

        Hopefully we can hit top form at the right time of season like Reading did last year

    • Irving08

      Looking at the home fixtures ove the next two months, 7 is feasible, provided we get no more injuries. White and Byram playing together on the right has potential, by the way.

  • Kalich

    thanks for the write up !!!

  • LUFCforever

    Even though Warnock has completely changed the defence, I still feel we conceed too man goals, especially at home. But the 3 points is the most important thing, as long as we can stay there or thereabouts until January when we can hopefully have some decent money to spend and strengthen the squad

    • king sniffer

      Better than 7 though!

  • Will23

    Preceding our visit to the match we took the opportunity to go around Leeds Art Gallery and the neighbouring Henry Moore Institute in the morning.

    From a Leeds fan perspective, the first half our morning cultural exposure was like the match itself; some fleeting moments of artistic quality interlaced with some rubbish albeit with obvious signs of hard work being the chief ingredient but limited co-ordinated talent.

    But just as much as we were looking forward to the second half of the match leading two nil, so we were looking forward to the second half of our cultural visit to see the sculptural offerings from an Institute attached to the proud name of Henry Moore, a giant in the field.

    Needless to say both second halves failed to live up to expectations.

    But whilst Henry Moore would be turning in his grave at what was on show in “his” Institute – garbage would be too generous a description, in contrast, Don Revie would have been proud of the (sometimes desperate) defensive display from the team, though it would be far to say the pure football crafts exhibited in that second half were very limited indeed. The professionalism of Austin and Diouf in the last 10 minutes as they sought out the corners of the pitch with remarkable tenacity which followed with triumphal appreciation from the grateful crowd saved the day as we hung on with our fingernails.

    A wonder save from Kenny should also be noted and indeed recorded for posterity as worthy of a contender for save of the season and that save should be remembered more than his fumbling attempts to collect the ball during the Forest equaliser.

    Forest were as awful as the quality of the stuff on display in the Institute we saw in the morning. Leeds were tenacious warriors and statuesque in standing up for each other but it was a scrambled victory and one that would never have happened under Grayson.

    So, yes, there is plenty of room for improvement but with a makeshift midfield it was a great result against a team who admittedly had a very bad day at the office.

    Also worthy of note was the complete ineptness and incompetence of D’Urso, the alleged referee. He is really not fit for purpose.

    • TimPM

      Funnily enough Andy D’Urso is the ref I remember from longest ago. I remember being utterly pissed off with him and convinced he had it in for us (not normally like that about refs) and then being incredulous when he changed a penno decision against Scum when Beckham et al crowded him.
      ——————

    • Irving08

      Dare I suggest that next time you spend a whole day in the galleries ? If it was the Sarah Lucas exhibition you saw at Henry Moore, I think you might want to look again; as for the Art Gallery. it has a deserved reputation for containing the best collection of 20 Century British Art outside London. Was Fiona Rae still on ? – if not, pity her work is an absolute delight. …But then of course we wouldn’ t have the benefit of your balanced match comments.

      • Will23

        Yep, Sarah Lucas and her stuffed tights on brieze blocks. Each to their own! But I do object to this form of art. Give me the Rodin statue any day of the week – it is a diamond in the Gallery collection.

        I enjoyed more the city galleries at both Manchester and Birmingham. I highly recommend the portrait gallery in Edinburgh and of course the London galleries.

        I do not just object to this so called “modern art” as art, but that it is often tax payer funded by each and everyone one of us. Saatchi at least puts his money where his art tastes are, that is his choice and his money.

        Leeds art gallery had some great paintings, but not enough of them, and it was like finding a diamond in a cesspit. The beever and the hoovermatic washing machine were quite frankly embarrassing for the Gallery and also the alleged artist whose name was slips my mind, thankfully.

        A favourite quote of mine comes from Picasso is this and it sums up my objection to modern art:

        “And I myself since the advent of Cubism have fed these fellows [art critics] what they wanted and satisfied these critics with all the ridiculous ideas that have passed through my head.”

        “The less they understood them, the more they admired me. Through amusing myself with all these absurd farces, I became celebrated. But when I am alone I do not have the effrontery to consider myself an artist at all, not in the grand old meaning of the word. Giotto, Titian, Rembrandt and Goya, they were great painters. I am only a public clown.”

        “I have understood my time and have exploited the imbecility, the vanity, the greed of my contemporaries. It is a bitter confession of mine – more painful than it may seem. But at least and at last it does have the merit of beng honest”.

        He apparently wrote this in November 1951 but I do not have the source book.

        In contrast, all classical art of great value is immediately recognisable as great art. It needs no interpretation or understanding of the artist. Such art represents a level of beauty and skill that most modern artists, such as Hirst, could not hold a brush too.

        So for me, modern art is a phoney game of interpretation of the artist’s meanings but then I suppose it comes down to what you see as the purpose of art is?

        Random collections of objects is nothing more than a design, and a design is not art.

  • Reid_er

    Did we not beat Posh by more than an odd goal?

  • anythinggoeshere

    we still can’t keep posession. There is no point in us even going up with the current team and playing philosophy, just scoring and then sitting on a lead. I think we should see the Championship as an opportunity, not something we should be in a rush to escape from. I think we should spend this season creating a team that can play more of a passing style and build a team that can not only get promoted next season, but will go up as champions

    • king sniffer

      Bearing in mind the massive increase in TV money that’s coming next season it’s essential that we try and get promotion this season, even if it was to mean coming straight back down as we would then have the money to go straight back up again. The divide between the PL and the Championship is going to be colossal and we need to be there before it widens.

  • Mike

    Is the loan window still open?

  • Irving08

    Support for the team from the Kop was strong. Byram was a pleasure to watch: he seems to have both Sheridan and Batty in his genes; opposition players are scared to tackle Diouf, bearing out Old Schoolboy’s early assessment of his value; Pearce and Austin are both immense – and the sun was shining. It was our good luck though that O’Driscoll had picked the wrong starting line-up. As to styles, I now have an open mind: whatever eventually gets us up will do for me. This team certainly has a strong collective ethic. If the new money comes in quickly now, we have a chance…..

    • Chareose

      agree…

  • NottsWhite

    A good first half as we stopped Forest getting into their stride and a backs to the wall performance in the second half. The change of Peltier and Lees may have raised some eyebrows however IMO Lees is to nervy at centre back and Peltier provides better support for Pearce. Glad to have Drury back in the side as he is a solid pro who takes few risks with the ball. Diouf and Austin demonstrated real footballing brains in the last 10 mins to run down the clock. Effort and commitment was the winner today – however with a squad so thin how often can we win on effort and commitment alone ?

  • Matthew

    Looking forward to Tuesday, I don’t think Moyes will play his best team and risk injuries, I think he’l play a mix of fringe/first teamers. I think we’l either win, or lose badly. Preferably win. Lets hope Moyes takes the view that the league is more important, especially as his squad recently beat Swansea 0-3 at Swanseas place, and they have a better defense than us too at Swansea lol. Every reason to be worried by Everton but lets just hope for the best, we beat the Scum with a league 1 side, we can beat Everton too :P. Kenny just needs to get ready to save the 20-30 shots they’l have at our goal, like they did against Swansea lol.

  • barnzy
  • Smudger
  • Smudger