It seems to be a never-ending path of disappointment following Leeds United at the moment; even before the impending sacking of Simon Grayson finally arrived, the subsequent results have been pretty dismal.
I might add that’s not me in the ‘Warnock Out!’ brigade, if indeed there already is one but Neil certainly continues to make good impressions regarding the future of the football club.
The visit to Reading felt pretty similar to the effects of the morning after drinking a dozen pints of lager. The Royals have found promotion-winning form and consistency which, after beating Leeds, sent them briefly to the summit of the Championship.
After the dismal showing against Watford in midweek and with injuries and suspensions severly hampering the squad, Warnock made the changes he’d promised as Zac Thompson, Leigh Bromby and Danny Pugh came in for Paul Connolly, Adam Clayton and Aidy White.
Within minutes, Leeds’ predictably suspect defence allowed Noel Hunt and Kaspars Gorkks free headers which mercifully went over. Then, with less than 15 minutes on the clock, young Thompson failed to shepherd the slow ball out of play and lost possession; in desperation to win it back, he lunged clumsily at Jobi McAnuff. The Reading players surrounded the referee and as the melee dispersed, the referee brandished a red card.
In real time, the challenge looked late and clumsy and one footed but apparently replays showed otherwise. A rash challenge and a stupid one but from then on, the referee had to base his decisions around it. The referee, presumably pondering Warnock’s post match ‘in your face, ‘what the fuck?’ thought Pugh’s two-footed lunge wasn’t worthy of the same fate despite the challenge being a text-book red.
Ian Harte also troubled Leeds; goal as his cross-come-shot came back off the inside of Andy Lonergran’s right post.
The brutal challenges were coming thick and fast; Michael Brown got in on the action with a perfectly timed challenge on Jem Karacan which put paid to his afternoon. Reading later confirmed he’d be out for the season with a broken ankle.
Under Warnock, the players won’t be bothered about dispelling any ‘dirty Leeds myths’, which are kind of true but Brown’s tackle was fair, he got the ball. The injury an unfortunate after-effect.
Ross McCormack and Rob Snodgrass were providing Leeds’ only real chance; Snodgrass curled a wonderful freekick around the wall only for Adam Federici to palm his effort round the post, before McCormack’s turn and shot scraped the upright.
Reading were struggling to overcome Leeds’ steely determination and strong challenges, without any rhythm in their play and killer instinct upfront, Leeds were overcoming the home side and looking more likely to score.
A great run and change of feet saw McCormack in on goal, his lay off to Snodgrass was screaming out for the finish but the Leeds skipper tamely passed it into the path of Federici and Reading escaped. Leeds’ best chance had gone.
The miss proved telling as Reading finally broke Leeds’ resistance; Jimmy Kebe’s cross was headed back across goal and with Lonergran in no-man’s land, Hal Robson-Kanu’s header back across goal was bundled in my Adam Le Fondre.
Minutes later, Jason Roberts held off Paul Robinson in the box with a swing of the elbow, sending a low shot on the turn towards goal which Le Fondre finished from a few yards out to put the result beyond doubt. As if there ever really was any…
In the end, it felt like a sucker-punch of a loss; we’d fought so valiantly and come so close yet the victory was never really in our grasp.
It’s Reading, they’re probably going to be promoted this season and they’ve fully deserved their position in the league table and by rights, they should have battered us – going on form at least, yet we could have so easily pooped on their parade.
Like every away day following Leeds, the away support was second to none; without too much inspiration on the pitch and without any discernible contest from the home fans, the away end bounced along to ‘We All Love Leeds’ for a good ten minutes at the end of the first half. Easily the best ‘WALL’ since we played Leicester at their place a couple years ago, the damage to my throat was as painful now as it was then.
For Reading though, despite the decent stadium, a good manager and a capable team, their fans are in no way a reflection of how good they are on the pitch. Barely cheering on their own team, save for occasionally trying to goad the away fans, they sit there very politely for most of the match and only get up to muster a three fingered ripple when a goal is scored. Not to mention the ultimate in tinpottedness, they have goal music.
By the time I got home after the long drive up the motorway, I was still in a foul mood. I sulked on my bed as I read through the various match reports and social networks and never once thought I was overreacting. I’ve practically bankrupted myself following Leeds United across the country and despite the continued disappointment and howls of frustration, I wouldn’t change it.. Well I’d make us win, but I’d never not go to a match on the basis of the disappointment I’d felt the week previous.
On to Blackpool and Cardiff in the coming weeks. Joy!