Down By The Thames

Cottagers 0 Whites 3

They came from far and wide. Practically every corner of the kingdom was represented. A seething mass of expectant humanity. I would suggest that there were more backsides than seats upon which to house them but I don’t think that’s allowed these days. You stood where you could and woe betide anyone that complained to the contrary.

Ten minutes from kick off the place was heaving with fans sprawled dangerously over stairwells and gangways but still they kept coming. Seeping into the terrace and melting into any available space. There was only supposed to be 4,000 but both the noise and sea of faces pointed to many more than that.

The game itself fitted perfectly into the chaotic narrative. We should have been dead and buried well before Sam Byram’s opening salvo but our frustrated opponents were constantly undone by a combination of bad luck, ineptitude and the other worldly reactions of Marco Silvestri. It was as though a divine authority had decided that our rambunctious invasion had warranted the prize of conquest and our hosts bowed to the unquenchable desire of the travelling multitude.

The incessant din emanating from the Putney End continued apace throughout a second half that brought Sol Bamba’s dramatic header, a reckless sending off and the unabated heckling of our treacherous and cash hungry former captain. Steve Morison laboured unsuccessfully for the goal that would have seen the ‘horrible hordes’ spontaneously combust until Mirco Antenucci capped the show with a gloriously miscued half volley. Our night by the Thames was both wonderful and bemusing in equal measure.

Tangerines 1 Whites 1

It is quite remarkable to think that Neil Redfearn arrived on the Lancashire coast no nearer a decision on his future. The Yorkshire Evening Post used its preview of Saturday’s tussle in which to labour the point and called for the club to confirm a contract extension so thoroughly deserved. Failure to make such an undertaking would be indefensible but alas not inconceivable at Don Massimo’s Leeds United.

Our trip to the Seaside brought us back down to earth but Antenucci’s second goal in three days ensured it wasn’t a complete comedown. Blackpool’s dispirited and quarrelsome existence combined with their sand dune of a pitch to make it a rather desolate affair. We toiled ineffectively for an hour until Mirco’s sublime lob denied the Tangerines an unlikely victory they probably deserved.

 

 

 

Team Time ‘A point, a clean sheet and we’re not going down’ extolled one realist after a stalemate that took us to within a point of the sacred fifty. Saturday’s dogged affair was more than a little disappointing for the 30,000 souls hoping to consummate Championship survival with an exhilarating rampage but let us not be too demanding. Last week’s scrap on a dog of a pitch in North West England kept the relegation wolf from the door for another season and continued a period of simmering optimism.

Part One : Boro 0 Whites 1 In their review of this heartening victory the Yorkshire Evening Post confidently argued that League One’s lustful overtures had been firmly rebuked but naturally I wasn’t so sure. It is true that the siege of the Riverside had engendered a new-found faith. We revelled in the way our brave boys stood cheek to jowl with an upwardly mobile Middlesbrough side, defending every surgical incision with stoic desperation but most of us knew that there would be many more crosses to bear.

Part Two : Seagulls 2 Whites 0, Whites 2 Hornets 3, Whites 2 Town 1 One such burden came just a few days later. News of Don Massimo’s self imposed extension to an exile that had brought relative serenity to the club, seemed to upset the balance and bring the football tamely to its knees. Unconfined joy in Yorkshire’s most Northerly outpost lurched into depression on the South Coast. A tired and listless outfit drained by another gruelling road trip succumbed to a sickeningly rejuvenated opponent. Our visits to Brighton are a source of constant personal chagrin and the sight of the unpredictable Seagulls tearing our defence apart was a painful one. Thank goodness for Millwall. The same torrid experience was repeated on our return to the Ridings. A defensive capitulation engineered by the pace and power of Watford’s Troy Deeney rendered Billy Sharp’s popular return and Rudy’s crisp volley meaningless. The Hornets were always going to provide the stiffest of tests but the difference in class was alarming. Thank Goodness for Millwall. Ipswich on the other hand seemed an eminently more winnable fixture. A side marked by its lack of guile seemed predisposed to provide a more desirable outcome and so it proved. Coach Redfearn’s burgeoning ability to manipulate a tired, inexperienced and imbalanced squad manifested itself in the decision to field an entire backline consisting of six-foot centre backs with a view to quashing Mick McCarthy’s bludgeoning long ball tactics. It worked but not without drama. The quality of Mowatt and Sharp was aided by Marco’s dramatic penalty save in a breathless final quarter.

Part Three : Latics 0 Whites 1, Whites 0 Reds 0 In his infinite wisdom Wigan’s befuddled chairman chose our visit as the moment in which to escape the fuhrerbunker and lap up the farewell plaudits from his club’s not so faithful. It was an injudicious move compounded by the decision to goad a visiting throng unimpressed by his political outlook. Home fans were quick to lament our lack of respect but seemed blissfully unaware that their pitiful attendance said more than brickbats ever could. Thankfully 5,000 away fans and a howling dog had the last bark after Alex Mowatt’s crisp strike sent the Latic’s tumbling towards the abyss. And so we conclude with Nottingham Forest. It was a contest of little note in which two mid table sides wrestled with little success but the moral spoils ended up staying in West Yorkshire. Our youthful brigade had very little trouble dealing with the Reds’ expensively assembled Championship hardened line up.

We Shall Overcome

Posted: February 19, 2015 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

 

The Duke

Royals 0 Whites 2, Whites 1 Lions 0

From darkness into light? Perhaps. The consequences of the last week will become clearer over time but for the moment there is a sliver of hope. The suffocating yoke of relegation induced despond has been temporarily loosened.

A long midweek trip to Royal Berkshire isn’t the daunting experience it used to be but heralded a victory that was as surprising as it was deserved. Our dominance in all facets of the game was underpinned by resilience and another man of the match performance from the hitherto one million pound misfit Luke Murphy.

Unfortunately Millwall continued to torment us. News of their unlikely victory at St Andrews tempered our joy and dragged us back into the mire. Bermondsey’s day out in the Ridings is always an excitable afternoon for our visitors but this time we were all aware of its importance. During the build up both Coach Redfearn and local pundits attempted to under play the occasion by suggesting that the Reading victory had eased the trepidation but I was having none of it. My biliously taut, tension filled stomach said as much.

Typically we made a meal of it and success arrived grudgingly. A first half display deserved much more than the slender advantage and could have been derailed by the sort of laxity that has so often cursed us.

During the aftermath the Lions’ tempestuous manager attempted to deflect attention from his side’s mediocrity by accusing West Yorkshire Police of disrespecting a pitiful offering of South Londoners. It was an ironic and bizarre outburst from a man who whist in charge of Crystal Palace, allowed a coach driver to soil Brighton’s dressing room floor.

The dawn of a new year generally sees a mood of desolation sweep through the masses but not this time. Tactical nous, youthful bounty, the rebirth of yesterday’s men and an astute arrival has combined to bring a little sunshine into the cold foreboding months. The work must go on.

 

Whites 0 Bees 1

Posted: February 8, 2015 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

Billy's Despair

Twenty four hours and one angry night’s sleep later and I still can’t get on with it. We didn’t deserve to win but the scandalous Mr Salisbury ensured that there was little chance we would. A more morally bankrupt display of officiating you would not wish to see. He strolled around Elland Road lapping up the apoplectic rancour of the masses, with his tiny little member growing firmer with every disgraceful decision.

There was little attempt to disguise a personal agenda that first unearthed itself with a dubious penalty against Charlton in early November. Some say it was incompetence but it was far too tendentious for that. It was cheating pure and simple. Losing is one thing and our own team’s mortality is often too much to bear. This was different. This was a battling effort stunted at every turn by the behaviour of a black clad bastard with a grudge.

Terriers 1 Whites 2

Posted: February 2, 2015 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

King John

This was a fixture with a degree of symmetry. It was exactly a year to the day since a controversial Italian crashed into consciousness on a gloomy Friday night. One phantom sacking, one nocturnal taxi ride and one emotionally draining day later our dog bothering cousins had been sent packing by a euphoric and brutal demolition.

Twelve months on and the Terriers once again provided the opposition. Once again they had the smell of blood in their nostrils and once again they came up short. The frenzied celebrations that followed Billy Sharp’s delicious dénouement cut like a knife through the collective heart of the natives and ensured the cup final bunting came down early this year. I was recently reminded of Huddersfield Town’s proud history and I had to agree. Unfortunately it all seems so lost at a modern-day club that has become rabidly obsessed with its illustrious neighbour.

Desperados

Whites 1 Blues 1, Whites 1 Cherries 0

It felt so very bleak and looked set to become even bleaker. The sliver of encouragement scraped from an improved outing in Lancashire had all but evaporated in the grim realisation of our sticky predicament and the club’s apparent inability to do anything about it. Don Massimo returned to England weighed down by the  burden of an impending appeal and hopes that a fledgling transfer window would answer Neil Redfearn’s call for ‘Championship experience’. By the time a much improved Birmingham City side arrived in LS11, ailing spirits had crumbled further.

You could perhaps understand the refusal to sanction a romantic return for Luciano Becchio but the Italian’s decision to allow Stephen Warnock’s departure to Derby bemused many. The seasoned left back had been one of our more consistent performers during another troubled campaign and it all reeked of personality clashes rather than hard-headed football matters.

Solace was desperately craved but against the Blues only frustration was forthcoming. A spirited display built on the back of rejuvenated players like Murphy and Morison yielded a bucket load of chances and bruised woodwork but alas only a single point.

Respite came at the most unexpected of moments. By the time Eddie Howe brought his table topping Cherries north Don Massimo’s four month censure had been ratified and a heavy defeat predicted. It is said that even our visitors arrived with the expectation of teaching their host’s a lesson but instead endured an evening brim full of quite the opposite.

A deserved victory was as hard-fought as it was necessary but didn’t come without a scare. Giuseppe Bellusci divided opinion with a well-timed trip that resulted in both a sending off and a penalty. Some criticised the player’s often volatile nature while others suggested he’d taken one for the team in true Billy Bremner fashion. It hardly seemed to matter when the resulting spot kick grazed the bar on its way into the South Stand.

It comes to something when a home victory over Bournemouth elicits such glee. I pity the youngsters that can’t remember a time when such things were rudimentary and often delivered with ease. I know we should be living in the present but at times it’s so hard, so very damn hard.

1973

Black Cats 1 Whites 0, Trotters 1 Whites 1

If there was ever a contest that aptly showed the shifting sands of time and our demise entwined, it was this one. In its commentary BBC Five Live reportedly referenced that horrible day in May of 1973 a dozen times in half an hour.

Neil Redfearn arrived on Wearside with his reputation on the line and by half time events had deteriorated further. Despite wholesale changes and a detour from the now loathed diamond formation, we toiled abjectly, painfully unable to muster a single effort on goal. Redemption of sorts arrived with a much improved second half performance but a deserving denouement was scuppered by the width of a post and a sloppy refereeing misjudgment.

Forgotten souls such as Luke Murphy and Casper Sloth came in from the cold to impress, while the hitherto unknown quantities of Dario Del Fabro and Brian Montenegro staked their claims for further involvement. Another example of our bristling academy manifested itself in the appearance of teenage left back Charlie Taylor and despite the unfortunate result we considered it a fruitful affair.

The bold team selections continued at the Macron (nee Reebok) Stadium with the surprising inclusion of the barrackers’ latest plaything Steve Morison. Lamentably the afternoon yielded another hard luck story in the shape of a thoroughly deserved point that could have been so much more. While others seem to prosper from such situations by way of last-minute wonder strikes or scruffy five yard pokes, we always seem unable to prise the juicy oyster from its shell.

Despite an encouraging gain the result saw us slip closer to the bottom three and left the lunatic fringe apoplectic with rage. Sadly at a club such as ours lunacy is an affliction not limited to the outer reaches of an unswervingly expectant fan base and many a manager and player has found it an exceedingly difficult cross to bear.