…take it eeeeeasy, don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy
It’s times like these that any fan of Leeds United is happy to write about. From the well deserved win over Wolves, to the amazing team effort on Tuesday for 90 minutes plus. Players that gave their all, and then some. What a fantastic result, probably the best way to win that game, it was a true nail biter to the end. What a penalty for young Vieira to step up to, he will struggle to score a better penalty under more intense circumstances. Plaudits of the night however, have to go to the outstanding, magnificent Marco.
Both teams had made 8 changes from the teams that had played at the weekend. I had figured that Garry would make some changes, but not as many as that. But Marco made his mark with that save early in the first half, and that was his statement of intent. Both teams had their chances, despite the changes, Norwich on top for the first half hour or so, scoring from a header from one of the smallest guys on the pitch. A Bartley goal disallowed as Kyle clearly batted it in with his hand, and all he got was a yellow card for his efforts. But we got back into the game after a bit of nifty footwork by Roofe on the byline. A lovely placed cross to The Duke from Roofe, and The Duke duly set up Antonsson for his tap in, in front of the empty South Stand. It was hard fought in the second half, but we had the edge. If Mowatt had his shooting boots on, we would have won in normal time but alas it was not to be, and with only the keeper to beat, Mowatt hacked the ball into the Kop. Garry had gambled on getting the job done in 90 minutes, using all his subs, so when Coyle landed awkwardly in the penalty area in added time, we all feared the worse.
So the scenario was extra time with only 10 men. The atmosphere was so intense, it was like being crushed under a giant Canary. The burden was being carried by our very young side and we were being battered by a side who were much bigger and quicker with the luxury of fresher legs. When they scored, we looked doomed. All the hope was gone and the majority of the Kop were resigned to defeat, but this team just does not know when it is beaten. Grimes, who had been relatively anonymous throughout the 90 minutes, put the ball through to Sacko and the whole of the Kop waited to see if he would shoot. It looked like he did, the keeper came out but only parried the ball to the waiting Chris Wood who slotted home, and the crowd went mad. Minutes later, it looked like Sacko had another chance, racing goalwards with three men crowding him out, the ball went out for what we and Chris Woods thought looked like a corner, but the ref blew and penalties loomed. Everyone was wondering where they would be taken and all we could hope for was that they would be in front of the Kop. Our wishes came true and all we could do was try to put off the Norwich players as much as we could, and hope that we could score. There was no one who honestly thought Marco would save a penalty.
After all the stick Silvestri took last season from people booing him for not catching the ball when he punched it away, he had to have balls of steel on Tuesday to stand there. Moans about his distribution on the pitch and even his own defence having a pop at him for not commanding his area, let alone the fans, marred that whole season. This, despite him single handedly keeping us in the game at Boro two season ago. Marco won LUSC Player of The Season that first season, his trophy was given to him the following season, on the pitch by Johannesburg LUSC amid cruel cries of “Don’t drop it” , “Butterfingers” etc. etc. etc. yet he still played on and his girlfriend, Sofia, stood with Leeds fans steadfastly. Sadly, Monk brought in Green, and he lost his place, in my mind undeservedly.
Honours were even after the first attempts and then Marco stood his ground and saved the second, Roofe slotting in his to give us the lead. A dive to his right, stopped the next Norwich penalty and all of a sudden we are in with a chance. I have to say, when young Kalvin Phillips stepped up, I think the Kop thought it was going to be easy sailing, with “We Are Leeds” joyfully ringing round the rafters, but Ruddy pulled off a brilliant save to deny us the two goal advantage. We were clinging on after Oliveira scored and Grimes ballooned his shot, but the giant of the man that Marco is, stepped up or rather spectacularly dived to his right give us the edge.
I don’t know how young Vieira felt walking up for that penalty, I don’t think he will easily forget it. It was fitting that one of our home grown academy players won us that shoot out. A fantastic team effort and one of the best games I have seen at Elland Road for quite a while. I hope this will be a continuing theme for the rest of the season. I admit that when the substitutions started, I was doubting Garry’s decisions, but I am very glad to be proved wrong.
The only sour point for me was that I was unable to enjoy the game from the luxury of my season ticket seat. I know that the Club were reluctant to open all the stands for fear of a repeat of the last (Blackburn) Cup game, where barely 9,000 loyal fans bothered to turn up. I had emailed them about it when the tickets were announced. To be fair to the Club, they had cut prices for season ticket holders and members to encourage a good attendance. When I arrived at the ground, the queues at Lowfields were circling right round for people who were picking up their tickets. As I got to my non preferred seat in the Kop, I saw that the Captains Corner was open, and I was fuming. Admittedly, I don’t know how The Club would have been able to transfer me or anyone else who had been forcibly relocated to other stands, back to our original seats, but frankly I don’t care. Leeds United should have more confidence in their own product, and realistically should have opened the West Stand initially, along with the two stands (Kop and East Stand) that they did.
At the time of writing, we do not know what the quarter finals holds for us. If it is a home tie, please, please Leeds United – be proactive, for all our sakes.
Until then, lighten up while you still can, don’t even try to understand, find a place to make your stand…