Leeds United 3 Millwall 4
Let’s start with the background: Millwall had the worst away record in the Championship as they arrived at Elland Road. Not a single win and they’d scored only 6 goals on their travels all season. True, they’d only conceded 15 which was only bettered by your Wolves and your Villas but with Leeds’ miserly home defence having also one of the best stats in the division the worst that could happen would surely be we’d all witness a nil nil draw…
But Leeds United seldom follow the rules of the universe and, albeit jokingly I suspect, I did see a few folk on Twitter suggest this would be a high scoring Millwall win… just because we are Leeds United and that’s how we roll.
TCs team selection was bold; it was as clear a 4 – 4 – 2 as we’d put out this season with Lasogga up top and Roofe playing the famed number 10 role while Pablo and Alioski plied their trades out wide. We got a first look at Laurens De Bock in an otherwise very normal looking defence and with Adam Forshaw not available the choice of Vieira and Phillips in front of that defence looked OK too.
Oh, there was one more important aspect to this game in my opinion; a defeat for Leeds would spell the end of any hope of a top six finish this season and would make a top half finish look extremely unlikely. Why? Well, Leeds have not performed well for some time and with poor results against poor teams so far in 2018 this looked like the easiest game we had for many weeks to come. If we can’t beat the worst away side in the table we were unlikely, other things being equal, to be able to grab too many points off the likes of Cardiff, Sheffield United, Bristol, Derby, Brentford, Boro and Wolves that were, after the trip to Hull, all lined up neatly to face us next. We’d stumbled against most of those sides in the reverse fixtures and it looked on paper as if we were now performing worse than we were then having already slipped up and dropped points against the sides we did beat first time around – Birmingham, Forest and Ipswich.
The game itself was a little cameo of what supporting Leeds United has come to mean in recent years; the definition of rollercoaster. Some wayward finishing from Lasogga early on had us feeling nervous as did a disallowed Millwall “goal”. Then, horror of horrors our usually stern home defence turned schoolboy as our old friend Steve Morison crossed for a free header at the back post; Millwall one up in less than twenty minutes. It got worse. Liam Cooper flew into a rash tackle and with World War III breaking out in the dugouts it was no surprise Coote the referee was persuaded it was a tackle worthy of red. If luck played any part today, this was the moment. Many other times the same tackle would probably get away with yellow. But Leeds were down to 10 for the third time in as many games and when Millwall scored again just before the break, Morison again providing the assist, it looked all over; the season that is, not just the game.
There then followed, for 17 minutes of the second half, one of the finest comebacks of all time. Leeds did what they did at Ipswich in similar circumstances last week, except this time our finishing was clinical – two from Lasogga were actually sublime. Leeds were totally in command despite only having ten men and I had torn up the obituary I’d penned in my mind for this season and was just starting to dream of that play-off final again.
It was at this point that somehow, Leeds contrived to undo all that good work. It was understandable why Lasogga was replaced – the poor bloke was clearly exhausted and had taken a knock on the leg too – but Roofe didn’t exhibit such external signs of exhaustion and yet, apparently he asked to come off! I’ll repeat that, “HE ASKED TO COME OFF”. So, with Dallas and Shaughnessy now on Leeds had no out ball other than the little figure of Pablo Hernandez who was now playing the lone ranger up front. It seemed all wrong to me but what do I know? Almost predictably Millwall took control again and with three minutes of normal time left they equalised. I could deal with that, we’d have taken that at half time. But then to concede another soft goal two minutes in to added time, well, that was harder to take.
At the end of the day, the extreme swings and excitement in this game should not mask the fundamental problem; we are not good enough as a team. I’ve said this ad infinitum all season at various points. If anything, probably due to the distractions and inconvenience of injuries and suspensions, we are less good now than we were during the first part of the season when we beat the likes of Birmingham, Forest and Ipswich. I had hoped we’d claw back some points in this game with Millwall who beat us earlier in the season of course but the fact we didn’t suggests it is going to be a long hard winter with no reward come May.
There are already growing calls for the head of Thomas Christiansen but I have to say I don’t think that will solve the problem. The starting XI today had only four of Victor Orta’s signings in it – four of what? 16 or 17 new players that have arrived? The rest were all players that featured regularly last season. We weren’t good enough then and we are still not good enough now. Until we have changed more of that team from last season we will continue to struggle. Maybe Adam Forshaw is the start of that and maybe he will make a difference but I really don’t see how changing TC at this point stacks up in any logical way.
Forget the top six though folks; it’s gone. We’ll be starting over again in this damn Championshipnext August.
Leeds United Millwall
Possession 49% 51%
Shots 19 26
On Target 11 8
Corners 1 9
Fouls 12 13