It has been a while since the ‘debacle of Barnsley’ as Neil refers to it, and much has changed since, three deadline day signings in the form of Steve Morison, Stephen (Stephen, Stephen, Stephen, Stephen Warnock, Neil, Neil, Neil, Neil, Warnock) Warnock, and Habib Habibou (boo)! Brought in at the expense of the old loyalist Luciano Becchio, finally in the Premier League with our parent club Norwich City have come to rejuvenate the team and help push us on to play off glory! Leeds have knocked the in form Tottenham Hotspur out of the F.A Cup, lost in the league to Cardiff city, beaten Bristol, and more remarkably than all of this, Luke Varney has started to play football, well. It appears pigs do fly after all. So, after a season of remarkably poor away form, in fact winning three league games on the road all season, Bristol, Peterborough and Huddersfield, Leeds took on the relegation battling Wolverhampton Wanderers, and one could not help but wander whether three points at Molineux was a given.
Once more setting out from my provincial north London abode I found a strangely quiet train absent of the usual group of travelling London whites. The train arrived into Wolverhampton to the scene of light snow, a rare treat for a city dweller! And to my pleasant surprise I was greeted by a quaint little town, Wolverhampton doing well as an economic hub in the shadow of its big brother Birmingham. The pre match ritual of a few jars went down well with plentiful Leeds United fans drinking merrily in the Walkabout bar in the town centre. A good pre game atmosphere.
To Molineux and the game then, this ground is one I’ve always wanted to visit, steeped in history (if not grand) and unique with its curving stands. The emplacement of the Leeds fans was, if nothing else, a tactical master-stroke by Wolves, as the atmosphere is almost impossible to create, the fans were spread over the ‘Steve Bull’ stand like too little butter over bread. So, inevitably the usual vociferous Leeds fans had to work doubly as hard to create the common place vocals.
The game itself kicked off in a good fashion, Leeds had named four changes to the side that lost to Cardiff, including a début for Steve Morison and Stephen Warnock at the expense of the rested Diouf and benched White. The whites enjoyed the majority of the early possession, Dean Saunders obviously fancies himself as a bit of a Tito/Pep kind of style manager, as passing the ball around the defence was the reoccurring theme of Wolves’ first half, from the off Leeds looked strong, Norris having a shot deflected just over the net and Paul Green drilling a shot just wide of the upright. Leeds were taking full advantage of an evidently nervy Wolves side. The home side did however eventually get in to the game, and on 20 minutes the ball was in the back of the net after an Ebanks-Blake run and shot went past Kenny, however, to the relief of the Leeds back four the offside flag ruled the effort out. Then, on 30 minutes Kenny was called into action again as Sako drilled a shot low and hard, Kenny reacting well to save the shot from its destination of the net.
Leeds and Wolves went at it, with Leeds looking the more comfortable of the two, but Wolves looked more than capable of punishing the away side on the counter. The Leeds fans, inventive as always amused themselves with the new chant of Neil, Neil Neil, Neil Neil, Neil Neil Warnock, Stephen, Stephen Stephen, Stephen Stephen, Stephen Stephen Warnock! Throughout the half, and the reward for such inventiveness almost came when McCormack saw his shot fly just inches wide of the post. Leeds were, for the first time in a long time, the better team away from Elland Road.
Half time ensued and the Leeds fans in the belly of the stands riotously went ‘mental’ creating much more good humoured away day fun!
The second half resumed to the chorus of marching on together, however Saunders half time team talk was clearly the more effective of the two as the Wolves came flying out of the traps. O’Hara gave a glimpse of what was to come for Leeds as he headed just wide after the restart, and the pressure exerted by Wolves finally told when a low driven cross found the leg of Lee Peltier (and or S. Warnock) and into the Leeds net to give the Wanderers a largely undeserved goal.
This led the home fans into jubilation, and Leeds into despair, not another away day defeat, surely.
It was Wolves who did manage to test Leeds further though, with multiple shots forcing saves out of Kenny, the Leeds following once more feeling despondent and useless as the travelling team limped on.
The tide however was set to turn, and on 64 minutes, a box scramble led to McCormack instinctively picking out the recently rejuvenated Varney, who, with expert finishing curled a wonderful shot into the bottom corner of the home net, 1-1 and hope restored, the Leeds faithful were inspired again. The mood was nearly spoilt with Green doing well to block a goal bound header off the line, but this day was destined to be a Leeds day, and with 12 minutes left, Green picked out the on running Byram, who in turn was tumbled down in the box by Sako, penalty kick.
Up stepped McCormack, and his cool finish left Leeds reflecting on an unlikely comeback, 2-1 and promotion hopes restored. The game wound down in the normal fashion, Leeds wasted time, Wolves threw the whole lot forward, however Leeds were holding strong and the sarcastic chanting from the home end of “how sh*t must you be, you’ve only scored 2” summed up the Wanderers season.
With 90 minutes up, Leeds and the travelling contingency could be mistaken for perceiving the game to be done and buried, but, as ever, nothing is simple in Leeds. Paddy Kenny let the ball roll over the line for a corner, Wolves delivered, paddy flapped it away, Wolves delivered again, Bath headed, Kenny beaten. 2-2 , 93rd minute equaliser. A sickening blow for Leeds and the season that lies ahead.
To me, the promotion push is a far off dream, but with the equal playing field of the championship who knows, a winger is needed, and Leeds need to win away. But, I take heart from the Wolves performance, it was the best league away performance since back at Huddersfield, and providing this was no one off, it can only go toward helping the hope we really are pushing for a top six spot.
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