It very much looks like journey’s end for North End’s play off hopes after a comprehensive defeat away at Elland Road.
North End had their best chances early in the game and up to Leeds scoring we looked quite comfortable and composed. After the goal, however, we seemed to lose our mojo from Tuesday evening and could not find a way to make a telling move through the home defence. Robinson and Barkhuizen were the two strikers, clearly with the thought of playing on the shoulder of the two centre-backs and beating them with pace. But unfortunately our two boys were well muscled out of the game, particularly in the air, as were one ore two others in the North End side. A second goal just before half time and a third right at the end when Baptiste had been red carded for allegedly stamping, probably reflected the superiority of the home team and North End will reflect on a lightweight, powder-puff performance against a strong Leeds side. North End started well to be honest and Barkhuizen had a header saved and a shot tipped over the bar in the first few minutes. The Championship player of the month then had a one-on-one with Robert Green in the Leeds goal but his shot went agonisingly wide and with it our best chance of the game. We were to rue our misses as five minutes later the home side went ahead when a Roofe shot was deflected over the top of Maxwell, with the help of a Pearson tackle, and into the net. Right on the stroke of half time Hernandez poked the ball under Maxwell as Baptiste tried desperately in vain to clear the ball. I suppose both goals were slightly sloppy but the home side deserved their half-time lead. After the break and with five minutes left, Baptiste trod on Hernandez and saw a straight red for a stupid act that will see him miss the next three games. It was insult added to injury and when Leeds made it three the day was just about complete for the 827 North End who had paid well over the odds to see their team suffer a poor defeat. With Shefield Wednesday now eight points clear with just five games to go it, would be a comeback of Lazarus proportions for North End to squeeze into the top six. However the manager must make sure that we fight for every point available and achieve the highest league position
The play-off dream for me ended at Elland Road on Saturday in a game in which we were well beaten by an organised Leeds United side. It was not one for the football purist but to be fair to the hosts they fully deserved their win, which left our own play-off hopes in tatters. Apart from a brief flurry in the first ten minutes when Barkhuizsn missed an opportunity to put us in front, we were never in the game and when we went in two down at half-time, the game was basically over. In the second half we rallied and huffed and puffed, having the lion’s share of the possession. But in all honesty we never looked like reducing the defici,t even with the introduction of Beckford and Makienok who were both totally ineffective and really showed up our lack of attacking options when facing decent opposition. Having said all this ,and accepting that today was a bad day at the office where we didn’t perform as a unit – even though we had a lot of possesion in the second half – it has to be said that in general it has been a great season and we are doing far better than Blackburn, Blackpool and Wigan, which must give most ardent fans a great deal of comfort.
A day to forget quickly for North End as that little hope of a late dash to the play-off came to an abrupt end at Elland Road. The first 15 minutes is where we threw this one away, three good chance to grab an important early lead all went begging as Barkhuizen fluffed his lines, two headers in the first three minutes couldn’t be directed past Green and then the best chance of them all as got clean through on goal but put his shot just round the far post. In a game like this, you simply can’t afford to be throwing chances like that away and we went on to pay for it. Five minutes after that we were behind as Roofe’s effort deflected off Cunningham before bouncing past Maxwell. We seemed to be struggling to get any sort of grip on the game from there, the Leeds defence doing well to shut us down as soon as any threat came. Their back four had Robinson under wraps and sussed McGeady out in the early minutes. From there they were able to keep any threat from either of them to a minimum. The second half wasn’t much better as we never really looked like even challenging to get back in it. It was a poor performance on a day where every team around us got three points. McGeady came close late on but somehow the ball stayed out before Baptiste was shown red for what looked like a stamp and Leeds fired a third past Maxwell in the final seconds.