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leeds 2 – 1 chesterfield: cup of joy

leeds 2 – 1 chesterfield: cup of joy

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I wrote on Monday that if you were one of the ten thousand who made the Brighton game your comeback and were wondering what things had been like under Warnock, then Wednesday’s match with Chesterfield would be a good chance to find out. Turns out I was half right.

The attendance was down to around 17,000. The big screen broke, a big blank bar appearing over the Leeds score. Michael Brown was playing. Leeds let in a poor goal and struggled against a team they should be beating. Swap the dugouts back and put a Dot Cotton wig on Brian McDermott, and this could have been just like last season.

Except there were a few crucial differences. For one thing, this was actually fun. It can never be strictly enjoyable to see United go behind to a League Two side, but the football both Leeds and Chesterfield were playing was a world away from hoofball and its trenches cliches; this was an open game, with passing, chances and excitement. One for the neutral as they say, but after the perpetual Warnock winter that descended on every game last season, this good match, drenched in evening sunshine, was one for Leeds fans too.

And about that attendance. 17,466 was of Warnock era proportions, but most of those were Championship games. 19,104 turned up on a Saturday afternoon last season to see Leeds smacked 6-1 by Watford; 17,717 for a 1-0 win over Leicester on a Tuesday night. The nearest equivalent to this match last season, discounting the Shrewsbury game on a Saturday, was Oxford in the 2nd round of the League Cup, which got 13,713. Getting 4,000 more through the gate last night got the applause it deserved.

Then there was Michael Brown, the spectre, sending a shiver down the teamsheet, and surprising everybody by scoring a brilliant goal. It shouldn’t be surprising that Brown can score emphatically from midfield – he did it 24 times in one season for Sheffield United, once. But that’s perhaps the problem. You never hear the end of those 24 goals in a season that he scored one time, and we’ll probably never hear the end of this, but the question about why it hasn’t happened more often in Brown’s two seasons and counting of phoning it in at Leeds will be dodged. We’ll let him have his moment, though. Adults were speechless. Children were crying. It was a genuine were-you-there? goal.

The other big moments belonged to Jason Pearce and Dom Poleon, Pearce for a goal line clearance to prevent a Chesterfield equaliser, and Poleon for the goal – and celebration – that put Leeds ahead in the first place.  Maybe it was seeing Browny’s goal that did it, but after running from deep Poleon opted for just whacking it early, and his brilliant low drive caught the keeper out. The subsequent dance almost caught Poleon out with the good taste police, but he seemed to enjoy it

The only discomfort to take from the evening is that, with seven changes from Saturday, our squad doesn’t look deep enough for the Championship; Chesterfield are a good Fourth Division team, and it seems like our second string are, too. Aidy White played behind the front two again, and, well, it’s the passing you see, it’s the passing. Matt Smith didn’t get the chance to repeat his lovely assist from Saturday and rumbled around without much effect, while after trying to be nice about Brown, I haven’t got much left to flatter David Norris. Zac Thompson and Adam Drury struggled to give the team any attacking width outside the diamond, although Drury did link well with McCormack when he came on; Pearce and Tom Lees let Chesterfield have too many chances a) to take the lead b) equalise and c) go on and win it. Brian McDermott mentioned on Radio Leeds after the game that those two are having to play every game at the moment, before lifting his shirt to reveal a ‘Free Matt Mills’ t-shirt and bursting into tears, and you can feel his pain; the squad needs more. 

The performance, though, was enough for now. After the sustained elation of Saturday, the first round of the League Cup was never going to match it. But I’m surprised I enjoyed it as much as I did. Keep surprising me, Leeds.

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