There was an increased crowd at Elland Road, as is the norm for Boxing Day, the majority of whom were no doubt feeling a little sheepish after the excesses of Christmas Day and I was no exception.

Charlton had kicked off early and drew 2-2 with Swindon Town after Sam Sodje was sent off for a two-footed challenge early on and Deon Burton followed him just before half-time. Charlton were 1-0 up at this point, but with another half to follow and only nine men available, it wasn’t going to be easy. Predictably enough, Swindon came out firing and turned the game on its head. With only injury time remaining, they’d managed to get themselves 2-1 in front, but a last second equaliser from Miguel Llera (90 +4) put Charlton level and secured them a hard fought point. .

Norwich meanwhile had beaten Millwall 2-0 and Colchester also took three points away to Southend United. Nevertheless, the Leeds fans knew that a victory here today over the inconsistent Hartlepool would be enough to take us six points clear at the top as we approach the New Year.

Leeds were undoubtedly heavy favourites for the tie and as the game got underway, it looked like there would be no surprises. Robert Snodgrass had three early shots blocked by the visitors defence as he made himself available all over the pitch.

There was a stoppage in play early on after Andrew Hughes went down in some pain. It looked like he’d taken some kind of knock to his knee and the Leeds United physio came on to assess the situation. Hughes finally managed to get himself up and was taken off the pitch, returning shortly afterwards.

Leeds continued to pile on the pressure and the next chance fell to Jermaine Beckford who fired a shot on goal from a tough angle. It was an easy save from the Hartlepool keeper but there was an early indication of how the Leeds fans were feeling about their number one striker as the stands burst into a chorus of “Jermaine Beckford, Jermaine Beckford,” clearly indicating that last weeks incident had been put to bed.

Next up to try his luck was Jonny Howson who struck well from the edge of the area, but it went straight at the opposition goalkeeper who saved with relative ease.

The game lost a bit of pace and Hartlepool managed to get up the other end of the field. Their efforts resulted in a corner which was whipped in at some pace, being headed on to the back post where an unmarked Bjornsson knocked it in to send the visitors into the lead, totally against the run of play.

Leeds tried to reply but found themselves on the back foot once again. A shot from Adam Boyd deflected out for another corner as Hartlepool found some belief. The corner was subsequently cleared by Becchio, then knocked back in but the offside flag was up giving Leeds a free-kick and time to regain some composure.

The game then turned back in Leeds’ favour. Howson had another shot from range which deflected off a defender leaving the keeper wrong footed. The shot was spilled but as Jermaine Beckford moved in to poach a goal, the keeper managed to clean up and save his team from danger.

Beckford looked extremely hungry and the fans were more than appreciative of his efforts. There was still the odd one or two who stubbornly refused to forgive and forget, but on the whole, the Leeds fans had his back.

After a three on two move was ended by a poor pass from Beckford, the striker redeemed himself by levelling the scores. Neil Kilkenny took a shot which whizzed through the area and Beckford got a touch to it to make it 1-1 and put Leeds back on level terms. The striker’s celebration was somewhat subdued, perhaps because he was in front of the previously critical Kop, or maybe because of the poached effort. The fans reacted favourably though with a chorus of the striker’s name.

Robert Snodgrass continued to make himself available wherever and wasn’t afraid to shoot. Another shot from him was saved with ease by the Hartlepool keeper, but Leeds were totally on top once more.

As the three minutes of extra time came close to an end, Leeds got themselves in front. Some fans will have missed the goal as they headed in to the stand for half-time refreshments, but there was more than a little luck involved. As the Hartlepool bench appealed for handball, Howson sent a cross in which Becchio headed towards goal. The header took a deflection and found the back of the net to send Leeds in, in front at half time.

Although Leeds deserved the lead, Hartlepool fans had a right to feel aggrieved. The referee was another fine example of how poor the officials are in this division and made so many errors it was often comical. The decisions did seem a little one sided at times too and I’m sure we’d have felt annoyed had it been the other way round. When things are going for you though, you have to take it.

After a quiet opening, Jermaine Beckford got the first chance of the second half when he broke free and unleashed a powerful shot that clattered back off the bar to deny him his second. He had another chance shortly after too as he met Snoddy’s cross but couldn’t direct his effort towards goal from six yards.

Things quietened down, giving me some time to interact with my followers on Twitter. Although a little over-eager at times, Beckford was having a good game and shortly after I suggested he may well hit an hat trick today, he added his second. A beautifully chipped shot over the Hartlepool keeper sealed the victory for the Whites and sent the 30,000 fans into raptures. This time, Beckford celebrated in style in front of the South Stand and last weeks antics were now but a distant memory.

As the half wore away, Leeds started to play ole football, safe in the knowledge that the result was confirmed. Simon Grayson made a few changes bringing Bradley Johnson on for Micky Doyle, Tresor Kandol on for Richard Naylor and Mad Max Gradel on in place of Lucciano Becchio. The referee meanwhile was handing yellow cards out like Christmas cards after an incident involving Bradley Johnson led to a bit of handbags at five paces.

There were a couple of chances left for Leeds, the first of which fell to Max Gradel who shot from range when he should have played one of the many White shirt wearing players around him in. Jermaine Beckford was eager to get his hat trick, but the best effort he would get was a long ranged strike that sailed in to the packed South Stand. The game ended with a poorly struck free kick from Max Gradel, but the victory was secured and Leeds move six clear of Charlton Athletic.

A couple of interesting facts from my followers on Twitter; Firstly, Leeds now have the best goal difference in England with +30. The next closest being Chelski on +28. Secondly, with that win secured, Leeds are now guaranteed to end the decade as they started it – at the top of the table. Obviously, we started at the top of the Premier League and end at the top of League One, but an interesting fact nonetheless.

A good result today and a good response to going behind in the first half. Good to see 30,000 Leeds fans at the game today, some of which looked a little worse for wear, but all seemed to be enjoying the Christmas spirit. Special shout to those that attended in fancy dress, there were quite a few of them today for us all to laugh at.

TSS man of the match
I can’t give it to anyone other than Jermaine Beckford. He was over-eager at times, but looked desperate to make up for last weeks antics and responded in the right way – as did the fans! Mini goal drought over and the January speculation will snowball from here on in. Can’t see him leaving ‘til the end of the season though.

Funniest fan award
Goes to the lad in the Kop who called his mate (who is a bit of an occasional fan) a fair-weather fan despite the fact it was one of the coldest games of the season. Love it.

Managed to get home and complete a match report by 18:15. That’s got to be a new record. Please excuse any grammatical errors, but the pub awaits. Happy Christmas to everyone – TSS.

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