Leeds 0 Newcastle 2 – Sunday 20 November 1.15pm
Well, this was great wasn’t it?
Arguably the most appealing away trip of the season, to a big old famous stadium with a capacity crowd, to face another test of our promotion credentials.
Like Preston before them, Leeds were on a very decent run into the play-off positions and fancied themselves a bit to turn the leaders over. Incredibly, I would say the international break worked in our favour here, as the two week gap saw that fancy mutate into blind certainty, exacerbated by news of a first sell out in six years at Elland Road.
Evidence perhaps of Garry Monk starting to get Leeds’ act together, but anyone of Yorkshire tendencies claiming it had nowt to do with the identity of the opposition is dining out regularly at Hotel du Daft, where they enjoy large plates of delusion with a generous side dollop of denial.
A word of warning for anyone who ventured here regularly in the Premier League days, that Leeds have moved the away section from the cosy spot behind the goal to the south corner of the ramshackle John Charles stand, with our section offering fine views of the Subway over the road; not so much of the corner at the other end.
Views of that end didn’t matter much first half, as Newcastle were attacking the other way, so the ball spent its entire time heading in our direction. Shelvey and Colback won the midfield battle comfortably against the rookie home pairing of Kalvin Phillips and the ostentatiously named Ronaldo Vieira, with Colback seemingly just stepping in and taking the ball every time it threatened our half and Shelvey pinging out his usual range of passing, for the restored Gayle to create havoc in the home defence.
It was the former who created the breakthrough when it came on twenty minutes, and I’m going to give Colback full credit for this. It seemed as though the Ginger Pirlo had spotted Rob Green off his line and tried an outrageous lob from distance, creating alarm, kerfuffle and tizz for the back-pedalling former England goalie, who managed merely to paff the ball up in the air while enjoying a bit of a stumble. Gayle must have been unable to believe his luck as he pounced on it like a Yorkshireman on a discarded pound coin.
Green took a bit of stick for his clanger but the way the game was going we were taking that lead whether they gifted it to us or not. This continued until the final ten minutes of the half, when Leeds began to exert a bit of pressure, culminating in a seemingly endless stream of corners. The most dangerous of these saw the ever-steady Darlow pull off a fine reaction save to tip Ayling’s dipping header over the bar.
Another subsequent corner was half-cleared and saw Vieira’s attempt to return the ball blocked by Colback’s outstretched arm. It was in the box and we’ve seen them given, but surely the ref got it right, with the ball being blasted from all of one yard, giving our bloke little chance to get out of the way.
It felt a relief to get to half time ahead and I would endorse Leeds half-time activity of giving away free pies, ahead of the kicking balls at a bullseye effort we have at St James, even though I didn’t win.
Second half saw Leeds start again with a bit of tenacity but United soon got hold of the game and settled matters with one of those utter thing of beauty goals we are magnificently capable of producing every couple of games. Anita’s one-two with Perez to bamboozle his way around the Leeds defence was excellent, with Gayle having found himself an absolute acre of space to knock in his second from Big Vurn’s centre.
Darlow had a couple of straightforward saves to take but this was yet another comfortable and professional away performance that never looked in doubt. The aftermath of the game saw Monk bemoan the Colback penalty incident in an echo of Warnock and Grayson before him.
Here’s the thing though: we are set up to win, and we are capable of it. If you were to gain and score a penalty, we would react like that and find the second goal to beat you anyway, which we actually did regardless. Fortunately, it seems this realisation is starting to set in.
A lot of what I’ve seen from Leeds after the game has been a fairly humble acceptance of the fact that Newcastle are different gravy in this league, and games against us are best shrugged off as a non-starter. There were some pointless mentions of parachute payments (yawn) and financial inequality, but to this I would simply say the following:
Yes, we brought on a £13 million striker as a substitute. Yes, we are richer and more well-equipped than any other side in this division, but that is because we are, frankly, too big for this division.
Our huge and committed support, supplements both an atmosphere and a source of income that puts us in the upper echelons of European football clubs, but we find ourselves in the second tier due to terrible mismanagement and poor appointments.
Believe me, no one is more pi**ed off about this than us! Fortunately, we seem to have put a lot of things right and will be getting out of your way as swiftly as possible, but until then, please don’t blame us for being a big club.
You can clip and re-use that for future reference if you want. For here we have the Newcastle United paradox. Week on week the capacity of our club is lamented as being too huge to be competitive in the Championship. When we return to a Premier League populated by several clubs that never faced this accusation during recent stays in this league, we will be shot down as muddy upstarts with delusions of grandeur as to our place in the pecking order. Blimey.
Ironic that today we swept aside a club that could and should have similar aspirations. To just jump on a train and dap off on a quick trip to a city I like a lot for the match, is a damn sight more convenient than many regular travels of recent years and I wouldn’t begrudge it for a second if the recent Leeds resurgence continued to a promotion of their own.
A trip that has had its fair share of hostility in the past was actually relatively friendly, centring largely around a wonderful eleventh minute tribute to Gary Speed from all areas of the ground.
Yes, this sort of thing will definitely do on a regular basis.
Here are the stats from BBC Sport:
Leeds 0 Newcastle 2
Newcastle: Gayle 23, 54
Possession was Leeds 52% Newcastle 48%
Total shots were Leeds 12 Newcastle 10
Shots on target were Leeds 4 Newcastle 5
Corners were Leeds 10 Newcastle 6
Newcastle starting 11:
Darlow, Anita, Clark, Lascelles, Dummett, Ritchie, Gouffran (Diame 76), Colback (Hayden 83), Shelvey, Perez, Gayle (Mitrovic 79)
Sels, Atsu, Yedlin, Mbemba
Referee: Graham Scott
(Watch both Dwight Gayle goals v Leeds United HERE)
(To read the NUFC fan/writer instant reaction go HERE)
(Some interesting comments from Leeds fans after the game HERE)