Leeds Leeds Leeds

Christmas cheer dampened as Leicester hoodoo continues

Leicester 2-2 Leeds

On the face of it, a point against a team we never seem to beat these days, at their place, is not a bad result. It feels like it though.

On another warm winter day, a 30,000 strong crowd braved the frost to pack into the Walkers Stadium and with a limited selection of hot drinks inside the ground, the home fans must’ve felt the effect as they seemed more intent on keeping warm than making any noise.

Max Gradel, returning to his former club got things going by heading Leeds in front against the run of play after Neil Kilkenny swung in a cross. Rob Snodgrass’ curling effort took everyone by surprise to put the away side in a comfortable looking position. After his corner came back to him, on the edge of the 18yard box, he curled a shot past Kirkland with the outside of his left boot.

It was all going so well before referee Bates decided not to give a foul on Snodgrass, play went on and Darius Vassell was somehow in on goal, one on one with Kasper Schmeichel; as Vassell took the ball left, Schmeichel attempted to get out of his way but as any striker would, Vassell obliged to fall over him anyway.

For the record, I’m not saying it wasn’t a penalty. Switch it round and if Chris Kirkland had done the same to Luciano Becchio, I would’ve expected it the same outcome. What was surprising, in a way, was that no red card was forthcoming. It seemed the ref was reluctant to follow the letter of the law owing to Vassell making the most of the situation and Schmeichel escaped with a yellow.

You decide.

Paul Gallagher smashed home the resulting spot kick and it was game on. For Leeds, the heads dropped and just four minutes later, Andy King fired in a belting shot which went in off the underside of the crossbar.

A few late chances came and went but it was generally a poor game; Leicester had started the brighter but loose passes in the final third meant Schmeichel had very little to do while Leeds struggled to put any passes together.

The most entertainment came from the banter between the Leeds fans and a rather portly, shirtless Leicester fan who presided over a large drum. Considering the size of the crowd, it was disappointing that only a small section of the Leicester fans made any effort to create an atmosphere, which was soon subdued when ‘Leicester reject’ Gradel put Leeds ahead.Even with the drum, it was a poor effort.

The chants were great and the Leeds end was bouncing, literally. The stand was moving in a slightly unnerving manner.

Leicester finished the match stronger with momentum but on the walk back to the car, we couldn’t help but feel we deserved more. The truth is, a draw was probably a fair result but the refereeing decisions were incredibly poor. There were several incidents, including a 2nd minute booking for Becchio for standing on a Leicester free kick, the non-foul on Snograss, the possible penalty for a push/tackle on Bednar (Haven’t seen the replay so can’t comment authoritatively but it looked like a penalty) and the penalty which never was at the end for a raised Leicester arm.

It seems bitter but both sides will probably feel equally aggrieved at the officials.

In August, if anyone said we’d be disappointed with a draw at the Walkers which saw us fall into 3rd place in the league, I probably wouldn’t have dignified such a suggestion with even a titter. It’s laughable. 3rd in the league!

Performance wise, it wasn’t the best. Becchio struggled up front on his own, while Gradel and Snodgrass – despite their goals, didn’t get as much purchase down the wings as we’ve become accustomed to. In the centre of the park, Bradley Johnson was hit and miss – hit when we struggled and miss when we were in the ascendancy. Jonny Howson had a quiet game which Kilkenny looked largely subdued.

Surprisingly, Schmeichel’s kicking wasn’t hitting the mark. Having set extremely high standards when he joined with pinpoint 70yard punts, in recent weeks, a lot have been wayward. Surprising, though not overly worrying.

In defence we looked shaky; the injury problems and inconsistency at the back has meant we’re still shipping goals and Andy O’Brien and Neill Collins were struggling to create a real understanding as Leicester failed to convert a number of free headers.That said, first half, Schmeichel barely had a save to make.

The silly thing is, having spent so little and relying largely on a squad of League One players, we’re doing much better than many expected which is down to former Leicester defender Simon Grayson.

There is little doubting the progress the majority of the squad have made under his stewardship. Two years of a reign which began against Leicester, Grayson is, week by week, instilling the confidence in his players to have the belief they can win anywhere.

With Arsenal just around the corner, there is little doubt the levels will be raised for the trip to the Emirates in two weeks time.

On on on!

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