If you'd have asked any Leeds fan six weeks ago that we would be feeling down after a point to West Ham they would have laughed in your face. Yet although slightly content with a draw and I'm really emphasising on the slightly, this is the situation we found ourselves in thanks to a another tremendous effort from the Whites.
Neil Warnock asked for over 30,000 and he got it with 33,366 packed inside a sunny Elland Road. The fixture on paper had that typical Premier League feel to it with the two sides arguably being the biggest in the Championship. The first 15 minutes of the game seemed to drag on slightly with the ball rarely played along the floor. From a free-kick Tom Lees had Leeds' first chance when his low shot took a slight deflection to go wide.
Both sides were doing well to break the other down but it was Leeds doing more of the work, constantly pressing the Hammers and making them work the ball back to the shaky Robert Green. Andy Lonergan had to be quick to stop Nicky Maynard but down the other end Robert Snodgrass' free-kick went whiskers wide.
From a similar distance but this time from a more central position Adam Clayton's turn and shot went wide but United were looking stronger as the half wore on. Just before the half-time whistle the Whites took the lead through Snodgrass but the goal was disallowed for an apparent foul from Luciano Becchio.
The second-half didn't get much better in terms of quality football with both sides forgetting their midfielder's and hitting it long. It was working well for Leeds with Luciano Becchio doing just as Warnock said he would by winning every header. With most of the team struggling for form in the second-half, it was Aidy White who was looking the most dangerous. Swapping from the left to the middle then to the right, his speed and quick touches were causing the Hammers defence some real problems.
However, if anyone was to be replaced out of our attacking trio of midfielders you suspected it would be White despite his improved second-half display. Danny Webber took to the field instead of White while Mikael Forssell came on for Ross McCormack. As the clock ticked by towards the end of the game, Paul Connolly went desperately close with a header which was palmed away by Robert Green.
Just when you thought Leeds were never going to score they did through Luciano Becchio. Paul Connolly's header hit the bar and Becchio was there to nod the ball home from close range. The goal sent the increased Elland Road crowd into raptures and the thought of upsetting the Hammers was crossing everyone's mind. The minutes seemed to go slower than ever and West Ham did finally grab an equaliser.
From a corner in the 90th minute Danny Collins leaped higher than anyone else to nod the ball into an empty net. The jury was out for who made an error, why was Andy Lonergan off his line? Or why was there a couple of Leeds United players on the floor, was it a foul? Those questions could go on for ever but the reality is that a 90th minute equaliser from West Ham felt like a defeat.
I'd have taken a draw before the game there is no doubt about that. In a number of weeks we've played three of the top four/five teams, but only taken one win from these games. However given how badly we had been playing before Warnock came in this can only be classed as a bonus and a sign of improvement. West Ham aren't an easy side to beat, and we are slowly becoming just as difficult to beat. Two goals conceded in five matches and Leeds United...oxymoron or what?
Leeds fans have waited a long time and yes lets not get carried away...but we look hard to break down and hard to score against. West Ham weren't brilliant today, far from it but they know how to grind out wins and that is why they're in the top three. Tactically we're also getting little things spot on. Today I noticed how Paul Connolly a 6ft + defender is going up for corners, under Grayson he was the man who sat back. This is irrelevant to most, but just an example of the footballing brain and pretty much common sense of Neil Warnock.
Man of the Match
Adam Clayton and Michael Brown were once again brilliant in the middle of the midfield. They worked tirelessly and made life very difficult for the moaning Kevin Nolan and co. Paul Connolly looks like a new man under Warnock, where have you been hiding Paul No.2? Tom Lees and Darren O'Dea were resilient in the heart of the defence and they seem to be growing stronger each week. But for me the man of the match has to go to Paul Robinson.
When he first moved to the Whites I was sceptical of his ability and quite critical. It's only been two games but at the moment he's proving me wrong. Robinson an old-school defender who loves a tackle was instrumental in showing his passion and pride at playing in front of a Leeds crowd. His accurate and hard tackles were roared on by the home crowd and his fist pump after one of them was brilliant to witness.
Right now he's what we need. An experienced pro that is willing to give it everything. As for the team well another solid performance as they chase the play-offs. We're counting on others to slip up but it's not impossible to catch up. I'm a realist and don't expect to see us reach the top six, but if we keep playing like this, keep defending like we are then hold onto your horses people as it could be close.
On on on!!!