Thursday, September 29, 2005

Hulse hat-trick lifts Leeds but fans continue Bates boycott
Louise Taylor at Elland Road
Thursday September 29, 2005
The Guardian

With Ken Bates using his Chairman's View column in the programme to bemoan Leeds's recent inconsistency, Kevin Blackwell's position might conceivably have been in jeopardy had they lost here. Instead the home manager was left basking in the kudos engendered by Rob Hulse's first-half hat-trick and some exhilarating left-wing play from Eddie Lewis as Leeds emphasised their promotion credentials.
The only shame was that Bates's insistence on raising ticket prices dictated that it was watched by a mere 18,353, Elland Road's lowest league crowd for 16 years, which was arguably one of the reasons why Blackwell body-swerved the post-match press conference.
"I understand it's difficult for some fans and it was a filthy night," said Sam Ellis, Blackwell's assistant. "But I'd sooner give credit to those that do come."
The evening began in frustrating stop-start mode but two midfielders raised the tone. Though Derby's Morten Bisgaard supplied audacious defence-bisecting passes and nearly scored with a curving 20-yard free-kick, Lewis's incursions soon had the visiting right-back Jeff Kenna feeling his age.
Robbie Blake - on for the injured Richard Cresswell - is a fine conjuror of chances and, albeit unintentionally, swiftly cued Hulse up for the opener and the striker redirected his mis-hit shot beyond Lee Camp.
Derby soon fell further behind, Lewis's deep, curling left-wing cross evading Camp and being helped home by Hulse's glancing header. And the forward soon completed his hat-trick, with Lewis again the provider. This time the Californian former sociology student unleashed a 30-yard shot which Camp merely parried into the path of Hulse, who half-volleyed home.
Derby improved sufficiently for the returning Seth Johnson to see enough action to warrant a bout of concerted booing from his former public. Michael Johnson even hassled Sean Gregan to the point where the Leeds defender headed Bisgaard's corner into his own net but the game was already lost.
"I told my players that if we frustrated Leeds there was a strong possibility their crowd would turn against them," reflected Derby's manager Phil Brown. "But we came up against an in-form striker who stuck the three chances he had away and after that it was damage limitation." Nevertheless Bates remains in peril of losing the battle for the hearts and minds of the Leeds fans.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Leeds 3 Derby 1

United boss Kevin Blackwell reacted to the defeat against Ipswich by making one change to his starting line-up.
Gylfi Einarsson was the man who made way with Frazer Richardson coming back into the side after being left out for the past three league games.
Derby included former United midfielder Seth Johnson - released just over a month ago - who was understandably keen to do well against his former employers.

The Match
United missed a penalty on Saturday against Watford and they should have had an opportunity to make amends after just three minutes.
Richard Cresswell chased a ball knocked forward that the Derby keeper Lee Camp made a rash decision to come out for and completely misjudged. There then ensued a three-way chase for the ball with the keeper, Rams defender Michael Johnson and Cresswell. It ended with Cresswell being clattered to the ground but no penalty was the decision.
Jonathan Douglas had United's first shot on goal but it was easily held by Camp.
Leeds continued to press Derby back, using the two wingers well. It was from a right wing cross that Hulse went up for the ball inside the area, but it wouldn't drop for him and then Cresswell was just crowded out of the shot.
Then a Richardson cross was missed by Cresswell on the edge of the six yard box but fell for Lewis. The USA international had a tight angle to shoot from and did well in the end to get as close as he did with a shot across the face of goal that missed by about a foot. Paul Butler picked up the first yellow card of the eveing for a foul on Stern John midway through the first half.
It was from the free-kick that Derby had their best chance to go infront - but it saw an excellent save from Neil Sullivan. Visgaard played a neat through ball that was latched onto by Paul Peschisolido and the Canadian international must have thought he was about to score until Sullivan arrived to make the block.
Leeds suffered a blow when Cresswell limped off with just 25 minutes gone. The striker had been caught by a Derby defender and was struggling. Robbie Blake was the man who came on in his place and immediately started to cause the opposition problems, sending a header just wide.
Blake played a massive part in the opening goal that came after 31 minutes.
Kelly's cross saw Hulse challenge for the ball and knock it back to Blake who shot goalwards, albeit probably not with enough power to beat Camp, but then Hulse stuck out a boot and just diverted the ball past the keeper.
It was a small slice of luck and perhaps United's fortune had finally turned for the better!
Just after United had been denied another penalty when Butler was pulled back inside the box, Leeds went 2-0 up and were suddenly cruising.
Lewis swung in a great cross towards the near post that Hulse and the keeper went for together but it was the United man who got his head to the ball first. The downwards header crashed into the back of the net to give the striker his fifth goal of the season.
United missed a hat-ful of chances on Saturday but they were certainly making up for it on this night.
Another positive break ended in the third goal of the evening just before half-time.
Eddie Lewis bundled his way through one challenge and then let fly with a fierce drive from 30-yards that Camp could only parry - right into the path of Hulse and the striker was not about to pass up the chance to score his hat-trick.
Hulse still had plenty of work to do to turn the ball in but he finished with a flourish, absolutely hammering the ball into the back of the net.
At half-time, Leeds had the game won.
Unchanged after the break, Leeds kept up the relentless pressure on Derby and came close to making it 4-0 within a minute of the restart.
A foul 20-yards out gave Robbie Blake the chance to go for goal, and from the free-kick his right foot curling shot was destined for the top right hand corner of the goal until the keeper pulled off his best save of the night. Two minutes later Blake beat the offside trap and managed to square the ball across to Hulse before he was clattered. Hulse's chip was just inches over the top.
Derby boss Phil Brown had seen enough and promptly made a triple substitution, with Dean Holdsworth, Adam Bolder and Nonnir Hamdaoui all coming on.
Frazer Richardson was clearly enjoying his return to the side and took great pleasure in tormenting the Derby left-back with some tricky runs down. He was unlucky not to see his final ball in tucked away as Leeds continued to throw men forward.
Leeds will have been disappointed not to have kept a clean sheet though. Derby got a consolation goal with just over 17 minutes left to play when Michael Johnson met Visgaard's corner and sent it goalwards. Sean Gregan got an unfortunate final touch on the ball as it bounced off him and went in.
At least it gave the Derby fans something to shout about as they sang "we're gonna to win 4-3."
They were nearly singing a different tune though as Robbie Blake went clean through on goal, tried to chip the keeper and then went down under the challenge, but instead of being awarded a penalty all he received was a yellow card for diving.
Rob Hulse then went off to a standing ovation with Ian Moore coming on. Sullivan had been rarely troubled during the game but he had to be alert with ten minutes left when Peschisolido got free in the box and hit a well struck shot. Sully though made the save look easy.
Derby continued to press late on and had a few decent chances from free-kicks around the edge of the penalty area, all incidentally won by Seth Johnson who was not enjoying his first return to Elland Road.
Ian Moore had the chance to make it 4-1 right on the stroke of full time but on the stretch he put his shot well over from 20-yards. Still, they were three good goals to win all three points that ensured Leeds went back into the top six. Bonuses all round this week then - especially for Rob Hulse.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Leeds 0-2 Ipswich

Sam Parkin was on target twice to shatter Leeds' unbeaten home record.
Ipswich's £550,000 buy from Swindon struck after 29 minutes, finishing in style from Dean Bowditch's cross.
Leeds wasted a chance to equalise two minutes before half-time, but Richard Cresswell's penalty hit the bar after Jim Magilton fouled Shaun Derry.
Ipswich then defended strongly before Parkin scored again in the 70th minute, as he strode on to a loose ball to confidently beat Neil Sullivan.

  • Leeds boss Kevin Blackwell:"You can be critical about the finishing, but it just wouldn't seem to drop.
    "When it did the goalkeeper made a great save or the bar and the post were in the way. But we played well and put Ipswich under a lot of pressure.
    "Despite all the effort, the lads have got nothing to show for it. On another day we'd have won comfortably."
  • Ipswich boss Joe Royle:"I came here with Oldham many, many times and I can't remember losing too often, so it's always been a lucky ground for me.
    "We rode our luck today and at half-time I went as ballistic as I've seen myself go. "But we defended superbly. We dug in there, we got blocks in and we scored two very, very good goals.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

United boss left spoilt for choice
Yorkshire Evening Post

Leeds United's strikers are the envy of their rivals.
PAUL DEWS talks to Kevin Blackwell about the potent threat of his illustrious list of marksmen
ASK Kevin Blackwell if he has an embarrassment of riches up front and he will baulk at the question.
Having spent almost £4m on acquiring five top marksmen over the past 10 months, Blackwell is the first to insist that the abundance of striking talent at his disposal is far from embarrassing. In one corner, he has the physical, workaholic presence of Rob Hulse and Richard Cresswell. Two strikers capable of bullying defenders, dominating defences, and both possess natural predatory instincts. In the other corner, Blackwell has pint-sized duo David Healy and Robbie Blake. Two pocket terrors with frightening pace, movement, and the ability to conjure something out of nothing. Then, somewhere in the middle, Blackwell has Ian Moore. A natural worker of a striker with a good goalscoring pedigree, whose versatility, he can play on either flank or behind the front two, ensures he is the perfect compliment to the quintet.
Already this season, Healy has scored four, Hulse, the best goal-poacher to wear a Leeds shirt since Lee Chapman, has three in five games, Cresswell netted his first goals at Rotherham on Tuesday and Blake has one from four starts.

Moore has yet to start up front this term, but turned in a determined effort on the right in midweek and gave Blackwell a timely reminder of his value to the squad.
Blackwell's insistence on spending the available monies on strikers raised a few eyebrows in the Championship – it also provoked a few snide comments from some of United's envious rivals – but there isn't one club in the division that wouldn't welcome one or more of his acquisitions.
It's a far cry from last season when Blackwell's strike force consisted of the evergreen Brian Deane, Julian Joachim, Danny Cadamarteri, and the now loaned out Michael Ricketts.
"Last year we struggled up front at times," explained Blackwell. "Early on, when we lost Brian Deane we had no real options, but that was circumstances.
"There were lessons there for everyone to see. We had to use Deano as a lone battering him – he did so well – and adapt around that. To be fair, it was similar in the Premier League. We had Alan Smith and Mark Viduka and when they weren't available we were struggling. It's a cliche, but you need to score goals, and with what we have here now, I believe we can do that."
Given the performances of his strikers so far this season, there can be no arguments that Leeds look like a side capable of scoring goals. When your defence is keeping clean sheets, you cannot put a value on the presence of a striker at the other end to convert the chances that come along. But with five strikers jostling for two places, the maths need little explaining and, come what may, United will, more often than not, have three of their marksmen kicking their heels on the substitutes bench. "As the season progresses we will need them all," insisted Blackwell.

"As it stands now I've got Dave suspended, Hulsey's got an ankle injury and Blakey is coming back from a calf problem and hasn't trained for two weeks.
"All of a sudden you can go from five to two.
"If someone else gets suspended or injured then you can't sign anyone else. No club in their right mind will loan you a top striker, so we had to act while we could to make sure. You need to have four or five good strikers to cover you."
Blackwell is quick to cite Wigan as an example from last season.Jason Roberts and Nathan Ellington spearheaded their promotion bid – they combined to score 45 of their 79 league goals – but Wigan's reliance on just two proved the exception rather than the rule. Sunderland, Wolves and West Ham have all built recent promotion bids around a handful of strikers, rather than just the two, and Blackwell knows his firepower, allied with a meanness at the back, will be the key. But, when all five of your frontmen would walk into sides elsewhere, the Leeds manager has the tricky job of keeping everyone happy.
Already this season, the mischief makers attempted to suggest Healy was unsettled when he was left out, and followed that by claiming Blake and Blackwell were involved in a training ground bust-up. Both players and the manager laughed off the claims, and Blackwell says his players understand the situation. "They know and understand what it is like here," said the manager. "If you took them out of this club they would be first team strikers elsewhere, but there's got to be competition. "When they came to Leeds they knew what a big club they were joining and they expect the competition that goes with being here. "That said, I'd be disappointed if I heard of any player who is happy he isn't playing. They all want to play. "We've been in a position where we've started a game with two and finished with two different strikers. They all have roles to play. "They've all responded as well. They've come in and scored goals and done what is asked of them. I couldn't ask for anything more." Nor could the United fans. They've had a series of striking heroes down the years, now they have their pick of plenty.
Long Wait Ahead For Stone

United boss Kevin Blackwell has ruled out any hope of having injured winger Steve Stone available soon.
The 34-year-old has yet to make his Leeds debut since arriving in the summer on a free transfer from Portsmouth after suffering an Achilles injury during pre-season training.
Although no firm date has been set for his return, Blackwell does not anticipate him being back in the next two months.
"At his age the rate of tissue regeneration is much slower," said Blackwell.
"The body doesn't heal as quickly so it's a matter of being patient with him. He's getting the best physio care at the club but once he's able to train again he will need to spend time getting his fitness back."He was desperately unlucky to suffer the injury so early on but hopefully he will still play a big part for us this season."

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Rotherham 0 Leeds 2

United boss Kevin Blackwell made five changes for the tie against Rotherham at Millmoor.
As he had promised, a number of players who don't normally get their chance in the league, were given starting berths and perhaps another chance to force their way into the first team reckoning.
Danny Pugh, Matthew Kilgallon and Ian Moore all came in whilst Richard Cresswell got his second start upfront. Frazer Richardson was also handed a place in the starting XI against his home town club, having just recovered from the virus that kept him out of the win over QPR.
Rotherham boss Mick Harford stuck with the same side that lost at Nottingham Forest at the weekend, and like Leeds, used a 4-4-2 formation.

The Match
Leeds put the pressure on the Millers from the start, getting two early corners and then a blow for the home side when captain Phil Gilchrist was forced off with a head injury. All inside the opening five minutes.
Rotherham were the first to force a save though, a foul by Jonathan Douglas set up the free-kick 20-yards out and Deon Burton hit a low drive through the wall but straight down Neil Sullivan's throat.
Leeds broke through Hulse and the former West Brom man had a clear sight of goal as he beat the offside trap but the substitute Colin Murdock made a great block to turn the hitman's shot behind for a corner.
Richard Cresswell was inches away from scoring his first Leeds United goal when he met a long cross from Danny Pugh at the back post with a crashing downwards header, but although the bounce beat the keeper, Leeds found the post and the Millers managed to get the ball clear.
United hit woodwork eight times in the two meetings last season and it looked as if the curse was set to continue.
Fortunately the opening goal came a few minutes later and Cresswell did indeed notch his first for his new club.
Leeds cleared long from the back and Crainey's diagonal pass was perfect for Rob Hulse to latch onto. He tried to take the ball around the keeper, his shot was blocked by Cutler but Cresswell tucked away the loose ball from just inside the area with a cool finish.
The Whites kept up the pressure and doubled their lead on 27 minutes - and another goal for Cresswell.
It came from a free kick delivered in long by Pugh and Hulse made enough of a nuisance of himself to prevent the keeper from getting a clean pair of hands on the ball, eventually a half clearance fell to Cresswell on the left and his shot from a narrow angle took a deflection on its way in.
The striker, who endured an unhappy season with Rotherham's neighbours Sheffield Wednesday, was suddenly loving his return to South Yorkshire. Two nearly became 3-0 just after the half hour mark when Cresswell was through on goal for his hat-trick but the keeper came out and tipped the ball away as the striker tried to chip him. Leeds went into the break knowing that if they kept things steady in the second half they could look forward to being in the hat for the third round draw.
With no changes at half-time Cresswell was chasing his hat-trick and might have had a chance seven minutes after the restart when he turned the last Rotherham defender but lost his footing. Hulse nearly profited but his low shot was straight at the keeper.
Danny Pugh had the job of taking all the corners and free-kicks on the night and his delivery was excellent. Rotherham found his in-swinging crosses difficult to defend and when the ball broke free for Einarsson inside the area from one of them, 3-0 was so nearly the outcome but for a smart save from the keeper.
Rotherham occassionally reminded Leeds that they were still in the game, Michael Keane hit a curving inswinger that missed the top left hand corner of the net by barely a foot. Midway through the half Burton stung Sullivan's hands with a shot on the turn, but Leeds were rarely troubled by the Millers attack. Shaun Derry came on for Rob Hulse with just over quarter of an hour gone and Ian Moore joined Cresswell upfront.Leeds were being frustrated in their quest for a third goal. Cresswell's run into the area presented Douglas with the shot and the on-loan Blackburn man stuck it well but the keeper made an equally good save to tip the shot over the bar.When the final whistle went, Kevin Blackwell's men could reflect on a job well done and a place in the third round.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

QPR 0 Leeds 1

United boss Kevin Blackwell has made just one change to the side that lost with Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.
Rob Hulse returns in place of Richard Cresswell, with the striker having recovered from a bug that swept through the training camp earlier in the week.
The MatchThere was a moment of concern early on for Leeds when Neil Sullivan hammered a clearance against Rangers striker Paul Furlong, but fortunately the United keeper got the lucky break and was able to clear the ball.
Leeds were presented with a gilt-edged chance after just seven minutes, and really should have been ahead.
Healy played a defence splitting ball up to Lewis making the run on left and the winger delivered a great ball across the face of goal between the keeper and his defence. Rob Hulse missed it but Jonathan Douglas looked set to tap it home but only managed to hammer it over from four yards out.
If Leeds should have been ahead in the first ten minutes, then QPR should have fashioned what would have been a good equaliser quarter of an hour into the game.
On the break the ball came in to Dean Sturridge 12-yards out and his header found Furlong in acres of space inside the penalty area, but the striker hammered his shot into the ground and Sullivan made a comfortable save.
Sean Gregan became the first man to go in referee Peter Walton's notebook when he brought down Sturridge as the former Derby County man looked to get away from him.
Healy and Douglas worked hard to try and create an opening for each other midway through the half but it finished with Douglas hitting an ambitious 25-yard shot well over the top of the Rangers goal.
The QPR fans were screaming for a penalty when Dean Sturridge got sandwiched between Sean Gregan and Stephen Crainey and went down inside the area, but the referee was having none of it.
The home side were forced into an early change when defender Mauro Milanese went down injured. He was replaced by Ian Evatt.
Pressure on Leeds continued to grow, and when Gregan missed a clearance Sturridge let fly with a 20-yard drive that Sullivan did well to hold.
Another piece of good interplay between Healy and Douglas saw the former find the latter with a sideways pass that allowed him to run clear on goal for 20-yards. A goal might have been the outcome but Marcus Bignot just got back to cover and blocked the shot.
With six minutes to go to the break, Leeds struck to take a lead they just about deserved on balance.
A free-kick from from the left hand side was swung in by Kelly over the top of three or four defenders but landed perfectly for Rob Hulse to just tap the ball into the left hand corner of the net. Good cross, simple goal for the Incredible Hulse. He came close to a second goal with a header soon after and suddenly United appeared to be cruising.
Gylfi Einarsson was the second United man to go in the book for a foul that gave the home side a shooting position 25-yards out. Gareth Ainsworth's shot though relieved the pressure on Kevin Blackwell's men.
Leeds picked up where they left off at the end of the first half, applying all the early pressure.
Hulse tried to turn inside the box for the shot and managed to do so eventually but his shot was deflected behind for a corner. From it Einarsson met the cross but his header was off the line by Marc Bircham.
Kelly was booked for obstructing Lee Cook in a decision from the referee that seemed harsh to the extreme.
Lewis was driving Leeds forward time after time and together with Healy the pair were causing the home side no end of problems. Healy nearly set up a second for Leeds when he crossed to the back post and Einarsson was just an inch away from nodding in.
Leeds suffered a huge blow when David Healy was sent off for what the referee could only have interpreted as 'violent conduct'.
The Northern Inteland international had just received a ticking off from the referee after a clash with Shittu when he clipped the heel of Marc Bircham as the two almost ran into each other. It was a yellow card offence at the most, red was severe to say the least.
Shaun Derry could have followed Healy down the tunnel though after his angry protest at the referee, with United team-mates holding him back. "You're not fit to referee" rang out of the Leeds fans end at Loftus Road as they voiced their displeasure at Mr Walton.
Blackwell made his first change soon after, bringing the scorer Rob Hulse off for Richard Cresswell.QPR had thrown Georges Santos forward and the big striker missed his chance to shine when a cross from the right found him completely unmarked on the penalty spot but his header went high and over, missing the target by a country mile.
Leeds were reliant on just Cresswell along upfront, and they had numbers back to try and protect the lead, which with a man less would require a monumental effort for the Whites.
The home side felt aggrieved when Paul Furlong was bundled over as he tried to barge his way through into the penalty area. He did appear to be inside the area when the foul was committed but the referee signalled for a free-kick instead and the ball was placed right on the edge of the area. Leeds placed eight men in the wall and it worked for them as the ball was smashed into a sea of United legs. Shaun Derry was the next Leeds player to fall foul of the referee, in what was another strange decision for the referee to explain later.
Leeds hung on at the end, it was real team effort to keep hold of the three points, but it was no less than Leeds deserved.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Leeds 3 Brighton 3: Healy repeats heroics
Sunday Times 11/9/05
Norman Hubbard at Elland Road

FROM Northern Ireland’s hero on Wednesday to Leeds United’s saviour on Saturday, it has been a memorable week for David Healy. The Ulsterman scored a second-half brace to bring Leeds level and then supplied the shot that led to Jonathan Douglas’s late equaliser.
But as a rueful Kevin Blackwell admitted, Healy could have won the game on his own. “We had enough chances to sink a battleship today and they just didn’t go in,” the Leeds manager said. “David Healy’s had three one-on-ones and we’ve hit the bar three times.”
But for the agility of Brighton goalkeeper Wayne Henderson, who is on loan from Aston Villa, Healy could have had a hat-trick within the opening eight minutes. So it was against the run of play when Knight scored his 50th league goal to break the deadlock, touching in Sebastien Carole’s cross.
Their second goal was a role reversal, Knight picking out the former Monaco man for a calm finish. And Knight created the third with a cross that Sean Gregan diverted into his own net.
At which point, as Blackwell said: “It looked as though we were going to be mugged today.” But Healy, after being booked for a needless kick at Knight, and Douglas had the final say.
Leeds draw on Healy heroics
Leeds Utd 3 - 3 Brighton
Spencer Vignes at Elland Road Sunday September 11, 2005
The Observer

Kevin Blackwell knows a thing or two about managing with the bare bones. So when the Leeds boss describes Mark McGhee's job as 'difficult beyond belief' you tend to believe him.
'Brighton have got to take their hat off to Mark because you hate to think where they would be without him,' said Blackwell, who took over a club with debts of around £120 million when he came to Leeds last summer.
'It must be so frustrating because he knows what he wants to do, and how to do it, but he can't actually go ahead and do it because of the situation the club is in.'
It certainly can't be easy being McGhee, forced to sell his best players to fund Albion's long-running campaign for a new stadium on the outskirts of Brighton at Falmer.
Survival should be the name of the game. Yet despite everything the Scot has built a tidy side capable on their day of matching just about anything their Championship rivals can throw at them. Yesterday was one of those days.
Having weathered an early storm in which man of the moment David Healy was twice denied by Wayne Henderson and Rob Hulse hit the crossbar, Brighton went on to give a demonstration of why they can be such awkward opponents.
Jake Robinson had twice gone close by the time he received Henderson's long-throw on the right in the 28th minute. Two passes later and the ball was in the Leeds net, Seb Carole's low cross being swept home by the diminutive yet tireless Leon Knight.
The half-time score could well have been worse for the Yorkshiremen had Dean Hammond's header seven minutes from the break gone in instead of bouncing to safety off the crossbar.
A first home defeat of the season for Leeds looked a certainty when Knight played provider for Carole to fire Brighton two ahead after 51 minutes.
Yet Blackwell's side showed guts to fight back with two goals from close range within the space of five second-half minutes from who else but Healy, given a standing ovation by the home crowd on taking the field following his midweek exploits for Northern Ireland against England.
The first goal came courtesy of a pinpoint cross by Gary Kelly, one of only two players inherited by Blackwell last summer.
The second arrived when Brighton's defence failed to clear a high ball, allowing substitute Richard Cresswell to set up the new darling of Elland Road and Windsor Park with a downward header.
Far from content to hang on for a point, McGhee's men kept pressing and were rewarded with a third when Knight's cross from the right saw Sean Gregan slide the ball into his own net under pressure from Robinson.
'Harding, Harding what's the score?' sang the away fans, a dig at the Leeds and England Under 21 left-back Dan Harding who was one of McGhee's sales to balance the books over the summer. It was a lead Albion held until the second minute of injury time when substitute Jonathan Douglas gleefully rammed home a loose ball following a goalmouth scramble.
McGhee, who admitted a draw was a fair result, said: 'We could have nicked a win and it's a bit disappointing that we didn't. But it's a measure of how far this whole squad has come that we can come to somewhere like Leeds and be disappointed with a draw.
'You score three goals away from home and you expect to win. But give Leeds credit. They came back at us well and Healy was always a handful.' Man of the Match: Leon Knight - never stopped running.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Boss Faces Healy Decision

David Healy is back down to earth with Leeds after his heroics for Northern Ireland On Wednesday, but the question on the lips of supporters is will he start against Brighton?
The United striker may have propelled himself into the spotlight with his goal against England but that does not guarantee him a place in Kevin Blackwell's starting XI on Saturday.
In fact the Northern Ireland ace was left out of the first XI after the previous round of international games, with Blackwell wary that the games may have taken too much out of him to be at his best for Leeds.
Blackwell hinted the 26-year-old would keep his place in the team and says it is great to have Healy 'buzzing' after his history making moment.
"David has gone into that game (against England) on the back of decent performances for us, and I would have thought that if he doesn't come back from this full of confidence then he never will," said Blackwell.
"He started the last game for us against Norwich, he earned his way back into the team after I had said I wanted to see more from him in certain aspects of his game.
"At the end of the day I have to make a decision for Leeds based on what I see of the players in training, games and everything else. He responded very well and he got his place back.
"He has been away and now he's back he has to make sure he maintains that level."
Blackwell has plenty of options upfront with former Preston striker Richard Cresswell still looking for his full debut and a fit again Ian Moore competing for a place again - with Robbie Blake and Rob Hulse extending his forward options even more.
Healy says he will respect the managers decision if he is left out again, and fully understands the level of competition at the club.
He said:"I know the gaffer doesn't have to pick me, there's three or four other strikers in there who have been working hard since I've been away. "The gaffer has got lots of options now and at the end of the day if I do not play then I have to get my head down and keep working hard for the opportunity.
"He will look at the games I have played in the last week and make a decision from there.
"I know I have no divine right to play in the first team and I am sure the rest of the squad have the same attitude. If he doesn't choose to select me then I have to get on with it."
Blackwell may choose to make his decision after training on Friday morning when he's had a chance to see if the last two international games have left Healy suffering from fatigue or not. He knows Healy will not want to miss out though.
"We will assess him and see how he is. We need him at his best because we have two or three games coming up just about every week now.
"I have players capable of coming in and doing the business for us, and that can be a problem for some of them because they know if they miss a game it's going to be very hard for them to get their place back. "That's the great thing about having competition for places."

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Bakke exits to join O'Leary
Leeds midfielder completes loan switch to Aston Villa
Yorkshire Post
Ian Appleyard

EIRIK BAKKE last night quit Leeds United for a reunion with his former manager David O'Leary at Aston Villa.
The Norwegian midfielder, pictured right, will spend the next four months on loan at the Premiership club – saving Leeds around £450,000 in wages.His departure also severed the last remaining link between the current squad and the side O'Leary led to the last four of the European Champions League just four years ago.
Although defender Gary Kelly remains on the books, he was only on the bench when Leeds lost 3-0 to Valencia in May 2001.Striker Michael Ricketts, another high earner, was also shipped out on loan by manager Kevin Blackwell – joining Championship rivals Cardiff City until January 3.
The one-time England international endured a desperate first season at Elland Road after leaving Middlesbrough but scored in last week's Carling Cup victory over Oldham Athletic.
Ironically, while Bakke joins O'Leary, Ricketts will link-up with the former Leeds chairman Peter Ridsdale, now involved with the board at Cardiff.
Leeds, however, were unable to complete the signing of defender Brede Hangeland from Viking Stavanger but intend to explore the possibility of a loan deal when the Norwegian season ends next month.
Blackwell said: "We are being prudent with our finances and – although people like to talk about 'the money we have spent' – we had spent only £675,000 before our recent (£1m) move for Richard Cresswell.
"These two loans give both players an opportunity to play first-team football and, while I don't have the biggest squad in the league, I do believe that we now have quality rather than quantity and can do well.
"Over the last 14 days, we received enquiries for 12 different players.
"We only let two go and the level of interest shows how far we have come as a club. Now we only let players go when clubs meet our valuations and we feel the deal is right."
Norwich 0 Leeds 1: Leeds on upward curve
Sunday Times
Paul Rowan at Carrow Road

FIVE games into the Championship and Leeds are well into their stride, with three wins and only one black mark against them. Their projection of returning to the Premiership within three years is now looking far less fanciful than it did at the beginning of the season.
Leeds lie fourth this morning whereas relegated Norwich, without a win in the Championship this season, find themselves fourth from bottom.
There is nothing particularly pretty about the way Leeds play, but in Rob Hulse they appear to have a centre-forward worth chanelling their energies and resources into. Hulse scored the winner yesterday and generally outmuscled the Norwich defence.
He was also booked for landing an elbow in the face of young Norwich defender Jason Shackell.
“He broke his nose with the first elbow,” Norwich manager Nigel Worthington said afterwards with a smile. “Then he straightened it with the second.”
Norwich’s Dean Ashton, who started the afternoon with a new contract in his back pocket and a rapturous reception from the capacity home crowd, also had his nose put out of joint as he was overshadowed by Hulse, his old Crewe teammate.
Despite the evidence in front of him, Worthington struck an upbeat tone. “I thought the performance today was very good and included some of our best passing of the season. We created more chances in this game but what let us down as a team is that we are snatching at them.”
Norwich were outmuscled and outfought in virtually every area yesterday and their reliance on Darren Huckerby as the only source of their creativity always looked destined to end in frustration.
Leeds should have broken the deadlock after 33 minutes through Hulse. He outjumped the Norwich defence to meet an inswinging corner from winger Eddie Lewis, but his powerful header hit the bar.
Ashton’s finishing was strictly lower-league standard when he had the chance to break the deadlock shortly before half-time.
Jim Brennan, playing in Huckerby’s normal role on the left, delivered a delightful crossfield ball to leave Ashton in the clear, but the forward allowed Ian Bennett to block.
It was Leeds who remained the more potent attacking force leading up to the interval.
Huckerby’s trickery started coming into its own in the second half, much to the bemusement of Dan Harding, but the winger’s finishing problems were again much in evidence.
On 46 minutes, Huckerby shot over after doing all the hard work and it seemed to dawn on him that others might have a better chance of breaking the deadlock.
Huckerby then put Brennan through, but the midfielder screwed wide of Bennett’s left-hand post from 15 yards.
In between Huckerby’s contributions, Hulse just failed to get on the end of a headed pass from Gylfi Einarsson, but the former West Brom player’s muscularity would soon have its rewards.
Frazer Richardson collected the ball on the right edge of Norwich’s penalty area and sent a delightful cross to the far post where captain Paul Butler met it with a firm header and Hulse showed a true poacher’s instinct to bundle the ball in.
Hulse was surprisingly substituted after 79 minutes by Jonathan Douglas, but the damage was already done. Although Norwich substitute, Gary Doherty, had a header saved by Bennett, the hosts were unable to threaten further.
STAR MAN: Rob Hulse (Leeds)
Player ratings. Norwich: Green 6, Colin 6 (Doherty 79min, 6), Fleming 6, Shackell 6, Brennan 7, Marney 7, Safri 5, Charlton 5 (McVeigh 87min, 6), Huckerby 7, McKenzie 6, Ashton 5
Leeds: Bennett 7, Kelly 6, Butler 7, Gregan 7, Harding 6, Richardson 7, Einarsson 7, Derry 7, Lewis 7, Healy 6 (Cresswell 74min, 6), Hulse 8 (Douglas 79min, 6)
Scorer: Leeds: Hulse 67

Hulse to the fore as Leeds turn corner
By Bill Edgar
Norwich City 0 Leeds United 1
The Times

THE CHANT OF “WHAT’S IT LIKE TO SEE a crowd” directed by Norwich City supporters at the visiting fans was entirely appropriate. Attendances at Elland Road five years ago during Leeds United’s Champions League heyday averaged nearly 40,000 but this season they have dipped almost to 20,000. The Yorkshire club’s fans enjoyed living the dream but almost half of them have no intention of living the nightmare.
There are signs, though, that there might be some more tempting fare around the corner for the missing fans. Leeds’s fall towards oblivion seems to have been halted and they have some significant assets. Last week’s signing of Richard Cresswell from Preston North End for £1.15 million has increased the squad’s quota of senior strikers to six.
After regrouping in the Coca-Cola Championship last season, they have risen into the play-off places after successive victories over Wolverhampton Wanderers and Norwich, two of the promotion favourites. If Leeds can sneak back to mid-table in the top flight, where they sat before spending wildly in the late 1990s, their fans might consider the roller-coaster era to have been worthwhile after all and preferable, perhaps, than to have supported an Aston Villa side that have finished about eighth in the Premiership almost every year in that period with no high points to speak of.
Not that the “To Elland Back” headlines can be dusted off just yet. Leeds were fortunate not to lose to a Norwich side that came to life in the final half hour but the visiting team had shown enough to suggest that they may hang on to a play-off place. Rob Hulse will hold off the challenge of the four strikers in reserve if he repeats regularly the performance he produced at Carrow Road, when he hooked in the only goal from close range having earlier thundered a header against the crossbar.
Hulse, another million-pound plus signing, outshone Dean Ashton, his former Crewe Alexandra strike partner and an opponent on Saturday, his powerful physique allowing him to retain possession well. “Not only has he got power but he has nimble feet,” Kevin Blackwell, the manager, said.
The club’s recent experience prevents Blackwell from getting carried away. “The results we have picked up so far have given us a platform,” he said, “but we don’t take anything for granted at this club. Before Ken Bates (the chairman) took over we were on the brink of liquidation so everyone here knows what football can be like.”
Nigel Worthington is certainly not saying his Norwich side will go up. Last season they won their first Premiership game at the fourteenth attempt; another agonising count in this division wasn’t expected, but they have yet to win in five games, four of them at home. The manager rightly praised his team’s passing and Darren Huckerby, a former Leeds player, tore apart the opposing defence in the second half. Jim Brennan, the midfield player, who missed a good chance, is optimistic. “We’ve got a good squad and we’re playing well,” he said. “It’s only a matter of time before things go right for us.”
For Leeds, the corner already seems to have been turned.