When Einstein said the definition of insanity is repeating the same thing and expecting different results, I think he was talking about Leeds United fans. After all, who in their right mind gets up at 4:30am to travel 200 miles for an away game we always lose?
This was either my seventh or eighth visit to Portman Road and I’d seen Leeds United win there only once. That was over a decade ago, back when Leeds had one of the strongest squads in the country and even then, we needed Ipswich’s assistance (an own goal) to win the game.
The last four consecutive visits to Portman Road have seen The Whites reduced to ten men and lose, a sequence of events so unlikely (not the losses, the red cards), some of us were calling foul-play… Albeit, jokingly.
Portman Road is to Leeds United what leprosy is to a supermodel. It’s like a tripod missing a leg, or Ant without Dec. It doesn’t allow us to function properly.
Insane I must be though, for at roughly 6am my lift arrived and to Ipswich we drove, fuelled only by two cups of incredibly strong coffee and 3 hours sleep.
Curled up on the back-seat of a Volkswagen with an engine too small for any self-respecting man to drive, I was seriously regretting the decision to return home from London the night previous to see my fiancée. A moment of madness which had cost me hours of much needed sleep and extended my journey by several hours.
This is the grim reality of the long-distance away day. “First world problems,” I know, and it’s all good fun when you arrive at the destination, but the early morning wake-up calls, tediously long drives through Britain’s grey, rain-soaked land, not to mention the financial cost of such trips is impossible to justify – even to ourselves – when we turn up to witness 90 minutes of utterly atrocious football, returning home with a much lighter wallet and little else to show for it (as we did for most of last season).
But that’s what it looked like we were in for as we kicked off at a rain-soaked Portman Road. Ipswich set out to attack early, ghosting through Leeds United’s abject defence to find the back of the net within the opening 7 minutes when Jay Tabb tapped in from close-range.
Luckily for Leeds, Tabb’s goal was dubiously ruled offside. The first sign that all the bad luck we’ve experienced at Ipswich in recent years may have been levelling out.
Leeds’ defence failed to heed the warning though and within a few minutes of Ipswich having a goal ruled out, they scored again and this time there was no question as to whether it counted. Hopelessly inept defending from Leeds – which culminated in Tom Lees falling over – left David McGoldrick in space with the goal at his mercy. 1-0.
More chances followed for the home team and by the time Aaron Cresswell hit the crossbar with an audacious effort from long-range, it was difficult to understand how Leeds weren’t 3 or 4 goals behind.
Then, totally against the run of play, Leeds bagged a thoroughly undeserved equaliser. A desperate long-range effort deflected into the path of Luke Varney who smashed home with power to level the tie. 1-1. Somehow.
The match evened up from there, not because Leeds United improved, but because Ipswich Town seemed to lose their edge. Aside from a wonderfully slow WACCOE chant, nothing else of note happened for the remainder of an opening 45 that the home side should have won comfortably.
HT – Ipswich Town 1-1 Leeds United
Having witnessed a very poor first half display from his team, McDermott’s half time words of wisdom had to inspire an improvement if Leeds were to take anything from this fixture. Those who had placed a bet before the game at bookies like http://sports.coral.co.uk will also have been hoping for a much better half from Leeds.
Defensively, Leeds had been awful. I mean, truly awful. It’s impossible to isolate a root cause of this team’s defensive failures because it’s something of a package deal. ‘Organisation’ would be the closest you’d get to a summary, as in, the total lack of.
But there’s a particular type of player we miss too I think. We don’t have that experienced, imposing figure who’ll do the right thing 10 times out 10, all while organising those around him – just like Naylor did in League One, and Kisnorbo after him. We need an “intelligent” (for want of a better word) defender. Someone to do what Diouf does so well in attack – make the right decisions while controlling and calming Leeds United’s play.
The best example of how bad Leeds’ defence is comes from set-plays; we haven’t defended one convincingly all season. No one seems to understand who they’re picking up and no one is putting their body on the line to beat our opposition to the ball. We seem to just stand, wait for them to connect with the cross and try to block or scramble away whatever effort they forge.
As for the rest of the team, they had a pretty forgettable first half too. Passing was almost non-existent and the build-up play was hopeless. The first half was a Warnock side basically, hoofs and all.
I chose to highlight the negatives now because the second half was one of almost total contrast. The defending didn’t improve much, but everything else seemed to come together.
And it was with the first chance of the second half, just 3 minutes after the kick-off, that Ross McCormack scored a stunning long-range drive from well outside the area to put Leeds United ahead. 2-1.
“Na na na na na na na na na na, Leeds are going up…” sang a prematurely confident Leeds United faithful as the game suddenly became a contest the Whites had a genuine chance of winning.
Town came back at Leeds as tensions flared and the home fans started to bemoan the referees decisions. The unsympathetic Leeds United fans took great pleasure in seeing the Ipswich fans upset with the referee’s decisions for once. It felt like justice.
Mike Dean, to his credit, controlled the game well in what were slippery and difficult conditions. There was a few wild tackles Ipswich Town fans felt deserving of severe punishment, most notable of which was a late challenge from Rodolph Austin that could quite easily have resulted in Leeds United’s compulsory red card.
But Dean, making allowances for the slippery surface, kept things under control, rarely resorting to booking players for clumsy challenges. He allowed play to continue when an advantage (or no disadvantage) had been gained and didn’t let the home crowd effect his decisions – as so often happens at football.
Ipswich fans can understandably feel hard done by, but none of the challenges were malicious and they always look ten times worse when the pitch is wet and everyone is sliding around. There was a couple of handball calls too, both of which were the result of the ball being blasted at a players hand (Tom Lees and Noel Hunt) and would have been incredibly soft penalties had they been given.
However, where Ipswich must feel most upset with the game is their failure to capitalise on the countless set-plays they had. Time and time again Leeds failed to win the aerial battles, flapped desperately at clearances and somehow went unpunished.
In the last twenty minutes or so, and with the introduction of Dom Poleon, Leeds looked like they may put the game out of sight but a third goal never came and our travelling fans were made to endure a couple of injury time corners before the referee blew to signal an end to the Portman Road curse.
FT – Ipswich Town 1-2 Leeds United
Impossible to argue we were the better team and deserved to win, but the second half was a lot more balanced than the first. Ultimately, Ipswich’s failure to convert chances and punish our dismal set-play defending cost them, but that doesn’t matter to the still undefeated Leeds United.
Plenty to work on (the defence being top of that list) but if the results keep coming, Brian McDermott’s men will grow in confidence and that can go an awful long way in football. When Leeds do get their foot on the ball and pass it around a bit, we look a totally different side to that which played the first half, but it seemed to take the confidence of the 2-1 lead to do it.
First away win of the new season and the Portman Road curse broken. The man of the match award must go to Mike Dean for allowing us to finish an away trip to Ipswich with eleven men. though Ross McCormack would be a close second. Luke Varney deserves a mention too; he does get caught offside far too often, but his work-rate is extraordinary. He hassles defenders, chasing them down and keeps the pressure on at all times. A thankless task most of the time, but on this occasion he was rewarded with a goal that totally changed the game. On and on…