We're nearing the end of the season now, as Leeds United had three games remaining heading to the KC Stadium on Saturday afternoon. That hasn't stopped them from playing well though; coming off a three-game winning streak, they continued playing with heart worthy of the historic White shirt (except for maybe a two-minute stretch in the first half), battling back against a playoff-bound Tigers team for an 88th-minute equaliser and a valuable point on the road.
Chris Wood opened the scoring in the 15th minute after a beautiful cross from Charlie Taylor found Wood unmarked in the box. Up to that point, Hull had been the better side, with chance after chance in the first 10 minutes especially, but Wood's goal (first in the video below) stood until the 45th minute.
16’ "All Leeds Aren’t We" echoing through the KC Stadium right now. Was all Hull for the first 15, beautiful goal for Wood. No chance.— Through It All LIVE (@ThruItAllLIVE) April 23, 2016
Then, the wheels came off for a bit. In the last three games, Leeds have been able to overcome their season-long plague of an "error-prone back four," but for two minutes in added time at the end of the first half, the errors came in abundance. Abel Hernandez and Tom Huddlestone BOTH found the net in first half injury time, and just when it looked like Leeds would go into the break up 1-0 on the road, they found themselves down 2-1 instead.
As a Leeds United fan, it would have been easy at that point to start in with "Same Old Leeds" tweets and Debbie Downer emotions. In fact, many of our fans did. I promised on Twitter that if Leeds came back to win, I'd call those people out in public, but alas, the Whites couldn't find a third goal after Dallas' shot (spoiler alert), so I'll leave them nameless. The "Same Old Leeds" trope is understandable for sure, the team and the fanbase have seen our share of disappointment over the years. But something in me said the game wasn't over at half, and I'm happy I didn't go down that road myself. Try it sometime: maintain hope in the face of probable disappointment. It can make that eventual equaliser so much sweeter.
So yeah, back to that. Steve Evans felt like Lee Erwin hadn't done enough in the first half to warrant coming out in the second, so Jordan Botaka came on and made his presence felt throughout the remainder of the game (spoiler alert). The biggest opportunity of the half came on a run from Charlie Taylor, who sprinted past the defenders into the box and was brought down by Moses Odubajo for a penalty kick in the 53rd. Chris Wood came up to take it, looking for his second brace in three games, but his well-taken kick was saved by a beautiful McGregor dive, and the game remained in Hull's hands.
Things looked even worse in the 75th minute when a crunching tackle likely ended Gaetano Berardi's season, as his ankle was a target yet again. He was stretchered off, and only a GIF could express how we felt at that point:
75’ If we lose this game AND lose Berardi…… stretcher coming on, Coyle on to replace him. pic.twitter.com/7M6Dnb731b— Through It All LIVE (@ThruItAllLIVE) April 23, 2016
But the game was not over. Stuart Dallas provided the late-game heroics Saturday, as Botaka made some fancy moves to free him for a shot in the 88th minute. The shot might have ricocheted off a Hull defender, and Tigers keeper Allan McGregor got a hand to it, but the goal buried itself in the bottom right corner, and Leeds emerged from Hull with a point. The goals and my reaction:
STUART DALLAS SAVES THE DAAAAAAAAAAAAY 2-2 in the 88th! pic.twitter.com/dSYkX8ap9y— Through It All LIVE (@ThruItAllLIVE) April 23, 2016
The Whites held on to win the game, 2-2. That's not exactly a typo either. While the scoresheet read 2-2, and we left the KC with only 1 point, the game definitely felt like a win, at least to this writer (if you disagree, remember, we have a space for comments below). Both of our goals came from the run of play and could not be called flukes: Chris Wood and Stuart Dallas, who've both been scoring well lately, continued their streaks with solid goals. And we came back against a borderline Premier League squad on their pitch, taking points from them before they head to the playoff. Outside of some serious brain-farts in first half stoppage time, and excusing a saved PK in the second half, we won that game.
As many have said, points don't really matter at this point in the season. Leeds will not be getting promoted, and we will not be relegated either. But we're proving that we belong in the 2016/17 promotion conversation here at the end of the season. Steve Evans has earned a job for next season, in my opinion, and a healthy Chris Wood is making a pathetic Leeds attack from earlier in the season really shine.
Will that matter to Cellino and the people who make the decisions this summer? Who's to say? But I've been impressed by Leeds in March and April, and while a top ten finish would be nice, I'm more excited about what that could mean for next season. Thanks to Stuart Dallas for making that the storyline coming out of this game: Leeds can hang with the best of the Championship right now, and a full season with this squad (plus some summer additions) could make for an exciting 2016/17 campaign.
Thanks for reading. Disagree with me? Let us know in the comments. #MOT