At 3:30, Leeds were down and out of this match, being completely outplayed by a classy and expensive Blackburn Rovers side. By 5:00, Elland Road was rueing an agonising injury time miss from El Hadji Diouf as the Whites settled for a thrilling 3-3 draw.

Following the comfortable midweek victory over Oxford United, Neil Warnock reverted back to the team who defeated Peterborough in the last league match. Luciano Becchio and Ross McCormack were reinstated in attack, whilst Luke Varney and David Norris returned in midfield. On paper, Leeds have a strong first eleven, but yet another damp squib of a transfer deadline day left the home bench failing to inspire and the squad as lightweight as ever.

In contrast, the forever under pressure Steve Kean was able to name an intimidating team full of experience at the highest level including Morten Gamst Pedersen, Nuno Gomes and former England international Danny Murphy. Perhaps most intimidating of all was the inclusion of Jordan Rhodes, the league’s most expensive and sought after marksman. At £8million, Rhodes price tag easily dwarfed that of the entire Leeds squad and served as a reminder of the gulf in financial clout between a recent Premier League team with parachute payments and a club seemingly heading for further financial meltdown if the glacial-paced takeover fails to materialise.

The financial chasm on show soon transitioned into a chasm of quality, skill and talent as the away side dominated the opening exchanges. Paddy Kenny was forced into a number of early saves as Leeds failed to gain a grip on the match. In spite of rampant recent performances, Rodolph Austin was struggling to make any impression in the midfield as he and David Norris were left chasing shadows.

Particularly vulnerable was the Leeds’ right flank, where Captain Lee Peltier and Blackburn-old-boy El Hadji Diouf were frequently the embarrassed victims of ruthless left-wing attacks. It was no surprise, therefore, when Markus Olsson broke free down the left and swept into the penalty area before dispatching the first goal conceded by Leeds at home this season. Both Peltier and Diouf looked horribly out of position as the move unfolded, and Kenny was left red-faced as the ball was lashed under him.

Minutes later, Blackburn struck a second. Again the attack came down the left hand side before the ball was cut across the 18 yard line for Nuno Gomes to clip into the far side of the net. Heads dropped in the stands. Blackburn’s dominance and superiority was so vast that murmurings of a heavy thrashing spread like Chinese whispers.

Frustration grew both on and off the pitch as the Whites began to concede petulant fouls in their desperation to create even a single chance in the first half. The fans’ attention alternated between deriding the referee and steadfastly chanting the “Bates Out” mantra.

But this is football. And, as we all know, it is the most unpredictable of games. As they say, it only takes a moment of magic or a scrambled fluke to change a match. El Hadji Diouf’s 43rd minute lifeline goal was certainly one of the latter category, prodding the ball over the line following a woeful display of goalkeeping from ex-Leeds hero Paul Robinson.

Suddenly, Leeds were alive. Diouf and Varney had swapped flanks, patching up the right-wing defensive frailties. Attacks began to flow. Moments after pulling Leeds back into the match, Diouf could have equalised as he headed goalwards a McCormack free-kick, only for Robinson to tip acrobatically over the crossbar.

Half time arrived and brought a chorus of scorn for the officials, but there was a new found optimism in the air.

Warnock’s men began the second half as they finished the first. Blackburn’s flowing football dissolved under the crushing wave of Leeds pressure.

On 57 minutes, Adam Drury sent the ball upfield. Luciano Becchio jumped, but neither he nor his marker got a touch, allowing the ball to run through to Ross McCormack on the edge of the penalty area. From there McCormack unleashed a sublime half-volley across Robinson to emphatically snatch an equaliser which had seemed so out of reach after half an hour. It was McCormack’s first league goal of the season, and he will have been very satisfied to outshine his Scottish compatriot Rhodes, who was being adeptly shackled by Jason Pearce.

There would only be one winner from here. Elland Road sensed a third goal was on the cards and so it proved. Just 10 minutes after the equaliser, Leeds completed a frankly staggering comeback as some comical Blackburn defending sent the ball into the path of Luciano Becchio. The Argentinean’s header beat Robinson at his near post, and left Leeds dreaming of a third victory in four games.

“Bates Out” soon evolved into ironic chants of “Kean Out” as the gloom of the first half turned into delirious euphoria. Jason Pearce hit the back of the net to make it 4-2, only for the referee to disallow the goal with one of several dubious decisions which would leave Neil Warnock enraged post-match.

Leeds pressed for a fourth, but it was Blackburn who would strike a hammer blow. A questionably awarded free kick found its way to Ruben Rochina, who deftly back-heeled past Paddy Kenny to deflate the home support.

Up went the fourth official’s board to reveal 5 minutes of stoppage time. Blackburn attacked, threatening to well and truly rain on the parade. But the last chance of a thrilling match would fall to El Hadji Diouf with seconds remaining. As the ball fell fortuitously to his feet in the area, the stage was set to become a hero and win over his remaining doubters by snatching a stunning winner against his former employers. Diouf swung his left foot, a defender slid in, Robinson flailed, and the ball cleared the crossbar. Today was not to have a final dramatic twist.

Despite the feeling of deflation at the final whistle, this was an excellent match and a very good result against possibly the strongest team in the division. From a position of inevitable defeat, Leeds showed all the fight, spirit and winning mentality that you would expect of a Neil Warnock side. And long may it continue.

Many thanks to those of you who entered my ‘predict the score’ competition on Twitter. The closest guess came from Eddy Briggs (@eddybriggs) who correctly predicted a 3-3 draw 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.

  • NottsWhite

    Thrilling match, a point earned rather than 2 points dropped however if it wasn’t for the ref it should have been 3 points. Blackburn were given the freedom of our right hand side for the first 30 mins until NW made the switch. Leeds grew in confidence after the goal and Blackburn could not handle an assertive, competitive and faster pace. Rhodes was in Pearce’s pocket all afternoon and Austin’s second half performance was awesome. Only negative point for me was that Varney (although worked hard) gave the ball away far too much.

  • Fred

    Got a question… where the fuck is the kop these days? Never known it so embarrassingly quiet.

    • The kop was absolutely bouncing, was you at the game?

      • Irving08

        I too thought the Kop was full of voice:it was on Row W. The Bates Out chants quickly subsided – interestingly as we went behind; in fact, the Kop got behind the team in a way that has not been in evidence for a season.
        Unlike our reporter, I was not massively impressed by Blackburn: to me they look a bit lightweight, both in defence and up front, though their midfield, unlike ours, looked good. They made a key substition at 3-2, bringing on Number 23, who was never picked up and who, as a result, scored what felt like an inevitable equaliser after a few potshots.

        Playing Diouf on the right was obviously a mistake and it led directly to their first two goals. As Old Schoolboy has said, he has free kick value, though a price has to be paid for it. Personally I would prefer to see one of the just-out of-schoolboys on the field than him.
        Altogether a cracking afternoon.

        • Chareose

          Diouf was involved in almost every key attack, id hardly call that “free kick” value……………
          I too would like to see Byram play……sometimes the managers psychology is baffling because they will play Veterans like Varney who have very little to offer rather than playing a talented youngster because “its a risk”.
          Yes our midfield is weak, i hope Warnock considers dumping Varney for green perhaps………im also hoping Norris will pick up soon because he was superb for Portsmouth… The other thing is Austin is by far our most powerful midfeilder so perhaps we should look at playing Brown next to him so he can go forwards ashe did against Oxford

          • Dan Kelly

            You dont know what your talking about! Green would be playing if he wasn’t injured, Brown should not be starting our league games. Brown is the veteren not Varney. Varney is only 29, how can a 29 year old be a veteren?

          • Chareose

            1/ Have you considered writing a book about taking peoples words out of context ?
            2/ Yes im aware that Green is injured but I prefer him (well anyone) to Varney, is that ok for me to have an opinion on that ?
            3/ Brown releases Austin to attack like he did versus Oxford, (29) is hardly a youngster either….

          • Irving08

            Maybe that was a bit harsh on Diouf, but you wouldn’t want to be the full back playing behind him would you ?

          • Chareose

            Agree with Oldschool about the pace issue and yes Blackburn definately exploited it but the problem is we need Dioufs skill on the ball as we have no flare players in forward positions other than Mccormack….. The best position for Diouf is as a striker sat behind a target man but that would mean going 3v3 (which Warnock wont risk) or dropping the gifted Mccormack….. Warnock is trying to make the most of what hes got so he has to play Diouf…. For me Varney is the weakest player going forwards so id definately take a punt on one of the youngsters but try to work on their positioning. Perhaps Austin needs to be focused on supporting whatever wing Diouf is playing on??

          • oldschoolbaby

            My original point was that Diouf consistently looks for frre kicks to mthe point that he sometimes gives the impression he sees that as his role in life. Although not necessarily to my liking that is a tactic with obvious “value” as this Leeds team include a number who fancy their chances of getting their head on the ball ( btw an attribute Byram seems to have ) when the ball is pumped into the box. Perhaps to invite the challenge Diouf doesn`t inject any pace into the game. Whilst it would be entirely understandable that he hasn`t got the pace he once had, even when on as a sub he doesn`t seem, to me anyway, to even try to sprint. I would assume the Blackburn scouts recognised this resulting in them targeting Diouf`s flank from the outset yesterday
            Have yet to decide whether I would entirely agree with Irving and automatically play a youngster ahead of him

      • Fred

        Yeah in the south stand, it might be a distance thing but even still it seemed relatively dead for the majority of the match.

  • Fred

    Got a question… where is the kop these days? Never known it so embarrassingly quiet.

  • TimPM

    Top article again….

    “Suddenly, Leeds were alive.” Thats the biggest plus for me. We had strengths and weaknesses but unlike the past few years, when we went down we came back stronger. That’s the mark of a winner and that’s the best sign yet for the team imo

    • Chareose

      We are missing a midfeild passer and a quality winger to replace Varney. Pearce, Austin, Becchio, Diouf and Mccormack are the talent………Byram for the future perhaps.

      • Matthew

        Max Gradel, Max Gradel, fucking Max Gradel, excellent player, a player we all loved. Warnock should bring him home if this takeover happens.

  • trueyorxman

    Paul Robinson MOTM for Leeds

  • Ron

    I personally think a match like this under SG ends up 6-1 to Blackburn. No disrespect to SG, but Warnock is a fighter and is giving supporters an opportunity to vent their frustration through venomous support, as we know he gets the team up for a scrap. I’m happy with our performances thus far, especially given the debacle going on above Warnock’s head. Is there a better place on earth than ER when the fans are going ballistic. No – and Warnock knows this.

  • djedjedje

    Tis now two weeks until our next match, unless I’m mistaken. It’ll be interesting to see if Warnock picks up any icing in the unwanted-Premiership-loan-market after 7th September and if Green is fit by then. We do need depth.

    • Irving08

      In view of the two free weeks weren’t you just a little a bit puzzled by his not playing either Byram or White yesterday ?

      • djedjedje

        Sort of. I’m guessing that Warnock was hoping to secure a partnership down the right between Diouf and Peltier. In theory both are seasoned pros, so should have been able to keep it tight down that channel. Sadly not, Peltier looked more lost positionally than Byram could have feared, and Diouf didn’t look too pally with Peltier, and the switch to the right seemed part of a détente. Varney seemed to do enough to sure up the left of midfield but it would have been nicer to see Byram come on with 20-30 minutes to go.

        Peltier’s naivety was shocking, and quite concerning, especially as we have a great record for turning established defenders with good reputations into castaways within half a season; for how often we sell them or have public fallouts from them, we also have a good record for shipping out our captains on the quick on depressingly cheap.

        That’s a double curse then!! It’s too quick to pull the plug after two real games at left-back, but it might not be the end of the world if Peltier comes to be seen as one of our three establish central defenders with Lee and Pearce and look anew for a right back which is a key position for a team like ours that can live on the knife edge of most matches that can either be a 6-0 humiliating rout for us or a 4-2 goalfest celebration and joy to watch. Besides, I thought Peltier and Pearce looked good alongside one another at the heart of the defence against Wolves.

        • Irving08

          Or we could go all Italian and play Pearce, Lees and Peltier at the back with White and Byram on the flanks of a middle 4/5…..hmm not enough time to work on it.
          Does Diouf do partnerships ?

          • Chareose

            5 man defence is a good idea Irving……my dream is purchasing Micah Richards and having him as a Sweeper……. oh well atleast I can buy him for Leeds on Championship Manager :o)

          • djedjedje

            Sounds good to me.

            You could even do a 3-3-1-3 with a central defensive midfield of White Austin and Byram, with an attacking midfield of McCormack and Diouf operating as inside forwards (with White and Byram as the overlap) behind Becchio upfront in his usual target role.

            That leaves the ‘1’; a Taarabt-esque playmaker role. Norris wouldn’t be good enough for that. I know some like the look of Austen because of his shots, but I think Austen does a more important job for us guarding our defensive line. Sadly, Howson would have been ideal.

          • Irving08

            Or 3-1-3-1-2 – with Austin and Diouf being the ‘1’s’ and a fit Green occupying the centre of the middle three – our De Rossi ! Obvious ones upfront.
            White and Byram running past both Diouf and Macca could leave us too exposed to a swift counter-attack.
            Also I think Macca is essentially an opportunist in and around the penalty area (like on Saturday), so I’d like to see him just behind, if not alongside Becchio.

          • djedjedje

            I’d play a 3-3-1-3.

            McCormack ~ Becchio ~ Diouf~ ??? ~White ~ Austin ~ ByramDrury/Lees ~ Pearce ~ Peltier/Lees

            * Use McCormack and Diouf as inside forwards and let White and Byram overlap them.
            * Keep Austin as a deadweight defensive midfielder to cover the back three.
            * Becchio to play his usual grafting (re: diving) hold-up play as a lone striker closely supported by McCormack, Diouf and our mystery ‘1’ – a central attack midfield playmaker. Who? Well, it’d be beyond Norris, and I know some would like to see Austin up for it, but I think we’d need a touch of class, and not just strength. A Taarabt-esque character. Dare I say it … a Jonny Howson.

    • henrymouni

      It was interesting to hear NW say that he may look at the loan market IF we can afford it.
      This is a concern since our thin squad should have freed up money to bring others in?

      • Dje

        Yeah, I think the money end of Leeds United is very very tight at the moment and it’d be hard to find a more cash-strapped club in the Championship right now (the resignation that we would not be in the market on transfer deadline day was depressing, but we didn’t even seem to have enough pennies to pay for parking at the market, so stayed at home and drank tea instead).

        Hopefully this is all just down to the takeover procedure with Bates belligerently there saying ‘not a penny more until I’m paid up’. Because if it is worse than this and the takeover collapses (or already has?) then we are going to quickly turn into a selling club with a squad so anorexically thin that’ll be hard to see who we are supposed to be selling in order to generate cash.

        At which point it would be interesting to know which strategies Bates would have open to him to withdrawn his investment form the club and put us into administration, as that’d be the most likely route he’d take us down. Leeds the new Rangers for 2013-14? Perhaps too dramatic a claim at the moment, but that could simply be down to how little information we are actually given!!

        • Ron

          I fail to see how administration is in the picture given our gate receipts alone. This takeover debacle is nothing more than Bates being greedy or the skeletons in his closet/ownership structure have spooked GFH etc. The chat from Warnock that we are on a tight budget may just be his way of talking down the price of any deals he is currently discussing.

          • djedjedje

            To be honest Matthew none of us know what is going on behind the scenes re: takeover. But the books from the last few seasons show that Leeds United make a loss when you take out player sales. We have no credit to mention (bar the borrowed money we have taken out in lieu of the next two seasons season ticket sales – Rangers II?!) and apparently we have already allowed the takeover buyers inject £5m into the club over the summer.

            So if the deal collapses that’ll be £5m they want back smartish and we have no money, no credit, and no real assets to sell to raise it. The worry is that Bates has actually cornered himself here, for the takeover club can force Leeds United into administration and come back and pick up the club on the cheap through the administration process. Financially that makes far more sense than giving Bates his ‘price’.

          • TimPM

            More worrying still is that we haven’t actually seen what is now last season’s accounts. The last accounts we see are when we pulled bigger crowds, and came 7th.

            ——————

          • djedjedje

            Too true … sadly!!

            ____

            I can fully sympathise with Ron and others though. Most of us want to support our football club because of historic and familial connections and a love of football, not to want to pick over the annual accounts. Consequently, it is fully understandable why it is presumed that the club is solvent and should me making a profit. I guess that’s the tragedy.

          • TimPM

            True, and I’m hoping for a time when we don’t need to question the finances too. I’m not a mathematician, I don’t like numbers!
            But what I don’t get is that people still claim we’re in great financial shape when they must have heard by now from numerous sources that we aren’t. Neil Warnock even saying we might not be able to afford loans and that Snoddy hasn’t been adequately replaced but we’ve “come to expect that here”. That’s pretty damning – that’s from a professional manager, not the “Bates Out brigade”
            It’s not like it’s factless rumour like Bates’ audition for Iraqi info minister in the Blackburn notes suggest: LUST have professional opinion saying we probably aren’t in very good financial shape at all. These are the same people who successfully appealed for LUFC to have to resubmit the accounts – they’re serious experts.
            I just don’t get how people can’t see all this? Even Eddie Grey seems to think the buyers might have no cash when Bates himself has said they do and makes no secret they’re WUM’s until he’s seen the cash himself. How can someone as well connected as Eddie be so utterly un/mis-informed about what is a massive, massive potential change in the club’s fortunes?
            Maybe Bates is right about both himself and the remnant that supports him: there’s none as blind as those that will not see!
            ——————

          • djedjedje

            I think the blindness is axiomatic. We all know we have a tight fisted chairman, a tight-fisted wage structure and yet somehow manage to develop the stadium. If you didn’t look at the books, read the smallprint of the manager’s interviews and trawl internet sites – ie. you turned up, watched the match, tlaked about it all week, read the Evening Post daily for updates and the occasional browse of Sky Sports news and the BBC then I guess you could miss the worriers in the margins and presume everything was sort of OK and would still be better if Bates was replaced. To be honest, I think that is quite a healthy and natural form of supporting a football club and I’m not that sure I’d want it to change!

            As to Warnock and Gray’s comments, they are worrying. I’d missed that line from Warnock about coming to expect not replacing players. And maybe Gray does know something the rest of us don’t (ie. the deal is off). Neither of them sound happy at the moment. Neither sounds convinced that we have a chance in hell of going up – despite a positive set of results so far, and some good performances. You’d really expect their to be cheshire cat grins on their faces if a deal involving substantial money invested into the squad was really just around the corner.

          • TimPM

            No, Grey either knows nowt or was purposely trying to damage support for the buyers. I’m sure it was the former.
            As for the types of support, I agree. But when your key players are flogged at bargain basement prices and a club logic dictates should be in the top half of the Pren drops to 14th, it’s a bit poor not to look for the reason why. ——————

          • djedjedje

            Yeah, more likely that Gray knows nowt. I just can’t see why he would purposefully want to denigrate anyone likely to invest in the squad other than for personal (ie. unknown) reasons. For years Gray has talked about the need to hang on to our ‘jewels’, and with his fellow Scot, Snodgrass now gone we don’t really have any, it is noticeable how disillusioned Gray has become with our playing squad and team coordination. I know he does a lot of post-match and midweek talk about the manager knowing what’s what and how to take the team forward but there’s been a subtle difference since Warnock’s come in and it sounds like Gray knows that Warnock knows we haven’t got enough here and there’s nowt else coming in from anywhere anytime soon. [Either that or he’s just a glum sourpuss stereotype of a Scottish miser?!]

            And yes, you are right, complacency is a major irritation – but it does stalk most forms of our lives and seems to do so quite merrily.

          • TimPM

            Yeah I like Gray, but there were two things it could’ve been so I didn’t want to pretend I’d not considered the other option.
            What I find weird is that Gray, a former manager, seemed to go on the offensive a while ago insisting that what Warnock says is an 18 man squad is big enough for this 46-match league. Trying to pretend because Blackpool and Wolves have to sell a couple of their players it somehow puts their squads on an equal footing to ours… Bizarre imo
            ——————

          • Irving08

            It might be interesting to analyse how clubs decide whom among players on their books is to be given a squad number.
            For example, we have five squad players from last season that have not been given squad numbers this year.
            Warnock may not want three of them (though what he has against Ramon beats me), but for all we know other clubs may continue to count their unwanted and/or injured as squad players.
            As it is, Warnock seems to be ‘playing politics’ with his statement that we have only an 18 man squad – I counted 21 in Saturday’s programme.
            And I seem to recall his saying last season that he didn’t like a big squad anyway !
            I can understand his saying that we are short in numbers or quality in a couple of areas, but this should not be confused with loose talk about squad sizes.

          • TimPM

            Taking away LT injury I get 20… It’s still small by anyone’s standard tbh. We did glance over the question last year I think. Bates insisted we had a large squad and we compared players over the season who gained 5 or more appearances. IIRC we had a pretty bog standard squad there. Having more players didn’t equate to a better side (Donny a prime example) but small squads (going on memory here though) weren’t excelling.
            I just feel with this Bates’ whole strategy in general terms has been a replica of clubs like Arsenal, with an inexplicable explosion of spending and borrowing all of a sudden last year (tho not on the team). While it works for them (sans explosion) it doesn’t win them anything, and we do need to win a top2 place, or win the playoffs? ——————

          • Irving08

            So you did, I forgot. Yes, it’s the quality that counts. Arsenal comparison is apt. Bates’ determination to push on with ground development last year does need explanation. I put it down to seeking to maximise the value of the club in the surest way in the shortest possible time as part of an exit strategy. I also think he came to despise Grayson yet kept him on as a cover. And the plans no doubt had already been laid down in connection with the World Cup bid. Whatever the reason, the East Stand development was obviously a mistake. Personally I would have looked for a new Manager – namely, Poyet before he signed his five year deal with Brighton.

          • Chareose

            Ron, Bates has spent money on the stadium based on this seasons gate receipts. Hes spent millions on court cases and on various other oddities that are evidently just a means to leech cash out of elland road without the fans understanding….. We are broke despite gate receipts and our support.

  • glos whites

    great phrase,”glacial-paced takeover”

  • Matthew

    >outplayed by a classy and expensive Blackburn Rovers
    Bullshit, we weren’t completely outplayed by Blackburn, if anything there were moments where we had control of the game but were fragile in areas, either way I disagree entirely with this. We gave as good as what Blackburn did.

    • TSS

      Matt was referring to the first 30 minutes, no? By all accounts, Leeds weren’t in the game until Diouf scored.

  • Ginner

    I can’t understand the criticism of Varney, ok he’s not Snodgrass but that’s not his fault is it and we can’t hold that against him. He stopped the rot yesterday and plugged the gap on the right where all their attacks came from, he wins every header and puts himself about yet he get so much stick it baffles me. Get behind him and stop thinking he’s a replacement for Snodgrass, who by the way was shocking at the back end of last season when Warnock made him captain. Oh and someone saying the mop was quiet yesterday, what? I thought the whole crowd played their part yesterday and backed the boys, even the Bates out brigade got shouted down, it was a fantastic game and we should have won it.

  • garry

    your comment – “steadfastly chanting the “Bates Out” mantra” is absolute bull

    most of us go to support the team, and it was a minority of toss pots who chanted it.
    may be three times i heard it in the first half.

    i will quite happily chant that after the game, i do not want bates running our club either, but cut it out during the game.

    • TSS

      You’ll find that depends on where you stand. Last season, from the Kop, the Bates Out chants were relentless. When friends were over from Spain however, I went in the East Stand with them and barely noticed the chants.

      The problem with a half empty stadium is chants don’t carry as well, so if you’re not in the Kop, you’ll miss a lot of them.

      • Irving08

        It also depends where you stand in the Kop too…..there is a hard core and then fans who join in depending on the prevailing mood……but I can say for certain there are also a lot of fans there who don’t join in…On Saturday, the chants soon subsided.

  • Matthew

    TSS dude, you’re famous, you have the real Ross McCormack following you on twitter. Not many Leeds fans can say they have the best player at the club following them lol

    • TSS

      Can’t blame him, I’m thoroughly entertaining haha.