Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Match Live: United 2 Luton 1

United boss Kevin Blackwell made just the one change to the side that drew 1-1 with Leicester City, a result that saw Blackwell unleash his wrath on the team for what had been a disappointing performance.
Eirik Bakke was the man who missed out, dropping down to the bench after haing started his first game since August for the Whites at the Walkers Stadium, and David Healy, a substitute for the past three games, got a start.
The game also marked the occasion of Gary Kelly's 500th game for the club
Luton made two changes to their side and the biggest surprise was seeing former Leeds striker Warren Feeney only on the bench on his Elland Road return.

The Match
Leeds fell behind after just five minutes at the Walkers Stadium in last week's draw with Leicester and the same thing nearly happened at Elland Road when Luton spurned a golden opportunity to put themselves in front.
Sean Gregan conceded a free-kick just inside his own half and from it Paul Underwood floated a cross into the area where Chris Coyne met it on the volley but could only lift the ball over the top of the bar from just eight yards out.
United's response met with frustration, off-side flag after off-side flag went up to catch Rob Hulse, David Healy and Eddie Lewis all supposedly having strayed past the last defender.
Their best early shot of the game came from the left boot of Robbie Blake, the striker hitting a curling shot from the edge of the area but not quite able to keep the ball from rising over the crossbar.
With 25 minutes gone Lewis found himself in space with just Marlon Beresford, the Luton keeper, to beat.
Healy's pass on the edge of the area was touched onto him by Jonathan Douglas and the USA international gathered the ball and struck it well but Beresford was able to get a hand to the low shot and turn it away for a corner.
Leeds then laid siege to the Hatters' goal, cross after cross came in but they lacked a final shot on goal.
Healy, making his first start in seven games, showed his ring rustiness when on a break down the right flank he hit what should have been a goal-providing cross straight into the arms of Beresford. There were five white shirts inside the six yard box alone waiting for the ball, including Rob Hulse who made his displeasure known.Just after the half hour mark Luton reminded Leeds that they were still around, Rowan Vine's cross found Kevin Foley completely unmarked some four yards out but the right back could not keep his header down and a collective sigh of relief went around Elland Road.
When Gary Kelly had the ball at his feet just inside the Luton penalty area with space for the shot, everyone screamed at him to go for it, but he elected to cross instead and it was met with an overhead kick from Blake that found Hulse, but he too couldn't get enough power behind his shot to trouble the keeper.The visitors though had the best chances in the first half and they worked another one with five minutes to go. Ahmet Brkovic brought the ball down on the edge of the 18-yard box and hit a low drive at goal that just went the wrong side of the left hand post by inches.It was not shaping up to be the most exciting game at Elland Road this season, but there was some hope for the second half.
The second half did start with more promise for Leeds, Robbie Blake sent a header wide and generally Leeds looked more determined and more prepared to go for goal.
They also escaped what looked to be a clear handball by Sean Gregan inside his own penalty area as Brkovic tried to lift it over the defender. Luton's penalty appeals were waved away and it proved to be a contentious decision as Leeds took the lead almost immediately afterwards.
Jonathan Douglas started and finished the move which ended with him scoring his fifth United goal, The midfielder played it to Blake and kept on running, Blake's ball forward was perfect and he was left to simply put the ball past the keeper, which he did with ease.
The on-loan Blackburn man had simply taken the Luton defence out of the equation with his run in behind them and it was a cool finish.
Luton's hopes of getting back into the game quickly took a dive when Leeds made it 2-0 less than three minutes after their first goal.
This one was slightly more straight-forward and owed a lot to poor defending from the visitors. Rob Hulse managed to get to the goal-line with the ball after Blake had managed to win the ball from Kelly's long free-kick, and he simply put the ball back across the face of goal where Luton missed it and Eddie Lewis was there for the tap-in.Luton boss Mike Newell made a double substitution soon after the second goal, former Elland Road trainee Warren Feeney and Enoch Showunmi came on.
Blackwell left it until the last 20 minutes to make his first change, and it was Eirik Bakke who came on for David Healy.
Jonathan Douglas was shown a yellow card with just under ten minutes remaining when he brought Feeney's run at goal to an end with a crude challenge just short of the penalty area. Luton blasted the free-kick straight at the five man wall.The visitors did though pull a goal back with seven minutes left. A high cross from the left was met with a diving header by Steve Howard and Sullivan just couldn't get his hand to the ball.
From being in cruise control for most of the half, Leeds now had to make sure they remained in control for the final few minutes. And they might have conceded again had Sullivan not managed to block a goal-bound shot from Howard.
Ian Moore came on for five minutes at the end, replacing Robbie Blake who had another good game for the Whites.
Leeds could have made doubly sure of the victory when, right on the stroke of the end of normal time, Moore set Hulse up just five yards out, but somehow the hitman managed to slide the ball wide.
For the third game in succession Leeds finished the game with more men than the opposition. Sol Davis was shown a second yellow card for a body-check on Hulse and he walked off grudgingly. His first booking came 15 minutes earlier for dissent. Leeds had managed to redeem themselves yet again for a poor first half showing and the three points were made all the more welcome by news that Sheffield United had lost at home.
The Last Of His Kind

When Gary Kelly steps onto the Elland Road pitch to the appreciation of the crowd on the occasion of his 500th appearance for the club, it could well be the last time such an achievement is recognised.
Nearly 15 years since he made his Leeds debut in a Rumbelows Cup tie against Scunthorpe at Elland Road in October, 1991, Kelly is set to become part of an elite list of ten players who have surpassed 500 appearances for United.
The man from Drogheda joins the likes of Billy Bremner, Norman Hunter, Peter Lorimer and Jack Charlton in that list, the only non-Revie era player, and by the end of his current contract could surpass former mentor Eddie Gray's 577 appearances.
The 31-year-old will receive a presentation from director Peter Lorimer on the pitch before tomorrow's game against Luton, but the player himself has shunned all media opportunities in the build up. It's simply not Gary's style to attract attention to himself before games, but there is the promise of a few words afterwards.
Manager Kevin Blackwell doubts any other player in the modern era, particularly in the Premier League and the Championship, will ever follow in Kelly's footsteps.
"I don't think you will see a player make 500 appearances for his club again," said Blackwell.
"With the Bosman ruling coming in it will be such a rarity and before many players before were happy to settle and stay at a club because you couldn't move for much more money anyway.
"It's taken Kelly 14 and a half years to get here and I can't see anyone staying at a club that long again, so we may be saluting one of the last bastion's of football.
"It puts him alongside some of the greats at Leeds who have hit the 500 mark. It is an awesome achievement and I take my hat off to him.
"He has been a stalwart at the club and has been through the thick and thin with us. It was only right that he was here when we were going through hard time because we needed that sort of player."
Blackwell has come to know Kelly well and revealed how he values his input, and can recognise the sincerity of the man away from the football pitch.
"I have listened to Kells a lot and we sit down and talk about things such as the feeling in the dressing room and he has been a great lad for that.
"A lot of players come here and look up to him because he has a great reputation and he's never been one to look down at others, he's helped everybody and that's been a surprise to some of them because they know he's a big name player.
"He goes out of his way to help people and if you know Gary Kelly you will find he's a really genuine person and at charitable events he is the first person to put his hand in his pocket."
Blackwell did joke that he would leave the full-back out of his squad for the weekend just to thwart the press who have written about him in the build-up, but Saturday will be a special day for the Kelly household and only Luton Town stand in the way of making it extra special with three points for the Whites.
The 500 club:
1 Jack Charlton 773 (no subs)
2 Billy Bremner 773 (inc 1 sub)
3 Paul Reaney 748 (inc 12 subs)
4 Norman Hunter 726 (inc 2 subs)
5 Paul Madeley 725 (inc 13 subs)
6 Peter Lorimer 703 (inc 27 subs)
7 Eddie Gray 577 (inc 18 subs)
8 John Giles 527 (inc 4 subs)
9 Gary Sprake 507 (inc 2 subs)
10 Gary Kelly 499 (inc 15 subs)*

Friday, February 17, 2006

Leeds manager convinced Sheffield United can be caught
Ian Appleyard
Yorkshire Post

LEEDS UNITED manager Kevin Blackwell is determined to keep the heat on his former club Sheffield United in the race for automatic promotion to the Premiership.
Blackwell's side have returned to third spot in the Championship table courtesy of the 2-1 victory over Watford at Elland Road on Tuesday night and now sit just nine points behind second-placed Blades, who drew at home to leaders Reading.
With Leeds having played a game less, Blackwell remains convinced that the Blades can be caught over the remaining 13 games of the season.
He said: "It was an important win against Watford because we knew, if we are going to have any chance of getting automatic promotion, that we have to try and put the foot on the pedal and move forward.
"The players all wanted to get back to third position because we've had it for such a long time and felt aggrieved when Watford took it off us.
"Now we've got third place back and, when we came off, we found out that they (Sheffield United) had only drawn at Bramall Lane, so that was two points gained.
"There are plenty of games to go and the great thing about football is the twists and turns in the game.
"Sheffield United have still got the points and all we can do is keep the pressure on. If we can do that then let's see where we are around April time."
Leeds are now preparing for Saturday's trip to Leicester City, who have been in resurgent form since the departure of manager Craig Levein and the subsequent appointment of Rob Kelly. With 10 points from a possible 12 in their last four games under Kelly, Leicester have pulled seven points clear of the relegation zone and confidence is high. But Leeds have won seven out of their last 10 league games, so will travel to the Walkers Stadium with their tails firmly up.
Striker Richard Cresswell, who spent six months at Leicester after leaving Sheffield Wednesday in 2000, has vowed to play on for as long as possible this season despite a knee problem. Fears that the 28-year-old's season was already over were dispelled by his appearance as a second-half substitute against Watford. Scans have confirmed the striker does have a cartilage problem but he can still manage to play with discomfort.
"I'm just going to see how it goes in the next few weeks, but it felt great on Tuesday night and hopefully I will be able to carry on," he said. "The physios have done a fantastic job on me and the knee has settled down. I am sure I will be able to carry on as normal to the end of the season.
"We might look at it again then but, for the moment, I don't think there's going to be any problem. I just want to play football."
Midfielder Shaun Derry is suspended for two games which may lead to a recall for youngster Simon Walton.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Leeds 2-1 Watford

Robbie Blake's double-strike sank nine-man Watford as Leeds leapfrogged the Hornets into third place.
Ashley Young fired Watford ahead with a superb free-kick into the top corner.
But Blake equalised from the spot when Hornets keeper Ben Foster was dismissed for fouling Rob Hulse after a poor back-header by Jordan Stewart.
Things got worse for Watford soon after when Darius Henderson was sent off for clashing with Sean Gregan, before Blake grabbed the winner from close range.
Watford came into the game in a rich vein of form, having won their last six games, scoring four goals in each of their three previous outings.
But they found it more difficult to break down a determined Leeds side who were just two points behind them in the table at the start of play.
And there was little goalmouth action until Young found the net from the edge of the area to put Watford in front on 40 minutes.
Leeds responded well and Foster had to save well from Blake and Eddie Lewis before the break, while Sean Gregan headed against the bar.
But the game was turned on its head after the interval when Leeds equalised and Watford had two men dismissed in the space of four minutes
On 57 minutes Stewart tried to head back to Foster but the ball fell short and Hulse nipped in, only to be felled by the keeper who was then shown the red card.
Blake brought Leeds level from the spot, beating veteran keeper Alec Chamberlain who had replaced Chris Eagles.
Watford's woes increased on 61 minutes when Darius Henderson became their second player to be dismissed after clashing with Sean Gregan.
The Hornets did not roll over however - and they held out until the 81st minute when Marlon King lost the ball during a rare attack by the visitors.
Chamberlain did well to save David Healy's shot from Richard Cresswell's cross, but he had no chance as Blake followed up to give Leeds all three points.
Leeds: Sullivan, Kelly, Butler, Gregan, Crainey, Miller, Derry, Douglas (Healy 74), Lewis, Hulse (Cresswell 74), Blake.Subs Not Used: Bennett, Einarsson, Walton.
Booked: Gregan.
Goals: Blake 60 pen, 81.
Watford: Foster, Doyley, Mackay, DeMerit, Stewart, Eagles (Chamberlain 58), Bangura (Mariappa 75), Chambers, Young, King (Bouazza 83), Henderson.Subs Not Used: McNamee, Diagouraga.
Sent Off: Foster (57), Henderson (61).
Booked: Chambers, Bangura.
Goals: Young 40.
Att: 22,007. Ref: M Jones (W Yorkshire).

Saturday, February 11, 2006

All Square: Derby 0 United 0

Leeds earned a point from a goalless draw at Pride Park but it wasn't a satisfying one for United as they had enough good chances to take all three.

United boss Kevin Blackwell was forced to make changes to his forward line after injury and suspension hit his plans for this game.
He knew last week David Healy would be unavailable after picking up his fifth booking of the season and an automatic one match suspension, but injury dealt his other striker from the last game against Queens Park Rangers a cruel blow.
Richard Cresswell is understood to have gone down with a knee injury in training and was not even able to make it onto the subs bench.
That meant a start for Rob Hulse and Richard Cresswell together, the only changes to the side from that win over Rangers. Worryingly both had been pre-match doubts earlier in the week.
Derby tried and failed to sign a striker in time for the game as caretaker manager Terry Westley looked to strengthen his squad for their fight against relegation.
The Rams were also missing their Johnson's. Former United midfielder Seth and defender Michael to be precise, both of whom underwent knee operations in midweek and are key players at Pride Park.

The Match
Rob Hulse was nearly in on goal with less than 20 seconds played as Leeds stole the ball from Derby and Liam Miller threaded a pass forward for Hulse to get on the end of, the pass just had a bit too much pace for the striker and Lee Camp was quickly out to make the save.
Stephen Crainey found himself in trouble with the referee three minutes into the game when he slid in for a challenge on Rams winger Richard Jackson a bit early and ended up sliding into the player and clattering him around the ankles. Fortunately referee Phil Down realised it was just a case of misjudgment and not dangerous play from the Scot who was let off with just a ticking off.
United created their best early chance on ten minutes and came desperately close to opening the scoring. Eddie Lewis delivered a hanging cross to the back post which Derby watched go over their heads and could not have expected Robbie Blake to come steaming in and meet it with a firm volley.
Blake's shot was heading for goal but came off a Derby player and looped over the crossbar. It could have been one of the goals of the season.
Four minutes later and Hulse was left in agony after a cynical challenge from Pole Tomasz Hajto. Kevin Blackwell was furious with the tackle and appeared to suggest that the yellow card the defender received was lenient to say the least. Hulse returned to the action five minutes later.
Derby's first real chance - as Rob Hulse stepped back on after treatment - saw a dangerous cross from one time United target Tommy Smith fall dangerously inbetween the Leeds defence and Sullivan but Morten Bisgaard somehow failed to get a touch.
The home side threatened again a minute later with Danny Graham's low cross into the middle of the 18-yard box looking perfect for someone to get a toe end on the ball and turn it home but Barnes missed it with Kelly applying the pressure.
Rob Hulse and Robbie Blake were both on the receiving end of some heavy treatment inside the area, pushed and shoved from pillar to post, but no penalty - especially for one blatant push on Hulse - was forthcoming.
Derby's first real chance - as Rob Hulse stepped back on after treatment - saw a dangerous cross from one time United target Tommy Smith fall dangerously inbetween the Leeds defence and Sullivan but Morten Bisgaard somehow failed to get a touch.
The home side threatened again a minute later with Danny Graham's low cross into the middle of the 18-yard box looking perfect for someone to get a toe end on the ball and turn it home but Barnes missed it with Kelly applying the pressure.
Paul Butler scored in two of United's last three games and he nearly made it three in four when he met a corner from Lewis with a firm header, but Camp held onto his attempt well. Tommy Smith was the second Derby player booked when he showed dissent after a free-kick decision went against him.
Blake was brought down by Bolder 25-yards out to give Lewis a chance to test Camp in the Rams goal with the free-kick. Lewis managed to curl it past the wall but the keeper was equal to the shot.
Derry's shoulder charge on Hajto just before the break earned him a yellow card.
No changes for either side at half-time, Leeds were looking for another Plymouth-type performance but the Rams proved to be more stubborn resistance.Ten minutes into the half and Hajto's challenge with Hulse on the edge of the Derby area earned United a free-kick. Kelly swung the ball into the six yard box and Hulse's header was just a yard over the crossbar.
A slip at the back let the home side in for their best chance of the game. El-Hamduoui's pass saw Graham put through with just Sullivan to beat and United's No.1 earned his corn for the week with a great block at the expense of a corner.Gary Kelly evened up the bookings with a challenge on Barnes, the defender picking up his second yellow card in consecutive games and seventh of the season.
United missed a glorious chance with 66 minutes gone when Lewis broke down the left and with Blake, Hulse and Miller in lose support they had a man advantage but the final shot from Miller was straight at the keeper. With 20 minutes left Blackwell made his first change, bringing Ian Moore on for Robbie Blake. Former Burnley striker Moore had the opportunity to make a name for himself.
At this point Leeds were dominant and a goal looked as if it was on its way, and it should have been 1-0 to the visitors when Miller cut the ball back to Douglas inside the box but the Blackburn man could only clip the ball wide.
Moore was full of running and caused the Derby defence a few problems as he snaked his way into the box. When Hajto brought his run to an end with what appeared to be a foul his appeals for a penalty were just waved away.
Leeds were breaking forward time after time but just couldn't manufacture a good final ball capable of finding the back of the net. Danny Pugh replaced Eddie Lewis with two minutes of time left but it was too late for him to have much impact on the game as the final whistle followed soon after with neither side having done enough to make a late breakthrough.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Sporting Life

Head coach John Carver admitted Leeds had not produced a vintage performance but was relieved to have claimed a 2-0 win over QPR in the Coca-Cola Championship clash at Elland Road.
Richard Cresswell and Paul Butler got the goals which keep the Yorkshire side in the chase for automatic promotion with 11 points separating them from second-placed Sheffield United, who play Watford on Monday night.
"It wasn't pretty and it was a little bit scrappy," said Carver. "I thought we tried to play good football but took one pass too many at times.
"Overall though, I'm delighted with the result."
Kevin Blackwell's team registered their 10th home win of the season with a comfortable display against a committed Rangers side as they look to keep the pressure up on the Blades.
Both sides showed plenty of desire but there was little quality on display until Cresswell's header broke the deadlock.
Only Lewis, Leeds' American winger, posed any consistent threat with a string of menacing runs and dangerous crosses.
"When you've got quality players like Eddie in the side, that's often the difference between winning and losing," Carver.
Cresswell put Leeds ahead just before half-time with a well-taken looping header and it was a lead the hosts never looked likely to lose.
Butler's effort - his third goal of the season - wrapped up the win after he powered home Lewis' cross with seven minutes left.
Rangers provided little attacking thrust, with only Keith Lowe's header forcing a save from Neil Sullivan in an otherwise quiet afternoon for the Leeds stopper.
With four players making their debut for QPR it was easy to understand their lack of cohesion and quality but Leeds worked hard to make Rangers look poor.
QPR boss Ian Holloway had even been forced into a last-minute deal to solve his goalkeeping crisis as Phil Barnes was thrown straight into the action little more than three hours after joining the club on a seven-day loan deal from Sheffield United.
But despite the result, Holloway was left feeling immensely proud of the display his mix-and-match side.
"I thought my Queens Park Strangers (correct) side were terrific," he said.
"I've never experienced anything like that. Four of our back five were new to the side but they showed me a lot."At times we huffed and puffed a little though. The difference for me was that their chances were crisp and concise. Then halfway through the second half they bring on Rob Hulse and Robbie Blake off the bench and that just rubs salt into the wounds."

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Healy's the hero in Leeds late show
Bosses clash over spot-kick equalise
Yorkshire Evening Post

RIVAL bosses Kevin Blackwell and Joe Royle were at odds after a hotly-disputed penalty salvaged Leeds United a point at Ipswich last night.
Supersub David Healy converted an 88th-minute penalty to secure Leeds a 1-1 draw at Portman Road – but the managers were in dispute over the penalty decision that led to the equaliser. Ipswich defender Jason De Vos was adjudged to have handled under pressure from Leeds striker Rob Hulse, and Healy stepped up to spare United's blushes by bagging his 11th goal of the season. Blackwell said: "We called for a penalty straight away, and the referee gave it straight away. "I thought he handled, but I haven't seen it again so I'm not going to say for sure that Joe is wrong. "You keep telling defenders to keep their hands down. If you raise them in the box you know the possible consequences." But Ipswich boss Royle was defiant: "Firstly it wasn't a corner and then Rob Hulse banged into Jason, which is why his arm went up with the impact. "I saw it three times on the video after the game and there is no doubt. "How the referee saw the handball, but didn't see the foul on Jason De Vos is amazing. He said he didn't see it so there is no more to be said." The entire United side appealed for the handball and penalty hero Healy had no doubts. "It was similar to the one we had against Wigan in the Cup," he said. "I think they felt it was the wrong decision, but we were happy with it. "There were a few shenanigans before I took the penalty, but I knew the keeper would go left, I kept my head over it and did what I didn't do in the shoot-out against Wigan – put it in the corner. "Ipswich are a decent side and a point isn't to be sniffed at. Good sides grind results out and we did that." United midfielder Jonathan Douglas also felt it was a clear penalty and he said: "It was a handball. It was the same as the Wigan penalty, and full credit to Dave because he showed a lot of bottle." The point did little to aid United in their bid to put pressure on closest rivals Sheffield United ahead of their clash with Derby County tonight, but it was enough to take Leeds back above Watford and into third place once again. And Elland Road chief Blackwell was happy enough to head home with another point. "I didn't feel we were on top of our game, but we were still good enough to get a result," he said. "The penalty was the break we needed, but we got what we deserved. Their keeper made two world-class saves from Rob Hulse – the second one was unbelievable. "I thought we looked dominant at times, but it looked as though things just wouldn't drop for us. "We persevered, we kept going, and in the end we looked like we would win the game. "