Resilient Leeds Count on Silvestri to Pip Boro at the Double – by Rob Atkinson


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Graphic illustration that there’s only one really important stat…

 

Middlesbrough 0, Leeds United 1 (Mowatt 3′)

This was not exactly the archetypal “classic” away performance by Leeds United. There were too many easily identifiable flaws for that accolade, not quite enough accuracy in the passing, too much profligacy in possession, far too many clear sights for Middlesbrough of the admirable Marco Silvestri‘s goal. It was certainly an effective performance in the end though, and without doubt a hugely significant win, a massively valuable three points and a welcome second successive away clean sheet. But what an uncomfortable lunchtime it made for us poor fans, our nerves raw and shredded, our backsides numb from sluggish circulation after two hours on the very edge of our seats. It was a time of two, maybe three moments of climactic fulfilment (including the final whistle) and many, many more times of bowel-loosening terror. One way or another, watching Leeds United on a day like this is not easy on the underwear.

Leeds started as if they meant to tear the Smoggies’ throats out, fresh from a pre-match repast of raw meat washed down with rocket fuel. They harried and snapped at the hosts, pressed hard, closed down and all those other coaching manual phrases so beloved of Redders and others of his ilk. And, after a mere two minutes or so, United had their reward when Lewis Cook anticipated brilliantly to nip in front of his man and seize an unwise throw-out from the Boro keeper. Cook, looking as if he’d been patrolling Leeds’ midfield for a decade rather than just a few months, surged into the area on the right and cut a smart ball back to the ever-available Alex Mowatt. With a challenge steaming in, it was an act of calculated bravery for the Leeds youngster to get his shot off, and Mowatt was not found wanting for bottle; the slight deflection that took the ball into the corner of Boro’s net was ample and deserved reward.

After that, it must be said, the story of the match was Boro constantly battering away at the Leeds defence, more often than not being thwarted by the very last line as keeper Silvestri earned a full month’s wages in a tad over 100 minutes. Leeds managed to punctuate the hosts’s sustained assault with some lethal-looking breaks out of entrenched defence, but they didn’t win a corner until the very last knockings of the first half. This first flag kick should have sent Leeds in at the interval 2-0 ahead and really far more comfortable than the balance of play would suggest – but new hero and captain Sol Bamba, having made up ground brilliantly to get to the ball as it swung in low, sadly made a poor contact with his head and a golden chance went begging.

The second half was one of those where, the longer it went on, the clearer it became that – try though they might – there was nothing happening today for the side on the wrong end of the scoreline. That much was clear to anyone not suffering in Leeds United colours, tensely watching the siege continue and the last-ditch resistance miraculously holding firm, every second dragging by like five minutes of regular time. The harder Boro tried, the less likely it appeared that anything would drop for them – and, amazingly, there was not one opportunity for even an FL-briefed ref to award a penalty against the dogged United, who retained their shape admirably and did not allow the increasing fury and desperation of the onslaught to rattle them.

Late in the game, as the ninety minutes were slowly running out, Boro went down to ten men, having already made their three substitutions, when Jelle Vossen had to go off with a head injury. This may have done something to settle the visitors’ nerves, if not the anxious United supporters – but it didn’t stop ten-man Boro continuing to push hard for at least an equaliser during over ten minutes of stoppage time. Leeds saw it out, utilising what they’re now calling “sensible game management” – probably a modern-day term for time-wasting. But the whistle went with Leeds still one up, having even carved out the odd late chance to put the match away completely. It was a hard-fought win, a tenacious performance and a deserved result – though anyone with a heart would have to weep for poor Boro. Heartlessly, I merely laughed.

In the end, Leeds had secured a league double over probably the best team in the division, courtesy of two goals in a little over four minutes playing time. Billy Sharp’s late winner at Elland Road in August and Alex Mowatt’s early strike on a sunny Teesside February Saturday, combined with excellent results against other divisional high-flyers, might just give a firmer indication of United’s potential for next season than any brief flirtation with the relegation battle at times in the current campaign.

Looking up, which we now can legitimately do – as opposed to nervously over our shoulders – we can still see a seemingly unbridgeable gap between our mid-table berth and the play-off pack. But stranger things have happened than for such a gulf to be bridged – though not many. After five wins in six games for Redders’ previously hapless troops, and perhaps a few judicial additions in the loan window, who can possibly know or guess what might lie ahead now?

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23 responses to “Resilient Leeds Count on Silvestri to Pip Boro at the Double – by Rob Atkinson

  1. Hard to believe rob but I backed mowatt to score first and Leeds to win 2-1 ,,,
    @ 250/1 it was close but no cigar

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    • Tense afternoon for you from third minute on then Mr O!

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      • Mr orange

        Certainly was , but worth every penny ,,, our backs were against the wall but it was a game plan and it worked , we all knew we’d have to defend and break and readers got it right Again ,, Austin for me was man of the match , end to end midfielder

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      • Can’t see past Silvestri myself for MotM – but the team as a whole did well and Rudy looks much better going forward than sitting and holding.

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  2. Kevin McGarrigle

    great result, wasn’t there but watched it in Houston TX.
    On another note and a potential blinding result.
    What are your thoughts regarding Shaun Harvey being dragged in to court following the recent overturned court decision that rules in favour of the good lady Mrs Melvyn Levi.
    Our ex CEO deserves everything he’s got coming to him.
    MOT

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    • As a respected football man once said (or was it Kevin Keegan??) – “I’d love it, just LOVE it…” But he’s a slippery little get, so I won’t hold my breath!

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  3. David Smith

    Rob, agree Silvestri was outstanding today … but you can’t help but admire the contribution of Sol Bamba, who seems to play with a smile on his face and reminds me a lot of Lucas Radebe both in his calmness under pressure and his articulate post match interviews. MOT.

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  4. I would have been happy with a point, before today’s game, but it was a fantastic win for Leeds and also a great battling team performance.
    Well done to Silvestri for having his best game for Leeds and well done to Bamba, for being a rock in the defence.
    That sour faced Beagrie was actually praising Leeds, after the game, but through gritted teeth, as you would expect.
    Can Sky not get different people to be pundits or are they that hard up for well balanced pundits, that they must to have Beagrie at every game ?

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  5. Oddly, despite the wonderful Silvestri performance, the solid as a rock Bamba, the ever creative Cook, the tireless Morison and every other member of this hard grafting team, I give my man of the match award to Andre Marriner (And his linesmen, one of whom was called Salisbury but clearly no relation to that Idiot Graham).
    This Premiership Referee didn’t put a foot wrong and allowed the game to flow, any decisions he made were proven to be correct by replay, and the Linesmen kept him informed of anything he didnt see clearly. That’s how its supposed to work.
    Not a whistle happy Twerp in sight and not countless bookings for minor infringements and silly stuff.
    Leeds United are capable of winning lots of games on this current impressive run, if only we had more Referees of this calibre.
    Graham Salisbury, the Brentford fan, who refereed the Brentford game, for Brentford the other week take note. This guy Marriner has shown you how to do your job properly. Please, please learn from him, you incompetent fool.

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  6. At last a class act centre back in Sol Bamba wish we had got him in july Rob we would be top 6 now at least.

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    • He’s made a massive difference hasn’t he. Just hope we can get him on a permanent – and that it doesn’t ruin him as it has others in the past. What a player he looks though, and he seems to have the LUFC type of mindset and personality too.

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  7. Kevin McGarrigle

    well Rob, Keegan was a Donny lad the same as young Mowatt is, not everyone from South Yorkshire’s a Wendies fan

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  8. RoystonLUFC

    My coccyx is still bruised from the edge of that uncomfortable seat. And you know what? As soon as we scored in the third minute it was ever to be so. How I hate defending an early lead, while missing a sitter (bamba) and glancing the cross-bar (Wootton); sometimes I wish I could just see the end result rather than witnessing the life-shortening theatre that is LUFC.

    Problem is, the win becomes more of a relief rather than the ecstatic climax that accompanied Sharp’s late winner. But I’ll take the three points and some more medication anytime. Who knows, i might even reach May without experiencing the canary that the doctor warned me about. “no more fags, booze, drugs, sex and LUFC”, he warned me, while scribbling a few lines to my brow-beaten counsellor.

    I’m sure a pint or several will numb the coccyx pain while, simultaneously, heightening the ethereal delight of having seen a resurgent United in the midst of its phoenix year. That’s right, you heard it here: 2015 is the year that we will emerge from all the Ridsdale-instigated destruction wrought upon our dear LUFC. Unless we sell all our players in the Summer!

    So while quaffing a Rioja or two (and shortly heading out for a few glasses of brown booze) I will reflect on the fact that I have complied with three of my doctors banishments; and who knows, the penultimate prohibition might be breached if I’m lucky. Maybe, like our hero of the day, I can get a lucky deflection. Although, like many rakes of the night, I’ll probably end up emulating Morison: good hold-up play, good team worker but always fails to score. But at least he is (rightly) recognised for his efforts; my only recognition comes from that bloke who always joins me when I’ve had a few beers….

    But Rob, you say ” a seemingly unbridgeable gap”. In any other season I would be inclined to agree with you. But – resurgence aside – this is the most unpredictable season I’ve ever seen. I don’t just mean our own performances, I mean the whole league. This league is so tight and compact; and the results have been so difficult to guess. Normally at this time the leaders are established, but if you look at the last few results – and Brentford are typical in this respect – you can see that it would take a brave man to put money on the outcome of this league. I don’t want to tempt fate but I’m starting to think that a play-off is is not beyond the bounds of the possible. “Nurse, more medication”. She’s left me for the evening so it’s off to the brown booze shop.

    Apologies for the waffle but I’m over the moon and I have to write a load of drivel, otherwise I’ll succumb to the entire collection of medical prohibitions.

    MOT

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    • Haha quality – and you’re talking to a massive purveyor of drivel, so don’t worry on that account. I get plenty slung back and your stuff is funny and readable – ‘sall good 👍

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  9. Aussie Dave

    What a great win. Down Under we had the pleasure of watching Leeds for only the 3rd time this season (every game has been a victory so it’s been fabulous) and the first game this year. It was the first look at Sol Bamba and what an impression he left. He would die for the cause and Redders was right to give him the armband. I can’t believe the improvement in Austin, great runs through the middle. Cook is awesome, exciting talent. We must sign him for a longer contract.

    Silvestre, although a great shot stopper, is still hesitant to command his area. He needs to intercept in the air and almost cost us when he failed to come and collect the ball from Bambas’ feet when told to. Sol eventually played it away to safety, but gave the Italian and roasting. However, so much talent to work with. What a defence Redders is putting together!! This will be the platform in which we re-launch this great club…….

    Cook, Mowatt, Murphy, Austin were terrific but I thought Sam Byram looked tired, or lazy, I’m not sure. I thought we had many wide options on the left so don’t know if we need a winger yet. Someone who can play the killer ball through to a striker seems to be a greater need.

    The match situation was perfect for the role that Morrison played. He was tireless and I certainly had to devour a large slice of humble pie as I watched him run from end to end constantly being available to hold up an at-times rampant Boro. I’d love to see him score one as I’m sure he would go on a scoring run. He’s another that would die for the cause and duly recognised by our faithful following at the Riverside with their loud chants for him.

    Back to Bamba. What a star!! He showed traits of both Radebe for the calmness he instills by the command he imposes over his troops. But I was sure there was an air of Vinny Jones around him too. That bit that scares the hell out of both his teammates and the opposition. Or maybe it was the red wine…… If Cellino only does one thing on his return it must be to lock Bamba into a 3 year contract.

    Enough from Down Under. It’s time to move on to Tuesday and Brighton. An opponent we should belt, but traditionally we struggle to beat. They will be cock-a-hoop after their late winner last night. This game will show us where we really are. We have beaten the best all season but have lost these types of games. We need this to push on. The aim must be to get to 50 points as early as possible to allow Redders to experiment with the squad. This will allow him also to demonstrate to Cellino what type of players we need for a Championship promotion push. Some of these foreign players are talented, but do they have the bottle for the fight?

    Last nights win brought Russell Crowe out from the cold. He was Twittering about the win. I never knew he was a fan?

    MOT

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    • Great analysis Dave, spot on mate. Mr. Crowe is known to be Leeds, but for some reason the media aren’t all that keen to emphasise that part of his persona!

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    • Yeah, Rusty’s ex or her her Dad, are from Yorkshire. I think one or both must be a fan, and he’s kept an eye out for us from that. Mr Crowe loves his sport, and isn’t afraid to open his wallet if he sees fit. I wonder whether he has seen the LeedsFans LLP thing yet? Now his involvement or even his backing and encouragement to the faithful, would be a real boost. It’s a great initiative, it just needs the word spreading to as many of the LUFC diaspora as possible!

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  10. Great result and hopefully this will be the first of many more Borough defeats before the end of the season. I don’t think the premiership deserves a load of snot filled, maccano manufactured grounded, out dated pig bag celebration, empty stands and all the other odd facts that our friends from down the road bring to the best league in the world, after all we already have the Makems to put up with and that’s bad enough!! Plus they’d probably hammer us and that doesn’t bear thinking about either!!

    Like

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