January 14, 2013 by Made In Brum
The small attendance, the minimal recovery of our prime goalscorer and the draw in the first match against them hardly points towards a goalfest on Tuesday night- and that’s if the game actually goes ahead. I’ve got a feeling it could be a long night, and wouldn’t be too surprised if it was decided by a penalty shootout.
Just gut wrenching stuff. I went up to Huddersfield on Saturday to witness a lively, fervent Blues performance that warranted so much more than a point. We went into the game with a plan to operate on the left flank through Butland’s direct kicks and then build probingly from midfield. The plan was largely successful- it allowed us to control the match for large spells. We went in at the interval with a thoroughly deserved lead, and looked in a domineering position for most of the second half, but somewhat lost our grip with 10 minutes to go. Nathan Redmond, who had led the line well during the match, came off but his replacement Marlon King was up to nowhere near his full fitness. This may have had an impact as the Terriers created more and more in the closing stages and eventually their attacks were rewarded when substitute Adam Hammill secured a point for them with a fine solo effort. The goal frustratingly denied us just a fifth clean sheet of the season, and a more important 3pts, but I would argue that there were certainly positives that we could take from the game, in terms of the way we controlled it.
A look at the squad
With in-form Brighton just around the corner, if I was Clark I would be tempted to rotate a little for this game. Then again, you may ask: “who is there in the squad to rotate?” Let’s see. Hopefully Doyle will be given more match practice in case of Butland’s departure, but this “curse of the full-back” season means Caddis is the only option at right-back and it’s probably more important to make sure Robinson doesn’t get injured, so I’d want to give him a rest and play Hancox on the left. In fairness to Caldwell, he hasn’t played badly in recent matches, but his age in my opinion, means it’s better to give Pablo a game. I worry that by Clark persisting with Caldwell, at some point this season we’ll be in the situation where he’ll get injured and Ibanez will have to replace him, without having had enough match practice.
We’ve not got too many options in midfield at the moment, but as Spector is only just recovering from an injury I wouldn’t want to force him back, so I’d go with Gomis and Reilly. Rob Hall has been brilliant for us, but is ineligible, so I’d stick Burke on the right and Wade Elliott on the left, with Morrison just behind Zigic.
Leeds recent form
Leeds have been very inconsistent this season and that’s what has cost them in their quest for a play-off place. They haven’t been anywhere near as good on the road as they have been on home, and because of this they’re struggling to get above midtable. Last week, they lost 2-0 at rivals Barnsley and to give you an idea of their inconsistency, in their last 8 Championship matches, they’ve won 4 and lost 4. Warnock needs to make his team become more reliable when playing away from home if he want to see them make a play-off push in the second half of the season.
Luciano Becchio is the obvious one, but having talked about him in the previous preview, I thought I’d draw your attention to El-Hadji Diouf. The Senegalese has been known to play either up front or on the wings, he started his career in France, but after a successful 2002 world cup with Senegal, he moved to England to play for Liverpool.
However, Diouf’s attitude, lack of goals and infamously spitting at a Celtic fan in one match, led to an unsuccessful spell with the Reds. He was to stay in England since then, but fell out with numerous managers and also spat at Portsmouth player Arjan de Zeeuw. His 6 goals for Doncaster last season couldn’t keep them up, but he’s very surprisingly been re-united with Neil Warnock at Leeds, who once described him as: ‘lower than a sewer rat’. The move hasn’t been a total failure, as he’s scored 5 goals for Leeds this season. But not a pleasant guy.
In late March 2004, Blues went into the game sitting comfortably midtable on 43pts and didn’t have too much to play for. Leeds, on the other hand, were desperate for survival to resolve some of their financial troubles. In recent weeks they had gained respectable points against Man United and Liverpool, and beat Man City the week before. Blues had lost their last 2 games, the last of which a mistake-ridden 5-3 defeat at Middlesbrough. Leeds started easily the brightest and gained a very early lead through top scorer Mark Viduka, sliding a shot under Taylor and he ought to have doubled that advantage just a few minutes in when he missed an open goal.
Blues recovered from this though, we had one shot from Grainger hit the bar and one from Forssell cleared off the line. We soon equalized though, Stan Lazaridis flicked on Clinton Morrison’s cross for Bryan Hughes to score unmarked. In the second half, we found a winner. From a counterattacking move, Lazaridis was again the provider to hold the ball up and lay it off for Hughes to score his second. The Leeds defence had to push further and further forward in search of an equalizer, so on the counter, Forssell was onside and was presented with a 1-on-1 chance that he rarely misses, and he didn’t.
In the closing stages, Blues were awarded a penalty. Steve Bruce denied Hughes the chance for his hat-trick in favour of Forssell to take, who finished with aplomb to give some added gloss to the scoreline. It was to be a wonderful season for us, as we finished a magnificent 10th, but the same couldn’t be said for Leeds, despite loyal support from their fans, their season ended in relegation.
Our defence has actually improved in recent weeks so I’ve got a feeling that we can keep a clean sheet, Leeds aren’t in great form, but with Marlon King taking a while to recover from his injury, I’m not sure we’ll have enough firepower up front. To me, a goalless draw and penalties seems the most likely prospect.
By Gabriel Sutton @_thescore
ISSUE 290 OF MADE IN BRUM WILL BE ON SALE OUTSIDE ST. ANDREWS BEFORE THE MATCH. PICK UP YOURS FOR ONLY £1.50.