I've filed this under 'Match Reports' but its nothing of the kind really. I've left it too late for anyone to be bothered with a proper report. However, despite not finding the time over the weekend to write it up properly, I HAD done my notes and research, so rather than waste them - some random thoughts and asides, on Friday's game...
Terrific, obviously, and achieved with a complete absence of FUSS, to send the Albion briefly to the summit. I've read a few comments, notably from bitter fans of THE Leeds United, about the atmosphere from the home stands being rather flat. The truth is, a game can't really be both comfortable and a thriller, and this game was the dictionary definition of 'comfortable'. THE Leeds offered close to nothing, as their own club stats acknowledged
Or more accurately, the SQUAD. We are entering the point of the season, where last year, we dropped the points that cost us, come May. Largely this was down to a threadbare squad, running on empty. Such a difference right now - three changes for this game, and all quality replacements. The banned Bong was replaced by Sebastien Pocognoli, a full Belgian International with a wealth of Premier League experience. The genius that is Anthony Knockaert returned to the side in place of Jiri Skalak. With a workload of three games to manage in nine days, the recently excellent Sidwell was given the evening off - last year he'd have been covered by Ince or similar - this year by Oliver Norwood - voted into last season's Championship 'Team of the Season'.
Norwood's passing and delivery is quality - he has a lot to offer. He delivered two early whipped free kicks - both begging to be converted at the far post.
From Pocognoli a consummate home debut - from a brutal sliding tackle in the opening seconds, to a series of decent crosses and inventive forays - he looks set to now challenge Bong hard for his place.
The two Norwood free kicks described above were excellent. They were made to look better still, by the former England (seriously, how the ****?) keeper's absolute refusal to leave his goal-line. It was this reticence that played a big part in the opening goal. The most notable contribution Green made to the evening's entertainment, was his choice of enormous comedy gloves, only marginally smaller than the Albion Wembley foam hands.
In terms of decisions, both pretty clear. Phillips, the Leeds fall-guy, forced to keep goal because Green didn't want to, just sat on the goal-line awaiting his red card, so clearly no arguments there. Bartley's pull on Dunk for the second, whilst not obvious live (to me at least) was clear on replays. The Whites could have little complaint - an even clearer pull on Stephens, missed by the officials moments earlier.
In terms of putting them away - both dispatched with aplomb - Murray firmly down the centre, his replacement Hemed, with his traditional wait and roll it style. Nicely done.
Running out of superlatives for the Albion back-line. Stockdale largely a spectator. Pocognoli and Bruno superb. Dunk and Duffy again imperious. The stats are astonishing. 13 clean sheets in 20 games - 10 in just the last 14.
Of all the stats I've read, this may be my recent favourite:
THE Leeds fans
I've every respect for the travelling United contingent - as ever impressive in both numbers and noise - the latter to their credit considering the little their team gave them to cheer.
My GOD though, they're a bitter bunch, aren't they?
This lad's got their number:
Last word though, goes to this chap:
Game 20 safely navigated. Number 21 tomorrow night at Blackburn. More of the same please chaps.