Monday, November 30, 2009

Yorkshire Evening Post 30/11/09
Kettering Town v Leeds United: Match report
By Leon Wobschall
A county famous for its shoe industry, Northamptonshire – and it's sole cup representative remaining – threatened to put an embarrassing size 12 boot into United's cup hopes for the second season running.
Thankfully, an express delivery following yet another lightning Whites raid saved the day. And what a prize awaits.
Not surprisingly, it was the predatory feet of Jermaine Beckford that ensured the vast majority of the watching millions didn't start their festive celebrations early – those of a non-Whites persuasion anyway.
Although you sense the Leeds hordes landed the perfect Yuletide gift by way of yesterday's most tantalising of round three draws if they overcome the plucky Poppies in the replay at Elland Road.
Last year, it was a postman who dispatched United from the cup – remember Histon's Matt Langston anyone?
Twelve months on, it was a journeyman pro in the shape of Ian Roper who almost did the same.
The defender – who cut an unassuming bespectacled figure in his civvies after the game – is just the sort of player David-versus-Goliath cup shocks are forged on.
Roper's header in the 63rd-minute put Kettering on the cusp of further cup glory – 12 months on from reaching the fourth round – while United were staring down the barrel of their second-ever FA Cup defeat to non-league opponents.
But United avoided another Histon, thanks to Beckford, although it remains somewhat of a mystery just how they didn't book their round three spot at the first time of asking after having enough chances to win a whole plethora of cup ties. Relief may have been abounding following Beckford's 78th-minute leveller, but also a sense of disbelief that United didn't progress.
Boss Simon Grayson succinctly summed it up afterwards in saying: "We had too many chances to mention; we could be here all night!"
In the cold light of day, if Leeds hadn't booked their place in the round three draw, it would have been the mugging of all time after they created chances by the sack load.
Yes, Grayson could have well done without his troops having yet another game in a bumper December, but it's fair to say they won't need any motivating for the replay back in Yorkshire, with the whopping prize at the end of it in the shape of Manchester United.
With a heavy schedule of three games in six days, Grayson could have been tempted to make wholesale changes, but in the end, was pretty sparing in his tinkering.
The main changes were at the back with a rejigged defence lining up with Patrick Kisnorbo the latest addition to United's injury list after sitting the game out after picking up a knock last Tuesday night, with Andrew Hughes also missing.
Leigh Bromby switched to the heart of defence with Jason Crowe – no stranger to Northamptonshire from his time with the Cobblers – coming in for his first start since October 19 after recovering from a problematic hamstring injury.
Tony Capaldi was handed a debut at left-back in the absence of Hughes, but in the engine room, it was as you were from the Leyton Orient game with the same four deployed.
With Sam Vokes ineligible, Mike Grella – a late scorer in the 2-0 round one win at Oldham – was handed a rare start alongside Beckford, with United also boosted by the inclusion on the bench of fit-again Luciano Becchio.
A familiar face in the Poppies line-up was ex-United striker Anthony Elding, one of four loanees who started for the hosts.Home fans were issued with red cards to show their displeasure in the direction of the town's council – accused of dragging their feet over the club's hopes to move to pastures new – before kick-off.
But after last year's fiasco up the A14 at Histon, United were more preoccupied with not receiving their marching orders from the world's oldest club cup competition from yet another minnow. It was the underdogs who came out of the traps the quicker, with impish winger Richie Partridge showing no lack of confidence following a meandering run which ended in him shooting straight at Ankergren.
Moses Ashikodi then found a yard of space, but his shot was deflected tamely into the grasp of Ankergren, and the Poppies striker then ran at the heart of he United back four before the ball broke invitingly for Partridge, who cross-shot drifted agonisingly wide.
Emboldened by their side's start, the Poppies faithful's spirits rose, before United fired a telling warning.
A sliderule pass found the marauding Beckford in space and after he rounded onrushing keeper Lee Harper, his looped centre found its way to Snodgrass, whose goalbound shot was blocked by Jon Dempster.
Beckford was then cynicially brought down by Dempster, who was cautioned and soon after, the United top gun came desperately close to recording goal no.14 of another bountiful season.
A divine defence-splitting pass from Grella was latched onto by the striker, whose half-volley crashed against the bar and from the follow-up, Snodgrass' rising shot hit the outside of the upright.
Beckford's neat flick then presented a great chance to Grella, but he failed to connect with the outside of his foot when well placed.
Howson then headed wide following a juicy cross from Snodgrass when it looked easier to score as the litany of chances started to stack up before Dempster heroically blocked Grella's beefy volley.
The pattern continued after the break with Snodgrass' low shot held by veteran Harper before a terrific acrobatic clearance from Sol Davis diverted a goalbound effort from the Scot.
Despite being second-best for most of proceedings and struggling to create clear-cut chances, you got the impression that the Poppies might make United pay for their profligacy and every time the men in White missed a chance, the nagging feeling grew.
A rare home foray saw Elding shoot at Ankergren and the visitors were then handed a genuine scare when Simon Heslop steamed into the box before seeing his low effort diverted just wide – and then it happened.
Lubomir Michalik conceded a needless free-kick and the sloppiest of goals saw Roper beat the on-rushing Ankergren to the ball to head home following Partridge's centre.
After a horror-type Histon flashback, United faced a massive character battle as Kettering retreated en masse to try and protect their stunning lead.
Grayson threw on Becchio into the fray on 73 minutes as the Whites set their stall out to throw everything but the kitchen sink at the hosts.It was overtime for the home defence and Harper, who was considering retirement before the game due to the dual demands of playing and management, with a dodgy back adding to his chagrin. Harper pulled off a brilliant reaction save to deny Crowe and then made an even better one to somehow parry Michael Doyle's header from a few yards out. Beckford finally soothed fraying United nerves just when many away fans were contemplating that it just might not be Leeds' day, diverting Snodgrass' centre past Harper.
Doyle then ballooned over and the pressure continued with Howson screwing a shot wide following a magical run, while Heslop headed straight at Ankergren as the hosts claimed the briefest of periods of respite.
Leeds' grandstand finish failed to yield reward and the Poppies were left to revel in the most joyous of replays, which was celebrated with all the gusto of a cup final win at the end.

Times 30/11/09
Jermaine Beckford puts end to heroics from Lee Harper
Kettering Town 1 Leeds United 1
Tom Dart
This was a rousing tie bookended by red cards and Red Devils. Fresh fascination sprouted half an hour after the final whistle when only two balls remained to be scooped from the FA’s goldfish bowl and those inside the social club attached to Kettering Town’s rusty old main stand yelled with joy at the realisation: Manchester United versus Kettering Town or Leeds United.
Let’s not underestimate the importance of that little “or”, because the Coca-Cola League One leaders’ only defeat at Elland Road this season was by Liverpool in the Carling Cup and they were by far the better team here yesterday.
Still, Kettering will now approach the replay with an evangelical zeal. It is not just a big night out but a means to several ends. To add to the thrill and profit in facing the Barclays Premier League champions, there is the potential power of publicity. As they seek a solution to problems that could force the club out of Kettering or out of business, another 90 minutes of fame to spread the word would place extra pressure on Kettering Borough Council, the club’s bĂȘte noire.
Hence the red cards — large cardboard ones waggled in the direction of the live television cameras before kick-off as a protest against the council, whom the club blame for scuppering a new stadium project. Kettering’s lease on Rockingham Road runs out in 3½ years and is unlikely to be extended. Imraan Ladak, the chairman, wants urgent action and has outlined doomsday scenarios including a merger with a local rival as soon as next summer.
This match was almost a serious calamity for Leeds, who were 12 minutes from going out of the Cup to a non-League side for the second time in a year. Twelve months ago today, they were knocked out in the second round by Histon, the part-timers from a village near Cambridge. Another debasement was averted when Jermaine Beckford deflected Robert Snodgrass’s low cross past Lee Harper to cancel out the header scored by Ian Roper 15 minutes earlier.
It was just reward for Leeds’s dominance, though Kettering were admirably resilient, especially Harper, their goalkeeper and player-manager. He made two stunning second-half saves from headers by Jason Crowe and Michael Doyle. The 38-year-old was contemplating retirement because of the difficulty in juggling two jobs but the Cup run has encouraged him to play on, despite a back injury.
“I’m sure I can carry on for another month, even if it takes a wheelchair to get me out there,” he said.

Telegraph 29/11/09
Kettering Town 1 Leeds United 1: match report
By David McVay
As a farewell concert, this performance almost brought the house down, an irony that will not be lost on Kettering Town.
Without funding or the backing of the local council, the Blue Square Premier club’s future is bleak and their Rockingham Road ground is earmarked for demolition. When their lease ends in 2013, the intention is to pull the old place down and build houses on what has been Kettering’s home for over 100 years.
Although the lease ends in three years’ time, the club’s chairman Imraan Ladak has said that unless a solution is found in the next six weeks Kettering will face extinction at the end of this season.
Most local fans fear that this plucky draw with League One leaders Leeds United will be the ground’s FA Cup finale after a long and distinguished record in the competition that has seen some of the game’s rich and famous humbled.
If it is to be a swansong there could not be have been a more fitting one that yielded a tantalising twist even as the two teams sat in their dressing rooms anticipating a replay at Elland Road a week on Tuesday.
In the Tin Hat social club, home fans shrieked with delight when it was announced that the winners of Kettering v Leeds would play Manchester United in the third round.
“I thought about hanging up my boots because I have a back problem,” said Kettering player manager Lee Harper, who replaced Mark Cooper when the latter departed to become manager of Peterborough three games ago. “But I’ll be walking out on crutches to be there for this replay.
“You can see what it means to fans of this club who don’t want to see it die and if we manage to get past Leeds, it would give us a perfect platform to state our case.”
Harper executed several superb saves, the best from a Michael Doyle header as Leeds mounted unrelenting pressure to salvage a draw.
Jermaine Beckford and Robert Snodgrass both smacked efforts against the woodwork in the first half, but it was Kettering who secured an unlikely lead when Ian Roper headed home Richie Partridge’s free kick. Roper’s effort registered Kettering’s 838th goal in the FA Cup, the most prolific tally of any of the participating clubs.
Kettering’s defence was later undone as Beckford glanced a Snodgrass shot beyond Harper.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

New pages uploaded at

Season 1970/71 – Off like a train/The Jack Charlton affair/Colchester, Tinkler and Fairs success

United recover from the heartbreak of missing out on the treble to set the pace in the new season before tribulations for Jack Charlton, controversial defeats and success in the Fairs Cup success

Read the full story at

BBC 26/11/09
Leeds bring in trio on loan deal
Leeds United have signed Queens Park Ranger winger Hogan Ephraim, Cardiff defender Tony Capaldi and Liverpool goalkeeper David Martin on loan.
Ephraim, 21, will stay at Elland Road until 1 January, Capaldi is due to remain up until 4 January and 23-year-old Martin goes back on 28 December.
Northern Ireland international Capaldi, 28, can play either left-back or left midfield and will not be cup-tied.
Martin provides added cover for injured keeper Shane Higgs.
Ephraim has scored twice in seven games for QPR this season, both in the Carling Cup.
"Hogan is quick and direct," Leeds manager Simon Grayson told the club's website. "He'll give us options and competition for places."
Ephraim started his career at West Ham before making his first competitive start while on loan at Colchester.
He then moved on loan to QPR before making the move to Loftus Road a permanent one in January 2008.
Capaldi began his career at Birmingham City and enjoyed a loan period with Hereford United.
But he moved from Blues in April 2003 to Plymouth Argyle, where he won most of his 22 international caps.
Since joining Cardiff in 2007, he has made 68 appearances for the Bluebirds, including nine this season, but had his opportunities restricted last term with a knee injury.
Martin has not played a competitive match for Liverpool but played 25 times as a teenager for MK Dons before his move to Anfield in 2006.
Since then he has enjoyed loans at Accrington Stanley and Leicester City. And he was again out on loan at Tranmere Rovers earlier this month prior to his latest move.

Yorkshire Post 25/11/09
Leeds United 1 Leyton Orient 0: Gradel strikes late winner after Leeds ride their luck
By Richard Sutcliffe
SOME wins are spectacular, some are memorable and some are fortuitous. This was definitely the latter for Leeds United, as betrayed by the sympathetic expression on Simon Grayson's face when shaking hands with counterpart Geraint Williams at the final whistle.
After as poor a display as United have managed all season, Max Gradel underlined just why the Elland Road crowd are so keen to see his loan move from Leicester City made permanent.Collecting a short pass from Aiden White with just a minute remaining, the substitute unleashed a fearsome shot that flew past Jamie Jones in the Leyton Orient goal to clinch another vital three points for the League One leaders.
There was no doubt the last-gasp winner was harsh on the visiting side who had, particularly in the first half, played the better football. In blustery conditions, Orient endeavoured to get the ball down at every opportunity in the opening 45 minutes and were rewarded with several good chances. Leeds, by contrast, were ponderous and far too reliant on launching seemingly aimless long balls forward with even the likes of Robert Snodgrass, usually so consistent in a white shirt, having a distinctly below par night. Only the introduction of Gradel just after the hour mark changed that as a sense of urgency was restored. Surprisingly employed initially up front, he was unfortunate to see one lobbed effort land on top of the net.
He then gave the otherwise outstanding Tamika Mkandwire a nervous moment with a driven shot that struck the defender's arm only for referee David Foster to wave play on.
The introduction of Mike Grella from the bench meant a switch to the right flank and, at last, Leeds had some genuine width to test a compact Orient outfit.
Gradel thundered a shot that Jones did well to beat away with just three minutes left on the clock before, with the Gelderd End imploring United to pour forward in attack, breaking the deadlock with a spectacular shot fit to win any game.
Returning to London without reward in the early hours of this morning will have been particularly hard to swallow for Williams's men, especially after being by far the better side in the first half.
Employing a slick passing brand of football that sensibly saw the ball remain on the floor in the blustery conditions, the O's made sure that lone striker Scott McGleish was afforded plenty of support when the visitors had possession.
These darting runs from midfield proved particularly difficult for Leeds to pick up and the upshot was Casper Ankergren having a far busier opening 45 minutes than his Orient counterpart.
The Leeds goalkeeper had to pick the ball out of the net after just five minutes after being beaten by Andros Townsend only for referee David Foster to rule that the free-kick by Sean Thornton that presented the Spurs loanee with the chance had been taken too quickly.
Only a last-ditch block by the Leeds defence then prevented Thornton from capitalising on some enterprising play down the right by Charlie Daniels and before Townsend's stinging 30-yard drive warmed the hands of Ankergren.
Orient's enterprising approach play then saw McGleish and Townsend presented with further chancesthat only two last-ditch challenges from the home defence snuffed out.
There was no doubt who was the more relieved to hear the half-time whistle with Leeds's only chance having come 10 minutes before the break when Sam Vokes shot wildly over after being picked out by a cushioned header from Jermaine Beckford.
It was the striker's 100th league appearance for Leeds and it seemed there would be no happy ending. That was, however, until Gradel struck to maintain the leaders' six-point advantage over second-placed Charlton Athletic.

Mail 24/11/09
Leeds 1 Leyton Orient 0: Mighty Max Gradel is the late hero at Elland Road
Champions League nights used to mean something very different at Elland Road. They used to mean Real Madrid, Barcelona or AC Milan. They didn’t mean Leyton Orient. It was famous victories against the continent’s finest, not hard-fought wins against the capital’s 11th highest team in the league ladder.
But Leeds have become accustomed to unflattering comparisons with the past. Every anniversary and each landmark brings more reminders of a glorious past.
Now Simon Grayson’s side are making their own history. They are amassing the sort of statistics associated more with Don Revie’s glory boys than the underachievers who slipped into League One three seasons ago.
They are unbeaten in 10 months and 20 league games at Elland Road and second-half substitute Max Gradel struck very late to ensure they stay six points clear of second-placed Charlton – with a game in hand.
Forget the Damned United, they have become the Grand United. Even Ken Bates seems satisfied. Leeds are more than half way towards meeting their demanding chairman’s target.
Bates had urged them ‘to hit 80 points as quickly as possible to ensure we leave the division and get back among the big boys’.
At their current rate of progress, Grayson’s men, who have 42 points, are on course to top 100 before the season ends.
Jermaine Beckford brought up a century of his own last night – 100 league games since he traded in non-league football with Wealdstone and life as a windscreen fitter to join Leeds in 2006 – but he was overshadowed by a newer crowd favourite.
Short, sharp and skilful, Gradel has become Leeds’ super substitute since being borrowed from Leicester. He livened Leeds up, providing a dramatic finish to a game that began quietly.
In the 89th minute the Ivorian winger collected a pass from promising defender Aidan White, skipped past two opponents and lashed a shot into the roof of the net. It brought relief to Elland Road and chants of ‘Grayson, Grayson sign him up.’
‘He has certainly made an impact,’ said the Leeds boss. ‘Max has done ever so well. He is an infectious character and he gave us that little bit of urgency.’
Even in his half-hour cameo, Gradel could have had a hat-trick. He had hooked a shot on to the roof of the net after a pass from Robert Snodgrass.
Then Gradel’s misplaced cross turned into a dangerous effort that Jamie Jones had to tip away. But before then, Leeds, had barely threatened.
Sam Vokes missed their only notable chance of the first half, shooting wildly over the bar after Beckford set him up. But Orient were the better team before the break.
‘We are going to get a lot of plaudits but no points,’ said visiting manager Geraint Williams.
‘It was a good performance but it is a very disappointed dressing room. We have lost the game with one little bit of magic.’
Buoyant home boss Grayson agreed. He said: ‘We were probably average to say the least for the most part of the game.
‘But you have to give credit to my players. They keep going. We had an attitude that we didn’t want to draw the game and a little bit of individual brilliance from Max won it.’
Grayson added: ‘I’m delighted where we are. The record we have got at home is very impressive, but all we have done is give ourselves an opportunity and a platform for the rest of the season. We are there to be shot at.’
Shot down to League One three seasons ago, their unwanted stay seems to be coming to an end.
The Champions League is in their past, but the Coca-Cola Championship should feature in their very immediate future.

Yorkshire Evening Post 23/11/09
Sublime Leeds United show sinks Gus Poyet's Seagulls
By Leon Wobschall
Gus Poyet described Jermaine Beckford as "different class" in the build-up to his nostalgic reunion with his old club.
Well, Gus, you were a tad sparing on the platitudes front. The phrase perhaps describes every one of the United line-up following their sumptuous slaying of the Seagulls – which featured two goals which would have graced any game – better than anything else.
"Sussex by the Sea" is Albion's famous club ditty. But by the final whistle, those in blue and white on the pitch were decidedly queasy and after back-to-back wins, Poyet will have learned more about his team on Saturday than he did in the previous two matches.
As for Leeds? Just who can stop them in their relentless march back to the Championship? Talk about grabbing the division by the scruff of the neck.
With their rivals keen on doing them a favour at regular intervals, it would be a brave man who would bet against them enjoying a silverware spring. On two fronts.
They were simply irresistible at the Withdean. And all this after their pre-game 'hand' was seemingly weakened by the surprise absence of the injured Richard Naylor and seven-goal Bradley Johnson.
Add to that the Poyet Factor with rejuvenated Albion seeking a hat-trick of wins for the first time this term and the leveller of some pretty wretched weather and the sooth-sayers' prediction of a shock wasn't too outlandish.
But the Whites are made of stern stuff. Yes, the rain did come, belatedly, but by that stage, Seagulls fans were more concerned with a deluge of goals from United.
Lucky Leeds…don't believe a bit of it. Small wonder a delighted Simon Grayson labelled it as their best performance of the season.
Any fleeting worries Grayson might have had of his side being a touch rusty after an 11-day break soon dissipated. His troops produced a complete performance.
It started with a "they-shall-not-pass" defence, which provided the most solid of bases. And nine clean sheets in 16 league games speaks for itself.
Then there was the midfield dominance from messrs Kilkenny, Doyle, Howson and Snodgrass, with Albion’s quartet chasing shadows and by the end they probably felt as brow beaten as Brighton’s finest - Jordan – after three successive Bushtucker trials down under.
Central to the piece was Neil Kilkenny, who was the puppet-master supreme, conjuring United’s best moments, with his late goal rich reward for his tip-top performance.
Michael Doyle performed the bits-and-pieces role with aplomb, while Robert Snodgrass – United’s ‘go-to’ man particularly in the first half – had an absolute ball on the left, with an honourable mention to Jonny Howson also on the right.
Up top, Beckford and Sam Vokes also looked the business and will strike fear into better defences than Brighton’s.
Treading across the sodden turf at the final whistle, Grayson would have been entitled to hum “Singing In The Rain” to himself and do a Gene-Kelly style skip in front of 854 drenched but happy United fans, who were doing an impromptu rain dance for him.
With Naylor absent, Lubomir Michalik started just his second league game of the season and partnered Patrick Kisnorbo – back from international duties with Australia – in the heart of the back four, while Leigh Bromby returned after being rested for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy clash with Grimsby.
Kilkenny was handed the creative brief in midfield which he has craved in league games this term and he didn’t let anybody down, while providing a whole lot more besides in a display that was full of quality, vim and a certain swagger by the end.United started as they meant to go on with Beckford blasting an early ‘sighter’ off target from close range following Andrew Hughes’ pinpoint centre.
Snodgrass, who looked instantly at home on his natural left side, also showed a sign of things to come by firing a 25-yarder wide after Kilkenny picked the pocket of Gary Dicker, who had a long afternoon. Vokes – who had linked up with United belatedly after midweek international business with Wales – then struck a scuffed shot straight at stand-in keeper Graeme Smith.
United’s needle was hitting the groove and to say a goal was coming was the understatement of the year.
It duly arrived on 27 minutes – thanks to a sublime touch of class from Snodgrass. The silky Scot has moments of quality in his locker and this one was top-drawer.
A neat move which inevitably started from Kilkenny, unhinged back-tracking Albion and Beckford then adeptly laid the ball invitingly into Snodgrass’ path and the winger needed no second invitation with his delicious curling shot arrowed into the top corner of the net.
Moments later, goal poacher Beckford almost doubled the tally, volleying against the outside of the post following the juiciest of crosses from dangerman Snodgrass.
It was all Leeds, although Brighton briefly awoke from their slumber when Glenn Murray’s downward header flashed wide. It was a rare moment of alarm. Normal service was soon resumed with an exquisite Beckford strike two minutes before the break highlighting the gulf in class between the two sides.
It was another picture-book moment. A raking long pass from – you’ve guessed it – Kilkenny, that Glenn Hoddle would have been proud of in his pomp, picked out Beckford, whose first touch was simply divine. As was his unerring finish, low past the helpless Smith.
The goal sapped the life out of Albion, who were desperately seeking the sanctuary of the dressing room, while looking every inch a leg-weary side struggling to handle their third match in just under a week.
Vokes then could – and perhaps should – have nailed the outcome, blasting a half-volley across goal after more slapdash home defending.
Even the most myopic Albion fan must have felt they had their work totally cut out and despite one or two semi-dangerous second-half moments, so it proved. Leeds were quite happy to soak up some pretty sporadic forays from Albion and hit the hosts on the break with no need to chase the game in sapping conditions.
The onus was from Albion and despite some better quality into Leeds’ box, it was meat and drink to the United’s rearguard, who got their heads onto all the aerial stuff.
Brighton’s best chance came just after the hour when Murray diverted the ball agonisingly wide from Dean Cox’s cross – their most threatening moment of the afternoon.
If truth be told, that was pretty much that. Changes from Poyet midway through the half, which worked last weekend against Southampton, didn’t yield a recovery.
United applied the salt in the 90th minute with Kilkenny getting the goal his performance merited after racing forward and tucking home David Prutton’s low cross.
You suspect Grayson was probably just as delighted by the sight of hordes of yellow shirts steaming forward in the dying stages as he was with the goal.
Six points clear...if this wasn’t a warning to the rest of the division, then nothing was.

The Times 23/11/09
Leeds show killer touch to burst Gustavo Poyet’s Brighton bubble
Brighton & Hove Albion 0 Leeds 3
They came, they saw, they conquered. Leeds United recognised the threat posed by Brighton & Hove Albion, revitalised by Gustavo Poyet, their former assistant manager, at a rainswept Withdean Stadium on Saturday, and raised their game accordingly, barely allowing their opponents a shot and hitting three goals of the highest quality themselves.
“At a difficult ground and with Gus’s first home match, I would say it was our best game of the season — a real high-intensity, workmanlike performance, but with a lot of quality when we were in possession as well,” Simon Grayson, the Leeds manager, said. “We stressed to the players that we had to be fully focused and we showed a good attitude all over the pitch.”
Victory over Leyton Orient at Elland Road tomorrow evening could put Leeds nine points clear at the top of Coca-Cola League One with 17 matches played, and they appear to have the right blend of talent and diligence, not to mention the nerve, to lead from the front until promotion is secured.
“We’re always there to be shot at because of the size of club that we are,” Grayson said. “There has been pressure on us from the start of the season and we’ve responded to that.”
Another reason why they will probably end the season as League One champions is the strength of their squad. Grayson is not under pressure to sell Jermaine Beckford, the top scorer, in January, even though his contract expires in the summer, and the loss of Bradley Johnson through injury was hardly felt as Neil Kilkenny stepped in to give a man-of-the-match performance on only his second league start of the season.
After Robert Snodgrass had put Leeds ahead, Kilkenny supplied the pass of the game from 70 yards for Beckford to score his thirteenth goal of the season in all competitions, and added the third himself, racing forward in the last minute to convert David Prutton’s cross at the end of a swift breakaway.
“Neil’s pass for Jermaine’s goal was out of this world,” Grayson said. “If that had been in the Premier League, people would be speaking about it for many weeks. Last year Neil was one of my best players but was injured at the beginning of the season and other players came in and took their opportunities. But he has worked hard and I told him he would get a chance, and he and Michael Doyle bossed the game. We have people in the squad who are willing to come in and take their opportunity and ‘Killer’ did that today.”
Brighton show signs of a long-term revival under Poyet, but were up against a team who are much closer to the finished article and ruthlessly exposed their shortcomings. Had Poyet been impressed by his former club? “I don’t know if I was impressed,” he said. “I knew that they were the best, and we knew we had to be at our best to have a chance to win the game. Unfortunately, we weren’t.”

ITV 22/11/09
Grayson praises performance
Leeds boss Simon Grayson was left purring at his side's "best performance of the season'' after a 3-0 win at Brighton.
New Brighton boss Gus Poyet came up against Leeds for the first time since departing his role as assistant manager to Dennis Wise in October 2007, but Grayson insisted no extra motivation was required. First-half goals from Robert Snodgrass and leading scorer Jermaine Beckford put Leeds in control and Neil Kilkenny's last-minute strike put the seal on another comfortable victory for Grayson's men.
He said: "We've set ourselves up to have a successful season but you don't get promotion at the end of November and we're there to be shot at."
He added: "It was a really difficult game for us and a potential banana skin but, putting everything together, we produced our best performance of the season.''
United have only lost one of their last 16 league games, and they have scored 16 goals in their winning five-match run, but Grayson is taking nothing for granted.
He added: "We set ourselves high standards, are very committed and we must keep at it.
"I'm happy with our points tally but we are determined to be level-headed. We have a fantastic work ethic and this must be maintained as we look to keep our position at the top of the table.''
Midfielder Snodgrass, who put Leeds on their way with a 27th-minute opener, also felt this had to rank as one of his sides best displays given that it came at Brighton's temporary ground - a converted athletics stadium.
He said: "It was tough to play at Brighton. But we focused on ourselves and our finishing was clinical.
"A performance like this will take us a long way. We had questions asked of us and we dealt with it. It's not easy to stay at the top of the league; it's only November and we need to kick on from here. You need to turn it on in games like this and this has to be up there in terms of our best performance.''

Saturday, November 21, 2009 21/11/09
BRIGHTON 0, UNITED 3 (Snodgrass 27, Beckford 43, Kilkenny 90)
Brighton: Smith, Whing (Navarro 70), Elphick, El-Abd (Davies 78), Cox (McLeod 70), Forster, Tunnicliffe, Murray, Dicker, Crofts, Bennett. Subs: Livermore, Hart, Virgo, Pelling.
United: Ankergren, Bromby, Michalik, Kisnorbo, Hughes, Howson (Prutton 81), Doyle, Kilkenny, Snodgrass, Beckford (Gradel 90), Vokes (Showunmi 84). Subs: Grella, Robinson, Martin, Gradel, White.
Referee: J Linington
Booked: Michalik
Att: 7615
United boss Simon Grayson was forced into making changes to his side with Richard Naylor and Bradley Johnson both missing out through injury. Paddy Kisnorbo returned from international duty and Lubo Michalik was recalled as his partner at the back.
The conditions weren't ideal, with wind and rain, and many of the near-900 away fans were sporting plastic raincoats which were available inside the ground.
The host club were boosted by two victories, following the arrival of Gus Poyet as their new manager, but it was Leeds who had first sight of goal when Jermaine Beckford blasted an effort over the top.
Despite the conditions, the opening was entertaining enough, and on 13 minutes Nicky Forster fired wide for Brighton after working himself an opening.
Brighton goalkeeper Graeme Smith was called into action early on when he saved well from Beckford after some good build-up play. An offside flag would have seen Beckford denied though.
At the other end, Andrew Hughes made a terrific challenge to deny Dean Cox as the visitors broke away quickly to force a 2 v 1 situation in front of the Leeds goal.
United had a penalty shout before the half-hour when Sam Vokes threatened and the ball appeared to hit a Brighton hand, but it was 1-0 moments later.
Robert Snodgrass was the man who fired Leeds ahead with a stunning strike from near the touchline.
And it was almost 2-0 within a minute. Snodgrass delivered a good cross from the left, and Beckford saw his deft touch hit the upright.
Either way, it was a deserved lead for Leeds who were rewarded for taking control in the middle of the park.
Brighton had shown glimpses of decent football, but when Glenn Murray headed wide on 32 minutes it was the first real chance they had created.
On 40 minutes, Snodgrass again tested Brighton goalkeeper Smith from distance, but this time he was equal to the effort.
It was 2-0 before half-time, though. Michalik won the ball at the back, played a short pass to Neil Kilkenny, and the midfielder picked out Beckford with a superb pass. The striker was able to take his time before delivering a cool finish.
And Vokes almost made it three in stoppage time when he worked himself an opening before firing narrowly wide.
The home side did have an opportunity from a free-kick at the start of the second half, but it was Leeds who threatened next, courtesy of Vokes, and Kisnorbo headed wide from a corner kick.
Leeds should have been awarded a penalty on 50 minutes when Snodgrass was clearly wrestled to the floor, but the referee allowed play to continue.
Brighton responded by winning their first corner of the game, but United were looking comfortable.
Kisnorbo again came within a whisker of furthering the advantage when he another bandage layer away from connecting with a Snodgrass free-kick.
United's work-rate was absolutely superb and Brighton were constantly denied space and time by constant pressing.
The home side hadn't been allowed to start the second half with any great purpose, but they put together their best move of the game shortly after the hour when Murray missed a glorious opportunity at the near post.
There were times when it almost looked too easy for Leeds when in possession and some of the play was excellent. The midfield was dominant - Kilkenny's distribution was first class - and the movement of Vokes and Beckford made life tough for Brighton.
As the second half wore on, the conditions became increasingly more difficult with the rain falling harder, but it mattered little to a Leeds side who were edging their way towards yet another professional away success.
And that victory was sealed in the final minute when Kilkenny finished off a great move involving subs David Prutton and Enoch Showunmi by smashing the ball beyond Smith in the Brighton goal.
It was no less than Leeds deserved, following yet another top-class away display by Simon Grayson's men.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

ITV 8/11/09
Grayson hails player's professionalism
Leeds boss Simon Grayson hailed his side's "professional performance'' as they carried their league form into the FA Cup first round to complete a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Oldham.
Jonathan Howson's spectacular opener gave Oldham a mountain to climb and the home side were finally killed off by substitute Mike Grella. In a game of little goalmouth action, Leeds were the stronger outfit - no surprise considering they are well ahead of Oldham in the League One table.
"It is always difficult against Oldham and the conditions didn't help but we got the result we deserved," said Grayson. "We battled and scrapped when we needed to and we played decent football when we could so I have to be very pleased."
He added: "It was a professional performance because we were in charge for long periods of the game and our keeper did not have many saves to make.
"Going in front was very important and I am pleased with the way it came because we encourage the players to shoot from outside the box.
"After that we limited Oldham to very few chances and did a proper job defensively.
"Keeping a clean sheet always gives you a good foundation to build on and it helps when your defenders do not want to concede.''
Oldham manager Dave Penney admitted: "It was always going to be a tough ask because Leeds are flying in the league.
"Having said that, the first goal took a d little deflection and the second came on the break when we were chasing a replay.
"Joe Colbeck had a great chance for us at 0-0 but he showed a lack of confidence and as a club we need to be more ruthless.
"We worked hard but you have to give Leeds credit because they are big and strong and they do not give much away.'' 7/11/09
OLDHAM 0, UNITED 2 (Howson 37, Grella 90+4)
Oldham: Flahavan, Holdsworth, Gregan, Hazell, Hills, Colbeck (Whitaker 38), Furman (Brooke 81), Parker (Lee 72), Smalley, Marrow, Taylor. Subs: Brill, Jacobsen, Black, Eaves.
United: Ankergren, Bromby, Naylor, Kisnorbo, Hughes, Kilkenny, Doyle (White 90), Howson, Snodgrass, Beckford (Grella 87), Johnson. Subs: Martin, Prutton, Michalik, Robinson, Showunmi. Referee: G Ward
Booked: Furman, Smalley (Oldham), Howson, Kilkenny, Doyle (United)
Att: 5552 (2671 Leeds)
United manager Simon Grayson was forced into making one change from the side which beat Yeovil last weekend, Neil Kilkenny replacing the cup-tied Sam Vokes with Robert Snodgrass and Bradley Johnson playing more advance roles to support Jermaine Beckford in the front-line.
It was a tie which was set to go into the history books, being the first FA Cup clash to screened live on the internet, via
Grayson had made no secret of the fact that league points were his main priority this season, but the Leeds boss had been keen to stress the importance of maintaining a winning mentality.
Boundary Park had been something of a bogey ground for Leeds in years gone by, and it was the hosts who mounted the first two raids of this latest meeting.
But it was Oldham goalkeeper Darryl Flahavan who was called into action on 14 minutes when he denied Johnson after the United man capitalised on some sloppy defending to get a sight of goal.
Johnson was causing Oldham some problems when Leeds got men forward and after winning a free-kick on the edge of the box, he saw his set-piece blocked as far as Micky Doyle at the opposite side of the box, whose ambitious effort was over the top.
There had been one or two lusty early challenges and Jonny Howson was the first name in the book on 23 minutes.
And the home side had a great chance to go in front before the half-hour when Paddy Kisnorbo misjudged a ball across the edge of the box. Joe Colbeck should have hit his shot first time, but his touch was poor and Casper Ankergren was able to collect with ease.
But it was United who took the lead in stunning fashion on 36 minutes. Howson picked up a Snodgrass pass just outside the box, looked up, and unleashed a left foot strike which left Flahavan with no chance.
Both sides forged decent attacks in the period leading up to half time - Flahavan denied Beckford on one occasion after some poor defending - but there was nothing incisive in either box before the whistle went.
The half-time lead, coupled with the cold temperatures, proved enough to inspire the 2,600 travelling fans into an interval of singing and shirt-waving as they did their bit to keep warm on a dank November evening across the Pennines.
It was just as well the Leeds fans were making plenty of noise because there was little else in the way of high spirits as the early exchanges in the second half followed that of the first. There was plenty of huster and bluster, but little in the way of goalmouth action.
As the game approached the hour-mark, United were looking fairly comfortable with the lead, were passing the ball well when in possession, and were also looking solid when Oldham came forward.
But the home side did serve a timely reminder when, following a throw-in, Chris Taylor forced Ankergren into making a good save to turn his shot around the post. The goalkeeper found Alex Marrow's header from the resultant corner somewaht easier to deal with.
Former United defender Sean Gregan also tried his luck on 65 minutes with a shot from distance as the home side started to up the ante. Gregan also made a timely interception at the other end as Snodgrass looked to release Beckford.
On 69 minutes Snodgrass and Beckford did combine, the striker lifting a shot over the top after his team-mate had flicked the ball on.
Beckford could also consider himself unfortunate on 80 minutes when was adjudged to be in an offside position after latching on to a ball over the top.
The game had been more of a battle with only fits and starts of good football, and as the final moments loomed, it was hard to see anything other than a 1-0 scoreline. The home side had battled hard while chasing the game, but had never seriously troubled a Leeds side who looked content with the advantage.
Oldham sub Ryan Brooke did try his luck with an effort which sailed over the top, and the hosts desperation started to show when there were screams for a foul by Paddy Kisnorbo in the last two minutes.
Perhaps it was a harsh indication of the game, but the sight of four minutes of added time at the end of the 90 minutes was greeted with groans and sighs from the three sides of the ground housing fans.
But then in the fourth minute of injury time, the Leeds were celebrating an unexpected bonus. Injury-time substitute Aidy White latched on to a Snodgrass pass and he delivered fellow sub Mike Grella

with a perfect ball for the American to smash home United's second goal of the night.

That put the seal on the win as Leeds booked a place in the second round of the competition.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Yorkshire Evening Post 6/11/09
Max's future to be decided
By Phil Hay
Leeds United manager Simon Grayson plans to discuss the future of Max Gradel with his Leicester City counterpart next week as the winger's loan deal at Elland Road nears its conclusion.
Gradel's month-long contract with Leeds ends after Tuesday night's Johnstone's Paint Trophy tie at home to Grimsby Town, but United have made no secret of their desire to retain him beyond his initial deal.
The 21-year-old has made an impressive impact in his short time with the club, influencing heavily the club's victories over Norwich City and Yeovil Town, and he admitted this week that he would be happy to stay with Leeds if the club continue to offer him regular first-team football.
United have been in regular contact with Leicester to discuss his progress at Elland Road, but Grayson intends to speak with City manager Nigel Pearson in the coming days to discuss the possibility of an extension.
Grayson said: "We've spoken to Leicester on a regular basis because they like to know how Max is getting on.
"He's Leicester's player and ultimately they'll have the decision but we'd like to keep him here. I'll speak to Nigel more after this weekend."
Gradel was unable to play in this afternoon's FA Cup tie at Oldham Athletic after Leicester moved to prevent him becoming cup-tied, an indication that Pearson still sees a place for the winger in his first-team plans.
City, however, are prominently placed in the Championship and have not been unduly affected by injuries this season, offering Grayson hope that they will respond positively to a request to extend his loan.
Grayson said: "They were happy to send him here in the first place to get games and they've had a good run of form recently.
"It might be that they've got no injury problems and don't need him, which could work in our favour."
Grayson, meanwhile, has seen his squad strengthened this week with Rui Marques and Andy Robinson back in full training after injury.
Neither player was expected to be considered for today's FA Cup tie but Grayson could considered both for Tuesday's clash with Grimsby, when United will attempt to book their place in the semi-finals of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy.
Marques has not played in a competitive game since the end of August due to an Achilles problem, and Robinson was sidelined by hamstring strain sustained in a reserve-team fixture last month.
Grayson has also revealed that goalkeeper Shane Higgs is tentatively aiming to make a comeback against Brighton on November 21. Higgs is currently recovering from a thigh strain.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Sky 4/11/09
Kandol banned for three games
Whites forward charged with violent conduct
By James Riach
Leeds striker Tresor Kandol has been handed a three-match ban after being charged with violent conduct.
The Whites forward, who accepted the charge, has been punished by the Football Association following an incident after the 4-0 win over Yeovil on Saturday.
The 28-year-old bagged the last goal in the rout at Elland Road, but will now face a spell on the sidelines after recently emerging as a first-team contender for the League One club.
Kandol lashed out at Yeovil striker Sam Williams in a mass melee in the centre circle as the players were leaving the pitch and was reported by referee Andy Haines.
He will now miss the FA Cup clash against Oldham on Saturday, the Johnstone's Paint Trophy tie against Grimsby and the league trip toBrighton on November 21.
Kandol has made four substitute appearances in League One so far this season, getting on the scoresheet against Yeovil and Bristol Rovers. 4/11/09
Leeds United's game at Swindon Town has been postponed due to international commitments.
The game was postponed on Wednesday afternoon, following United's third international call-up for Saturday November 14.
Central defender Rui Marques was the third player to be called up for international duty after he was named in the Angola squad.
Paddy Kisnorbo has already been named in the Australian squad for their game in Oman while Alan Martin is in the Scotland under-21 squad the same weekend. In addition, Lubo Michalik is on standby for Slovakia.
"League regulations stipulate that a game can be called off if you have three players called up for international duty," said Leeds boss Simon Grayson.
"As it stands we have three called-up and one on stand-by, but there are still some more squads to be announced and it may be that we lose other players or have players placed on stand-by.
"We wanted to make a decision at the earliest opportunity to inform people."
United also have Welsh international Sam Vokes on loan from Wolves who could be called up for the Wales game against Scotland, while Robert Snodgrass was named in the last Scotland squad, and George Burley is due to announce his latest squad on Thursday.

Sky 4/11/09
Gradel open to staying on
Whites' loan ace happy to extend stay
By James Pearson
Leeds United's on-loan ace Max Gradel has revealed he would be open to extending his one-month stay.
Simon Grayson swooped for the Leicester City starlet last month after back-up winger Andy Robinson damaged his hamstring.
However, Gradel has impressed off the bench in his four appearances and even scored in last Saturday's 4-0 win over Yeovil.
Grayson recently hinted he is hoping to extend Gradel's loan, something the 21-year-old is happy doing providing he keeps on playing.
When asked if he would be open to extending his stay, he told "Yeah, as long as I'm going to be involved and playing some games.
"That's what I'm looking for, first-team football. As long as I'm going to play I think it would be a good idea.
"I'm enjoying [being at Leeds]. I'm playing first team football now so I'm happy. It's going very well."
Gradel extended his Foxes stay until 2012 last year and admits he has found life frustrating at The Walkers Stadium after failing to secure regular football.
The Ivory Coast starlet was loaned to Bournemouth in the 07/08 campaign and made 27 League One appearances for City in last season's promotion campaign.
"At the moment it's difficult at Leicester because I'm not playing a lot. Any player that isn't playing is never very happy," he continued.
"I extended my Leicester contract last year, but at the moment I'm struggling to play and would do anything for first-team football."
Gradel has been building up match fitness at Leeds and hopes to be in a position to start a match for Grayson in two weeks' time.
"I'm just happy being involved. I'm not complaining about anything. I'm getting match fit now because I hadn't played for a long time.
"Right now I'm playing for 10, 15 and 30 minutes and hopefully in two weeks' time I'll be match fit and be able to complete a game."

Tuesday, November 03, 2009 3/11/09
Jermaine Beckford has been awarded the PFA Coca-Cola League One Fans Player of the Month Award for October.
The striker is rewarded for a month that saw him score a last-gasp winner against Norwich, two superb goals against Bristol Rovers, and another quality finish against Yeovil on Saturday.
Becks has 11 goals from 14 league appearances so far this term and is again proving a major spearhead for United in the quest for promotion.
The 25-year-old won the award on several occasions last season and narrowly missed out to Leeds team-mate Robert Snodgrass for the September award.
This time around, though, Becks beat Snoddy and Bradley Johnson to the award.
Don't forget to vote for your favourite player on the PFA's website - giving yourself a chance to win a great prize.
Vote now and you could be presenting your favourite player with his award at one of your home games. You could win tickets to the match, full hospitality and a signed framed photograph of yourself and your favourite player.

Yorkshire Evening Post 3/11/09
Vokes and Gradel set to miss FA Cup clash
By Phil Hay
Leeds United loanees Sam Vokes and Max Gradel are set to miss this weekend's FA Cup tie against Oldham Athletic after being denied permission to play at Boundary Park.
United have confirmed that neither of their recent signings are eligible for Saturday's clash having moved to Elland Road on short-term deals last month.
Welsh international Vokes joined Leeds from Wolves until January 1 while winger Gradel arrived on a month-long loan from Leicester City, but their parent clubs have moved to prevent them from becoming cup-tied in the early stages of the competition.
Vokes and Gradel are free to feature in next week's Johnstone's Paint Trophy quarter-final against Grimsby Town – a tournament which does not involve Wolves or Leicester – but both players have appeared in the Carling Cup for their parent clubs this season and may be required when they enter the FA Cup at the third-round stage in January.
With Vokes missing, United manager Simon Grayson will be forced to make at least one change to his starting line-up for the first-round tie at Oldham.
The striker's absence could mean a rare start for Tresor Kandol who scored the final goal in Saturday's 4-0 win over Yeovil and who also found the net during Leeds' match at Bristol Rovers last week.
Kandol has returned to form and favour this season with three efforts in five appearances and his promotion to the starting line-up against Oldham would reunite a partnership with Jermaine Beckford which flourished at Elland Road two years ago.
Gradel, meanwhile, has appeared as a substitute in United's last four matches and scored his first goal for the club against Yeovil on Saturday.
Blessed with what Leeds United's manager described as "va-va-voom", Max Gradel has brought to Elland Road the one quality that Simon Grayson felt his squad was lacking.
Grayson's complaints have been few this season and weaknesses in his team are rare to the point of non-existent, but the recruitment of a player with raw pace and a winger's mentality struck him as a sensible move when Gradel became available two weeks ago.
United do not want for creativity, as the finest goal difference in England proves, but as Grayson admitted after Gradel tore into Yeovil Town on Saturday, the African livewire has added another string to their bow. The only doubt about his temporary deal with Leeds is whether the club will be able to extend it.
Evidence of Gradel's speed and inventive nous came flooding through when his 10-minute appearance as a substitute cracked Norwich City last month. The trick was repeated on Saturday when Grayson introduced him with half-an-hour remaining and saw a 1-0 lead over Yeovil turn into a 4-0 rout.
The inspiration behind that scoreline was not Gradel's alone – the arrival of Neil Kilkenny in the centre of midfield on 59 minutes also increased United's dominance – but the crowd at Elland Road were in no doubt about the identity of the chief architect, urging Grayson to "sign him up" after Gradel scored his first goal for the club after only 10 minutes on the field.
Grayson said: "When we signed him we were looking for everything that you've seen in him so far.
"He's a quick, pacy winger who takes people on and he's not frightened of getting crosses or shots in. With Max, you've got a real, enthusiastic player who has given us the extra dimension that we probably didn't have.
"There isn't a really quick winger in our squad but he can play that role for us, and it's important for me to have different types of players.
"He's got that zip about him and it's all about getting the right balance in the squad. He's very much part of it."
The question now is for how much longer. Gradel signed on a month's loan before Leeds' 2-1 victory over Norwich on October 19 and his short-term deal has another two weeks to run before Grayson is required to speak with his parent club, Leicester City, about the possibility of an extension.
The Championship side had no reason to obstruct Gradel's move last month after using him in only one competitive fixture, a Carling Cup match against Macclesfield Town far back in August. Even then, he only took to the field for the final 26 minutes.
United's approach was an opportunity for Foxes boss, Nigel Pearson, to spare Gradel from the inactivity he was experiencing at the Walkers Stadium, and City have not missed him.
A 2-1 victory over QPR on Friday night moved last season's League One champions to within a point of the top of the Championship.
Pearson, however, made it clear after Gradel's exit that the 21-year-old's career with Leicester might still have much to offer.
Discussing the loan move, Pearson said: "It's great for Max, and for us."Our squad has a lot more depth than it's had for a while so Max's opportunities have been a bit limited. He'll get the chance to be around the first team (at Leeds) and it means that if after a month he is needed, he comes back with a bit of experience."
Grayson suggested after the victory over Yeovil that he would make every effort to ensure that Gradel's loan does not end midway through this month and Leicester's prominent position in their division may persuade Pearson that the winger would be best served by a longer stint in West Yorkshire.
Gradel has contributed so far to wins over Norwich, Yeovil and Bristol Rovers and appeared in a 2-1 defeat at Millwall, United's only league loss this season. Despite that result at the New Den, the club's form during his short spell has carried them seven points clear in League One, a lead that has left United odds-on with every bookmaker to win both the title and promotion.
United defender Patrick Kisnorbo claimed credit for recommending Gradel to Grayson and his coaching staff, but the youngster was also known to assistant coach Ian Miller who worked for the Foxes.
Grayson said: "Ian worked with him at Leicester and we watched him a few times. He's played against teams I've managed before as well so I knew plenty about him and the qualities he would give us.
"There's something about him – a bit of va-va-voom, if that's what you want to call it. Max is an exciting player and he's made a contribution every time he's come on."
Grayson's one demand of his fringe players has consistently been that they make the most of the time he is able to offer them on the field and Saturday's victory was an occasion when his substitutes made their presence felt.
Gradel's influence was the talk of Elland Road, Kilkenny's impact in the centre of midfield was keenly felt by a United team who took the best part of an hour to gain a tight hold of Yeovil and Tresor Kandol scored the fourth goal minutes after replacing Jermaine Beckford.
Grayson said: "Max obviously affected the game, but Kilkenny did the same when he came on and Tres got his goal.
"They've all made an impact, but that's what I want from my players when they come on as substitutes.
"They have to make an impact and, to be fair, we've got a very good squad now with players pushing for places." 3/11/09
United skipper Richard Naylor says the whole Leeds squad can take great pride from a run that has seen the club concede just eight league goals in the opening 15 league games.
United had kept six clean sheets prior to the 2-1 defeat at Millwall 10 days ago, and that first league defeat of the season was followed by successive four-goal victories, against Bristol Rovers and Yeovil Town.
Both games ended with 4-0 scorelines and the captain says the two clean sheets are the icing on the cake.
"You take a lot of pride in that," said the skipper. "When you're 4-0 up in games and in the last 10 minutes or so you can switch off, but we haven't done that.
"We want to keep clean sheets, it's what you pride yourselves on.
"We have done well in that respect. We didn't lose at home last season in the league after the start of January and we've carried that on this season. It's all about being consistent.
"It is good for the back five, but it's a squad performance. Look at Crowey earlier in the season, who played regularly until he got injured - now he's got to wait. Casper has come in for Higgsy as well so it's about the squad as a whole.
"You don't want to lose your place in there. There's great competition, there's some good players waiting to come in, and it keeps everyone on their toes."
Saturday's win took United seven points clear in pole position, although manager Simon Grayson is doing his best to keep his players grounded.
"It's nice position to be in, but there'll be weeks when we slip up," conceded the captain.
"You have to enjoy it while you're up there, but there's a lot of hard work to do yet."

Monday, November 02, 2009

Yorkshire Evening Post 2/11/09
Elland Road faithful wowed by the Max factor
By Phil Hay
Different season, same old story for Yeovil Town.
"I'm getting sick of this walk," said Terry Skiverton as he entered the press room at Elland Road. He is not the only one. These days, opposition managers are there for no other reason than to carry out post mortems.
In February, Leeds United took hold of a fragile Yeovil squad and beat them senseless. The fight was more even on Saturday but the result identical, a 4-0 scoreline in United's favour for the second season running. "I've come a cropper again," said Skiverton quietly.
That is the way of things at Elland Road, even when Leeds are as inanimate as they were for an hour on Saturday. If Skiverton saw a ruthless streak in the club eight months ago, he could only marvel at the skill with which they dragged a conclusive victory from a fluctuating performance.
Leeds fell some way below the standard of perfection, a fact which should depress the rest of League One, assuming that United's seven-point lead at the top of the division has not done that already.
For 41 minutes, there was nothing discernible between the teams. With an hour gone, the only difference was a deflected cross from Bradley Johnson that navigated its way into Yeovil's net, no doubt to the bemusement of Phil Parkinson. Charlton Athletic's manager has taken the view that League One's leaders are knee-deep in luck; a fair portrayal of Johnson's goal, maybe, but an inadequate way to describe the final half-hour in which Skiverton's team were set upon.
The consolation for Yeovil's manager was found in the fact that his players were better than the scoreline. Considerably better than last season also. But try as they might, the majority of League One's clubs are losing touch with Leeds, bowing to a team who are comfortably clear of the field and worlds apart in terms of resources and potential.In spite of the one-goal lead given to them unintentionally by Johnson, United were beginning to lose their way again with 59 minutes played. Simon Grayson sensed as much and called upon two substitutes, one signed recently from the Championship and another who played in the Premier League three years ago. The effect was profound.
For as long as they have been a League One club, Leeds have possessed one of the largest and most expensive squads in the division. Grayson's ability to make the most of his resources – applying the theory of horses for courses – has been a positive feature of his tenure as manager, and his proactive nature influenced Saturday's result.
His midfield was toiling with an hour gone so Neil Kilkenny was sent on to exert control in that area of the pitch. He did so immediately. Max Gradel – United's loan signing from Leicester City – had the job of expanding a line-up deprived of width, and the winger scored 10 minutes after appearing from the bench. In that brief passage of play, the game was settled and Leeds were free to indulge in champagne football.
Jermaine Beckford scored a third goal in the 79th minute, tucked beyond Yeovil goalkeeper Alex McCarthy with nonchalant class, and Tresor Kandol beat McCarthy again four minutes after replacing Beckford. It was an uncharitable experience for Skiverton, whose players did not mask their annoyance. When the full-time whistle arrived, a brief and unnecessary scuffle broke out in the centre circle.
For Leeds, the good news continued to come. Charlton had lost away to Carlisle United, and Millwall were hanging on for a victory over Colchester United. By the time Grayson's squad resume their league season in two weeks' time, they will do so with a promising lead and every reason to think that their feeling of comfort will increase this month.

"The only time I'll be happy being seven points clear is when we've got two games to go," said Grayson, unwilling to tempt fate. It is the line he must stick to, but successive 4-0 victories in the space of five days are stamps of approval on an exceptional season to date. By the time Kandol scored the fourth goal on Saturday, it was churlish to claim that the win as a whole had been fortuitous.
Nevertheless, Johnson's goal arrived at a time when Leeds seemed strangely incapable of threatening McCarthy through conventional means.
Yeovil's keeper had not had a save to make until the 38th minute, when he moved to gather a Johnson free-kick, but he was put in peril by a cross from the midfielder which struck Shaun MacDonald as it flew towards the box.
The deflection diverted the ball into the path of Beckford who stuck out a foot, failed to make any contact but distracted McCarthy enough to allow it to bounce past both players and into the far corner of the net. When Andy Welsh incurred the game's first yellow card a minute later by thrashing the ball downfield following the award of a free-kick, his anger revealed how badly stung Yeovil had been by Johnson's goal.
Welsh and Ryan Mason, a teenager of precocious talent recruited on loan from Tottenham Hotspur, had otherwise done all they could to keep Leeds busy, creating the only other chances of note before half-time.
Mason's chipped pass worked Jon Obika in behind Grayson's defence, but Casper Ankergren faced the striker down and pushed his volley away with both hands.
Welsh's free-kick on 24 minutes dropped on to the head of Craig Alcock, who struggled to control his finish and watched the ball bounce wide.
Johnson's cross did what neither Obika or Alcock had been able to do and produced a goal which was not exactly on the cards. Skiverton argued that an earlier tackle by Andrew Hughes on Obika should have resulted in a penalty, but few of his players appealed for it. As the second half gathered speed, Grayson began to wonder where a second goal would come from and quickly deduced that a fresh approach was needed.
Kilkenny replaced Michael Doyle and Gradel exchanged a handshake with Andrew Hughes, ready to torment Yeovil as he had Norwich City a fortnight earlier.
He had already examined Skiverton's defence with one searching run when Leigh Bromby broke down the right wing and cut the ball back to Gradel, inviting the winger to slip his marker and drive a left-footed shot past McCarthy.
A second goal was bound to open the floodgates, and it did.
Beckford curled a delightful finish around McCarthy after anticipating Robert Snodgrass' flicked header and leaving Terrell Forbes in a heap, and Kandol arrived with perfect timing to bury a Snodgrass cross on 84 minutes.
"They're the best team we've played," Skiverton admitted, the latest in a line of managers who have said the same.

Yorkshire Post 31/10/09
Leeds United 4 Yeovil Town 0 - Gradel puts the fizz into sparkling Leeds
By Robert Gledhill at Elland Road
AUSTRALIAN Patrick Kisnorbo claimed the bubbly but it was young Max Gradel who put the fizz into Leeds United.
Even then, though, central defender Kisnorbo can take some of the credit for it was partly on his recommendation that the Ivory Coast winger was brought to Elland Road in the middle of the month.
Clutching the sponsors' man-of-the-match champagne award, Kisnorbo revealed: "I knew Max from my Leicester days and I knew that he was available so I put his name forward to the coaching staff.
Luckily for us, they went to get him and he's been fantastic. He's made such an impact and changed the game every time he has come on. Today he's also scored a goal which is great for him and, hopefully, we can keep him here."
"Sign him on, sign him on, sign him on," sang the Kop after the 21-year-old's introduction alongside Neil Kilkenny in the 58th minute finally put Leeds on the front foot.
"They were asking to sign him up after three minutes of his debut against Norwich," said Leeds chief of Gradel, who worked under United coach Ian Miller at the Walkers Stadium.
"But he's not our player, he's Leicester's and we are grateful for them loaning him out to us. When his loan spell ends we will speak to Leicester about the situation and if they want him back we will see where that takes us but he is obviously making an impact every time he comes on," said Grayson.
"But that is what I expect of all players when they come on – they have to make an impact. Tres (Kandol) has done it today as has Killer (Kilkenny). We now have got good squad players who can keep pushing each other.
"But Max gives us a little bit extra dimension to our game, something that we have not had before. He has that extra sort of zip about him.
"That zip was certainly missing in the first half as Yeovil, bolstered by two young players to watch in Spurs loan duo Jon Obika and Ryan Mason, showed why they had enjoyed a six-match unbeaten run.
Though they played two men in front of the back four and just Sam Williams up front, they were far from defensive and manager Terry Skiverton ruefully reflected: "The last time we came here, we came to defend and lost 4-0. This time we came to attack and lost 4-0!"
He had no complaints about the result, however, as Leeds went through the gears after the break, Grayson stating: "You can look at different reasons behind out first-half performance but ultimately it's how you finish the game that counts."
The fact that Kisnorbo caught the sponsors' eyes underlines just how much a threat Yeovil had posed in that first half but Casper Ankergren had just one save to make, beating away a drive from Obika before captain Craig Alcock misdirected a free header.
Kisnorbo admitted: "We go out looking to play 100 per cent in every game but I think in the first half we were a bit flat. They built some momentum and used the ball and a few times they got in behind us looking to score. But it just shows that if someone does make a mistake then there is always someone there to help them and that has been our mentality all season. We defend from the front and we have always said that. It's not just the back four, it's the whole team defending as one big unit.
"We stepped it up in the second half and we are now seven points clear which is good. But we want to be seven points clear at the end of the season not just now and so we are going to keep going right to the last game of the season – that's the mentality in the camp."
Leeds got the lift they needed just before the break when Bradley Johnson's cross deflected off Shaun McDonald and bounced past goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, who was distracted at the near post by the presence of Jermaine Beckford.
Grayson's double substitution in the 58th minute pepped up Leeds and Gradel cut inside his marker to fire home the second in the 69th.
Beckford had already netted twice from offside positions before he harried Terrel Forbes into a mistake which allowed him to curl home his 11th goal of the season in the 79th minute and his replacement, Tresor Kandol, nodded home the fourth from Robert Snodgrass's cross six minutes from time as Leeds extended their lead at the top of League One to seven points.
Beckford had scored his first senior hat-trick against Yeovil but they had foolishly claimed the striker did not scare them in a national newspaper article on Saturday morning.
"We saw the headline but I don't think he did," said Grayson. "People can say whatever they want but we will concentrate on our game. Jermaine doesn't need much motivation to try and score goals, that's for sure."

Leeds United: Ankergren, Bromby, Naylor, Kisnorbo, Hughes (Gradel 58); Snodgrass, Doyle (Kilkenny 58), Howson, Johnson; Vokes, Beckford (Kandol 81). Unused substitutes: Martin, Prutton, Grella, Michalik.
Yeovil Town: McCarthy, Alcock, Forbes, Caulker, Jones; McDonald, Kalala; Obika, Mason (Lindegaard 88), Welsh (Murtagh 73); Williams. Unused substitutes: Stam, Martin, Hutchins, Smith, Clowes.
Referee: A Haines (Tyne and Wear).

Hero: Max Gradel
Has a style reminiscent of England's Shaun Wright-Phillips and tormented Yeovil down the right as Robert Snodgrass switched flanks, forming an equally productive threat with Bradley Johnson, who moved to left-back.

Villain: Sam Williams
Yeovil's target man finally became exasperated by the tough but fair treatment handed out by Patrick Kisnorbo and Richard Naylor, and had a bust-up with Tresor Kandol on the final whistle.

Key moment
58th-minute: Simon Grayson turns the course of the match with his double substitution.

Ref watch
Andy Haines: Had a relatively quiet match and booked just two Yeovil players, Welsh and Kalala.

This was a tougher test than the scoreline suggests but Leeds certainly have the squad strength to make decisive changes.

Next game
Oldham Athletic v Leeds United, FA Cup, 1st round, Saturday, 5.15pm.

Quote of the day
Max gives us a little bit extra dimension to our game, something that we have not had before. He has that extra sort of zip about him.– Simon Grayson on loan winger Max Gradel.