leeds united 0 – 0 nottingham forest: feed the five thousandBack
More than 5,000 more people came to this game than to our last Saturday home game against Watford. I wonder if they had fun.
Well, there were cheerleaders. And after his absence at the start of the season – perhaps there was a Football League ban we didn’t know about – Lucas the Kop Cat has been firmly back in position for a while.
The football? Well. Let’s just say that the term ‘match day experience’ was invented for days like these.
This was a good point in the circumstances. United’s recent form has been good, but Forest had an edge there with six wins in the last eight games; they averaged 2.75 goals a game in that time, too. For Leeds to get back to keeping clean sheets with such a makeshift line up is, well, it’s largely due to Sol Bamba being immense. But it’s good going, anyway.
The line-up sure is makeshift at the moment, and you can see how much we miss Austin and Byram; the former’s impetus in midfield, the latter’s quality. Full-backs have been thrown into the team like birdseed, landing where they may, while any thoughts about whether a Sharp-Morison partnership might work end as soon as Morison heads out to play on the right wing.
Andrew Umbers might reckon the squad is strong enough as it is, but I’m not quite sure what he expects from a front three of Sharp, Morison and Charlie Taylor. None of them is playing in a natural way, and as a result Leeds’ attacking play is disjointed; they look for each other where they can’t be found, or they find each other where nobody dare look, and despite lots of hard work, especially from a combative Sharp, moves break down and down and down.
I’m not sure playing out of position is any excuse for Steve Morison shooting at the corner flag from the corner of the penalty area, though. Nottingham Forest appreciated the throw-in, and maybe some of the fans appreciated it as part of the cheerleading, Kop Cat-style entertainment, but it wasn’t good enough, and there weren’t enough other moments of note in the game to bump it from the memory.
Morison’s confidence might well be low, and playing on the wing might not do much to help him, but he has to take some responsibility for his own form. He might need some luck to help him become a goalscorer again, but he also needs to apply basic technique, and not swing so wildly at the ball that throw-ins are the result. Unless he was joking, in which case fair enough, because I did laugh.
Perhaps he would have done better than Charlie Taylor with the best chance of the game, but even though Taylor is no more than a slip of a left-back with an East End gangster’s name, that’s far from certain. It was a gift of a moment, and it should have been given to Billy Sharp, and he let Taylor know just what he thought of his decision to prod the ball at the keeper rather than square it for a tap in; you’d hope he cut Charlie some slack later when he remembered that Taylor’s training when dealing when rebounds in the penalty area is to boot them away to safety. You’d hope so for Billy’s sake anyway, because he don’t want his card marked by Charlie Taylor’s firm.
Beyond that one chance for Taylor and that one moment of hilarity from Morison, there was the pedantic referee and the infuriating Kop end linesman to consider; but the discovery that Championship officials are useless attention seekers is hardly likely to bring the punters back in their droves. It would be interesting to know what brought so many to this game; the recent good form? The young players in the side? The approach of spring? Nobody has council tax to pay this month?
It would be interesting to know, too, what it would take to bring them back again. As it stands, the turnstiles won’t click for games like these every week, but that’s not so much down to the quality of the football, which was, y’know, fine, but down to the lack of tension.
It didn’t ultimately matter whether we beat Nottingham Forest in this game or not. The 0–0 draw left Leeds fourteen points behind the play-offs, and fourteen points above the relegation places; it’s a plateau of inconsequence, where a 0–0 draw ultimately means nothing different to a 5–0 win – except for entertainment value.
Leeds have the safety-net now to be able to experiment with the younger players, to relax and enjoy their football; but they don’t quite have the talent to become the Harlem Globetrotters for the rest of the season and turn it on for packed houses. That’s when you need there to be something at stake. When promotion or relegation issues are involved, fans will pack stadiums out to watch much worse teams than Leeds have at the moment, because the games they’ll see offer something this game didn’t have: drama, tension, something to make us, if not entertained, enervated.
The fault is largely Forest’s; they do still have an outside chance at the play-offs at stake, but they didn’t even give us something to withstand and fight against, the way Middlesbrough did. Two decent sides failed to get an advantage over each other, and five thousand fans shrugged and scanned the fixtures to see if there might be another, more entertaining game ahead when they could try again.
Rotherham. Set your sights, oh day trippers, on Rotherham at home on the last day of the season. If their relegation battle goes to the final day, and if it has to be settled at Elland Road, then, my friends, then you will see a game worth turning up for. Leeds United aren’t made for mid-table normality; we are made for involving ourselves in others’ drama and ruining parties in original and enjoyable ways.
Don’t be disheartened if Leeds United vs Nottingham Forest wasn’t the olde worlde European clash you hoped for; just take it like the rest of us who go every week, as a dose of the disappointment football pours out by the spoonful. Just get yourself a ticket for Leeds v Rotherham on the final day, and try again.