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ipswich 1 – 2 leeds: grit & class

ipswich 1 – 2 leeds: grit & class

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Even if the football isn’t consistently scintillating so far this season, last season’s flatline football has at least given way to higher peaks than we’ve known for a while. Plus, all importantly, we’re winning. It’s way too early, but everyone on the Football League Show was talking about the table, so I will too: Leeds are 6th, unbeaten. Continue this form and we’ll be promoted easily.

It won’t be as easy as that sounds, though. For one thing, Leeds aren’t making it easy: apart from the 0-0 at Leicester, we’ve gone behind in every game. It was fortunate at Portman Road that we only went behind by one; Ipswich dominated the early stages, had a goal ruled out when Jay Tabb stupidly prodded at the ball from an offside position, and Aaron Cresswell, playing like Gareth Bale, cracked a curling shot off the post. 

In between those, David McGoldrick gave Ipswich the lead. Before the game The Scratching Shed had pondered the curse of Portman Road; it might be more like the curse of Tom Lees, who must hate trekking all the way down there. After last season’s red card, followed by Neil Warnock’s slagging and the harrowing experience of a supportive phone call from Ken Bates on the bus ride home, Lees today found himself engaged in a game of backwards hopscotch that ended with him on his backside and McGoldrick firing past Paddy Kenny from what I call ‘Watford Range’: pretty much all of Watford’s infamous six last season seemed to be, like this one, from the edge of the D to the bottom corner. 

Lees has had a bit of an odd start to the season, while it’s even odder that Jason Pearce has been playing noticeably well. With Scott Wootton in the wings – and, I’d bet, being lined up for a debut in the League Cup – Lees might find himself taking a rest soon. It might do him good; we forget sometimes that Tom’s craggy face hides a still young man, who for all his experience – 169 games already, compared to Wootton’s 34 – is still learning, and still at an age where mistakes are made, and a recharge can be as beneficial as games.

That said, the goal can’t all be pinned on Leesenbauer. Austin and Green were miles away from the Ipswich knockdown and the defence had no protection. Plus, it’s Ipswich. Maybe we just shouldn’t make him play in Ipswich anymore.

Leeds never really got a grip on the first half, but got an equaliser anyway. It was a sign of how important Ross McCormack is to Leeds that when Austin, the ball at his feet, started trundling aimlessly from side to side in Ipswich’s half, it was McCormack who dropped deep into space to give him an option. He pleaded for the ball, but had to wait for Rudy to execute another few pirouettes; the Ipswich players must have thought Austin would ignore Ross and shoot as they didn’t bother closing McCormack down. The shot did come, but from McCormack: low into the box, where deflections took it to the feet of Varndog, who killed it with his first touch and smashed it with his second. 

This is becoming the pattern for Leeds games: doubtful defending puts us behind, before we grab an equaliser whether we deserve it or not; then an evenly matched second half while we wait for McCormack to win the game for us. We didn’t have to wait long at Ipswich. A deep cross from Varney found Ross on the other side of the penalty area. McCormack headed the ball away from the defender and into space for McCormack. McCormack picked it up, and after a series of quick touches between McCormack and McCormack, McCormack fired low past the Ipswich keeper. 

Ross will probably always argue that it’s a team game and he can’t do this stuff alone; Scott Loach in the Ipswich net has tried to claim a hand in the goal by apologising to his team mates, but he can clear off out of it. But as against Sheffield Wednesday, the game was won when Ross McCormack took matters into his own hands, provided his own assist and finished without doubt. Insert your own thoughts about the transfer window here.

Coming so early in the second half, the goal made a real match out of this one; Leeds became dominant and had several more chances, before Ipswich came on strong towards the end, claiming hand balls off every part of every Leeds player’s body and coming close to equalising. But if Leeds had looked vulnerable in the first half, in the second half it was all about resilience, and despite the late tension Leeds came through unscathed. 

It was our first win at Portman Road since 2001; or, if you’re on the telly, “since this was a Premier League fixture,” and the satisfaction of, first, not getting beaten in some ridiculous manner and second, getting our first away win of the season on one of the furthest trips – is immense, especially for the 2,000 fans who made the trip. Going behind so often is a concern, but it’s less of a concern when we can be confident that the team will show the grit required – and McCormack the class – to come back and win.

Unfortunately, not all of our 2,000 fans came back safely. Three Leeds fans were injured after the game when a car struck them and drove off; Suffolk Constabulary say a man has since been arrested, while the Yorkshire Evening Post reports that one of the injured fans has “potentially life-changing head injuries” and another will require surgery on a fractured back. We hope they make a full recovery, and are back watching Leeds soon.

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