An 11th home defeat of the season earned Leeds United another unwanted record in one of the most disappointing campaigns in recent memory. The 2-1 loss to Leicester City on the final day ensured that the Whites ended the season having suffered more home defeats than in any previous campaign.
The game was United’s season diluted into a handy ninety minute bite sized chunk. Leeds showed promise in the early stages of the game, with some neat and incisive football causing Leicester some early problems. However, the Whites lost the iniative and handed the visitors the lead with some characteristic comedy defending. Michael Brown sliced the ball horribly into the air in the centre circle putting the hapless Danny Pugh under pressure from Martin Waghorn. The former Manchester United man was caught in two minds, and used neither of them as he failed in his attempts to get the ball back to Andy Lonergan, allowing the Foxes striker to stride on and fire past the United keeper.
The majority of the second half was a non-event until Leeds stepped up a gear in the closing moments, roared on by the ever faithful Elland Road crowd. It looked as if the fans were to be rewarded with a point when Danny Webber forced the ball over the line for his first (and probably only) Leeds goal following good work by Robert Snodgrass with just eight minutes remaining.
However this season has seen Leeds find new ways to add to the suffering of the fans, and they allowed Leicester to snatch the points right at the death as the ball ricocheted into the path of substitute Harry Panayiotou to deflect the ball past Lonergan.
The game itself was of little or no importance to either club, although the result ensured Leicester finished above the Whites in the final table, with Leeds finishing the season in a lowly 14th place.
One of the major talking points of the match was the reception afforded to Jermaine Beckford on his first return to Elland Road since his departure following his promotion winning goal against Bristol Rovers two years ago. The Leicester striker was serenaded with the song commemorating his goal at Old Trafford in the famous FA Cup victory over Manchester United, and he showed his affections to the crowd with waves and blown kisses. This apparent love-in must have infuriated Nigel Pearson who withdrew the striker at the interval.
The likelihood of Beckford returning to Elland Road are slim, but it will be one of the rumours that will begin to circulate now that the season has drawn to a close. Neil Warnock’s real work as Leeds United manager will start now as he begins to dismantle the current squad and begins to assemble his own. With the signing of Portsmouth centre half Jason Pearce expected to be announced this week, United fans will be hoping that he is the first of the many signings that will be required if Leeds are to challenge for promotion next season.
If the signings are not forthcoming, then Ken Bates can expect more afternoons like the uncomfortable one he had yesterday. The Leeds United Supporters Trust arranged a “party” in his new East Stand development, and spent the majority of the match berating the Whites chairman, and his chief executive Shaun Harvey.
With a disastrous season consigned to the history books, Leeds face a make or break summer. Just two years ago the club seemed on the up, with a return to the Championship, average crowds close to 30K and a general feeling that the good times were about to return. Two years on, all that good feeling has disappeared, crowds have dwindled and there is a definite feeling of malaise around Elland Road. The club have launched their new kit for next season with the tag line “New Shirt, New Start.” It’s time for the club to ensure that is more than just words and show the supporters that the good times are just around the corner.