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Battling Leeds go down at Ipswich
Sunday, 14th Jan 2018 11:44 by Tim Whelan

Leeds had their moments as they went down in a tight contest at Portman Road, and Ipswich Town's win owed much to the first half dismissal of Eunan O'Kane.

For the first time in many years Leeds enjoyed a decent allocation of about 3,500 fans at Portman Road, having been given the whole of the upper tier in the Cobbold Stand. This meant that the Station pub was even more packed than ususal, but we found space at the outside bar, where we could admire the impressive collection of traffic cones that had been thrown into the river Orwell.

Was it just me, or were there far more police around the station than on our previous visits. Inside the ground the Leeds fans provided most of the atmosphere, apart from the group of Crystal Palace style ultras in the corner of the north stand, who were busy banging a drum and jumping around. There were also some Germans in that stand, who might have chosen this game out of a desperate desire to watch Weidwald and Lasogga in action. But maybe not.

We were back to as strong a line-up as injuries and suspensions would allow, though as new signing De Bock has gone back to Belgium for the weekend it was Anita's turn to be makeshift left back, while Berardi moved to his more favoured position on the right. With Saiz absent Hernandez played more centrally while Alioski and Cibicki provided the width.

Leeds began brightly, though Ipswich had an early shout for a penalty when Garner went down under pressure from Wiedwald and Cooper, but thankfully the ref decided he'd already handled the ball. Then Leeds should have scored when Hernandez cut the ball back to an unchallenged Cibicki, who could only scuff his shot over and wide instead of putting his laces through it.

Shortly afterwards Cibicki had to limp off, and was replaced by Sacko in a like for like change. The latter went on to give his usual performance of running very fast down the wing, but with no end product. But we seemed to be building up a head of steam attacking the north stand end, until the moment that changed the game eight minutes before half time.

O'Kane tried to get to a ball on the by-line, and was frustrated by Connoly shielding the ball out of play, giving him a good shove. Knudsen came racing over, and from the angle we saw it from seemed to go to ground easily after minimal contact with O'Kane. But the ref produced a red card and sent the Leeds fans into a frenzy, with a smoke bomb being thrown onto the pitch and a firework let off.

Thomas Christiansen says he will appeal against the sending off, on the grounds that O'Kane was provoked and Knudsen ran into him. But according to the Ipswich fans on the TWTD forum who were in the North stand, it was a proper headbutt and Knudsen had a bit of blood on him. If that's true it was very much like Berardi's dismissal at Bristol City earlier in the season.

Ipswich were clearly buoyed by their man advantage, and forced a corner, which hit the post with Wiedwald rooted to the spot. It went straight back to Waghorn, who thankfully couldn't send over another cross because no other player had touched the ball. Next it was Celina's turn to hit the post, and Connolly shot wide from the rebound when he probably should have scored.

At half time the ref went off to plenty of boos from the Leeds contingent, while Christiansen opted to shore up the midfield and play for the draw, with Shaughnessy coming on for Alioski. But that did little to stop the flow of Ipswich attacks, and Wiedwald spilled a shot from Connolly and this time it was Garner who sent the ball wide of the far post.

That was a bad miss, and I started to hope that Ipswich's wayward shooting would help us to hold on for a point. But in the 67th. minute Celina was allowed to run through and shoot from 30 yards, and the ball swerved into the corner to give Wiedwald no chance. Celina had that amount of space because Phillips was slightly impeded by the referee as he tried to get across, then slipped over.

The 10 men kept battling to rescue the game, and began to put Ipswich under pressure as time started to run out. Lasogga came on as the final substitute to give us more presence up front in place of Anita, so the latest solution to the left-back problem was to play with out one. And I thought the big German actually looked quite interested and did a bit of running around for the cause.

In the latter stages Jansson was getting very wound up after complaining bitterly to the referee that he'd been elbowed, but all he got for his pains was a booking for dissent. A short while later he was in danger of picking up a second yellow when the same two players clashed again, but the ref decided that one red card in the game was enough and that a free kick to Ipswich would suffice.

Our best chance of the game fell to Cooper at the far post after Roofe had sent the ball across the face of goal, but he was under pressure from a defender and could only send his effort over the bar from close range. Hernandez sent a dipping shot just over, and right at the end Gerken made a fine save from Lassogga, but no one could get to the rebound and it was scrambled clear.

Three minutes of injury time weren't enough to force an equaliser, and we went down to another disappointing defeat. But as the players came over to the Leeds fans at the final whistle Thomas Christiansen made a 'worshiping' gesture to thank us for our vocal backing of his team.

Leeds had shown great spirit throughout, and I doubt we'd have lost if we'd kept eleven men on the field, and could well have gone on to win. This was our fifth red card in the last nine visits to Ipswich, so what is it about this particular venue that brings out the worst in us?

The defeat means we drop out of the play-off places, though other results on the day weren't too bad and sixth place is still very much on. Reason to be cheerful? O'Kane's absence in the next few game won't be nearly as bad a miss as Samu Saiz.

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Photo: Action Images



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