It's not the first time this season that I have gone from the high drama of a Champions League game on The Kop to a reserves game in Wrexham this season, this time the main player to accompany me was Xabi Alonso. As I arrived at the ground he was warming up with the other lads. The side was quite a strong one, a lot of familiar faces and a chance for Adam Hitchen at right back.
Leeds lined up with a smaller team than many, which might have meant two teams trying to play football, but the squally weather conditions and the wearing pitch made that difficult. So it was credit to both sides that they produced a quite entertaining and skillful game which Leeds quite fortunately took 1-0.
The first half was fairly even. Despite Liverpool having the lions share of possession and with Wilkie and Partridge offering plenty of width they failed to create too many clear chances. In the past we have moaned about forwards getting lack of service - I think the injury situation at Anfield this season has meant the reserves midfield have often lacked someone to service.
Partidge had the best of the chances in the first quarter of the game as he broke through onto a Potter back heel after 3 minutes, he shot early but to close to the keeper who collected the ball with ease diving to his right.
On twenty minutes the heavens opened and it was comical to watch all the people running for the sheltered parts of the stand. Strangely this was the time that Xabi chose to start warming up. I was temptyed to shout "Get out of the rain Xabi, you might catch a cold!", but I didn't want to dampen his enthusiasm.
On 26 minutes Wilkie beat hiss man (yes I have now seen it & in fairness he did it on a few occassions today) and whipped in a ball which went straight through the six yard box without anyone making contact.
Two minutes later and Liverpool were made to pay. Chris Jones of Leeds controlled a pass well as Leeds broke, when it looked as though he had lost momentum he cut in from the left and fired a curling twenty five yarder into the top right corner.
Wilkie got another dangerous cross in for Liverpool just after the half an hour mark. Partidge nudged it back across to Potter who slightly rushed his shot and it bobbled to the Leeds keeper.
Liverpool's other two best chances of the half came to mannix in the last ten minutes. He had two almost identical volleys from twenty plus yards, but failed to connect with either very well and both went wide.
At half time Xabi came out to warm up and was pinging inch perfect passes all around, it was great to see - not sure about the blue boots though!
Hitchen who had been quietly effective made way for Xabi and as the second half began Mannix moved into right back. Xabi's first contribution was to give a free kick away twenty yards out. His second contribution was to give the ball away and his third was to give a foul away thirty yards out. Fear not - it only got better from there!
Leeds were first on the offensive and for the first ten minutes the centre back pairing of O'Donnell and Whitbread did well to stand firm. They both look very good prospects to me.
Xabi had his first positive influence on 55 minutes. He combined excellently with Welsh to free Partidge on the right. His cross would have been perfect but nobody had got into the box and Leeds cleared the danger..
Five minutes later and Xabi hit a shot so hard from thirty five yards that the lad who slid in to block it required treatment. He was really starting to get into the game, one touch short, one touch long, winning headers, he even had a few sliding tackles - he looked like he was very glad to be playing football again.
While Liverpool were now all over Leeds and had corner followed by corner they still hadn't really created a gilt edged chance until Xabi flicked in a cross from the left with the outside of his right foot. Welsh leapt to head it and just did too well really, he headed it straight down and the pitch took all the pace off the ball.
I had the feeling it was not Liverpool's day today, and despite Partidge hitting the side netting after being expertly picked out, we just weren't going to score. But there was a lot to be happy about. The centre backs paired together did very well. Raven played well and got forward well from left back. Welsh and especially Potter grow in stature and confidence all the time and the two wide men both had the best game I'd seen them play. We just lack strikers at the moment.
As a reminder of what we've missed in the dying moments as Liverpool defended Alonso signalled for Wilkie to get forward and wide. Seconds later Xabi won the ball and dispatched a sixty yard left foot ball pefectly into his path. Unfortunately the right back for Leeds had just come on and had the legs on Wilkie - but Xabi is back ladies and gentleman, please be upstanding!
MotM. Potter. Worked hard, tackled hard, tried different things and linked up well all over the pitch. He was run closely by everyone though!
Please add player listing Xabi was the only sub. I'm freezing to death here!