A return to league action after the traditionally blank FA Cup 4th Round weekend for Leeds sees United attempt to complete a second successive league double, in the wake of that unlikely but welcome achievement against high-flyers Bournemouth. On paper, completing the six-point tally against Huddersfield should be an easier task – but as usual in local derbies, Leeds will have to deal with the Cup Final complex felt to a particularly acute degree by our canine friends from down t’road.
The fact that Bournemouth, so effective in the Championship this season, have been dismissed twice by Leeds’ stuttering and inconsistent performers says much about the topsy-turvy nature of this second tier. Anyone, it seems, can beat anyone else – Leeds have also beaten Derby at Elland Road, yet have contrived to lose to some awfully mundane teams too – and this must be the fear as far as Saturday’s game at Town’s Meccano-inspired stadium is concerned. Elland Road has hardly been a fortress for the Whites this term, and arguably their most complete performance came in the 3-0 demolition of Huddersfield back in September. Revenge will be high on the agenda for Chris Powell’s men – not that this David normally needs any added incentive to try and best their own particular Goliath.
Leeds are this years Football League Crazy Gang, mad as a box of frogs from top to bottom, with the management crying out for proven Championship performers whilst selling such men by the job lot. Warnock and Pearce have left, with the addition of the impressively huge Sol Bamba, of whom we must hope he will also be hugely impressive. Bamba has been kicking his heels as a Serie A outcast and is likely to see his first action in a Leeds shirt in this derby encounter. Fellow Italian league loanee Granddi Ngoyi is also likely to be pushing for inclusion and should at least make the bench. Steve Morison, nursing a hip problem, should be fit to continue his sole striker role.
For Huddersfield, midfield man Jonathan Hogg is a doubt due to a knock, new loan signing David Edgar stands by to deputise. Huddersfield’s bark has been worse than their bite this season, but there will be the usual rabid desire to put one over on the hated foes from Elland Road – so we can expect a terrier-like showing as they doggedly hound their opponents for every ball.
Allowing for the Cup Final factor, Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything can see a draw as the most likely reward for Leeds United this weekend. An annoying defeat, however, would also be quite in character – especially after the high of defeating the league pace-setters last time out.
On balance, a 1-1 draw seems a fairly good bet – though with Chris Foy in charge anything at all is possible. In the highly-charged atmosphere of these Yorkshire derby occasions it’s probably more likely than not that one or both teams will suffer dismissals, especially with a temporarily demoted Premier League flop ref looking to regain some credibility. On the plus side, he did OK at the Theatre of Hollow Myths five years back, when Leeds slew the Pride of Devon in their own back yard.
This blog will stick its neck out, more in hope than expectation, and plump for a 2-1 success for Leeds. The character shown in the 4-2 victory at this venue a few years back would do admirably – and, indeed, nothing less should be acceptable where Yorkshire bragging rights are at stake. Three points here, with maybe another signing or two to come by close of business on deadline day – and it will have been another decent week for the Crazy Gang, our beloved Loopy Leeds.