The Scratching Shed welcomes Adam Geary to the team who starts off with a match report from Leeds’ trip to Millwall. 

Millwall vs. Leeds, always the eye catching match in the fixture list; one that fans, police and TV directors look out for every year. Hardly surprising then, that the travelling 2,000 Leeds United fans were greeted by a police presence of around the same number when arriving at Surrey Quays. The immense vocal support was, as ever, in full flow from the white army as songs of “we’re Leeds United, we p*** where we want” sounded as the fans were penned in to the station waiting on the police convoy lines to be formed.

And so we started on the way, moving like a death march across South London’s most tranquil social housing estates, the sites were a spectacle for all to behold. The streets were lined with men, women, and children welcoming Leeds to Millwall with their usual chants and the odd V being stuck up as a token of appreciation to the travelling army. As always, London’s finest Metropolitan Police Service ensured we arrived five minutes late for the game, despite being forty-five minutes in convoy.

So to the infamous Den we arrived, after a quick and frankly pointless search, the fans were allowed into the stadium only to find out that Millwall had decided to issue a policy of General Admission seating, so I took it upon myself to find a nice little corner of the stairwell to watch the first half.

It started so brightly, a mistake by Mark Beevers early on allowed Luciano Becchio and El Hadji-Diouf to capitalise, with only a cynical challenge by Beevers stopping Diouf from punishing Millwall. Unfortunately, the resulting free-kick left much to desire. Leeds however did look much a changed side from the one embarrassed last week by Watford. One change from that team was the long awaited introduction of Ryan Hall for his first Leeds start. The crowd were expectant but Hall just couldn’t deliver, the expectation of a ‘Gradelesque’ winger did not come to fruition. Instead, he lumbered like Andy Robinson and did little to inspire an extremely ill-positioned and poor Leeds midfield. It became abhorrently apparent early on that Tonge and Green were not suited to work alongside one another, and Varney, well, he’s Luke Varney, he’s ill-suited for Braintree Town, never mind Leeds United. So, the first half quickly became largely forgettable, Leeds constrained to a shot on goal and a few poorly taken set pieces.

Millwall enjoyed the majority of chances, albeit mostly speculative long range efforts thanks to some stern defending by the ever improving Tom Lees and a rare solid performance by Lee Peltier. Leeds continued the tradition of long ball football as Neil Warnock’s boys found it almost impossible to hold the football for longer than twenty seconds, with Millwall passing the ball around smoothly and trying to carve out chances to extend their unbeaten run to ten games. The Leeds fans as ever were overwhelmingly better than the team on the pitch, even deflecting Millwall’s bi-annual Istanbul chants with “boring, boring Millwall” and replying to the Jimmy Savile comments with ironic chanting in reply. Meanwhile back on the pitch, Andy Keogh, the Leeds fan and one time player came closest to scoring on forty-one minutes as his shot whisked just past Kenny’s far post. Half time was a welcome break.

The second half beckoned and Leeds fans could be forgiven for expecting to take something from the tight affair. However these chances were shattered on forty-seven minutes, when Luke Varney backed into one time loanee Adam Smith, raising his elbow to the defenders throat, only for Smith to go down clutching his face in anguish and pain. Cue Mark Halsey, cue a straight red card. Maybe a rash decision, maybe not, the crowd thought not. His arm was raised, and despite Warnock’s protests, you cannot do that in football these days, it’s a soft sport now.

So Leeds reshuffled, and to be quite honest, looked a much stronger team with ten men, narrowing the play and frustrating Millwall to long range efforts. You cannot fault the effort of the ten men in the second half, the team worked hard to try and claim a point and keep the Wall at bay, the Leeds crowd were gaining confidence and the chorus of ‘Marching on Together’ and ‘WACCOE’ drowned out the droll sound of the ‘wall of noise’. The cries of ‘ROSS McCORMACK’ grew louder and louder as the player was seen getting into his kit. Fans hoped that the prodigal son would return to score the winner as he did last season, to resurrect Leeds’ season and give the Whites their first win in seven games. On sixty-five minutes the substitution was made with McCormack fitting  nicely into the 4-3-1-1 formation Warnock had employed.

Yet, Millwall pressed, and even McCormack’s presence failed to ignite any clear cut chances for Leeds, and on eighty-five minutes the game looked over, Paddy Kenny fumbled under pressure from a cross and spilled the ball into his own net, the Millwall fans were in raptures, only for Mark Halsey to rule the goal out for unfair pressure. Phew, was the United response. However the pressure was mounting and Millwall’s frustration was over as Chris Wood headed home from a splendidly placed Shane Lowry cross. Leeds were down, and, out.

The fans silenced and deflated once more.

The drama wasn’t over for the Leeds fans either, as the police escort back to Surrey Quays was marred by the disgraceful section of Millwall fans chanting obscenities about Jimmy Savile and one night in Istanbul. The police did little other than baton any Leeds fans who tried to skirmish with the Millwall dissidents – poor day for Leeds, all in all.

Marching On Together ey.