Leeds United entertain Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday. I say ‘entertain’ but, of course, at this stage of the season, we just want to get the three points or, at the very least, not lose.
The play-off situation is ever closer, though good to see that Fulham – who, in injury time, robbed us of a victory at Craven Cottage a week ago – paid the penalty against Blackburn on Tuesday by conceding, well, a penalty in injury time, to draw and drop two valuable points of their own.
In truth, the 7,000 faithful Leeds fans, who attended another evening game in London, saw the team battered by Fulham, before our former youth player, Tom Cairney, wrapped us up in chip paper and poured vinegar all over us.
Conceding late in matches has been a curse for us in recent seasons, but Garry Monk and his team seemed to have largely eradicated this flaw, although, of course, it can still happen at any time. We have a better defensive unit now, than for a very long time, and will miss Luke Ayling at the weekend, through suspension.
I have a lot of time for Chris Hughton as, much like Garry, he is always respectful of the opposition and dignified in defeat as well as victory. I felt he was treated really badly at Newcastle, and again at Norwich (how that has come back to bite Delia’s pies!) He and his team came so very close to automatic promotion last season but, just to remind him and everyone else, we all know what bitter disappointment feels like at Leeds. I guess this just gives the club an even harder shell and determination to make sure it doesn’t happen again anytime soon. All we have ever asked for is a level playing pitch (where was Yeovil, by the way?)
There are actually seven different species of gulls, and not all of them live near or have ever visited the sea. Those that do are the ones that usually win at home. The ones that travel sometimes aren’t recognisable as seagulls at all and can turn in unaccountably poor performances. Even Nottingham Forest managed to turn them over (almost another Delia reference there) as did this season’s giant-killing heroes, Lincoln City (I certainly wasn’t going to mention that other non-league club who did quite well in the Cup).
Being positive, while admiring the achievements of others, is all very well until you look at the statistics. Football results may not always tell the whole stories of matches but the scores don’t lie. We have lost six consecutive matches against Brighton and only won one of the last six in which we have played against them at home.
Cynics who remember the glory days at Leeds might scoff and say, ‘well, we wouldn’t have lost to such a small team in our day,’ but the truth is that we didn’t play them between 1962 and 1978 (after losing our first ever game against them in 1960) so, who knows?
We also don’t know what might have happened at the Amex, in December, if Kalvin Phillips hadn’t been sent off for handling midway through the first half. Brighton didn’t score their second penalty until just before the end, so another large contingent of travelling fans might have been forgiven for thinking it was a pretty inconclusive affair. Our defence was not what it should or has been that night and, again, this has largely been tightened up beyond recognition.
Does any of this add up to a Leeds victory on Saturday? Well, you might think it’s about time but, then again, we are playing a team that, in my view, are in one of their golden periods of football history; certain to qualify for automatic promotion, along with Newcastle. Hughton won’t be taking any chances but I am pretty sure his players will.
Four things are certain: a packed Elland Road remains a far more impressive stadium than the Amex, even though its footballing age is beginning to show; those Brighton fans who do decide to travel will struggle to make themselves heard; we won’t get soaked, as we did at the infamous Withdean Stadium, and we won’t see the kind of goal that Fabian Delph scored for us down there, just over eight years ago!