Sunday, April 16, 2006

BACK TO THE NORM Leeds United 1-1 Reading

Yesterday's game at Elland Road had an air of end of season/after the lord mayor's show about it. With Reading already uncatchable and seemingly untouchable at the top and Leeds United without a goal in their last 4 matches this was a scrappy match desperately short on entertainment.

Fortunate then at Floyd on Football did not pay a penny to watch this particular fixture having enjoyed an afternoon of free food and drink at the expense of Match Sponsors Westcoast. A fine day out; greeted initially in the Jack Charlton Suite by Leeds United legends Norman "bites yer legs" Hunter, Paul Reaney and Mick Jones as well as Allan "sniffer" Clarke who was so delighted to meet Floyd on Football that he asked for a photograph to be taken. A look into the Leeds United home dressing room and out pitchside for more photographs was followed up by a talk on the history of Elland Road by a local fanatic and then into the plush Banqueting Suite for a fabulous meal of Broccoli and Stilton Soup, Rack of Lamb and Sticky Toffee Pudding. With free Bucks Fizz, wine and copious amounts of Guinness being consumed it was almost a bind to be led to our posh padded seats 5 minutes before kick-off.

The first half, in direct contrast to the hospitality we had enjoyed thus far, was diabolical. Leeds United had their chance to catch Sheffield United and take that 2nd spot behind Reading in recent weeks but on the showing of the opening 45 minutes you can see why they have found goals so hard to come by of late. The first real sight of goal took 20 minutes to come and it was Reading and Convey who fired a low effort into the side netting after good work by Sidwell. Hahnemann was alert to take Douglas's tame effort into his body which skimmed through a crowd of players. Reading looked laboured, almost lazy, but with their job long since done they could perhaps be excused and one must wonder what was the Leeds excuse for being so lapsadaisical with the play-offs looming on the horizon.

They did however have the best of the first hour or so of the game as Hulse failed to get his blonde crown onto Crainey's generous cross before half time but made ammends barely a minute into the second half after Reading failed to clear their lines and Derry was allowed a chance to slip a ball across to HULSE for a simple tap-in whilst many of the Banqueting Suite guests were still enjoying coffee and biscuits downstairs. Ironic given the meat and drink we had enjoyed earlier that Leeds should re-open their goalscoring account with such a meat and drink goal. Reading were struggling to get their usual passing and movement game together against the abrasive hosts who were not extending Yorkshire hospitality off the pitch to the actual football match itself. Eirik Bakke tried his luck from somewhere near the half way line, such was the dearth of chances being created and the linseman's flag foiled Hulse more than once and the frustrated floppy haired fop threw himself to the ground in a manner in which Norman Wisdom would have been proud after a 'challenge' by Sonko. Experienced referee Halsey, excellent throughout, was having none of it.

Coppell made changes and Reading forced their way back into the game in unconvincing fashion. Before he was withdrawm, Oster had put in a magnificent centre which Hulse had to head over from underneath his own crossbar with Ingimarsson waiting. That was about the only decent cross Reading put in all game until Brynjar Gunnarsson's arrival; our Icelandic pair combining to great effect with just 5 minutes left as Ivar headed Bryn's ball back across the box for Steve HUNT, lively as ever after coming on as substitute, to score from one yard out off his bollocks - it really was that kind of match. The pocket of Reading followers in hospitality celebrated vigorously on the opposite side of the ground from the packed allocation of loyal Royals who were going potty. We had dominated possession and territory for 15 minutes or so before the game and Leeds could have no complaints whatsoever and the draw meant that the home side could no longer overhaul Sheffield United and were therefore doomed to the play-offs.

Back in hospitality the booze continued to flow as man of the match presentations were made to Shaun Derry and Norman Hunter was asked for a post-match analysis from the compere. Far from being a villain, the leg-biter was generous in his praise of Reading and from the top table we enjoyed some fun and banter with our hosts. There was an amusing moment during the presentations when the ugly mug of Neil Warnock spraying champagne came up on the big screens in the Banqueting Suite and the compere asked for the channel to be changed - which brought about an amused round of applause from the gathering of guests.

Leeds United were magnificent hosts and are a top class club off the pitch. Whether they have that same class on the pitch remains to be seen; they will have to contest those nervy play-offs whilst Coppell's squad will already be on the beach.

Reading: Hahnemann, Murty (Gunnarsson, 83), Shorey, Ingimarsson, Sonko, Oster (Hunt, 63), Sidwell, Harper, Convey, Doyle (Long, 78), Kitson. Subs not used: Stack, Makin.

Floyd's Favourite: Sidwell. Outstanding.


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