Massed ranks of Miwwwaww fans cunningly disguised as blue seats for safety
Leeds emerged from lowly murk into the sunshine of the top half of the Championship table, without needing to be anywhere near their best, courtesy of this narrow win over a very poor Millwall side. The Londoners remain stuck in the last relegation spot which is hopefully to be their destiny – and it is only this final place on the trapdoor which seems likely to be disputed over the rest of the season. Blackpool and Wigan, both recently Premier League clubs, look certain to drop into the third tier, largely unlamented. Until lately, Leeds had appeared candidates to be embroiled in the fight over that last, doom-laden slot – but now we have eight lovely, precious points of clear daylight between the Whites and those who are about to die.
A tight and nervous game, seemingly played on the high-wire between two teams horribly aware of the lack of any safety net, was settled by Alex Mowatt‘s first-half free-kick, which sailed beyond the reach of the helpless Forde in the Millwall goal. The Leeds midfielder’s left-footed strike appeared to be aided by a slight deflection on its way into the net – and that was the way the cookie was destined to crumble, on an afternoon when the toothless Lions raised little above a weary growl as they were ultimately tamed.
Leeds’ penalty appeal embargo evidently continues, with referees now under Football League orders to book any United player fouled in the opposition box – for “cheek”, presumably. You have to laugh – it’s the hysterical alternative to crying – but this really is getting beyond a joke now. Fortunately for Leeds, a sudden ability to preserve a clean sheet has ensured six precious points since last week’s Brentford/Salisbury scandal. The Championship table makes much more comfortable reading now than we could have dared believe last Saturday evening.
So Leeds can at last afford themselves the luxury of looking up towards the distant play-off zone, rather than casting fearful, hunted glances over their shoulders at the unseemly dogfight in and around the area above the bottom three. Blackpool and Wigan are surely gone; it may be that Brighton, Rotherham and Fulham are in most danger from any late-season Millwall revival.
On today’s evidence, such an event seems less than likely – and, if we do end up losing two Lancastrian clubs and one grotty Bermondsey eyesore, then the celebrations in and around Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything Towers will be long, loud and gleeful. It’s a welcome relief, for the moment, from any nagging relegation worries for Leeds. And – fingers crossed – it may well be a fond Championship farewell come May for those not-so-lovable cockney troglodytes from the New Den.