Having experienced the fruits of live EFL football at the City Ground, I’ve felt compelled to visit more football stadia. Given that my significant other supports Leeds United, I felt it would be fitting to visit Elland Road.
Leeds United is one of those clubs which everyone seems to have a pre-meditated thought about; whether it’s the negative image of thuggery or the enormous following they have for a club outside the top flight – everyone thinks about Leeds in some manner.
In my last trip to a football game, I saw the once European Cup winning side – Nottingham Forest, sadly lose to Barnsley. This game I’d see them again, this time supporting the other side as Leeds hosted the East Midlands club on this evening kick-off.
Arriving at Leeds train station, we then tried to continue our journey via the 51 or 52 bus to Elland Road. Although it seemed like our fellow supporters had just the same idea. The bus stop queue spread right round the length of Vicar Lane – quite the contingent of fans commuting from the centre. At the height of its length, the queueing supporters caused a minor pedestrian gridlock which saw members of the public having to navigate.
Arriving on to Elland Road itself, we went down the street until we found the ideal pre-match dinner. “Award-winning fish and chips”, sounded like just the treat; and 50+ Leeds fans queuing for the same establishment were not wrong. Graveleys Fish & Chips was everything you could want before kick-off. Warming, very savoury and a healthy portion.
After warming up the night with the aforementioned starchy dinner, we headed to our seats in the stadium itself – passing the iconic statue of Billy Bremner. A reminder of both his achievements and the club’s former legendary status.
Due to Leeds United’s fixture glut, Garry Monk had evidently rotated the squad, seeing Dallas make an unusual start. Although key players like Chris Wood, Hernández and Ayling all kept their place from the game against Barnsley at the weekend. The club was able to welcome back Swedish centre-back, Pontus Jansson from suspension.
The first half was very open and saw both teams get forward, but with very little quality with the end-product. Leeds had several chances which were either well wide or essentially skied into the Yorkshire stratosphere. Britt Assombalonga went the closest for the visitors, but Robert Green made a pivotal save at the end of the half. The teams went in at half time at 0-0.
Come the whistle, came to my optimism to sample the savoury snacks on offer. My expectations were suitably low from the pie at the city ground, however, I had optimism for the quality of a Yorkshire pie. The pepper steak flavour didn’t disappoint. Rich meat and a crusty pastry warmed my stomach no end. Couldn’t really taste the pepper, though. 7/10, would eat again.
Come the second half; Leeds got off on the front foot. The Mighty Whites earned themselves a corner; Hernández lofted the ball into the area; it was jostled around but Forest was unable to clear it as it fell at the feet of Chris Wood. Not needing a second invitation, the Kiwi forward bagged his twentieth goal of the season. The Leeds faithful erupted as they celebrated the goal with the striker.
After a tentative period of the game, Dallas made way for usual starter Doukara. The Senegalese forward made an immediate impact from the bench, scoring after just two minutes after he was introduced to the game. It wasn’t just a goal, though, it was an exceptional strike of quality. The ball rebounded to back to him outside the box, which he struck on the volley scoring from twenty-yards out. Elland Road and its 24,000-strong went into pure pandemonium as the Forest keeper was helpless to deny the wonder goal.
After that stroke of mastery, Chris Wood missed a sitter but the game was long decided. Forest throughout the whole second half looked lethargic. Osborn was particularly at fault, nothing came off for him all game. The introduction of Bendtner didn’t really help as he was mostly muscled out by a stern West Yorkshire backline.
Whilst Doukara and Wood will claim a lot of the media attention, the work of Ayling and Jansson shouldn’t go unrecognised. Both of which ensured Forest had very little joy in the Leeds box. The right-back also got forward when required and started a lot of attacks; altogether a very wholesome performance from him.
The final whistle went and again the home fans generated an almighty roar of noise. Choruses of “Leeds are going up, going up” to the tune of “Give It Up” by KC and the Sunshine Band rang out; as the Mighty Whites following rejoiced in their league position. Leeds are now third in the league and will continue to push Brighton and Newcastle for automatic promotion.
After the game, we made our way back to the station. Which was probably the only downside to the evening. The commute back was marred by poor transportation links. The buses seemingly don’t run on a frequent basis after matches – making it inexplicably difficult to make it home from a game.
Overall a great game with two very handsome goals and incredible atmosphere. The starchy food substances from across the road and in the ground were a real treat. The whole experience was grand, a very enjoyable evening’s entertainment.