Picture credit - @mikeyblesic

Picture credit – @mikeyblesic

The new era phrase has been thrown around so many times these last 7-8 years, it was hard to resist a cynical view as we head for Elland Road yesterday. We were missing some of our favourite protagonists and the starring cast, Leeds United’s starting XI, contained many of the names who’d failed to impress us last season. It felt like I’d seen this production before and the performance wasn’t something I cared to relive.

But I was reminded of a new director, a new script and a new production team which gave some cause for optimism. Those other new eras, ushered in by a change in manager, promotion or an influx of new players, were really just another act in the long running Ken Bates production of Leeds United On The Cheap. This time really was different. The villain of our tragic tale had been vanquished, and while the “on the cheap” part may remain true, the Ken Bates chronicles had come to an end.

“That Chelsea bastard, he’s out of our club” a packed Elland Road sang at decibel levels not reached since Leeds United beat Bristol Rovers to secure promotion from League One and with that, our 2013/14 campaign was under way.

Brighton’s part in all this seemed somewhat trivial, but Leeds United fans were reminded of their presence within the opening five minutes when a 20 yard strike required the first save of the game from Paddy Kenny.

Leeds looked to assert a little pressure of their own, quickly showing a new found belief in passing football, but it was Brighton who delivered the opening blow on 13 minutes. Leeds failed to break down a good passing move from the visitors and when Ulloa found sight of goal, he made no mistake. 0-1

Elland Road was temporarily silenced as Leeds fans came to terms with an unexpected twist in the tale, but the players kept their heads up, quickly re-establishing a rhythm to their play and within five minutes, the stadium erupted.

Ross McCormack, crucial to almost every attacking move Leeds United made, received the ball from a Michael Tonge cross, controlled well, turned and struck the ball calmly beyond the reach of Brighton’s keeper. 1-1

Million pound man, Luke Murphy had a couple of shots from distance, one of which was struck so badly it went out for a Brighton throw, while Luke Varney was also getting in on the action with a couple of chances of his own.

But the first half ended even. Leeds had dominated since Brighton’s opener, passing the ball well, closing down in midfield and using a surprising amount of width for a team so lacking in wide players. Ross McCormack, playing a free-roaming position behind the strikers, and Luke Varney were two players in particular getting out wide to stretch Brighton and create space for Leeds to operate in. This was clearly a McDermott tactic designed to compensate for our lack of wingers, and it worked well throughout.

Leeds started the second half on the front foot, passing the ball well, breaking up play in midfield and looking to get forward when the opportunity presented itself. It took about ten minutes for the first shot of the half however, a Leeds United counter-attacking move which ended with a shot wide from Luke Varney.

Brighton weren’t done yet though, themselves a good passing side who like to get forward, twice being denied by Paddy Kenny in the space of a few seconds as the game entered its final third.

Noel Hunt, who’d had a pretty disappointing day in truth, was replaced by Dominic Poleon with a little over twenty minutes remaining and the substitute almost made an immediate impact, striking just wide of Brighton’s post within a few minutes of entering the field.

A frantic finish to the game saw Dominic Poleon denied by a good save from the Brighton keeper, before Paddy Kenny pulled off the save of the day to deny Will Buckley from six yards. An unbelievably good stop from a keeper enjoying one of his best performances to date in a Leeds United shirt.

While fans were still celebrating the incredible stop from Paddy Kenny, Leeds broke at the opposite end of the field, Luke Murphy taking control of the ball inside Brighton’s box before firing goalwards, his shot deflecting off the keeper, onto the inside of the post and into the back of the net. 2-1.

It was the kind of début moment footballers dream of, a winning goal in the very last minute of the game, in front of the Kop end. Such was the level of chaos in the Kop, I couldn’t tell you the precise moment the final whistle blew if I wanted to, but it was at some point during the wild celebrations that followed Murphy’s winner.

Ups and downs v Brighton

There were few negatives to this performance, so let’s get those out of the way first. Defensively, we still look shaky. So predictable was Brighton’s opening goal, I called it 30 seconds before it happened. We saw it so many times last season, defensive situations where no one takes charge and the players hold off the opposition. The space opened up and Brighton punished us.

Noel Hunt – He said after the game how disappointed he was with his performance and that’s no surprise. The striker barely made an impact on the game and it would have been easy to forget he was on the pitch. Nothing to be too concerned about though, Hunt is a seasoned professional who won’t allow one bad performance to effect his season. He’ll improve.

Drawing positives from the game isn’t difficult, but the midfield really stands out. In the centre of the park, Leeds passed the ball and closed down well. We also played with a surprising amount of width, aided in no small part by the strikers and full-backs.

The stand-out players were Luke Murphy, Ross McCormack and Paul Green. All playing midfield. Paul Green was often an unsung hero of our better performances last season. He’s a tireless grafter who really suits the defensive midfield role, so much so, that it’s hard to see where Rodolph Austin will be deployed upon his return.

Luke Murphy has a touch of Jonny Howson about him. He passes the ball around well and isn’t afraid to get forward and shoot. Hard to justify the cost of his signature on one game alone, but that’s as good a start as he could hope for.

Ross McCormack was everywhere. Left wing, right wing, centre of the box, centre of midfield. He covered every inch of Brighton’s half, central to almost every attacking move Leeds United forged. His control is second to no one in this team and the runs he makes across the front of defensive lines drags the opposition out-of-position creating space Leeds United can exploit. He’ll be Leeds United’s key player this season.

Luke Varney remains something of an enigma. One minute he’s chasing a lost cause, somehow beating both the defender and the laws of motion to take possession of a ball he had no possible chance of capturing, then the next minute, he’s scuffing shots hopelessly wide and feigning injury. He reminds me of Peter Crouch. So often frustrating, yet so often useful. It shouldn’t work, but it somehow does.

Paddy Kenny. Make no mistake, he won the game for us. He looks like a leaner, more determined version of the goalkeeper I wasn’t hugely impressed with at times last season – though that could be said of half the team in fairness. Kenny’s save towards the end of yesterday’s game is destined to feature prominently in our season highlights reel next year.

Finally, the crowd. The atmosphere was electric, the best we’ve had inside Elland Road since promotion v Bristol Rovers. It was a celebration of new beginnings and a great day for the club. Let’s hope there’s many more to follow.

New era?

Most definitely. If Ken Bates’ era was Macbeth, yesterday was Twelfth Night. An altogether more cheerful production with far less tragedy… So far, at least.

On and on.

  • normanstan

    Murphy bit like Gary Parker Forest many yrs ago.Debut like Derry greasy spoon V West Ham.

  • Irving08

    Excellent report on a match I did not attend TSS. However I did have the mixed fortune of hearing the commentary on Radio Leeds. I say ‘mixed’ because I am glad matches are now on non-digital radio (so those who do not have digital can now listen in), but the Radio Leeds fellow/Ben Parker duo was not a patch on the Johnny Buchan/ Eddie Gray combo we enjoyed on the fallen radio station. Whilst listening yesterday, the thought occured to me that Radio Leeds may turn out to be a rather obseqiuous commentator on things United now Bates has gone, so grateful is it to be back. We shall see.

    • Irving08

      Correction: Tom Kirwin was the YR commentator and the above named pair were the analysts;; all three were good. I will miss YR coverage of the football, including evenings devoted to other Yorkshire clubs.

  • henrymouni

    Great beginning to our new life without what’s his name!
    BM is still hopeful of getting his next signing (must be Mills) completed soon.
    It was encouraging that the players responded to the fabulous support – a good sign.
    Well done Brian and the boys.

    • Chareose

      For me, I hope its Tommy Rowe…. With him and Murphy in midfeild, i think you will see a far better side going forwards

      • henrymouni

        We know we have ongoing talks with Bolton and the defence is Brian’s first priority.
        I expect Mills will be appointed captain.

        • Irving08

          Why ?

          • TSS

            I think it might be Austin, but Mills does make sense. Peltier was captain yesterday, but McDermott has said he has someone else in mind, which leaves only two options – a player not available yesterday, or someone we’ve yet to sign.

          • Irving08

            Making a new signing captain is risky. Austin does not seem to be an assertive personality, and is by no means certain of a starting place. This leaves Diouf, who is captaincy material and anyway needs a proper role to compensate for the fact that he is only likely to figure as an impact sub. My hunch is that the rest of the squad would accept Diouf as captain. He would treat it as an honour and act accordingly, I surmise. But does GFH have the wit to see him in this role ? Would the appointment fall foul of the risk assessment girls ?

          • henrymouni

            I suspect Diuofy will be a fringe player this year, or may even be on BM’s exit list?
            It would be interesting to see him as captain, but Brian would probably like some one he knows well, and can trust, like Mills.
            We really need a strong leader in defence.

          • Irving08

            But why would BM trust this fellow, Mills, who left him for Leicester City ? Why do we want him anyway ?

          • henrymouni

            Brian has still not named his captain, and Mills is his main target and team leader.
            Could be wrong of course Irv’.

  • Coleman

    Great win yesterday feel on top of the world today but just need to say something that’s been bothering me for awhile what as happened to the 6k seats that’s gone missing out of our ground .On sat morning the club said there was only 200 seats left from a complete sell out so I thought brill going to be 39k ish crowd today so why was it 33432 I know we have them over priced boxes in the east stand which will have cost us some seats but 6k? Anyone else thought this too?

    • Chareose

      Brighton fans didnt take up their allocation, I think the current capacity is more like 38000……. I think this capacity should be ok for the championship but for the Premiership wed need 40k++

      • Matthew

        I disagree. We’l be fine for a while in the Premier League with what we have. Any and all spare money should go into strengthening the squad before the ground is even considered. I don’t want to see us holding up the table because our team isn’t good enough for the Prem lol

    • TSS

      Capacity of ground is now less than 38,000.

      Top of East Stand had a lot more than 200 empty seats in it, closer to 2000 I’d say, so that takes us to 36,000.

      The other 2,500 is a result of moving away fans from Cheese Wedge to West Stand. Our away section is half the West Stand, yet Brighton only sold 1,000. Most teams don’t bring that many.

  • Chareose

    I noticed all the talk from the leeds owners is about acheiving promotion in 2 seasons but theres a confliction there with the fans, weve been hanging around for ages and the fans want promotion now…….. I think only the leeds veterans like McCormack really understand this which is why hes talked about playoffs….. GFH should make every effort to give BMC the players he needs because the fans are ready and so is the club, its just the team that isnt !!!!

    Also another season would certainly see the sale of Byram and possibly open us to further bids for Murphy and McCormack

    • henrymouni

      I think they are saying it to take the pressure off the team and manager.
      In reality they would love us to go up this season and I’m sure
      the manager will have the same idea.

      • Chareose

        Yes but the key point to GFH is dont hang about, find some money and get players in to keep this incredible atmosphere and keep the momentum going ! Despite the result yesterday its clear there is a gulf in class between Leeds and he top contenders in the championship

    • TSS

      Two year plan is sensible. Doesn’t mean we won’t try to achieve promotion this season, of course we will, but it gives McDermott time to build.

      • Chareose

        Yes build and then lose players at the end of each season to predators from the Premiership ! Then rebuild again…….You should know thats how it works…… You dont build for 2 years in the lower leagues !

        • TSS

          That hasn’t happened this summer though. No one has left, despite genuine interest in the likes of McCormack and Byram. Can’t judge GFH-C by Bates’ operating standards.

          • Chareose

            Because Byram is suspiciously injured…… You think if he continues to develop we will be able to hold him for years to come ? I dont ….

          • TSS

            Of course not. It’d be wrong of us to hold him back.

            But he won’t be sold for a packet of Wrigley’s and a Steve Morison either, we’ll get a very hefty sum and that’ll be reinvested in the squad instead of building projects.

            “Suspiciously injured” by the way? Don’t tell me you’re calling conspiracy on that?

          • Chareose

            lol it does make you wonder doesnt it ??? Will Byram make a speedy recovery just as the transfer window closes….if it is the case then good on BMC.

          • TSS

            No. Clearly I’m less paranoid than the rest of you. I genuinely believe the Byram decision comes down to McDermott, unless a silly amount of money is offered, in which case, McD would have cash to replace.

            GFH haven’t been sucking the club dry and have no intentions of wasting funds on pointless vanity projects. They’ve actually been funding us. This isn’t Ken Bates any more, but exceptionally gifted players will still leave for higher levels. That happens no matter how much cash you have but that was never the problem. What happened after we’d sold key players was the issue.

          • spellz

            Spot on TSS.

          • Irving08

            Agree with TSS too. Furthermore, if we can maintain crowds and an atmosphere somewhere around yesterday’s level, I can see even very good players such as Byram wanting to stay, barring silly bids/wages offers. Against this, there is the uncertainty in our situation, due to GFH’s stated strategy of looking to sell its majority stake within a couple of years. The cursory look at our rivals, afforded by the FL programme last night, was enough to suggest that, absent some really powerful forward signings, we may still be in this Division in two year’s time. How did we miss the Sheffield Wednesday giant, for example ? The crucial thing then for, as things stand, is the gates, including or even especially the corporate take.

          • Chareose

            I havent actually suggested they are sucking the club dry……. They are a business and have shareholders to satisfy and you contradicted yourself “but exceptionally gifted players will leave for higher levels”, exactly my point…..thanks

          • TSS

            No contradiction at all. I said it hasn’t happened this summer yet (which it hasn’t) and if it did, I’m confident GFH would replace him properly. Unlike Bates.

            GFH’s shareholders will be satisfied when club is re-sold. If they’re in this for dividend payments in the meantime, they’re incredibly stupid. No one profits from football that way.

          • Irving08

            GFH are in it for capital growth, not dividends, and they appear to be in a hurry too. This is why fans should maintain a critical distance from them. It is why the Red Bull stuff is worrying. We as fans need to be very clear on what is not acceptable, and GFH need to know it too.

    • Matthew

      Money should be freed up next Summer with people like Danny Pugh leaving at the end of the season. He for example signed a 2 and a half year deal Jan 2012. That’s a good £10-13k a week freed up right there.

      If we can retain the players we want and get rid of the deadwood, it should be a case of replacing when the deadwood leave at the end of the season.

  • whiteblob

    we need a new centre back, in fact I will say the unspeakable if we could get two and may be a full back. we could raise the money from a player not playing yesterday

    sorry but reality bites, but its in the post if read between the lines :(

  • Tyler75

    Spot on report. Yesterday, it felt like we’d got our club back, everybody united. A mate of mine travelled up on the Brighton coach (could have taken a couple of taxis – they brought so few !) and said the atmosphere was really intimidating and loudest he’s heard at a Championship game. Luke Murphy had as good as debut as you’re likely to see and looks a class act, Paddy and Ross were outstanding but Paul Green was immense – a man of the match performance. Although he played well yesterday, I think Rudy will come in for Tonge when his suspension is complete. Byram will make a massive difference, Peltier is not a right-back and was very poor yesterday. Pearce still looks like an accident waiting to happen and Lees looks nervous alongside him, although to be fair he was pretty solid yesterday and actually passed the ball out of defence. Brian Mac is a very tacticly astute manager and got it spot on yesterday – make no mistake, Brighton are among the best sides in the division and yesterday was a big win for us. MOT

    • Chareose

      a good analysis….the team seems to be getting used to the new tactical approach although i still think we leave a lot of space in midfeild…. Guy i was most pleased for was Varney ! thought he was superb

      • spellz

        I don’t know what McD has said to Varney towards the end of last season but he has gone up highly in my books and is starting to look quite the player.

    • Irving08

      The man on Radio Leeds repeatedly stated that Peltier was playing well in what he believed was his best position. Who am I to believe ? Don’t you think it’s a bit unfair blaming Pearce for Lees’ shortcomings, by the way ? It was great to start with a win, though I don’t share your view that Brighton will be among the top teams in the Division this this year. Still, if I am wrong, it augurs well for us.

      • Matthew

        Lees is much better than Pearce. I would put Lees above Pearce any day of the week, it’s not even a question, If someone asked me right now, I would say without any pause that Lees is better.

        • Irving08

          It is not a question of who is the better player – although I happen to prefer Pearce – but why,when they play together,they appear to be less than the sum of their respectie parts.

  • spellz

    What a final few minutes that was lol, sometimes you need a rub of the green though and we got it in the shape of Murphy a great positive tone set for the beginning of our campaign, on to the next one.

    M.O.T AA.

  • Deus

    Despite not really getting involved in the chances yesterday I thought Hunt did at least show some fight and desire to hold onto the ball when it came to him. Something that unfortunately cannot be said for our captain.

    There was one particular incident in the first half when he went down under a challenge (but obviously not hurt) at right back and then about 10 seconds later the Brighton winger came within a foot of him and he simply didn’t lift a finger. The lazy git still didn’t get up after and I think it was McCormack who had to track back into defence and deal with the threat.

  • maxwatson

    Thought the team did pretty well yesterday considering Austin and Diouf out as well. I thought the midfield did indeed do well but Tonge in particular looked tired towards the end, and as you say the defence doesn’t look confident, quite apart from whether they look capable.

    My guess is we’ll get one more player – feels like Mills – in unless Byram goes, but it’s also almost certain now that around £100m is about to flood into the English game (maybe £100m of funny money, but anyhow that’s the way the system works) on the back of the Bale transfer, and I can see the rest of the transfer window getting quite busy as a result.

    Byram is one of the top youth prospects outside the PL who have not yet moved (the main other one I can think of is Jordan Rhodes, and maybe a couple of the players still to move on from Wigan) so maybe there’ll be an influx of money (though I’d prefer to see him stay).

  • Shakespeare

    To be, or not to be? That is the promotion question. After yesterday I feel like we can make the play-offs at least.

  • Nick

    I was at my cousins wedding, just before the best man speech the news sweeps in as a text says ‘murphy you beauty!’. I scream ‘f****n get in’ whilst giving the air a few punches, practically the whole room stares at me and I couldn’t care less, I’m just dreaming of being at elland road. This is what I missed about us, even if we lose a few games there’s a positivity and longevity about the team, I’m buzzing!

  • White Honk

    Byram to make a massive difference to this side. Green slipped Peltier in so many times but he cannot cross/play a forward pass. Get him at CB. As for Austin I think he needs to be second fiddle to Tonge who was excellent. Poleon to be a useful impact player too. Marching on with 34,000 others!

  • Matthew

    I would be happy with 10 points from this month. 1 step at a time, it’d be a great way to end the month, if we get more, fantastic.

  • DeterminationPersonified

    Yes, a truly fantastic day with an ending that was almost transcendental. The atmosphere in the Paddock was the best I’ve experienced in many, many years … and the song about Ken Bates at kick-off was our own personal exorcism … I sang along as loud as I could.

    Ok, I know I shouldn’t get caried away by 1 game but … what a game! Really looking forward to the Chesterfield game … me and the lad together and a few more pints in the Peacock beforehand (which is looking fantastic btw).

    MOT.

    • TSS

      It does indeed look fantastic (The Peacock) but they really need to sort the queues out, it took me 45 minutes to get served before kick-off. Not somewhere I usually go in – not pre-match anyway – but I’m sure it’s not like that normally and these were just teething problems for new owners?

      • DeterminationPersonified

        Yes, good shout. We got there quite early (midday) so were able to have a few pints before the crowds started. I think the pub will be ready come the Wednesday game (huge takings available if they can get the capacity issue sorted).

        Just another issue … quite happy to say I may have judged GFH et al a bit harshly on my previous posts … although as I say, I’m not getting carried away after just one game ;)

  • markman

    Hunt had an off day and tired towards the end.

    hardly surprising as he is a newly wed !

  • Tim Musgrove

    Is it just me or did the players look much more physically fit than last year? Would explain them playing until the final whistle too.

  • kev raunds

    bring it on Saturday really got me buzzing for this season

  • Sebastian

    They performed great against Brighton! Are Leeds capable of repeating themselves tomorrow?

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