A damp evening, after earlier rain. Surman again as the sitter in midfield, Howe persevering with 2 up top. Pugh & Ritchie wide.
Leeds k.o. to the north end, but the left-back made a mistake and Grabban was in – then slipped on the greasy surface. Pugh sent in a drive, tipped round the near post; Harte put over a long corner, Francis came in at inside-right with a pile-driver and at the keeper’s right-hand post Kermorgant managed a touch. 1-0, 1 minute!
Then Leeds dominated; it seemed that Boscombe had given up the midfield, going 4-2-4. The away skipper (McCormack) was, in one sequence, the second striker, prompting from midfield, and defending deep in his own half. Arter & Surman were combining well, passing closely to make space and by-pass opponents. They gave Grabban an opportunity but the shot was long, wide & ugly. Arter was snapping in, with Surman tidy and prompt as usual. Boscombe showed good passing and constructive play, although Pugh was not quite going round his oppo. Kermorgant was trying flicks from head & heel to try to put in Grabban; all 4 across midfield were closing down well. Then Ritchie sent Francis away. Francis cut it back; Grabban had pulled away a little and with that space swept it across the keeper. 2-0, 18!!
Boscombe kept fighting for the ball – really wanting it. Pugh did a brilliant Cruyff turn to beat his oppo (Byram, apparently wanted by the Belles of St. Fairies) to go up the wing. The away defence was all at sea. Kermorgant was strong when tackled, and a good foil for Grabban. Similarly Oldham reject Smith was a bit of a handful up front: Camp had to catch well from a corner. Then Francis went up the wing again, back for Grabban on the far edge of the area. A left-footer across the keeper, 3-0, 28!!!
Ritchie sent Grabban away, lobbing the full-back. Up the wing, inside to Kermorgant just inside the “D”. Body shape not quite right, the shot hit the post. Good grief – what was happening here? Away fans sang “You’re not fit to wear the shirt”. Hmm – Leeds Untied? Pugh tackled heavily in the full-back position, but had merely a stern lecture. Grabban went through from the centre circle; with the defence retreating he really should’ve shot for his hat-trick but, with Ritchie steaming up alongside, passed way in front of him for a goal-kick. Then a lovely move: Arter put Pugh up the wing with a classic ball; inside to Grabban, linking with Kermorgant & on to Surman but the keeper was alert. Leeds now tried a bit more, with McCormack up front. With the whistle, boos from the away fans; massive cheers from the home fans. HT: 3-0.
Second verse, same as the first. Leeds tried to make a go of it initially but then conceded a free out left. Harte over-hit it, Ritchie rescued the ball and slung it back over. Kermorgant went up as if a leaping salmon, & powered his header back across the keeper. 4-0, 51!!!! Talk about walking in an Eddie Wonderland… The home fans were so enraptured they forgot to sing “Can we play you every week?” Surman succumbed to his niggle and O’Kane came on for him on 54. Leeds started playing for pride; a decent free from the left saw a back-flick header requiring a header for a corner and a good clearing punch by Camp. The 2 away subs then injected energy and urgency, especially the left-winger back from Blades loan. But Arter kept sending passes through, putting the defence into back-pedal mode. Kermorgant fought for & won a throw-in; Pugh did that turn again. Cook’s header from a corner was pushed round. Another Leeds free nearly went in at the far post. Kermorgant showed brilliant control & trickery; we were enjoying this (to paraphrase Mrs Thatcher on her last day in parliament as PM). Grabban was (again) just offside when put in by Kermorgant; good partnership growing there.
Then McCormack found a gap, going to his right in the “D” and slotting for 4-1 on 69. Made me think back to our 1-4 home defeat by York in the Benson era; 0-4 down, Alan Welsh grabbed the ball in midfield, went forward like a tank, barging off any opponents, & slammed it in for our consolation that night. No more than McCormack deserved. Soon, Elphick’s sloppy back-pass meant a corner and another Camp catch. Leeds began to look like a team, with McCormack going wide.
To keep Ritchie fresh for Saturday, he was replaced by Rantie on 78; immediately, the latter was through the centre but tapped it at the keeper. Heaven’s sake! A Leeds corner was made safe. Grabban had gone wide right; Kermorgant went off to massive applause in favour of Pitman on 83. O’Kane put him in but he was both offside &, stretching, put it wide anyway. By now, there were too many sloppy passes as a touch of complacency & perhaps fatigue began to take effect. But a lucky ricochet saw Rantie going at the keeper 1:1 again, with 9000 home fans willing him to slot it. This time, a hand kept out the effort. This was becoming a comedy routine; perhaps a full pre-season can iron out those deficiencies in Rantie’s play. But that was about it, apart from the full-bore support from the away fans ever since the 4th goal. F-T: 4-1.
Catharsis for home fans who recalled the events of May 1990; some had been affected emotionally (that defeat and Boro’s win put us back down). A few had been assaulted that day, and wanted this win so badly. But best of all, a superb performance. The team can only play against the 11 in opposition, but it should have been 6 goals, could’ve been 7 & just possibly 8 (which would’ve wiped out the negative GD). That’s 52 points from 38, 10th in the division. Mathematically, another 7 needed for safety but to all intents & purposes that has been reached. Back in ‘88/9, that 2-3 win @ Palace & the following home win saw Boscombe in 5th until injuries saw us slip back. A bit too much to ask to reach that level, but – as Peter Ustinov once asked - what about the guy who aims low & misses?
As for the opposition: Butland – the Team GB keeper at the 2012 Olympics – did not shine. Pearce a touch slower than of old? Wholehearted as always, but possibly not quite up to this level. McCormack the only player to deserve plaudits, deserving a better team around him. How much of the off-pitch ownership problem really was affecting the team? Many clubs go through these travails – one thinks of Burnley & Wolves, both League founder-members, both League champions, the latter even leading Europe in the 50’s, both spending time in Div.4 (and nearly going further down). Now it appears to be Leeds’ turn.
This may sound like a cop-out, but – the entire starting 11. For the first hour this was as complete a performance as we’ve seen this season.
AFCB: Camp, Francis, Cook, Elphick, Harte, Ritchie, Surman, Arter, Pugh, Kermorgant, Grabban
Subs: Allsop, Smith, Ward, MacDonald, O'Kane (for Surman, 54 mins), Rantie (for Ritchie, 78 mins), Pitman (for Kermorgant, 83 mins)
Peter Wicks, Bulford