Hull City headed back east on the M62 with three points in the bag following a deserved 3-2 victory against a Leeds side full of effort but low on ability. Leeds’ first home defeat of the season came as a disappointment, but not an unexpected one considering the current injury crisis which has left Neil Warnock with severely depleted options.
Without Ross McCormack and Adam Drury at his disposal, Warnock made two changes to the side which lost at Cardiff on Saturday. Luke Varney replaced McCormack in attack, with El Hadji Diouf taking up the left wing position as Aidan White retreated into Drury’s left-back vacancy. The starting line-up still looked reasonably respectable and capable of a gaining of positive result, but the squad’s weakness was very evident by the seven kids and has-beens who adorned the substitutes’ bench (though, to be fair, Dominic Poleon and Andy Gray would step off the bench to good effect).
Leeds began the match very well, producing quick passing moves, lots of energy and speedy attacking play. El Hadji Diouf in particular was keen to push the home side forward early on, and it was he who earned the 6th minute penalty from which Leeds took an early lead. With McCormack unavailable, penalty duties fell to Luciano Becchio who confidently fired home.
Sustained pressure on the Hull goal continued for the opening 15 minutes, and perhaps if Leeds had grabbed a second goal early on the match may have taken on a different complexion. Rodolph Austin had a low shot well saved, but Hull then began to pass the ball well and inched their way into the match.
The equaliser arrived on 23 minutes. A defensive mix up sent the ball to the feet of Ahmed Elmohmady who, with plenty of space inside the area, fired past Paddy Kenny.
Just 6 minutes later, the Tigers roared into the lead. A looping right wing cross found the head of Abdoulaye Faye, who was all-too-easily able to take his time and nod the ball into the back of the net. All of the initial composure was gone from Leeds’ attacking play, though effort and vigour still hinted that the game was within reach as half-time approached.
The second half was a drab affair until the introduction of Dominic Poleon in the 61st minute. Replacing Luciano Becchio (who worryingly looked to pick up a knock), Poleon injected a youthful brashness and vivacity into Leeds’ dwindling forays forwards. Warnock manoeuvred the troops into a front three of Poleon, Varney and Diouf in an attempt to snatch a share of the spoils.
However, despite some promising shots from Poleon and a glut of corners from Diouf, Leeds were unable to force the ball home and were ultimately punished with 15 minutes to go. Hull swept forwards on a quick counter attack and the ball found Robert Koren who had the easy task of clipping the ball home to give the away side a commanding 3-1 lead.
Andy Gray headed late a consolation from a Diouf cross and the fourth official announced 5 minutes of injury time for Leeds to force an unlikely draw, but it was not to be. The final attack of the evening ended in a wild long-range effort from Captain Lee Peltier, which flew well wide of the target.
Leeds showed a lot of effort tonight, and it is a credit to Warnock and his team that the match was in the balance right up until the final whistle. In previous seasons, this is precisely the kind of match which could have ended in a humiliating 7-3 thrashing. Leeds are made of stronger stuff this season and will be difficult to beat at home. Unfortunately, the manager simply doesn’t have a big enough squad to cope with the demands of the Championship schedule at present.
Coming home from the match, one particular caller to Yorkshire Radio caught my attention. The caller argued that all the protesting and chanting against Ken Bates detracted completely from the support of the team. Arguments proliferate that supporters should support the team inside the stadium and protest outside the stadium.
But isn’t there a bigger picture here? What kind of support will really make a difference right now? Putting all of our efforts into supporting the team for 90 minutes is admirable, but it’s also an instance of short-termism. In the long-term, this season is going absolutely nowhere until a greater amount of financial backing is given to the manager and (in my opinion) that is where the supporters focus and attention should rightly lie.
There’s a happy medium somewhere here. Of course the players need and deserve support, but that doesn’t mean that fans shouldn’t protest in equal measure. This is potentially a big tipping point in the future of the club, and we as supporters need to focus on that and make our voice heard. Shoot me down…
Many thanks to those of you who entered my ‘predict the score’ competition on Twitter. The closest guesses came from Wilson Scruff (@WilsonScruff – seemingly a dog) and Jamie Baldwin (@_JamieBaldwin) who both predicted a 2-1 Hull win and a goal from Koren. 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.