Leeds 2-1 Palace
It had been ninety-one days since Palace last tasted defeat in the nPower Championship. A run of fourteen games unbeaten, eleven wins and three draws, came to a shuddering halt at Elland Road as Neil Warnock’s Leeds United battled hard and ended their own little run of seven games without a win.
Becchio opened the scoring shortly after half time and a deflected Paul Green strike doubled the advantage in the seventy-sixth minute. A late Peter Ramage header, after a delightful bit of KG skill, pulled a goal back for Palace, and ensured that the run of scoring in every game this season continued, and a late siege of the Leeds goals was spirited but ultimately fruitless.
I have heard the following statement from many Palace fans, whose opinions I fully respect, in recent weeks;
“I cannot see how a team can beat us.”
Unsurprisingly it was Neil Warnock who found the formula, however, it is not a formula that is easily recreated. Let’s talk through the formula that Warnock employed.
It is no secret that the start to an effective game plan versus Palace is to press, press and press and once you cannot press any more you need to press again. In the middle of the park Leeds played with zero attempts at creativity. Warnock teams are fit, we have experienced this first hand, and the two centre midfielders pressed constantly and did not run out of steam and managed to get at Jedinak and KG, something that other teams have struggled to do. Needless to say, however, pressing is not enough unless it is a draw that you are looking for.
Next you have to shut down the wings. Leeds were not successful at this yesterday, however, we did not take advantage of the time and space that we were afforded. Admittedly they did a decent job of keeping Bolasie quiet and the typical treble team marking of Zaha was in place anytime he got on the ball, however, our full backs had the freedom of Elland Road only for cross after cross to be wasted. Basically, Leeds did what they could against our wingers and challenged our full backs to provide the spark, something that they failed to do. So whilst Leeds’ plan was effective on the day, better delivery from our full backs, most notably Ward, renders this part of the formula worthless.
Next you have to deal with Glenn Murray. Colin got in Tate on loan and he is a class act at this level. Whilst he gave Murray a tough game, Glenn still managed to hold the ball up well and bring the midfield into play and really should have scored in the first half. So even up against one of the best centre backs in this division, Murray was still effective which bodes well for the rest of the season, if not on Tuesday night as Murray (probably deliberately) picked up a yellow card which will see him miss the Hull game through suspension... keeping him fresh for Brighton next weekend, at least.
The next part of the formula is that your keeper absolutely positively must play an absolute blinder. Paddy Kenny did exactly this. His double save from Parr and Murray in the first half was top drawer and his all around command of his area was imperious. But for this double save we score first and there is no way back into the game for Leeds.
A home team referee is an added bonus to the formula. Please excuse the anger that is about to follow. Who remembers Leeds at home last season? We go 1-0 up and are cruising before the referee decides to send Sean Scannell off for absolutely nothing. I was so angry after that game I called the ref, amongst expletives, a Leeds United fan. That referee’s name was David Coote. Guess who the referee was yesterday? That’s right, David Coote. For the second season running this man has been completely one sided towards Leeds. It’s outrageous. Everyone by now will have seen the Zaha penalty claim. It is a clear foul and a blatant penalty. The man is so incompetent that he then didn’t even book Zaha for diving, a sin that he was accusing him of. Again, if we are awarded this penalty and score it, the game is over. Mr Coote, I wouldn’t urinate on you if you were on fire.
The final part of the formula is you need the rub of the green. It deserted us for the first time in a while and favoured Leeds completely. So much so that even the scorer of the winner is named Green. They were blessed with fortune for both goals. A header that would clear the danger from Peter Ramage cannons back off Delaney and into the path of Becchio who could not miss. The second sees a massive deflection render Speroni useless leaving us with a mountain to climb. With the exception of a shot from range in the first half that Speroni saved, our goal was never in danger.
We are a very difficult team to beat and it will take a lot of factors to go in the oppositions favour for us to lose. There is no denying that a few players were off the boil yesterday. Garvan was not at the races and Bolasie had probably his most ineffectual performance in a Palace shirt. Despite this, however, we were never out of the game and could easily have won it and most certainly deserved at least a point.
What we do get to see now is the sort of response that we can muster up with two very difficult games coming up. Hull, on Tuesday, is not going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination, especially without Murray and we all know what sort of game Brighton is going to be next weekend. A sign of a great team is their ability to recover from setbacks. Hopefully we will show over the next six days that we are exactly that, a great team.
Man of the Match: Jonny Parr
Overlapped well, had a few shots and was the stand out performer in an essentially uninspiring performance... I will stress the point. Even when not playing anywhere near our potential, we were still well in the game and could have easily come back with another three points. Promising signs.
A bit like the performance, it was a bit flat. There was not cohesion between the left and right sides of the away support and this meant long periods of singing over each other or just no singing at all. A poor showing.
The £34 match ticket undoubtedly kept some people away; most notably it kept away a big HF presence. They refuse to pay over the odds for match tickets (Ipswich away is another place that over charges and they do not travel to) and not going is the best way to protest against this. Talking to Leeds fans on Twitter after the game (people from their @TheSquareBall fanzine) they were saying how they are outraged with the prices that they are faced with. A £4 match day programme is another example of disgraceful overpricing. They are very thankful that the Bates days are over to say the least.
Unfortunately I have to end on a sour note.
The annoying thing is, I shouldn’t have been surprised. After getting manhandled last season at Leeds by a steward when I was on crutches, with my crime being that I didn’t move through the turnstiles quick enough, I should have expected yet another ridiculously showing from the people who are supposed to be there for our own safety.
The stewards stood there, picked out people they did not like the look of and threaten them with ejection.
At one point the entire Palace support was doing wanker signs at Diouf, a man fully deserving of them. A steward then walked down the row behind me, past at least forty people who were calling him a wanker and went up to one guy (wearing a CP coat) and threatened with ejection if he does it again. This is a guy I see at loads of games and is not a trouble maker in the slightest. It appears that his dress sense singled him out.
After the stewards spent the entire first half deliberately provoking the away fans, looking for a reaction, it all came to a head in the second half. A steward walked up to two blokes and stood right in front of them, put his hand on both of them several times and as soon as one of the guys brushed his hand aside he called up police and more stewards. They flew in heavy handed on his say so and he then walked off laughing. It was an absolute disgrace.
In all fairness to the police, they handled it pretty well once they saw the anger amongst the Palace fans and listened to what we were saying that they hadn’t done anything, however, it was too late for one of the guys who had already been thrown out.
Then the lady who appeared to be the head of the operation came over to me and asked me why I was so “upset” and I explained what happened. Her response was that she will talk to the offending steward. “What’s the point” I ask, all of your stewards are the same.“Dont tarnish us all with the same brush” she pleaded. I laughed and told her about the events the previous year when I was manhandled when on crutches and she had no response. “It’s the same here every season. It is clear that you have an ejection quota and quite frankly that is disgusting.” She then stumbled all over her words... “Um, er, we don’t, er, have any, er, um, such thing” all but confirming that they do have an ejection quota.
Just because their fans run on the pitch and punch players, it doesn’t mean that all fans do. What did she say to me? “Don’t tarnish us all with the same brush”? Practice what you preach, lady.