Driving down to the ground I kept expecting to hit a mass of traffic on every corner however, it never materialised. I started to question whether it was the right day as normally on a boxing day the roads are quite busy as we generally get a high attendance. Once we got into Sunderland and to the pub, things started to get busy and for the first time in a while I was excited for the match.
In typical Keane fashion he changed the starting line up from the Palace game. Nosworthy and Collins dropped to the bench and Kavanagh missed out altogether. Whitehead moved back into right back with Elliott playing right wing and Nyatanga went into left back. Dwight Yorke came in for Kavanagh, though he would have been more effective if he’d stayed at home.
We’re beginning to form a pattern for first halves at home; we control the game, have a lot of the ball yet do absolutely nothing with it and today was no different to any of the others. Leeds were very poor and they were there for the taking, however we couldn’t quite get our rhythm going in the first half. It’s definitely no over reaction to state that our first half performance was about as exciting as the Queen’s Christmas day speech.
Despite our lacklustre first half performance Elliott and Murphy looked very good down the wings but the final ball wasn’t up to standards and Liam Miller was bossing the game in midfield.
The second half began as poorly as the first had ended and something needed to be changed to breathe more energy and urgency into the team. Thankfully Keane acted quickly and brought Wallace and Collins on for Elliott and Nyatanga, Nyatanga had been very poor throughout his time on the pitch and should only be kept if we can’t bring anyone good in as he simply is not good enough. Wallace brought more urgency into our game and whipped in a few good crosses and slick through balls.
It was beginning to look like a 0-0; the atmosphere was beginning to slowly build. Thankfully though, this wasn’t going to be the case when Connolly found himself in the box with the ball. He cleverly beat the Leeds defender and slotted the ball past the Leeds ‘keeper and into the back of the net. From then on in we looked very dangerous on the attack and Leeds never looked like breaking out of their half let alone scoring. Miller was controlling the midfield both defensively and offensively and looked a very good player. With only ten minutes left on the clock the ball broke to Leadbitter who was standing unmarked twenty-yards from goal. Leadbitter hit a first time left foot shot straight into the ‘keepers’ bottom right hand corner. It was a fantastic effort and he looked ecstatic once he scored and kissed the badge.
The three points were in the bag and we could have even gone on to score another one or two if it wasn’t for some good blocks from the Leeds players. Hopefully we can kick on and go on another unbeaten run, though with more wins than draws.
Also, it was nice to see the stadium busy and not far from being full, hopefully the attendances won’t drop significantly after the festive period.
MOTM – Liam Miller, he bossed the midfield and looked top class at times. Definitely a good signing from Keane.