Leeds United travelled to London on Saturday to face Charlton Athletic at the Valley. Manager Brian McDermott made three changes to the side that beat Yeovil 2-0 at Elland Road the previous week as Danny Pugh came in for the injured Stephen Warnock. Michael Brown was preferred to Michael Tonge and Paul Green in place of Alex Mowatt, who injured himself in training, and Dexter Blackstock was handed his first start for the club at the expense of Matt Smith.
There were huge doubts that the game would even go ahead when after some heavy rainfall, referee Keith Stroud decided that a pitch inspection would have to take place. One pitch inspection wasn't enough to come to a decision and over 3,000 Leeds fans waited anxiously as a second pitch inspection was undertaken.
Finally the decision was made that the game would take place with a 3.30 kick off. It was clear to see why the game was in doubt after it got underway, the waterlogged pitch was causing problems with the ball struggling to roll in certain areas and I personally couldn't see the game reaching it's conclusion when shortly after kick-off the rain began to fall once again.
Leeds were struggling to keep hold of the ball in the poor conditions and it was against the run of play when on 17 minutes they took the lead through Ross McCormack. The ball was hoofed up towards the Charlton box, Dexter Blackstock won his header and McCormack found himself one on one with Ben Hamer in the Addicks goal. United's number 44 made no mistake with his finish, 1-0 Leeds.
The home side were seeing most of the ball and the Whites only other chance of note in the first period fell to Lee Peltier. Luke Murphy's cross was headed over the bar by Leeds' former captain Peltier. Even though United weren't keeping possession, it looked as though they were going to make it to the interval one goal to the good when Paddy Kenny made a brilliant save to deny Simon Church. Some good build up play presented a chance to Church from close range but Kenny did well to beat away the effort.
However, with half-time fast approaching, there was nothing to Kenny could do to stop Charlton equalising. Leeds managed to head clear a Charlton cross but the ball fell perfectly for Cameron Stewart who volleyed home from outside the box. It was one of those strikes that you knew was going in as soon as it left Stewart's foot. An outstanding goal.
Scott Wootton appeared to be struggling with an injury in the first half and was replaced at half-time by Marius Zaliukas. There was an ideal start to the second-half for Leeds when Danny Pugh latched on to a knock-down from that man McCormack before being brought down in the home side's area. Penalty to Leeds. Despite missing his last spot-kick against Bournemouth, McCormack stepped up and confidently fired the ball into the roof off the net to give Leeds the lead once again.
Paddy Kenny made another fantastic save when Callum Harriott deflected shot looked goal bound. Kenny was at full stretch to put the ball over the bar for a corner with his fingertips. A top save to keep United ahead who were looking a bit more comfortable with their lead on this occasion.
Looks can be deceiving though and with 20 minutes to go, the scores were level again. Some poor defending from Lees and Peltier allowed Simon Church to get the better of them down Charlton's left. He somehow managed to deliver the ball into box where Johnny Jackson was waiting to tap the ball in for Charlton's second equaliser of the game.
The normal Leeds way would be to crumble at this point and I'm sure most Leeds fans would have expected Charlton to be the more likely to go on to win. The Whites just wouldn't let it be though and once again went back at the home side in search of a winner. Dexter Blackstock once again claimed the assist as his header fell to Ross McCormack who volleyed the ball past the keeper from close range. It was McCormack's first hat-trick for Leeds and in fact his first hat-trick in professional football.
There was 15 minutes for United to hold on and after surrendering their lead twice, it was to be a nervous end to the game for the travelling Leeds fans. United were countering quite well and from one of those counter attacks, Rodolph Austin was brought down just outside the box. The way his day was going there was only one thing on Ross McCormack's mind and that was to have a shot at goal and what a shot it was. He got his free kick over the wall and curled it across the keeper into the top-corner, what a way to finish a great day for McCormack and a great day for Leeds and their fans.
Leeds didn't actually play all that well in general. Obviously McCormack had a great day and he wasn't bothered about the conditions. A lot of credit has to go to Danny Pugh, I am the first to admit I am normally giving him stick but yesterday he was great and had it not been for McCormack, he would probably have been my man of the match. Paddy Kenny also made two top class saves and deserves credit as well. A brilliant win and a brilliant day, now we need to build on this.
There is not much point in the man of the match poll, it will be Ross McCormack, but have a vote anyway. Couldn't have put it better myself Ross!
Leeds aren't we— Ross McCormack (@Rossmccormack44) November 10, 2013