Monday, March 27, 2006

Blackwell Demands More Courage
leedsunited.com

United boss Kevin Blackwell was critical of his side after they could only earn a point in a 0-0 draw with Stoke.
Blackwell pointed the finger at his forwards in particular after Leeds missed what he felt was a great opportunity to recover lost ground in the automatic promotion chase.
The Whites boss, who started with David Healy and Rob Hulse upfront, could not complain about the work-rate of his side but expected them to cause Stoke more problems.
"We have had loads of play again but I am asking the strikers to be more assertive in the last third," he said.
"It's as simple as that and in my opinion the front two have ducked it on Saturday and I've told them that.
"Stoke dropped deep and made it difficult for us. They are a big physical side who are hard to break down and that proved to be the case. In the first half we had spells of good pressure but it's the bain of every manager when crosses are delivered and you don't miss out the first man, and when they drop in there and the keeper just comes and gets the ball you have to ask where is the second striker and why the striker isn't across him.
"I have to ask my forwards to show a little bit of balls if you like, especially when the prize is as big as we are chasing.
"It wasn't a tongue lashing at half time because I think people can see we have again had more than the lions share of possession.
"At times they were just sat in the box, we have caused them plenty of problems with the ball but in the last third again a bit of courage, bit of balls, bit of desire has gone missing. I have put the question to them why that was missing.
"That's being as straight and honest as I can be."
Blackwell showed his intent to get goals with a bench that included three attacking players and he wasn't afraid to make changes in the hope of getting the crucial breakthrough.
"I have gone with three strikers on the bench, and just Killa and a goalkeeper, and I've changed it with half an hour to go so I am not hanging around, I want to give it a go and win games. I am not sitting on my hands waiting and waiting."It was one of those war of attrition games and it was always going to be a 1-nil-er and we just couldn't get the one."

Saturday, March 25, 2006

BLACKWELL KEEPS PRESSURE ON PLAYERS
By Jamie Gardner, PA Sport
Sporting Life

Kevin Blackwell reminded his misfiring Leeds players that none of them is assured a starting berth after what he described as a "frustrating" goalless draw against Stoke at Elland Road.
Leeds had plenty of the ball but only came close when Rob Hulse's 90th-minute header hit the post, and Sheffield United's victory over Southampton means the Whites trail their Yorkshire rivals by six points in the race for automatic promotion.
"Everyone has got to realise that no job is safe at the club - people need to step up to the plate for us now," said Blackwell.
"But nothing is ever predictable, we've got a good result when you look at the other results around us (Watford in third and Crystal Palace in fifth both lost) yet it doesn't feel like that.
"All we can do is keep going and stay focused on ourselves. There will be some twists and turns before the end of the season, we have still got to play Sheffield United remember.
"It's up to me to make sure we don't run out of steam. If you want that Premiership spot you need big balls and courage, what we have done so far is put ourselves in a great position to reach the Premier League."
Stoke boss Johan Boskamp talked down his side's performance, and also the prospect of him moving to Beveren after he met with the president of the Belgian club.
Boskamp said: "We are happy with the result. Stoke have played better games than today. A point was good for us, but the way we played was not so impressive.
"We let them come at us and get crosses into the box, but luckily for us every loose ball fell to us and not for Leeds.
"I saw Leeds play against Coventry and it looks like they are having difficulties scoring goals and also today they didn't create so many chances."
On the Beveren link, the Dutchman said: "I was at Beveren 20 years ago, the president is a friend and I say it again, I will not be going to Beveren."
Boskamp's Stoke contract is up on June 30, but despite his lack of enthusiasm his side were worthy of a point. On-loan forward Paul Gallagher had the first - and what was to prove the only - shot on target of a first half Leeds dominated in terms of possession. However, they failed to translate that into efforts on goal.
Stephen Crainey's left-foot volley from 30 yards in the 20th minute was dipping, but too late to trouble Potters goalkeeper Steve Simonsen.
Stoke skipper Michael Duberry suffered some abuse when he came up to the Kop end for a free-kick as Leeds fans reminded him of his role as a witness in the trial of former United stars Jonathan Woodgate and Lee Bowyer.
"I don't think the fans here like him," Boskamp observed.
"But he has worked well all week up to the game and now he has gone to see his friends here (Duberry said before the match he would go out with United full-back Gary Kelly this evening)."
The second half began brightly as Hulse's header and David Healy's shot from the edge of the box, both in the 50th minute, forced Simonsen to make saves.
Leeds brought on Robbie Blake and new boy Jermaine Beckford in pursuit of a winner, but Stoke went very close when Darel Russell's 25-yard drive with 20 minutes to go was tipped wide at full stretch by Sullivan.
Hulse's late downward header in the last minute of normal time hit the post, and Leeds slipped further off the pace for second place.
Whites Lose More Ground: United 0 Stoke 0
leedsunited.com
Leeds lost further ground in the promotion chase with a 0-0 draw at home to Stoke, adding to what has been a frustrating and potentially damaging week for the Whites.

Pre-Match
United boss Kevin Blackwell made one change to the side that lost 1-0 to Crystal Palace in midweek, with Matthew Kilgallon stepping out and Shaun Gregan returning after his two match suspension.
Despite not having the same impact in the Palace game as he normally does as a substitute, David Healy kept his place upfront with Rob Hulse, leaving Robbie Blake on the substitutes bench.
Jermaine Beckford was rewarded for his bright showing against Palace with another go on the bench, but there was no place for latest loan signing Danny Graham.
Stoke captain Michael Duberry made his first return to the club since his departure from Elland Road last season.

The Match
Leeds dominated the start but Stoke had the first shot on target after eight minutes when Paul Gallagher tried to take advantage of a Leeds break that broke down but his shot was straight into Sullivan's waiting hands.
A minute later, after his free-kick from the right of the penalty area came to nothing, Gary Kelly bombed forward and delivered a great cross into the six yard box where Rob Hulse was just unable to get a good enough contact on the header or it would have been 1-0.
David Healy took a bit of a knock that saw him receive treatment for a cut and the blood on his shirt saw him forced to change it for one without a number. Perhaps anonymity would help him evade the Stoke defence?
Stephen Crainey is not known for his goalscoring ability but that didn't put the Scot off when presented with the chance to shoot from 35-yards. He got over the ball and struck it well but his shot was about a foot over the bar.
Eddie Lewis saw plenty of the ball and managed to get a few good crosses into the box but Stoke, with Duberry in particular giving them a height advantage, were able to make their clearances.
Stoke's best early chance fell to Sammy Bengoura after half and hour when he met a cross from the right inside the penalty area but could not keep his header down.
A murmur went around the ground just before half-time as news filtered through that Sheffield United had taken the lead in their game against Southampton. Back at Elland Road Leeds were after a lot better in the second half if they were to keep pace with the Blades.
Stoke made a change at half time, taking Bangoura off and replacing him with Hannes Sigurdsson.
The substitute had a chance to make an early impact as he latched onto Gregan's mis-hit pass and found himself with just the keeper to beat but a long run to goal. Gregan chased down the striker and a mistimed tackle earned the United man an 11th yellow card of the season. Leeds should have opened the scoring five minutes into the half when a short corner routine saw the ball whipped into the area by Kelly and Hulse was there with the header, but Simonsen did well in the Stoke goal, managing to get the ball under control.
Then 30 seconds later Healy let a shot go from the edge of the area from what was almost a standing position, and he hit it well but the keeper managed to pluck the ball out of the air. The Whites were at least starting to test the Potters keeper.
Sullivan had been presented with little to do all game but he was alert to the danger when Sigurdsson met a blocked clearance ten yards out and only Sullivan's quick reactions prevented the drive from getting through.
Blackwell left it until the 63rd minute before he made the first of his changes and it was something of a minor surprise when Jermaine Beckford's number was put up as the man to come on.
The former non-league hitman replaced Northern Ireland's record goalscorer, David Healy, and had half an hour to make an impact.
Robbie Blake was not far behind Beckford in coming on, replacing Jonathan Douglas as Leeds went with three strikers.
Sullivan was again called on to make a crucial save on 80 minutes. Darel Russell hit a screaming shot from 25-yards out that was destined for the top left hand corner until Sullivan flung himself at the shot and managed to tip it behind with an outstretched left hand. The final change of the game for Leeds saw Joel Griffiths make his debut with 17 minutes left to play, coming on for Eddie Lewis. The Australian international scored for the reserves in midweek and would have been hoping for the same to make a dream start to his career at Elland Road.
With ten minutes left to play Leeds were getting more desperate but Robbie Blake nearly eased their angst with a shot from 25-yards that just flew wide of the target.
Blackwell's men tried to muscle their way through but Stoke were managing to stand firm.
With just a minute of normal time remaining the United fans in the Kop thought the game was won when Kelly's free-kick was delivered long to the back post and Hulse met it with a strong header eight yards out but Simonsen made the block and Beckford's shot was then blocked.
Into four minutes of added time, they were again denied when Griffiths came in from the right hand side, held off his man, then tried t curl the shot in but Simonsen again saved Stoke as he turned the Aussie's shot away. The final whistle brough to an end what has been a disappointing week for Leeds, one that saw them drop five valuable points in the race for the Premiership.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

McAnuff keeps the spring in Palace's step
Louise Taylor Elland Road
Wednesday March 22, 2006
The Guardian

Just as some footballers construct careers around an ability to make late, incisive dashes into the penalty area, Iain Dowie is developing the coveted managerial knack of building promotion campaigns on springtime surges up the table.
Two years ago Dowie's Palace won a Premiership place after over taking almost all comers on the blindside as they morphed from relegation candidates to near invincibles, and his current team may well be poised to repeat that feat.
Suddenly firmly in the play-off frame, fifth-placed Palace certainly dented Kevin Blackwell's automatic promotion hopes, ensuring Leeds remain fourth behind both Sheffield United and Watford in an intriguing race towards the promised land.
"We've had two defeats in 17 games so we're just going to keep going and see where we end up," said Dowie. "It's going to be a very interesting end to the season." As Blackwell admitted: "Palace did a good job on us; we had plenty of possession but never really hurt them."
Andrew Johnson's hopes of making England's World Cup squad may have long since been erased but at least the Palace striker with the devastating change of pace can ease his frustration by damaging Championship defences. He nearly gave his side an early lead here but his shot was blocked by Neil Sullivan's legs after Jobi McAnuff's left-wing cross and Clinton Morrison's dummy unhinged Blackwell's rearguard. Sullivan then looked hugely relieved when Fitz Hall missed from three yards out, side-footing wide after the Leeds keeper parried Mikele Leigertwood's curler into his path.
By half time Sullivan had been beaten, however, McAnuff rifling a shot into the bottom corner from the right-hand side of the area after another clever Morrison dummy. That finish was preceded by Johnson's amalgam of impressive acceleration and Velcro-like close control which saw him sashaying his way past a series of defenders. Paul Butler, particularly, will not relish watching a replay, the Leeds captain having backed off unwisely.
It was a deserved lead. Palace played the quicker, slicker football, with Leeds too set-piece dependent, and despite pleasing cameos from Liam Miller and a bad miss from Matthew Kilgallon the second period continued in similar vein.
With Palace's Michael Hughes cutting an increasingly influential figure in central midfield and Johnson apparently petrifying Butler and co every time he had possession, Leeds looked extremely unlikely to repeat the win they achieved at Selhurst Park earlier this month.
Gambling, Blackwell sent Jermaine Beckford, a striker newly signed from non-league Wealdstone, on for his debut as he switched formation to 3-4-3 but, although the pacey youngster showed some promising touches, Palace held firm for a much merited victory.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Premier League tribunal seen as massive test case
By Henry Winter (Filed: 21/03/2006)
Telegraph

A tribunal will soon rule on Chelsea's controversial wooing of two Leeds United youngsters, a pursuit that has stirred so much anger that some within the Premier League would like the champions to be punished with the deduction of points.
Others want seven-figure compensation levels established to reimburse Leeds, who have invested time, cash, patience and endless coaching skills in the pair. "If compensation is not significant than people in youth-development structures will worry," said one leading academy director.
Michael Woods and Tom Taiwo, the two teenagers at the centre of what all agree is a massive test case, were being nurtured by Neil Thompson, director of a Leeds academy that has produced Paul Robinson, Alan Smith, Jonathan Woodgate, Harry Kewell, James Milner and Aaron Lennon. Then Chelsea called. Money talked, talent walked and Woods and Taiwo are continuing their education at the Bridge.
Youngsters do move, but the frustration for a club like Leeds is partly the manner of Chelsea's approach and also the reality that compensation will never match the players' true worth. Chelsea could get away with paying less than £500,000 for the pair, rising to £2 million if they reach the first team and represent England. If Woods and Taiwo are capped, they will be worth five times that.
In Woods and Taiwo, Chelsea admit they have "elbowed a few" rivals, in the words of chief executive Peter Kenyon. He points out that Chelsea need to take an aggressive approach to "break up the cartel" run by other leading clubs.
However brazen Chelsea have been, they are not alone. One Premiership manager has upset Leicester City by phoning the parents of two of their most eminent academy scholars, a left-back and a striker. One promising teenage striker at a northern club received a letter from a famous forward at a southern club, inviting him to visit.
Illegal approaches are rife and the Premier League, when they consider compensation levels and possible punishment for Chelsea, must send out a message to all those who want to piggy-back on the hard work of youth coaches like Thompson. If the academy system is to flourish, its rules must be respected.
Every academy director in the land awaits the tribunal's verdict with interest, aware that their youngsters could be targeted next. "The two Leeds players are very, very good players," says Dave Parnaby, director of Middlesbrough's hugely successful academy. "Chelsea have gone right to the front door and made financial offers, and the boys have decided to leave.
"Now it goes to compensation. Jermain Defoe went from Charlton to West Ham, and it reached the million bracket (with add-ons). We are eight years on from that. It is a test case for the whole of the football industry."
If top youngsters like Woods and Taiwo are cherry-picked by wealthy clubs like Chelsea for only modest compensation, then some chairmen might wonder whether it worth having an academy costing £2 million a year if their tyros are lured away - players who represent the club's future, in terms of winning trophies or bringing in millions when transferred.
Although rescued from economic meltdown by chairman Ken Bates, Elland Road's financial situation is such that they cannot afford to lose Woods and Taiwo without proper recompense.
Even more sensitive is the issue of whether Chelsea went through the right channels in meeting Woods and Taiwo, which they insist they did. If the tribunal can prove an illegal approach was made, and that Chelsea contacted the players before Leeds, then certain leading figures at the Premier League would like the champions to face the loss of points.
A warning needs to go out to all rapacious clubs. "Most people stop scouts coming to Under-16 games," adds Boro's Parnaby. "Some are just predators." It is time the Premier League attacked the predators.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Coventry 1 Leeds 1: Cool head Healy saves Leeds
Sunday Times
John Aizlewood at Ricoh Arena

READING may be out of sight and already measuring their Premiership suits, but with Sheffield United spluttering like a distressed Trabant, the Championship promotion race has suddenly become interesting again.
Yesterday’s tussle was as absorbing as it promised with Leeds having lost just once this calendar year. Meanwhile Coventry City were in in such a rich vein of form that despite having started December in 21st place, a play-off position was not a wholly fanciful notion until David Healy’s penalty gave Leeds their second late equaliser in two games.
“Nobody could deny we deserved something from that,” said manager Kevin Blackwell. “We just keep going and going and going. That’s why we’re 12 months ahead of where we thought we’d be.”
Coventry manager Micky Adams was far from disappointed with his team’s performance, particularly during the first half. “That’s as well as we can play,” he noted.
But Leeds should have edged ahead when Liam Miller’s surging run and pass set up teammate Rob Hulse, whose unnecessarily hurried shot found only the side-netting. Outfoxed only briefly, recalled veteran Don Hutchison enlisted Michael Doyle, 11 years his junior, as his midfield enforcer and the Scot became the contest’s most creative force.
Hutchison sprayed passes occasionally right, occasionally left, but usually towards a hesitant Matthew Kilgallon, who was spooked to distraction by Dele Adebola’s ceaseless bustling. Hutchison’s reverse pass on 18 minutes freed Andrew Whing to cross from the right. Neil Sullivan struggled to gather, but Paul Butler headed Adebola’s effort off the line.
In the 25th minute, shortly after Hutchison had rattled Sullivan’s bar with an almighty free kick, City went ahead via Gary McSheffrey’s 50th club goal. Stern John and Adebola combined smartly for McSheffrey to nip in ahead of Kilgallon and curl an insouciant, low finish past Sullivan.
Leeds rallied as Marton Fulop saved with his legs from Robbie Blake and Hulse spurned another chance, but the effervescent McSheffrey so bamboozled Kilgallon and Stephen Crainey in the 35th minute that the defenders clattered into each other.
After the restart, despite Hulse heading Eddie Lewis’s cross onto the bar, despite a succession of corners, despite switching to 4-3-3 and despite introducing the talismanic Healy, Leeds’s sting was drawn by Hutchison’s brain and Doyle’s legs. Soon, Sullivan was performing minor miracles to keep out James Scowcroft’s header and John was firing wildly over when unmarked six yards out.
Leeds, though, were never craven and Miller forced Fulop into a flying save after another 20-yard run. As the shadows lengthened and the freeze bit harder, Leeds grew more desperate until Lewis chanced an 87th minute cross borne of desperation rather than expectation. For reasons only he will know, Whing stuck out a hand. City protested, but a penalty was condign punishment. “Blatant,” chuckled Blackwell. “The referee was spot on.” Seemingly without a care in the world, Healy powered home the spot kick and Leeds had not so much got themselves out of jail as blown apart the whole prison.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

BLACKWELL: LEEDS WORTHY OF POINT
Sporting Life

Leeds boss Kevin Blackwell insisted his side fully deserved to claim the point which kept their automatic promotion hopes alive thanks to a late penalty against Coventry at the Ricoh Arena.
Northern Ireland international David Healy struck from the spot in the 88th minute after Sky Blues full-back Andrew Whing was judged to have handled a cross from Eddie Lewis to claim a 1-1 draw.
The late goal cancelled out Gary McSheffrey's first-half strike - his 50th goal for the club - and denied Coventry their seventh successive home league victory.
Although they left it late, Blackwell said it was no more than his west Yorkshire side deserved.
He said: "I think that anyone who watched the game today cannot say that we deserved a least a point from it.
"Coventry defended stoutly and their keeper made several good saves and you can't help but wonder if it is going to be your day but credit to the lads they kept going."
The point cut Sheffield United's lead in second place to just four points and Leeds have a game in hand against Crystal Palace at Elland Road on Tuesday night.
"It is certainly getting interesting," Blackwell said.
"At one point we were 17 points off automatic promotion but now it is only four and if we can win against Crystal Palace on Tuesday, it will be very interesting.
"Certainly my players are very confident."
Coventry boss Micky Adams was unhappy at the penalty he felt robbed his side of victory.
He said: "I think we had two chances to clear the ball in the run-up to the incident which we did not do and that disappoints me.
"I have seen decisions like that given but I got the feeling the referee was always going to give them something.
"I have a directive from the League Managers' Association not to criticise referees' performances in public so I do not want to say any more.
"I thought we were outstanding in the first half and played as well in football terms as we have at any point this season.
"Do not forget Leeds are third in the table and have quality players so we always knew they were going to come back at us.
"We defended brilliantly and put bodies on the line but unfortunately it was not enough."
Coventry, unbeaten at the Ricoh since early Noveber, dominated the first half and Dele Adebola saw his acrobatic overhead kick cleared off the line by Paul Butler in the 19th minute.
Six minutes later, former Liverpool midfielder Don Hutchison rattled the bar with a thunderous 20-yard free-kick which Neil Sullivan got his fingertips to.
But the Sky Blues were not to be denied and opened the scoring in the 26th minute after a lovely work by Adebola.
The bustling striker beat Butler and Matthew Kilgallon before easing the ball into McSheffrey's path, who coolly stroked the ball past Sullivan for his 15th goal of the season.
A half-time pep talk by Blackwell did the trick as his side stepped up the pressure in the second half.
Rob Hulse, Liam Miller and Jonathan Douglas all went close before Healy's late strike.
RISING STAR JOINS LEEDS
United win race to sign ace Beckford
Yorkshire Evening Post
EXCLUSIVE By PAUL DEWS

THE 'most wanted man in non-league football' was today set to put pen to paper with Leeds United. Wealdstone striker Jermaine Beckford has agreed terms with Leeds and was undergoing a medical at the club's Thorp Arch training base. The 23-year-old is the leading goalscorer in the senior divisions of the non-league pyramid with 35 goals this season and has attracted a host of interest from clubs. Charlton, Sunderland, Crystal Palace, QPR, Brentford, Oldham, Yeovil, Peterborough, Wycombe Wanderers and Barnet have all checked out the player's progress while Premiership heavyweights Chelsea had also dropped in on Wealdstone for a close look at the striker. But Leeds have won the race for his signature and were immediately fending off loan enquiries for his services. Delighted manager Kevin Blackwell said: "Jermaine is a raw talent and we think he has a big future. "He's scored a lot of goals for Wealdstone and there's been a hell of a lot of interest in him. We're delighted he has chosen us." Blackwell admits his young striker may have to bide his time before breaking through. "He's one for the future," said the Leeds boss. "There's always someone in non-league football who can make the step up. We've had him watched and the scouts like what they have seen. "Both the chairman and I want to uncover a gem from somewhere and it could be Jermaine. "He will come here and learn his trade."

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Lewis Rescue Act: United 2 Norwich 2
leedsunited.com

A glorious free-kick from Eddie Lewis rescued a valuable point for Leeds at home to Norwich - but it was a game they should have made sure of the win in the first half.

Pre-Match
United boss Kevin Blackwell stuck with the same side that beat Crystal Palace the previous week, and who would blame him for keeping a winning side intact.
That meant Rob Hulse and Robbie Blake were given the opportunity to build on their 11 goals this season, whilst another striker on the same amount, David Healy, was forced to make do with a place on the bench alongside another international, Eirik Bakke.
Also on the bench was the welcome sight of Matthew Kilgallon, the defender having recovered from a knee ligament injury and now being forced to bide his time before getting another chance to establish himself.

The Match
Norwich had the first real chance of the game after six minutes, a half clearance from skipper Paul Butler fell for Huckerby and he set Leon McKenzie on his way but fortunately the striker was forced out wide and Gary Kelly got back to block the shot and Neil Sullivan prevented it from going out for a corner.
Liam Miller has brought real attacking purpose to United's midfield and he had the Elland Road crowd on its feet applauding him after a flash of brilliance saw him dribble his way past Norwich defender Gary Doherty to set up a good attack for Leeds.
He played the ball out wide to Robbie Blake who tried three times to hit the target but each time saw his shot blocked before finally being a little too over-ambitious and losing the ball.
The move may have come to nothing but it sparked Leeds to life and they then began to play some of the best football seen at Elland Road this season.
They came close to an opener just after the quarter hour mark. Kelly's cross came in, Hulse went up for the scissor-kick and missed but Douglas met it on the half volley and had he got more power behind his shot then Green in the Norwich goal might have been severely tested, as it was he made a comfortable save.
Robbie Blake's footwork was a joy to behold; he was twisting and turning, playing great dummies and generally taking his man on at every occasion. The boy hails from Boro but in this form he could be mistaken for Brazilian.
And it was Blake who set Leeds on their way to the first goal with more terrorising of the Norwich defence on 20 minutes.
Toying with three defenders just inside the penalty box, he picked out Eddie Lewis ahead of him with a deft pass, the American then flicked the ball up and went for the shot but only managed to hit it as far as Hulse barely two yards further forward. Hulse found himself with just the keeper to beat from six yards out - and there was only one outcome as he helped himself to goal number 12 of the season.
Just after Craig Fleming was booked for a late challenge on Miller, Leeds came within a whisker of making it 2-0. Lewis took the free kick and delivered a great ball into the area where Hulse met it with a crashing header that Green only just managed to tip away at full stretch.
Hulse had a few more headers before the break but couldn't find the target with some difficult chances. It was a sign though that Leeds were well on top and at half time Kevin Blackwell could only have had one wish - get more goals.
Norwich came out after the break and set about getting at the Leeds defence with twice as much purpose as they had shown in the first half.
The first quarter hour of the second half saw them cause United no end of problems and they provided a taster of what was to come when Doherty's snap shot was only just tipped away by Sullivan.
They got their reward though on 57 minutes as they drew level with a goal that would have infuriated the defence.
Simon Charlton's cross from the left found Huckerby in acres of space inside the penalty area and at first it looked like Sullivan has saved Leeds again but the ball bounced awkwardly, hit Butler and the post and was bundled home by Andy Hughes from close range.
United's frustration at having conceded the goal showed when Derry was booked for a foul on Paul McVeigh. Five minutes later Stephen Crainey was followed him into the book for a foul on the same player.
Leeds were clearly unsettled and put themselves in more danger when Gregan's headed backpass to the keeper was short and put Sullivan in all kinds of trouble and McKenzie managed to get a foot to the ball first but fortunately couldn't direct it goalwards and Kelly cleared.
Shaun Gregan became the third United player to be booked when he sent McKenzie clattering to the ground. If it is confirmed as the defender's tenth booking of the season, he will now be suspended for two games.
Blackwell made his first chance on 69 minutes when Healy replaced Blake and the pressure was now on the Ulsterman to deliver another goal in his super-sub role.
United's task of winning the game became somewhat harder when Norwich stunned everyone by taking the lead on 75 minutes.
Somehow Huckerby was allowed to cross the ball under pressure from Kelly and Butler on the left of the penalty area, Gregan tried to cut it out but missed it and the ball fell for McVeigh who drilled it home just inside the left hand post.
Liam Miller made way with just over 10 minutes remaining and was replaced by Eirik Bakke. Huckerby was nearly through on goal after a long ball caught Leeds on the break but Kelly managed to get across and hold off the striker enough to clear the danger.
Healy had a chance to level things when Hulse's header fell nicely for him on the right of the six yard box but his drive only found the side netting.
With time fast running out it looked as if Leeds, well aware main promotion rivals Sheffield United were losing, had blown their big chance to make up further ground.
Eddie Lewis was to change that with a free-kick just short of 25-yards out from goal.
He lined it up and with the crowd well aware it could be their last chance to get something out of the game, placed it perfectly just inside the top right hand corner of the net. It set up a rip-roaring last four minutes of extra time but United couldn't find another goal and had to settle for a point, but it was a point that drew them ever nearer to Sheffield United and the second automatic promotion place.

Friday, March 10, 2006

IS WARNOCK LOSING PLOT?
By PAUL DEWS
Yorkshire Evening Post

LEEDS UNITED boss Kevin Blackwell today laughed off an astonishing verbal attack from Sheffield United counterpart Neil Warnock.
In an apparent bid to turn the focus away from his own side's faltering run, Warnock has accused Blackwell of instigating a bout of mind games as the race for promotion hots up. Leeds entertain Norwich tomorrow while Sheffield United, who have won just one of their last six games, travel to Coventry and the pressure is clearly mounting for the under-fire Blades. And Warnock, pictured right, who is determined to deflect suggestions that his Sheffield United side are feeling the heat, has done his best to divert attentions away from his own players by launching an attack on Blackwell. Warnock said: "I don't want to know what Kevin Blackwell or anyone else has to say now, but I will leave the talking to him because he is doing enough for both of us. The mind games are at work everywhere. "There are that many people talking you don't know who to listen to. According to some people, Leeds have caught us up but I still see a six-point gap when I look at the table." Blackwell, in fact, has had little to say about Sheffield United or his former manager in recent weeks, and the Leeds boss was stunned when quizzed about Warnock's claims. "Mind games? I'm not smart enough for anything like that," laughed Blackwell, whose Leeds side have reduced the Blades advantage in second spot from a whopping 17 points to just six. Said Blackwell: "I'm surprised by what Neil has said. I tend to leave stuff like that to the experts and Neil is good at it. "The players are doing all the talking I need. I'm certainly not going to say anything because I don't want to do Neil's team talks for him. "They are six points ahead of us and there's four of us waiting for them to lose because Watford, Palace and Preston are also looking at second spot. "If any of the four do get to Sheffield United's position then it will be a magnificent achievement. "If it is us we'll have done a job and Sheffield United will be castigated, but there's a long way to go yet. "A month ago it was all Sheffield United and how they were home and dry. Then it was us, then it was Watford, now it's us again. "There's 10 big games left and if we don't do our job then it all becomes irrelevant." FavouritesLeeds are now firmly established as the favourites to overhaul Sheffield United and Blackwell admits his side hold the key to their destiny. United have a game in hand on the Blades and a trip to Bramall Lane still to come this season. "If everything goes our way then it is in our hands," conceded Blackwell. "It would be a great achievement because people had written us off. "But I'm not looking too far forward and I'm not looking beyond our own results. "We've got to win our games, it's as simple as that." Blackwell had said ahead of last weekend's win at Crystal Palace that he would have settled for a dour single-goal victory – Leeds won 2-1 and played with some aplomb – and the United boss admits it's points that mean prizes now with style simply a bonus. "It's all about winning and getting over the line now," he said. "You want to win with style and a swagger and score loads of goals. That might happen, but it might not. "I'd take 10 wins with goals from people's backsides – that'd do me right now." Leeds will be watched by one of their biggest crowds of the season at Elland Road tomorrow and Blackwell is urging fans and players alike to pull together during the closing weeks. "I hope people realise we have a chance now," he said. "The fans have given the players so much – the atmosphere home and away can be electric – and I hope they can shout us home."

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

BLACKWELL AGREES NEW DEAL
Sporting Life

Kevin Blackwell will start making longer-term plans for Leeds now his own future is assured after signing a new three-year contract.
The former Sheffield United coach, who arrived at Elland Road as number two to Peter Reid in June 2003 before taking sole charge 12 months later, put pen to paper on the deal at a meeting with chairman Ken Bates in Monaco.
Former Plymouth goalkeeper Blackwell has steered the West Yorkshire side into the Coca-Cola Championship play-offs and following a run of four wins and two draws has seen his side close the gap on second-placed Sheffield United to six points with a game in hand.
Bates announced ex-goalkeepers did not make good managers shortly after taking control at Elland Road in January 2005, but the former Chelsea supremo is now convinced Blackwell is the man to take Leeds forward.
"I'm delighted. I feel the club is only at the start of something good," said Blackwell, whose initial two-year contract expires this summer.
"I'm positive we can go on and achieve good things."
Not only is the new deal a just reward for guiding Leeds to within touching distance of a return to the Premiership two seasons after being relegated with debts of over £100m, it ends speculation over Blackwell's future.
Derby and Leicester were both reported to be interested in recent months, as were former club Sheffield United when boss Neil Warnock was linked with the Portsmouth job.
"The other interest has been flattering, but there is nowhere else I'd rather be than Leeds United.
"I'm happy at this football club. It's a great place to be and it's a great honour to be manager here.
"I can look to the future now and we can make plans - but my immediate focus is on getting Leeds out of the Championship and back where we belong, in the Premiership."
When Blackwell, United's fifth manager in two years, took over from the sacked Reid he oversaw a massive turnaround of players as the club lurched towards administration.
But he succeeded in halting the slide, kept Leeds in the Championship and, as Bates stabilised matters off the field, very quickly assembled a side now challenging for automatic promotion.
Bates is convinced he has retained one of English football's shining lights.
"I'm a big believer that if it ain't broke you don't mend it," Bates told the Yorkshire Evening Post.
"Kevin wasn't going to be allowed to go anywhere else."
Bates' timing in rewarding Blackwell could give Leeds even more impetus as they close the gap on rivals Sheffield United and silences the whispers he was waiting to see how the manager had fared at the end of the season.
"I wouldn't have signed this if it wasn't for Ken Bates," added Blackwell.
"A lot of people were quick to write us off in terms of working together, but I really feel I'm part of the future at Leeds now.
"I never spoke to the chairman about a new contract. He said he would do something when he felt the time was right and I took him at his word."
Leeds effectively ended the automatic promotion hopes of Crystal Palace with a 2-1 win at Selhurst Park on Saturday.Following Sheffield United's goalless draw with bottom club Crewe on Friday, Blackwell's side cut the gap on second spot to six points with a game in hand with a visit to Bramall Lane on April 17 still to come.
Blackwell Commits To Leeds
leedsunited.com

Leeds United have today confirmed manager Kevin Blackwell has agreed a new three-year contract at the club.
Blackwell has helped turn the club around during his two years as manager, preventing the club from slipping down the divisions following relegation from the Premiership and gradually building a team over the past two seasons that is now challenging for automatic promotion.
Chairman Ken Bates insists the new contract is just reward for the job Blackwell has done and is looking forward to continued success with him at the helm.
“I’m a big believer that if it ain’t broke you don’t mend it,” Bates told the Yorkshire Evening Post.
“Kevin wasn’t going to be allowed to go anywhere else.”
The former Sheffield United assistant manager joined the club as head coach under Peter Reid in the summer of 2003 and was handed the job of manager on a full time basis in May 2004, and his success has attracted interest from both Premiership and Championship clubs.
Blackwell, whose current contract was due to expire at the end of the current season, met with Bates in Monaco earlier this week and took little time in agreeing to stay at the club and is now looking forward to what he believes will be an exciting future at the club.
“I’m delighted. I feel the club is only at the start of something good. I’m positive that we can go on and achieve good things.
“The other interest has been flattering, but there is nowhere else I would rather be than Leeds United.
“I’m happy at this football club. It’s a great place to be and it’s a great honour to be manager here.“I can look to the future now and we can make plans — but my immediate focus is on getting Leeds out of the Championship and back to where we belong, in the Premiership.”

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Crystal Palace 1 Leeds 2: Hulse raises stakes for gritty Leeds
Sunday Times
Kevin Dunn at Selhurst Park

LEEDS continued their chase for automatic promotion to the Premiership with a victory over Crystal Palace that extended their unbeaten run to eight games and took them to within six points of second-placed Sheffield United.
Goals by Robbie Blake and Rob Hulse ensured a win that was more comfortable than the scoreline suggested. Palace scored a stoppage-time consolation goal through Jobi McAnuff but their pressure was too little too late.
The hosts were six points behind Leeds at the start of play and both clubs were encouraged by Sheffield United’s failure to beat Crewe on Friday night. Palace had been enjoying a rich vein of form and were unbeaten in 10 league games at Selhurst Park and Andy Johnson again led Palace’s attack, still hoping, at this late stage to play his way into Sven-Göran Eriksson’s reckoning for the World Cup.
Capped twice last year, Johnson’s season has been hampered by injury and his profile diminished by competing in the Championship rather than the Premiership.
Leeds welcomed back former Palace player Shaun Derry after suspension and they began confidently and after only five minutes Gabor Kiraly in the Palace goal was called upon to make two important saves. Firstly, he tipped a header by Jonathan Douglas over the bar and then from the corner he dived on his line to save brilliantly from an even better header by the same player.
Crystal Palace were struggling to create openings against the well-organised Leeds defence. Clinton Morrison twice got into promising positions but failed to test Neil Sullivan in the Leeds goal.
After 16 minutes Leeds again went close to opening the scoring when Eddie Lewis struck a left-foot volley that flashed narrowly wide of Kiraly’s right-hand post.
Palace’s first chance came after 19 minutes when McAnuff met a Ben Watson cross but his diving header went well wide. Johnson then won a free kick in a promising position 25 yards from goal but Watson’s drive was blocked.
Leeds had the greater possession and their adventure was rewarded when Blake gave them the lead in the 33rd minute. Liam Miller broke forward from midfield and fed the ball to Hulse who crossed from the byline.
Palace centre-back Fitz Hall failed to clear and Blake bundled the ball into the net from two yards for his 11th goal of the season.
Hall tried to make amends five minutes later but headed wide from a Watson corner.
Palace manager Iain Dowie was left flapping his arms in frustration on the touchline as his team failed to mount a serious threat to Sullivan’s goal.
In fact, Leeds might have gone further ahead before the interval when Kiraly completely misjudged a deep cross by Miller. But the Hungarian goalkeeper was relieved to see Lewis head wide.
The subdued Selhurst Park crowd was stunned by Leeds’ second goal in the 53rd minute. Miller, the midfielder on loan from Manchester United, crossed from the right and Hulse slid in to score off the underside of the bar from six yards.
It was the former West Brom striker’s 11th goal of the season, and no less than the visitors deserved.
Dowie responded by sending on Aki Riihilahti in place of Watson and Mikele Leigertwood in place of Tom Soares in an attempt to add some bite to his midfield.
Palace at last began to exert some pressure and when Leeds failed to clear a corner Leigertwood drove a powerful right-foot volley that Sullivan held on the line.
The home side then forced a series of corners.
From one of them Sullivan punched the ball away but only to Riihilahti, whose shot was deflected away.
Then a scramble in the Leeds goalmouth ended in Johnson heading on to Emmerson Boyce whose header was grabbed by Sullivan on his line.
When McAnuff was fouled, Michael Hughes took the free-kick quickly to Johnson, whose shot rebounded to Leigertwood and his drive was again deflected for another corner. From the kick, the ball fell to Morrison who tried to hook it in at the far post but Sullivan was well positioned to save.
After 82 minutes McAnuff hit a left-foot shot from the edge of the Leeds area but Sullivan dived to save on the six-yard line. He then held another long-range drive from Hughes.
Dowie pushed Hall forward as an extra attacker but as Palace intensified the pressure Johnson blazed over the bar with three minutes left. Then, in stoppage time, McAnuff cut in from the right and scored brilliantly with a drive from the edge of the area. But the goal, spectacular as it was, could not save Palace from defeat.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

BLACKWELL WARNS FALTERING BLADES
Sporting Life
By Tom Collomosse, PA Sport

Leeds boss Kevin Blackwell warned Sheffield United his team would fight them all the way for automatic promotion after their 2-1 win at Crystal Palace.
This victory put Leeds - who have a game in hand on their Yorkshire rivals - six points adrift of second place in the Coca-Cola Championship.
Blackwell's men deserved their win, which they earned thanks to goals in either half from Robbie Blake and Rob Hulse, while Jobi McAnuff's injury-time strike for Palace only compounded their manager Iain Dowie's frustration.
"People thought the race for automatic promotion was finished a long time ago and that Reading and Sheffield United had booked their places in the Premiership - but we never agreed," Blackwell said.
"Sheffield United are still in the ascendancy, but we feel we have a chance of catching them. We have to keep chasing, and we are doing as much as we can.
"We have had such dramatic changes since I took over as manager in the summer of 2004, and it takes time to build continuity and understanding."
Leeds' triumph owed much to the performances of on-loan Manchester United player Liam Miller and former Palace man Shaun Derry in midfield.
Playing in front of a reliable back four, Derry broke up a number of Palace attacks, while Miller's craft and creativity troubled Dowie's side all afternoon.
Blackwell continued: "It was very important for us to get Liam back here in the January transfer window, because three or four Premiership clubs wanted him.
"That Liam decided to return proves the club is going in the right direction. He has that little bit of class and guile that you need.
"Shaun was immense today. He has a great physical element to his game, but he is no mean ball player."
Palace chief Dowie offered no excuses for his team's first home defeat in the Championship in 2006.
The home side did not test Leeds goalkeeper Neil Sullivan until the final 25 minutes, and their manager accepted they had not been good enough.
He said: "Leeds deserved to win today. They were not massively better than us, but we didn't get going until the latter stages.
"We seemed to lack hunger, and that was disappointing. We were second-best far too often in both boxes; it was a really flat performance."
Dowie's men - who play Leeds again at Elland Road on March 21 - are 15 points adrift of an automatic spot with 10 matches remaining, and he added: "This was a big opportunity missed for us. We still hope to be able to reach second place, but we are making life very difficult for ourselves.
"There is now a mountain for us to climb."
Whites Keep Up The Pressure: Palace 1 Leeds 2
leedsunited.com
Goals from Robbie Blake and Rob Hulse gave United another great away win and more importantly moved them to within six points of second place with a game in hand and Sheffield United to play. It's all on!

Pre-Match
United boss Kevin Blackwell made just the one change to the side that beat Luton the previous week, and it meant a return to the side for Shaun Derry.
Derry, besides coming back into the side after serving his one match suspension, was returning to Selhurt Park for the first time since leaving Crystal Palace to join the Whites.
David Healy dropped down to the bench to resume his now familiar role of super-sub and was joined there by Eirik Bakke, who has started just the one game since his return from a loan spell at Aston Villa.
Palace were able to include England striker Andy Johnson, who was looking to prove a point after being left out of the most recent squad.

The Match
Leeds enjoyed an encouraging start to the game, putting plenty of pressure on the Palace goal inside the first five minutes.
Their first chance came through good work by Liam Miller on the deadball line after he won the corner that eventually created an opening for his fellow Irish international Jonathan Douglas. Gary Kelly swung in the cross and the Blackburn man's header was only just cleared off the line by Palace keeper Gabor Kiraly, who got down quickly to get a hand to the ball.
Clinton Morrison might have forced a save out of Neil Sullivan but he missed the shot completely and Leeds survived. They escaped again when Michael Hughes squared the ball across the face of the six yard box and Leeds looked stretched with a number of Palace players looking to knock the ball home, but fortunately the offside flag was up.
Then Kelly's quick corner eventually fell for Eddie Lewis but the American's shot swerved wide of the left hand post. Leeds had showed their intent though and were getting closer with every attempt.
The breakthrough finally came on 33 minutes and it was good to see The Whites punish a side on the break so decisively - just as they had been so many times last season.
The superb Miller, no doubt buoyed after his goal for the Republic in midweek, broke away after dispossessing Andy Johnson, set Rob Hulse away, and despite the close attention of the giant Darren Ward, managed to cut the ball back across the face of goal to Robbie Blake who smashed it home from two yards out.
It was a simple but effective move that deserved to finish in a goal, and with it Blake joined David Healy at the top of the United goalscoring charts on 11. A nice way to celebrate his 31st birthday!
Palace were stunned by the goal and their response lacked a cutting edge as the Leeds defence did their job well.
Eddie Lewis had a clear header three minutes before the end after meeting Kelly's cross but put it wide from five yards out. It was another great chance gone begging.
At half time Kevin Blackwell would have been delighted to see his side well in control of the game and having taken the advantage, all that would be required was for them to build on their lead.
And Leeds did just that six minutes into the second half with a goal similar to the first.
The hard-working Douglas combined with Miller, he got behind the Palace back four and delivered another perfect ball across the face of goal where Hulse got to the ball and smashed it against the underside of the bar and in.
The goal also put Hulse on 11 for the season and there's a fascinating battle going on amongst the strikers to be top dog. It was Hulse's first goal since January 7th, when he scored against Wigan and his last league goal was five days previous to that against Plymouth, also away.
Leeds had given themselves a two-goal cushion and they looked like only extending their lead more with the hosts looking already beaten.
Palace made two changes shortly after the goal, Iain Dowie feeling he couldn't let things continue as they were any longer, and on came Aki Riihilahti and Mikele Leigertwood with less than an hour played.
Neil Sullivan was forced to make his first save of the game on 65 minutes when Leigertwood went for goal with an ambitious strike from 35-yards out. It was a good effort from the youngster but Sullivan was not caught out.
Sullivan suddenly found himself a lot busier than he was in the first half as the other substitute, Finnish international Riihilahti also hit a shot goalwards, and again the former Scotland keeper made the save look comfortable.
Palace enjoyed their best spell of the game for 15 minutes after the hour mark, managing to put the pressure on Leeds and coming close as Shaun Derry flung himself in the way of a shot from Clinton Morrison, blocking it at the expense of a corner. Leeds though managed to survive that crucial period and eat up valuable time on their way to another three points.
Jobi McAnuff might have given the Eagles a goal to get back into the game with but his shot was straight at Sullivan from a good position on the edge of the area.
Danny Pugh and David Healy were given five minutes before the end when they came on for Eddie Lewis and Robbie Blake respectively.
Leeds had managed to keep Andy Johnson quiet for most of the game and when he screwed a shot horribly high and wide over the bar, it summed up Palace's afternoon.
Then, with the 90 minutes up, out of nowhere the hosts got a late goal to put themselves back in with a chance of earning a point from the game.
McAnuff cut inside from the right flank and hit a left footed drive from the edge of the penalty area that saw Sullivan finally beaten to set up a nervous final few minutes of extra time.
Rob Hulse could have made absolutely sure of the three points when he went clear but Kiraly pulled off the save and Leeds had a bit of defending to do as Palace sensed they weren't beaten yet.
Leeds though had done enough to earn themselves another great away win and the final whistle was greeted with some relief.
It turned out to be a pivotal result for Leeds with Watford having lost to Derby meaning the Whites regained third place in the table, and with Sheffield United having dropped two points the night before with a draw against the bottom side Crewe, it left them just six points adrift of the Blades with a game in hand and a game to come against the Blades.It has set up one of the most exciting finishes to a season in years for Leeds, and it could yet be United's year.