Genius and hopeless in equal measures.

It’s unusual for me to head to Elland Road early for a midweek match, but with a rare Wednesday off work I decided to soak up the atmosphere before kick-off. It proved to be a good call too, as I bumped into an Irish Leeds fan I’d met several years earlier in Spain for a Champions League game (Barcelona) and have ran into intermittently around Elland Road and at the occasional away game ever since.

When we first met this particular fan several years previous, we drunkenly dubbed him ‘Stats’ on account of his never-ending knowledge of all things Leeds United. Bumping into Stats always seems to be a timely reminder of how far we’ve fallen since our original meeting and tonight was no different with the opposition Hull City having graced the Premier League more recently than we did.

Nevertheless, Stats was his usual informative self dropping little bits of random trivia such as tonight was Becchio’s 100th start for Leeds United and reminding us we hadn’t won at home since the 28th of September. Ironically, the 28th of September was also the last time Hull had won a game anywhere and with Leeds not drawing a game in the last eight, the chances of those stats remaining after this fixture seemed pretty slim.

So, armed with a whole new array of informative trivia to pad this match report out with, I headed into Elland Road just in time to see the teams lining up. Hull had decided that strikers were overrated and chose not to field one, whilst Grayson stuck with the 4-5-1 formation that had won us the last two games. Kasper Schmeichel was back between the sticks after attending the birth of his baby boy Max and Bradley Johnson was also named in the starting XI.

On paper, this had a home win written all over it but a combination of our dreadful defensive record, constant inconsistency and dismal home form had me a little nervous. Johnson’s return to the starting line-up didn’t do much to lift my spirits either, and the fact that this was a derby game meant the form book and respective league positions meant absolutely nothing.

As the game got under way, it looked as though Hull City had come to park the bus and Leeds enjoyed the majority of possession early doors. Pearson had clearly done his homework and Jonny Howson had little freedom to maneuver with a Hull City player assigned to be his shadow. Meanwhile, Robert Snodgrass was having more luck and strove down the wing leaving two players for dead before firing a cross into the box which was cleared by the defense but showed a real statement of intent from the Whites.

Within minutes of Snoddy’s run, Hull went up the other end and won a freekick courtesy of a clumsy challenge from Bradley Johnson. Hull were causing Leeds no real problems at the time, but Bradley Johnson decided to dive at one of their players anyway and was extremely fortunate not to get booked for what was an extremely poor and careless challenge.

On-loan Spurs youngster, Bostok stood over the ball but with a distance of 35 yards between him and the goal it seemed inconceivable that he’d shoot. The Leeds defense clearly agreed and decided a two man wall would be sufficient, choosing to pack the box with bodies instead. What followed was an absolute thunderbolt of a shot from Bostok, straight into the top corner leaving Kasper Schmeichel helpless and the Leeds United fans shell-shocked. Goal of the month written all over it.

Leeds struggled to regain composure thereafter and there was a period in which possession was wasted and balls hoofed long before anyone took control of the game once more. When Leeds did get moving again, Snodgrass was once again the inspiration providing a great pass to which created room for a cross. The cross landed just behind Becchio who couldn’t turn and shoot so laid it off to Howson instead, but Jonny fired the chance wide of goal.

Spurred on by the opportunity Leeds once again went in search of an equalizer with Kilkenny forgetting he can’t shoot once again and Bradley Johnson hitting a tame shot at goal which the Hull keeper had no problems collecting.

Just after the half hour mark, Johnson redeemed himself though thanks in no small part to a defensive error from Hull. Luciano Becchio capitalised on the mistake, laying it off for Johnson who smashed it into the bottom corner to restore parity and net his third of the season. 1-1.

Leeds rode their luck a little after the restart with Alex Bruce clearing a Bostok effort off the line. Kevin Kilbane also wasted a free header for Hull, but Leeds were also searching for another and Hull’s desperation to keep us out led to the referee dishing out several yellow cards in the visitors direction. The scores remained level at the break though, as the fans poured into the tunnel to escape the bitterly cold autumn weather at Elland Road.

Suitably warmed up by what I can only describe as sugary and coloured boiling water (I think they just boil the lager and add sugar?) the opening stages of the second half saw Becchio denied by the crossbar before heading wide from a Snodgrass shot.

By now, Leeds clearly had the edge and when Snodgrass crossed it in for O’Brien, the on-loan centre back made no mistake and sent Leeds United in front with a header. 2-1

The game remained scrappy and when Becchio went down in Hull’s half, few people paid much attention to his complaints (he does tend to roll around a fair bit) but the replay showed the Argentinian had taken a completely unprovoked elbow to the head from a Hull defender. Jonny Howson seemed to be the only person on the pitch that had noticed it, and in is role as captain complained to the referee who in fairness, couldn”t have seen it either. Howson’s protests proved unsuccessful and as the Leeds fans figured out what had happened we decided we weren’t impressed with the incident either.

Hull escaped with all eleven men on the pitch though and both teams continued to scrap away. Leeds had the best chance when Johnson headed wide from a Kilkenny free-kick. The midfielder should have done much better and was noticeably annoyed with his own effort.

It didn’t matter though as Leeds were in front and the referee was about to make our job easier by reducing Hull to ten men. It was the goalscorer, Bostok who went from hero to villain as he was sent walking for a second bookable offense. Bit of a soft sending off in fairness to the lad, but poetic justice for the elbow Becchio took earlier.

At this point, I joked that Leeds would probably blow it with such an advantage but even in my most pessimistic of moods I could never have believed we actually would. Hull had no striker on the pitch and aside from the little first half flurry following the goals, Kasper Schmeichel had been a spectator. It was damage limitation for Hull at best… or so I thought!

But then, you always have to account for Leeds’ self-destructive nature and our insistence on making life hard for ourselves. Moreover, you also have to remember we have the rarely consistent Bradley Johnson on the pitch who must have sensed a small amount of praise heading his way, so decided to cancel it out by throwing two points down the drain.

The equalizer itself is destined for The Best Blunders 2010-11 DVD and deservedly so. Credit to Hull, they’d somehow managed to get a late corner and despite their numerical disadvantage threw everyone forward in an attempt to level the game. They needn’t have bothered though as the ball looped off Johnson straight beyond an angry Kasper Schmeichel. 2-2

Even with Lloyd Sam, Davide Somma and Billy Paynter brought on to bolster the attack, it was too late for Leeds to restore their lead and Hull were left to celebrate an unlikely, and extremely fortuitous point at Elland Road as the Leeds fans went home cursing the never predictable Bradley Johnson.

TSS man of the match

For the second game running it has to be Robert Snodgrass. He was beating players down the wing, creating chances, putting crosses into the box and was definitely our biggest threat throughout. The difference he’s made since his return has been remarkable. Just like last season Snoddy has reestablished himself as the key man in the Leeds starting XI and it’s imperative that we keep him free of injury for the rest of the campaign.

At this point, I’d usually do the ‘ups and downs v Hull’ but the match report ran a little longer than usual (1500 words!) and there’s plenty of them so I’ll do that separately tomorrow.