Yesterday I made my first ever trip to Elland Road and was treated to a cracker of a match. If the result was slightly disappointing than the performance was at least encouraging. In truth when I set off I wasn’t expecting too much from the game. We have been in relatively poor form prior to the International break and after what was a bitterly poor result and overall display against Reading I feared that a trip to a very difficult Leeds ground could set us back even further and see more of the all too prevalent supporter unrest.
However I think we all we made the trip up the M1 with something of a moderately renewed sense of optimism after a pretty solid transfer window. Modern football whether we like it or not is now so dependant on what happens during two set periods in the season that to see us strengthen in key areas was pleasing after all the players going out the door.
The game itself was hugely entertaining and I imagine if you were a neutral watching the match you would consider it a decent advert for Championship football. For me, we looked nervous in the opening 10 minutes but settled down pretty soon after. Dijkhuizen went with a very deep midfield two of Diagouraga and McCormack with Kerschbaumer the tip of the trio. Judge went wide left with Vibe wide right. I was suprised to see Djuricin get the nod over Hofmann, not least because in his pre-match press conference, Dijkhuizen intimated that he would ease Canos and Djuricin into things whilst Woods would be up to speed with the English game already.
Early on, in fact as early as the first minute you could see the difference in the two central strikers we now have. I have been pleased with Hofmann so far if not blown away. He holds the ball up and has shown some neat and tidy feet but apart from a smart turn and shot for his goal against Bristol City, I am struggling to recall another chance that he has had in front of goal. Djuricin is a runner and will play on the shoulder of the last man. Almost immediately he caused problems with his movement and we could have gone in front early on.
After the initial chance though Leeds did come at us. They were obviously looking to get the crowd behind them and put us under pressure. Something I think Dijkhuizen would have expected and planned for. The two deep lying players nullified most of the Leeds threat but admittedly left us without much of an outlet. My only criticism of the opening stages and probably the performance in general was that we possibly found it hard to get possession high up the pitch because of Toums and McCormack not getting much past the half way line.
Dallas caused a few problems but I thought Colin coped well. He was booked in the opening five minutes which couldn’t have helped him but I would be bold enough to suggest that if he wasn’t given the (deserved) yellow so early on, he may have prevented Dallas escaping him on the one or two occasions that he did. He is looking a very tidy player and if not as expansive as Odubajo going forward, he certainly betters him in a defensive context.
After the first 10-15 minutes we grew into the game and Judge in particular was in fine form. He caused havoc with his running on the ball and once or twice before the goal he cut Leeds open when collecting the ball on the wing and driving towards goal. When we did score though, what a goal it was. It was such an incisive and cut throat attack that, if this is what is to come in the future, it will leave us all drooling at the prospect. It started with an excellent tackle and pass from Jake Bidwell, who incidentally had his best performance of the season. Judge roasted his full back, cutting inside and playing in Djuricin who collected the ball, cut back past a defender and finished in style. It was a deserved lead as well, as for all Leeds possession we never looked troubled but when we had the ball, things looked happening. Just before the goal, more smart running from Djuricin left him one on one but he chose to cut back to give himself a better angle which allowed the defender time to nip in and take it from him.
As the half progressed we looked very comfortable. It was pleasing to see us play with confidence and whilst the match wasn’t completely one sided I felt we never looked troubled. McCormack and Diagouraga were effective if unspectacular and Kerschbaumer lively and I can’t quite believe I’ve gone this long without mentioning Tarkowski. It is this kind of performance that makes us all believe he can play in the Premier League. He was exceptional and alongside Judge was my Man of the Match. One champagne moment was when he collected the ball close to the touchline, placed under immediate pressure from two Leeds forwards, he produced a mesmerising turn and flick to race between them and away from trouble. Harlee Dean too was putting in a shift and whilst not as easy on the eye as Tarkowski, Dean’s contribution shouldn’t be forgotten. He was steady, solid and won the majority of his battles.
The second half started much like the majority of the first. We looked comfortable when Leeds had the ball and dangerous when we got forward. For me though, the turning point in the game was when Button had to be alert to tip a shot onto the post. This breathed life into the home crowd and gave Leeds a bit of impetus. Antennuci and Murphy also came on for Leeds and straight away looked a handful. Antennuci in particular caused all sorts of problems and threatened to break through once or twice. The big moment of the half came when Vibe who was industrious all game did really well when played in down the right to wriggle his way past his man and play in Djuricin. His shot could only find the outside of the post and I did feel, having a perfect view of it, that he should have scored. He was soon replaced by Hofmann which at the time I thought was a good move. You expected him to come on and make the ball stick up front but he failed to win nearly every ball and it just felt that it gave Leeds possession too easily. Maybe he was feeling the stomach injury he sustained from the start because he was soon replaced by Canos.
But the decisive moment came with about 14 minutes to go when Woods a recent substitute for Colin gave the ball away when under pressure which allowed Antennuci to fire past Button from twenty odd yards. From my memory of it, it was only Woods second touch and I just felt he got caught out by the pace of the game. Fair play to him though, he got straight back on the ball and didn’t shy away. I can’t hide the fact that he should have been better when caught in possession but he showed balls of steel to not hide after that moment. He picked himself up and more importantly stuck to his natural game. He didn’t over play things when trying to make amends he just got on the ball and tried to find the passes. There’s a lot more to come from that young man and maybe such a harsh lesson so early on may just be the making of him.
After the goal there’s no getting away from the fact that Leeds came at us, yet I’m struggling to recall a meaningful save that Button had to make. Compare that to the chances we had to nick it with Hofmann just poking past the post and Bidwell heading back across goal from a tight angle when he may have tried to sneak it in, add to that the drives over the bar from Judge and Vibe I can say honestly that I felt we could and should have won the game.
The team still isn’t complete but is a work in progress and progress is exactly what we got. We stopped the rot and repaired the damage in midfield. We looked dangerous up front and solid at the back. A mistake may have cost us all three points but as performances go, maybe we look back on this one as proof we are good enough to compete at the top end of this division. Like Bournemouth away last season we had a disappointing result but came away with belief. Maybe Leeds was it for this year.
We now have an exceptionally hard task against Boro’ on Tuesday and for some crazy reason I think we can get something out of it. Even if we don’t I believe the tide is starting to turn. A few more weeks and we will know a lot more but things are a lot more positive than this time two weeks ago.
Up the Bees.