ipswich town 2-1 leeds united: all good thingsBack
Last March I wrote, giddy and dazed, about how Leeds United, invincible Leeds United, would never lose another football match again, whether Leeds United deserved to or not.
Back then Leeds had [just beaten Fulham 3-0 at Craven Cottage](http://www.thecitytalking.com/2015318fulham-0-3-leeds-united-the-invincibles/), despite doing everything they possibly could to avoid winning; Fulham, spearheaded by Ross McCormack and Mathieu Smith, were given the ball at every opportunity, and created every kind of goalscoring opportunity you could think of, but couldn’t take a single one. United, meanwhile, had four shots on target, one off, and scored three, and strode away with the points.
Winning was becoming a habit. That was the eighth in twelve games; one other had been drawn, and three lost. It was a mystifyingly strong spell of form under Neil Redfearn and Steve Thompson, as Leeds recovered from the early season system shocks of Hockaday and Milanic, and the Fulham game tipped me over the edge into delirium; stronger forces were at play here, I thought, and as long as nothing changed – no signings, no sales — Leeds United would never be defeated again.
When Souleymane Doukara scored against Ipswich Town after thirteen seconds on Tuesday night, I had that same feeling again. I’ve never been a fan of Steve Evans, and I probably never will be a fan of Steve Evans, but I can’t deny the positive impact he’s had on Leeds United over the last couple of months. But I can, as I did when Redders was on his hot streak, wonder if there haven’t been greater forces at play than we can mortally understand, and to get two goals out of Doukara in a handful of minutes — the end of the Rotherham game, and now the start of this one — felt supernatural. It felt like invincibility again.
Doukara hasn’t looked exactly sprightly in his Leeds career, but that’s twice now that he has seized on defensive errors, sneak-surprise attacks from a footballer distinguished by his lack of sneak. Against Ipswich he added what he was best at on his previous spell of scoring, in the Milanic days: placing a strike from the edge of the box low and exactly inside the post.
When things like this keep happening, you wonder how long they can carry on for; and when things like this keep happening, it feels like they could carry on forever. Ipswich’s equaliser was not, necessarily, a big problem; in a pressure week, if Leeds were to build for a play-off charge, a midweek draw to a team with strong midweek home form would do. It was, however, an indication that while good things could keep happening forever, bad things could also interrupt.
What set Blackburn on their way when they opened the scoring against us at Elland Road after seventeen seconds was that they added another goal real quick before they took their foot off the gas. At Ipswich, Leeds stole the goal, then never built the momentum. It became Ipswich vs Silvestri; and, at crucial moments in the second half, Silvestri vs our back four.
An unchallenged cross from the right and an unchallenged header in the middle, for the equaliser; an unchallenged cross from the right and an unchallenged header in the middle for the winner. After that Blackburn game, I was repeatedly told that Sam Byram was deservedly out of the team for his performance that night; we could comb through the weeks since to try and work out what playing the supposedly ‘solid’ Scott Wootton at right-back has cost us since then, or we could just look at his role in the two goals last night — letting the cross in for the first, fluffing a header and failing to cover for Bellusci as Bellusci failed to cover for him for the second — and say that they’re enough, now. That’s enough.
Except, Everton’s chief scout was in the crowd; according to reports he was sent by Roberto Martinez to watch Sam Byram, who might not have to worry about getting into the side past a barely adequate right-back anymore, the way we’ll have to worry about being stuck with one. Lewie Coyle shouldn’t be called the answer until he’s had at least one more birthday. With Berardi injured, if Byram goes, we won’t have an answer.
Evans’ answers after the match were not those of a manager who is invincible. Adeyemi is out of the side because he’s crap, Ipswich are crap, the referee was crap, he’d told the defenders about Luke Chambers before the game so they’re all crap, he needs some new players because the ones he’s got are crap.
“No disrespect,” he said about Ipswich after the game, “But if that’s the benchmark [for sixth] then we’ll take that benchmark.” Well, after beating us, Ipswich are fifth now, so there’s that. Also, we’re fifteenth, a position we occupy so often that we’re not just a benchmark for it, we’re its registered trademark. I wouldn’t object if we had to swap places. I also wouldn’t advise Evans to get into a war of words with the considerably more suave Mick McCarthy. “They’ve got good players, Leeds,” he said. “They’re on a good run — or they were.” You can hear the wink. And even thought its at our expense, you can’t help but want to buy him a beer.
The end of our good run means the end of those daft, thirteen-second thoughts about the return of supernatural invincibility to Leeds United, but then perhaps I should have learned enough about that last time. After beating Fulham last March, Leeds United stayed unbeaten with a 1-1 draw at Blackpool, and looked on course to continue their steady ascent up the table. It was too late to make the play-offs, but we were well set to make some signings in the summer and kick on for the next season.
Then Leeds United suspended Steve Thompson for reasons as mysterious as our winning run had been. Then Leeds United lost the next five games. So, invincibility, then; cockiness, that might be another term for it. Whatever it is, after eight games, we need to be prepared that we might have to do without it for a while.