It’s becoming a frustratingly familiar story with Leeds in recent weeks; playing well without killing off teams and dropping points as a result. With Cardiff in town, whom we still haven’t beaten in a run stretching back over 25 years, Leeds lined up with no changes from the side which narrowly lost to Birmingham in the week.
For Cardiff, Stephen McPhail returned to Elland Road in what was probably the most conspicuous appearance from an ex-Leeds player for a long time.
The atmosphere inside Elland Road has, for the most part this season, been extremely flat and a Sunday lunchtime kick-off for a match being shown on Sky was hardly going to draw in a sell-out crowd. Not to mention the ludicrous decision to ban non-members from the kop. It was a good PR move to announce the attendance towards the end of the match as Leeds sought desperately for an equaliser but there is little getting away from the swathes of empty seats around the ground and in the kop in particular.
You rarely hear of positive experiences from visiting fans at ER and today was no different. 361 fans made the trip under protest, from Wales and at £36/£25, no one would have blamed them if fewer had turned up. Credit to them for making an active stand against the highly inflated ticket prices that Leeds fans face most weeks.
The club have been very open about the decision to move the away fans from the cheaper seats in the cheese-wedge and the South Stand but given the over zealous stewarding and policing which fans have to put up with, it’s no wonder, given past form, that many Cardiff fans chose to stay away.
Standing at Elland Road is also nothing new; sections of the ground have always stood, some in areas where stewards never bother to venture but the teams of bullies in purple vests are picking of the vulnerable and ejecting at the slightest indiscretion. A number of Cardiff fans were ejected for standing before nearly a third walked out in protest, according to the FSF. The treatment of Leeds fans is no better.
On the home front, Leeds have their share of fair weather fans; there are those who look down the fixture list and pick the bigger looking game every two months or do the first and last of the season; but during the harder times, what is the club doing to attract them? Pricing them out of a day out enjoying football and the team they ‘support’. The club relies too heavily on loyal fans who will continue to come to Elland Road no matter what; so what happens when their loyalty is tested to the limit? Who else will be there?
The fact is that ticket prices are hugely inflated and the club is pricing out the lifeblood of the support it so relies upon. Attendances are dropping week on week and not because of the weather, or school holidays. Throw in the feeling towards the chairman/ownership/direction the club is going in and the treatment of fans, barring an assault to the summit of the league, it doesn’t look like improving – a feeling not lost on Yorkshire Radio who took steps to acknowledge at the least, that something has to give.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that the lack of bums on seats is exclusive to Leeds, or that it is a problem solely created by the club but in how many other sectors do customers pay so much to be treated so poorly?
The atmosphere was cautious as Leeds started the match stronger but it was Cardiff who took the lead against the run of play. A nothing, lofted ball was punted towards the Leeds defence and Darren O’Dea had time and space to simply get rid. Instead, he dallied and as Joe Mason leaned into him, he completely lost the ball, allowing Mason to cut inside, past Paul Rachubka and slot into an empty net.
Christmas is two months away and yet here were Leeds gifting Cardiff the lead. O’Dea had suffered a bump on the head at Birmingham which meant, apparently, that his vision was blurred. Not taking away from the fact he brought the ball under control and had chance to clear before Mason pushed/leaned into him..
Adam Clayton, Ross McCormack and Rob Snodgrass all tested David Marshall as Leeds dominated the rest of the half but the most impressive save came from Andy Keogh’s header from a corner which Marshall did well to get down to.
Aidy White’s surging run and cross was met by Keogh who flicked on and again Marshall tipped Snodgrass’ header away. From the resulting corner, Cardiff escaped as their defenders twice blocked.
O’Dea was then subbed owing to his head injury to be replaced by Paddy Kisnorbo.
Connolly was enjoying forays forward and his whipped cross from the right only need a touch but McCormack and Keogh couldn’t connect.
Jonny Howson found himself on the end of a poor clearance but his run and shot came to nothing as his effort was blocked. A positive point for the skipper in what was otherwise a very forgettable half from him.
The second half was continued in Leeds’ favour, battering Cardiff, time and time again but Marshall was in fine form, denying Clayton three times before Howson had one of the best chances; rising to glance a header goalwards but Marshall was down quickly to his left.
Leeds finally got the equaliser they deserved with time ticking away; Kisnorbo with the free kick, Lees with the header down and Snodgrass scrambled it over the line. Spectacular it was not but Leeds had finally beaten Marshall.
Leeds continued to pour forward in search of an illusive winner but time was flying by and predictably, missed chances again saw three points slip away. Coventry was two dropped and so was today.
O’Dea may well be a doubt for Wednesday and the visit of Blackpool but Kisnorbo looked his bullish self, clearances battered away with headers that reminded of Sam Sodje but it would be a shame to break up the partnership which O’Dea has built up with Lees amongst a defence which is looking as solid as it has all season. It’s progress!
Simon Grayson must have been disappointed at the very least that despite utterly dominating such a poor Cardiff outfit, his players again failed to see off the opposition despite the sheer volume of chances. Credit to Marshall for pulling off save after save.
There were positives, no doubt; White was bombing up and down the left wing and while Keogh put in another great shift. Snodgrass looks like he’s getting somewhere back to his best while Clayton is showing more glimpses of what he’s capable of. Even Howson looked more up for in the second half.
Lord knows what Wednesday will hold on and off the pitch; Leeds are in the mix up top but there has to be significant improvement on the pitch for a play off challenge to be remotely realistic.