As the clock clicked down Leeds dream of promotion came to a sad ending as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Millwall at Elland Road, losing the aggregate 2-1. With the year now complete, the page turns on the painful decade that saw Leeds grace the Champions League semi-final before falling into League One.
In retrospect the match was like much of the year, where Leeds showed tremendous promise only to end without substance. Like a powerful roadster idling in traffic, Leeds generally kept the brake on its attack going forward, held back tactically and allowed their competition to regroup. While not short on venom or even vision, the pace and transitional movement between touches are at the root of Leeds problems. Still, possibly the most difficult pill to swallow is that Leeds billows with talent and has consistently played away from its strong suit and now faces a highly challenging future.
From the start of the match the 37,000 in attendance provided Leeds the support that has made Elland Road a legendary setting in the Footballing world. Attacking from the start Leeds was in firm control but as is too often the case, ground down the pace into the final third. Disastrous in May as it was in the Fall, Leeds constantly geared down and instead of pressing instantly, stop, started just enough to allow Millwall to adjust. After a scoreless first half Leeds were provided a penalty five minutes in as Andy Frampton was adjudged to pulling down Sam Sodje in the area. However Jermaine Beckford, despite his thirty-four goals, struck a sad effort that Millwall 'keeper David Forde easily held back. The brilliant striker, often said to run hot and cold was sub-artic freezing in his touches when it mattered the most. The miss aside three minutes later, young Ben Parker attacked relentlessly down the left flank before crossing to Luciano Becchio who sent the ball it as he slide into the box. However with sixteen minutes remaining Jimmy Abdou sent in Lewis Grabban's provision and Millwall squared the match at one, leaving Elland Road in shock. Needing a goal, Leeds stormed back, the Argentine sent a stunning pinpoint long ball to Beckford that should have provided the striker a clear chance for the winner but he was definitely off for the day as his touch allowed Millwall to close and never got a shot off. Late efforts by Bradley Johnson came close but as the rain continued, Leeds dream of promotion perished.
There is a great deal to be said of Leeds immediate future. The Whites are, as difficult as it is to utter, rooted in League One now for its third successive year. The talent level of this present squad is superb and there are a number of players who likely will not be with the Whites next year unless management decides to make a series of significant investments. The list is a large one but it will be surprising to see Fabian Delph return and the same can be said of Jermaine Beckford and Luciano Bechhio as well as many others including some younger developing players. Much will be decided in complex issues related to the financial affairs of upper level sides, further complicated by the worlds economic woes and it is unclear if Leeds management will resist sizable concrete offers. Summarily as this year is reviewed the disappointment will run deep as this squad had the talent to win promotion but because of tactical errors it missed out and will now likely face a number of changes to the lineup.