Sunday, October 30, 2005

Reading 1 Leeds 1: Leeds rescued by Healy
Jon West at Madejski Stadium
Sunday Times

STEVE COPPELL is one of the game’s mildest managers and Ivar Ingimarsson must certainly be grateful for that after the Iceland international was culpable for the goal that checked Reading’s charge to the Premiership.
The Royals, who remain in second place in the Coca-Cola Championship, had looked on course for their 11th victory in 16 league games, a sequence that allied to cup successes have improved on a previous best set in 1973.
Leading through a smart 63rd-minute strike from the game’s other Icelander, Brynjar Gunnarsson, Coppell’s team had been busy fending off a re-jigged Leeds outfit that had been infused with extra energy by the introduction of David Healy.
The Northern Ireland international, famed for the goal that enabled his nation to beat England last month, gratefully accepted Ingimarsson’s gift of possession on the edge of the Reading box and fired past goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann to earn his side a point. The shot had taken a deflection off Ingimarsson’s heel, with Coppell revealing afterwards he was convinced it had initially been heading wide.
Such misfortune might have seen other managers launch into the hairdryer treatment but Coppell was having none of it. “People make mistakes,” he insisted. “It was ironic really. The shot was going marginally wide and just clipped him on the heels and went in. But it is not a blame culture here. We have no interest in that.”
Coppell also declared that his players, who are now unbeaten in their past 18 games, had put in poorer performances in some of those fixtures and still banked win bonuses.
If that was so then the quality of the finishing must surely have been higher as Dave Kitson, who started on the back of three goals in two games, spurned everything that came his way before being denied in stoppage time by Leeds’ veteran goalkeeper Neil Sullivan.
The 25-year-old is a volatile character and earlier in the week claimed he had been guilty of the equivalent of racial abuse by opposition fans who had focused on his ginger hair. This time he had no one but himself to point the finger at and Coppell made it clear afterwards that his top scorer had indeed been fully fit before quoting Lenny Bruce to dismiss the unusual claims.
That Leeds manager Kevin Blackwell had preferred to partner Robbie Blake with Rob Hulse speaks volumes for Healy’s recent performances but on this occasion he made the most of the 24 minutes afforded him.
“David gave us a different dimension and it proved crucial,” Blackwell said. “We created four or five of our best chances in those last 15 minutes. I have always said we will get better in the second half of the season. There is no doubt we have a decent set of players who have a great work ethic. We could have laid down and died at times as Reading put us under massive pressure.
“The signs are good. To come here against a side that hasn’t been beaten for so long is a pat on the back for all the players and shows how far we’ve come in the nine-and-a-half months since the chairman (Ken Bates) has come in.” Reading also had late chances, with Kitson’s the last. Earlier substitute Steve Sidwell planted a header past Sullivan but Gary Kelly was perfectly positioned to stop the ball and then collapse on it.
Of course, Reading will have a little taster of the Premiership when they take on Arsenal in the Carling Cup, a fixture Coppell was loath to admit even existed. But the ultra-cautious manager insisted he had good reason to be careful. “It’s so far so good,” he admitted. “But we have been here before. Last Boxing Day we beat Watford and I thought we had a hell of a chance. I think I broke another record then of games without a win. It can happen in this division.”

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Healy Hits Back: Reading 1 United 1

A goal from David Healy ensured United left the Madejski Stadium with a well deserved point. It had been no less than the Whites deserved from a game they more than matched their hosts in and could easily have snatched all three points.

United boss Kevin Blackwell had rested five players in midweek for the Carling Cup game against Blackburn, but back in the melting pot that is the Championship, he reverted to what could be described, with a few arguments either way, as his strongest side.
Back came Shaun Derry after suspension, whilst Rob Hulse, Eddie Lewis, Jonathan Douglas and Gary Kelly all returned fresh after their rest.
David Healy had been nursing his persistent ankle injury during the week but made it onto the bench.

The Match
The early stages of the game were played in Reading's half with Leeds looking to make a bright start, but the hosts managed to compose themselves and it wasn't long before the pressure was put on Leeds instead.
Leeds were relieved to see Glen Little hit a volley over the crossbar from the right of the penalty area, and then Bobby Convey swung a ball into the centre of the penalty area but everyone missed it and the ball went behind for a goal kick.
Matthew Kilgallon then reacted quickest to deny Kevin Doyle a free-header, but generally the defence was not overly worked.
A free-kick opportunity came Leeds' after Lewis was tripped. In the end it was Robbie Blake who drilled in a shot low and hard but it was an easy enough save for the keeper.
Another good chance for Leeds came when Dan Harding delivered a good cross into the middle of the penalty area that was met by Hulse but the striker could not keep the header down.
Gary Kelly conceded a free-kick just outside the area for bringing down Convey, and the American got up and took the free-kick himself but Sullivan was quickly over to pluck the ball out of the air under his crossbar.
Eddie Lewis and Robbie Blake combined inside the last third for Blake to try his luck from 20-yards but his effort was well stopped by the keeper, another USA international, Marcus Hahnemann.
With a few minute to go to the break Leeds showed some strong defending when Doyle tried to turn inside the six-yard box but couldn't get past Butler, Kilgallon or Harding who all combined to get the block in.
Although there weren't many chances, the game was a real battle, particularly in midfield where the teams were evenly matched, in the first half at least.
Just after the start of the second half the game was held up after Dan Harding and Kevin Doyle clashed heads going for a cross that came in at the back post. Harding had done well to get the ball away but did not bargain for the clattering that followed. Fortunately both players were able to stay in the game.
The home side missed a good chance seven minutes into the half when Harper flicked on a Convey cross to Doyle, and the Irishman hooked his shot just past the left hand post.
Straight after the let-off Sullivan then got down well to keep out a Convey shot that threatened to creep in low at the left hand post.
A strong run by Eddie Lewis should have ended with a more positive result when he took the ball into the box but didn't play the right pass for Hulse to take a shot on goal.
The USA international was in the thick of the action a minute later when he brough down Reading captain Graeme Murty but was spared a yellow card.
Just before the hour Sullivan was the hero for Leeds again when he produced another fine block to deny Doyle from ten yards out. The United man was certainly the busier of the two keepers.
On 63 minutes though United's hard work came undone when Brynjar Gunnarsson was afforded enough space a yard inside the penalty area to turn sharply and hit a low drive past Sullivan. The Icelandic defender had received a simple ball in but displayed a striker's touch in putting the ball away.
The goal brought about changes by United, first David Healy replaced Robbie Blake and then a few minutes later Frazer Richardson went off to allow Ian Moore to come on.
United should have been back on level terms on 72 minutes when Healy's ball into the centre saw Murty slip and the ball found Douglas inside the area with just the keeper to beat but he sliced his shot unforgivingly wide.
Healy then saw a shot just turned behind by Hahnemann for a corner and the Northern Ireland international had certainly added a bit of bite to United's attack.
It all came right for Leeds on 75 minutes when they got back on terms and it was no surprise that Healy was the maker and scorer of the equaliser. He shot low and hard and his shot took a deflection off Ingimarsson that took it past the keeper.
Leeds were buoyed by the goal and suddenly Leeds were significantly on top for the first time in the game.
Pressing forward for a winner, Douglas saw his shot spilled by the keeper and healy was just unable to get to the loose ball in time to put it away.
The Whites kept up the pressure and a great cross from Ian Moore found Matthew Kilgallon at the back post but his header was collected by Hahnemann. Douglas was in determined mood again when he got around Sonko but the defender just got a block on the shot to turn it behind for a corner.
Moore provided another good cross three minutes before the end for Healy, but the striker just couldn't divert his header on target enough. Danny Pugh came on right at the end of normal time for Eddie Lewis, Blackwell using the substitution wisely to eat away at the remaining seconds and protect the point. Reading threatened to steal it late into injury time as Kitson struck a first time ball into the box that saw Sullivan get down brilliantly to produce the save. Leeds deserved a point from the game and it kept up their excellent record against the top sides in the division.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Blackwell refuses to panic
Yorkshire Post

Injuries and suspensions bite into Elland Road squad but United boss rules out short-term loansLeeds United manager Kevin Blackwell will resist the temptation to enter the loan transfer market despite Gylfi Einarsson being ruled out for the next three Championship games.
The Icelandic international was dismissed late in the 3-0 defeat at Blackburn Rovers for a challenge on Robbie Savage and the Leeds manager had intimated immediately after the game he may appeal.However, he has instead decided to accept the red card so Einarsson, who has figured in 10 Championship games this season, will miss the trips to Reading and Crewe along with Preston's visit to Elland Road on Saturday week.Blackwell said: "We didn't think it would be worth it, even though I still feel the referee was wrong to penalise just one player for what were basically two identical tackles. "Losing Gylfi is a blow because we are looking very thin in certain positions, especially with Jonathan Douglas carrying a calf injury that meant I did not want to risk him from the start at Blackburn."I am looking at the loan market, but we only have a set budget and the longer we can go without having to bring anyone in the better. Plus, there is no point signing someone who is no better than what we have already got."It is a similar situation up front and that is why I did not risk Rob Hulse in the Carling Cup. "I wanted to go to Blackburn with all guns blazing but if we had and then picked up a couple of injuries to key players it would have caused us real problems at Reading."Steve Stone will return to United's training ground today after being released from hospital following an operation to flush out his Achilles.The former England midfield player, who will not return to action until 2006, is on antibiotics to try and remove an infection in an Achilles wound with United having to wait a further two weeks to discover if it has been successful.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Blackburn hand Leeds a lesson as Emerton shines
By Tim Rich
(Filed: 26/10/2005)
Blackburn (0) 3 Leeds (0) 0

It is a sign of how reputations can dwindle that when Sir Bobby Robson failed to sign Brett Emerton many around St James' Park considered this a grievous error.
However, since choosing Blackburn over Newcastle, the Australian has seldom displayed the touch that made him such a force with Feyenoord to the extent he is no longer a regular starter at Ewood Park. The way he drove home his shot to help give Blackburn a safe passage through a potentially awkward Carling Cup tie ought to have given his backers considerable comfort.
The move that set it up was as attractive as the majority of the tie had been insipid - a direct run from Morten Gamst Pedersen, a slick pass to Craig Bellamy, who fed Emerton with decisive results.
Having come on as a substitute, Bellamy, who set up all three goals, provided the impetus the tie required, and which Leeds never looked like being able to resist. His second assist came with a classic low cross from the byline that Paul Dickov, timing his run impeccably, sent crashing home.
Leeds, who might have crossed the Pennines scenting an upset, were in truth never close to overturning the odds and their night was compounded when Gylfi Einarsson was dismissed for a dreadful two-footed lunge at Robbie Savage. The Icelander had already been booked but referee Chris Foy showed him a straight red with a few minutes remaining and the result decided.
Moments later, Leeds, who by now had lost all semblance of composure, failed to cut out another straightforward ball from Bellamy which Lucas Neill stroked past Neil Sullivan with more composure than most full-backs.
Most Championship sides use these games in part to gauge how they might do in a higher division. Under those conditions, Leeds, despite their recent string of fine results under Kevin Blackwell, are not yet ready to bridge the chasm that separates their division from the Premiership. Had Pedersen and Andy Todd managed to better direct relatively straightforward headers, Blackburn would have won by five.
For Mark Hughes, the point of any cup has always been to win it and the Blackburn manager resisted the temptation to field an under-strength side in a competition the club had won three years ago. "A cup tie, be it the Carling Cup or the FA Cup, is never a low priority or inconvenient," he said. "To the contrary, it's something to get excited about."
The trouble was few in Blackburn, a town that has too often been apathetic about its football, shared Hughes' passion for the fixture. There were as many supporters from Yorkshire, but for whose chanting the first half would have been played out in near silence, as there were home fans facing them.
The Blackburn weather was true to form and given the slipperiness of the pitch and the fragility of Craig Bellamy's hamstring, Hughes was probably wise not to start with his leading striker. However, the tie screamed out for the Welshman's direct running and after 52 desultory minutes Bellamy was introduced.
Blackburn's best first-half work came as Brett Emerton and Shefki Kuqi tried to work their way round the Leeds back four. However, the final ball lacked any real quality and, when Emerton did find a decent pull-back, Dickov scuffed his shot into the seats. Generally, Blackburn's clearest opportunities were from set-pieces.
Savage, who seemed to relish the conditions, forced Neil Sullivan to tip a dipping free kick into the phalanx of his own supporters behind his goal while a corner from Pedersen found Andy Todd lurking unmarked at the far post. The Blackburn captain, however, headed it tamely against an advertising hoarding.Leeds had fewer obvious chances. Their passing was neat enough but it was easy to see how Savage and Tugay might out-muscle Blackwell's attractive side in midfield, where the loss of the suspended Shaun Derry was badly felt. Until the match reached its climax it was hard to see Leeds mustering a shot, much less a goal.

Carling Cup Goes Flat: Rovers 3 United 0

United boss Kevin Blackwell rang the changes for this Carling Cup tie, making it plainly clear that the club's priority this season is in the league.
It wasn't just the personnel that changed either, with a 4-5-1 formation being employed rather than the customary 4-4-2 that Leeds fans have come to expect this season.
The lone striker was Robbie Blake, with another striker, David Healy, played out on the left wing, whilst Ian Moore patrolled down the right flank.
Sean Gregan was recalled in midfield alongside Gylfi Einarsson and Danny Pugh, whose only starts this season have come in the cup.
At the back Blackwell kept the defence intact with the exception of Frazer Richardson moving to right-back with Gary Kelly rested.
Blackburn showed they were taking the Carling Cup seriously with only two changes to the side that beat Birmingham City at the weekend, Todd in for the injured Nelsen and Emerton for Bentley.

The Match
Leeds spent the first few minutes trying to find their feet with their new formation, whilst Blackburn made little progress in finding an early breakthrough.
Shefki Kuqi saw a shot blocked on the edge of the area by Paul Butler and Paul Dickov's flick on the end of a Lucas Neil cross was about as close as they came.
United's first chance came in the tenth minute. Frazer Richardson grabbed the headlines with a spectacular goal against Sheffield United last week but couldn't repeat his feat when presented with an opportunity in almost the same position.
This time he went for placement rather than power but got it horribly wrong as the ball sailed well wide and high of the left hand post.
Kuqi was clearly a threat for Leeds though and when he curled a shot just wide of the left hand upright it was a real let-off.
The home side were presented with another chance midway through the half when Gylfi Einarsson was judged guilty of bundling down Kuqi some 25-yards out to concede a free-kick. Pederson eventually took it and the wall managed to do half a job by taking the power out of the shot and Sullivan collected comfortably.
Leeds did play some very good passing football in the first half, but with just one up front, they were lacking an outlet for that final ball to hurt Rovers.
Just after the half hour mark Blackburn has their best chance when Neil's pass from the right fell perfectly to Dickov some 12 yards out, but the Scottish international just lifted his shot into the arms of Neil Sullivan, it was a real let-off for United.
Shortly afterwards Leeds felt they could have had a free-kick in a decent position when Ian Moore was tripped on the edge of the area after receiving Blake's inside pass, but the decision went against the former Burnley forward.
Blackburn continued to press but Leeds managed to hang on. A free-kick awarded to Blackburn 30-yards out was taken by Savage and Sullivan was forced to tip the ball over his own bar. From the corner Andy Todd put a free-header wide at the back post.
At half-time, Leeds had done enough to keep the scores level without threatening too much themselves, but it was definitely a platform to build on.
No changes for either side at half-time, this game picked up where it had left off with Blackburn still on top.
Five minutes into the half Kuqi should have done better but headed a cross wide, whilst Leeds still looked to contain Blackburn.
The home side made a change in the 53rd minute that spelled trouble for Leeds. The lightening quick Craig Bellamy came on for Kuqi, who despite causing Leeds plenty of problems was sacrificed for the pace merchant.
Exactly on the hour mark Blackburn took the lead with the substitute involved.
Bellamy knocked the ball through Dan Harding's legs to play Brett Emerton in for the shot and the Australian beat Sullivan at his near post with a powerful drive. Leeds had it all to do to get back in the tie but they would persist with just the one man upfront.
Gylfi Einarsson went in the referee's notebook on 69 minutes after whacking Robbie Savage across the shins, something the fiery Welshman did not take kindly to.
It can't have happened too often before, but Blackburn Rovers fans found themselves applauding the first Leeds United substitution, although it was one of their own, Jonathan Douglas, who came on to replace Sean Gregan. The on-loan midfielder had been given permission to play against his parent club but had not been fit enough to start the game.
Shortly after another change was made with Eddie Lewis coming on for Danny Pugh.
Blackburn gave themselves a cushion with a second goal with less than quarter of an hour remaining.
Sullivan will be disappointed not to have got more of a hand on the ball as he got down low to try and stop Bellamy's cross from reaching Dickov at the back post, who was left with a simple tap-in into an empty net.
Leeds made their final change straight after the goal, Rob Hulse replacing Robbie Blake and they switched to 4-4-2, alas it appeared to be too late.United's slim hopes of a comeback were dented when Gylfi Einarsson was sent off with five minutes remaining.
It was a straight red card for the Icelandic international following a lunging two footed challenge on Robbie Savage - the player he had earlier been booked for fouling.
Insult was added to injury when Blackburn made it 3-0 shortly afterwards. Substitute Matt Jansen played a simple pass through to Lucas Neill and he clipped it past Sullivan from close range to wrap up a miserable evening for Leeds. Still, the league is the be all and end all this season.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Kabba gives Warnock reason to smile again
By Peter Lansley
Leeds United 1 Sheffield United 1
The Times

FOR the first time this season Sheffield United had to make do with a point, but neither team will feel their promotion ambitions have been dented by this result. Hackles were raised and teeth bared but, after much sound and fury, Neil Warnock’s Coca-Cola Championship leaders remain top and Leeds United stay fourth.
Sheffield United did the double over Leeds without conceding a goal last season, so the home side may feel this draw is a fair representation of the progress they are making. Neither side can be budged from their relative positions this weekend, United moving six points clear while Leeds have a five-point buffer from the chasing pack, and after Steve Kabba equalised Frazer Richardson’s superb opening goal, the respective managers felt it was a job well done.
“It’s nice to talk about two good teams in Yorkshire after all the doom and gloom of recent years,” Warnock said. “I think Kevin (Blackwell, the Leeds manager) should be pleased. I shouted to him a few minutes from the end, ‘shall we settle for a draw?’ I’d have taken a last-minute winner, mind. It would be lovely to see that game in the Premiership.”
Blackwell said: “This was a benchmark of how far this club has come in the past nine months. Sheffield United have been building for years and yet, with our new chairman (Ken Bates), we are now able to compete at the top end of this division. So much has gone on at this club, you have to pinch yourself. I’d love it to be a Premiership derby next year, but it’s too early to say whether it could be.”
Blackwell’s CV has gained no little sheen from the rise of Leeds this year, but he can also take some credit for Sheffield United’s reputation in recent seasons. So disappointed was Warnock at the manner of his former assistant’s defection to Elland Road two years ago that they have barely spoken since.
With both teams having won their previous two games, confidence was high and when Phil Jagielka, United’s midfield powerhouse, tried his luck from 30 yards, the shot veered only narrowly off target. United came even closer when Kabba, allowing Alan Wright’s pass to run on to Neil Shipperley, spun to receive his strike partner’s adroit lay-off and obliged Neil Sullivan to parry his shot.
The Leeds goalkeeper produced another fine save when he tipped over a rising drive from Kabba after the forward hurdled challenges from Gary Kelly and Matthew Kilgallon.
Leeds were unbowed, however, and contributed to an absorbing first period, Rob Hulse diving full length shortly before half-time to head narrowly wide Robbie Blake’s deflected centre from the right.
Eight minutes after the break, Leeds’s biggest crowd of the season were claiming there’s “only one team in Yorkshire” when Richardson scored a wonderful goal. The winger received Blake’s neat pass from the left, swerved past Wright before unleashing a thunderous shot into the top corner.
On the eve of the match, Warnock had admitted an FA charge of using insulting and/or abusive words towards a match official after the defeat away to Reading three weeks ago, but he was fairly creative with his language after Richardson’s goal, irate that Leeds had apparently stolen a yard for a throw-in in the build-up.
His mood improved fairly swiftly. Able to summon Danny Webber from the bench after the striker had scored twice in Tuesday’s 4-0 win away to Millwall, the substitute deftly laid the ball wide for Kabba, who teed himself up with a fine first touch before drilling in his eighth goal of the season. Tempers threatened to spill over and Shaun Derry, the former Sheffield United player, was fortunate to stay on the field when felling the excellent Alan Quinn, but neither team will feel hard done by.
All Square: United 1 Blades 1

United boss Kevin Blackwell made one change to the side that beat Southampton earlier in the week. It was a change that had been half expected with Matthew Kilgallon replacing Sean Gregan at centre-half.
Robbie Blake kept his place in the starting line-up after his goal on Tuesday evening, which meant David Healy was left on the bench.
Sheffield United made no less than five changes to the side that thrashed Millwall 4-0 on the same night Leeds overcame the Saints, with the most significant changes coming upfront where Neil Shipperley and Steve Kabba started.

The Match
Leeds started off nervously and the visitors put them under pressure early without troubling Neil Sullivan too much.
Phil Jagielka was the first player to threaten as he tried a 25-yard drive that only just missed Neil Sullivan's right hand upright.
Rob Hulse appeared to take a bit of an early knock when Chris Morgan went in hard for a tackle on the striker, fortunately he quickly shook off the problem.
Leeds nearly put themselves into trouble when a Gary Kelly back header was not strong enough and Ifill got in on goal but fortunately Sullivan was there to block the shot with his body.
The Whites gradually started to get control of the ball and had their best spell just after the quarter hour mark when they created a number of half chances.
Skipper Paul Butler stepped out of the back four and found Frazer Richardson with a bit of space to run into the area, but his low drive was straight at the keeper and lacked power.
Eddie Lewis then sent a devilish cross into the danger area but both Hulse eand Blake couldn't get any contact on the ball.
A minute later Richardson delivered a low pass to Hulse 12 yards out and he managed to turn Morgan but shot wide of the left hand upright.
With 20 minutes gone Sheffield United had their best chance when Kabba broke clear on the left of the penalty area but his powerful shot drew a good save from Sullivan.
Sullivan produced another fine save from the same player just two minutes later. Kabba ran along the edge of the penalty area as Leeds missed their tackles and eventually he hit a great strike but it was straight at Sullivan and he was able to turn it over his bar for a corner.
Dan Harding then nearly helped himself to a spectacular goal when he cut inside and hit a right footed drive from 25-yards that grazed the top of the crossbar with the keeper well beaten.
Gary Kelly was the first player to pick up a booking on the half hour when he blocked Jagielka off after the midfielder had nutmegged him.
The chance of the half though fell to Leeds on 36 minutes and it was missed by Rob Hulse, the man whose rich vein of form has helped United into fourth place.
Blake's cross from the right was flicked off a defender right onto Hulse's head but he somehow put his diving header wide from inside the six yard box.
Rob Hulse picked up a needless booking with five minutes of the half left when he was went in for a two footed tackle from behind on the Blades tricky winger Alan Quinn.
At half-time it would have been a brave punter to pick a winner out of these two teams.
Both sides were unchanged after the break and it was Leeds who applied the pressure first. Robbie Blake was lively in and around the area and gradually it looked as if something might just come for Leeds if they kept plugging away.
The breakthrough came on 53 minutes and it was a piece of individual brilliance from Frazer Richardson that finished off a great break from Leeds.
Robbie Blake was the provider after his intelligent running on the ball created a bit of space, and he simply fed Richardson on the right hand side of the area. The winger still had to get past the left-back Alan Wright, and he left him for dead in doing so before smashing an unstoppable drive into the net.
Elland Road erupted with joy at what was only Richardson's third Leeds United goal - but Leeds had won both of those. Now they had to either try and build on their lead or consolidate.
It didn't exactly go to plan though, Leeds were pinned back inside their own half, Kilgallon escaped when his poor header fell to Ifill on the edge of the area and Sullivan plucked a few crosses out of the air.
Sheffield United made a couple of changes, bringing Gillespie and Webber - who had scored twice in the 4-0 win for the Blades last season - on and taking Shipperley and Ifill off. It was a move that produced a near instant return for Warnock.
The equaliser came on 69 minutes, United struggled to clear their lines and Webber passed it wide on the edge of the area to Kabba and the striker hit it under Kilgallon's legs and into the bottom left hand corner of the net.

Back to square one.
David Healy came on with just over quarter of an hour remaining for Robbie Blake with Leeds looking to get back in front again. Gylfi Einarsson also replaced Richardson and Ian Moore later came on for Jonathan Douglas.
Rob Hulse had a chance inside the final five minutes when he managed to turn his man again inside the box but he shot high and wide from a narrow angle.
Substitute Ian Moore set himself up for a shot on the edge of the area but his effort was tame and easily grabbed by Kenny in the visitors goal. In the end both sides had to settle for a point, and you wonder just how valuable it will prove to be for both teams, unseparable at the death.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Flattering to deceive - Review of the 1907-08 season -
new pages uploaded at

I've just uploaded a MAJOR UPDATE review of the 1907-08 season.

Leeds City top the Second Division table after a wonderful start before their season collapses, then Gilbert Gillies throws in the towel and it's back to the drawing board under a new manager

You can find the story in three parts, starting at

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Just the Job, Rob: United 2 Saints 1

Pre Match
United boss Kevin Blackwell was able to stick with the same side that beat Burnley at the weekend after Rob Hulse and Shaun Derry were passed fit.
Hulse had been troubled by an ankle injury whilst Derry needed the green light from the club doctor after needing stitches above his eye following an altercation at Turf Moor.
David Healy was again on the bench, and possibly not over his own ankle ligament problems.
Southampton made three changes with Harry Redknapp going for youth and pace in abundance upfront. One time Elland Road loan signing Brett Ormerod was dropped to the bench whilst 16-year-old Theo Walcott, normally a winger, took his place.
Scottish winger Neil McCann, making his first start since January was also in or Kamil Kosowski on the left wing, and he too offers the Saints plenty of pace.
Martin Cranie at right back for Michael Svensson was the other change.
Saints went into the game having drawn their previous eight, a club record, and one more would be a new league record.

The Match
Leeds nearly opened the scoring inside the first minute when Frazer Richardson's cross into the middle was missed by Martin Cranie inside the six-yard box and fell for Hulse. It was an unexpected early chance but the striker still managed to get a get a strong header on the ball as it bounced up and Antti Niemi pulled off a great instinctive save, tipping the ball over his own crossbar to deny the blond striker his eighth goal of the season.
Southampton though created their own clear cut chance with barely five minutes on the clock as Walcott exposed United's lack of pace at the back. Unmarked, a neat flick sent him on his way and he had just Sullivan to beat, but the Whites No.1 resisted the temptation to go down early and in the end Walcott curled his shot straight at him.
The 16-year-old was causing no end of problems for the United defence as he cut in and out and only a terrific tackle by Butler to concede a corner prevented him from causing any early damage.
Eleven minutes into the game though and Leeds dealt the Saints an early blow as the Incredible Hulse's goal-den streak continued with the striker putting Leeds 1-0 up.
Gary Kelly swung in a free-kick and Hulse jumped for it, and almost as if in slow motion, met it with a firm header from the penalty spot that sailed high over Niemi and dropped inside the goal. It was a fantastic header and one that meant he didn't have long to wait for that eighth goal.
Goal number seven for Hulse was of course three days earlier at Burnley, and United's other goalscorer on the day, Eddie Lewis, nearly scored with another free-kick. At Turf Moor he just curled it to the left hand side of the goalkeeper and this time he went the other way but luck was against him as the ball came back off the left hand upright.
Make no mistake though, Leeds were dominant and it was no surprise when they went 2-0 up before 20 minutes had passed.
It was a neat lay off from Hulse on the edge of the area that teed Robbie Blake up and the striker hit it sweetly with a right footed curling drive again over the top of Niemi and the back of the net bulged for Leeds again.
Southampton's marking had been wayward again but take nothing away from Blake, it was a world class strike.
To the Saints credit, they kept plugging away despite the double setback and were rewarded with a goal on 25 minutes.
It came from a long ball played over the top, Butler got his head to it but couldn't do enough to stop the ball from landing for Walcott. Having missed before when clean through, the youngster nearly missed his chance again when Sullivan made the save, but the ball went loose and bounced backwards towards the goal and Sullivan wasn't able to get back in time to stop it creeping over the line.
Derry was then booked for a foul on Neil McCann which earned him a one match suspension for picking up five yellow cards this season. He now misses the Carling Cup game against Blackburn.
Saints were given a new lease of life by the goal and came close to an equaliser with a couple of chances just minutes after their reply.
Nigel Quashie came close with a low drive that Sullivan got down well to, then Walcott was through again but hit a powerful shot a couple of inches over the bar, again he was clean through on goal as he left the defence for dead.
Jonathan Douglas quickly became the second man to go into referee Jones' notebook when he was booked for arguing after the Walcott shot.
Leeds best chance to restore their two goal lead came from another free-kick five minutes before the break. Kelly's ball in fell for Blake, his shot was blocked but it fell for Butler with a clear sight of goal and his shot went high and over from ten yards out.
Lewis also came close when he was sent clear by Hulse's flick, he struck it well but Matt Oakley managed to get in the way and the deflection took it just over the bar. The USA winger was again agonisingly close to his third goal of the season.
At half-time, Leeds still had plenty to do to win this game.
No changes at half-time, Southampton created the first chance of the second half in this all so open game. Another long ball was launched forward for Walcott to chase and the striker took the ball past Gregan before hitting it from 20-yards. It only just missed the target.
Eddie Lewis set up a great chance for United when he was fouled two yard short of the penalty area to earn a free-kick. Lewis could have taken it himself but he left it for Blake and the striker hit the ball perfectly but it smashed against the woodwork and went straight out.
Still concerned by Walcott's pace, Blackwell made a change ten minutes into the half when he brought Matthew Kilgallon on and took Sean Gregan off. Gregan had played every minute of every game before his substitution, the only ever-present in the side.
Just after the hour Sean Derry came close to a third goal for Leeds when he met Lewis's corner with a firm header but Niemi pulled off a fantastic save, turning over his bar.
David Healy came on for Robbie Blake on 64 minutes to see if he could inspire Leeds again, just as he had at Burnley.
Southampton made a change with quarter of an hour to go and it nearly paid off straight away for them when Kenwyne Jones, the man who came on, broke clear and tried to beat Sullivan from the right of the area. Sullivan again came to United's rescue as he got his right hand down to block the ball but the danger wasn't over as it fell to Walcott, but he again wasted the chance by missing the target. Gylfi Einarsson was United's final change of the evening as he replaced Frazer Richardson in a move that saw Leeds revert to playing just one upfront with Healy moving to the right wing. Derry played just in front of the back four to offer them more protection.Leeds will hope they won't have to work so hard for future wins, and let's not forget they hit the woodwork twice but they found a side in Southampton that could be genuine promotion contenders themselves - if they can get a striker. Fortunately Leeds have no problem in that department.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Blackwell Hails United's Spirit

United boss Kevin Blackwell says the win at Burnley shows his side have got the guts and talent to turn defeats into victories.
Leeds were set to lose out after Sean Gregan's foul on Ade Akinbiyi saw Burnley take the lead from the penalty spot, but substitute David Healy won a free-kick that Eddie Lewis put away, and then Lewis turned provider with a cross that Rob Hulse nodded home for his seventh goal of the season.
It was the first time Leeds have come from behind to win a game since the 6-1 drubbing of QPR at Elland Road last November.
Blackwell was delighted with the three points that pushed the Whites up to fourth, and happier still to keep the momentum going.
"It was never an away performance because at times we looked as if we were the home side," said Blackwell.
"I said to the lads at one time that there was one team that could win it and one team that could lose it - and that was us. We nearly lost it because of a lack of concentration when Akinbiyi got in but we showed great tenacity after that.
"We should not have been in in the position to have to come back because we had some great chances but did not finish them, the lad Jensen made some unbelievable saves especially from Robbie Blake in and then from Derry and we had two great penalty appeals turned down ourselves.
"So to find ourselves a goal down was hard to swallow but the lads regrouped and came back.
"I changed things around a bit by making the substitution which made us more attacking and it helped us out a bit."
Both David Healy and match winner Rob Hulse had been pre-match doubts and United were grateful to their medical team for getting them fit enough to do a stint for the team.
"The problem with David is we were scared of playing him because he had treatment up until kick-off and we knew he wasn't fit enough to start, but I just wanted 20 minutes from him. The decision to put him on the bench was made at quarter past eleven when I put the team sheet in, it was as late as that.
"But he came on got the free kick and that helped turn it around.
"It was a great ball from Eddie Lewis to Rob, we've talked about improving our delivery into the box and if you get delivery like that you can't help but score. "Rob's got in the right place at the right time and a bit of cramp set in later and he just couldn't run anymore for us."

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Blackie's Fighters Turn It Around: Burnley 1 United 2

Pre Match
United boss Kevin Blackwell was able to include striker Rob Hulse in his starting XI despite the forward having turned an ankle in training earlier in the week.
Hulse formed the forward partnership with Robbie Blake getting the chance to start against one of his former club. David Healy was on the bench.
The other change involved Dan Harding returning to left-back after having previously lost his place to Stephen Crainey and then Matthew Kilgallon.

The Match
After a two week break Leeds could be excused for starting slowly, and perhaps somewhat thankful that Burnley were not at their best either for the early kick-off.
The home side were quick to put the Whites defence under pressure, pressing and forcing a few early errors from Leeds and winning a few early corners.
It wasn't until the twelfth minute that United started to play.
Richardson's broke with a run down the right flank and played the ball through for Shaun Derry, he then knocked it through for Robbie Blake in a great position from where it looked certain he would punish his old club.
His low shot though was turned wide by Brian Jensen in the Clarets goal, although Rob Hulse was nearly there to turn it in before it rolled agonisingly out of play.
Ade Akinbiyi was a constant danger throughout and he might have broken the deadlock had his shot not deflected wide off Gregan for a corner.
Good pressure from Leeds, Douglas shot inside the area was deflected wide
The home side suffered a blow when Graham Branch limped off injured on 29 minutes. The forward was replaced by Chris McCann.
When Burnley defender Michael Duff was booked for a foul on Blake five minutes before half-time it sparked United's best spell of the game.
From the free-kick a well worked move nearly paid off but for Paul Butler heading wide, and then two minutes later Blake and Derry nearly combined to unlock the Burnley defence but for a last minute interception.
Leeds had certainly been playing within themselves for the first half, and an improvement was certainly expected in the second, but not before Rob Hulse had endured the wrath of the locals. He had gone through for a ball, for which he was offside anyway, but he was brought down by Jensen and had his calls to receive treatment on the pitch waved away.
It seemed bizarre that the referee would not allow the physio to come on and treat him, and Hulse showed his disgust as he trudged off and threw down a water bottle in disgust with the Burnley fans baying for his blood.
No changes at the break for either side, Leeds had the chance to step it up a gear.
Leeds survived a scare when Akinbiyi played a ball to free Gareth O'Connor in the area but fortunately the midfielder's touch let him down and a real chance went begging.
Leeds got on top after that though and when Blake won a free-kick, Lewis swung it in and Douglas tried to divert it goalbound but another block kept the ball out of the net. Blake then tried for goal from another free-kick but blasted it into the wall.
Just before the hour mark Leeds found themselves caught out on the break again.
Akinbiyi led Gregan a merry dance and as he tried to get around the centre-half a boot came out and just caught him. Akinbiyi needed no encouragement to go down and referee Mike Dean pointed to the spot in a manner more becoming of a cricket umpire.
Gareth O'Connor stepped up and faced Sullivan, the man who had denied Burnley a share of the points in last season's game by saving Ian Moore's penalty, but this time there were no heroics and the home side had the lead.
Leeds might have equalised soon afterwards when Rob Hulse slid in for a Blake cross that went right across the face of goal but he just couldn't get there in time.
Kevin Blackwell made a change with 20 minutes to go and David Healy came on for Frazer Richardson, and the Northern Ireland international had an instand impact.
As he tried to get clear of Jon Harley he was pulled back just short of the penalty area. It earned Leeds a free-kick and Harley a yellow card, although he could well have seen red as he was the last man.
Eddie Lewis stepped up and took it two yards out from the edge of the area and curled home an exquisite fre-kick to make it 1-1. He lifted his shot over the wall and although Jensen got a hand to it, he couldn't keep the ball out.
Lewis was at the heart of the action again as Leeds completed a quick turnaround to take the lead for the first time in the 75th minute.
He got to the byline and delivered in the perfect cross for Hulse to attack with a glancing header straight past the keeper into the far right hand corner of the net.
Derry nearly made it 3-1 in the 80th minute but his shot was blocked by the legs of the keeper. Leeds were on top and were certainly not content to stick with a one goal lead.
Akinbiyi was aggrieved when his header appeared to hit Paul Butler's arm before it went out for a corner, but this time they weren't about to get the penalty decision.
O'Connor nearly got his second and an equaliser for Burnley when he met a cross into the six yard box on the volley but Sullivan pulled off a great double save to deny him.
Ian Moore came on just before the end against his former team and Leeds briefly had two ex-Burnley stars on show until a minute later when Blake went off for Einarsson. Leeds had played some great football and some poor football during the 90 minutes but just about had enough quality to turn the game their way and left Turf Moor with yet another win, unbeaten there now for the last six visits.
Cross Blackwell in a pickle over future at Leeds
By Rick Broadbent
The Times

IF KEVIN BLACKWELL loses his job as the manager of Leeds United it would be an act of ingratitude to rank alongside the Bible’s 5,000 asking if there was any butter to go with their bread. With debt reduced by £100 million and more than 100 transfer and loan deals completed in 15 months, the club that sacrificed itself on the altar of vanity and greed is sixth in the Coca-Cola Championship. Little wonder that Blackwell is angry at whispers that claim he will soon be replaced by Dennis Wise.
Ken Bates, the Leeds chairman, has dismissed the speculation as “rubbish”, but Blackwell is taking nothing for granted. “When strong rumours come from within the football camp they normally have some credence,” he said. “But there weren’t too many people in the queue when I took over and we were the worst club in football with the worst debt. It was a poisoned chalice and people said I was mad.
“Now we’ve turned it around and the chairman has admitted some people have approached him for my job. People should have some f***ing respect.”
The Wise link has been around since Bates, who nurtured him at Chelsea, assumed control, but has intensified lately. Leeds play Southampton, Wise’s present club, on Tuesday, and Blackwell is looking forward to the match. “I might have to walk away from here. Who knows? But I do know Dennis Wise is not liked by Leeds fans,” he said.
Blackwell’s work over the past 15 months is as impressive as the achievements of the man he admits is his inspiration — José Mourinho. Like the Chelsea manager, Blackwell’s playing career was a modest one that preceded managerial fireworks and he said: “Mourinho was only the translator and look at him now. Could a big name have come in here and wheeled and dealed like I have, sending 12 players out on loan so we could pay someone £2,000 for a month’s loan?”
Incredibly, Blackwell says Leeds could be debt-free next season, when four former managers and six former players will have been paid off. The club may also be in the Barclays Premiership by then. It is only 3½ years since they played in a European Cup semi-final, but the club have been to Hell and back, via Crewe and Rochdale, in the interim.
A few weeks after joining the Leeds backroom, Blackwell produced a report called The State Of Play — LUFC. It was only September but it named and shamed certain players and concluded that Leeds would be relegated that season. “It’d be dangerous if it got in the wrong hands,” he said. “But the cliff was coming and we were hurtling towards it.”
The State of Play was ready the day that Peter Reid was dismissed as manager and eight months later the team were relegated. Blackwell took over and had to deal with having only two senior players on the books — Gary Kelly and Michael Duberry — and tearful canteen girls worrying about their mortgages. “Now everything is positive and people are interested in managing Leeds United again,” he said.
Blackwell calls it crisis management. Lance Armstrong’s book about triumph over adversity, It’s Not About the Bike, sits on his desk and he has just watched a programme about hurricane flood defences.
Last season his first priority was to get ten points clear of relegation from the Championship so that Leeds would be able to weather the penalty for going into administration. When safety was guaranteed in March, he sent a string of players out on loan and told the staff to go scouting. After 15 turbulent months, he says the club is ahead of schedule. One caller to a radio phone-in even likened him to Don Revie. “I wouldn’t go anywhere near that statement, but I do know that, whatever happens, I can walk around Leeds with my head high,” he said

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Wise Speculation Rubbished

Leeds United has today dismissed tiresome media speculation that Dennis Wise is to return to management at Elland Road.
The former Wimbledon and Chelsea midfielder, now with Championship rivals Southampton, is a family friend of United Chairman Ken Bates but yet again there is no substance to the rumour that the pair will soon be working together.
"It's simply not true, someone is mischief making ahead of our game with Southampton," said a Leeds United spokesman.
Today's speculation has surfaced on the South Coast, with the Daily Echo quoting a "source close to Leeds" that Wise would be in place soon, and that it was a matter of not if, but when.Wise spent 18 months as manager at Millwall and took the Lions to the FA Cup Final in 2004, before resigning in May this year.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Cresswell Out For Months

United do not expect to have Richard Cresswell available until after Christmas with a scan revealing the striker has ruptured a knee ligament.
Cresswell suffered the injury in last week's 3-1 win over Derby County, when a challenge on him saw him last only 25 minutes on his second start following his move from Preston.
The 28-year-old has avoided medial ligament damage though and the news comes as something of a relief - as initial fears were that he would be out for the rest of the season. He will not though require surgery and is expected to be out for around three months.
"Richard is absolutely distraught at the moment because he's not been injured for five or six years," said manager Kevin Blackwell, "then he comes to Leeds and then three weeks into his career he's done his knee in.
"The important thing for Richard now is that he comes to terms with the fact that he's going to be out for a while and doesn't try and rush things."
Cresswell's loss is at least softened by the fact that Blackwell has a number of other strikers available to him after his summer recruitment drive.
Robbie Blake partnered Rob Hulse on Saturday at Watford, whilst David Healy was on the bench alongside a fourth striker, Ian Moore. "This time last year an injury like that might have really hurt us but we have got the people in the club now - for exactly this kind of situation - and they will keep us going," added Blackwell.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Sporting Life

Watford 0 Leeds 0
Leeds boss Kevin Blackwell considered it "amazing" that his side left Watford with just a point.
The teams both go into the international break at the right end of the Championship table, but a goalless stalemate was the outcome at Vicarage Road.
The chance of the match fell to Rob Hulse, a hat-trick hero for Leeds in midweek, but his shot bounced off one post onto the other and rolled along the line before being cleared.
Blackwell said: "To come away from home and keep a clean sheet, that's the first aim, but to hit the posts on both sides and for it not to cross the line, that's amazing, that's a freak of nature.
"But two teams that are close together, neither of us are going to give anything away.
"It was a hard-fought game and it was a battle more than anything else, there wasn't a lot of great football and it is a case of making sure we go home having not got beaten.
"That's our seventh clean sheet out of 11 games now so we know we're defensively quite solid. People can talk about the pace of our back four but they had quick lads and they never really caused us a problem in terms of that."
Watford manager Adrian Boothroyd, who worked under Blackwell before being given his chance by the Hornets, said: "We went out to win the game and I think Leeds are the happier team going away with the point.
"I am certainly a bit disappointed we didn't win it, but all in all we are picking up points with key players out and we have got to be pleased with that."
Watford were without injured strikers Marlon King and Darius Henderson.
Boothroyd was asked if he shared a similar tactical outlook on the game as Blackwell and replied: "I like to win football matches, I like to entertain.
"I like to play with pace and I like people to go home with a smile on their face and have something to talk about.
"I think we have got a lot of quicker players, so tactically they had to defend deep because if they had played any higher we would have got in behind them."
The chance which almost yielded a goal for Hulse came about after Robbie Blake dispossessed Malky Mackay and fed his strike partner, with Hornets goalkeeper Ben Foster relieved to see the ball stay out.
Foster then did well to hold Blake's 25-yard low free-kick just before the interval, and chances continued to be at a real premium in the second half.
Substitute Danny Pugh sent a left-footed half-volley from the edge of the Watford area not far wide.Watford's Ashley Young also forced Neil Sullivan into a smart save at his near post, but neither side possessed much thrust in the final third.