After the disappointment of Nottingham on Boxing Day, It was the expectation of many that the inconsistency of the Championship would produce another curve ball and allow Neil Warnock and the boys to collect a result from Hull City, so with this in mind I set off to Leeds nursing a chronic Christmas hangover and a bout of food poisoning handily earned from eating smoked salmon. So to the motorway we ventured, sick bag in hand, driving to Hull for the early kick off, as once more the police deemed it unsafe for Leeds United to kick off at 3pm.
I have been to many away days now, including locations such as Port Vale, Leicester, Yeovil and more but Hull has to be up there with the worst locations in England. I mean this as no disrespect to its residents (I met many a lovely person), but the slimy sea breeze and rain combined with the gale force wind made the miserable surroundings even more derisory. As Morrissey once sang “the rain falls hard on a humdrum town, this town will drag you down” describing Hull to a tee.
So back to the game in hand, the team news came through and a tang of doubt suddenly hit me, the exclusion of Becchio, Thomas and Diouf from the squad was a huge gamble on Warnock’s part. Three game changing players that could be so pivotal to the game completely overlooked (obviously for some certain reasons) meant that Leeds would surely be parking the bus in a 5-3-2 formation, with Byram and White able to push up when needed. It seemed plausible the more I thought of it, and as we arrived at the KC stadium the optimism was returning, meeting up with the 3,000 travelling fans gave me a turn for the better and the Christmas atmosphere was still evident.
The game kicked off with the usual chorus of ‘Marching on Together’ allowing the 12th man of Leeds United to assert their off field dominance once more. I tire of talking about Jimmy Savile, but once more Hull sang to their hearts content about our ‘idolisation’ of the disgraced legend, this in between the ‘mauled by the tigers’ chants. Back on the pitch it was Hull who carved out the first chance, after only 120 seconds, Alan Tate, who has of late had a dip in form, headed weakly back to Kenny only for it to b intercepted by Hull captain Robert Koren only for him to snatch at the shot and it loop high and wide of the Leeds net.
This was fortunately not a warning sign however, and the first half was a very dull affair, chances were few and far between, the battle was very much in the middle of the park, Paul Green once more having himself a solid game dictated the play for Leeds but the absence of a distributor was clear, Michael Tonge’s departure has been extremely evident, the quality of distribution in the middle of the park to the strikers has been greatly missed. Neil Warnock’s footballing style is distinctive as always and was once more employed in the game, hoof balls to the front men, except even a simpleton would have been able to work out after 5 minutes of viewing that Davide Somma and Ross McCormack cannot win headers and bring the ball down like Becchio can, this combined with the outstanding performance of the Hull centre backs meant it was going to be another dreary away day for the Whites and the travelling contingent.
The first half dragged on slowly, with chances few and far between, but the vocal point of the half happened when Aiden White went in hard on Ahmed Elmohamady, the tackle looked far but tough, White received a yellow card whilst the Eygptian left back writhed around in agony. Hollywood surely awaits the man. He limped off as if his ankle had been run over by a 40 ton tank, but within moments he sprinted back on to the pitch and delivered a ball in to the box for the Leeds defence to deal with, this caused outrage in the Leeds end, and evoked a good bout of singing from the away end. No one likes a cheat.
The second half started with Leeds making one change, the ineffective Somma coming off to be replaced by Luke Varney, who has a lot to prove in a Leeds shirt after some serious lacklustre performances. This did little to affect the game however, and Hull’s home dominance finally paid off on 52 minutes when Cory Evans hit a diagonal shot past Paddy Kenny to hit the back of the net and see Hull take a valuable lead. Leeds were sent reeling, and in a ‘Nottinghamesque’ style collapsed once more, only moments after the first goal came the second, a Hull corner ended with a Meyler head which ended with a goal and effectively ended the game as a contest. The fans became silent and Hull asserted their dominance both off and on the field, a silent fan base reflected what has to be one of the worst performances under Warnock, not a single shot on goal, no creation, and no idea from the bench on how to counter the problems Hull were imposing.
It isn’t usually becoming of myself to question the managerial skills of such an accomplished manager like Neil Warnock. He has seven promotions to his name, I have three years experience on Football manager. However correct me if I am wrong but Warnock talked about the importance of having a strong bench, for impact players to come on and change the game. It is therefore beggars belief that at 2-0 down the boss did not bring on the divisions second top scorer in Becchio. Or the rapid and dangerous Jerome Thomas, or even Ryan Hall, another exploiter. What is the point of having a strong bench if it isn’t utilised?
So Leeds lost 2-0. We registered a solitary header on goal. No shots, no creation, no desire and yet another away day defeat. January cannot come quick enough, not for Warnock, not for the complacent team and certainly not for the beleaguered fans. So 2012 ends on a low for Leeds, let’s hope that 2013 brings us more highs than lows!
Marching on Together.
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