Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sky Sports 30/12/09
Whites extend Gradel loan
Leicester and Leeds agree to maximum extension
Leeds United have extended the loan stay of Leicester winger Max Gradel until 17th January.
The 22-year-old initially moved to Elland Road for one month in October, but after a number of eye-catching performances the Whites agreed a deal to keep him until 2nd January.
This latest extension takes Gradel's contract up to the maximum 93-day continuous period under the terms of a normal loan agreement, meaning he can play in the league games against Wycombe and Exeter.
The Ivorian youngster has made 14 appearances for Leeds so far this season, netting three goals, and speculation has mounted that his move could be made permanent.
Leeds are currently eight points clear at the top of League One with a game in hand and take on arch-rivals Manchester United in the FA Cup on Sunday.
However, Leicester have refused to give permission for Gradel to take part in the game at Old Trafford.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus 28/12/09
Cup heartbreak for Leeds hero Bromby
John Wray
Stockport 2, Leeds United 4
Defender Leigh Bromby struck a blockbusting 87th-minute goal but faces the heartbreak of missing Leeds United’s FA Cup third-round glamour tie at Manchester United on Sunday.
Dewsbury-born Bromby, a lifelong Leeds fan, collected his fifth booking of the season at Edgeley Park and serves an immediate one-match suspension.
Yet he was a hero when his unstoppable drive restored Leeds’ advantage, and Jermaine Beckford’s second goal of the match, three minutes into injury time, killed off Stockport’s hopes.
Right back or central defender Bromby has been a first team regular since making his debut in the home game against today’s opponents in September and will be missed at Old Trafford.
Bottom-of-the-table Stockport, who have now lost a club record 11 successive league games, were expected to provide little resistance against the Coca-Cola League One leaders, who made the perfect start before being made to battle for a 4-2 win.
Stockport had David Poole sent off for a foul on substitute Max Gradel five minutes into time added on and referee Kevin Friend booked Leeds' Patrick Kisnorbo for getting involved in the rumpus.
United winger Robert Snodgrass was quick off the mark for the second time this season.
The Scot cut in from the right and delivered a deflected left-foot shot from the edge of the penalty area into the corner of the net with just one minute and 50 seconds on the clock.
Snodgrass also scored in the second minute of the drawn West Yorkshire derby against Huddersfield Town on December 5, when there was again an early kick-off.
A largely inexperienced Stockport team drew level on 12 minutes. Bromby brought down Carl Baker, who took the free-kick himself, finding the bottom corner with a shot that carried too much power and accuracy for keeper Casper Ankergren.
It was a perfect farewell present to Stockport fans from Baker, who is poised to join Coventry when the transfer window opens.
Luciano Becchio had a volley well saved by Owain Fon Williams’ left hand but Leeds had a let-off when Poole’s first effort was parried by Ankergren and his second was blocked by Kisnorbo.
Bradley Johnson, recalled to United’s starting line-up in place of Jonny Howson, lobbed against the bar after Fon Williams cleared the ball straight to him, and a rash of bookings towards the end of the first half saw United trio Snodgrass, Becchio and Bromby enter the referee’s book, along with Stockport’s Peter Thompson.
Stockport took a surprise lead in the 62nd minute when Leeds failed to clear a corner and Johnny Mullins punished them with a diving header from six yards.
However, the 65th-minute arrival of Gradel and Howson created new problems for the home side, and two minutes later Kisnorbo’s cross was headed home by Beckford, with the keeper failing to gather.
Leeds finished the game strongly, Bromby blasting in their third and Beckford latching on to a flick-on by substitute Tresor Kandol to score his 19th goal of the season with a low shot, but Richard Naylor and Kisnorbo joined the bookings list and Stockport’s Poole received his late red card.
Leeds manager Simon Grayson said: “It has been a successful Christmas for us.
"We knew we couldn’t be complacent against Stockport, who made us battle and scrap, but I thought some of the bookings were harsh.
"The referee made it difficult for himself and for both sides. We are not a dirty team by any stretch of the imagination. Richard Naylor and Patrick Kisnorbo deserved to get booked but others didn’t.
“Leigh Bromby is suspended for the Manchester United cup-tie, which is unfortunate for him, but he won’t score a better goal than that.”
Grayson added: “We’ve had a great 2009 and now we have to keep plugging away to make sure it is a successful 2010.”

Yorkshire Evening Post 28/12/09
Leeds United v Hartlepool United: Becks double sees of Pools challenge
By Phil Hay
For the respective managers of Leeds United and Hartlepool United, the role of Jermaine Beckford in Saturday's game at Elland Road was as predictable as football gets.
Pilloried by the fans of his own club on his previous appearance, Beckford responded in the most satisfactory manner by consigning Hartlepool to a 3-1 defeat. "It's what I expected," said his manager Simon Grayson, seven days after he and Leeds’ leading goalscorer momentarily crossed swords.
Likewise Chris Turner, the coach of a club who have suffered at the hands of Beckford many times before. Five goals in four prior matches between Leeds and Hartlepool marked him out as an irritant that Turner's squad had good reason to fear, and an effort in either half on Saturday continued that trend. He is the definition of a nemesis, for Hartlepool at any rate.
Southampton's defence were more successful in handling Beckford, and that lack of freedom during United's last game before Christmas was responsible for the substitution to which Beckford reacted so badly.
Having soured the afternoon of December 19 by petulantly slapping away Grayson's attempt at a handshake and walking down the tunnel while 20 minutes of the Southampton fixture remained, it was clear that Beckford had bridges to repair on Saturday, if not necessarily bridges to build. His two goals did a successful job of redeeming an incident which was ill-advised at best.
An apology from Beckford was forthcoming as soon as he and Grayson arrived at United's training ground last Monday, allowing Grayson to declare the matter closed.
United's fans, numbering almost 30,000 in a huge Boxing Day crowd, were also willing to forgive and forget, rising en masse to acknowledge the sublime quality of his second finish in the 69th minute, the straw which broke Hartlepool's back. Beckford's display of dissent towards Grayson has not created a festering sore.
Instead, it invigorated a striker who had not scored in four previous league matches but increased his personal collection for the season to 17 on Saturday. Turner's assessment of his performance was to say that Leeds would win promotion "by a mile" with Beckford on their books until the end of the term. Grayson, meanwhile, is preparing himself for a glut of enquiries about the forward throughout the winter transfer window. Such interest is inevitable.
How Leeds should respond to any offers approaching their valuation is a fascinating debate. Beckford's contract expires at the end of this season and, barring an agreement over a new deal, the January window is the last occasion when Leeds can earn a fee for a player of obvious value.
It is, undoubtedly, easier for Grayson to consider a sale while his squad hold as strong a position in League One as they did on Saturday evening, comfortably clear of the entire field with 53 points from 22 games. Yet Beckford's propensity for settling matches – a quality that a succession of managers have benefited from at Elland Road – is invaluable.
Grayson should be in no rush to lose it.His goals on Saturday produced the right result at the end of a match which Leeds controlled, but an eventful contest forced Leeds to recover from a goal down and left Turner and his assistant, Colin West, spitting feathers over the performance of referee Eddie Ilderton.
The Tyne and Wear official handled Leeds’ win over Tranmere Rovers in August without incident but he made hard work of Hartlepool’s visit, losing control of the game on a number of occasions and angering the visiting dug-out with several contentious decisions.
Turner’s list of complaints was almost endless, starting with the award of a free-kick for handball against Neil Austin, a set-piece which led to United’s equaliser. He also argued that his team should have been handed a penalty while they led 1-0 and bemoaned Ilderton’s failure to ensure that the free-kick which led to United’s second goal was taken from the correct position.
His arguments held some merit but they did not dissuade most onlookers from thinking that the scoreline was an accurate reflection of the contest at Elland Road. Hartlepool’s goal arrived after 25 minutes in which their backs had been against the wall, and Beckford struck the crossbar in the second half before he put the game beyond the visitors’ reach. Grayson was in no doubt that his side had earned their win.
Before Armann Bjornsson finished off Ritchie Humphreys’ corner with a clinical header at the far post, United had pressed Turner’s defence to the point where it seemed ready to crack. But when Sam Collins and Peter Hartley were left unmarked and free to flick on Humphreys’ delivery, Bjornssen had the presence of mind to cushion the ball beyond Casper Ankergren.
The concession wobbled Leeds temporarily, and a shot from Adam Boyd deflected wide with the help of a crucial touch off Patrick Kisnorbo. Turner was soon appealing in vain to Ilderton after the ball struck one of Leigh Bromby’s arms inside United’s box, but his claim and those of his players fell on deaf ears.

Instead, Leeds forced an equaliser in the 38th minute when Snodgrass’ free-kick was cleared to Neil Kilkenny and the Australian’s shot from the edge of the box found the net via Beckford’s heel. The ball also appeared to hit Collins before beating Hartlepool goalkeeper Scott Flinders, a favourable touch which guided it towards the very corner of the net.
Fortuitous though that goal was, it could not compare to the luck which delivered United’s second three minutes into injury-time.
As Turner raged about the positioning of a free-kick awarded for a foul on Kisnorbo, Jonathan Howson burst down the right wing and drilled a cross towards Luciano Becchio. The Argentinian misdirected his header away from goal but the ball struck the shoulder of Gary Liddle and rebounded across Flinders’ goalline.
Other than his goal, Hartlepool had limited Beckford’s involvement before half-time, but their grip on him loosened as the match wore on.
His volley in the 54th minute smashed against Flinders’ crossbar after Bromby’s long ball forward caught out Hartlepool’s defence, and the striker should have converted a close-range header 60 seconds later, glancing it wide. But when Becchio’s flick played him clean through 20 minutes from time, Beckford displayed his class with a delicate chip over Flinders.
The game was almost spoiled in the closing stages when a foul on Leeds’ substitute Bradley Johnson provoked a tussle involving several players, but Ilderton saw no reason to brandish his red card at any of the protagonists.
For that, if nothing else, Turner was grateful, though he later described the match officials as “ignorant”.
In the case of Beckford, he and Grayson could offer nothing less than effusive praise.

Monday, December 28, 2009 28/12/09
STOCKPORT 2 (Baker 12, Mullins 62), LEEDS UNITED 4 (Snodgrass 2, Beckford 67, Bromby 88, Beckford 90+3)
Stockport: Fon Williams, Mullins, Turnbull, Raynes, Vincent, Thompson (Johnson 76), Baker, Griffin, Poole, Ribeiro, McNeill. Subs: Tansey, Gerrard, Pilkington, Halls, Barnes, Rowe.
United: Ankergren, Bromby, Naylor, Kisnorbo, Hughes, Snodgrass (Gradel 65), Doyle (Howson 65), Kilkenny, Johnson, Becchio (Kandol 76), Beckford. Subs: D Martin, Crowe, Grella, Michalik.
Referee: K Friend
Att: 7768 (3077 Leeds)
Booked: Thompson (Stockport), Snodgrass, Becchio, Bromby, Kisnorbo (Leeds)
An early morning pitch inspection ensured the festive fixture at Edgeley Park would go ahead and United were greeted by a wet playing surface, heavily sanded in certain areas.
United manager Simon Grayson made one change to his starting line-up, following the Boxing Day win against Hartlepool, Bradley Johnson returning in place of Jonny Howson.
Last season, Stockport took the lead inside the opening moments, but this time it was Leeds who did the early damage with a goal inside two minutes. Robert Snodgrass cut in from the right and delivered a superb curling effort beyond the reach of Owain Fon Williams.
Having lost 10 in a row - an 11th would be a club record - Stockport looked vulnerable whenever Leeds had the ball during the opening exhanges, but it was also clear that the wet and slippy conditions would be something of a leveller with both sides struggling to keep their feet and their composure.
One positive feature for Stockport during their barren run has been the spirit shown by their young players and they were level on 12 minutes, courtesy of the prolific Carl Baker. The striker won a free-kick on the edge of the box after a mazy run was halted, and he stepped up to convert a skidding effort into the far corner.
United almost went back in front on 20 minutes. Bradley Johnson sent in a cross from the left after Micky Doyle hooked the ball forward and Luciano Becchio was denied by a terrific block from Fon Williams.
Before the half-hour it was the turn of Casper Ankergren to make a double save to deny Christian Ribeiro after some good build-up play by the home side.
Moments later, it was the woodwork which came to Stockport's rescue when a well-struck volley from Johnson rattled the bar. United were also denied by a linesman's flag in the 33rd minute when Luciano Becchio was adjudged to have used his hands to bring the ball down in front of goal.
Robert Snodgrass had only just been booked and referee Kevin Friend made it three yellows in the space of three minutes when Leigh Bromby had his name taken for a challenge. The conditions under-foot were contriving to make the game look ill-tempered with players going to ground on a regular basis.
United enjoyed a good spell of pressure in the period leading up to half-time, but the home side were getting men behind the ball and were making important blocks. Snodgrass had one effort headed away while Neil Kilkenny had a cross cleared. Michael Raynes was also at full stretch to head away another dangerous ball in from Snodgrass.
And in the third minute of stoppage time, Adam Griffin read the play well to cut out a pass from Becchio which would have released Jermaine Beckford through on goal.
The second half started in familar fashion with robust challenges and players struggling to keep their feet, but the first opportunity fell to Stockport striker Matty McNeill who blazed over when well-placed to test Ankergren.
But, while Ankergren went untroubled on that occasion, Stockport's Fon Williams was forced into pulling off another terrific save to prevent a Kilkenny shot from going in the top corner. He also had to react quickly to smother the ball with Beckford looking to pounce.
It was the home side who got their noses in front, though, in the 62nd minute. A cross came over from the Stockport left and Johnny Mullins, who scored in the same fixture last season, stooped to head beyond Ankergren.
Almost immediately Grayson made a double change, introducing both Max Gradel and Jonny Howson as his looked to get back into the contest.
And Leeds were on level terms within six minutes. Paddy Kisnorbo delivered a looping cross from the left and Beckford got up well to head beyond Fon Williams to make it 2-2.
Moments later, United's leading goalscorer almost bagged a second when he was inches away from connecting with a low cross from Gradel. The loan man looked to inject some pace and individuality into proceedings and on 74 minutes he scooped a shot over the top after a terrific solo run.
Gradel also delivered a good cross on 79 minutes - following a great ball from Kilkenny - that resulted in Johnson coming within a whisker of heading Leeds in front.
Tresor Kandol also joined proceedings and Leeds were starting to dominate in search of a winner as the game entered the final eight minutes. Paul Turnbull did try his luck for Stockport, though, on 86 minutes with an effort which fizzed wide of the mark.
But it was Leeds who went back in front just 60 seconds later with what looked like being the winner. Gradel hooked a ball into the box, Stockport half-cleared, and Bromby arrived to smash home an absolute beauty for his first goal for the club. The strike was a pearler and it prompted mass celebrations on the pitch, in the Leeds dug-out, and of course in the away sections.
Four minutes were added on and in the third of those it was game over. Kandol flicked on an Ankergren ball forward and Beckford seized to deliver a great finish to make it 4-2 to further strengthen United's position at the top of League One.
In the final minute Stockport were reduced to 10 men when David Poole received his marching orders for a foul on Gradel. It was a straight red card and tempers overflowed with niggles breaking out across the pitch, Kisnorbo seeing yellow for one such altercation.

Yorkshire Post 28/12/09
Leeds United 3 Hartlepool United 1: All is forgiven as sulking star fires Leeds to yet another win
By Richard Sutcliffe
FROM sinner to scorer, prize chump to champ. A week on from the fit of pique that left Leeds United fans furious with Jermaine Beckford, the enigma that is the club's top scorer displays in all its glory the side of his character that has brought teams with genuine Premier League aspirations flocking to Elland Road.
The 26-year-old netted twice as United came from behind against a gutsy Hartlepool United to claim a 16th win of the season and extend their lead at the top of League One to six points.
It was the perfect riposte by Beckford to the jeering from the terraces that had followed his petulant reaction to being substituted in the victory over Southampton, an open display of dissent that left many wondering whether Leeds manager Simon Grayson would choose to cash in on his prized asset once the January transfer window opened. Certainly, with Newcastle United understood to have already made a firm enquiry and Middlesbrough also showing interest there is no shortage of admirers for a striker whose contract is due to expire next summer.
Grayson, for his part, has never publicly wavered from the stance that Beckford will only leave if a "ridiculous" offer comes in, the Leeds manager again reiterating the point after watching the striker take his goal tally to 71 in 108 starts.
The United manager said: "Everyone is pleased. We put the matter (Beckford's dissent against Southampton) to bed on Monday morning and it was pleasing to see Jermaine react how he did.
"We have said all along that when you have a goalscorer like Jermaine you have an opportunity to win matches.
"He showed his class but we are not a one-man team, by any means. We have won games without Jermaine this year and we have won games when he has not performed.
"But he is a goalscorer and the stance since the summer has been that he leaves on a free next summer, he signs a new contract or the only way he leaves before that is if we get a ridiculous offer that will benefit the club to bring in other people."
Asked if he was expecting any enquiries once the window opens, Grayson replied: "Goalscorers are always in demand, so I am expecting people to ring about him.
"But the only conversation we will have is whether it will be beneficial to the club. Hopefully, that won't be the case.
"With sources in the North East indicating Newcastle, who have been told by Aston Villa that loanee Marlon Harewood will not return to the Championship leaders unless a permanent deal can be agreed, are likely to follow up their initial enquiry about Beckford with a bid it means United could soon have a very big decision to make.
Do the League One leaders fight tooth and nail to keep their star striker at Elland Road? Or, do they sell and use the money to bring in a ready-made replacement that can help them push for promotion?
One man who is certain the Yorkshire club should hold on to their top scorer is Hartlepool manager Chris Turner, who said after his side's 3-1 defeat: "If Beckford is still here in January then his goals will take Leeds up by a mile."
Turner's praise was understandable after the decisive role played by Beckford in the win over Hartlepool with the striker's instinctive finish on 38 minutes not only cancelling out the visitors' lead but also settling nerves among the bumper 30,191 crowd.
Leeds had gone behind 13 minutes earlier when slack marking allowed Armann Bjornsson to finish at the far post after Ritchie Humphreys's corner had been flicked on by Sam Collins and Peter Hartley.
The goal clearly rocked the hosts, Hartlepool twice going close to doubling their advantage soon after when Adam Boyd's shot was deflected narrowly wide before Casper Ankergren made a hash of collecting a routine cross and Leigh Bromby had to clear. Beckford's clever diverting of Neil Kilkenny's volley past Scott Flinders brought Leeds level before a Gary Liddle own goal in the fourth-minute of stoppage time ensured the home side went in ahead.
The defender was unfortunate to see Luciano Becchio's wayward header crash against the back of his head and into the net, Hartlepool's frustration only being added to by the Argentinian having clearly handled the ball during the build-up.
Beckford then put the result beyond doubt on 69 minutes with a deft finish after Becchio had flicked a long ball forward into his strike-partner's path, underlining in the process just how long a week can be in football as well as politics by leaving the field to cheers rather than jeers.

Northern Echo 28/12/09
Beckford tops Hughton’s wanted list
Scott Wilson
MARLON Harewood has outlined his desire to return to Newcastle for the second half of the season, but the striker’s future is likely to hinge on whether the Magpies can tie up a deal for Leeds United forward Jermaine Beckford.
Harewood made the final appearance of his loan deal from Aston Villa in Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Sheffield Wednesday, and while the 30- year-old is hoping to be back on Tyneside at the start of next month, Newcastle boss Chris Hughton currently regards him as a second choice behind Beckford.
Newcastle officials are understood to have been in touch with their counterparts at Elland Road last week to outline the club’s interest in Leeds’ leading goalscorer, who scored twice in his side’s 3-1 win over Hartlepool at the weekend.
Beckford, who is out of contract at the end of the season, has consistently refused to sign a new deal in West Yorkshire, and while Simon Grayson took him off the transfer list in the summer, the Leeds boss is now resigned to losing his star striker’s services next month.
Newcastle are far from the only club to harbour an interest, but the Magpies made tentative inquiries about Beckford’s position in the close season, and the Londoner is known to be keen on a move to the North-East.
His contractual status means he will not be an expensive option – sources in Yorkshire expect a bid of around £1.5m to be accepted at Elland Road, and Beckford’s current wages are understood to be less than £15,000-a-week and with Mike Ashley promising to make a limited transfer budget available next month, Hughton is expected to table a formal offer in the opening week of the transfer window.
Beckford’s arrival would scupper Harewood’s hopes of a return to St James’, as Hughton will only be signing one striker given a need to also reinforce his side’s defence.
To further complicate matters, Aston Villa boss Martin O’Neill is reluctant to allow Harewood to leave on a second loan deal, preferring instead to sell the striker permanently for a fee.
That could also bring Newcastle’s interest to an end, as Ashley is unlikely to sanction a significant outlay on a 30- year-old who would have little or no sell-on value.
Nevertheless, Harewood remains hopeful that he will be able to contribute to the Magpies’ promotion push in the second half of the season.
Saturday’s appearance was his 15th in a Newcastle shirt, and his tally of five goals represents a decent enough return given his slow start following an ankle injury.
“I’d love to come back until the end of the season or longer, and finish the job,” said Harewood, who cost Villa £4m when he signed from West Ham in 2007. “But it’s up to the gaffer if he wants me and the two clubs to sort it out now.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen, no-one has told me anything yet. Players don’t really get involved in that – you never really know until it actually happens, so I’ll just have to wait and see.
“But my time at Newcastle has been unbelievable. I’ve really enjoyed it, the fans have been great, and the lads have been terrific. I feel I’ve got better with every game.”
Hughton is known to have been impressed with Harewood’s efforts, and if a deal cannot be agreed for Beckford, the Magpies manager will make a renewed approach to Villa in an attempt to engineer a return for the Hampstead- born marksman.
Either way, Hughton is determined to ensure that any lingering uncertainty does not wreck the stability and spirit that has been engendered in the opening half of the season.
The transfer window officially opens on Friday, and Newcastle will attempt to conduct their business as quickly as possible.
“We have options, but the main thing I want to avoid is any of the situations dragging on deep into January,” said Hughton. “My biggest hope is that we can put everything to bed early.
“We’re aware of the situation, and we know we have decisions to make. We’re in the process of making those, and I’m confident it won’t be something that becomes a protracted issue.”

Sunday, December 27, 2009 26/12/09
Leeds United manager Simon Grayson praised his side's character after the Boxing Day success against Hartlepool United at Elland Road.
Grayson's men fell behind in a league game for only the third time this season - but a crowd of over 30,000 watched his players come from 1-0 down to win the contest 3-1.
Jermaine Beckford scored twice and a deflected header from Luciano Becchio proved the difference between the two sides as United came back to win the contest comfortably.
"I was delighted with the result and the performance," said the manager.
"Maybe we were quite fortunate for a couple of the goals, but you take what comes and we'll take the breaks.
"I tell the players that you have to shoot or take your chances because these things can sometimes happen.
"This club hasn't had a lot of luck over the past few years so when something goes for you, you accept it and move on."
United had threatened to overwhelm Hartlepool, but after Armann Bjornsson fired the visitors into a shock lead, Beckford somehow turned home a Neil Kilkenny shot and a Becchio header was turned home by Gary Liddle, pictured above.
"I thought we started the game well," said the manager.
"You have to earn the right to play and hope your quality comes through, but they got a goal, and we had to come from behind which is an unusual situation for us.
"I thought the players worked hard, showed a lot of character, and they dug in to get the result we deserved.
"We gave Hartlepool too many opportunities in the first half and we were too open, but we were better in the second half."
Grayson was also full of praise for striker Beckford, just seven days after expressing his disappointment at the striker's reaction to his substitution against Southampton.
"I didn't expect anything less from Jermaine," he added. "We've moved on from last weekend and he responded.
"He took his goals well and he worked the opposition keeper well. He would have had a hat-trick had it not been for the bar.
"If you give him opportunities he will take them, and that's what he did." 26/12/09
LEEDS 3 (Beckford 38, Becchio 45, Beckford 69), HARTLEPOOL 1 (Bjornsson 25)
Leeds: Ankergren, Bromby, Naylor (Gradel 81), Kisnorbo, Hughes, Howson, Doyle (Johnson 72), Kilkenny, Snodgrass, Beckford, Becchio (Kandol 80). Subs: D Martin, Grella, Vokes, Michalik.
Hartlepool: Flinders, Collins, Hartley, Sweeney, Austin, Jones, Liddle (Clark 46), Humphreys (Fredriksen 74), McSweeney (Larkin 74), Bjornsson, Boyd. Subs: Cook, Rowell, Greulich, Cherel. Referee: E Ilderton
Booked: Kilkenny, Johnson, Becchio (Leeds), Sweeney, Collins (Hartlepool)
Att: 30,191

Leeds United manager Simon Grayson named an unchanged side as he marked his first anniversary with the visit of Hartlepool.
During Grayson's tenure, Leeds had picked up 102 points from 46 league games, scoring 99 goals in the process, and boasted an unbeaten league record on home soil, dating back to January.
It had been fine year for the former Elland Road apprentice, and things almost got even better inside the opening 40 seconds against Hartlepool when Robert Snodgrass had a shot blocked on the line following an early Leeds corner.
Luciano Becchio was also denied by some good defending, as was Leigh Bromby, as United won a procession of early corner kicks.
Snodgrass was denied for a second time after six minutes when he worked himself another opening, and Leeds had started the game in control.
On 12 minutes it was the head of Gary Liddle which blocked a Snodgrass shot when the Scot threatened again.
But it was Casper Ankergren who made the first save of the festive fixture when he was called into action by Adam Boyd.
Leeds responded immediately and Scott Flinders got down well to deny Jermaine Beckford after Becchio flicked on a Neil Kilkenny ball forward.
United were dominant and it took some more good defending from Sam Collins to cut out a Kilkenny pass which would have released Beckford on goal. Moments later, a good touch from Beckford released Jonny Howson, but his shot was straight at Flinders.
But a shock was in store on 25 minutes when Hartlepool took the lead. Richie Humphreys whipped over a corner from the Leeds left, the ball was flicked on, and Armann Bjornsson was able to place his header firmly beyond a despairing Ankergren in the Leeds goal.
It was the first time Leeds had fallen behind at home all season in the league and only the third time in the league so far. And, rocked by the strike, United were on the back foot again moments later when Boyd won another corner after his deflected strike went wide.
Only Walsall and Millwall had gone in front first against Grayson's men this season and both leads had only lasted a matter of minutes. Indeed, Flinders came to Hartlepool's rescue within three minutes this time when he clung on to the ball at the second attempt when under pressure from Beckford.
The opposition lead lasted only 13 minutes, though, before Beckford levelled matters. A Snodgrass cross was cleared as far as Kilkenny and his low shot was back-heeled by a lurking Beckford to give the scrambling Flinders no chance in the Hartlepool goal.
And within minutes, Flinders had to get down well to low efforts from both Snodgrass and Beckford. Kilkenny and Beckford were linking up superbly and some of United's play was excellent as the game headed towards half-time.
The second goal came in the third minute of first half added time when Howson delivered a terrific cross from the right and Becchio's header took a deflection off Gary Liddle to leave Flinders stranded. The scorer would, though, be the matter for some conjecture.
The second half started off at great pace with both sides threatening, but it was Beckford who came close to adding a third for Leeds. First he rattled the bar with a superb strike after a great ball forward and, moments later, he was denied by a goal-line clearance.
Collins also made a good block for the visitors when Leeds threatened again. In terms of entertainment it was a lively affair with both sides scrapping it out.
Despite having the upper hand, United looked like needing another goal to be comfortable, and that came in the 69th minute courtesy of Beckford. The striker latched onto another Becchio flick-on before lifting the ball over an advancing Flinders to make it 3-1.
A second goal was no more than Beckford deserved for his efforts and with 20 minutes remaining, United were looking well-placed to extend the lead over Charlton at the top of League One. The Addicks had drawn 2-2 with Swindon earlier in the day.
Grayson also made his first change after the third goal, introducing Bradley Johnson in place of the industrious Micky Doyle.
Johnson almost made an immediate impact and felt his road to goal was blocked was unfairly. That prompted the spark for tempers to flare and players from both sides became embroiled in a spot of pushing and shoving on the edge of the Hartlepool box. The United sub and striker Becchio were both booked along with Hartlepool's Collins.
Tresor Kandol and Max Gradel were also handed late run-outs from the subs bench, and the latter immediately looked to make his mark with some trickery around the box. Kandol was also denied by some desperate defending when good movement saw him picked out for another incisive ball from Kilkenny.
As the clock started to tick down it was starting to look very comfortable for Grayson's men, who stroked the ball around the midfield while many of the bumper 30,000 plus crowd cheered every pass. There was still a cutting edge, though, and Flinders got down well to save from Gradel in the 88th minute.
Referee Eddie Ilderton added three minutes of stoppage time, but there was little in the way of drama as United edged to yet another home victory to strengthen a promotion charge that is threatening to gather momentum as 2010 approaches.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Yorkshire Evening Post 24/12/09
Grayson asks fans to lay off Becks
Simon Grayson has urged Leeds United's fans to throw their support behind Jermaine Beckford when the striker attempts to redeem himself on Boxing Day.
Beckford is set to retain his place in Leeds' starting line-up when Hartlepool United come to Elland Road in 48 hours' time, and Grayson has attempted to erase any lingering anger over the forward's reaction to being substituted last weekend.
Beckford was booed from the field at Elland Road after reacting to his early exit after 75 minutes of Leeds' clash with Southampton by pushing away Grayson's attempt at a handshake and walking down the tunnel.
The dispute was promptly resolved, however, when Beckford apologised to his manager during a meeting at the club's Thorp Arch training complex on Monday morning, and Grayson hopes the 26-year-old's remorseful attitude will appease the fans who berated him last Saturday.
Asked whether his 15-goal striker had bridges to build on Boxing Day, Grayson said: "I hope that won't be a problem.
"People have to remember what Jermaine's done for this club in the past two years or so. Clearly he didn't have his best performance on Saturday and it was a difficult day all round for him, but he's scored a lot of goals in a Leeds shirt and he's a player whose won us many games in the past. That shouldn't be forgotten and if Jermaine bangs in a couple of goals on Saturday, which would be just like him, then those who've doubted him will be happy again.
"We've got great supporters here and most of them will probably be hoping that he turns in a good performance against Hartlepool. I've drawn a line under this and hopefully everyone else has too.
"The threat of a serious fall-out between Grayson and Beckford was quickly lifted after Beckford offered his apologies to United's boss before Monday's training session at Thorp Arch.
Grayson said: "He came in first thing on Monday morning, apologised and made sure it was resolved as quickly as possible. That's the end of it.
"Obviously I don't want it to happen again – not just with him but with any of my players. It's a bit disrespectful, not just to me but to the other players who are out on the pitch and the fans as well. But he understands that."
With Beckford likely to be included from the start on Saturday, Grayson could name an unchanged line-up after a deserved and impressive 1-0 victory over Southampton.
But United's manager has been disappointed by news that goalkeeper Shane Higgs is set to continue his spell on the sidelines after suffering another recurrence of his thigh strain.
Higgs appeared to be on the verge of a comeback after almost three months on the sidelines but he has been sent to a specialist in the latest attempt to heal a persistent problem.
Left-back Ben Parker is likely to be the only other Leeds player who is not available for Saturday's match. 24/12/09
How quickly does a year go? It doesn't seem two minutes ago that I re-joined the club after all those years away as a player and now back as the manager, and it was a great feeling to be here again.
There's been some ups and downs over the past 12 months, but for me, the big thing is that I believe we are progressing closer to where we want to be.
Looking back over the year, on a personal note, my first game against Leicester City last Boxing Day stands out. When I walked down the tunnel that afternoon the hairs on the back of my neck were on end, and it was an afternoon I will never forget.
The atmosphere which is created at Elland Road has got to be one of the best in the country, made even better given the division we are in.
Hereford is another game that stands out, but perhaps not for the right reasons. It was a disappointing night for the club in so many ways, but one that we have moved on from in positive fasion.
We went on a tremendous run after that - I can't praise the players high enough for the way they responded - and had the season gone on a little longer I honestly believe we would have been promoted automatically.
The Millwall semi-final was disappointing in terms of the result, but I couldn't fault what had gone before and sometimes you have to take things on the chin and learn from them.
I felt we could go on and do that and this season so far has been terrific.
We have found a level of consistency and to be sitting here at Christmas with 50 league points and one defeat is terrific - but it will only count for anything if we build on it.
During that time there's been some performances I've been particularly proud of, Bristol Rovers and Brighton away were two, along with our efforts against Liverpool at home.
That night against Liverpool at Elland Road was an indicator of what we all want for this football club, and that's what we are working towards.
Your support that night was amazing, but that's been the case since I joined the club, and I want to take this chance to say thank-you to one and all for your support.
It never ceases to amaze me the numbers in which you turn out - whether it's at Elland Road or at the other end of the country on a Tuesday night, particularly at a time when financial pressures are tough for a lot of people.
Please keep that support because together I hope we can reward you for your efforts.
I hope you all have a good Christmas and a happy New Year.
All the best
Simon 23/12/09
Leeds United manager Simon Grayson says he is in the process of reviewing the potential futures of his loan players.
Sam Vokes, Max Gradel, Hogan Eprhaim, Tony Capaldi, and Dave Martin are all currently at Elland Road on loan deals, but both Grayson and the players' parent clubs now face decision time.
"We're talking to clubs about the possibility of keeping them or not as they case may be," explained the manager.
"Any decisions we make will be for the football club and for the players, but it's obviously down to the other clubs as well.
"In the case of Hogan for example, QPR have a new manager in Paul Hart and I'm sure he will be looking at the situation and assessing his own squad.
"We are moving forward in terms of the loan players and hopefully things will be resolved in next few days.
"If things don't come up, you still have to be ahead of the game, and we have quite a few things we are looking at."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Yorkshire Evening Post 22/12/09
50 reasons to be optimistic Whites fan
By Phil Hay
Back in business was the convincing message sent from Elland Road on Saturday, supported by Leeds United's arrival at the significant total of 50 points.
That benchmark is routinely identified by Football League managers as sufficient to avoid relegation and, with 25 games still to complete, Simon Grayson can chalk that milestone off his list.
The idea of United dropping from League One this season was always ridiculous but the fact that the club have made that eventuality mathematically impossible before Christmas gives the perfect indication of how quickly they are proceeding towards a far greater end.
Their dominance of League One weakened slightly this month but, after a victory over Southampton secured by a performance of characteristic quality and persistence, Leeds might finish December in as strong a position as they started it. Forthcoming matches against Hartlepool United and Stockport County will be seen by Grayson as prime opportunities to stretch the division further.
United's manager underplayed the club's position on Saturday when he spoke of a "good opportunity" for a squad who have been anxious for promotion for two-and-half years and were desperate to realise that goal this season without being dragged into the play-offs.
Leeds are three points better off than last season's champions Leicester City were at the same stage of the 2008-09 term and seven further forward than Swansea City were after 21 matches of their recent title-winning campaign. But as Grayson pointed out, not all of the 23 clubs below them have been swept away by United's form.
For a while on Saturday, Charlton Athletic were threatening to erase Leeds' advantage at the head of League One, and the extent to which the structure of the division changed in the closing stages of Saturday's matches explained Grayson's continuing refusal to presume too much of this season.
Grayson said: "It's a good opportunity for us to build on until the end of the season but the teams around us are keeping us close.
"Charlton, Huddersfield and Norwich are winning matches regularly and you have to give them credit for that. It’s nice to be where we are and to have our lead but we’re still there to be shot at.”
The early weeks of December seemed to be the division’s best chance to draw Leeds in after successive draws against Huddersfield Town and Brentford – results which Grayson saw as points gained, despite the opportunity they presented to Charlton to cut United’s lead – but an existing four-point advantage is strengthened further by a game in hand and a sequence of fixtures in the coming weeks which many would see as favourable.
Hartlepool, United’s Boxing Day opponents, are seven points outside League One’s play-off positions but Stockport sit at the bottom of the division with 14 points from 21 games and a demeanour which suggests they will be relegated at the end of the season.
United’s league campaign will be broken up by their attractive FA Cup match at Manchester United on January 3, but the fixture precedes games against Wycombe Wanderers, Exeter City and Walsall. Grayson’s squad are unlikely to meet a top-six team until they travel to Swindon Town at the end of next month.
In beating Southampton through a 77th-minute goal from Robert Snodgrass, Leeds out-fought one the league’s in-form teams, a result which midfielder Michael Doyle saw as crucial.
“It’s a massive win for us,” he said. “Southampton are a Championship-quality side who had the unfortunate saga of going into administration but they’ve done what they needed to do by getting into mid-table and they’ll kick on. They were on a really strong run.
“The goal turned the game on its head, although we were dominating and creating a load of chances which weren’t going in.
“Snoddy’s the type of player who can change a game. It was a special goal from a special player.”
Grayson said: “We showed quality on the ball when we needed to and limited a very good Southampton team to few opportunities.
“What I wanted was enthusiasm and desire when we didn’t have the ball, and composure and quality when we did. I got that and there were a lot of outstanding performances.”
None were more impressive than those of Richard Naylor and Patrick Kisnorbo, Grayson’s experienced partnership at the centre of defence.What would seem to be United’s most capable pairing has been available infrequently this season with both players affected by injuries and Kisnorbo repeatedly absent on international duty with Australia.
Naylor started his first league match since the end of October at the weekend and he and Kisnorbo were able to take to the field together for only the eighth time this season. Their handling of two high-rated strikers in Rickie Lambert and David Connolly restricted Southampton to one shot on target and a limited number of chances throughout.
Grayson said: “You know what you’re going to get from Naylor and Kisnorbo. They’re warrior types who’ll head and defend everything.
“The two full-backs (Andrew Hughes and Leigh Bromby) were excellent as well, and the midfield gave the energy we needed to limit the opposition.”
United’s prospects have been aided by the sight of their injury list diminishing, although goalkeeper Shane Higgs was absent from Grayson’s squad again on Saturday.Higgs’ thigh strain has now forced him to miss 17 matches but the 32-year-old is thought to be on the verge of full fitness.

Yorkshire Evening Post 22/12/09
Jermaine Beckford's in demand
Jermaine Beckford's display of dissent towards Leeds United manager Simon Grayson could re-ignite interest in his signature with a major Championship club vying to sign him next month.
A prominently-placed second-tier side are understood to have made a firm inquiry about Beckford last week, and the striker's petulant behaviour during United's 1-0 win over Southampton has increased their hopes of reaching a deal before the end of the January transfer window.
Leeds have insisted throughout this season that Beckford would be off-limits next month and Grayson reiterated that stance after Saturday's victory, but the 26-year-old's admirers have been alerted by his reaction to being substituted towards the end of the Southampton clash.
Beckford angered the crowd at Elland Road by pushing away Grayson's attempt at a handshake and walking down the tunnel, moments before Robert Snodgrass settled the match with a 77th-minute goal.
United's supporters jeered Beckford before offering a strong show of support for Grayson, and the striker was expected to be fined by Leeds for his loss of discipline.
Grayson discussed the matter with Beckford at the club's Thorp Arch training ground yesterday, when he received an apology from the forward, and has already stated that he had no intention of selling Beckford unless a "stupid bid" was forthcoming next month.
The player's contract is six months from expiring, however, with no sign that a fresh agreement is imminent and United's resolve is likely to be tested throughout the transfer window.
Coventry City and Sheffield United failed to meet the club's valuation while Beckford was on the transfer list in the summer and Newcastle United and West Bromwich Albion have also been strongly linked with him. West Brom were rumoured to be willing to pay in the region of £2million for Beckford in August. Any decision to sell Beckford would be seen as a major call midway through a season in which he has scored 15 goals.
Leeds are in command of League One and moved on to 50 points on Saturday but Beckford is their leading scorer and the only player to reach double figures so far this term.
United attempted to tie him to a new three-year deal at the end of last season but Beckford rejected those terms and is coming to the end of the contract he signed in October 2007.
The January transfer window would be the last opportunity for Leeds to earn a fee for a player who would be entitled to leave Elland Road on a free transfer in July, but Grayson chose to retain him during the summer and said he had no interest in selling his top scorer next month.
Grayson said: "This doesn't make any difference at all. It won't affect my thoughts on it and the only thought we've had about Jermaine is that he'll probably be leaving in the summer, unless a stupid offer comes in for him in January – which we're not looking for."

Monday, December 21, 2009 21/12/09
United boss Simon Grayson says he has accepted an apology from striker Jermaine Beckford following Saturday's game against Southampton.
The manager expressed his disappointment after the prolific striker headed straight down the tunnel when substituted during Saturday's win against the Saints, but the pairing resolved the situation after an amicable chat on Monday.
"We had a chat first thing on Monday," said the boss.
"Jermaine explained and apologised for his actions which I fully accept.
"I made it clear that I don't need it to happen again and he's bought into what I've said.
"It's been put to bed now and I expect to see Jermaine in a Leeds shirt on Boxing Day looking to knock the goals in over the Christmas period."

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Yorkshire Evening Post 20/12/09
Leeds United v Southampton: Snodgrass sinks Saints
By Phil Hay
Leeds United 1 Southampton 0
Robert Snodgrass stretched Leeds United's advantage at the top of League One with a late winning goal against Southampton.
The Scot curled home a skillful finish in the 77th minutes to settle a fiercely-contested battle with Alan Pardew's team and keep United in control of their division.
The club's dalliance with stalemates look set to continue as Southampton fought to hold on for a goalless draw, a result which might have wiped away United's lead at the top of League One.
But Snodgrass earned Leeds a win their performance deserved, moving Simon Grayson's team onto an outstanding tally of 50 points in time for Christmas Day.United dropped two points at Brentford last Saturday, seven days after fighting out a 2-2 draw with Huddersfield Town, but the Yorkshire club appear to have emerged from a period which their captain, Richard Naylor, described as "a sticky patch".
Leeds' defeat of Southampton strengthened their grasp on the top of League One, despite a run of two matches without a win, but an advantage over Charlton Athletic which stood at seven points at the start of the month threatened to disappear yesterday.
Charlton look set to beat Millwall and take full advantage of another opportunity when Snodgrass struck, and Charlton's afternoon worsened suddenly when Millwall snatched an equaliser at The Valley.
Of no less concern was the threat from third-placed Norwich City, who overcame Huddersfield Town and look capable of competing for automatic promotion, but that prize is well within Simon Grayson's grasp, despite the four points his side have spilled this month.
Southampton's recent resurgence promised an enthralling game at Elland Road, but the match was at times as cold as the weather and did not catch light properly until the second half. What chances there well fell to Leeds, whose display as a whole was organised and assured, and Snodgrass finally broke down the resilient defence constructed by Pardew.
The snow in Leeds leading up to the fixture was heavy enough to leave United's groundstaff clearing the pitch in the hour before kick-off, but the icy temperatures did nothing to discourage the club's support. Elland Road's attendance fell only 52 short of 26,000.
Having made nine changes to his team for Tuesday's Johnstone's Paint Trophy tie with Accrington Stanley, Grayson's alterations were sweeping again, numbering seven and creating something approaching his strongest line-up. For the first time in 10 matches, Naylor and Patrick Kisnorbo were brought together at the centre of Grayson's defence.
Their inclusion was welcome against an in-form striker in Ricky Lambert who was looking for his 20th goal of the season and a veteran forward in David Connolly whose experience should have been as valuable. It was a rare occasion when the visiting threat seemed to equate to that posed by Leeds.
United it was who attempted to draw first blood, though, and they should have done so after five minutes when a clever pass from Jonathan Howson cut open Southampton's defence and sent Jermaine Beckford running towards Southampton's box.
The striker's pace left him one-on-one with goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski but, under pressure from Wayne Thomas, he failed to connect with the ball and stumbled over, appealing in vain to referee Nigel Miller for a penalty. Thomas, in truth, did not appear to have fouled him.
Beckford tested Bialkowski with a long-range shot a minute later, serving further notice of his presence, but the game was crying out for a spark in those early throes.
Michael Doyle almost provided it when his goalbound shot from outside the box hit Leigh Bromby as it flew at Bialkowski, and Naylor was fortunate to escape a booking when he slid through Lambert on the halfway line on 19 minutes. It was all the action Southampton's leading scorer had seen by then.
Luciano Becchio's free header from a Snodgrass corner was a more promising chance, but his finish dropped to the right of Bialkowski's goal and failed to trouble the keeper. Yet after a spell of cautious sparring, the game began to show signs of life as the half wore on.
Becchio threatened again when he spun Southampton centre-back Radhi Jaidi and drove a shot over the crossbar, and he should have scored when Snodgrass' cross fell perfectly for him on the edge of the six-yard box. Becchio's flicked header cleared Bialkowski's diving frame but also carried onto the roof of Southampton net.
Lambert, meanwhile, exposed his frustration with a shot from 30 yards which was never likely to stretch Casper Ankergren and didn't. At no point before half-time was he or Connolly able to disrupt the watertight partnership of Naylor and Kisnorbo.
Beckford almost made the breakthrough on 42 minutes when he scuffed a header inside the visitors' box but reacted first to hook the ball a foot over the bar, but the half drew to an end with a sliced attempt from Hammond which dribbled sadly away from Ankergren's goal, a fitting conclusion to 45 low-key minutes. Beckford could have provided a better one but mis-hit a volley from close range as Southampton defended a corner.
It took less than 30 seconds of the second half for Leeds to finally expose Bialkowski and twice threaten to open the scoring.
Howson was denied by a brilliant one-handed save after pouncing on a weak header from Chris Perry, and the keeper did well to turn away Neil Kilkenny's low cross as several of Grayson's players waited to turn the ball into the net.
The competitive atmosphere increased noticeably after that, and Kisnorbo and Lambert were both booked for a scuffle on the hour for which both players could have been dismissed. Miller, whose handling of the game left much to be desired, was happy to show leniency.
Howson went close again with a curling shot which flew beyond Bialkowski's left-hand post but the afternoon was then soured by Beckford's reaction to being substituted after 75 minutes, shaking hands petulantly with Grayson before walking immediately down the tunnel.
Beckford was berated by the crowd, who sang Grayson's name instinctively. Two minutes later, Snodgrass collected a pass from Andrew Hughes and curled a shot into the corner of Bialkowski's net, vindicating his manager's decision in an instant. A spirited late onslaught from Southampton could not change that.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Southampton Daily Echo 19/12/09
Late goal agony for Saints at Leeds
By Adam Leitch
SAINTS fell to their first defeat in eight games as they were beaten 1-0 by league leaders Leeds at Elland Road.
Robert Snodgrass’ goal on 77 minutes was the difference between the sides in a game played out by without doubt two of League One’s best teams.
There was no shame in Alan Pardew’s team falling to a rare defeat but it left them with even less margin for error as they attempt to climb the table over Christmas and New Year.
Both sides had to contend with some tricky underfoot conditions as a smattering of snow lay uncleared in a strip that covered the middle portion of the pitch.
The first shot of the game came early on from Robert Snodgrass but from distance he sliced it well over the bar.
Saints were lucky to escape on five minutes when Neil Kilkenny’s ball down the middle split the Saints defence and sent Jermaine Beckford away.
Wayne Thomas sprinted to get back at him and the pressure he exerted saw Beckford slip as he raced into the area. The Leeds man claimed a foul but it never looked that way and the referee agreed.
Moments later Beckford was in the action again, this time firing in a shot from 25 yards that Bartosz Bialkowski saved low down to his right.
As the game settled into a pattern it was clear that Leeds were going to try and get the ball forward in the hope of using Beckford’s pace in behind Chris Perry and Radhi Jaidi.
However, with the two of them well aware of this and very experienced it was an intriguing battle.
Luciano Becchio had his first effort on 23 minutes with a header from a corner but from ten yards out he steered it wide of the post.
Adam Lallana became the first man in the book a minute later for a foul.
Becchio tried his luck again on the half hour mark, spinning and shooting on the turn but again his shot was well wide.
Leeds were dominating possession as Saints gave the ball away a little easily at times but Pardew’s men were compact and proving hard to break down.
Rickie Lambert had a rare shot for Saints but from 35 yards out it never troubled Casper Ankergren.
Leeds carved out the best chance they had created on 38 minutes when Snodgrass cut back on to his right foot on the left wing and curled in a cross that picked out the head of Becchio but from six yards out his flicked effort went over the bar.
They had another good opening four minutes later when another ball in from the left found the head of Beckford but he misjudged it and sent it straight into the turf in front of him and away from goal.
Just before the break Leeds failed to convert again, this time from a corner that Saints couldn’t clear and the ball bounced around in the box.
When the half time whistle blew Saints would have been happy with the scoreline but would have known that Leeds were looking capable of grabbing a goal and that would mean they might have to offer more going forward as well as defending doggedly.
The second half started as the first ended – with Leeds pressing for a goal and just 30 seconds after the restart Bialkowski had to produce an outstanding save to keep them at bay.
The ball fell to Jonathan Howson on the edge of the box and his half volley was arrowing in before Bialkowski dived away to his right and managed to turn it behind.
There was a flare up after an hour as Lambert and Kisnorbo became involved in some pushing and shoving in front of the dugouts but the referee Nigel Miller calmed things down effectively and let both players get away with a booking.
The game was beginning to settle down into a similar pattern as was seen early on.
Saints were staying tight and defending well from front to back as Leeds, roared on by over 25,000 noisy fans at Elland Road, pushed for a goal.
But Saints always had that threat that they could snatch a breakaway goal due to their quality.
Leeds came close again on 67 minutes as Howson cut in from the left and curled a shot towards goal.
Beckford met it in the middle with a back flick but diverted it just wide of the far post.
The game was turning ever more into a scrap.
Leeds supporters were starting to get frustrated as their side resorted to ever ore direct tactics, all of which suited Saints who would have been perfectly happy with the way the game was going.
Leeds made a double change to try and get a goal on 75 minutes with Max Gradel and Bradley Johnson replacing Beckford and Howson.
Beckford cause a bit of a stir as he came off, shoving away manager Simon Grayson’s hand and then storming straight down the tunnel.
The change paid instant dividends though as Leeds took the lead on 77 minutes.
Snodgrass collected the ball and pushed just into the top left hand corner of the Saints area, he back cut inside Hammond and curled a right footed shot that bent into the far top corner for 1-0. Pardew reacted with his first change with Michail Antonio on for Waigo.
That was followed with four minutes remaining by Oscar Gobern coming on for Thomas as Saints went to three at the back.
Saints had a chance to equalise on 90 minutes as Gobern was picked out by a corner but he directed his header from six yards out wide of the target.
In one last throw of the dice Neal Trotman was brought on and put up front in place of Connolly so Saints could go direct in the four minutes stoppage time.
Three minutes into stoppage time Saints came even closer as Antonio went down in the area and appealed for a penalty that was not given, Lambert got on the end of it and lifted the ball past Ankergren and across goal but it drifted agonisingly just past the far post.
After Harding volleyed wide moments later the final whistle went and Saints were left to suffer a rare defeat. 19/12/09
LEEDS 1 (Snodgrass 76), SOUTHAMPTON 0
Leeds: Ankergren, Bromby, Naylor, Kisnorbo, Hughes, Howson (Johnson 75), Doyle, Kilkenny, Snodgrass, Beckford (Gradel 75), Becchio. Subs: D Martin, Crowe, Grella, Kandol, Ephraim.
Southampton: Bialkowski, Jaidi, Harding, Perry, James, Hammond, Waigo N'Diaye (Antonio 79), Thomas (Gobern 86), Lambert, Lallana, Connolly (Trotman 90). Subs: Davis, Wotton, Mills, Mellis.
Referee: N Miller
Booked: Kisnorbo (Leeds), Lallana, Lambert (Soton)
Att: 25,948
Simon Grayson had again made a number of changes as his side faced a Southampton team enjoying a good run of form.
Leeds were unbeaten in the league since January at Elland Road and a healthy crowd turned out for the pre-Christmas fixture.
There was a controversial opening to proceedings, though, when Jermaine Beckford felt he had good claims for a penalty after being felled while through on goal inside the opening five minutes.
Early chances were few and far between, however, as the two sides looked to adapt to the conditions of a pitch partially covered by snow.
United did look to force an opening and Radhi Jaidi blocked a Robert Snodgrass shot before Micky Doyle also had a shot blocked from the resultant corner.
Some more good play by United led to Andrew Hughes winning a corner as he looked to whip in a ball from the byline. Luciano Becchio headed the resultant corner just wide of the mark.
At the other end, Leigh Bromby reacted well to cut out a dangerous pass from Adam Lallana.
Becchio was next to try his luck when he turned well and hit a shot over the bar on the half-hour mark.
Leeds had enjoyed the better of the opening period in terms of possession and Becchio headed over the top after a good cross from Snodgrass.
Shortly before half-time, Dean Hammond screwed an effort wide for the visitors, but it was Leeds who were in the ascendancy as the game headed towards the break.
Leeds also started the second half on the front foot, Jonny Howson forcing Barotsz Bialkowski into making a good save. When United threatened again, the ball fizzed across the face of goal.
Tempers flared on the hour-mark when a frustrated Rickie Lambert clashed with Paddy Kisnorbo, but Leeds were still looking the better of the two sides.
United came within a whisker on 67 minutes when Howson tried his luck from distance with an effort which skidded just wide of the upright.
The breakthrough finally came on 76 minutes, though, courtesy of wonderful individual effort from Snodgrass. The Scot worked himself an opening by twisting and turning as he cut in from the left before delivering a superb strike from distance.
Leeds were good value for the lead and, unsurprisingly, Grasyon's men had some defending to do during the closing stages as Southampton looked to mount a late rally in the hope of bagging an equaliser.
Four minutes of added time created a tense finale - Lambert fired across the face of goal with Southampton's first decent chance of the game - but United held firm to win the clash and to guarantee the leadership of League One at Christmas.
Yorkshire Evening Post 19/12/09
Grayson's year in the hot seat – Hay
Phil Hay
On the afternoon when Simon Grayson left Blackpool to become Leeds United's manager, I made contact with Steve Walsh, his former Leicester City team-mate, for his opinion on the appointment.
Twelve months on, the club's choice can be justified in any number of ways, but at the time of the announcement it was a surprise, made by a club under pressure and who seemed prepared to go out on a limb.
Grayson was a 20-1 shot until word spread amongst the football community and Victor Chandler were then buried under an avalanche of bets.
Something of a risk? Walsh didn't think so. "I saw a lot of names mentioned when the position became available, some bigger names than Simon's with respect to him, but personally I'd go for track record every time," he said. "That's the mark of a good manager."
More intriguing was Walsh's throwaway remark as he rang off. "Remember," he said, "how many cheaper and easier options were out there. Someone's given this a lot of thought."
It was that fact which made Grayson's appointment compelling. The more United's decision was analysed, the more it became apparent that the club's board had identified in him specific qualities that they were intent on finding, regardless of the cost and the complications involved. By no stretch was it a fashionable appointment.
At that point, Gustavo Poyet and Aidy Boothroyd were unemployed and viable candidates, coaches whose employment at Elland Road would have been straightforward to arrange.
Grayson, in contrast, was contracted to Blackpool and unlikely to be freed from that commitment without persistence and a payment of compensation.
In Karl Oyston, Blackpool possessed a chairman as single-minded and combative as Ken Bates and it was soon apparent that the matter of Grayson's departure from Bloomfield Road would result in a Football League tribunal. As Walsh remarked, there were simpler options available, though not too many with a proven ability to win promotion from League One. United have not looked back from their decision to prioritise that credential.
History will judge Grayson's record as a whole, as it does his predecessor Gary McAllister and every other manager of Leeds, but his first year in the job does not divide opinion. These 12 months have restored to Elland Road a sense of purpose and direction that was sorely lacking when United thrust their reins into his hands on December 23.
Grayson saw the vacant position at Leeds as a glaring opportunity – "the next stage of my career," as he put it – but it was not, by any estimation, the ideal job on the day he accepted it.
As easy as it might be to assume that a vast number of pieces were in place and ready for him to work with, in reality, they were not. The club were in worrying shape, brought to their knees by a critical passage of results through December.
It is that starting point, as much as the league position United now hold, which credits Grayson's performance and that of his coaching staff. It was only necessary to look at the expressions and the body language of the players in the hours after their defeat at MK Dons to appreciate their despondency and to understand the crisis of confidence that a new manager would be asked to deal with.
In leaving Blackpool, Grayson relinquished a position of relative comfort to take on a job that seemed precarious. It was, undoubtedly, a risk.
What served him well initially and continues to do so, was his sense of pragmatism – an acceptance of the importance of results and a clear idea of how best to achieve them from a standing start.
Leeds, under Grayson, have not been an unattractive team but he has been consistently clear on the value of substance over style, on the need to restrain his opposition before attempting to decimate them. It was the return to basics and the fundamentals of football that Leeds needed and the bare statistics of his tenure are astounding – 56 games completed, 37 won and only eight lost. Ninety nine goals scored against 38 conceded. Exceptional in every way.
Behind the figures are clear traits of Grayson's management: his consistent selection of players – something that seemed to satisfy a dressing room which lacked assurance when he first arrived – and his use of simple, effective formations. Moreover, he has an eye for the right substitutions, a talent displayed many times this season.
His record in the transfer market is also commendable and he could count on one hand the number of players who have come to Elland Road and disappointed.
Lee Trundle and Liam Dickinson might be the extent of that list, though Trundle could argue that his loan coincided with the most mixed period of Grayson's reign. As for a player like Patrick Kisnorbo, his arrival on a free transfer was nothing short of a coup. League One is no stage for a defender of his calibre.
What strikes you about Grayson is his sense of satisfaction. In 12 months, he has never been heard to complain about his resources or to suggest that the transfer funds available to him are insufficient. An acceptance of his lot appears to be ingrained and a manager of Leeds United needs that mindset.
It is natural when the club's stature, income and attendances are considered to look for money, but United have never sought to buy their way out of this division and were unlikely to do so with Grayson. He has been supported financially, not least in the loan market, but his is still in essence a League One squad. As he discovered at Blackpool, that should not prove an insurmountable obstacle for a capable manager.
Looking back, the 40-year-old will see occasional flaws in his tapestry – a pivotal defeat at Hereford United and the loss to Millwall in last season's play-offs, incurred at the point when Leeds appeared to have peaked perfectly.
It will not be lost on him that United are in the same division as they were when he took charge or that promotion is imperative in May, for the good of the club and the security of his job. But as the league table shows, he is more than halfway to making it happen and you wonder if Grayson might benefit in the long term from a full season in this division.
There is always a risk of tempting fate at Elland Road, of presuming too much of managers and players who have much ground to cover and much left to achieve. Grayson would probably prefer to acknowledge his first anniversary with nothing more than a quiet toast. That, according to former colleagues like Walsh, has always been his style – understated, considered and rational. It is those qualities which suggest that this relationship has some way to run. 18/12/09
Simon Grayson will again be in a position to select from strength for Saturday's Elland Road clash with Southampton (3pm).
Bradley Johnson and Shane Higgs have continued their recovery from injuries by training with the first team this week, and Grayson is only without central defender Rui Marques, due to international commitments, and long-term injury victim Ben Parker.
"I've got the bonus of having everyone except Ben Parker available for selection," said the Leeds boss.
"Bradley and Shane have both trained and I've been guided the physios with them, but you still have to make decisions.
"We've been fortunate to keep an unbeaten run going with the injuries we've had, but there will be some disappointed players at the wekend who won't be in the 18."
The Leeds boss has called on an improvement from his players after Tuesday's 2-0 win against Accrington Stanley in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy.
Grayson's men have picked up back-to-back draws in the league, against Huddersfield and at Brentford, and the manager also voiced his disappointment at the midweek performance against Accrington.
"They're only human beings and circumstances don't always allow you to play well," he said.
"But, football is all about winning matches. That's the main thing.
"On Tuesday, we won the game and kept a clean sheet, and we're through to the next round.
"When you speak about the standards, we can't dominate every game.
"Not all the top teams play as well as they can every week and we're there to be a shot at.
"It's been a hectic schedule, but everyone wants to set themselves up for Christmas and we need to be focused and hope we can send everyone home in good spirits."

Yorkshire Evening Post 18/12/09
Robinson looks set for exit
By Phil Hay
Leeds United manager Simon Grayson has hinted that Andy Robinson will be made available for a move out of Elland Road when the transfer window opens next month.
Robinson has been a peripheral member of Grayson's squad this season, appearing in only a handful of first-team fixtures, and United's boss said he would "look at the situation" regarding all of his fringe players in the coming weeks.
Robinson was a high-profile signing when he joined Leeds on a free transfer from Swansea City in the summer of 2008 but, after a steady first year at Elland Road, he has found appearances difficult to come by this term. The winger has started only one game – a Johnstone's Paint Trophy tie against Darlington – and he has not played any part in Leeds' campaign since November 10, when United played Grimsby Town in the same competition. Robinson was linked with a move to Tranmere Rovers during the Football League's emergency loan window, and Grayson is likely to consider interest in the 30-year-old when FIFA's winter transfer window opens on January 1.
Grayson said: "We'll address that with some of our players once the window opens. Sometimes it's down to the players themselves. If they feel they're not getting enough football then we might let them go out on loan or on a permanent deal.
"We'll have a look at the situation and take stock of what's best for the players and for the club." 16/12/09
Leeds United manager Simon Grayson watched his side progress to the Area Final of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy on Tuesday evening, but immediately declared: "There's plenty to work on."
United beat the League Two side 2-0 at Elland Road, but the visitors were guilty of wasting a number of great chances to get back in the game.
Hogan Ephraim and Neil Kilkenny had given Leeds a two-goal cushion, but Accrington dominated the second period of the tie.
"It was a frustrating night," said the boss. "We got the early goal in each half which set us up, but Accrington had the better chances.
"We didn't compete well enough, we allowed them too much time and space and on another night we would have been found out.
"We had a big team out there with lots of experience and quality.
"We rode our luck, but we are through. When you're critical of a performance after you've won it's a decent way to go about your job.
"We can't be like that at the weekend against Southampton. With no disrepect to Accrington, who I thought were terrific, better players will punish us and take those opportunities.
"But we're though. We have a two-legged affair with Carlisle and we are two games away from Wembley."We've treated this competition with respect and now we have an opportunity."

Yorkshire Post 16/12/09
Leeds United 2 Accrington Stanley 0 : Leeds set up repeat show with Wembley prize
By Richard Sutcliffe
ON a cold night when the home fans kept themselves warm by running through their full back catalogue of anti-Manchester United songs, Leeds United made light work of a much less familiar foe from the Red Rose county to move a step closer to Wembley.
Goals from Hogan Ephraim and Neil Kilkenny ensured the first ever meeting between the Elland Road club and Accrington Stanley ended in a predictable victory for the Yorkshire club.
United's win, coupled with Carlisle United's three-goal dismissal of Bradford City in last night's other Northern Area semi-final, means the two League One clubs will go head to head early in the New Year for a place in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy final on March 28.
The two-legged regional showdown will evoke memories of the dramatic 2008 play-off semi-final that saw Leeds triumph courtesy of a last-minute strike by Jonny Howson at Brunton Park.
There can be little doubt that the meeting with Carlisle will be Leeds' toughest assignment to date in the competition after what can only be described as a kind draw so far this season.
Handed a bye in the first round, Grayson's men were then paired in quick succession with League Two's bottom two clubs, Darlington and Grimsby Town, before being handed another meeting with basement division opposition in the form of Stanley.
Being drawn against the Lancashire minnows afforded United the chance to rest a host of regulars ahead of the busy Christmas and New Year period that will climax with the eagerly-anticipated trip to Manchester United in the FA Cup third round.
Grayson duly took the opportunity to make changes with only Andrew Hughes and Neil Kilkenny from the side that drew 0-0 at Brentford on Saturday being in last night's starting line-up.
Among the plethora of changes was a debut for on-loan Liverpool goalkeeper David Martin and a first Elland Road start for Hogan. And it was the winger signed from QPR just before last month's loan window closed who put Leeds ahead after nine minutes.
A slick passing move between Mike Grella and David Prutton inside the Accrington half initially created the space for the ball to be worked to Ephraim on the left.
The wideman then neatly cut inside before hitting a low shot that took a wicked deflection off the heel of a defender before curling beyond the desperate dive of Dean Bouzanis in the visitors' goal.
Tresor Kandol should have doubled United's advantage on the half hour when played in behind the visitors' defence only to hit his shot straight at Bouzanis, the ball bouncing into the ground before looping agonisingly over the crossbar.
Five minutes after the restart, Kilkenny proved much more clinical in front of goal with a well-placed header beyond Bouzanis after Ephraim had scampered clear on the right and picked out the midfielder with a deep cross.
Substitute Sam Vokes then had a great chance to make it 3-0 with his first touch after springing the offside trap only for the visitors' Sydney-born goalkeeper to race from his line and block the attempted shot.
Stanley did have their chances to get back into the game when just a goal behind with Michael Symes, once of Bradford City, heading tamely at Martin eight minutes before half-time despite being unmarked in the six-yard box.
Luke Joyce also wasted a gilt-edged opportunity after finding space inside the United area, the midfielder blazing wide just before the break to the relief of the home defence.
The two misses meant the game was effectively over once Kilkenny had doubled Leeds' advantage, though there was still time for Stanley to twice hit the post through John Miles and Bobby Grant in the final stages.
It meant the majority of the 12,696 crowd went home happy, so much so that the prospect of a trip to Wembley and not Old Trafford had taken over as the song of choice for the Elland Road faithful by the final whistle.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 15/12/09
LEEDS 2 (Ephraim 9, Kilkenny 50), ACCRINGTON STANLEY 0
United manager Simon Grayson again made a number of changes as his side played their sixth game in the space of 15 days.
Loan goalkeeper David Martin was handed a debut while Richard Naylor returned from injury. There were also starting places for Rob Snodgrass, after suspension, David Prutton, Hogan Ephraim, Tresor Kandol, and Mike Grella.
Accrington arrived on the back of a great away run that included victories over a number of the League Two promotion contenders, and it was the visitors who started brightly at Elland Road, winning their first corner inside the opening 60 seconds.
But it was Leeds who were in front inside nine minutes, courtesy of Ephraim's first goal for the club. Prutton and Grella played a neat one-two before Ephraim's strike took a deflection of Phil Edwards to wrong-foot Accrington goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis.
The goal was the brightest moment of a dull opening 20 minutes or so. A larger than expected crowd had turned out, but there was little in the way of entertainment to warm the throng after Ephraim's early goal.
United did have another opportunity on the half-hour when Ephraim fed Kandol, but Bouzanis blocked the striker's shot with his legs to deflect it for a corner.
Accrington had an opportunity themselves on 39 minutes after some good defending forced a corner. It was Michael Symes who was presented with a free header from the resultant corner, but Martin was able to gather comfortably.
In reply, Snodgrass fired wide for Leeds while Andrew Proctor lifted a shot over the top for Accrington, but there were no further chances before the half-time whistle.
It was United who started the second half on the front foot, Jason Crowe sending a shot fizzing over the top, but a second goal swiftly followed. Ephraim delivered a cross the from right and Neil Kilkenny planted a diving header into the far corner to double the advantage.
Symes did have another half-chance for the visitors when he screwed a shot wide, but it was Kandol who went close again for Leeds when he headed a Crowe cross over the bar shortly before the hour.
With the game looking settled, Grayson changed personnel for the final 29 minutes, Max Gradel and Sam Vokes forming the strike partnership in place of Mike Grella and Kandol.
And Vokes almost made an immediate impact, but was denied by some quick thinking from Bouzanis.
Accrington also made a double substitution and both replacements came within a whisker of pulling a goal back. First, John Miles hit the post and moments later Sean McConville wasted a great chance when one-on-one with Martin.
The visitors also rattled the inside of the post with Martin well-beaten and as Miles went to stab at the rebound, Naylor got his body in the way on the line to force a corner.
On 78 minutes, it was United who forced a corner when Bouzanis pushed a Gradel shot over the bar, but Accrington contrived to waste another good chance shortly after when Miles scooped a shot over the bar as Martin was grounded after making an initial save.
But that proved to be the final moment of any note as the game headed towards its inevitable conclusion with Leeds progressing through to a two-legged Area Final meeting with Carlisle United.

Monday, December 14, 2009 14/12/09
Leeds United manager Simon Grayson was left with mixed emotions after seeing his side collect another important league point at Brentford on Saturday.
The boss was delighted to see his side leave Griffin Park with another clean sheet, following the 0-0 draw, but felt his side were the more deserving winners of what was a scrappy contest.
"We knew it would be a difficult place to go," said the United manager.
"With the conditions and the way they lined-up with one up front we knew we would have to change things to express ourselves. It was a good test.
"Their keeper made a great save from Jermaine in the first half, and maybe if that had gone in, things would have opened up a bit.
"In the first half we didn't quite get the composure we needed and sometimes we rushed it a bit. At times, we didn't quite get to the level we wanted to, but we still created the better chances.
"We were always trying to win the game - and if not, pick up a point and come away with a clean sheet. Had one of our chances gone in I think we would have won quite comfortably.
"In the end, we didn't win, but we picked up another point, and we'll draw on the positives, and get ready for Tuesday now."

Yorkshire Evening Post 14/12/09
Brentford v Leeds United: Whites happy to make point
By Phil Hay
With a public house on each of the stadium's four corners, Griffin Park is renowned for the bars which surround it.
Leeds United were more concerned with those inside the stadium on Saturday, namely the crossbars which came between their players and a victory over Brentford. By those slender margins were two points lost, narrowing in turn the advantage held by Leeds over the persistent mob below them in League One.
The extent to which they deserved better than a draw was open to debate after an unremarkable game affected throughout by Brentford's formation and the heaviest pitch United have seen for some time, but this was a rare occasion when United's manager, Simon Grayson, seemed only moderately satisfied with the outcome.
"We've created the best chances and hit the woodwork twice," he said. "But if we don't win then the next best thing is to draw."
His theory is solid and United have lived by it since August. With the halfway point of the season two matches away, there is still just one league defeat to show for the ground that Leeds have covered, a record with which Grayson can easily defend himself.
"We can't win every game," he remarked pointedly, though at times the club have appeared capable of doing precisely that.
Their draw at Griffin Park was by no measure a poor result but it was underwhelming by their own standards and meaningful in terms of their division. Last weekend's draw with Huddersfield Town was Charlton Athletic's first invitation for several weeks to hack away at United's advantage, and they did so again on Saturday, closing to within two points of the league's long-time leaders.
United's protection is two-fold – a useful game in hand and a more substantial lead over Norwich City, the team who are presently most likely to infringe on League One's automatic promotion places. But, after consecutive draws, Grayson might prefer for the encouragement to stop here.
Defeating an improving club in Southampton at Elland Road this weekend would allow his Christmas lunch to taste as satisfying as it possibly can. His squad have been adept at prising victories from venues like Griffin Park this season and, were it not for shots from Jermaine Beckford and Luciano Becchio striking the bar at the start of each half instead of stretching Brentford's net, another would have been forthcoming in London.
Beckford later missed the type of one-on-one chance he usually scores with his eyes closed, a third moment when Leeds smelt blood but were unable to finish off Andy Scott's team. For that, Brentford's defensive performance and general organisation was also responsible, every bit as good as their record at home suggested it would be.
The playing surface at Griffin Park was patchy to begin with and cut up horribly towards the end of the game, and Scott's strategy of flooding the midfield was employed with one aim in mind, but whatever opinion can be taken of their tactics, they were skilfully implemented.
Not until the start of the second half did Leeds begin to bully a defence built around two proficient centre-backs in Leon Legge and Pim Balkestein. That description could also be applied to the middle of United's defence, where Leigh Bromby and the incomparable Patrick Kisnorbo ensured that, whether they scored or not, United would leave London with at least a point. Grayson has come to value that guarantee this season.
Jonathan Howson hacked a loose ball away from United's goalline in the second minute, but Leeds' goalkeeper, Casper Ankergren, became a passenger after that, required to do the bare minimum and was tightly guarded by his defence.
For 45 minutes, both he and Wojciech Szczesny were thoroughly peripheral, save for one crucial moment.
Szczesny, Brentford's on-loan Arsenal keeper, rescued Brentford in the sixth minute when he gloved Beckford's shot onto his bar, denying the striker after a header from Michael Doyle caught the home defence square and unaware of Beckford's run into the box.
Brentford heeded the warning and did not allow United's regular source of goals to roam freely again until the start of the second half when Grayson's words of wisdom seemed to inject a greater sense of urgency into Leeds' performance.
Prior to the break, the only other moments of interest were a disturbance in one section of the home crowd and a scuffle in Ankergren's box between Kisnorbo and Charlie MacDonald, the Brentford striker. MacDonald's first reaction was to claim a penalty after he and Kisnorbo went to ground but, as the Australian remonstrated with him, MacDonald appeared to swing an arm at Kisnorbo, an act which went unpunished by referee Darren Deadman, despite him seeking the advice of one of his linesmen.
Deadman's performance and those of his assistants were a disruptive factor that the game did not need, frustrating both benches and allowing a heated undercurrent to develop in the second half. It takes a certain kind of referee to annoy Grayson to the point of public criticism, but a manager who is generally reticent about officials made plain his dissatisfaction with Deadman's handling of the game. "I'll make my opinion known to the people who matter with my marks," he said.
As the second half gathered momentum, it seemed unlikely that Deadman's influence would matter. Becchio stabbed a left-footed shot onto the top of Szczesny's bar in the 49th minute after seizing on Max Gradel's knockdown, and Gradel himself went close with two shots which carried beyond the keeper's right-hand post.
Amid the growing pressure, Howson unravelled Brentford's defence with a neat through-ball in the 55th minute which found Beckford onside and unhindered as he ran towards Szczesny's area. The striker appeared to consider rounding the Pole but chose to shoot at the first opportunity, driving a low shot against Szczesny's legs. Grayson has lost count of the number of times that Beckford has clinically buried opportunities like that.
It was the game's best chance by some distance, and Leeds were unable to create better despite the late introduction of Hogan Ephraim and Tresor Kandol, whose physical presence kept Brentford honest but did not force the hosts to crack. His header wide in injury-time was a vain attempt to steal a win.
News arrived soon after of Charlton's win at Stockport County but Howson, United's captain on Saturday, was unperturbed. "We're in a great position," he said. "If you'd offered us nil-nil beforehand, we might have taken it."
Therein lies United's luxury.