Sunday, April 27, 2008
Macca: Hard work starts here for United
By Phil Hay
Gary McAllister was beginning his preparations for the play-off semi-finals today after Leeds United guaranteed a top-six finish with a 1-0 win over Yeovil Town.
A fourth-minute goal from Dougie Freedman earned United three points from their first-ever visit to Huish Park and gave the club an unassailable lead over seventh-placed Brighton in the League One table.
But last night's victory in Somerset came at a cost following left-back Alan Sheehan's dismissal in the 65th-minute for a two-footed tackle on Yeovil defender Lee Peltier. The on-loan Leicester City player dived into a challenge on the halfway line, bringing an immediate red card from referee Keith Stroud, and Sheehan is expected to incur an automatic three-match suspension for serious foul play. The ban will sideline Sheehan during next weekend's fixture against Gillingham at Elland Road but will crucially prevent him from featuring in either of the club's play-off semi-finals.
McAllister appears to have ruled out the possibility of an appeal against the red card by describing the challenge as a "horrible tackle", but United's manager was a picture of quiet satisfaction after his side's fifth win in six games – their 26th of a brilliant campaign – put their involvement in the play-offs beyond doubt.
The 43-year-old said: "Everybody's pleased but it's a case of not over-celebrating.
"Part of the job's been done but we go into a really crucial stage now. It's vitally important that we get focused and tuned in, and there's a lot of hard work to be done. This has been a long-time coming and (the supporters) have had to suffer for a few seasons, but nothing's been achieved yet. The achievement is minor for the fact that we're in the play-offs, but the big target is to get out of this league.
"Every department of the club has been fighting to stay alive and they've made a step forward by getting into the play-offs."
United's victory over Yeovil has ensured that they will still have the chance of promotion regardless of whether the imminent decision from the arbitration panel considering their 15-point penalty – a verdict due to be given by Thursday – rules in favour of the Elland Road club. But Sheehan's dismissal has left a gap in a key position. The defender is set to incur a three-game ban only two matches after returning from a statutory suspension brought on by 10 yellow cards. Sheehan was breaking from defence when he lost control of the ball and floored Peltier and McAllister refused to spare the 21-year-old from criticism.
"I've no complaints," said McAllister, who may now recall left-back Ben Parker from his loan at Darlington.
"I've spoken to Alan and I can't defend him.
"It's a poor challenge and you can't get two feet off the ground. It's a long-jump tackle, a horrible tackle, and he knows it.
"He's a guy who we've worked back into the side and who's been excellent, but he's disappointed and we're disappointed. He's got a lot to thank his team-mates for."
Leeds had Freedman's early goal to defend by the time Sheehan was dismissed and despite creating a limited number of chances United were rarely in danger.
McAllister said: "It always tends to happen when you score so early - it's the natural instinct of a professional football to protect what you've got.
"But I never felt in any danger. There were a few snap-shots and half-chances from Yeovil, but even with 10 men I felt pretty good.
"When you play with 10 men there's always that feeling in your head that you've got to run that little bit further and close down that little bit quicker. Our players did that and a few guys covered a lot of ground."
Victory gives Leeds United a place in the play-offs
Leeds United clinched a place in the Coca-Cola League One play-offs at Huish Park last night after Dougie Freedman scored his fifth goal since joining them on loan from Crystal Palace last month.
The 33-year-old former Scotland forward struck in the fourth minute but Leeds made life difficult for themselves with the dismissal of Alan Sheehan in the 64th minute after a lunging challenge on Lee Peltier.
The incident provoked a 20-man brawl while Leeds, who had been in control for long periods, were forced to defend for the remainder of the match. Jonathan Douglas made a crucial intervention by heading an inswinging corner off the line and Casper Ankergren, the club’s Danish goalkeeper, produced an impressive save low down to deny Aidan Downes as Yeovil pressed in search of an equalising goal.
The victory for Leeds was their sixth in their past eight matches and a play-offs place represents a fine achievement after the club started the season with a 15-point deduction imposed for a breach of league rules.
Their strong finish to the season also brings respite for Gary McAllister, the manager, who took over after the departures of Dennis Wise to Newcastle United and his assistant, Gustavo Poyet, to Tottenham Hotspur.
The Leeds goal last night, against a Yeovil side who had staved off any lingering relegation fears last Saturday with an impressive victory over Swansea City, the champions, stemmed from a cross by Fraser Richardson. Bradley Johnson’s initial attempt eluded Steve Mildenhall, the Yeovil goalkeeper, before an alert Freedman stole in to apply the finishing touch.
With their play-offs place assured, Leeds can enjoy their concluding game of the season, at home to Gillingham next weekend, which has already sold out.
Yorkshire Evening Post 25/4/08
Dougie seals a play-off place
Yeovil Town 0 Leeds United 1
At the start of the season, and as a mark of their own sense of obscurity created by relegation to League One, Leeds United began selling clothing branded with the question 'Where's Yeovil?'
Back then, the answer was within the boundaries of Somerset. Today, a better description might be two stops from Wembley. After a win at Huish Park last night and a pressure-free end to their league schedule next Saturday, a play-off semi-final will be all that stands between Leeds and the national stadium. The two-legged obstacle has brought down many an optimistic team and the size of a semi-final – its importance, its pressure and its potential pay-out – will dawn on United with more severity when the formality of completing their 46th fixture is fulfilled in seven days' time. But what fear can a hurdle the size of the play-offs create for a club whose season has been spent jumping tripwire? At the top of the list of surmountable problems is a 15-point deduction – the cause of so much frustration and inspiration at Elland Road – closely followed by the loss of one manager, two assistants and a first-team coach.
No club suffers disruption like Leeds United, but few can claim to be more skilled at dealing with their lot. This season has seen to that. With the proverbial lottery of the play-offs about to be drawn Gary McAllister would be justified in believing that his players are as well prepared as any others. The days of betting against Leeds are 12 months behind him and his club. United required a win over Yeovil Town to ensure that the threat from Brighton to sixth position – already likely to go up in smoke – was permanently extinguished last night.
A fourth-minute goal from Dougie Freedman freed his team-mates to take the long road home without a glance over their shoulders.
There was more than a slight chance that the remaining play-off contenders would be confirmed by today's fixtures – subject, of course, to the result of arbitration – but McAllister will care little about the positioning of the four clubs with one prize to fight over. Nottingham Forest, Southend United or Doncaster Rovers? Even Carlisle United were in danger of being drawn into the contest before their game at Millwall this afternoon. They are names of repute, but not names to frighten McAllister or his team. When a season starts like United's did in August all other challenges become relative, and a more intriguing question would be to ask who among their competitors would wish to meet a Leeds side with five wins from their last six games.
McAllister described qualification for the play-offs as a small step and that is accurate in the context of promotion. But it is also a monumental one when set against the statistics of a season that, while galling in prospect, may come to be viewed with complete affection in hindsight.
In order to secure sixth position, Leeds have been required to uncover 88 points and 26 victories, all supported by a goal difference which has been at least 20 to the good for as long as anyone can remember. United defined themselves as a top-six club months ago, but last night was a suitable time to stand back and marvel at the masterpiece in progress.Those who have witnessed the season first-hand should feel privileged; second-hand accounts will never succeed in doing the term justice.
Leeds were good value for their narrow win at Huish Park, but it was in keeping with a club who never fly without turbulence that the evening was tarnished slightly by the second-half dismissal of Alan Sheehan. The left-back ended a marauding run from inside his own half by hacking down Yeovil's Lee Peltier with a two-footed challenge, earning a straight red card from Keith Stroud once the crowd of jostling players around the referee had cleared. Sheehan's raised studs were clear to see and McAllister's view of the tackle was unforgiving, as Stroud's is bound to be when his match report is submitted to the Football Association.
In Sheehan's defence, the game had been anything but fiery before his misjudgement and Stroud might have been inclined to show a touch more leniency. But with the red card will come a three-match ban for serious foul play, ensuring that Sheehan will play no further part in the season until the play-off final should Leeds be present at Wembley. Given the extent of the competition in McAllister's squad – and the immediacy with which players are taking their chances – a role for Sheehan at that late stage is difficult to envisage. It would be wrong to dwell on his dismissal, however, after a night when United received the first piece of recognition they are due for the durability and ambition shown over the past nine months.
Leeds scored at the end of their first attack and Freedman's easy finish was a goal too far for a Yeovil team who were half the side seen at Elland Road in October. Russell Slade's players ran United close in Leeds – close enough, he felt, to deserve a victory – but this season has offered few favours to last year's beaten play-off finalists. This time last year, Yeovil were on the road to Wembley. At present, Slade is merely glad that they are no longer on the road to perdition. What a difference a year has made, in Yorkshire and in Somerset.
Freedman poked home his goal from all of six yards, left unmarked to poach the ball after Bradley Johnson had driven Frazer Richardson's cross against the body of Yeovil goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall. United's apparent comfort was not translated into a flow of chances but they dictated the pace of the match and Freedman was denied a second goal when Mildenhall diverted his dipping shot over the crossbar eight minutes before half-time.
In between, Casper Ankergren produced an important save on his goalline to claw Marvin Williams' header clear – a rebound that Williams battered against the outside of the post – and an ageing Marcus Stewart drove a volley into Ankergren's arms following a poor headed clearance from Lubomir Michalik. The chances proved that Yeovil's creative side had not deserted them, but both were the result of defensive slumber rather than attacking prowess.
Bradley Johnson's shot early in the second half which screamed over Mildenhall's crossbar was sent goalwards with more intent.
McAllister would have welcomed an improved lead but Sheehan's departure made a second strike unlikely. It was, bizarrely, Michalik who came closest to providing it with a stinging free-kick in the 70th minute which Mildenhall parried with both hands.
Already a goal to the good, United committed themselves sensibly to protecting their advantage against a set of players who ran themselves to the final whistle.
McAllister constructed a five-man defence by plucking Andrew Hughes and Rui Marques from his bench and though Aidan Downes nearly salvaged a draw for Yeovil three minutes from time Ankergren's one-handed save at the foot of his near post was exceptional and enough to preserve the visitors' victory.
From the outset, there were signs of dissent in the ranks of Huish Park, with cries of 'You don't know what you're doing' apparently aimed at Slade. United used to know that discord well, and for a while it was utterly endemic. There is no overstating how far Leeds have come, and how quickly.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Leeds remain focused on promotion
By Les Roopanarine
Millwall (0) 0 Leeds United (0) 2
Leeds United remain the club of innumerable quandaries, and no wonder.
What else can you be when, having almost reached a Champions League final, you are relegated twice in four seasons, forced into administration, threatened with league exclusion and then hit with a 15-point deduction, the largest in Football League history, for an alleged breach of insolvency rules?
How do you deal with the emotional topsy-turvy of starting the season at breakneck pace, losing your momentum and management team in mid-campaign, then reclaiming a play-off spot with five games to go, all against the backdrop of a protracted and acrimonious legal struggle to reclaim the docked points?
If you are Gary McAllister, the man whose task it is to steer a course through this sea of questions and into the Championship, you simply ignore the bigger picture and focus on the present.
"It's been a very eventful season, but my job is not to mention it and just keep the players fully focused," said McAllister after a win that consolidated Leeds' grip on the final League One play-off spot.
Little fazes McAllister, and that includes the news that the arbitration hearing into Leeds' points penalty, originally meant to conclude on Friday, will continue on Monday before delivering a verdict by the beginning of May.
McAllister's equilibrium is not mirrored by Leeds' promotion rivals, who remain aghast at the possibility of the points deduction being overturned.
Yet the clubs now scrambling for the moral high ground were occupying less exalted territory back in August, when a meeting of the 71 Football League chairmen ratified Leeds' punishment by an overwhelming majority.
From the League One clubs in direct opposition to Leeds, through their potential promotion rivals in the Championship to the League Two sides whose gate receipts would be swelled by Leeds' fanatical travelling support, all present at that gathering had something to gain.
Despite dominating Leeds for long stretches, and hitting the bar through Jem Karacan, Millwall fell behind 20 minutes from time when David Prutton volleyed home Tony Craig's clearance from 30 yards. Substitute Andy Hughes doubled the visitors' advantage nine minutes later.
Will victory prove a stepping stone to the Championship, or merely a footnote to a more significant chapter in the club's history? As ever with Leeds, it as an open question.
Yorkshire Evening Post Saturday, 19/4/08
Play-offs in sight now for Leeds United
By Phil Hay
ON the afternoon when Gary McAllister was welcomed to Elland Road by a 2-0 defeat to Tranmere Rovers it may not have occurred to him that Leeds United might reach the sanctuary of the play-offs with a game in hand.
McAllister's first job was to oil United's creaking engine and the fruits of his labour were rewarded by the sight of Leeds monopolising sixth place in League One in London yesterday.
A splendid volley from David Prutton and a close-range finish from Andrew Hughes put paid to Millwall at the end of a frenetic game at the New Den.
And the assistance of results elsewhere carried United to a position where their involvement in the play-offs is just one more positive result away from being ratified.
A late winning goal for Brighton against Hartlepool United prevented Leeds from travelling home with complete assurance, but the situation has been placed in their hands so comprehensively that it would surprise Albion's manager Dean Wilkins if their fingers released the prize. Brighton – the only club now in touch with sixth position – are at the stage where divine intervention is required.
United's list of beaten opponents has swelled impressively over the past month with the addition of Doncaster Rovers and Carlisle United among other capable clubs and McAllister's players are on the verge of accepting the offer of time off for good behaviour and rapid improvement.
A defeat to Huddersfield Town on Tuesday was in danger of being followed by a goalless stalemate yesterday, a result which would not have been disastrous but which would have cast a degree of doubt over United's final league position. There is every possibility, however, that United's last game of the season at home to Gillingham will be meaningless in a competitive sense.
Arbitration is the off-field means by which Leeds could ensure not only a top-six finish but also automatic promotion at the end of the season, but McAllister has been consistently transparent about his desire to ignore extraneous issues which his players can neither influence nor predict.
If, as seems likely, a play-off position belongs to United by the end of next weekend's game at Yeovil – and their protective cushion over Brighton stands at four points – the city of Leeds will breathe a collective sigh of relief at the end of a compelling and exceptional year.
It is easy, nine months on, to overlook the fact that United have negated a points penalty which equated to five league victories, and to forget that the win gained yesterday secured their 85th point of the term.
To be on the cusp of reaching the play-offs at all is a stellar achievement; to do it with a game remaining would be a creditable bonus.
The loss of Jermaine Beckford's pace had been an obvious factor in United's 1-0 defeat at Huddersfield on Tuesday night and he was missing again yesterday, held back by the ankle injury which McAllister had hoped would heal before kick-off.
LEEDS UNITED: Howson hails Mac's influence
By Phil Hay
Midfielder Jonathan Howson admits that he is thriving on the guidance and advice of one of Leeds United's finest ever players after being taken under the wing of Gary McAllister.
The youngster has completed his step up from the fringes of United's squad to the centre of their first team this season and has started every one of McAllister's games in charge of the Elland Road club.
Howson was thrown into United's line-up for their 2-0 defeat to Tranmere Rovers on February 2 – McAllister's first fixture as manager – after a month of exile from the first team and yesterday's outing at Millwall was his 15th successive start.
The 19-year-old, who made his senior debut in a Carling Cup clash with Barnet last season, made 11 outings in total during the 2006-07 term and his increased exposure this term has been matched by a noticeable improvement in performances.
Howson was trusted with the captain's armband at Huddersfield Town on Tuesday night after Jonathan Douglas' first-half dismissal and the youngster has credited his progression to both McAllister's influence and the faith shown in him by former United boss Dennis Wise.
Howson said: "Since Gary's come in I've managed to play every game under him.
"Just before he came here I was talking to a couple of the older lads and they were saying that anything can happen when a new manager comes in. "He's either going to like you or he's not. You can see that with a couple of players.
"Obviously, he hasn't favoured them and they've gone out on loan. That's no disrespect to them, it's just the way he feels.
"They were playing at the beginning of the season and now it has changed. Experienced people always give you advice and help you out.
"The old manager, Dennis Wise, was a midfielder and he would give you tips.
"It's nice because you've watched them play. You can believe what they're saying and what they're telling you because they've been there and done it at the highest level."
Howson has been a mainstay in United's line-up for more than two months now and is likely to be central to McAllister's plans for both the League One play-offs and beyond.
McAllister will remain at Elland Road next season after agreeing a 12-month rolling contract at the start of this month and he has so far been willing to put his faith in his younger players.
His starting line-up at the Galpharm Stadium on Tuesday had an average age of 24, but McAllister admitted he was keeping a close eye on the likes of Howson to protect the greener members of his squad from burn-out.
McAllister said: "On occasions I've got to be looking at the young ones."Some guys have played in a run of games that they haven't done before. "I do have an experienced squad but I've got some youngsters in the team at the moment so there are times when I've got to be mindful of looking after their legs.
"A lot of demands have been put on them but I've got the chance of changing little things round just to keep everybody's legs and minds fully alert.
"Sitting on the bench the other night I had David Prutton and Andrew Hughes, guys with masses of experience. That's going to be crucial going into this vital period."
United are awaiting the outcome of the arbitration hearing into their 15-point deduction, but McAllister and his players have set their minds on the possibility that their season will end in the play-offs.
Leeds sat in sixth position yesterday with a four-point lead over the clubs beneath them in League One and Howson could see his first full season finish at Wembley if United are asked to fight their way through the play-offs.
Howson said: "It's been a crazy old season and it would be nice for me, but I'm not going to think about it too much until we get there.
"Our aim is to get out of this division no matter what and the more games we're winning the more you can see the team growing in confidence.
"When you aren't winning, you don't believe. You might not make a pass like you know you can and play safe instead.
"When you do get a few wins, you go to play the difficult passes and they come off. It is all about confidence.
"We had our bad patch just after Christmas and now we're coming into form. We're performing like we know we can."
Saturday, April 19, 2008
New pages uploaded at mightyleeds.co.uk
Season Review – 1968/69 - Going for the one/Champions
Don Revie focuses his sights sharply on a first League title and United hold their nerve and their imperious form to outdistance Liverpool in the battle for the championship
Read the full story at
Yorkshire Evening Post 18/4/08
United arbitration goes into extra-time
By Phil Hay
Leeds United's arbitration hearing is set to run into a fourth day amid growing concerns that the dispute will throw the end of the League One season into chaos.
The independent review of United's 15-point deduction was originally planned to end today but the case is now expected to conclude when final submissions are presented to the three-man tribunal panel in London on Monday.
But confusion surrounds the timing of a decision on whether the Football League acted outside their jurisdiction by deducting points from Leeds, with the office of panel chairman Sir Philip Otton confirming that a verdict will be returned "within three to four weeks".
United initially hoped that a judgement would be given before tomorrow's game against Millwall and the club are still anticipating a quick ruling, but a four-week delay would have serious ramifications for the end-of-season play-offs.
A decision on the latest possible date – May 19 – would arrive fully two weeks after United's last league game of the season at home to Gillingham, and 10 days after the League One play-off semi-finals are due to begin and it would also fall six days before the play-off final at Wembley.
A three-week wait would leave the argument unresolved until May 12, creating deep uncertainty over the final League One table and the issue of promotion.
Leeds are 12 points behind Carlisle United, who hold the second automatic promotion position in League One, and the return of 15 points would give United the chance of denying Swansea City the title.
Swansea are 10 points clear of third-placed Doncaster Rovers with three games remaining, but the Football League have refused to officially confirm City's promotion to the Championship until their dispute with Leeds is settled.
The three-man tribunal panel of Otton, Peter Leaver and Peter Cadman began considering United's challenge against their 15-point deduction on Wednesday, and the case was originally set down for three days.
However, the mass of evidence involved will now force the case to spill into next week.
Leeds claim the Football League were "unfair and unjust" in punishing the club for failing to exit administration with an agreed Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) last summer.
Brighton managing director Ken Brown, meanwhile, has added his voice to the flurry of disquiet over the timing of a case which could have a major bearing on League One at a crucial point of the season. The majority of clubs have only three games remaining.
Brown said: "It's disappointing that, at this late stage of the season, there is still uncertainty about these matters.
"All clubs thought they knew at the start of the season what the rules were and it's unfair to everybody that nobody knows what is happening."
Albion are four points adrift of Leeds before tomorrow's home game against Hartlepool.
Yorkshire Evening Post 17/4/08
Leeds United appeal win would spark 'a war'
By Phil Hay
Swansea City manager Roberto Martinez has predicted a "massive war" if the independent tribunal reviewing Leeds United's 15-point penalty rules in favour of the Elland Road club.
United's arbitration hearing was entering its second day in London this morning and several clubs are apprehensively awaiting an outcome which could drastically alter the League One table.
The three-man panel which is considering United's challenge against their 15-point penalty – handed out by the Football League after the club exited administration without a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) –is due to hear final submissions tomorrow, with Leeds expected to discover their verdict early next week.
An outcome which exonerates United and returns their 15 points would lift the Elland Road club into second position in League One, reviving their chances of securing automatic promotion but also giving them the opportunity to deny Swansea the League One title.
City hold a seven-point lead over second-placed Carlisle United and expect to wrap up the championship with a win over Yeovil this weeken, but the Football League have, as yet, been unable to confirm the club's promotion to the Championship because of the arbitration proceedings.
Martinez said: "Leeds are in a play-off position and I think they should stay in a play-off position.
"If anything else happens you won't have heard the last of it because teams like Tranmere, Southend, Nottingham Forest, Doncaster, Carlisle and ourselves will all be affected."Everyone will take their own route and it would be a massive war."
Doncaster Rovers chief executive Dave Morris said the club would "consider all options" open to them once the outcome of the arbitration hearing is made public, while Carlisle boss John Ward admitted he was worried about the impact the return of United's 15 points would have.
"It shifts the goalposts that we've already played 43 games under," Ward said. "Even if it doesn't affect us it affects a lot of other people and, in terms of the game, I'm not sure that would be correct."
Leeds United receive another setback
By Rob Stewart
Huddersfield (0) 1 Leeds United (0) 0
If this was anything to go by, Leeds will be needing those penalty points back if they are to secure promotion to the Championship.
Gary McAllister's team found themselves comprehensively outplayed by exuberant neighbours who deservedly secured local bragging rights thanks to a delicious second-half goal by Andy Holdsworth.
The Huddersfield academy product struck the decisive blow late on after both sides had been reduced to 10 men by half-time with Leeds captain Jonathan Douglas and Jon Worthington dismissed after each committed two bookable offences.
Given that this game took place on the eve of a three-man arbitration panel into the 15-point penalty imposed by the Football League after Ken Bates' club entered administration, it seemed strangely apt that reductions of a different kind should threaten to overshadow a pulsating game.
Douglas was the first to be sent off by referee Paul Taylor after 39 minutes for upending Michael Collins and then Worthington.
Previously booked for fouling Jonathan Howson, Worthington saw red following an altercation with Lubomir Michalik after appearing to collide with goalkeeper Casper Ankergren.
Managerless, mid-table Huddersfield, under the tutelage of academy director Gerry Murphy, raised their game better.
Just after half-time Collins struck the crossbar from 20 yards. He was then behind the 76th-minute winner, spearheading another raid down the left before inviting substitute Joe Skarz to cross. His back-post delivery was met by wing-back Holdsworth, whose header went in off a post.
McAllister was not too downhearted, with his side still occupying the final play-off position. "It was scrappy, we lost our rhythm so it was disappointing but not disastrous," he said. "Our destiny's in our own hands."
An upbeat Murphy added: "If you work hard and are prepared to put your body on the line it's amazing what you can do."
Yorkshire Evening Post 15/4/08
United handed a reality check
Huddersfield Town 1 Leeds United 0
Back to reality, then, with the realisation that automatic promotion at Millwall was as far-fetched as it sounded.
That unlikely development rested heavily on arbitration and the murmuring of lawyers, but it was also dependent on Leeds United avoiding the result which befell them at the Galpharm Stadium last night.
The courtroom deliberations were beginning today, but the power of legal submissions should not blind Leeds from their day job. Gary McAllister has kept the subject of arbitration at arm's length, and with good reason. When United's row with the Football League is over, the assistance he has gained from it has a high chance of being minimal.
Promotion will not be forthcoming on Saturday, but the guarantee of a play-off position remains on offer.
The saving grace of last night's loss to Huddersfield Town was that it coincided with Walsall's defeat to Bristol Rovers, protecting the status quo around sixth place and conserving United's four-point lead over the club beneath them in League One.
Walsall will not anticipate a scenario where Leeds pass up their advantage, and last night's results were of more significance to Richard Money, Walsall's manager, than to McAllister.
They reiterated why points on the board count for more than games in hand, and why league position increases in importance as the season winds down. A defeat at the Galpharm Stadium could have damaged Leeds irreparably. As it is, the loss has probably delayed the inevitable. It was well for McAllister that their no-show in Huddersfield came at the end of a richly rewarding period.
He remarked last month that his team's potential might be most apparent against the clubs in their immediate vicinity in League One, and the last eight games have accentuated his view.
Victorious over Doncaster Rovers, Carlisle United and Walsall, but unable to handle Cheltenham Town, Port Vale or Huddersfield. It is not a trend that their manager can easily explain except, perhaps, to argue that his players can deliver when it counts. If that is true then the play-offs should be United's forte, but they will not reach the Championship with performances like last night's.
The game at the Galpharm Stadium was a typical derby insofar as much of the match was ordinary in the extreme. Local rivalries are notorious for promising more than they can deliver, and the 64th meeting between Leeds and Huddersfield was not a classic.
Disjointed and unimaginative, it required the appearance of Paul Taylor's red card twice before half-time to bring a crackle to a fire which was on the verge of disappearing in a wisp of smoke after half-an-hour.
Jonathan Douglas was first to depart in the 39th minute on the back of two cautions, the first issued for a cynical trip on Michael Collins and the second shown for a more innocuous foul on Jon Worthington.
The Huddersfield midfielder ran across Douglas as he sprinted to collect a pass on the right wing, and their legs became tangled in a way which seemed to be Worthington's fault as much as Douglas'.
Taylor sent United's captain from the field nonetheless but took only six minutes to bring parity to the numbers by ordering Worthington to trace Douglas' footsteps.
The 24-year-old had already been booked for dissent when he clattered into Casper Ankergren at the end of a swift Huddersfield attack in the 45th minute.
Lubomir Michalik confronted Worthington inside Ankergren's box, and a clash of heads saw the latter punished with a red card. If Taylor's first dismissal was harsh then his second was also. The assessor's report about a referee who appeared unsuited to a demanding atmosphere will not make pleasant reading.
Taylor should carry a portion of the blame for United's defeat, largely because Douglas' questionable dismissal robbed Leeds of a player who had protected their defence without breaking sweat in the first half, but the referee's involvement was not solely responsible for the way in which both teams trundled aimlessly through the first half.
An early chance for Chris Brandon aside, which the striker pulled beyond Ankergren's right-hand post, the opening 45 minutes revolved entirely around Taylor's red card, and though Gerry Murphy, Huddersfield's caretaker, argued that the dismissals had ruined the game, it seemed more accurate to say that the loss of Douglas and Worthington provided the space in midfield which had been non-existent before half-time.
The speed with which the game opened up was displayed in the 51st minute by the flowing counter-attack which ended with the outstanding Michael Collins shaking Ankergren's crossbar from the edge of the box.
he midfielder's chance was generated by a goalline clearance from Nathan Clarke, who protected Huddersfield's goal by flicking Frazer Richardson's cross towards the corner flag, and the swift flow of possession across 80 yards of the field presented Collins with a chance which the frame of the goal kept out.
With Douglas estranged from the contest, McAllister relied on a three-man midfield, and United's lack of width was a permanent problem. Of more effect, however, was the absence of telling pace up front during an open half which was tailor-made for Jermaine Beckford.Unable to recover from an ankle injury, Beckford made way for Tresor Kandol last night, and the temporary suspension of his partnership with Dougie Freedman had a profound effect.
United's clearest opportunity did not arrive until the third minute of injury-time, when Matt Glennon's low block knocked away Freedman's shot, but of greater consequence was their attack on 63 minutes which came to nothing but ought to have finished with Kandol tapping the ball into Huddersfield's net.
Freedman played Bradley Johnson in behind Huddersfield's defence with a short pass, and as the midfielder tore towards one side of the box, Kandol broke away into space at the other. A measured cross would have given Kandol the chance to slip a header past Glennon, but Johnson's heavy delivery cleared the striker by several yards and left Huddersfield goalkeeper untroubled.
Thirteen minutes later, a point that McAllister might have settled for – and which his surprising substitution of Jonathan Howson seemed designed to secure – faded away.Collins broke from midfield and drew Frazer Richardson out of position, giving substitute Joe Skarz space to cross. The ball arced over United's defenders and found the lurking Andy Holdsworth, whose header across Ankergren struck the inside of the post and rebounded over the line.
Glennon took it upon himself to defend Huddersfield's lead by parrying a shot from Andrew Hughes and anticipating Freedman's goalbound shot at the very end of the game, preventing a goal which would have disguised the undeniable disparity between the teams.
Are Huddersfield a more accomplished team than Leeds? McAllister would say not and the league table would also, displaying as it does a difference of 10 points between the clubs.
But at the Galpharm Stadium, Huddersfield were undoubtedly superior. Any given punch on any given night, as a professional boxer would say. That, as United know well, is why the play-offs are such a dangerous prospect.
Yorkshire Evening Post 14/4/08
United not for sale
By Phil Hay
Ken Bates has reiterated his intention to remain in charge of Leeds United this summer by announcing once again that the club is not for sale.
United's chairman gave an unequivocal response to claims that he would be willing to relinquish control of Elland Road at the end of the season, describing the suggestion as "irresponsible" and with "no foundation".
Bates addressed the issue in his matchday programme column ahead of Saturday's game between Leeds and Carlisle United, and his comments appear to have ruled out the possibility of the League One club changing hands in the immediate future. Bates said: "For the avoidance of doubt, Leeds United is not for sale and any tentative enquiries on that front have been rebuffed. It is no secret that we will welcome a serious substantial partner. Note the word is 'welcome' – not 'need'.
"We are progressing very well on the road to recovery but we recognise that an injection of capital would accelerate the process."
Questions over Bates' long-term plans for United have existed ever since he bought back Leeds from administrators KPMG after the club were declared insolvent last summer.
The 76-year-old is presently constrained by the 'anti-embarassment' clause which was included in the deal which finalised his takeover in July, and which would see a large portion of any funds raised by the sale of United – 50 per cent of anything over £5m – paid directly to the unsecured creditors who were owed money by Leeds last summer.
The clause, however, will expire at end of June, leaving Bates free to ponder any takeover bids without financial restraint.
Former Newcastle United chairman Freddy Shepherd is understood to have considered investing in Leeds, but Bates' stance on Saturday reflected previous comments from Leeds insisting they would seriously consider offers of investment but would not contemplate selling a majority shareholding.
The ownership of United is of less concern to Bates at present than his argument with the Football League, which may finally reach a conclusion this week.Leeds have taken their fight to overturn their 15-point deduction to independent arbitration and a three-man panel will begin hearing evidence on Wednesday.
United claimed a 3-2 victory over Carlisle on Saturday and are 12 points short of second position with a game in hand over the majority of other clubs.
Gary McAllister will look for another win at Huddersfield Town tomorrow night to further improve the club's standing, but United's manager admitted the end of arbitration would come as a relief.
"What I've started thinking about is how other clubs are seeing it now and how they're feeling," he said.
"But I think that as much as the players have been fully focused, if they pick up a paper and see that it's been dealt with, that will be a relief."
Two goals from Dougie Freedman earned Leeds their victory over Carlisle, completing a rampant second-half fightback after Scott Dobie's goal gave the visitors a 1-0 lead at the break.
McAllister said: "We deserved the three points, but what we don't need now is for us to give it the big sigh of relief and think we've achieved something. We've got four games left and we've got to try and win all of them."
Da Costa exits Whites
Winger departs after unsuccessful spell
By James Pearson
Portuguese winger Filipe Da Costa has left Leeds United after the remainder of his contract was cancelled by mutual consent.
Da Costa only made just one start during his stay with The Whites and even then that showing resulted in a red card against Bury in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy.
It actually took some time for Leeds to land the winger after claims by Greek club Ionikos that Da Costa was still under contract with them when he signed.
After he eventually signed he was used as a late substitute by former manager Dennis Wise, who ended up branding him a luxury player.
Wise hinted Da Costa may be loaned out as he was struggling to get to grips with the style of football in England, but a move never materialised due to injury.
He underwent a trial at Falkirk earlier this year, but with little prospect of featuring under new manager Gary McAllister the club have now cancelled the remainder of his deal.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
United boss Gary McAllister paid tribute to Dougie Freedman after the striker scored twice to secure a magnificent 3-2 victory against second-placed Carlisle United.
Freedman scored twice in the second half after Carlisle had been leading 1-0 at the interval, and the United manager revealed: "We've spoken about his guile and his touch of class, but we have to applaud his physical state.
"We sent him home last night and he re-appeared this morning and wanted to play. As soon as he looked me in the eye and said he wanted to play I had no doubts.
"The same goes for Jermaine Beckford who had been having treatment this week, but players know when they have the jersey they want to keep it."
Jonny Howson was United's other goalscorer and the boss said: "He's a very promising player. He's not flash, he's just a guy who gets on and does his job. He's at an age where he listens and learns."
Carlisle had looked every inch promotion material during the opening 45 minutes after a Scott Dobie goal had given them a 16th minute advantage.
But United came out of the traps quickly and turned in a stunning second half display to secure the points.
"I felt we needed to raise the tempo and the players deserve credit for that," added the boss.
"In the first half I thought we played at a tempo where Carlisle managed to get people behind the ball and get tackles in, but after that we looked like creating real chances and we did."
Yorkshire Evening Post 12/4/08
Leeds United 3 Carlisle United 2
Dougie Freedman struck with a second-half volley to earn Leeds United three points from a pulsating clash with Carlisle United at Elland Road.
The on-loan Crystal Palace striker produced a delightful finish on 69 minutes to claim his second goal of the game and secure a 3-2 win, keeping United firmly on course for a top-six finish in League One.
United had been forced to recover from a 1-0 deficit at half-time, but their dramatic recovery made amends for a disappointing first-half performance.
Carlisle opened the scoring in the 16th minute when Scott Dobie appeared Ankergren's back post and turned home a cross from Simon Hackney.
The visitors' attacking threat was minimal, but their organisation and rigid shape prevented Leeds from finding an equaliser before the break.
Bradley Johnson's shot on 25 minutes curled over the crossbar, and Freedman's effort two minutes before the break rose over the goal by a matter of inches.
But Keiren Westwood, Carlisle's goalkeeper, left the field at half-time without having made a single save, and it took an error from him to hand Leeds an equaliser on 49 minutes.
Westwood failed to gather a low cross from Neil Kilkenny, and when the ball slipped off his body and into the air, Freedman was waiting to bundle it into the net.
United turned the game on its head in the 58th minute when Jonathan Howson ran in to hammer home the rebound from substitute Tresor Kandol's parried shot, but Danny Graham took full advantage two minutes later when Ankergren's fumble from Hackney's corner allowed the striker to force home an equaliser.
The match appeared to have a winning goal in it, however, and Freedman produced his second of the match with 21 minutes remaining to secure United's win.
Freedman was perfectly placed to pounce on a rebound from Kilkenny's free-kick, and his volley flashed into the net before Westwood could move.
Yorkshire Evening Post 12/4/08
United points panel start date is set
By Phil Hay
The arbitration panel charged with ruling on Leeds United's 15-point penalty will begin hearing evidence on Wednesday.
A start-date of April 16 has been agreed for the independent review of the Football League's decision to deduct 15 points from United in August.
The validity of the League's sanction will be considered by a three-man panel, consisting of retired High Court judge Sir Philip Otton, former Premier League chief executive Peter Leaver and experienced lawyer Peter Cadman.
The hearing could last for up to three days and the tribunal's ruling is expected to be made public before United's League One fixture at Millwall on April 19, the club's third last
game of the season.
Leeds agreed to independent arbitration against the Football League in February after initially serving a High Court writ on the organisation, and the club have drawn up a detailed argument against their 15-point deduction.
United are expected to argue that the Football League lacked the jurisdiction to impose the penalty, and will also contest the claim that they failed to adhere to the Football League's insolvency policy by exiting administration without a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA).
Chairman Ken Bates believes the deduction was "unfair and unjust".
Meanwhile, Leeds have released six of their younger players from Elland Road.
Gavin Rothery and Simon Madden have had their professional deals cut short to allow them to take up trials with other clubs, and academy scholars Chris Fisher, Stefan Connor, Duane Grace and Jason Mycoe are also leaving.
Sunday, April 06, 2008
Leeds United are Beck in the play-off mix
By Phil Hay
Leyton Orient 0 Leeds United 2
THE demands of Gary McAllister's initiation at Leeds United were emphasised last night by the club's reappearance in League One's top six.
United had their hand on a play-off position when McAllister walked through the door at Elland Road, but the sharp end of the division has been uncharted territory for the Scot ever since Leeds collapsed in a heap on his managerial debut.
That was until yesterday, 11 games later, when a victory at Leyton Orient thrust Leeds into sixth place and sent several teams tumbling away beneath them.
Orient were pulled up by Martin Ling with the exhausted look of a Grand National outsider, and Oldham and Brighton failed to produce victories on a day when the value of United's result was enhanced by scores elsewhere. Ultimately, it was Tranmere's defeat at Walsall which opened the gates to the six-room penthouse.
Paul Huntington's first-half header was the least that Leeds deserved for their creditable performance before the interval, and Jermaine Beckford's volley in the 50th minute gave the final scoreline greater realism.
The striker's goal was his 20th of the season, the first Leeds player to produce a score since Mark Viduka in 2003.
The achievement was worthy of acknowledgment, but captured less attention than the sight of him being helped from the pitch with an injury 15 minutes after passing his milestone. However, the damage to his ankle was not serious enough to prevent him spending the night in London.Beckford's condition was, for a short while, the sole grimace from a performance which was as creditable and composed as any other this season and earned its reward.
Orient provided limp opposition and were the victims of what Ling called a "gulf in class", but their display was arguably symptomatic of their visitors' quality. Yesterday's result consolidated fully United's midweek victory over Doncaster Rovers which, in the grand scheme of the League One table, was utterly essential.
The win at the Keepmoat Stadium on Tuesday night was so spirited and crucial that changes to Leeds' line-up yesterday would have taken some justification from McAllister.
His team's structure was the same as in South Yorkshire, excluding David Prutton who was fit enough to travel to London but granted only a place on the bench. As an example of the competition in McAllister's squad, Prutton's only crime had been to injure his foot eight days ago.
Victory at Doncaster's was achieved with Leeds backed against a wall for most of an exhausting game, but the defensive demands made of them at Brisbane Road were far less severe.
Huntington scored in the 16th minute with an opportunistic header, and his goal cleared the way for a win which came more easily than McAllister could have imagined.
Yorkshire Evening Post 4/4/08
Bates: Mac's the man for me
By Phil Hay
Leeds United chairman Ken Bates has revealed how a routine meeting with Gary McAllister a fortnight ago moved him to place a new deal on his manager's table.
McAllister committed himself to a 12-month rolling contract yesterday, replacing an existing agreement until the end of this season, and the offer was the direct result of unrelated discussions between the 43-year-old and his chairman last month.
Bates and McAllister met in Leeds two weeks ago, along with club chief executive Shaun Harvey and technical director Gwyn Williams, to review United's squad and wage bill ahead of next season.
They are understood to have taken decisions on which players would be retained and which would be allowed to leave Elland Road, and Bates was so impressed with McAllister's knowledge of both the first-team squad and United's academy that he began drawing up improved terms for the former Leeds and Liverpool midfielder.
Bates' confidence in McAllister, who replaced Dennis Wise as Leeds' manager in January, was strengthened by his record of two losses from 11 league games, and the conclusion of negotiations this week came on the back of a 1-0 victory at Doncaster Rovers which revitalised United's chance of promotion.
Bates told the YEP: "We met in Leeds a fortnight ago and went through every player on the books, from the highest earners to the kids on £15 a week. He told us who he thought was surplus to requirements and who he thought we should keep.
"The depth of knowledge that Gary showed about every player, and not just the senior players, was extremely impressive. He goes to every reserve game and his knowledge showed how dedicated he was to the job.
"His record in league games is also very encouraging, and Shaun and I made the decision with the board that he deserved a new and longer contract. I'm delighted that he's accepted because, from the club's point of view, we know the direction we're heading in and we can start planning for next season."
Confirmation of McAllister's new contract came as something of a surprise yesterday, with consideration of his future widely expected to be deferred until after United's bid to return to the Championship had been resolved. Leeds have six League One matches to play and could rejoin to the top six for the first time under McAllister with a victory at Orient tomorrow. The club last occupied a play-off position on February 2, the date of his first game in charge.
Bates said: "The most important thing about Gary was that when Gwyn Williams first asked him whether he wanted the job back in January, he said yes. Full stop.
"There were no questions about 'how much', and no arguing about the contract. I think he feels as if he's come home."
McAllister's joy at new United deal
By Phil Hay
There is one word in the English language which never fails to shake the bones of any Leeds United supporter who hears it: stability.
The road to hell is laid with good intentions, just as the road to nowhere at Elland Road has been laid with promises of sunnier climes. Optimistic projections are so often a concealed warning of turbulence ahead.If the future sounds bright then a crisis is probably on the horizon. So it was when Peter Ridsdale announced that funds accrued from the sale of Jonathan Woodgate had provided Leeds with "peace of mind". But then off-field business is like the sport itself – an easy game to talk, but a more difficult one to play.
Gary McAllister was careful to avoid any rash statements yesterday, and the word stability was missing from his weekly press conference at Thorp Arch. It was a sub-concious if astute omission, but it did not alter the perception that, in locking McAllister to a 12-month rolling contract, stability was in fact what Leeds had achieved.
The Scot confirmed the terms of his new deal after negotiations with Ken Bates which were as enthusiastic as they were brief.
There was no manner of persuasion involved and it is anticipated that McAllister's assistant Steve Staunton and first-team coach Neil McDonald will follow suit in accepting new contracts without delay. He is satisfied that both men are ready to sign.
Forty-eight hours ago, all three held contracts which ran until the end of this season – a situation which left a degree of doubt among the management team, the players and the club as a whole about whose hands their future lay in.
Promotion was seen as McAllister's decisive bargaining chip for a new contract, but it was never clear, until yesterday, whether he and Bates envisaged the possibility of another season in League One together.
But the fear that Leeds would do what stagnant clubs do by sweeping the floor clear again this summer was one that both parties felt the need to address.
"It's been a rough ride for Leeds United," said McAllister. "They've been through a lot.
"For anyone associated with them, it's been quite worrying. But I believe Leeds United are on the way back. It's still going to be a long process but the worst has gone. We've bottomed out.
"When I arrived here, the job was a three-and-a-half month contract and the job brief was simple – to get us moving forward and to get us out of this league.
"We're nudging closer to that and we're just a wee bit outside the play-offs now with a game in hand. We want to be in the shake-up.
"I'm very honoured to have accepted another contract and there wasn't a great deal of negotiating involved. It's a show of faith by the club in me, and it's a fantastic honour.
"This is one of the top 10 jobs in the country, even though Leeds are in the third tier of England football. I don't think you can get away from that. If you're given the chance, you've got to grab it.
"You take jobs to be ambitious. When I was a player starting out at Motherwell Boys Club, I wanted to play for Motherwell. Then I wanted to play in England, and then with one of the big clubs in England.
"It's the same when you become a coach – you want to try and get to the top with the job you're in. I'm not saying I'm at the top, but I've been given the chance to produce something here. This type of job doesn't come round very often."
The extended contract will allow McAllister to relocate from his home in the midlands to a permanent residence in Yorkshire, a move which also provides an element of surety for his two sons.
His own well-being, however, was a secondary issue yesterday when compared by United's manager to the importance of their six remaining matches this season.
The rolling contract put forward by Bates essentially ensures that McAllister's future employment by Leeds will not rest on their final League One position or their success in rejoining the Championship, but the 43-year-old will think and act as if it does.
Tuesday night's victory over Doncaster Rovers was a monumental result, and arguably the first under McAllister that caught the undivided attention of their division. Tomorrow's game at Leyton Orient is every bit as important, not least because United's attempts to consolidate encouraging victories since Christmas have, more often than not, been unsuccessful.
"Promotion is still the main objective," said McAllister. "It's not about me and the length of my contract. It's about tuning in and homing in on this play-off spot and then pushing on through there.
"The results could have been better I feel, and we've had too many draws. But I've seen little improvements in discipline and tempo, all along the lines of my experience of playing in the Premiership.
"It's things like time-keeping – all the little things. If you look after the little things, they look after the big picture. I know it can look a little bit petty from the outside, but I'm passing on information that I gathered from working with some very experienced managers.
"There's a bit of continuity now and the players know where they stand as far as who the manager's going to be in the future, beyond the end of this season.
"I would imagine that it's nice peace-of-mind to know where you stand. I've been very honest with every player here and it won't be a case of them coming in for pre-season with another guy here and having to prove themselves again.
"If we achieve what we're looking to achieve, they'll go away and enjoy their summer and come back knowing what's expected of them. They won't be guessing who's going to be the new manager, and they won't be guessing what type of football they'll be playing. They'll be coming back to an organised, professional set-up."
Bates is happy to discount United's defeat to Tranmere on February 2 from his manager's record, believing as he does that the disruption caused by the departure of McAllister's predecessor, Dennis Wise, made his first game in charge an impossible baptism.
Newcastle United turned Wise's head and the loose ties of a short-term contract made McAllister as susceptible to approaches from other clubs.
The Scot, however, has given no time to job-hunting, and the contract drawn up by Bates was not the result of insecurity over his manager's position. Bates instead believed that the evidence of four wins and five draws from 11 matches – or 10 meaningful games, by the chairman's reckoning – allied with McAllister's attitude was a combination on which United should rely beyond the end of this season.
"I've been so wrapped up in the job here that I've not had the chance to see what other jobs might come around," said McAllister.
"I certainly haven't been looking elsewhere or looking in any detail at how other managers are doing. And there aren't many bigger jobs than this. The club are giving us a fair crack at it."