Leeds wave white flag and surrender play-off hopes Matt Burton March 16, 2013 Leeds United, Match reviews 13 Comments Prior to kick-off before this West Yorkshire derby, Leeds fans were encouraged to ‘Paint it White’ by raising aloft white pieces of card. That turned out to be a very apt gesture as the white flag was well and truly waved on the 2012/13 season. Huddersfield Town jubilantly left Elland Road with all three points as a late James Vaughan strike sealed a 2-1 victory for Leeds’ noisy neighbours. The pre-match atmosphere was one of hope and approval for GFH’s latest customer retention and relationship building schemes. Reduced season ticket prices and the ‘paint it white’ initiative are welcome additions to the ‘watch Leeds for less’ promotion and further strengthen the belief that Leeds’ new owners will restore pride, unity and success to the club. That success will not, however, be arriving this season. How Haigh and Patel must wish that Warnock’s men were more capable of rewarding positive leadership with skill and class. Painting it white was fun, but watching the team was not. So, this report must unfortunately turn to the on-field events, where Leeds failed to produce the goods for the second ‘must-win’ match of the week. Hopes were not aided by injuries to strikers Steve Morison and Ross McCormack. If the manager’s exaggerated claims are to be believed, McCormack can barely remember his own name and where he lives following a bang to the brain he sustained in the second half of the Peterborough match on Tuesday. Replacing the attacking duo in the starting eleven were El-Hadji Diouf and, making his first start in a Leeds shirt, the infamous duck-throwing Habib Habibou. For many weeks fans had been deriding Warnock for not fielding the on-loan striker, with the reckoning being that throwing a duck, being African and having dreadlocks must equate to being as capable as Didier Drogba. The only other change to the starting eleven saw Rodolph Austin replace David Norris in midfield. In their side, Huddersfield named ex-Leeds hero Adam Clayton, who memorably played a handful of good games at the beginning of last season which gained him cult status, before an unremarkable end to the season saw him Warnock’s discarded list. A true hero, Jermaine Beckford, sat on the bench. Credit where it is due, Leeds began the match well. Luke Varney headed a Stephen Warnock corner goalwards on three minutes, only for it to be kept out fortuitously via defender and crossbar. Diouf then saw a low shot well saved by visiting keeper Alex Smithies, before a left-foot smash from Varney comfortably cleared the crossbar. Twenty minutes in, Leeds had nothing to show for their dominance, and almost fell behind as an unmarked James Vaughan headed against Paddy Kenny’s crossbar. The rest of the first half was unremarkable, though Leeds showed the majority of attacking intent. However, without McCormack or Morison, there was even less cutting-edge on display than normal. Habibou was a tireless worker, but failed to muster a shot on goal. An excellent Kenny save late in the half ensured that the tie remained goalless at the break, as Leeds failed to score in the first half of a match yet again (something the team has not managed since 2012). The second half was barely ten minutes old when a near post Neil Danns volley gave the visitors the lead. Peltier and Lees failed to fully clear the ball, resulting in Kenny being exposed and beaten at his near post. With the entire season on a knife-edge, Warnock broke with tradition and made some rather early substitutions. On came Aidy White and Ryan Hall, replacing the non-Drogba-esque centre forward and the quiet Paul Green. One of the substitutions would make an immediate impact, whilst the other produced thirty minutes of completely abject meandering around the right hand side of the field. No sooner had the changes been made, Leeds were level. A deep cross from the right eluded many within the penalty area and bounced nicely for White to head home with his first touch of the ball. Had the match ended differently, the day’s slogan of ‘painting it white’ could have been pertinent for very different reasons. Hope was back in the air. The supporters knew that only a win would suffice and willed the team on, but chances were sparse. The closest the home side would come to taking the lead was a Yeboah-like dipping volley from Rodolph Austin which struck the crossbar. Huddersfield threw the dice and on came Jermaine Beckford to a warm reception all round. The hero of Old Trafford duly reciprocated with a salute to the Revie End. With less than five minutes remaining, the final nail was hammered into the coffin of Leeds’ campaign. A passing move from the visitors allowed Vaughan to run through on goal and slide the ball past the advancing Kenny. Adam Clayton celebrated with gaiety. Beckford, respectfully, did not. And so came to an end the reign of Neil Warnock. With all hope of promotion now vanquished, the manager has effectively ended his significant influence within the club. The last eight matches are now a parade of pride, from which we can hope to maintain a top-half finish. Bring on the summer.