Saturday, September 27, 2008

Leedsunited.com 27/9/08

ROBBO WINS IT

 27 Sep 2008

Robinson goal secures Elland Road win against Hereford...

UNITED 1 (Robinson 72), HEREFORD 0

United: Lucas, Richardson, Marques, Telfer, White (Hughes 78), Howson, Douglas, Delph, Beckford, Becchio, Robinson (Snodgrass 85). Subs: Ankergren, Prutton, Kilkenny.

Hereford: Randolph, Jackson, Broadhurst, N'Gotty, Rose, Hudson-Odi (Smith 81), O'Leary, Diagouraga, Done, Johnson (Taylor 81), Chadwick (Ashikodi 68). Subs: Samson, Taylor, Smith, Beckwith.

Referee: G Laws (Whitley Bay)

Booked: O'Leary, Broadhurst (Hereford)

Att: 25,676

 

United boss Gary McAllister made two changes from the side which won 2-0 at Carlisle last weekend, with Andy Robinson replacing Andrew Hughes and Jonny Howson in for Neil Kilkenny.

And it was Robinson who had the first shot on goal when he tested Darren Randolph with a shot from distance after five minutes. Robinson was also instrumental when Hereford defender Richard Jackson cleared to thwart Jermaine Beckford.

On 12 minutes, Howson had a shot deflected wide as United enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges. Fabian Delph was next to test Randolph after working himself an opening just inside the box.

The opening 20 minutes were one-way traffic, and teenager Aidan White went close when he showed good skill cutting in from the left before seeing his shot deflected to safety.

When United threatened again, Randolph came racing off his line to head the ball clear, and the Hereford keeper was called upon again on 32 minutes to spread himself well after Delph played in Beckford.

And Randolph made another save in the 38th minute when he got down well to his right to deny Luciano Becchio.

Beckford was next to try his luck from outside of the area when he curled a shot wide of the mark, and United were thwarted again in the 41st minute when Richard Rose made a superb challenge to prevent Jonathan Douglas scoring from close range, following more good work by Robinson.

And on the stroke of half-time, Randolph made yet another good save after Becchio met a Frazer Richardson cross at the far post.

United started the second half as they ended the first with Beckford glancing a Becchio cross over the bar.

And on 48 minutes, Beckford shaved the upright with a shot from close range as the domination continued.

Dave Lucas was finally called upon to make a fingertip save to deny an advancing Nick Chadwick, United responded quickly with two efforts from Beckford.

By the hour-mark, United had 20 shots on goal - 10 on target, as opposed to Hereford's two wayward first half efforts. Leeds had also enjoyed a whopping 60 per cent of the play.

But Randolph was having an excellent game in the Hereford goal and he denied Beckford again with another good save. In the 61st minute, Randolph did it again after Beckford worked another good opening.

Leeds continued to press, and Robinson headed wide of the mark, following a Howson free-kick. Moments later, Randolph somehow kept out a header from Becchio.

The breakthrough finally came on 72 minutes, but that was only after Randolph had made a wonder save to deny Becchio.

The goalkeeper pulled off an outstanding stop to keep out a Becchio header - following a Beckford cross - but the ball came straight back out to Robinson who was able to stoop to head home.

It was no more than rampant Leeds deserved, but Hereford, marshalled by a man of the match performance from Randolph, had done their utmost to keep United at bay.

Even after the goal, Randolph continued his one-man stand, and he denied Becchio with yet another good save on 77 minutes. Then he produced a double-save to deny Beckford to keep the score at 1-0.

The United defence were called into action on 84 minutes when Rui Marques got the decisive touch on a Matt Done shot to deflect it to safety.

Done also found an opening on 88 minutes,  but the Hereford slipped on the turf as he shaped to cross the ball back into the box.

For the first time in the game Hereford were suddenly showing the same fearless attitude that earned them an FA Cup win at Elland Road last year, and Moses Ashikodi wasted a great opportunity in the 89th minute when he sent a shot wide.

Yorkshire Evening Post 24/9/08

Leeds United cash in with late gem


By Phil Hay

Leeds United 3 Hartlepool United 2

Lower league clubs are trained in the business of milking cup competitions for every possible penny, but there comes a point where the line between money and ambition begins to blur.

Andy Robinson's focus was spread over two alternative scenarios last night after his goal of supreme skill or obscene luck – only he knows which – entered Leeds United into the fourth round of the Carling Cup.

A draw against Liverpool would be nice, he confessed, but no better than another tie at Elland Road against a team in United's metaphorical league. Gary McAllister agreed in principle, unable to hide his inherent taste for cup football.
 

"I'd be pleased with a home draw against anybody," he said.

This is not, yet, a competition that Leeds can expect to seriously influence or, in their wildest thoughts, plan to win but the arrival of the last 16 should play on the competitive spirit of their squad.

To describe their progression through three stages as an exceptional achievement is not an exaggeration – give or take six months, Leeds were playing in the Champions League as recently as they were the fourth round of the League Cup – but who in McAllister's camp would want to stop at that?
 

The Scot, after all, was a knockout specialist during his two seasons with Liverpool.

United's performances in both the Carling Cup and the Johnstone's Paint Trophy this season have reached if not exceeded his standards, and the club's aspiration shone throughout another excellent tie at Elland Road last night.

The value of the draw which paired Leeds with Hartlepool was highly debatable for both McAllister and his counterpart Danny Wilson, producing a tie which both managers might have preferred to avoid.

Hartlepool, from United's point of view, were eminently beatable and Wilson may have aired a similar opinion about Leeds, but there was little of material worth to be gained from yesterday's match, other than a place in round four.

For all the stylish craft with which Leeds removed Chester City and Crystal Palace from the Carling Cup last month, the resulting financial reward has been meagre.

Sky's decision to televise their first-round match at the Deva Stadium increased their earnings slightly, but the tie against Palace pulled in just under 11,000 supporters.
 

"This evening is our fourth cup match," wrote Ken Bates in United's programme. "We haven't made much extra money so far."

Last night's respectable attendance of 14,599 failed to significantly up their income, and although every ticket was value for money, in the absence of opposition whose profile would have been lucrative in victory or defeat, United's game against Hartlepool was not worth losing.
 

A better plan would have been to bail out immediately at Chester.

McAllister's starting line-up listed nine alterations but his selected team did not indicate a feeling of disinterest.

He no doubt concurred with his chairman's admission that the Carling Cup could offer Leeds more than it had already.

It seemed doubtful after two minutes that the competition was about to yield any additional wealth to Bates or his club.

No sooner had McAllister's revised defence – displaying changes in all five positions, his goalkeeper included – taken their positions than Casper Ankergren was fishing the ball out of his net.

A free-kick delivered by Ritchie Humphreys in the second minute took a flick off the head of Joel Porter and presented Andy Monkhouse, Hartlepool's Leeds-born winger, with a free header at the back post. 

Without a defender to hassle him, Monkhouse picked his spot and nodded the ball calmly across Ankergren.

Ben Parker and Neil Kilkenny drove shots wide of the visitors' goal – Parker's a wasteful finish six yards from goal – after Leeds walked through Wilson's defence, and a moment of hesitation from Sam Collins in the 14th minute laid United's equaliser on a plate. 

The defender ran the ball out of defence and allowed Robert Snodgrass to pinch possession from his feet, leaving Hartlepool keeper Arran Lee-Barrett exposed to the Scottish forward. 

Snodgrass considered playing in Enoch Showunmi before realising that Lee-Barrett was beyond help and stabbed the ball low to the keeper's right.

The level scoreline was more befitting of a game which had been played out almost entirely in Hartlepool's half, but Wilson stood delighted in an atmosphere of disbelief when his team ventured forward tentatively in the 33rd minute and conjured their second goal.

Porter collected a deflected pass on the edge of United's box and, like Monkhouse before him, found defenders conspicuously absent as he flighted a deft left-footed shot over Ankergren and into the same corner of the net as Monkhouse's finish.

The annoyance for McAllister was that, two concessions aside, his team had not played badly.

Jermaine Beckford was introduced before half-time, though not for reasons of panic on United's bench. 

Snodgrass' game instead ended early when a stomach upset forced his hasty retreat and substitution in the 36th minute, heralding Beckford's entrance earlier than McAllister would have liked.

Leeds were at least spared from a deficit of two goals when a lovely counter-attack from Wilson's side – reminiscent of the build-up to Beckford's strike at Carlisle United on Saturday – ended with Ankergren parrying a volley from Ritchie Jones, and his weak finish was a consolation for Leeds in the face of a peculiar half and a scoreline which was difficult to fathom.

The biggest compliment that could be paid to Hartlepool was that their finishing had been ruthless.


Wilson's recurring problem was breaking United's domination of possession, and the second half did not bring a change in momentum.

Lee-Barrett pulled off an instinctive save to block Showunmi's shot low to his left after the striker sprinted through a gap between Hartlepool's centre-backs in the 51st minute, but the keeper could not prevent the striker from laying claim to a second equaliser six minutes later.

A quick free-kick found David Prutton running into space close to the byline, and his cut-back invited a shot from Beckford which deflected on to the bar. 

Lee-Barrett dived backwards in search of the ball and fell helplessly to the ground as Showunmi bundled an unmissable opportunity over the line.

The onslaught from Leeds was signalled but after shots from Beckford and Prutton flew wide of the same post by the same tight margin, the tension created by the delicately-balanced scoreline became apparent for the first time. 

It took Robinson's outrageous goal to drag the teams apart at the very end of the 90th minute.

Howson played the ball to Robinson on the right wing, and a piercing shot which might well have been intended as a cross lobbed Lee-Barrett with blinding pace and stretched the net at the keeper's back post.
It's the result that counts, said Robinson with a smile, aware that this hitherto minor adventure is about to get interesting.


Yorkshire Evening Post 22/9/08

Still room for improvement says Mac

"Excellence I can reach for," remarked a famous American actor when asked about the pursuit of greatness in his profession. "Perfection is God's business."

In that respect, God and Gary McAllister are patently like-minded. 

Saturday's victory at Brunton Park was McAllister's opportunity to thrust out his chest and mock with impunity the mild murmuring which accompanied Leeds United's fluctuating results last month, but he chose instead to talk with a level head which left many listening scratching theirs.

A deserved victory, he confessed in response to Leeds grinding three points out of the least accommodating stadium League One has to offer, but not a victory without its faults.

Unreliable ball retention and unforced errors were cited as the margin for improvement in McAllister's keen eyes, his desire for excellence bordering on perfection prompting one journalist to remark that he was struggling to imagine Leeds at their best.
 

John Ward's appreciation of their performance was more succinct.
"I expect them to win the league," admitted Carlisle United's manager.

McAllister's concerns were astute criticisms of Leeds after Saturday's match in Cumbria, but he was virtually alone among the crowd of 12,148 in finding time to think of them.

That, it could be argued, is what separates a high-level manager from the average onlooker, but the times are few when a coach can find fault with his players while analysing a result as welcome as United's victory at Brunton Park.

Picky or otherwise, McAllister must have been secretly buoyant.

Carlisle's stadium revels in its formidable reputation – a mere 21 of the last 100 league matches played at Brunton Park before Saturday have resulted in away victories – but Leeds are finding the venue more agreeable by the visit.

United were the last club to win at Brunton Park during the second leg of a play-off semi-final which seems increasingly distant, and they are now the first club to have earned any points from a trip to Carlisle this season.
 

Prior to Saturday, their home record after three matches was perfect.

The numerical facts concerning the Cumbrian venue were only ever of statistical value – comments made by Leeds' players and coaching staff before the game revealed their suspicion that the concrete facade of Brunton Park had an element of the emperor's new clothes about it – and the reality for Ward after full-time was another discussion about a borderline contest against Leeds which his club had lost.

Carlisle have been here before – notably after last season's play-off semi-final – and the difference in quality between the teams on Saturday was not great enough to leave Ward fearing for his players' ability to bridge it. 

The match in the main was dormant, buzzing with energy but minus the explosions that the pick of the weekend's matches was expected to produce. 

When major chances fell to Leeds the visitors accepted them with precision and efficiency ensuring that, in an important game between two promotion candidates, they did not go to waste. 

But moments in the fixture when a different result seemed possible were very scarce once United established a lead.

McAllister's mild dissatisfaction may have been a response to the first 15 minutes, during which time his side's retention of the ball was feeble. 

Stray passes flew around inside their own half and the speed with which Carlisle settled was due to the encouragement given to them by United's casual air.

It was a temporary deficiency and the lack of a complete performance was not entirely the fault of Leeds. Crewe Alexandra were woeful a fortnight ago and Swindon Town were arguably worse. 

But delighted though McAllister would have been with a similar trouncing of Carlisle, such an outcome was never likely. 

The teams who play Carlisle off their own pitch this season will be few in number.

Tension took hold of Carlisle in a nervous play-off game at Brunton Park five months ago, their demise aided by United's invigorated display, but the outcome on Saturday came down to Leeds' constant ability to create unmissable chances and their confidence in finishing some which are. 

Luciano Becchio scored the opening goal in the 32nd minute and a brilliant counter-attack which flew at full speed from one end of the pitch to the other was turned into the net by a sliding Jermaine Beckford with four minutes left, recording his 11th finish of a season which has no obvious personal limits.

Beckford's double figures deserve to be the talk of League One, but Becchio's goal rewarded another effective display of physical effort, hard running and intelligent movement. 

He is, unfortunately, in Beckford's shadow but not for a want of trying. 

The partnership has become so firmly established that McAllister does not see a need to include Enoch Showunmi among his substitutes.

In the minutes leading up to Becchio's finish, the skillful Simon Hackney – Carlisle's best player though one compared somewhat hopefully to Cristiano Ronaldo in the post-match press conference – had flighted a cross against the crossbar and Jonathan Douglas' volley bounced two yards past Carlisle's goal, but the game was meandering in no particular direction before the opening goal.

Ben Williams, Carlisle's goalkeeper, held his ground when a low shot from Neil Kilkenny struck his legs and bounced behind in the 32nd minute, but the corner which followed immediately broke the deadlock.

Williams came to collect Kilkenny's delivery but backtracked at the last minute and the cut-back provided by Paul Telfer gave Becchio the chance to stab the ball towards goal. 

With Williams stranded, the shot took a slight deflection off the head of Andrew Hughes and rose into the roof of the net.

Carlisle's response to what seemed a poor concession consisted of shots from Hackney and Marc Bridge-Wilkinson, both from outside the box and both failing to unnerve Lucas. 

Ward's strategy was then complicated by the loss of his leading striker, Danny Graham, to a head injury at half-time. 

Graham's presence would have been valuable in the second half, but Ward admitted later that onset of possible concussion had forced the sensible decision. 

With the forward retired to the dressing room, Hackney led the assault with a shot which struck a defender as it flew towards goal and another low strike that Lucas held well.

The point of no return arrived in the 83rd minute when a third effort from Hackney slipped past Lucas' far post with Jennison Myrie-Williams desperately attempting to scramble the ball into the net, and Carlisle were picked off three minutes later by a goal of immense quality.

A direct exchange of passes drilled the ball from United's area to the left wing where Robert Snodgrass predicted Beckford's run and picked out the striker with a glorious cross which Beckford caressed passed Williams.

The second goal might have come against the run of play but it also arrived six minutes after Frazer Richardson's left-footed strike clattered the bar, and Ward was not in the mood to complain. 

McAllister, in contrast, delivered a verdict which amounted to 'can do better and will do better'.
Just what his managerial colleagues wanted to hear.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Yorkshire Evening Post 20/9/08

Leeds United end Carlisle's unbeaten home record

By Phil Hay

Carlisle 0 Leeds United 2

Billed as a collision between two of League One's most accomplished strikers, it was perhaps inevitable that yesterday's game at Brunton Park would be decided with the help a less conspicuous forward.

Jermaine Beckford and Danny Graham have shared 17 goals this season, enough to set them head-to-head during the decision-making process for August's player-of-the-month award, but it was the boot of Luciano Becchio which was primarily responsible for giving Carlisle's purposeful start to the term another fierce shake.

Becchio's name is unfamiliar in Cumbria and, before July, it had never been heard in Leeds, but it seemed fitting that a player whose unselfish performances have so greatly influence Leeds' recent surge should eclipse Beckford and Graham for 86 minutes.

The Argentine striker poached the game's opening goal in the 32nd minute and, unlike last season when Leeds capitulated after establishing a narrow lead at Brunton Park, the club protected Becchio's strike until Beckford claimed his customary goal with four minutes left.

It was never a spectacular clash and the quality of both teams was often lost on a day when the importance of the fixture seemed to resonate with both sets of players, but nothing mattered more to United boss Gary McAllister than the result – Carlisle's first home defeat of the term.

Confidence performances against Swindon and Crewe pushed Leeds into yesterday's match with successive wins in their pocket, but a 2-0 victory over a club who should not fail to qualify for the play-offs was another step towards the consistent dominance expected of United this season.

McAllister limited his criticism of the club's initial displays, but solid performances are beginning to come with more regularity and more reliability from his players. 

Without showing the full extent of their hand at Brunton Park, Leeds emerged with a victory which was hugely valuable if not conclusive.

McAllister followed through with his veiled promise to involve Aidan White at Brunton Park, naming the 16-year-old at left-back and allowing him to make his full league debut.

White's inclusion as replacement for the suspended Alan Sheehan was another demonstration of how highly McAllister's values the youngest member of his squad – a player who became a scholar at Leeds less than six months ago.

Carlisle's assistant manager, Greg Abbott, claimed earlier in the week that the inclusion of White could suit the game of Cleveland Taylor, the Cumbrian club's physical winger, but the threat was idle and the honour at the end of that particular battle belonged to United's teenager.

McAllister was not required to make any other positional changes, leaving Rui Marques in the centre of defence and ignoring the temptation to reinstate Lubomir Michalik as added protection against Graham.

Carlisle's premier striker scored six goals during the first four weeks of the season, enough to win him League One's first player-of-the-month award, and he was supposed to be the hosts' answer to the prolific Beckford.
 

Surprisingly, neither forward could claim to have significantly influenced the match until Beckford's late goal, and Graham was substituted with a head injury at half-time.

Marques contributed enough to last weekend's victory over Swindon – a win achieved with 10 players for 82 minutes – to deserve his place, but his loose pass in the third minute caused immediate problems for Leeds.

Simon Hackney collected the ball and cut through the right side of United's defence, outrunning Neil Kilkenny and Marques and whipping over a cross which flicked off the top of David Lucas' bar.

It seemed that Leeds, the last club to win at Brunton Park on the night when their place in last season's play-off final was assured, were conspiring to inflict punishment on themselves and their low ball retention invited the Cumbrians to settle quickly.

Another run from Hackney tied Frazer Richardson in knots and eventually forced a poor clearance from Fabian Delph which Marc Bridge-Wilkinson sent flying over the bar, then Paul Thirlwell hooked a volley wide after controlling a deflected delivery on his chest.

United's counters also relied on uncertainty in Carlisle's defence, and a mistake from centre-back Richard Keogh in the 16th minute allowed for an exchange of passes between Beckford and Jonathan Douglas which the latter drove two yards past Ben Williams' goal. 

Taylor's opening at Lucas' far post was a better chance, though his uncontrolled header from Evan Horwood's cross did not force United's goalkeeper into a save and Leeds took a grip of the match with a soft goal in the 32nd minute. 

Williams conceded a corner by knocking Kilkenny's shot around the post with his legs and when Carlisle's keeper misjudged the resulting set-piece and committed himself eight yards from goal, Paul Telfer's cut-back left Becchio to flick the ball in.

Carlisle hit back and Hackney drew a diving save from Lucas before Danny Carlton, the home striker, reacted to an inviting opening on the edge of Leeds' box by slicing the ball far beyond the left-hand post.

Bridge-Wilkinson's 20-yard shot was a more convincing effort, sailing a foot over the bar four minutes before the break, but the more difficult team-talk fell to John Ward. 

His position was identical to that in which he found himself in November when Carlisle recovered from a goal down to inflict Leeds' first defeat of last season.

His first act was the replace Graham with Scott Dobie, but the threat to Carlisle on the break was displayed by Beckford's run from deep which ended with a curling shot beyond Williams' left-hand post.

Carlisle's composure began to desert them, and though Hackney's shot was blocked four yards from Lucas' goalline, the home crowd quickly grew restless. 

Taylor was almost chased from the field by the applause which followed Ward's decision to introduce Michael Bridges from the bench on 62 minutes.

Dobie headed wide a cross from Hackney, who then drove the ball inches wide of goal with Jennison Myrie-Williams sniffing for an easy finish, but their challenge was blunted beyond repair when a splendid counter-attack from United ended with Beckford sliding home Robert Snodgrass' cross. 

The art of winning at Brunton Park is one that Leeds appear to have mastered.


Leedsunited.com 20/9/08

BORDER RAIDERS

 20 Sep 2008

United see off Cumbrian challengers Carlisle United...

CARLISLE 0, UNITED 2 (Becchio 32, Beckford 86)

Carlisle: Williams, Raven, Livesey, Keogh, Horwood, Taylor (Bridges 63), Bridge-Wilkinson, Thirlwell, Hackney, Graham (Dobie 46), Carlton (Myrie-Williams 73). Subs: Joyce, Howarth.

United: Lucas, Richardson, Marques, Telfer, White (Howson 55), Hughes, Kilkenny (Snodgrass 75), Douglas, Delph, Beckford, Becchio (Robinson 90). Subs: Ankergren, Prutton.

Referee: P Walton

Att: 12,138

United returned to the scene of last season's memorable Play-Off success with teenage defender Aidan White lined up to make his debut in place of the suspended Alan Sheehan.

And the 16-year-old's first involvement came inside the opening minute when he picked out Andy Hughes with a good cross from the left.

Carlisle also had an early raid down their own left flank when Simon Hackney showed good pace before lifting his cross over the bar.

It took some desperate defending to deny Hughes after nine minutes. White, Jonathan Douglas, and Jermaine Beckford all combined well and Hughes was arriving at the far post to meet Beckford's low cross when the ball was scrambled clear.

After a brief spell of Carlisle pressure, United showed good ball retention and a period of patient passing play was almost rewarded when Douglas sent a powerful strike skidding wide.

While United were starting to dictate in terms of possession, Carlisle gave a timely reminder of the threat they posed on 23 minutes when Cleveland Taylor headed an Evan Horwood cross over the bar.

Carlisle goalkeeper Ben Williams made the first save of the game shortly after the half-hour - spreading himself well to deny Neil Kilkenny - but United took the lead the resultant corner.

Kilkenny provided a deep delivery, Paul Telfer hooked the ball back into the box, and Luciano Becchio rifled the ball home from close range to make it 1-0.

It was a deserved lead on the balance of play, but Carlisle showed more urgency after Becchio's strike, and Marc Bridge-Wilkinson sent a shot fizzing over the bar after trying his luck from distance.

But United threatened again before half-time and both Beckford and Rui Marques came within a whisker of furthering the advantage.

Carlisle made a change at half-time, replacing leading goalscorer Danny Graham with Scott Dobie.

But it was United who carved out the first opening of the second half when Becchio headed over the top, following a Frazer Richardson cross. Beckford also fired wide after he was allowed a run on goal.

Ten minutes into the second period, United were forced into make a first change when White limped off, to be replaced by Jonny Howson.

The home side had started the second half brighter and Simon Hackney had a shot blocked on 56 minutes before Hughes made a good clearance when under pressure.

But the hosts were still lacking in ideas against a well-drilled Leeds side, and on 63 minutes Carlisle boss John Ward introduced former United striker Michael Bridges to proceedings.

But it was his other substitution Dobie who went close on 64 minutes when he headed wide of the mark after good work by Hackney.

When United threatened again it was another Richardson/Becchio combination that led to the striker heading wide of the mark on 70 minutes.

Carlisle continued to make Leeds work, though, and Danny Carlton headed over the top on 72 minutes.

United were still looking fairly comfortable, though, and when the home side won successive corners, Leeds got men behind the ball and defended well.

And, on the counter, Richardson almost doubled the advantage on 80 minutes when he rattled the bar with a dipping effort from distance.

But there was a scare for United on 82 minutes when a goal-bound Hackney shot took a deflection to divert it wide of the mark and away from an advancing Jennison Myrie-Williams. 

With four minutes to go the game was sealed. Snodgrass broke down the right and Beckford time his run to perfection to smash home the cross from close range.

The goal sparked mass celebrations among the 2,500 travelling supporters and the first chants of  "we're gonna win the league" were struck up as United eased through the final moments towards a third successive league victory.

 

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Yorkshire Evening Post 13/9/08

United pass test of mettle

Swindon 1 Leeds United 3

Last week's victory over Crewe Alexandra won Leeds points for style, but United showed the fight needed to complement that flair during a performance at Swindon which was every bit as creditable.

Leeds hit a purple patch eight days ago, dispatching Crewe with a flamboyant swagger and five excellent goals, but the result secured in dire circumstances yesterday cannot rank any lower in the list of quality displays under Gary McAllister.

United's boss predicted that their visit to the County Ground would be a grinding contrast to the swashbuckling fixture seen at Elland Road last Saturday, but he could not have guessed the extent to which Leeds would be asked to scrap for their points. Nor could he have complained with the response of the 10 players who took up that exhausting fight.

Leeds lost Alan Sheehan to a red card eight minutes into the League One clash, a dismissal which did the left-back little credit and put United's afternoon in jeopardy before it had begun in earnest.

 Sheehan launched himself into a challenge on Jon-Paul McGovern, bringing down the winger with both feet some 60 yards from United's goal, and his early exit entered Leeds into a test of resilience on the pitch where McAllister's first victory as manager was secured last season.


United's mettle underwent a severe test in Wiltshire on March 1, but not to the extent it did yesterday. For McAllister, however, the performance was proof that his squad have the stomach for this season, as well as the class. That much was proven by the fact that Leeds never allowed themselves to look happy with the prospect of a draw.

Jermaine Beckford opened the scoring with his ninth goal of the season, 15 minutes after Sheehan's red card, and it was not until a slight defensive lapse in the final minute of the first half that Swindon teased an equaliser out of McAllister's 10 men.

An inexplicable mistake from Swindon keeper Phil Smith allowed Neil Kilkenny's free-kick to limp over the line five minutes into the second period, and a late third goal from Beckford brought McAllister a victory which he might have thought unlikely, if not impossible, with eight minutes gone.

An unchanged line-up would have been his preference yesterday, but the dismissal of Lubomir Michalik at the end of last Saturday's commanding victory denied him that option.

Rui Marques linked up with Paul Telfer in the centre of defence for the first time, creating a partnership with a combined age of 67.

Long in the tooth the pairing may have been but it was not a combination which McAllister can have lacked confidence in. Yet, considering the fate which had befallen Michalik seven days previously, it was far from ideal to see Marques booked inside five minutes after catching the trailing leg of Simon Cox outside United's box.

 

Worse still was the two-footed tackle from Sheehan on McGovern which shattered McAllister's plans, referee Darren Deadman taking his time before drawing his red card from his back pocket.

For Sheehan, the dismissal was reminiscent of the sending-off he suffered at Yeovil last season, costing him his place in the play-offs, but United were already a goal to the good by the time he walked at Huish Park. His early departure yesterday left Leeds under desperate strain.

The disruption had an immediate effect when Anthony McNamee's corner was headed into the box by Jerel Ifil, and Cox's hooked volley brought a fabulous one-handed save from David Lucas.

The first riposte from Leeds was a shot from Kilkenny which lacked the pace and direction to trouble Smith, and a weak strike from Luciano Becchio dribbled wide in the 21st minute, but United's efforts were coming from long range at a time when Becchio and Beckford were itching to see the whites of Smith's eyes.

Two minutes later, however, Beckford was given that chance, and he took it ruthlessly with a typically sharp finish. Becchio's low cross was allowed to reach Beckford by a woeful misjudgement from Ifil, who missed the ball with his attempted clearance and watched as United's leading scorer drove a deft volley into the top corner of the net from 12 yards out.

Immediately, Marques was forced into a crucial block as the Leeds defence opened up and gave Cox space to shoot at Lucas, but the goal restored the visitors' composure and allowed them to re-establish their shape.

Andrew Hughes, by then, had reverted to the left side of a defensive unit who knew they would be asked to dig in resolutely for an hour. 

Such was United's conviction in defence, however, that Swindon failed to produce another shot on target until Cox replied to Beckford's goal in the final minute of the first half, finishing off a neatly-constructed move and the first coherent attack of note from Swindon.

McNamee stole a yard of space from Frazer Richardson on the left wing and curled a delightful cross to the far post where Cox arrived with a flying volley which Lucas had no chance of stopping. After a half which had been surprisingly comfortable for Leeds, it was a demoralising blow.
But inspiration and fortune came in the form of a dreadful mistake from Smith, who was utterly accountable for Kilkenny's goal in the 50th minute.
The keeper was positioned perfectly to collect the midfielder's direct free-kick after a foul on Becchio but, despite appearing to grasp the ball initially, it slipped through his hands and rolled over the line.

A second equaliser would have materialised immediately but for another exceptional save from Lucas, who nudged Cox's close-range header past the post, and Ifil's header then looped onto the roof of the net after a McGovern corner caused chaos.

McAllister's players understood the script, though, and they stuck to it closely, defending in numbers and counter-attacking whenever the opportunity arose.

One such counter saw Fabian Delph and Jonathan Howson slice open Swindon's defence and play in Beckford, whose accuracy deserted him. But with five minutes left, he tucked away a chance set up by David Prutton to leave McAllister punching the air.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Yorkshire Post 8/9/08
Leeds United 5 Crewe 2 - Teen talent Delph proves instant hit as Leeds reaffirm credentials
By Ian Appleyard
LEEDS United wonderkid Fabian Delph was dubbed the new Steven Gerrard after a performance that confirmed his status as a new hero of Elland Road.
Delph might be small in stature but his talent is massive – which is why Leeds have moved swiftly to secure his services on a four-year deal.
That won't put a stop to Premier League clubs chasing his signature of course but team-mate Andy Robinson hopes the teenager will go all the way to the top by staying at Leeds.
Robinson, who grew up with England star Gerrard on Merseyside, says Delph, 18, has the 'world at his feet'.
The teenager stole the show against Crewe Alexandra and his first goal in senior football opened the floodgates as Leeds smashed in five.
"Fabian is going all the way to the Premier League and, hopefully, he will take Leeds United there too," said Robinson. "He is just a kid who has come in from the streets and who enjoys his football and his banter, but clearly he has got the world at his feet."
Drawing comparisons between the Bradford-born youngster and Liverpool's finest, Robinson said: "When Stevie Gerrard came on the scene, he was very similar, he looked rangy but had the same passing range, and also liked a tackle.
"Fabian snaps you in the tackle and is already whacking senior pros in training.
"He has done me a few times and the gaffer has had to tell him to 'slow down' but that's just a sign of confidence in a player of such a young age.
"Gerrard was always enthusiastic and Fabian is certainly enthusiastic. I always say that if they are good enough, they are old enough and right now I think Fabian's is the first name on the teamsheet."As one of the best midfielders of his own generation, Leeds manager Gary McAllister is an ideal mentor for young Delph.
McAllister confirmed that there had been 'big interest from big teams' in a player who initially started his career in Bradford City's schoolboy ranks.
If Leeds go on to win promotion this season, it will also go a long way towards keeping the player at Elland Road.
After winning just one of their first four league games, Leeds produced a vintage performance against Crewe to re-affirm their promotion credentials.
Goals from Delph, Alan Sheehan, Jonathan Douglas, Jermaine Beckford and substitute Andy Robinson turned the game into a rout before a late lapse in concentration enabled Crewe to score twice and regain lost pride.
Beckford's apart – which was still a good near post header – all would easily have been contenders for any Goal of the Month competition.
Delph, Sheehan, and Douglas struck from long range while Robinson curled the ball into the top corner from the edge of the penalty box.
Substitute Robinson had also struck the bar and provided the cross for Beckford's goal and hopes his contribution will warrant a return to the side next week at Swindon Town.
"It is early days still but losing my place, after a sloppy performance against Yeovil, was the kick up the backside I needed," said the summer signing from Swansea. "I moved to a new club, got married, and moved house – three of the most stressful things you can do – all in the space of six weeks this summer," he added. "But I guarantee that the fans will see the best of me and I will do well for the club this season."
Defender Lubomir Michalik faces a suspension after being sent off in stoppage time for pulling the shirt of Crewe substitute Clayton Donaldson.
His misdemeanour resulted in Crewe's first goal from the subsequent freekick and was quickly followed by a second scored by Eugen Bopp.
Leeds moved into the League One play-off zone thanks to the win and McAllister admitted that the result had defused pressure around Elland Road.
"I know its only four games in but you look at league tables and it doesn't quite reflect where your form is," he said. "We needed a result, there was a wee bit of pressure leading up to this game.
"We got an absolutely perfect performance for 90 minutes. Barring the last two minutes (of stoppage time), every player and each of the substitutes were first class."

Independent 7/9/08
Leeds United 5 Crewe Alexandra 2: McAllister enjoys stunning view of Delph
By Jon Culley at Elland Road
Kevin Keegan might not have cared to have Dennis Wise picking his players but the former Newcastle manager could surely have had no quarrel with his director of football's judgment over Fabian Delph.
Delph was one of a trio of Leeds United teenagers Wise wanted to bring to St James' Park and would have doubtless been offered attractive inducements to move to the north-east had he not committed himself to a future at Elland Road the day after Keegan decided to leave Wise to it on Tyneside.
Yesterday, the Bradford-born 18-year-old showed why Wise had kept track of his progress since he quit the manager's job at Leeds last January, playing a key role in a romp for Gary McAllister's team with a performance in midfield that displayed maturity beyond his years.
The England youth international, making only his second start in a league match, put himself constantly at the heart of the action with his intelligent positional play and his teammates were more than willing to give him the ball.
With good reason. Few passes missed their target, whether over short distances or long. "Already there is nothing much I need to tell him about controlling the ball and passing it," McAllister said. "He is a good footballer. It is just a matter now of drip feeding him information to add little bits to his game."
Indeed, encouraged by McAllister to "have a pop at goal" he enhanced his repertoire straight away, setting the tone for an impressive but all-too-easy Leeds victory by scoring the opening goal - his first in senior football - after 26 minutes, beating goalkeeper Steve Collis with a low, 25-yard shot that skimmed off the turf before going in off the right-hand post.
Leeds never looked back, glorifying in an oasis of rare sunshine at Elland Road to light up the afternoon with five high-quality goals. Their attacks led by the impressive but unlucky Luciano Becchio, they could have scored eight, although that might have been seen as greedy.
As it was, always given too much room as Crewe sought to play constructive football but neglected basic defending, Leeds hit a second after 36 minutes as Collis was beaten again by another long-range shot, this time from left back Alan Sheehan, a fine strike but one that was trumped four minutes into the second half, as Jonathan Douglas drilled the ball hard and low into the bottom left-hand corner from easily 30 yards.
Next on target was Beckford, who headed home at the near post from a superb cross by substitute Andrew Robinson, who himself took the Leeds tally to five with a magnificent right-foot curler from the left flank.
Thus Leeds completed a performance which - had it not been for a stoppage time red card for Lubomir Michalek - for a second bookable offence - and two subsequent consolation goals for Crewe - from Billy Jones and Eugen Bopp - would have been almost perfect.
It has not been a perfect start to the season - this was only their second win in five matches and their first in three at home -- but on the evidence here, Leeds can look towards promotion with some confidence. Crewe, on the other hand, clearly have much work to do.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Sunday Times 7/9/08

Gary McAllister can see the light

Leeds 5 Crewe 2

John Aizlewood at Elland Road

EVEN at the end of the longest, darkest night, there must be a dawn. For troubled Leeds United, it just might have come with a demolition of Crewe Alexandra so absurdly one-sided that, for a moment, the notion held by Elland Road diehards that their team are marooned at a level two tiers below their natural station did not seem entirely quixotic.

Yet the prematch storm clouds with gathered over Yorkshire were not wholly meteorological. Leeds kicked off without a league victory since the season’s opening day and much as their supporters invoked a now imaginary rivalry with Manchester United, Elland Road was half-empty.

“There was pressure before the game,” admitted manager Gary McAllister. “But for 90 minutes we were perfect. What happened after that reminded us that football can kick you in the backside as well.”

Indeed, when the dust had settled, the only surprises were that Leeds had just five scores to their name and that after failing to muster a solitary attempt on goal in 90 minutes, their wretched visitors somehow struck twice in a surreal added time. Their manager, Steve Holland, failed to attend the postmatch press conference.

Leeds did all the right things. Outmuscled by Crewe’s diminutive centre-backs Daniel O’Donnell and Julian Baudet, they attacked down both flanks and might have gone ahead twice before their first goal. Danny Woodards cleared Andrew Hughes’s looping header off the line, and Fabian Delph’s glorious crossfield ball picked out Jermaine Beckford, who swivelled past Woodards only for Steve Collis to parry his drive.

Delph was not to be denied. When the erstwhile England youth international collected a loose ball some 25 yards out there seemed no danger, but he shot low past the heavy-legged Collis for the teenager’s maiden first-team goal.

That knocked what little stuffing there was out of powder-puff Crewe, for whom there was much worse to come. Hughes picked out overlapping full-back Alan Sheehan who, from a similar distance to Delph, belted home a spectacular second with Collis once again far from spring-heeled.

Four minutes after the break, Jonathan Douglas beat Collis from what was becoming a customary 20 yards. Wholly dispirited, Crewe’s bedraggled defenders began to bicker amongst themselves; Leeds rampaged forward at will.

Chance piled upon chance as Leeds toyed with their mouse-like prey like an especially malevolent feline. They finally scored from inside the penalty area in the 68th minute, when the unmarked Beckford nonchalantly nodded Andy Robinson’s cross past Collis.

The barrel-chested Robinson chipped delicately against Collis’s bar, but his redemption, and McAllister’s goal, the pick of the five, came with a delightful curler, yet again from distance.

The noncontest long won, Leeds fell asleep during added time. First, Lubomir Michalik was dismissed for hauling down Clayton Donaldson and Billy Jones’s 30-yard free-kick bobbled apologetically into goal. Then, with the game’s freakish last hurrah, Eugene Bopp’s fierce drive took a wicked deflection off Douglas and came to rest in David Lucas’s net.

Star man:Fabian Delph (Leeds)

LEEDS:Lucas 6; Richardson 7, Michalik 6, Telfer 6, Sheehan 6; Hughes 7 (Howson 64min; 6), Douglas 7, Kilkenny 6 (Robinson 64min; 7), Delph 8; Becchio 6 (Snodgrass 69min; 6), Beckford 7

CREWE:Collis 4; Woodards 4, Baudet 5, O’Donnell 5, Jones 5; Rix 4 (Bopp 63min; 5), Bailey 4, Schumacher 4, Moore 4; Zola 4, Elding 4 (Donaldson 63min; 5)

Referee:T Kettle Attendance:20,075

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Times 3/9/08
Leeds plead guilty to FA charge
Times Online
Leeds United have pleaded guilty to a FA charge of using an unlicensed agent.
The club have admitted breaching FA regulations during the transfer of Anthony Elding from Stockport County in January 2008. Elding has since left the club to join Coca-Cola League One rivals Crewe Alexandra.
"Leeds United can confirm that the club has pleaded guilty to the Football Association charge for using an unlicensed agent in respect of the transfer of Anthony Elding from Stockport County in January 2008," a club statement read. "The club has requested for a personal hearing and no further comment will be made, other than we would like to re-iterate the fact that no payment has been made or is alleged to have been made to the agent involved in respect of the transfer."

Leedsunited.com 3/9/08
JERMAINE'S GOAL
The Football League have ruled that Jermaine Beckford should be credited with our first goal against Bristol Rovers last weekend.
There was confusion over the identity of the goalscorer, which was a deflected shot from Beckford.
The club credited Beckford as the scorer, but the Press Association, who supply the media with the goalscorers, credited Bristol Rovers defender Steve Elliott with an own goal.
We asked the League to review the goal on Monday and they deemed Beckford's initial shot to be on target without the aid of the deflection.
The Football League have amended their records, and PA will also be asked to amend their records, taking Beckford's tally to seven goals so far this season.

Leedsunited.com 2/9/08
UNITED KO BANTAMS
UNITED 2 (Robinson 7, Becchio 40), BRADFORD CITY 1 (Conlon 71)
United boss Gary McAllister made a host of changes once again, and also went for a change of system with Andy Robinson and Robert Snodgrass playing alongside Enoch Showunmi in the frontline.
Aidan White also returned to make his second start for the club with the teenager lining up at left-back.
The first West Yorkshire derby for almost eight years produced a healthy crowd and, having scored five goals in the first half the last time the two sides met, United almost bagged another early goal when David Prutton fired an angled shot against the upright after just three minutes.
But United were in front inside seven minutes after Paul McLaren handled a cross from the right. Andy Robinson stepped up to convert the spot with a unstoppable shot.
It was a good start by United, but Dave Lucas was called upon to react quickly to spread himself well when Barry Conlon diverted an Omar Daley shot goalwards.
Jonny Howson was next to go close when he sent a low shot wide of the mark after finding space on the edge of the Bradford area.
There was disappointment for the visitors on 21 minutes when they thought they had equalised. A shot was cleared off the line by Neil Kilkenny, it canoned back of Lucas to cross the line, but the flag was raised for an apparent offside against Omar Daley.
The decision proved the cue for tempers to flare and after Joe Colbeck was booked for a foul on Robert Snodgrass, the Scotsman followed him into the book for a challenge on Daley.
United were forced into making a change on 29 minutes when Enoch Showunmi limped out of the action to be replaced by Luciano Becchio. The Argentinian's first involvement was to head over the top.
While United looked the stronger of the two sides, Bradford were lively going forward, and Conlon wasted a good chance when he headed over the top from close range shortly before half-time.
But United's response came courtesy of a terrific passing build-up that ended with a Robinson thunderbolt crashing back off the underside of the bar.
Moments later, it was 2-0 though, courtesy of Becchio. The striker got up well to head a corner kick beyond the reach of Rhys Evans.
United almost had a third before the break when Evans kicked the ball straight at a quick-thinking Robinson, but the rebound was agonisingly wide.
Leeds started the second half in the same dominant mood, and Bradford were quickly on the back foot.
The Bradford goalkeeper was called into action on 52 minutes when he clawed away another goalbound effort from Becchio, who did well to work himself an opportunity.
Leeds continued to press and Howson rattled the inside of the post before Evans palmed a Robinson shot over the bar.
Robinson was a real thorn in the side of Bradford, and Evans made another fingertgip save from a curling free-kick to keep the score at 2-0.
But, for all United's domination, the visitors grabbed an equaliser with 20 minutes remaining. Kyle Nix drove the ball towards goal, following a cut-back from the byline, and Conlon got the final touch.
The visitors did continue to rally, but there was a sour incident in the 85th minute when Daley went into the book for an horrendous challenge on Rui Marques.
Lucas made a comfortable save from McLaren in the 90th minute, although three minutes of additional time did set up a tense finale.
Bradford did press forward one final time, but it was United who eased through into the second round of the JPT at the expense of the League Two side.