Sunday, January 23, 2011

Yorkshire Evening Post 22/1/11
Grayson content to just tinker with his squad

Simon Grayson has backed the core of his existing squad to see Leeds United through the remainder of the Championship season after insisting it was never his intention to make "wholesale" changes in the January transfer window.

Grayson has taken a conservative approach to the market this month, making only two significant signings in the first three weeks of the winter window, and he admitted he was wary of unsettling a group of players who reached the turn of the year with a tight hold on a play-off position.

United exceeded expectation during the first half of the season, climbing to second place in the Championship before Christmas Day, and Grayson intended to use January as an opportunity to carefully improve a reliable squad.

A deal to recruit Andy O'Brien on a permanent basis from Bolton Wanderers was agreed on December 31 and concluded the following week, and Grayson made another important addition to his defence by re-signing left-back George McCartney on loan from Sunderland before last Saturday's game against Scunthorpe United.

Both players were part of Leeds' squad during the first half of the season and were regular members of Grayson's team, but a flurry of new faces has not yet materialised and Grayson indicated that he would choose his signings carefully in the final days of the window.

Two FA Cup ties against Arsenal – including a third-round replay which ended in a 3-1 defeat at Elland Road on Wednesday night – have strengthened Leeds' financial position and could offer Grayson extra funds to work with, but big-money deals were always unlikely in a league where little cash has been invested in the players this month.

Grayson said: "There are people out there who we're focused on signing and I'm sure the chairman (Ken Bates) will help me out with that. He always has in the past.

"But we won't be spending bucket-fulls of money and that won't be happening with many teams in the window, certainly not in our division. I'm not going to bring people in for the sake of it and I didn't want to disrupt the squad too much because they've done ever so well this season.

"It was never going to be wholesale numbers – just one or two signings to keep the squad tidy and ticking along over the next couple of months.

"The Arsenal games might allow me to buy a certain player or pay decent wages for a Premier League player coming in on loan but I've always had support and these games just help the structure of the club and our finances.

"It certainly won't make any difference to me spending £1million on a player because we were never going to that. I don't think any other Championship club were going to do that either."

The revenue raised by United's initial third-round tie against Arsenal was used fund the signing of McCartney until the end of the season, a deal which might otherwise have been hampered by the Northern Ireland international's large wage at Sunderland.

United's involvement in the FA Cup predictably ended on Wednesday at the hands of a fluent and ruthless Arsenal side, but two competitive contests against a leading Premier League club gave Grayson a chance to assess how his side would fare if promotion came their way at the end of this season.

Arsenal were forced to rely on a 90th-minute Cesc Fabregas penalty to earn them a replay, but two early goals at Elland Road on Wednesday gave them safe passage into the fourth round, despite Bradley Johnson reducing United's deficit to 2-1 with a brilliant strike late in the first half.

Arsene Wenger complimented Leeds afterwards, saying the club were ready to "come into the Premiership", and United have 18 games in which to make the most of a strong chance of promotion.

"We've got to keep building and pushing ourselves to new limits," said Grayson. "We want to try and get into that division (the Premier League).

"But we're a long way from being compared with Arsenal on a regular basis. We've had a good result against them in a one-off cup tie but it's what you do over a 38-game season which dictates whether you can handle the Premier League. But these games have given us an insight into what we could do there."

United were faced with a gruelling fixture at Portsmouth yesterday, the worst possible schedule after a midweek tie in which Leeds were forced to chase possession for long periods, but Grayson was impressed by his squad's ability to fulfil a high-profile FA Cup fixture without any serious cost to their league form.

His players answered doubts about whether a tie against Arsenal might distract attention from their league schedule by thrashing Scunthorpe 4-0 last weekend, and Grayson admitted that he was anxious about how his players would perform on their first league outing since a dramatic draw at the Emirates Stadium.

"I was a little bit on edge about whether we'd be able to produce a performance," he said. "It was a major worry, as it would be for any manager after a major game against a really top team.

"But the players did what was asked of them and that shows their mental strength and the focus we have as a club. Scunthorpe was a far more important than either of the Arsenal games.

"I'm delighted with the attitude they showed because they came through a really tough game with flying colours.

"In the team meetings beforehand we stressed many times what was required of them, but you have to do that whoever you're playing. They knew what this period was all about."

Saturday, January 22, 2011

BBC 22/1/11
Portsmouth 2 - 2 Leeds
Substitute Davide Somma scored with his first touch to earn Leeds a point at Portsmouth in a match twice halted for floodlight failure.
Joe Ward fired Pompey ahead from Liam Lawrence's cutback, before Luciano Becchio levelled from close range.
John Utaka's angled drive restored Pompey's lead but Leeds levelled for a second time when Somma lashed home a minute after coming on.
The game was then interrupted twice late on when the floodlights went off.
Leeds were first to threaten when Max Gradel forced Portsmouth goalkeeper Richard Ashdown to punch away his thumping 25-yard drive in the second minute.
Portsmouth responded and almost took the lead two minutes later when Ibrahima Sonko met Lawrence's corner with a firm header, only for the ball to rebound off the crossbar.
Greg Halford twice went close with headers from two more Lawrence corners and both David Nugent and Utaka fired off target as the home side took control.
Portsmouth deservedly made the breakthrough in the 26th minute when Lawrence weaved his way into the penalty area from the left and pulled the ball back for Ward, who crashed a right-footed shot inside the near post.
Leeds goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel then kept out Utaka's shot from inside the penalty area with a flying save.
The visitors his back just after the break when Howson's free-kick ran along the six-yard box and Becchio pounced to turn the ball home for his 14th goal of the season.
Portsmouth then regained the lead against the run of play when Nwankwo Kanu headed the ball into the area and Utaka arrowed a shot into the bottom corner.
Leeds sent on Somma for Sanchez Watt straight after Utaka's goal and a minute later he slammed home a fine goal for the visitors.
Becchio darted into space on the left and moved the ball on quickly for Somma to fire into Ashdown's bottom right-hand corner.
The game was temporarily halted due to floodlight failure with quarter of an hour left, but resumed shortly after with Leeds finishing the stronger.
Howson's shot from the edge of the area was turned away at full stretch by Ashdown and Snodgrass pulled his effort wide in the closing stages.
The floodlights failed again with five minutes remaining and neither side could find a winner when play resumed for a second time.

BBC 21/1/11
Scunthorpe United sign Leeds defender Andy Hughes
Championship strugglers Scunthorpe United have signed Leeds defender Andy Hughes on a free transfer.
The 33-year-old, whose Leeds contract was going to expire this summer, has signed an 18-month deal with the option of a further year.
"When I first took over [as manager] I wanted to bring in a couple of experienced players," Iron manager Ian Baraclough told BBC Radio Humberside.
"Andy fits the bill perfectly. It's been ongoing for quite a while."
He added: "I knew he was coming to the end of his contract and there was a possibility that Leeds wouldn't renew it."
The former Oldham trainee has made 139 appearances for Simon Grayson's side since joining from Norwich in August 2007.
He was part of the Leeds team that lost the League One play-off final to Doncaster in 2008.
Hughes has also had spells at Notts County and Reading and Baraclough says he has long been an admirer of his abilities.
"I knew Andy when he was a young lad at Notts County when I played there and straight away he just hits you with his professionalism and his will to win," he said.
"He's a good player in his own right but what he brings off the pitch as well is leadership, experience and enthusiasm.
"He's such a bubbly character, positive and I think he'll fit right into the dressing room.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Daily Mail 19/1/11
Leeds 1 Arsenal 3: Classy Samir Nasri is just knockout in lead role
By Matt Lawton
Captain for this cracker of a Cup replay and the classiest player on the pitch, Samir Nasri even attracted praise from Arsenal's opponents last night.
As well as the applause he received from Leeds fans as he left the field, he was the subject of a message from Manchester United's most prolific tweeter.
Rio Ferdinand declared him his 'player of the season so far' and quite right too given how consistently impressive the young Frenchman has been.
There had been flashes of brilliance in the past, not least in the form of some truly spectacular goals. But Nasri is fast maturing into the complete package: an industrious, inventive attacking midfielder very much realising the potential identified by Arsene Wenger.
Last night he scored his 14th goal of the season, a fine return for a midfielder in May, never mind January. But Nasri is about so much more than that. It is the passing and the movement, and the boundless energy, that makes him such a joy to watch and a total nightmare, one imagines, to defend against.
Leeds might have Premier League ambitions but if Nasri represents the level they have to aspire to they will now regard it as an extremely daunting challenge. Evidence, if ever manager Simon Grayson needed it, that the task of keeping them in the top flight will be every bit as tough as getting them there.
Nasri masterminded Arsenal's victory at an electric Elland Road with a masterful display that was all the more memorable for the fact that it was delivered, for the most part, in the absence of many key players. Both these teams have other priorities.
Grayson will consider the race for promotion far more important than another cup run, particularly after the way his side so nearly collapsed after that stunning cup win against Manchester United last season. Wenger too has his own challenges. The Premier League title race and the Champions League, not to mention the second leg of a Carling Cup semi-final with Ipswich and what amounts to an excellent chance of ending that long wait for another trophy.
For that reason, Wenger decided to leave Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie, Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere on the bench and Nasri responded by taking charge. Perhaps even demonstrating to Denilson that leadership is about more than screaming and shouting if the comments attributed to him yesterday about Fabregas have been translated accurately.
If there was tension inside the Arsenal dressing room, and Fabregas said on his twitter page that it was not an issue, there was no evidence of it here.
Arsenal had a train chartered to take them back to London last night and they certainly appeared to be in no mood to let this game go to extra time.
Nasri struck after just five minutes, thanks to the clever dummy from Marouane Chamakh that allowed him to receive the ball from Andrey Arshavin, hold off Ben Parker and guide a delightful shot beyond the reach of Kasper Schmeichel.
Had it not been for Schmeichel, Chamakh would have doubled Arsenal's advantage a few minutes later. In meeting Nasri's free-kick Chamakh produced a super header.
But the young Dane produced a one-handed save his father would have been proud of.
Arsenal really were dominating this encounter, their fast, fluent football proving difficult for Leeds to contain. Denilson threatened and then so did Nicklas Bendtner and Nasri, while Arshavin was just inches away from meeting a cross from Chamakh for the simplest of close-range finishes. The television replay suggested the slightest touch from Paul Connolly just did enough to deny the Russian.
A second Arsenal goal eventually followed in the 35th minute, Grayson no doubt frustrated by Andrew O'Brien's failure to clear the danger after Bendtner had actually lost possession with a poor first touch.
O'Brien succeeded only in passing to Bacary Sagna, who replied with a stinging strike that Schmeichel, while getting a hand to it, could not parry away.
Some Leeds fans started to leave at that moment but they must have still been inside the stadium when they heard the deafening roar that followed a goal even more stunning than Sagna's. From more than 35 yards out, Bradley Johnson beat Wojciech Szczesny with an absolute thunderbolt of a shot. Top corner, just brilliant, and quite a riposte.
Wenger was incensed, but not with his players. He was complaining that Arshavin had been fouled by Robert Snodgrass during the buildup to the goal, but with the background noise nobody was listening.
It sparked a decent period for this determined, defiant Leeds team. A Leeds team that came so close to eliminating Arsenal with that terrific display at the Emirates. Max Gradel was excellent last night, as was Jonathan Howson.
From Arsenal, however, there was always a threat, with Nasri more often than not creating the chances. Because of him Alex Song went close, as did Arshavin.
That said, Davide Somma would have equalised had he not met a cross from Snodgrass with his knee.
But when Wenger then sent on Fabregas and Van Persie, the goal that took Arsenal beyond Leeds' reach soon arrived. A neat pass from Fabregas was followed by a cross from Bendtner that Van Persie converted with a fine header.
All that was left was the ovation for Nasri.
BBC 19/1/11
Leeds 1 - 3 Arsenal
By Jonathan Stevenson
Arsenal produced a clinical performance at Championship side Leeds to book their place in the FA Cup fourth round.
The Gunners were impressive throughout and took an early lead when Samir Nasri slotted in from Andrey Arshavin's pass.
Kasper Schmeichel brilliantly denied Marouane Chamakh before Bacary Sagna thumped home a second, though Bradley Johnson's screamer halved the deficit.
Davide Somma's effort flew wide before Robin van Persie headed in a superb Nicklas Bendtner cross to settle it.
Arsenal, who are still in the hunt for four trophies this season, will now entertain League One side Huddersfield Town next.
The Gunners have never gone out of the FA Cup in the third round nor lost to a lower division side in the competition under Arsene Wenger, two impressive runs they kept going at Elland Road on an evening that was fraught with potential dangers.
Arsenal must have been pleased that Leeds' leading scorer Luciano Becchio was ruled out with a back injury and the hosts missed his hold-up play and threat for long periods as Wenger's side produced wave after wave of attack.
The Frenchman had talked in the build-up to the game about how focused his side were and they looked it, taking the game to their Championship opponents from the first whistle with a pace and panache Leeds simply could not live with.
From their first attack of any real note, Arsenal took the lead. Chamakh fed Arshavin down the left and his ball to the edge of the box found its way through to Nasri, the in-form Frenchman jinking into the box and coolly slotting into the net.
The goal rocked Leeds on their heels and it was all one-way traffic as the Gunners sought to kill the tie off, Schmeichel producing a save his legendary father Peter would have been proud of to superbly push away Chamakh's downward header from Nasri's free-kick.
Not for the first time, Arsenal's principal undoing seemed to be their own profligacy in front of goal, with Arshavin the culprit-in-chief as he fired one shot over, completely mis-kicked four yards out in front of goal and then saw Schmeichel smartly save another 18-yard drive.
When Sagna fizzed over a cross from the right that Bendtner failed to convert by inches Arsenal's frustration grew, but the full-back took on the next opening himself and doubled their lead, hitting a scorching drive from an angle on the right of the Leeds box that flew in via Schmeichel's fingertips.
Just as it appeared Arsenal had taken the sting out of the tie, Johnson produced a moment of outrageous quality, thundering a bullet of a left foot shot out of the blue and into the top left-hand corner of Wojciech Szczesny's net with the Pole grasping at thin air.
As quickly as the ball had left his foot and settled in the Arsenal net the atmosphere suddenly changed, with the majority of the 38,232 crowd roaring their underdogs on.
Leeds were once more indebted to the exceptional Schmeichel for keeping them in it when he stood tall to parry away Alex Song's near-post drive only 23 seconds into the second half, before Robert Snodgrass produced a goal-saving tackle just as Arshavin was about to pull the trigger.
Simon Grayson's side had half-chances as they tried to haul themselves level, Billy Paynter narrowly failing to connect with a Max Gradel cross from the right and then substitute Somma diverting a Snodgrass centre over from eight yards.
Wenger sent on Cesc Fabregas and Van Persie to try to finish Leeds off and with 14 minutes left the switch paid off as the Spaniard sent Bendtner away down the right and his wonderful curling cross was headed in by Van Persie at the far post.
That enabled Arsenal to cruise through the final stages as they continued their hunt for a first major trophy since 2005.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

New pages uploaded at

2009/10 - The most exciting season for years

Part 1 – Our time at last?

Surely, surely, this would be the year that United took the first steps back up the football ladder

Read the full story at

Part 2 – Off field set backs

Besides playing success, for Leeds United the 2009/10 season will be remembered for a number of behind the scenes controversies

Read the full story at

For a copy of the full judgement in the Levi v Bates court case

Part 3 – Cup highs and League lows

A famous victory at Old Trafford and two sterling performances against Spurs almost derailed United's promotion chances

Read the full story at

Part 4 – Results, table and transfers

All the results, scorers and attendances and final table from the 2009/10 season

Read the full story at

Saturday, January 15, 2011 15/1/11
UNITED 4 (Watt 16, Gradel 20, Johnson 29, Somma 89), SCUNTHORPE 0
United manager Simon Grayson made one change from the side which drew with Arsenal last weekend - George McCartney returning in place of Ben Parker - while Scunthorpe boss Ian Baraclough made wholesale changes from his Iron side which lost to Everton in the FA Cup third round.
Scunthorpe's away record, in terms of victories, is one of the best in the division, but it was visiting keeper Joe Murphy who had to make the first save when a Robert Snodgrass shot took a deflection.
It was a low key opening to the game, but Leeds were in front inside 16 minutes. Sanchez Watt shrugged off a Scunthorpe defender on the edge of the box before delivering a strike too powerful for Murphy to keep out to fire Leeds ahead.
And it was 2-0 within four minutes. Watt won the ball in midfield, Snodgrass picked out Max Gradel, and Gradel showed great footwork in rounding the goalkeeper to convert.
The crowd were on their feet again moments before the half-hour. Snodgrass was again involved on the edge of the box, the ball broke to Bradley Johnson, and he delivered another unstoppable left foot shot to make it 3-0.
United continued to dominate as the contest headed towards half-time. Leeds were keeping possession neatly in the midfield and always looked a threat without appearing to move out of first gear.
Chances were carefully constructed, and Murphy spread himself well to deny Watt after some great work by Gradel.
The visitors finally fashioned out an opening four minutes before the break when Martyn Woolford crossed from the left and Michael Collins lifted his shot high and wide.
In the first minute of stoppage time a Snodgrass cross found its way into the arms of Murphy, but there was nothing else in the way of chances before the break.
United started the second period on the front foot, and a deep cross almost led to Sanchez Watt making it four inside the opening 60 seconds.
Watt also forced Murphy into making another good save as Leeds steamed straight back into the visitors with even more purpose.
Billy Paynter was half-time replacement for Luciano Becchio, who picked up a knock during the opening period, and he displayed some good hold up play when Leeds threatened again.
Moments before the hour, George McCartney showed good skill in creating an opening which Johnson narrowly failed to connect with.
Given United's superiority over the first hour or so, the game was merely edging towards the inevitable outcome during the second half.
On 68 minutes, Grayson introduced Ross McCormack in place of Snodgrass and his first touch was to cushion the ball back to Gradel, whose lethal strike crashed against a defender before going to safety.
Scunthorpe did have an opportunity on 73 minutes when Jonathan Forte broke after a mistake in midfield, but his finish grazed the outside of the post.
At the right end, McCormack was denied by a great challenge from Michael Raynes as he found himself in a good position.
With nine minutes left on the clock, Grayson made his final change, Davide Somma entering the fray in place of Watt.
The visitors introduction of Forte had given them a little more life and he went close again when he had shot deflected to safety.
But if anyone was going to score, Leeds always looked the most likely and Paynter was denied a first goal for the club when his low shot smashed against McCormack when the visiting keeper was beaten.
Gradel also teed up Somma, but the striker couldn't apply the finishing touch and at the other end Raynes headed over from a corner.
There was time for a fourth goal, though, and it was Somma who put the seal on the win. The South African international was released by Gradel and he tucked the ball home with aplomb.
Four minutes of added time only looked like prolonging what was already a long afternoon for Scunthorpe, and an offside flag was raised after Somma weaved his way down the left before teeing up Gradel.
The final whistle soon sounded on what was a comprehensive win for Leeds to keep up the pressure in the Championship race. 14/1/11
Defender George McCartney has returned to Leeds United on loan until the end of the season.
The Sunderland left-back returned to the north east after his most recent loan spell came to an end following our 3-3 draw with Portsmouth on December 28.
The Northern Ireland international made 17 appearances on loan at the end of last year in the left-back role, and played a major part in United's unbeaten run.
McCartney is likely to be named in the squad for Saturday's clash with Scunthorpe, but won't be available for the FA Cup third round replay with Arsenal on Wednesday.
United manager Simon Grayson said: "I'm delighted we've been able to bring George back until the end of the season. He did well over the course of his last loan spell and I know what he can bring to the table."
United chairman Ken Bates added: "The additional revenue earned from the Arsenal game has helped make this loan possible as we continue to invest both on and off the field."
Yorkshire Evening Post 13/1/11
Ken Bates' cash pledge
By Phil Hay
Leeds United chairman Ken Bates expects the club's FA Cup ties with Arsenal to seriously strengthen their financial position after revealing that he budgeted for negligible income from the competition this season.
United are preparing for a second televised fixture in the space of 11 days after taking Arsenal to a third-round replay, and Bates confirmed that the revenue would be used in part to support Simon Grayson's attempts to strengthen his first-team squad.
Leeds are believed to have earned in excess of £500,000 for last Saturday's initial tie at the Emirates Stadium – a match which pulled in a broadcast fee of £144,000 – and Wednesday's replay at Elland Road will generate £72,000 in television money alone after ITV opted to cover the game for a second time.
The club have already sold 27,000 tickets for the replay and the crowd is likely to edge towards a capacity attendance for the first time since this season.
Bates admitted the financial strategy at Leeds had been based on the assumption that United would fall at the FA Cup's first hurdle after drawing a low-profile tie away from home, and he said the money pulled in from two battles with Arsenal would significantly benefit the club "on and off the field."
"It will be (a big financial boost)," said Bates. "In our budget we always assume we'll be drawn away for both the Carling Cup and FA Cup, knocked out in the first round and have no TV. We assume very little income.
"The money we're getting from the Arsenal games will go straight into our coffers and help us continue to improve the club, on and off the field. We weren't expecting anything at the Emirates and I told Simon to tell the players to go out, give a good account of themselves and don't worry about a thing."
Leeds made their first high-profile signing of the January transfer window last week when they landed Andy O'Brien on a two-and-a-half year contract from Bolton Wanderers, matching an offer from Cardiff City to secure a player who had been on loan at Elland Road since October.
Grayson is planning other arrivals before the end of the month, with a new central midfielder among his priorities, and Bates said: "Simon has my full support if and when he decides who he wants. Obviously we don't have a bottomless pit. We're not in debt and we don't intend to be so we're going to be conservative.
"But there are good players out there and if Simon decides he wants to bring them in then watch this space."

Saturday, January 08, 2011 8/1/11
90th minute penalty ensures Gunners scrape draw...
ARSENAL 1 (Fabregas 90 pen), UNITED 1 (Snodgrass 54 pen)

United manager Simon Grayson shuffled his pack for the FA Cup third round clash at the Emirates with Alex Bruce returning in place of Neill Collins, and Sanchez Watt, on loan from Arsenal, coming in for a dream start against his parent club in place of Ross McCormack. Robert Snodgrass was handed the role of playing behind Luciano Becchio, a similar position to the one he occupied at Tottenham in the competition last season.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger had also made changes to his side, but included in the starting XI were Andrey Arshavin, Emmanuel Eboue, Tomas Rosicky, and Nicklas Bendtner.
United were backed by a sell-out following of 8,500, potentially the biggest turnout of visiting fans ever seen at the Emirates Stadium.
The away support ensured the game kicked off in a cracking atmosphere and United started brightly enough, Watt embarking on one good run and Becchio screwing a shot wide from distance.
Arsenal's reputation is for total football, and Alex Song and Rosicky sounded an early warning with some fantastic inter-play before the United defence cleared.
And Kasper Schmeichel was called upon to make his first save on 11 minutes when he spread himself well to deny Arshavin who was clean through on goal.
United also had a half-chance when Snodgrass robbed Rosicky and fed Becchio who, in a very similar position to that of Jermaine Beckford at Old Trafford last season, was denied by Wojciech Szczesny. Watt also lifted a shot over the top after cutting inside and it was a bright start by Leeds.
United's work-rate and determination had restricted Arsenal's usual fluent style, but when Rosicky escaped down the right and whipped in a great cross, it took some terrific defending from Andy O'Brien to deny Bendtner a free header.
Schmeichel also saved a grubber effort from Arshavin while Alex Bruce made a good intervention to cut out a cross as Arsenal started to look more like.
Moments before the half-hour, Jonny Howson cleared the ball off the line after an Arsenal corner and as the ball came back into the box, Schmeichel turned a Denilson shot around the post. O'Brien also did well to deny Bendtner space when the hosts threatened again.
Bruce was next to make a decisive intervention when he cut out an Arshavin pass which was destined to release Bendtner. Schmeichel had to save the resultant corner.
Leeds had another foray into the Arsenal half, but it was Bendtner who shot over the bar five minutes before the break after some considered build-up play by the Gunners.
Moments before half-time, Schmeichel again saved well from Bendtner at the near post after the Scandinavian cut inside from the right.
Arsenal also had the first raid of the second period when a Song cross was scrambled clear with Arshavin lurking. Bruce also headed a Bendtner cross for a corner when the Gunners threatened again.
United were defended well and after looking to hit the home side on the break, Max Gradel won a penalty when Denilson brought him down inside the area. Snodgrass stepped up to take the spot-kick, and after tucking the ball beneath Szczesny, the Scot, his team-mates, and 8,500 Leeds fans went wild.
The celebrations were something to behold and Leeds chants echoed around the stadium as the fans celebrated the unexpected boost.
Within five minutes, Wenger introduced Cesc Fabregas with his side suddenly chasing the game. And O'Brien got a vital touch when Marquane Chakmah had a good headed opportunity in front of goal for the home side.
But it wasn't all one way. Szczesny had to turn an inswinging cross from Bradley Johnson over his own bar and from the resultant corner, the Polish goalkeeper made a great save to keep out a Becchio header.
With just over 22 minutes left on the clock, Wenger made his second change, Theo Walcott joining the fray in place of Chamakh.
United were defending in numbers, and the hosts were clearly becoming more and more frustrated as passes went astray and bodies were put in the way.
Given the work ethic, Leeds were looking good value for the lead, and Snodgrass came within a whisker of adding a second goal on 72 minutes when he curled a free-kick just wide of the upright.
As the game headed into the final quarter-hour Grayson introduced Leigh Bromby - in place of Watt - to increase United's defensive options.
Arsenal's final change came on 79 minutes when Carlos Vela replaced Rosicky. The hosts were becoming more restricted, although Arshavin did head a Fabregas free-kick over the bar. O'Brien also made another important clearance, as the Gunners prepared to throw everything at Leeds for the final 10 minutes.
When Kieran Gibbs found space down the left his cross was too close to Schmeichel and the Leeds goalkeeper gathered with ease. He also collected a stabbed effort from Bendtner after Walcott supplied a decent cross.
Again, United were still a threat though and Becchio was denied by some good defending after great work by Gradel.
That was Becchio's last taste of the action with Davide Somma stepping off the bench for the final five minutes.
As the clock ticked down, Schmeichel stood up well to save from Walcott, who struck a first time effort, and moments later, the hosts were denied a loud penalty appeal due to an offside flag.
With 90 seconds of normal time left, they were handed a penalty though. Walcott was hauled back by Parker when in pursuit of a ball from Bendtner and referee Phil Dowd pointed to the spot. Fabregas stepped up and slotted home, straight down the middle, to earn the hosts a fortunate escape.
It was a cruel blow for United, who had defended superbly and were on the verge of being rewarded with another great scalp after another heroic FA Cup performance.
In stoppage time, the Gunners had a chance to win the game, but Bendtner screwed a shot wide when he should have at least tested Schmeichel. The Dane also made a stunning save to palm a Denilson shot around the post.
Walcott also rapped the side-netting from a tight angle as Arsenal laid seige during injury time, but United held firm to earn a more than deserved draw.
Telegraph 4/1/11
Cardiff City 2 Leeds United 1: match report
By Graham Clutton
Michael Chopra lifted the pressure from the shoulders of manager Dave Jones as Cardiff City won for only the third time in 11 matches.
The diminutive striker struck his sixth goal of the season, 11 minutes from time, to lever the Bluebirds back into an automatic promotion place and send Leeds United spinning to a first defeat in 13 games.
A spectacular strike from Robert Snodgrass, 14 minutes into the second half, suggested that Leeds would extend their impressive run that dates back to their 4-0 home defeat at the hands of Cardiff.
However, Chopra added to Craig Bellamy's fifth goal of the season, after 11 minutes of the first half, to secure a vital victory for Jones.
Chopra said: "We have tried to put the recent criticism to the back of our minds, but yes, to get a win tonight is great for all of us. People might have thought that after what has happened to us over the past few weeks that our heads would have dropped when they got the equaliser.
"But there is a good spirit in the side and we kept going and got the winning goal. With the players we have in this side we should be challenging for a place at the top, so this was an important win."
Cardiff took barely a dozen minutes to put behind them Saturday's humiliating performance in the Severnside derby at Bristol City. Bellamy, who was conspicuous by his absence at Ashton Gate, could have scored twice before beating Kasper Schmeichel with a rasping drive from close range.
Peter Whittingham, Chris Burke and Chopra were all denied by Schmeichel's heroics as Cardiff threatened a repeat of the resounding victory at Elland Road.
Leeds, who left leading scorer Luciano Becchio on the bench, found their feet in the 15 minutes before half time and might have levelled when Billy Paynter deflected a Snodgrass corner over Tom Heaton's crossbar.
Mark Hudson's inexplicable miss, five minutes into the second half, ensued another period of domination from Cardiff, but once more, they were careless in the final third and wasteful in front of goal.
They were made to pay a significant prize for that when the excellent Snodgrass beat Heaton with a dipping shot from 25 yards.
Buoyed by that, Leeds went in search of a winner that, on the balance of play, might have been a touch undeserved. However, such was the ambition shown by manager Simon Grayson as he threw on Becchio and Sanchez Watt, that Cardiff could have had few complaints had they have left empty handed.
However, when Chopra escaped the clutches of Neill Collins, it was Leeds who were to leave with nothing to show for their considerable effort.
Bradford Telegraph and Argus 2/1/11
O'Brien signs laugh-a-minute deal for Leeds United
By John Wray
Leeds United 1, Middlesbrough 1
Former Bantams defender Andy O’Brien agreed a two-and-a-half-year contract with Leeds United before yesterday's npower Championship game and later revealed his hilarious meeting with chairman Ken Bates.
O’Brien, who has been on loan at Elland Road from Bolton, rejected Cardiff’s offer and represented himself at the contract talks with Bates, who also met the player’s father.
“It was a funny, enjoyable meeting with Mr Bates and one I will remember for the rest of my life,” O’Brien beamed. “My dad is a 20st bloke and the chairman said: ‘I will, sign the fat one instead’.
“Then it went along the lines of my dad saying he had been on a diet and Mr Bates told him ‘well that isn’t working, is it?’. My dad is quick-witted so he replied: ‘I don’t know what your excuse is’ and it went on from there.
“My dad has my best interests at heart, and that has been the case since the first contract I signed with Geoffrey Richmond at Bradford, which was entertaining as well!”
Leeds had to match Cardiff’s offer as well as ditching an option to keep O’Brien on loan until the end of the season. “That would have been too risky because if I had picked up an injury it would have left me with nothing,” O’Brien explained. The Harrogate-born defender, who faces Cardiff City away from home on Tuesday night, played his part in yesterday’s 1-1 draw, in which United extended their unbeaten run to 12 games with Luciano Becchio’s injury-time equaliser A third successive draw had seemed unlikely for Leeds as Boro took a 20th-minute lead from David Wheater’s header and dictated much of the game, but Becchio’s 13th goal of the season proved unlucky for Boro - and Leeds could have stolen a late win as Ross McCormack headed wide with a stooping effort.
Bradley Johnson’s booking in first-half injury time, for clattering into Scott McDonald, was his fifth of the season but the midfielder is available for the trip to Cardiff as the cut-off point for suspensions after five bookings has passed.
However, with Neil Kilkenny joining up with Australia’s squad for this month’s Asian Cup after the Boro game and Robert Snodgrass picking up back and calf injuries, manager Simon Grayson has a selection problem against the Welshmen.
Andrew Hughes came in at left back against Boro, with George McCartney’s loan spell from Sunderland at an end.
United hope to negotiate a further loan with Sunderland so McCartney can rejoin the club until the end of the season but time is running out for an agreement to be concluded before the Cardiff game.
Boro made two changes from the side which won 3-1 at Preston on December 28, McDonald and Nicky Bailey coming in for Gary O’Neil and Mickael Tavares.
After Snodgrass had shot just over Boro’s bar, the visitors took the lead. Boro defender Wheater, who is out of contract in the summer and may be sold during the transfer window, rose with Leeds defender Neill Collins to meet Julio Arca’s corner from the right and Wheater headed into the left corner of the net.
Midfielder Kevin Thomson limped off five minutes later, to be replaced by Barry Robson, Arca moving into central midfield and Robson operating on the left.
Boro continued to be the more potent force and United were fortunate not to be punished when Jonny Howson’s pass was intercepted deep inside his own half and Arca put McDonald’s cross wide of Kasper Schmeichel’s left post.
Grayson made a double substitution in the 56th minute, Kilkenny and Lloyd Sam replacing Andrew Hughes and Max Gradel.
Sam went close to an equaliser, shooting narrowly wide of the near post, but Boro’s Joe Bennett produced a moment of magic by skipping past three Leeds players in little room before lifting his shot too high.
The limping Snodgrass made way for Sanchez Watt to make his first appearance since October 19 and, in an eventful finish, Boro’s Justin Hoyte lost his footing just ten yards out.
When play switched to the other end, Collins headed on to McCormack, whose drive was parried by Jason Steele to Becchio and his first-time shot billowed the net, much to Leeds fans’ delight and relief.
There was still time for McCormack to head wide of an open goal from Kilkenny’s cross but defeat would have been harsh on Boro.
Yorkshire Evening Post 2/1/11
Whites pip Cardiff City to land O'Brien
By Phil Hay
Andy O'Brien admitted his acceptance of a permanent deal at Leeds United had ended a run of sleepless nights after the Elland Road club sealed his signature by matching an offer from Cardiff City.
O'Brien has agreed a two-and-a-half year contract with Leeds following negotiations with both United and Cardiff last week and the 31-year-old said United's willingness to meet the terms proposed to him in south Wales had convinced him of their determination to tie him down to a deal.
Leeds will make O'Brien their first signing of the January transfer window after his loan from Bolton Wanderers expires tomorrow and confirmation of the deal was announced before United's 1-1 home draw with Middlesbrough on New Year's Day.
Cardiff made a late attempt to sign O'Brien and held talks with the experienced centre-back on Thursday, but O'Brien returned to Yorkshire for negotiations with Leeds chairman Ken Bates on Friday and wasted no time in taking up an identical proposal.
At least two other Championship sides were interested in the former Bradford City trainee, who has featured heavily in Leeds' run of 12 Championship matches without defeat and the player expressed relief after bringing an end to talks which were carried out without the help of an agent.
O'Brien said: "I tried to do things the right way and I didn't mess about behind anyone's back. I've been up front all the way through and when Cardiff came in with an offer, the first thing I did was ring Leeds and tell them exactly what the deal was.
"There was a bit of toing and froing and I said 'if you offer me what Cardiff have offered, then I'll sign'.
"That's what happened. One thing Cardiff noticed was that I had the guts to do everything myself without an agent. Leeds had the same feeling.
"It was quite a week and I haven't slept much but I wanted to deal with it myself. Sometimes when a third party gets involved, things can get lost in translation. It's a relief to have it sorted out."
O'Brien revealed that a deal with Bolton to keep him on loan at Elland Road until the end of the season was already in place, but his contract at the Reebok Stadium ends next summer and the centre-back was worried about the implications of an injury sustained in the interim.
A long-term deal was the scenario that Leeds also favoured, guaranteeing them the services of a Premier League player who has been pivotal to their resurgence since the end of October.
United recruited O'Brien on an emergency loan after a run of four defeats in five games and his debut at Scunthorpe United on October 30 was the start of a 12-game unbeaten run extended by Saturday's draw against Boro.
Manager Simon Grayson was aware of "serious competition" for O'Brien but said: "If a good player is made available then top teams are going to come in for him.
"We did as much as we could to make sure we signed him. He could quite easily have said 'I'm going to Cardiff' because he was well within his rights to do that but we fought really hard to get him.
"We haven't been beaten to a signature at all this season and that's the case again with Andy. To beat Cardiff shows we mean business."
O'Brien had previously spoken of his frustration at the lack of opportunities at Bolton, the club he joined from Newcastle United in 2007 and accepted many weeks ago that his career would continue away from the Reebok Stadium.
"Two months ago, I was scratching my head as to where my future would lie," he said. "Now I'm just glad that I know where I'm going to be for the next two-and-a-half years."

Monday, January 03, 2011

New pages uploaded at

The games that took us up

Matches – 8/5/2010 - Leeds United 2 Bristol Rovers 1

Everything came down to this one-game season in true United fashion - one man down, one goal down, the local hero comes on to equalise, Beckford scores the winner, cue celebrations - LEEDS ARE UP!!!

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Matches – 24/4/2010 - Leeds United 4 Milton Keynes Dons 1

After getting a real battering the previous week at Gillingham, United are back on form. Sanchez Watt makes a fine debut and Jermaine Beckford grabs a late brace as they batter a troubled MK Dons

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Matches – 13/4/2010 – Carlisle United 1 Leeds United 3

Against a club that had become almost omnipresent opponents, United gain revenge for a Johnstones Paint Trophy roughing up and give their hopes of promotion from League One a major boost

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Saturday, January 01, 2011

BBC 1/1/11
Leeds 1 - 1 Middlesbrough
Leeds waited until stoppage time to extend their unbeaten run to 12 matches thanks to Luciano Becchio's strike.
David Wheater opened the scoring on 20 minutes when he glanced in Julio Arca's in-swinging corner and Arca could have extended Boro's lead when he shot wide.
Lacklustre Leeds burst into life when Lloyd Sam went close after a fine run and shot, but it looked like they would lose before Becchio intervened.
Ross McCormack then had a great chance to win it but his header was wide.
Leeds' performance was, at times, worthy of a New Year's Day hangover, and during the second half even the Boro fans were asking their Leeds counterparts if they could sign a song for them.
But the victory moves them into third place in the Championship while Boro's supporters will travel back to Teeside buoyed by a sterling display, although they will be heartbroken by Becchio's lifeline which, frankly, got the hosts out of jail.
Wheater, who could leave the club in the January transfer window according to Boro boss Tony Mowbray, had a chance to open the scoring before his first-half header, but he miscued when well placed in the penalty area.
Robert Snodgrass then went close with a dipping shot before Wheater glanced in the opening goal.
There was some debate as to whether the Boro centre-back got the vital touch with Becchio and Neill Collins in close attendance, but the finish did much to settle the visitors as they took a firm grip on the first half.
Arca, McDonald, and left-back Joe Bennett were linking well in the middle of the park and only Andy O'Brien's close-range shot from a corner was worthy of note for Leeds.
McCormack's free-kick on 59 minutes seemed to inject the hosts with some energy, however, as he shot narrowly wide and Sam's fine run and shot was even closer moments later.
Bennett was proving a positive influence throughout the game and his twisting run would have merited a fine goal if he had managed to keep his shot down.
Despite Leeds's brief flurry they failed to engineer any fluency to their play and a sign of their fortunes was represented by Snodgrass whose angled shot inside the area was heading for a throw-in before it was intercepted.
Thankfully for the midfielder, Becchio was on hand to spare the hosts with a strike from 12 yards, his 12th of the season, when Boro keeper Jason Steele punched out to him. But McCormack will be regretting his late miss, although that would have been mighty harsh on the visitors, who were resolute throughout. 1/1/11
UNITED 1 (Becchio 90+1), MIDDLESBROUGH 1 (Wheater 20)
United boss Simon Grayson ushered in the New Year with the news that Andy O'Brien had agreed to join the club on a permanent deal, and the central defender was named in a starting line-up that included two changes. Andrew Hughes came in for the departed George McCartney while Luciano Becchio returned in place of Billy Paynter.
The first opening came inside the opening eight minutes when Robert Snodgrass volleyed over the bar after some great play by United.
It was a decent start again by Leeds who were looking to move the ball and get Boro on the back foot.
But it was the visitors who snatched the lead, David Wheater claiming the goal. Julio Arca whipped in a corner and Wheater got enough to turn the ball into the far corner.
United looked to respond and Max Gradel sent an angled shot rasping over the bar shortly before the half-hour.
But it was Boro who went close again when Arca drilled a shot just wide after some good build-up play. O'Brien was also called upon to head clear a teasing cross from Arca as the visitors, looking far improved from the previous meeting between the clubs in October, played some good football.
As the game headed towards half-time, the visitors were looking a real threat, Arca again going close when he bent a free-kick over the bar.
Boro keeper Jason Steele was called into action for the first time in the 41st minute when he gathered a deflected effort from Jonny Howson.
United also had an opportunity right on the stroke of half-time with a free-kick just outside the box. The training ground routine ended wth Bradley Johnson having a shot from a central position, but his effort was wide.
United started the second period with more purpose, but Paul Connolly and Neill Collins both had to be altert as Boro responded on the break.
Just 11 minutes into the half, Grayson introduced Lloyd Sam for Max Gradel, and Neil Kilkenny for Andrew Hughes, Johnson reverting to left-back.
But it was Ross McCormack who came within a whisker of levelling when he curled a free-kick just wide of the upright.
Sam also made an immediate impact, cutting in from the left before delivering a low strike which grazed the wrong side of the post.
United were looking sharper now, and one attack was ended when Barry Robson committed a crude tackle on Snodgrass, bringing the winger down on the flank. Kilkenny swung the free-kick into the box, but Collins couldn't guide his header towards goal.
Grayson's men were now looking the better side, but there was still a scare when young Joe Bennett waltzed his way through the Leeds box before delivering a poor finish which went over the top.
Sam was finding space down the flank for Leeds and his next involvement ended with Howson sending a shot over the bar from just outside the area.
There were a few cynical challenges starting to fly in as well as temperatures started to rise going into the final 20 minutes.
It was turning into a frustrating afternoon for Leeds, and Grayson made his final change 14 minutes from time, Sanchez Watt replacing Snodgrass, who had been kicked from pillar to post.
The sub's first touch was to head a Kilkenny ball wide of the mark, but play was strangely halted for a foul on the Boro goalkeeper despite no Leeds player touching him.
United were piling on the pressure and McCormack drilled an effort wide after some good play, and Boro were having to scramble back to clear their lines.
Watt was denied by Steele who spread himself well in the 89th minute after Howson supplied a great cross.
On the balance of play United deserved an equaliser and five minutes of stoppage time gave hope. Justin Hoyte wasted a great chance to put the game beyond doubt after a quick break in the first minute of added time, and United responded immediately.
Collins and McCormack were involved before Becchio smashed the ball past Steele to make it 1-1.
Sixty seconds later, McCormack almost made it 2-1. Watt delivered a good ball in, but McCormack's header was just wide of the mark.United were piling on the pressure, but the clock ran out what would have been a remarkable turnaround and Grayson's men had to be content with a third successive draw as the unbeaten run stretched to 12 games. 1/1/11
Central defender Andy O'Brien will make his move to Leeds United from Bolton Wanderers permanent in January.
United chairman Ken Bates revealed on LUTV ahead of the New Year's Day game against Middlesbrough that a deal has been agreed for O'Brien to join on a two-and-a-half-year contract once his current loan finishes.
The 31-year-old's current loan from Bolton is due to expire after Tuesday's trip to face Cardiff City - and his move will become permanent ahead of the weekend trip to Arsenal.
The United chairman said: "I met with Andy on Friday and despite a tempting offer from Cardiff, he has agreed to join us on a two-and-half-year deal which we are delighted about."
O'Brien has made 10 appearances since joining on loan from Bolton on loan and has impressed.United manager Simon Grayson said the defender has been "calm and assured" and is delighted to have an agreement in place to capture the Yorkshireman.
Mail 29/12/10
Leeds 3 Portsmouth 3: Nightmare for Andy O'Brien as hosts throw away another two-goal lead
By John Edwards
The sure touch that has helped seal a leaky Leeds defence deserted Andy O'Brien at the worst moment as Simon Grayson's promotion-chasers threw away a two-goal lead at Elland Road.
Manager Grayson took O'Brien on loan from Bolton two months ago in direct response to defensive failings that cost his side five goals at Barnsley, six at home to Preston and four against Cardiff.
It looked a shrewd move as he launched his stay with a 4-1 win at Scunthorpe that began an undefeated run which saw Leeds emerge as genuine contenders for a belated return to the Barclays Premier League.
The sequence stands at 11 games after this pulsating 3-3 draw, but O'Brien, 31, looked inconsolable after turning Nadir Ciftci's innocuous cross past goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel with seconds remaining.
At least it did nothing to jeopardise a proposed £250,000 permanent transfer next month. Grayson even absolved his player from blame, saying: 'It was frustrating to drop a couple of points after being two goals ahead on two occasions and individual mistakes made it even harder to take.
'It was a lack of communication for their third goal and, if anything, I thought it was probably down to Kasper to make the call, as he was leaving his line.
'The manner of that goal was hugely disappointing, but Andy played really well once more and Kasper made one or two top saves. There is still a great belief in the dressing room that we can reach the Premier League.'
Leeds were cruising after Max Gradel bundled home a Paul Connolly cross in the seventh minute and Jonny Howson sidestepped two challenges before expertly curling a shot beyond Jamie Ashdown three minutes later.
Neat finish: Max Gradel scores the opening goal for Leeds at Elland Road
Leeds v Portsmouth
Leeds: Schmeichel, Connolly, O'Brien, Collins, McCartney, Snodgrass, Howson, Johnson, Gradel (Sam 81), McCormack, Paynter (Becchio 65). Subs Not Used: Higgs, Bruce, Kilkenny, Hughes, Somma. Booked: McCartney, Schmeichel. Goals: Gradel 7, Howson 10, Johnson 62.
Portsmouth: Ashdown, Halford, Mokoena, Rocha (Sonko 60), Dickinson, Nugent, Ward (Kanu 59), Mullins, Hughes, Utaka (Ciftci 88), Kitson. Subs Not Used: Flahavan, Hreidarsson. Booked: Mokoena, Kitson. Goals: Nugent 33, O'Brien 63 og, 90 og. Att: 31,556 Ref: David Webb (County Durham).
That should have banished any misgivings from the way a two-goal lead was surrendered at Leicester two days earlier. Instead, David Nugent set Leeds' nerves jangling with an England-class finish into the top corner in the 33rd minute.
An unstoppable Bradley Johnson volley from a half-cleared corner should have removed any unease in the 62nd minute but a familiar edginess at the back reappeared within a minute as Richard Hughes' shot deflected off O'Brien and left Schmeichel wrong-footed.
Grayson was convinced Leeds should have had a penalty when Ross McCormack was upended and his sense of injustice was hardly helped in the final minute when O'Brien stretched for Ciftci's low cross and diverted it past Schmeichel.
Both managers were scathing about Durham referee David Ward. Portsmouth boss Steve Cotterill said: 'Good luck to him, and I hope he goes on to have a good career. But I have never heard of him before and I would like to bet there were more experienced referees controlling games in front of a handful of people while this fella is trying to handle an occasion like this in front of 33,000. That can't be right.'
Grayson was just as unhappy, saying: 'Our fans are very knowledgeable, and they don't give the referee the sort of stick he got unless it is for a very good reason.
'Experience has a lot to do with the way two-goal leads have slipped away in our last two games but I still feel the positives far outweigh the negatives.'