New Years Day games are something of a phenomenon. You tend to find that most people who attend these games are in no suitable shape to be out of bed, let alone outdoors watching a match, and with a 1pm kick-off, there really was no time to be suffering from the Delerium Tremens!
Due to my excessive drinking the previous night, my sister offered me a lift to the game, which was nice. Got there in good time and picked up some of Ken Bates’ Curry & Chips to cure the queasiness and unsettled nature of my stomach. They worked a treat. When I got to my seat, we quickly learned that Leeds had signed Andy O’Brien on a 2 & 1/2 year contract…well that should see our Own-Goal count raised over the next couple of seasons…
I then found out I was in the programme! Yup, there I was in a shot from the Forest game earlier this season looking shocked at something on the pitch….it was probably Bradley Johnson to be fair!
As the team lineups were being announced, Scott said to me “That David Wheater is a good player, meant to be going to the Premiership”, information which I didn’t really care about…who was this David Wheater anyway? All I cared about was that we were starting with Andy Hughes……….!
Then the game started…unfortunately. As ever, we kicked off with the usual move, smacking the ball to the left wing…and for the first time I can ever remember, we managed to win the ball and keep possession from it…amazing! The match started in a very sloppy way. A miskick by Jason Steele in the Boro goal led to a chance which couldn’t be converted.
It was Robert Snodgrass who came closest soon after with a Robert Snodgrass volley which finished of a brilliant Leeds move but the ball agonisingly went over the bar.
On 20 minutes, a Boro corner was whipped in, and who should get on the end of it? No, not Andy O’Brien for another own-goal, but David Wheater with a header that eluded Schmeichel and the defender on the line to make it 0-1 to Boro.
Middlesbrough snapped up the defences like the Millenium Falcon flying through an asteroid belt. Leeds struggled from here to get past a solid Boro who were throwing almost everything behind the ball. As soon as Leeds pushed for a chance, they were beaten back by Boro. It was a frustrating day for Becchio who just couldn’t manage to get much of the play.
Down our left-side we had problems too. Andy Hughes who had been brought in at left-back was constantly moving out of position and missing tackles, meaning that Max Gradel had to drop back at every Boro advance and help out his defender. This meant that any breaks we were trying to forge weren’t working as we didn’t have Gradel using his pace down the wing.
Boro had another glorious chance to go two goals up but sent a shot just wide of Kasper’s goal. Just before halftime, Leeds were offered a glimmer of hope when a freekick was given just outside the penalty area. In a move straight from the Thorpe Arch training ground, the ball was eventually given to Bradley Johnson in a central position, and therein lay the fault of the move. The shot went wide.
The second half begun much the same as the first had ended, with the Leeds team looking largely lethargic and looking like a Sunday league team who had all been out on New Years Eve celebrations necking 20 cans of Carlsberg! Just 11 minutes into the second half and Grayson brought on Lloyd Sam and Neil Kilkenny for Gradel and Hughes, pushing Bradley Johnson back to the left-back position. McCormack had a decent effort from a free kick and then it was Lloyd Sam’s turn to come close with a low strike just going the wrong side of the post, although Steele would have had it covered.
Snodgrass took a bit of a battering out on the wing and looked to injury his back and Leeds came close from a Collins header from Kilkenny’s freekick from the foul on Snoddy. With around 75 minutes on the clock, Snodgrass was replaced by Sanchez Watt.
Leeds’ play picked up in the last ten minutes but it was almost too little too late. Watt had a chance on goal as did McCormack.
Due to injuries in the game, the fourth official game word that there was to be five added minutes. Just as it was announced, Boro had an amazing chance to secure the game but a slip in the area meant the chance was missed. The ball broke to Collins and he worked the ball forwards with McCormack. A good header by McCormack was punched clear by Steele straight to Luciano Becchio who smashed a volley straight back into the goal and equalised the game.
A draw and a point would have been a good result in all fairness after our performance, but we nearly did a total turnaround when a beautiful ball was played into the area by Watt to be met by an unmarked McCormack who agonisingly headed it just wide in a situation where it was almost easier to score than miss!
The unbeated run has now stretched to 12 games and hopefully we can go to Cardiff on Tuesday and put in a good performance…before the main event next Saturday when Leeds will be travelling to the nations capital and the Emirates Stadium for the FA Cup clash with Arsenal.