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Match Report: Reading 2-0 Leeds United (Leeds fan's perspective)

Saturday 7th April 2012
Most football clubs have their off days. Frustration that a briefly promising season has collapsed despite the efforts of a new manager can take its toll on a football team's calmness, as witnessed when Leeds travelled to Reading to take on the soon-to-be table toppers.

Neil Warnock had stated that Leeds were a depleted side due to injuries and suspensions, so promising youngster Zac Thompson earned himself a starting lineup alongside a familiar looking starting lineup featuring Leigh Bromby as a replacement for the suspended Paul Connolly.

Unfortunately for Thompson, it was clear that the referee was in the mood for rash decisions as an admittedly rash challenge in the 13th minute was judged to warrant a red card. Further replays would suggest that this was a very harsh sending off as very little contact was made. But hindsight is a beautiful thing, as are reasonable officials. Normally, such an early sending off would have killed the match outright, but Leeds responded by upping the tempo and physicality of their approach.

Now, whenever most teams get a little physical, it is not only deemed justified, but also congratulated. But this is Dirty Leeds, of course. So the football community was obviously united in outrage at Leeds' approach, which admittedly looked dubious next to the ‘stop-drop-roll' approach of certain Reading forwards.

This match was never to be remembered for the football itself, and this is probably for the best, as the feisty first half delivered very little in the way of genuine chances. Former Leeds defender Ian Harte came closest with a dangerous left footed free kick.

Danny Pugh was next on the Twitter menu as he flew in, studs first, at Jem Karacan. Pugh should have been shown a straight red for a challenge that was, not only silly, but dangerous. The referee decided only to book the defender, despite being all too eager to show Thompson red for a much less severe challenge in the opening stages of the game, effectively killing the match. Thompson will understandably feel hard done by.

Leeds were still very much in the contest at this point, with their physical approach containing Reading's attacking firepower for much of the match. Leeds even looked like snatching a winner at points, with Ross McCormack particularly unlucky when his second half shot struck the post.

Robert Snodgrass had a much closer chance only minutes later, when he was through on goal only to fire his shot against Royals keeper Adam Federici, a very poor effort by Snodgrass' standards.

Michael Brown was commanding the midfield for Leeds for long periods, executing marvellous tackles that, for any other English side, would have been praised. The 34 year old has proven this season that he is still more than fit enough to play a crucial role in next season's promotion push.

While pundits and outraged sports fans were talking about the ‘same old Leeds' during their first genuinely ugly display for a number of seasons, there was still a chance for the away side to cause a major upset, remembering that Leeds had played almost the entire match with a numerical disadvantage.

The substitutions of Becchio, Snodgrass, and McCormack in favour of Robbie Rogers, Mikael Forssell and Danny Webber offered some fresh attacking options, but they were unable to make a real difference or offer any penetration.

It was inevitable that the quality of Reading would eventually break the deadlock. A very impressive Adam Le Fondre, who had just had a goal disallowed for offside, coolly finished off a move started by Jimmy Kebe's cross, before slotting in a second during stoppage time.

A ballsy Leeds performance was insufficient to keep the promotion pushers at bay as the match ended 2-0 to the hosts. This result leaves a thoroughly deserving Reading on top of the Championship awaiting Southampton's result this weekend. Leeds, on the other hand, are all but finished this season. Barring a minor miracle, Leeds look set to be playing Championship football for one more year.

It's a shame that Leeds' brave performance today will be the subject of such scrutiny and disgust, but Leeds fans will be fully prepared. Danny Pugh's challenge was ugly, and deserved a red card, but the persecution will inevitably take off against the whole club that has been stuck bearing a reputation earned in the 1970s, despite being one of the most entertaining sides in the Championship for the last two seasons.

Reading FC:  01 Federici, 05 Pearce, 17 Gorkss, 23 Harte, 24 Cummings, 04 Karacan (Robson-Kanu - 40' ), 08 Leigertwood, 11 McAnuff, 14 Kebe, 10 Hunt (Le Fondre - 69' ), 33 Roberts

Leeds United:  01 Lonergan, 04 Bruce, 22 Lees, 26 Bromby, 33 Robinson (Booked), 08 Brown, 16 Pugh (Booked), 29 Thompson (Sent off), 10 Becchio (Booked) (Forssell - 87' ), 23 Snodgrass (Webber - 85' ), 44 McCormack (Rogers - 85' )

Attendance: 22,775
Tom Fletcher

Total articles: 13

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