"Which is the quickest way?" Asked Gaz as he navigated us through Wirral. "Go through Liverpool" said Ritchie. "It's less miles so cheaper on petrol". So that we did until we reached a monstrosity of roadworks as we neared the M62 entrance with two lanes closed whilst the rain began to tumble down. As we eventually got closer to the motorway we realised there were further problems with traffic hellish when Ritchie announced "Oh I know what this is. They've closed the entrance for bridge repairs. There's been a diversion here for a while!". Thanks for that hindsight Ritchie!
Anyway when on the M62, a never ending 50mph zone aside, it was a general cruise to Leeds until we hit Headingley at least where we hit more traffic for the Hull KR vs Warrington Challenge Cup semi-final.
The three of us went to university in Huddersfield and/or Leeds so thought we'd make the most of the game with a night out in Leeds also, and so stayed in a hotel in Headingley for the evening. Upon checking in we met up with another old university chum Ben for a few drinks in Woodies before he generously offered us a lift to Elland Road nicely in time for kick off...we even had time to grab some lunch.
Into Elland Road we went and what a pleasant stadium. I haven't been since my days as a scholar and had forgotten its charm. It's a little Goodison-esque with its older features and has a nice feel to it. I hope they can return to the top league someday soon.
It was a very youthful team which played and for me the display highlighted the frailties of our paper-thin squad. Our lack of depth is very worrying and I question the ability of some of our senior players. Elsewhere it was a tough ask for our younger players who did alright against tough opposition. Chances were few and far between with Kieran Dowell perhaps having the pick of our opportunities when he drove straight at the Leeds goalkeeper following good work by himself to fashion the chance. Of the younger players, nobody particularly blew me away if I'm honest though this is not the game where they should be judged.
Credit where it's due, Leeds United were impressive in front of a good crowd. They won the game with two good goals, one following an intricate passing move, the other an effort from distance which may or may not have deflected. They were good value for their victory.
I'm writing this as we are currently on the road back to Liverpool for Big Dunc's testimonial so I'm not going to singly rate all the players, but from memory:
Kone isn't good enough for either our back up striker or for partnering Lukaku. We need better. Though a different player, substitute Conor McAlleny offered much more. I find it criminal that having set up three and scored on at Swindon Town he then travelled to Singapore and wasn't involved for a single minute. It's little wonder Christopher Long decided to take his chances away at Burnley having similarly scored a great goal away at Paderborn last pre-season only to get the solitary, briefest, opportunity for 20 minutes against Krasnador the next season. Give the kid a chance Roberto!
Naismith passed up a great shooting opportunity instead of pulling the trigger. We need him firing as he can be a potent strike threat for us but it's our tendency to over-complicate chances which worries me I don't see much progress on last season at all in this department.
Speaking of lack of progress. Is it just me or is Barkley going backwards at an alarming rate? He needs to get his mojo back and fast!
More positively, as it's not ALL doom and gloom, we've got a player in Tom Cleverley. He's got a good eye for a pass and to sign him for free on a five year contract looks a great bit of business. He can probably play a few different positions for us and may be our long term replacement for Leon Osman. He has the potential to be a big player for us for a long, long time.
Elsewhere it was great to see Bryan Oviedo complete the full 90 minutes. He hadn't lost any of his vigour and was sliding into tackles. Welcome back Bryan. Tyias Browning also looked as though he might, just might, prove an able deputy in defence.
Onwards to Goodison then. I hope it's a great day for the big fella!