Matthew Philpotts in the away end at Elland Road yesterday with the match report for TRUE FAITH – Full Time Reactions from the away end from Steve Wallwork and Sean Orrick. 

Ten past five and a grinning figure emerged from the tunnel in front of the John Charles stand. The other three sides of the ground were utterly empty, but the away end wasn’t going home in a rush. Miggy Almirón smiled that smile of his and three thousand Geordies responded in kind. Never have four unused subs trotted around the pitch to greater acclaim. All around, strangers hugged one another like long lost friends. Hello sweet victory. Where have you been? Welcome home, we’ve missed you.

Make no mistake, there’s fight in the old man yet. Frequently embarrassed in the first half by Leeds’s pace and movement and hobbled by a frightening lack of quality in midfield and up front, there was certainly no shortage of effort. And, in truth, once we went ahead, we were much the better side. As we rose, Leeds sank. In the last fifteen minutes, Willock was denied by a smart save, Fraser had an effort cleared off the line, and Saint-Maximin appealed in vain for an apparent penalty. This was a deserved victory.

Two hours earlier and that pure, joyous exhilarating release seemed a long way away. If you thought St James’ was neglected, try the northwest corner of Elland Road, endlessly trapped in the 1970s. A crumbling function suite overlooking fans funnelled alarmingly for half an hour into inadequate turnstiles. And all the while vacuous stewards standing by.

Mind you, in this age of sanitised digital fandom, there’s something refreshingly real about legacy fans unleashed. This was a seething pit of testosterone so thick that you could cut it. Not in this corner of Holbeck the plastics of Anfield or Old Trafford. This was dirty scruffy Leeds. And it was glorious. Welcome to Life on Mars. Look at those cavemen go.

The first half was difficult viewing. With Harrison marauding at will down our right into the space left by Trippier and with Rapinha exposing Dummett’s limitations on the left, it felt like we were playing two men short. Every whipped ball was sure to find a grateful recipient. While one side was all pace and movement, the other lumbered in familiar fashion. Playing 433 against the Leeds press and width felt like suicide. Where Trippier had cajoled and pushed forward against Watford last week, this week he desperately tried to cover back.

But the inevitable never happened. Dúbravka saved well from Dan James in Leeds’s only real shot, and Bamford’s absence became increasingly palpable. Threatening Leeds may have been in possession, but they lacked all cutting edge. Meanwhile, we harried and pressed and got a foot in. And when a corner was headed out, Shelvey showed what we all know he is capable of, volleying the ball sweetly and drawing a full-length save from Meslier.

Down in the trenches, the effort began to take its toll. First Joelinton went down, soon to hobble off and be replaced by Longstaff, who had given way to Willock in Howe’s selection. Obviously nervous and rusty at first, Willock started like a drunk. But, increasingly, he carried the ball forward and into the penalty area, his confidence gradually seeping back. Then, in the second half, Dummett’s thigh went (inevitably) and Lascelles’s hamstring, while he sought to recover from one of his frequent mistakes. As Cieran Clark trotted on, the away end held their collective breath.

Then came the moment. After precisely 12,988 minutes in a black and white shirt and a grand total of one goal direct from a free kick, Shelvey stood over the ball on the left hand side of the box after Manquillo’s progress had been thwarted. A low half-scuffed effort followed, around the wall and vaguely towards the far right hand corner. As incoming United bodies threatened to get a touch, all Meslier could do was palm the ball into the back of the net. Voldemort was clearly born lucky. Not that we cared. Bodies were flung across rows of seats. The Neanderthals in the South Stand went curiously quiet.

This was hardly a performance to assuage concerns. Schär showed rare grit, but injuries to two defenders stripped our cupboard further still. Meanwhile, Joelinton’s absence removed all cover for Saint-Maximin’s habitual self-indulgence on the left. Yet again we were trapped in the ASM paradox: the more he refused to conform to any coherent system, the more we were rendered dependent on his unique and haphazard skills. As for our new £25 million forward, it would be kindest to reserve judgement for another day. Unable to trap the ball or offer any threat to the opposition goal, Wood looked for all the world like a lottery winner dragged onto the pitch for 90 minutes of charity fun. Surely he will improve.

For all the ineptitude and inadequacies of this season, we somehow find ourselves only one point from escape and with a game in hand on Norwich. Who knows whether high-end targets will arrive in the next week. To continue without new bodies at centre back and in central midfield seems unthinkable.

But that’s for another day. Because today we found a way to win. And every single supporter in the away end savoured that incredible, impossible feeling again. Hope has knocked on the door and we have welcomed him in with open arms. Yesssssssssss.

Matthew Philpotts @mjp19731

Full Time Reactions from the Away End

Euphoria has taken over. A long time coming but a thoroughly deserved 3 points. Professional, well defended and totally on the money. No complaints at all about the performance.

However, Leeds United, hang your head in shame. The worst I’ve witnessed post Hillsbrough for a crush getting in to the ground. No excuse will pacify the fans caught up in that. Questions need to be asked. SERIOUS questions. Didn’t spoil the day, thankfully, but could have been so much worse.

Steve Wallwork 

What a huge win today. Another ‘must win’ game of the countless ‘must win’ games we have faced recently but for a change… we actually won it.

A massive and much needed win for the manager and players going into a few weeks off and the end of a crucial transfer window. The game itself I thought was an entertaining but ultimately poor quality affair, possibly a good thing for us but who cares!

The away end was superb, loud, angry and us at our best. I was at Southampton pre-pandemic for our last away win and didn’t think I’d have wait nearly two years to see us win again but doing it against Leeds is very satisfying!

Sean Orrick