That winning feeling

Just before I set off to Middlesbrough for today’s game I was reading through the editorials and forum posts on a Middlesbrough site where the old ‘Dirty Leeds’ tag was doing overtime. As Boro hacked away at the Leeds United team (injuring two of our players in the process) any neutrals watching must have been wondering if this ‘Dirty Leeds’ they’d told us so much about were wearing red?

Aside from an impressive ability to injure the opposition, the SPL rejects struggled early doors; it wasn’t difficult to see why Gordon Strachan’s job was on the line as Leeds United settled in early and looked threatening. It took just 11 minutes for the Whites to take the lead when a deflected cross found Davide Somma who volleyed home his sixth of the season.

A lack of pace and creativity in the Boro side made life easy for Richard Naylor and Neill Collins, and as our chubby stand-in keeper pondered a walk to the pie stand, Kris Boyd was starting to regret the easy life he left behind in Scotland – I sincerely doubt he’ll be hitting 30 goals a season in this league!

Sanchez Watt was the first victim of Middlesbrough’s suspect tackling and looked like he was going to be replaced just after the half hour mark, only for the board to show Andy Hughes on in place of George McCartney who is believed to be suffering from a severe strain of man-flu – we wish him well!

Watt tried to continue but lasted only five minutes before the gaffer was forced to bring on Bradley Johnson in his place. The first time Grayson drops the ineffective Bradley Johnson, and he worms his way on to the pitch after just 35 minutes or so… Conspiracy? Most definitely. But credit where it’s due, Johnson had a very good game defensively and didn’t hit one ball onto the roof of the stand! I don’t think he took a shot either mind, but that’s beside the point.

The substitutions took the pace out of the game and little else happened before half-time. The Boro fans weren’t impressed and booed their team off the pitch. As great as it was to be in front away from home, it was painful to see Leeds United legend, Gordon Strachan being booed from the pitch.

Boro responded to the boo’s as the second half got under way and for the first time in the game they started to peg Leeds back. It was a poorly defended, but nonetheless beautiful cross that handed an unmissable equaliser to Kris Boyd. A brief moment of joy for the SPL reject, but they’ll be few and far between this season.

Middlesbrough’s renewed belief was short-lived though. Just minutes later Luciano Becchio’s persistence paid off as he scrapped the ball into the path of Bradley Johnson. Johnson hit the ball across the area, by which point, Becchio had made space for himself to strike home beautifully off the post to put Leeds back in front.

Both teams had chances after that, but it was Becchio again with the most notable one. From the edge of the area, Becchio blasted a shot at goal, which rebound back off the part of the woodwork where the bar meets the post. A goal of the season contender for sure had it been a couple of inch lower!

As Middlesbrough tried to scrape a point, Leeds United sat back and played some horrible time-wasting football. Boro hadn’t finished injuring our players yet either, with the impressive Amdy Faye forced off the pitch late on. Hopefully nothing too serious for Faye, as the midfielder was a big improvement in the role Killa usually fills. He showed a lot of experience on the ball, providing Leeds with a calming influence in possession and always finding a good pass.

Five minutes of stoppage time did nothing to help Boro, and as the final whistle blew it was a thoroughly deserved three points for Leeds United. A slightly bittersweet moment for myself though as it seemed the writing was on the wall for former Leeds great, Gordon Strachan.

TSS man of the match

I imagine the general consensus is Luciano Becchio, and I won’t argue with that. What I will say however, is that Amdy Faye really stood out for me as a positive and calming influence on the rest of the team. Fingers crossed his injury was nothing serious and the gaffer was also impressed by him today.