Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Leeds United: Play me - Sharp

Yorkshire Evening Post 4/3/15
Phil Hay
Billy Sharp hopes his 150th professional goal will keep him in Leeds United’s starting line-up tonight and give him the opportunity to fire the club beyond the safety of 50 points.
Sharp reached a career milestone in Saturday’s 3-2 defeat to Watford and admitted he would be “disappointed” if his goal and his performance failed to earn him another start at home to Ipswich Town this evening. The 29-year-old – a peripheral and frustrated figure at Elland Road this season – replaced the injured Steve Morison against Watford and took a rare chance by scoring after seven minutes.
Watford eventually fought back from a 2-0 deficit to inflict a late defeat on Leeds but Sharp said: “I thought I did okay and I got my goal. It obviously meant a lot. It didn’t mean much to the team because we lost the game and that’s what matters most but I’ll be disappointed if I’m not starting after that.
“All I want is a run of games and the chance to get a run of goals going.”
Morison, who has played up front as a lone striker regularly since Christmas, missed Saturday’s game with a groin injury but trained yesterday and should feature in head coach Neil Redfearn’s plans tonight.
Redfearn suggested that Sharp would retain his starting place against Ipswich, saying: “We’ll go down roughly the same lines. Billy took his chance well on Saturday. Not only did he score but he played well and he led the line well. That’s all you ask – come in and play well when you get the chance. His response was spot on.”
Leeds moved a long way clear of the relegation places with a recent run of five wins from six games but Sharp – a veteran of numerous Championship seasons – warned the club not to be complacent about their survival.
United are on 41 points and asked if the priority was now to reach the 50 mark, Sharp said: “Definitely. What is it now, 12 games to go?
“Three more wins would be enough and the sooner we get there the better. Then we can plan for next season.”

Redfearn overruled: Leeds chairman Umbers issues statement on signings

Here is the City 3/3/15
Dan Coombs
Leeds United's chairman is reported to have shot down the idea of signing any players on loan.
Leeds United are looking less and less likely to sign any players on loan despite the desire of head coach Neil Redfearn to do so.
The boss told LUTV last week he had spoken to chairman Andrew Umbers about new additions, re-iterating that desire at his press conference reported by BBC Radio Leeds that he has handed over a shortlist of players.
Now it appears Redfearn's plans have been shot down, with Umbers issuing a statement to BBC West Yorkshire that Leeds will not be signing any players before the season is over.
The news is a particular blow to Leeds in terms of its timing, with midfielder Rudolph Austin ruled out with injury for at least a fortnight, as confirmed by the club's official website.
Central midfield is a position where Leeds lack cover, while they still do not have a left winger proven at first team level, nor any cover for Sam Byram on the right.
Leeds' next game is at home to Ipswich Town on Wednesday evening who they lost against 4-1 at Portman Road.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Leeds United: Austin out for up to three weeks as Redfearn pleads for reinforcements

Yorkshire Evening Post 3/3/15
Phil Hay
Leeds United expect injured midfielder Rodolph Austin to be missing for at least the next fortnight - prompting head coach Neil Redfearn to warn that his squad is at “full stretch”.
Austin suffered a thigh strain in Saturday’s 3-2 defeat to Watford and has been added to the growing list of injured midfielders at Thorp Arch.
Redfearn, who was already without Tommaso Bianchi and Grandi Ngoyi for tomorrow’s game at home to Ipswich Town, said Austin would be absent for up to three weeks as he recovers from a minor muscle tear.
The Jamaican international limped out of the defeat to Watford having earlier produced a strike which Redfearn called “the goal of the season” and he has been a pivotal member of a resurgent Leeds team since the start of January.
“Rudy’s going to be two or three weeks,” Redfearn said. “He’s got a slight thigh strain, a grade two.”
The United boss is running short of players with his side still to make themselves mathematically safe from relegation and he made a fresh plea for loan signings to help carry Leeds through to the end of the Championship season.
Redfearn spoke with club chairman Andrew Umbers at Thorp Arch after training this morning and said he had provided Umbers with another list of possible transfer targets.
Leeds have not signed a single player since the Football League’s emergency loan window opened last month and they have little over three weeks to take advantage of the market.
Umbers is effectively in control of the club in the absence of Leeds’ former president and disqualified owner Massimo Cellino.
Redfearn said: “I think the club understand. I’ve spoken to Andrew Umbers and I’ve given him a list again - a list of players who’ll do for us.
“There are good quality players out there and clubs wanting to offload them for different reasons. It’s a time when you can get players. I’m hoping we can get a couple across the line.
“We’re at full-stretch. I definitely think that and obviously we need cover.”
Redfearn is hopeful that Ngoyi - the midfielder signed on loan from Palermo in January - will be fit to resume training next week.
The Frenchman arrived from Italy with an underlying thigh injury and aggravated the problem during his first week in Yorkshire.
Redfearn said: “He’s a fair way on with his rehab. I’m hoping that next week he can start joining in.
“He’s going to need a game so we’ll maybe try to arrange one for midweek and see how he comes through it.
“It’s been disappointing for him. He had a niggle to begin with and he’s aggravated it coming in here. He’s a player we could have utilised.”

Billy Sharp hits 150 career goals 2/3/15
Billy Sharp netted his 150th career goal on Saturday by opening the scoring against Watford at Elland Road.
The striker returned to the side in place of the injured Steve Morison and got United off to a flying start, slotting home from close-range in front of the South Stand after just six minutes.
Sharp celebrated his fourth goal in United colours by revealing a t-shirt emblazoned with ‘150’ underneath his match shirt.
The 29-year-old scored his first career goal just over 10 years ago, netting in League Two while on loan at Rushden and Diamonds in February 2005’s 3-1 defeat at Chester.
His previous three United goals all proved to be crucial – clinching three points against Middlesbrough and Huddersfield, as well as securing a point away to Nottingham Forest – meaning Saturday was his first time on the losing side after getting on the scoresheet.

Leeds United: Whites top average away attendance table in Championship

Yorkshire Evening Post 2/3/15
LEEDS UNITED are leading the way in the average away support stakes in the Championship so far in 2014-15, with their average of 2,593 being the best in the division.
Leeds’ aggregate total of 44,076 supporters is the highest in the Championship, followed by promotion-chasing Middlesbrough (39,253), who have averaged 2,453 fans at games on the road so far this term.
The Whites and Boro have taken the most supporters to a Championship game this term, with both selling out their allocation for the trip to Blackburn.
Leeds - whose allocations have been reduced at a number of venues this season - took 6,839 to Ewood Park at the end of November with 6,988 packing out the Darwen End to watch Boro in East Lancashire on December 28.
The side with the third best average in the Championship this term are Nottingham Forest (2,070), followed by Sheffield Wednesday (2,063), Derby County (1,952), Norwich City (1,867), Wolves (1,776) and Birmingham City (1,508).
The side with the lowest average travelling support in the second tier so far in 2014-15 are rock-bottom Blackpool (627) followed by fellow strugglers Wigan (720) and Bournemouth (720).
United’s West Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield Town have taken an average of 1,180 to away games this term, with Rotherham United’s average being 1,127.
The side with the best average away support in League One so far in 2014-15 are Sheffield United, who have taken an average of 1,653 to league fixtures away from Bramall Lane.
They are followed by Bristol City (1,345), Barnsley (1,117) and Bradford City (1,047), with fellow Yorkshire side Doncaster Rovers’ average being 765.

Leeds United: Five observations from Watford loss

Yorkshire Evening Post 2/3/15
SEVEN DAYS on from displaying magnificent defensive resolve in a gutsy televised victory at Middlesbrough came the fall against Watford, whose front three made considerable hay in the second half of Saturday’s clash with Leeds United en route to a 3-2 success.
The defeat, allied to a 2-0 loss at Brighton in midweek, when Leeds were second-best, has taken some of the shine away from a decent February which had seen United pick up wins against Reading, Millwall and Boro following on from the victories over Bournemouth and Huddersfield Town the previous month.
Not too much harm has been done in terms of United’s seasonal fates following the setbacks against Brighton and the Hornets, with the bottom three of Blackpool, Wigan and Millwall firmly ensconced in the bottom three of the Championship and looking increasingly destined for League One football next term.
But the dual defeats in the past six days have represented a disappointment nevertheless. Here’s five observations from Saturday’s loss by the odd goal in five to the promotion-chasing Hornets.
1: Leeds defence struggle against pace and movement.
Sol Bamba and Liam Cooper will be mighty glad not to have to face Troy Deeney, Matej Vydra and Almen Abdi again this term, with two-goal Vydra only playing because in-form Odion Ighalo - who had scored 14 goals in his previous ten outings - was suffering from a hamstring strain. Watford had an undistinguished opening half hour or so before moving their way through the gears - and they never really looked back after Deeney outpaced Bamba to latch onto Vydra’s lovely pass to pull one back for the visitors on 39 minutes. You sensed he and Vydra fancied it against Leeds’ backline afterwards, who stood off the strikers at certain junctures and looked increasingly uncertain against both their pace and movement. By the end, Leeds back four were at sixes and sevens against them as they got past them with regularity with some of their interplay a delight at times. Both Bamba and Cooper looked flat-footed and ‘wooden’ against them in the second period, with little protection in front of them. A big lesson for the pair.
2: Neil Redfearn has a decision to make in the heart of defence against Ipswich Town on Wednesday.
With Giuseppe Bellusci back in the fray after a two-match ban, Redfearn has to decide on his central defensive line-up against Ipswich - three into two won’t go. Bellusci’s concentration is not always the best at times, but he has the pace to get out of trouble in mitigation. In the last four games he has started - Bournemouth, Reading, Millwall and Boro, Leeds have not conceded a goal, no mean statistic. In the two he has sat out with Liam Cooper and Sol Bamba lining up together, Leeds have leaked five goals and Redfearn has a decision to make.
3: Injuries are starting to expose a lack of genuine strength and Championship nous in the United squad.
Rudy Austin and Steve Morison are early doubts for the clash with Ipswich and a few more injuries would certainly expose United’s squad. While Morison has not scored for almost two years for Leeds - albeit with a season on loan at Millwall last season - his presence and physical edge was missed against Watford, although to his credit, Billy Sharp gave his all for the cause and certainly was one of the better United players on view. Edgar Cani remains a work in progress and short of match fitness, with Souleymane Doukara looking out of the picture, while Mirco Antenucci has seen his star dim during the winter months. Brian Montenegro has also barely had any exposure to Championship football. And how do you solve a footballing problem like Adryan. He made minimal impact after coming on against Watford and did not have any telling effect. The likes of Antenucci and Adryan can offer something when on sogn, but have hit a bit of a wall this winter and haven’t displayed the game-changing qualities that Neil Redfearn has sought. In his utterances on Saturday, Redfearn was also right to say that Leeds are short of proven Championship operators, with the belief that some of his squad are starting to ‘run on empty’ starting to carry a bit of weight also. But with the supporting cast on the bench not exactly pressing their claims, Redfearn has a bit of a conundrum.
4: With young players, you are going to get peaks and troughs.
Lewis Cook has been outstanding in a number of games this season, but having just turned 18, it would be foolish to expect him to be able to run the show on a weekly basis. He is due the odd quiet game, as are Alex Mowatt, Sam Byram and Charlie Taylor - they are learning on the job. The at times relentless nature of the Championship, with United currently in the midst of a hectic schedule, means that they are times when young players will invariably be below par as was the case on Saturday against a good side in Watford, who expose your limitations.
5: An extra day’s preparation for the Ipswich game is welcome.
Ipswich head into Wednesday night’s game on the back of a punishing East Anglian derby loss at Norwich City on Sunday, with Leeds having an extra day to prepare. It will be welcome against an Ipswich side who will pose a physical examination for Leeds, who were battered at Portman Road in early December and couldn’t cope with Town’s persistence and work-rate and energy - and conceded some poor goals in the process. After turning things around so far in a decent start to 2015, Leeds will have to man up against Ipswich, who work their socks off and are the embodiment of a Mick McCarthy side. With a bit of luck, their exertions at Carrow Road will have taken a fair bit of petrol out of their tank, but with the incentive of promotion to aim for, expect Ipswich to still be giving it a real go.
Leeds need to set about them with intent as they did against Bournemouth and match them for work-rate and not let them settle. If you don’t compete against Ipswich, they will invariably beat you. Leeds need to make it thoroughly difficult for them from the off on Wednesday and move them around the pitch.

Leeds United 2 Watford 3: Hornets attack again too sharp for Whites

Yorkshire Evening Post 2/3/15
RESOLUTE at the back the previous weekend, ragged seven days on, but some things do not change for Leeds United.
Namely their propensity to be involved in open games – and leak goals – against Watford, whose goals tally against the Whites is now 20 in six outings.
Leeds have had some punishing days against the Hornets, with Saturday a case in point with an early two-goal lead manufactured thanks to strikes from the recalled Billy Sharp and Rudy Austin wiped out by potent visitors.
Scorers Troy Deeney and Matej Vydra – the latter’s second goal on 81 minutes being the final decisive act – would prove a handful for most Championship defences and they hardly needed second invitations to attack.
This is what they got in the second half when Leeds simply could not cope with their pace and subtle movement, with Almen Abdi also posing no end of problems.
It was a tough day at the office all right, as captain Liam Cooper acknowledged.
He said: “It was devastating and the lads are disappointed. We managed to be the better side and had good chances early on in the second half to go and finish the game. But we conceded some sloppy goals.
“They were the best forward three we have faced this season, to be fair. Obviously, Abdi, Vydra and Deeney are very good and certainly put us up against it. I can’t see us coming up against forwards that good every week.”
All was set fair after 19 minutes with Sharp tapping home his 150th career goal on seven minutes, profiting after Ikechi Anya’s slapdash header which almost flew past Huerelho Gomes, with the striker left with an open goal.
A stunning half-volley from Austin doubled the advantage before Watford, poor for the first 35 minutes, earned themselves a lifeline when Deeney raced clear and slotted home after fine work by Vydra.
Deeney repaid the compliment to set up Vydra for a leveller on 56 minutes, after a storming start to the second half just failed to see Leeds hit a third, with Austin denied twice.
After Vydra’s equaliser, Watford scented blood with Vydra bundling home the winner to boost their prospects of automatic promotion.

Leeds United 2 Watford 3: Injuries putting a strain on Whites

Yorkshire Evening Post 2/3/15
Phil Hay
Leeds United will assess the fitness of injured pair Rodolph Austin and Steve Morison today as Neil Redfearn contemplates his next move in the wake of Saturday’s 3-2 defeat to Watford.
United’s head coach could be without both players for Wednesday’s clash with Ipswich Town after Austin limped out of the club’s loss to Watford with a thigh strain.
The Jamaican, who produced a brilliant goal to put Leeds 2-0 up in the first half on Saturday, left the field 16 minutes from time and is a major doubt for United’s second home game in the space of five days.
Redfearn is already without a clutch of injured players, including midfielders Tommaso Bianchi and Granddi Ngoyi, and striker Morison missed the narrow loss to Watford after failing to overcome a minor groin problem in time to start.
Leeds are attempting to rally themselves for the visit of Ipswich, another side in the Championship’s top six, but Redfearn voiced further complaints about the depth of his squad after Watford fought back from 2-0 down to claim a late win at Elland Road.
The 49-year-old waited until Austin’s injury before making alterations to his line-up and only brought on Mirco Antenucci and Edgar Cani from the bench after Matej Vydra had given Watford a 3-2 lead in the 81st minute.
“There’s definitely an imbalance in the squad,” Redfearn said. “In our system you’re replacing players and putting others in positions which aren’t natural to them. You’re replacing midfielders with attacking players and it’s not a natural change. Sometimes it affects your thinking.
“Rudy’s got a slight strain and I’m hoping it’s minor rather than major. He’s been a real feature for us and he put a shift in again. His goal was fantastic, scored from a difficult angle, and it capped a really good performance. Rudy epitomises everything that’s good – his desire and giving his maximum every game.
“With Steve (Morison), we’ll have to see how he is. We hoped he’d be fit for Watford but he was still feeling it.”
Redfearn stuck to his 4-2-3-1 system in the absence of Morison, using Billy Sharp as a lone striker against Watford.
Sharp – a peripheral member of Leeds’ squad for much of this season – opened the scoring with a seventh-minute tap in, the 150th goal of his professional career. The forward celebrated the milestone by revealing a specially-made T-shirt beneath his strip.
The ex-Southampton striker had used Twitter last week to display annoyance at his sporadic involvement but Redfearn said: “Billy was excellent. He led the line well and he took his goal well.
“He did his talking on the pitch which is where you want him to do it.”