Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Times 27/2/07
Bendtner’s stylish return puts Leeds in deeper strife
Birmingham 1 Leeds 0
Adrian Milledge
Birmingham City last night became the third team to lead the Coca-Cola Championship in four days with a victory that made Leeds United’s position at the other end of the table even more perilous.
The game was one of two Steve Bruce’s team had in hand on West Bromwich Albion and the win restored them to the pole position they occupied when the scheduled meeting with Leeds was postponed.
Bruce made four changes to the starting lineup that had lost away to Hull City on Saturday, including bringing in two different strikers. That meant a recall for Nicklas Bendtner and the on-loan Arsenal teenager responded by putting Birmingham ahead.
It was a goal, however, that owed much to the input of Gary McSheffrey. A foul on him by Jonathan Douglas resulted in the Birmingham winger taking the subsequent free kick and putting the Leeds goal under its first real threat.
David Healy prevented that from creeping inside Graham Stack’s left-hand post at the expense of a corner. McSheffrey sent in an inswinger and Bendtner glanced a header past Stack.
Rather than settle the hosts, Bendtner’s goal served as a tonic for the visiting team. Rob-bie Blake, once of Birmingham himself, opened up the home defence only to fail to find the unmarked Healy with his pullback from the byline.
Manuel Rui Marques went close with a header but still Birmingham failed to heed the warnings and escaped punishment from a passage of play that is likely to fuel demands for the introduction of video technology to assist officials. Richard Cresswell, one-on-one with Colin Doyle, had his shot pushed on to the post by the Birmingham goalkeeper and Stephen Clemence hacked the ball to safety as it threatened to dribble over the goalline. The Leeds supporters, stationed behind the goal, were convinced that the ball had crossed the line. Not so Rob Styles’s assistant, who was in no position to judge.
Leeds’ pursuit of the equaliser left them vulnerable to the counter-attack and Bendtner came within inches of doubling Birmingham’s tally.
Having collected Stephen Kelly’s long ball forward, the Denmark forward outpaced Matt Heath before sending a shot just over Stack’s crossbar.
Birmingham, perhaps under instructions from Bruce that attack was the best form of defence, shed their caution after the interval. Sebastian Larsson and McSheffrey began to stretch the Leeds defence by using the space on the flanks, affording Bendtner and Rowan Vine more room for manoeuvre down the middle.
Dennis Wise, the Leeds manager, responded by introducing two attacking substitutes in Ian Moore and Jemal Jackson but the gambit did little to lift the siege on his team’s goal. Nevertheless, Leeds’ most anxious moment until Bendtner twice went close in the final five minutes was self-inflicted: the hapless Cresswell inadvertently testing Stack by deflecting a diagonal cross from McSheffrey that the Leeds keeper tipped to safety via his crossbar.
Bendtner almost added a second in the dying moments only to see his powerful shot well saved by Stack and, set up by McSheffrey, should have done better but fired against the outside of a post.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Times 25/2/07
Resurgent Wolves back in hunt
Wolves 1 Leeds 0: Resurgent Wolves are showing play-off form as Leeds fail to convince anyone they are a Championship side
Paul Rowan at Molineux
Wolves are as strapped for cash as any club in the top half of the Championship, but the bit of business that Mick McCarthy did in the January transfer window may just have transformed their season. Stephen Ward, the player signed from the Dublin side Bohemians has been grabbing the headines of late but it was an even more obscure figure, Michael Kightly, signed from Conference side Grays Athletic in Essex for £400,000, who converted dominance into victory yesterday, with a goal midway through the second half just when it looked like Leeds might hold out for an undeserved point. Kightly has now scored three times for Wolves in their past six league games and thoughts of a playoff place are now beginning to reemerge with the daffodils around Molineux.
Sixteen points out of a possible 18 from their last six games is form fit for a delay in the summer holidays and Wolves dominated in the manner expected of the inform side. That’s not saying much when the opposition is Leeds United, whose failure to win more than one of their past five games and to score in their past three has done nothing to convince the doubters that Dennis Wise is the manager to keep them in the Championship. Wise went into the game bemoaning his injury lot, having lost midfielder Alan Thompson and Mozambique international, Armando Sa, during the week.
Wise had talked about exploiting Wolves’s weak links, but it was difficult to know what or who he was talking about on the basis of his side’s approach in the first half, in which time-wasting appeared to be high on the agenda. Certainly the fledgling centre-half pairing of Rob Edwards and Neil Collins, preferred now to the more experienced Gary Breen and Jody Craddock, were given little to worry about. Instead it was Wolves’s budding partnership up front, the Irishmen Andy Keogh and Ward who caused most of the problems with their movement, ably assisted by Kightly. Ward should have got on the end of a cross from Kightly, who had switched wings, after 21 minutes, as Wolves made the most of their midfield domination through the strong running of Seyi Olofinjana. Kightly also went unrewarded when he skipped past Eddie Lewis and appeared to be hauled down by Manuel Rui Marques. There seemed little argument that it was a penalty, but referee Michael Jones kept his arms by his side.
Olofinjana should then have worked Ankergen from a wicked Michael McIndoe free kick but his free header sailed over.
Leeds’s failure to deal with McIndoe’s dead-ball expertise should certainly have been punished on the stroke of half time, but this time Rob Edwards crashed the header against the inside of Ankergen’s right upright.
Neill Collins superbly blocked a Robbie Blake shot six minutes into the second half as Leeds launched a rare attack, before his centre half colleague Edwards renewed his offensive duties with McIndoe again in tandem, this time heading off the upright from an inswinging corner to the far post.
Leeds rallied briefly, with Blake showing some neat touches, but it wasn’t long before the momentum swung back in favour of the home side and this time they were able to punish their opponents. With Leeds backing off Jackie McNamara was able to make a long run infield unmolested from his left back position and he then fed Kightly.
The tackles were hardly any more vigorous as the midfielder skipped across the edge of the penalty area before beating Ankergen with a low left-footed shot back across the goal.
Leeds might have snatched an equaliser when Blake’s clever free kick on 86 minutes allowed Lewis to peel off and have a free shot but Matt Murray was alert to the danger and tipped the ball over the crossbar.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

BBC 23/2/07
Taxpayers boost Leeds Utd coffers
Leeds United Football Club is to receive more than £33,000 of taxpayers' money this year to boost its finances.
The club, which is currently bottom of the Championship, has been granted "hardship relief" against its business rates by the city council.
It applied for help as it no longer received "parachute payments" given to clubs relegated from the Premiership.
The city council said it granted rate relief worth £33,625 because of the club's importance to the community.
The Elland Road business will benefit from a total business rate relief of £134,000 in 2006/2007 - the maximum allowed under European Union state aid regulations.
The relief is 75%-funded by central government and 25% by Leeds City Council, which equates to £33,625.
Leeds City Council leader Andrew Carter said: "There is an option to award relief from business rates to organisations which are important to the local community.
"Leeds United fulfilled all the requirements for this relief. It is a very unique and important amenity in this city.
"It attracts visitors and brings employment to the city and does a huge amount of work in promoting sporting activities among people of all ages, particularly with schools and children and young people.
"That is why we will continue to work with Elland Road to ensure it continues to play such an important role in this city's success now and in the future."
Leeds United chief executive Shaun Harvey said: "The club made the application as we no longer benefit from a parachute payment having been outside the Premiership for three seasons while still carrying the financial burden from those days.
"The club still has to make payments to a number of players who have not played for the club since it was relegated.
"Our application was approved on its individual merits based on the same criteria as many other businesses in the city who benefit from this type of relief."

Yorkshire Post 22/2/07
Relegation battle will go down to wire – Wise
By Richard Sutcliffe
DENNIS WISE insists the Championship relegation battle will go down "to the wire" despite his Leeds United missing a golden opportunity to move off the bottom of the table.
A frustrating goalless draw at home to QPR on Tuesday means the Elland Road club go into a tricky double-header away from home in the coming five days at promotion-chasing Wolves and Birmingham City in a perilous position.Two more defeats and the threat of a first ever relegation from the top two division will move ever closer, but Wise remains confident that his side can get out of trouble.The Leeds manager said: "We had our chances (against QPR) and hit the post a couple of times. We deserved to win the game. We made a couple of mistakes at the back when we gave them chances, but overall we dominated the game and should have taken three points."We had enough shots on goal, but unfortunately not enough were on target. A couple of deflections could have gone in, but fell nicely for their goalkeeper."I was disappointed with the result, obviously, because I felt we should have won. They were more pleased than us with the result. But I was pleased with the way the lads performed."Wise revealed after last month's win at Hull City that he had looked through the remaining fixtures and predicted where his side will pick up points. Tuesday's home game with struggling QPR represented a golden opportunity to claim all three points but it was not to be as Leeds were left frustrated by both Robbie Blake and
David Healy hitting the post in a goalless draw.Wise said: "I might have had the (QPR) game down as a three, yes. But we have to keep going. There is not much in it down there and it is going to go to the wire. A lot of different results will happen in the next few weeks. "We have to make sure we are out of it by the end of the season. I am pleased with what the lads gave me, they put the effort in. Unfortunately, it did not fall for us. I thought David Healy's shot was in. "This is not a team that is on the floor. We do not look like a team that is bottom of this league. If we did, I would be worried. But I am not seeing that. "We have to get to a certain amount of points. That is it, there is no point worrying about the other teams. I do not know what they will do over the coming weeks so there is no point trying to guess."Leeds were boosted by a season's best crowd of 29,953 against QPR after the club slashed ticket prices in order to drum up support. After attracting a crowd almost 10,000 up on their average, Leeds have extended the experiment to the Luton Town game on March 10 when adults will once again be able to gain admission for £15 and £25.Wise said: "I think the crowd was fantastic. Full credit to the fans for getting behind the players at the right times. I just hope they carry on coming. "This is a massive club and we need those fans. We need them on our side because it can help the situation. We want everyone mucking in."Everyone knew we would get close to 30,000 and that was a big boost for us. It created a good atmosphere, which is what we want. We need it lively."The fans could make the difference. The chairman is doing the same for Luton. It was lovely to get a good atmosphere."Leeds have a host of injury problems ahead of the trip to Molineux with Alan Thompson and Armando Sa both being forced out against QPR with injury.Wise said: "Thompson has pulled his calf and Sa has pulled his hamstring. We will have to wait and see how they are. "We will also have to be careful with Richard Cresswell and Healy. I am not sure if Cressy will be available for Saturday, we will have to wait and see. "We also have to be careful with David because of his arm. I slung them back in and they did okay. The more they play together, the better they will be."On Neil Sullivan's exit on loan to Doncaster Rovers, Wise said: "I spoke to Neil and told him I would not be renewing his contract (this summer). He had the chance to go to Doncaster and went. I wish him well."

Daily Mail 20/2/07
Camp holds strong
Leeds 0 QPR 0
Leeds' bid to haul themselves off the foot of the Championship table fell as flat as a pancake despite the return of their stay away fans to Elland Road in Dennis Wise’s hour of need.
On a night for nostalgia rather than a carnival atmosphere, frustrated Leeds had little to celebrate as John Gregory’s fellow strugglers — especially goalkeeper Lee Camp — did their utmost to spoil the party.
Leeds pulled in easily their biggest crowd of the season by dropping their prices to tempt 29,593 to Elland Road having doubtless set their videos for Life on Mars, the BBC drama in which the hero wakes up in 1973.
Plenty of them would settle for joining time warp detective Sam Tyler, for, in the wake of an FA Cup Final defeat, Leeds launched a League title campaign that year which steamrollered their rivals aside.
Instead, the fans were offered a graphic reminder of just how far their heroes had fallen in the last few years.
The giant screen marked today’s sixth anniversary of Leeds’ 4-1 win over Anderlecht during the remarkable Champions League campaign that took David O’Leary’s side to the semi-finals.
And the sight of departed strikers Alan Smith and Mark Viduka dismantling the best home record on continental Europe — 17 straight wins — seemed to lift the fans who have suffered such recent upheaval.
Rangers, in almost as much trouble as Leeds near the foot of the table, needed the points just as badly with Joe Kinnear said to be the manager in waiting should chairman Gianni Paladini lose his nerve.
Leeds, with three up front, had Alan Thompson back from injury and a simple directive from manager Wise: win the remaining seven home games and Leeds will be in the Coca-Cola Championship next season.
The home side almost fell behind 13 minutes into their quest for safety when centre half Matt Heath’s mistake let in Dexter Blackstock, but Casper Ankergren saved. Barely a minute later the crowd were on their feet as David Healy, playing in his favoured central role, connected with Eddie Lewis’s powerful cross but his volley flew wide.
The Leeds cause was not helped when the experienced Thompson, who has struggled with a calf injury, was helped off after half an hour to be replaced by 18-year-old attacking midfielder Jonny Howson.
Rangers looked more composed once they had survived Leeds’ early flurry. But Healy lifted their mood once more after 38 minutes with a superb glancing header from Robbie Blake’s free kick that drew a magnificent onehanded save from Lee Camp.
Blake came close again just before half time and Healy had another chance to put Leeds ahead straight after the break, only for Camp to save his angled drive with an outstretched leg.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Cardiff City 1 Leeds Utd 0: Chopra on target but sent off as Leeds sink
By Amar Azam at Ninian Park
A fine free-kick by the Cardiff City striker Michael Chopra, his 19th goal of the season, earned victory over bottom-of-the-table Leeds United in an ill-tempered match that saw the home side reduced to nine men.
There was little between the sides in a frenetic first half full of full-blooded challenges and little else. Goalscoring opportunities were at a premium. After allegations last week that one of his players had given away team information, Leeds manager Dennis Wise would have wanted a strong performance but his side were poor throughout the first half.
Neither goalkeeper was tested until the 36th minute when Leeds striker Ian Moore stabbed the ball goalwards from a headed knockdown by Matt Heath. The Cardiff goalkeeper, Neil Alexander, saved easily.
The hosts responded well and scored moments before the interval. Simon Walton fell under an Ian Westlake challenge on the edge of the penalty area and Chopra flighted the free-kick over the defensive wall and past the despairing dive of the Leeds goalkeeper Casper Ankergren.
Leeds were just as poor in the second half and while Cardiff were hardly spectacular, they still managed to pick apart a Leeds team offering little concerted resistance. The visitors, however, were offered a lifeline when, on 67 minutes, goalscorer Chopra was sent off for a second bookable offence after he elbowed the Leeds defender, Hayden Foxe, in the face.
Three minutes later, Cardiff won a penalty after the Leeds striker, Tresor Kandol, blocked a header from Roger Johnson with his hand. Steve Thompson's powerfully struck penalty was well saved by Ankergren.
Walton was sent off with five minutes to go for a second yellow card, for dissent. But by then Leeds had given up.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

BBC 17/2/07
Cardiff 1-0 Leeds
Cardiff survived two sendings-off and a missed penalty to keep Leeds nailed to the foot of the Championship.
Leeds started well, but on the stroke of half-time Michael Chopra fired Cardiff ahead with a 20-yard free-kick.
Chopra had already been booked when his 66th-minute challenge on Hayden Foxe earned a second yellow and sending off.
Steve Thompson missed a penalty for Cardiff after Tresor Kandol handled in the area, then Simon Walton was harshly sent off for his second yellow late on.
Cardiff manager Dave Jones:"The red and yellow cards handed out today were in the main for nothing challenges.
"At one stage I didn't know how many players I would end up with, but my players were magnificent.
"If you are not good enough for the Premiership then you shouldn't referee in the Championship."
Leeds assistant manager Gus Poyet:"We have missed a great chance of getting something from this game but when you are down there at the bottom something always seems to happen.
"Crucially they scored on the stroke of half time and after that we were always chasing the game. "I think it was the best 30 minutes we have played away from home this season but when you are down there no-one will help you and we must pick ourselves up for the next match."

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Independent 4/2/07
Norwich City 2 Leeds Utd 1: Huckerby hounds his former club
By Patrick Johnston at Carrow Road
Published: 04 February 2007
This should have been the game where an ailing Leeds United recorded back-to-back victories for the first time since March. But against a Norwich City side, themselves struggling and without Welsh international striker Robert Earnshaw, it proved too grand a task.
This defeat, their 19th of the campaign, left the Yorkshire side with only 16 games to save themselves from dropping into the third tier of English football. "It's not over yet," said an upbeat Leeds manager Dennis Wise. "If we keep performing we will be OK. We will just have to move on to the next game and hope to get a result. I can't ask for any more from the lads, we just need to tidy up on a couple of things on the concentration side, marking for instance. We let a player free for a second and it has cost us and that hurts."
After taking the lead against the run of play through Jonathan Howson, Leeds failed to capitalise. They were content to hang on rather than pursue a second goal. It eventually cost them as first Dion Dublin and then Darren Huckerby struck with two classy efforts in the second half to secure the points. "It's just the small details at certain times," added Wise. "We were quite comfortable most of the way through. It was only when they scored that we seemed to go flat. We are disappointed we haven't got something out of this game."Norwich manager Peter Grant did not underestimate the importance of this win. "This was a massive win for us. Our boys were very brave."
Telegraph 2/2/07
Talking Football: Wise tackles Leeds plight head on
By Tim Rich
There are not many men who, having taken Leeds United to the foot of what in Yorkshire they still call the Second Division, would show their face in public, much less pose for photographs. Dennis Wise has been called many things but never a coward.
He is presenting a cheque for £420,000 to the Hunslet Boys and Girls Club on behalf of the Barclays Spaces for Sport scheme. It will pay for an Astroturf pitch, changing facilities and much else beside in an area of Leeds cut off from the glass and steel of the city centre. It is appropriately close to Elland Road and was built in the days of Don Revie, when the club's horizons stretched to European Cup finals rather than a desperate scramble to finish fourth bottom of the game's second tier.
"I learnt my football in places like these," said Wise. "Kicking against a wall or playing for my dad's team, not on Astroturf but on that red, stony gravel, when your knees were full of cuts and grazes, trying to control a football against much bigger people. It toughened me up."
Wise breaks off to talk to a lad who impressed him, discovers he plays for a team called Yorkshire Amateurs, and then moves on. To some older Leeds supporters, it must be difficult to accept being taken to the brink by a chairman, Ken Bates, and a management team of Wise and Gustavo Poyet, who are not just southern but dyed with the blue of Chelsea. They have put themselves in the hands of pagan gods.
"The Yorkshire public have actually been very good," Wise reflected. "They know it has been difficult but they know, too, that we will give everything."
There has not been time for either he or Poyet to find anywhere permanent to live. Hotel beds do have a pen and a notepad beside them, which Wise has turned to.
After Manchester United's defeat at Arsenal, their manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, complained he was unable to sleep as his mind turned over the final fateful minutes at the Emirates Stadium which cost his side defeat.
"You do get things in your head," Wise said. "I have a pen next to my bed and if a thought won't go away, I'll wake up and write it down. When something's bothering me, I say to myself: 'Come on, relax for an hour or two and the thoughts will come.' "
It is two years since Bates bought Leeds, returning to the north where he first made his money. They had just drawn 1-1 with Cardiff in front of a crowd of almost 30,000 at Elland Road and were 14th in the Championship. For Leeds' last home fixture, a 3-2 defeat by West Bromwich, the gate was just over 20,000 and that is considered reasonable.
The top tier of the East Stand is now closed, saving £200,000. The offices are no longer cleaned every day and orders for fresh flowers have been cancelled, saving £12,000 a year. The rented goldfish, symbols of the Ridsdale years, have long since departed.
In his three months at Leeds, Wise has brought in a raft of loan signings, dismissed Paul Butler as captain, been forced to sell Matthew Kilgallon, perhaps the club's best defender, to Sheffield United. He has attempted to remedy what he saw as a lack of basic fitness and, in Bates' words, broken up a dressing room "cabal" he considered was affecting the club's performances.
"It's not enjoyable but it's necessary," said Wise. "Listen, if your gaffer comes up to you and says your articles have been no good, you will last a certain amount of time and, if you don't respond, you will go. It's simple. But I am worried about Leeds United, not individuals and their feelings."
All this furious activity has not, however, improved the club's position. Leeds were second bottom when he arrived in October and on Tuesday they sank to the foot of the Championship in bizarre circumstances. They had actually beaten Hull when news came through that Southend had scored three times at Birmingham, condemning Leeds to last place on goal difference. David Healy, their outstanding striker, fractured an arm.
"Being last doesn't bother me," said Wise, who has succeeded in far more improbable tasks, winning the FA Cup with Wimbledon and taking Millwall to the final. "We have some very good matches coming up; Queens Park Rangers, Luton, Norwich, Ipswich. If you said we had to play West Brom, Birmingham, Preston and Southampton home and away, it might be quite different. It has crossed my mind that we might not survive but I fully believe we will stay up and, if I didn't, I should go now."