Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Leeds United: Redders praises Cook’s ability

Yorkshire Evening Post 31/3/15
Leon Wobschall
LEWIS COOK is eyeing another choice entry into his burgeoning football CV with England Under-19s tonight – having been hailed as an “immense talent” by Leeds United head coach Neil Redfearn.
The United midfielder is hoping to play a leading role in helping Sean O’Driscoll’s Under-19s qualify for this summer’s European Championships in Greece at the expense of France in a winner-takes-all clash (7pm).
Both nations have won their previous two Elite Round qualifying matches ahead of this evening’s decider in Saint-Lo, with Cook making his debut in the 1-0 win over Azerbaijan on Saturday.
Cook and his international team-mates visited the beach at Arromanches in northern France on Sunday – scene of some of the D-Day landings during the Second World War – ahead of today’s footballing mission and Redfearn believes that the 18-year-old is not only a prodigiously-talented player, but also a special person as well.
On talented Cook, who playing a key role in England Under-17s’ European Championships triumph in Malta last May, Redfearn said: “Lewis is a one-off. You see him around the building and he is just like another scholar.
“He is still doing his jobs and still takes the mannequins in and out and still knocks on my door in the morning and says: ‘How many mannequins do you need?’
“I look at him and think: ‘You are one of my best players!’
“But he is such a likeable and level headed kid and grounded. He does not take anything for granted or expect anything.
“I think that is the beauty of him and he’s so driven.
“We also look past the fact that he’s got ability and he’s going to be an immense talent in years to come.”
Leeds United’s development squad succumbed to a late goal in a 2-1 loss at Swansea City last night.
A cool chip from Brian Montenegro on the hour broke the deadlock for United after the striker profited from a defensive error from the hosts.
But the Swans levelled on 67 minutes when Ross Killock put through his own net and the home side forced an 86-minute winner when sub Stephen Fallon tapped home a cross from James Loveridge.
United: Cairns, Coyle, Killock, Skelton, Denton, Dawson, Purver, Phillips, Montenegro, Parkin (Lyman 83), Mulhern (McDaid 83). Not used: Grimes, Coker.

Leeds United: Phillips can become a real fans’ favourite

Yorkshire Evening Post 29/3/15
Leon Wobschall
Leeds United’s current conveyor belt of academy talent could well have unearthed yet another gem in the guise of Kalvin Phillips – described as a ‘typical Leeds midfielder’. Leon Wobschall reports.
LEEDS UNITED academy coach Jason Blunt is confident that rising star Kalvin Phillips will prove a Whites favourite with supporters in the years to come.
Phillips is widely tipped as being the next young player to emerge from the burgeoning Academy production line and become a firm part of Neil Redfearn’s first-team plans following the rise to prominence of the likes of Lewis Cook, Alex Mowatt and Charlie Taylor.
Blunt is mindful of the importance of patience to ensure that the development of a host of talented young academy products is sustained, but he firmly believes that in time, several more academy players can crack it at first-team level, including Phillips.
A number again impressed in the recent development squad win over Brentford, which kept United on course for the end-of-season play-offs, including midfielders Phillips and Chris Dawson. Both have been involved with the first team this season, with Dawson having made two brief substitute appearances and Phillips part of recent match-day squads and eyeing further involvement before the end of the season. And Blunt feels that Phillips’ footballing DNA will endear him to Whites fans in the years to come.
Blunt said: “You could see with Kalvin Phillips’ performance (against Brentford) that he has had a taste of it around the first team and although he has not got on for the first team yet, you can see he wants to stay in and around it.
“He stamps his mark on games. He’s athletic and a good footballer with a good range of passing and a typical Leeds midfielder who the fans tend to like.”
And on Dawson, he added: “Daws has been in and out and shown what he is capable of doing. He will be patient and I am sure he will get another opportunity. Although some lads haven’t got in yet, they haven’t got disheartened. Through constant praise and chats with staff, they have stuck with it.
“Maybe Daws has found it difficult not being in sometimes, but Redders (head coach Neil Redfearn) and the whole club know what he is capable of doing.
“He’s an exceptional talent, but we will be patient with him. It might not be this year, but it is important we are consistent with them. It is not just about one or two appearances, but making a good career in the game. It would be great if a few more had a sniff, but they have got to earn it and earn the right to get in there. But I think they are showing that they are more than capable.
“It’s a bonus if they are involved and sometimes the kids might lose, but it is important we are patient with them and the good thing with Redders involved in the philosophy is that we will be patient with them because we know what they are capable of doing.”
Redfearn may have stepped back from his academy supremo role upon taking the head coach position on a full-time basis in the autumn, but he has remained extremely well briefed on the development of all of the club’s young talents – at all levels.
Blunt believes that can only have a positive effect on United’s new generation of young players seeking a pathway to the first team – with all afforded clear hope by Redfearn, who has stressed about showing a duty of care to the overall well-being of Leeds United.
Blunt said: “He’s in and around everything and there’s nothing he doesn’t know and nothing we wouldn’t share with him.
“That is what makes it a good thing; he wants to know how the under-18s have got on, the under-21s and speaks about the younger kids throughout.
“I think it rubs off on the kids because they know he cares. It is not just Redders, but the whole staff. This is a great club and the fact that we have stabilised our league position helps.
“It’s a great tradition of producing good kids.”

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Leeds United: Child leaves with no regrets

Yorkshire Evening Post 27/3/15
Leon Wobschall
FORMER LEEDS United chief operating officer Matt Child insists he has left the club with his head held high following his shock decision to quit his post.
Lifelong Leeds fan Child resigned under his own terms on Monday after less than three and a half months in his post.
In his first statement following his decision to step down, Child, who helped broaden United’s community and business links in the city and proved popular with supporters during his short time at Elland Road, stated that he believes he has left the club in a better place following his exit.
Child had arrived at the club on December 12 from the telecommunications industry, having held senior positions in private equity backed companies.
And despite taking the decision to leave, Child – whose exit has been described as a “sad loss” by head coach Neil Redfearn – believes he has left the club in a strong position after re-engaging with many organisations in the city and remains proud of his work.
A statement from Child read: “I believe I have left the club with the right plans, vision and insight to really kick on as a business and I am looking forward to seeing these play out as the club strives to win on the pitch as well as off it.
“I need to thank Mr Cellino and his family for giving me the opportunity to serve our club. I would like to praise the commitment and determination of the staff who enable match day to happen, the sponsors and fans who invest their hard-earned money in the club year on year, Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Police who have worked collaboratively and supportively with me.
“And of course Neil Redfearn and Steve Thompson who along with Neil Sullivan, the back room staff and players.
“They have given us the skill, grit and unity we have needed over the second half of the season to survive. They have given us a reason to believe and made us all feel so, so proud to be Leeds.
“It has not worked out for me, this time but life is not straightforward for any of us - that is why the football club represents more than just football.
“It is a place we go to be part of something bigger and where we are all welcome; a place of equal standing and sanctuary; a place that holds our memories and drives our hopes and ambitions. It is a Leeds family. Real history. Real future.
“For me though it is back to the Gelderd, richer for having met some great people along the way and somehow feeling more compelled and convinced that we must and should retake our place amongst the elite of UK and European football one day. MOT.”
Head coach Redfearn admits that Child’s exit on Monday represented a surprise to him.
He said: “Matt has done really well in a short space and is a good, likeable and intelligent guy and he’d got lots of plans he wanted to bring to fruition at the football club.
“He had good aspirations to develop the club further and I know he is held in high regard by the people at Elland Road.
“It’s a shame and has come as a shock. He will obviously have his reasons why he had to go, but it’s a big loss for the club.”

Leeds United: Redders wants his future sorting out

Yorkshire Evening Post 26/3/15
NEIL REDFEARN has reiterated his desire for his contractual situation to be sorted out “sooner rather than later” at Leeds United – to enable him to get his plans for next season firmly nailed down.
The United head coach and no.2 Steve Thompson, who have presided over a vibrant renaissance at Elland Road in 2015, are both out of contract in the summer with their futures still to be addressed.
Redfearn believes that the future on the playing side is undeniably rosy and is eager to carry on his restoration work at Leeds, with fans and players having bought into his tenure.
He said: “From my point of view, it’s important it gets addressed sooner rather than later. That’s a definite to come out of this.
“It is not an ideal set of circumstances if it drags on too long because obviously you want to start putting things in place and planning.
“I have more or less got place pre-season planned and know where I want to take the lads and the dates I want to bring them back and the games. We’ve got one game in particular, which will be an exciting game for supporters to look forward to it if we can get it across the line.
“These things are important and a good pre-season plan are key points you really want to crack on with.”
On whether he retains confidence that he be sticking around in his capacity as head coach for next season and hopefully beyond, Redfearn added: “I am hoping so. The conversations I have had with Massimo (Cellino) before his ban were good.
“He likes the idea of the kids being in and the overseas lads integrating quite well.
“There has been a lot of positives and pluses and he knows that.
“In a short space of time, you are hoping things are put in place and things will get addressed as possible so that we can move on.
“I can only do what I am doing and try and win football matches.
“We were in a dire situation, but the results have been good and performances a lot better.
“The supporters can see that, so hopefully it puts me in a good place.
“I am really excited about the future and want to be the man that sees it come to fruition.”

Leeds United: Dawson targets ‘massive’ improvement next season

Yorkshire Evening Post 26/3/15
Leon Wobschall
CHRIS DAWSON admits that next season is a massive one in his Leeds United career – and is ready to sacrifice short-term gains this term for long-term progress in 2015-16.
The diminutive midfielder was handed his United debut by former boss Neil Warnock almost two years ago at the age of 18, but has featured just twice in two substitute cameos since.
This despite being considered by many to be the best youth-team prospect at United back in early 2013, only for his progress to have largely flat-lined following his first-team bow. In the past two years, Dawson has seen fellow academy products Lewis Cook, Alex Mowatt, Sam Byram and Charlie Taylor all become established regulars.
And he acknowledges that he needs to improve to follow in their footsteps and become the next highly-rated talent off the burgeoning academy production line at Elland Road to make it big at first-team level.
Dewsbury-born Dawson will enter the final 12 months of the three-year contract he signed in May 2013 when he returns to pre-season training this summer.
While first-team involvement before the end of this season would represent a fillip, Dawson is looking towards the bigger picture.
Dawson said: “Next season is massive. I am going to be 21 then, so I need to improve a lot more than I am now. Hopefully, I will be. I am still young and need to keep developing my game. I have got a lot of developing I can still be doing.
“I am preparing myself in getting ready for next year (now) and making sure I am 100 per cent ready to go.
“Whatever happens between now and the end of the season, I will take if it does come along. But for now, I am making sure I’m ready for next year. I have spoken to Redders a few times and the conversations we have had will hopefully see me involved next year a lot more.”
Dawson, who impressed in United development squad’s 2-1 win over Brentford earlier this week, admits that he has suffered disappointments at being overlooked over the past two campaigns, but is hoping that patience proves a virtue and is refusing to get downhearted.
The Wales Under-21 international has seen a couple of loan moves designed to boost his experience at first-team level fall through this season, but he is focused on knuckling down for the rest of this campaign – and beyond – as he strives to make a major breakthrough.
He added: “At times, it has (been disappointing), but at the end of the day, you have just got to get on with it and keep going because eventually I believe my chance will come. There were a couple of loan moves, but they fell through for various reasons and I am still here now, enjoying football. Redders has not really said what I need to do and improve on, but I know what I need to and will keep working on it and we’ll see what happens.
“I am just going to keep going.
“You can’t just stop as if you don’t perform, that pushes you away even more.”

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Leeds United: Cook more than happy to be playing on

Yorkshire Evening Post 24/3/15
Leon Wobschall
LEWIS COOK has played down fears over his workload and is aiming to ‘step up to the plate’ with England Under- 19s as he seeks to apply gloss to a glorious 2014-15 with Leeds United.
The prodigiously-talented midfielder is currently in France with the England Under-19s squad ahead of their trio of European Championship Elite Round qualifiers against the host nation, Denmark and Azerbaijan.
England start out with a game against the Danes tomorrow tea-time (5pm) in the Stade Henry Jeanne in Bayeaux.
England’s prize for coming out top after three matches will be a place at the European Championships in Greece this July – with Cook eyeing a leading role in clinching qualification after his maiden Under-19s call-up.
Cook, who only turned 18 in early February, has made 38 appearances for Leeds since August and joined up with the England party after playing three games in a week for United.
Neil Redfearn has spoken with England Under-21 supremo Gareth Southgate about managing the game-time of Cook and also Alex Mowatt, on Under-20 duty during the international break.
While Cook has had a hectic first campaign of regular first-team football, he feels it has benefited him massively and is excited by testing himself further following his international upgrade.
Cook said: “It’s been good for me personally this season in playing a lot of games.
“Coming back to England is different to the Championship. There’s a lot of technical and really good players there and you have to step up to the plate and adapt to the different type of football at international level.
“It’s the first time I have been involved with the Under-19s and from the first training sessions I have been involved in, I can see the staff and the players here are really good.
“We have a great opportunity, with the lads we have got, to do well in the tournament (finals). Hopefully that will happen if we keep working hard in training and get our tactics right.”
Confident that his familiarity with the youth set-ups will aid in his acclimatisation at Under-19 level, he added: “It is similar to the way people do things there (in the Under-18s and Under-17s); it is just getting to know the lads, that is the hardest bit.
“Once you get to know them, it is fine and the group dynamic is really good.
“We have got to do that on the pitch and off the pitch. That will win us the games and see us progress in the tournament.”
Cook helped England Under-17s to glory at last May’s European Under-17s Championships in Malta when they beat Holland on penalties last and is hoping that a year that has gone beyond his wildest dreams will continue with him helping the Under-19s qualify for the summer finals – and hopefully playing a part in Greece.
He said: “Last year was personally good for me, with some of the lads with me again too. The experience was great and I could not describe it any better; winning the tournament.
“It was a great feeling. Hopefully we can do it again.
“It (winning) breeds confidence throughout the whole England team. When you win something, hopefully other age groups can do the same. It’s good to pass on that experience from that group to this.
“It also pulls us altogether, the whole England group and hopefully we can get more wins.”
After tomorrow’s game with the Danes, the U19s, coached by former Doncaster Rovers manager Sean O’Driscoll, will take on Azerbaijan in Bayeaux on Saturday (5.30pm) before playing France at the Stade Louis Villemer, Saint-Lo on Tuesday (6pm).
Meanwhile, Cook’s team-mate Mowatt, 20, is eyeing his maiden appearance this evening for England Under-20s, who will be attempting to extend their unbeaten seasonal run to seven matches in a friendly against Mexico at Barnet FC (7.45pm).
The Under-20s side, managed by ex-Leeds first-team coach Aidy Boothroyd, play another friendly on Sunday against the USA at Home Park, Plymouth (3pm).
Doncaster-born Mowatt has been in outstanding form for United this term and has netted eight goals in 31 appearances in all competitions in 2014-15.

Leeds United: Antenucci aims to add to ten-goal strike tally

Yorkshire Evening Post 24/3/15
Italian striker Mirco Antenucci has made a brief return to the ‘old country’ but has every intention of continuing his career in the Championship – with Leeds United. Leon Wobschall reports.
MIRCO ANTENUCCI may have had a mixed time of it this so far this calendar year at Leeds United, but he insists that he remains content with life at Elland Road – and is keen on staying put.
The Italian striker heads back to the ‘old country’ for a short break this week, fortified by the knowledge that his first season in English football has been a satisfactory one, statistically speaking at least.
Granted, 2015 has not been one to write home about too much thus far.
But successive goals after coming off the bench for United in their last two appointments against Fulham and Blackpool has ensured the Italian has entered the two-week international hiatus in a positive frame of mind.
Now the next step is claiming back a starting berth in the side, with head coach Neil Redfearn acknowledging after his weekend goal against the Seasiders that Antenucci is ‘doing his talking on the pitch’.
Antenucci has started just one Championship match in 2015, but he has given Redfearn a fair old nudge ahead of United’s return to action at home to Blackburn Rovers on Easter Saturday.
Antenucci’s recent lack of game time prompted rumoured interest from Norwich City, who were reportedly keen on taking him on loan.
Redfearn quickly scotched those suggestions and reiterated his desire to keep the frontman and the player himself is equally keen to remain at Leeds.
Unequivocal on his future, the forward added: “I was (linked with Norwich), but I want to stay here and I am happy here.
“It is difficult not playing, because it is my work and I want to play always. It’s our work, it’s normal.
“But I have no problem because it is the coaches’ choice.”
On his contribution at Blackpool, which followed his strike late on at Craven Cottage in Leeds’ 3-0 win at Fulham last Wednesday, head coach Redfearn commented: “Mirco is doing his talking on the pitch. Which is what we want.
“To be fair to the lad, he has worked hard in training.
“He has bided his time and kept his counsel and he has played well when he’s come on the pitch.
“He is playing himself back into the side, which is what we have asked him to do.”
Antenucci’s coolly-taken second-half leveller on the awful Bloomfield Road surface in Saturday’s 1-1 draw, eight minutes after entering the fray, not only earned a point for Leeds, but proved a landmark personal milestone also.
It took his seasonal goals tally up to 10, which may not be earth-shattering, but represents a decent haul with the promise of a few more to come between now and May 2.
Antenucci’s tally also compares favourably with fellow Championship strikers across Yorkshire – his tally being higher than that of £800,000 Sheffield Wednesday signing Stevie May and his Owls strike partner Atdhe Nuhiu.
His haul also surpasses that of Huddersfield Town’s James Vaughan and Kike and Jelle Vossen, part of the strikeforce at promotion-chasing Middlesbrough.
Given that the former Catania striker, who arrived at Leeds last summer, has almost exclusively been utilised from the bench so far in 2015 also affords a certain amount of perspective too.
On his tally reaching double figures, Antenucci said: “It is satisfaction for me as it is my first year in England.
“Before I came here, I did not know the level or the squad and other teams that are here.
“Now I can say I am happy for the 10 goals and I hope to keep going.
“When we play, we have to show the maximum we have.
“It is more physical than Italy and less tactical with more pressing.
“I give my maximum and I am happy with it being my first season, having not known the players. It is satisfaction.”
Antenucci has sampled plenty during his first season at Leeds.
But as for playing on a surface as wretched as the one at Blackpool, that represented a first.
To his credit, he negotiated the horror surface with a fair amount of aplomb, with his 62nd-minute lob to cancel out Gary Madine’s opener on the stroke of half-time a rare exquisite moment in a game which was somewhat forgettable.
It was a pitch that he admits just would not be tolerated back in his homeland in Serie A.
Antenucci, United’s top scorer and two goals clear of nearest rival Alex Mowatt, added: “The match was no good after their goal until we scored in the second half.
“It was difficult to play on this pitch for us more than them as they play here every (other) Saturday.
“It’s not simple and this match was different.
“It was the most difficult pitch I have played on. Difficult for us, but also for them, as we play just one match here. It is very, very difficult.
“In the winter, it is possible like that in Italy, one pitch or two. But not in Serie A, but in the Serie B championship.”
After eight months in England, Antenucci is sampling a few home comforts for a few days with his young family, with his baby daughter Camilla making her first trip to Italy.
She was in the stadium on the day when Antenucci enjoyed his finest afternoon in a Leeds jersey when he netted both goals in United’s outstanding 2-0 home victory over high-flying Derby County on November 29.
That double helped Leeds secure a first win over the table-topping Rams in 13 games since Rob Hulse’s treble in a 3-1 home win in September 2005 and represented a real high for the forward.
Antenucci is someone who is embracing life in Yorkshire off the pitch too and while a return for a brief break in his mother country is welcome, life back in England is just fine. He said: “I miss friends and family, but the weather in England is okay, but just the rain that is not.
“But there’s still sun and I get Italian food. I am happy to stay here.”

Monday, March 23, 2015

Leeds United: Matt Child resigns as Chief Operating Officer

Yorkshire Evening Post 23/3/15
LEEDS UNITED chief operating officer Matt Child has resigned - after last than three-and-a-half months in his role at Elland Road.
The life-long United fan stepped down from his current position this morning. Neither Child or the club are making any official comment on the developments.
Child arrived at the club on December 12 from the telecommunications industry, having held senior positions in private equity backed companies.
Upon taking up his role back in December, Child spoke of his pride at being handed the position, saying: “It’s clichéd but I’m genuinely honoured to represent the club.
“The opportunity to deliver value to your hometown team and city doesn’t happen that often, if at all, so when I was asked to step in, there was only one answer.
“I have been involved for a few months behind the scenes and have been hugely impressed by the president’s passion, commitment and will to win.
“We find ourselves in interesting times, but as a Leeds fan I know only too well that we are often at our best when we have adversity.”
Speaking after the appointment of Child, Cellino said: “I am delighted to announce the appointment of Matt Child as our new Chief Operating Officer.
“Matt will take immediate responsibility for the management and development of the day to day business.
“It is vitally important that we protect and enhance the future of the club and develop the most effective ‘off field’ team that we can.”

Leeds United: Malaysia investors Genting deny interest in buying club

Yorkshire Evening Post 23/3/15
MALAYSIA-BASED conglomerate Genting have dismissed rumours about purchasing or investing in Leeds United.
The development follows speculation that the global company, who have interests in tourism, resorts, gaming and plantations, could be lining up a move for the club.
But the company have moved swiftly to firmly deny any interest.
A Genting statement said: “Following rumours circulating around social media and the local press, Genting would like to make it clear that we have absolutely no interest in purchasing or investing in Leeds United Football Club.”

Leeds United: Five observations from Blackpool draw

Yorkshire Evening Post 23/3/15
LEEDS UNITED chiselled out a hard-fought weekend draw on an unforgiving surface at League One bound Blackpool on an afternoon when flowing football was a complete no-no - with the pitch more suitable for donkey rides than a Championship tussle. Mirco Antenucci’s point at least helped Leeds maintain their strong away form, which has seen them lose just once on the road in the league since December 30. Here’s a few thoughts from the 1-1 weekend draw at Bloomfield Road.

1: Pity poor Blackpool, but their pitch is an absolute disgrace.
The mudheap will be completely ripped up in the off season, having been surveyed by the Institute of Groundsmanship at the end of February - with remedial work - including verti-draining and reseeding - having already taking place. It made passing football virtually impossible on the day with Leeds’ attempts floundering in the first period with a number of players struggling to get into the game at all. Pragmatic, percentage football was the only option, with Blackpool, to their credit, successfully showing the way in the first half - working off a big centre-forward who played well on the day in Gary Madine and relying on bits of quality from Andrea Orlandi. It is not a surface for short passing, not in a million years.
When it comes to lining up on poor surfaces after Leeds’ recent visit to Wigan, Neil Redfearn and his troops are not out of the woods yet with the surface of Hillsborough on April 25 also likely to be pretty awful. At least Redfearn and his players have been pre-warned.
Blackpool have had their few share of troubles this season, which has resembled a real mess on and off the pitch, quite literally. It’s a surface where you certainly would not want to go on the final day of the season, aiming for promotion or relegation. A bit of a lottery, for sure.

2: Neil Redfearn was proactive with his substitutions and his double change worked.
After witnessing a dire first-half, when Billy Sharp was feeding off total scraps and the midfield failed to get a foothold in the game, Redfearn commendably changed it early on and didn’t waste any time - throwing Mirco Antenucci and Steve Morison into their fray on 54 minutes early in the second half. It made a telling difference.
Morison’s physicality gave Leeds something to work off in the final third and Antenucci produced an impressive cameo and was the one visiting player on the day to handle the surface and show glimpses of quality with some decent link-up play and a tidy goal.
Redfearn did not let things fester just as he didn’t the previous weekend against Forest, although his changes then didn’t quite come off by way of a goal.

3: The international break has probably come at a good time for Leeds players.
After two away-days at Fulham and Blackpool, a fair bit has been taken out of the tank of United, on the back foot for long spells at Craven Cottage and having to do it tough at Bloomfield Road in a difficult first half. Leeds’ players have travelled a long way, football wise, this calendar year and a bit of time to recharge their batteries will be welcome. They have earned that bit of rest and recuperation time to be fair with their impressive efforts to transform their season so far in 2015. It wasn’t half looking grim at the end of December, don’t forget.
Alex Mowatt and Lewis Cook may not be afforded rest during to their international commitments with England, but that will represent a change of scenery and reward that both are entitled to and will energise them and they have thoroughly earned their calls-ups - expect them to be used sensibly too by England bosses, who will be mindful of the amount of club football they have played this term. Neil Redfearn has let them know, for sure.

4: Mirco Antenucci is in pole position to start against Blackburn Rovers on the resumption of Championship business on April 4.
It’s been a difficult second-half of the season for the Italian, who was Leeds’s main man up front before Christmas. His start has dimmed a fair bit since, but he has kept his head down and done his graft in training and he has got his rewards by way of two goals in successive games after coming on from the bench at Fulham and Blackpool to take his seasonal tally to ten this term. It’s a decent achievement in his first season in the muck and nettles of the Championship. Given United’s struggle for goals up front this season, Antenucci at least provides a bit of cutting edge. He was the only offensive player in a United jersey to show signs of mastering the surface at times at the weekend.

5: A draw at Blackpool is not the worst result in the world - and was a fair one on the day.
Leeds’ may have rated at even-money to triumph on Saturday against a side who came into the game on the back of six straight losses, but in mitigation, Blackpool have saved all their decent performances this term for Bloomfield Road.
Lee Clark’s side have beaten Brighton, Cardiff, Millwall and Birmingham drawn with Wolves and Nottingham Forest on home soil and given the likes of Derby, Watford and Middlesbrough difficult games and have been competitive in a number of home fixtures if not exactly earth shattering. They have also taken more points at home than Millwall or Wigan.
Factor in also that Leeds have a day less to prepare for the weekend, with Blackpool having doubt trained on the pitch beforehand. And playing at home to Leeds is never an ordinary run-of-the-mill Championship game, given the atmosphere that Leeds supporters generate. Teams will always want to beat Leeds and give that extra bit of effort.

Blackpool 1 Leeds United 1: Mirco’s on a first-team mission

Yorkshire Evening Post 23/3/15
Phil Hay
Mirco Antenucci hopes his goal in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Blackpool will force him back into Leeds United’s starting line-up and give him the chance to sign off his first season at Elland Road in style.
The Italian produced his 10th goal of the term to rescue Leeds from defeat on a shocking pitch at Bloomfield Road and improve his prospects for the Championship run-in. Antenucci – a summer signing from Ternana last year – found his feet quickly in England and scored eight times before Christmas but he has started only one game since the turn of the year and went 14 games without finding the net.
He ended that drought with a midweek effort at Fulham last Wednesday and his 62nd-minute lob on Saturday earned United a point away to bottom-of-the-table Blackpool.
The 30-year-old’s finish came just eight minutes after head coach Neil Redfearn introduced him and Steve Morison from the bench with Leeds trailing to a 44th-minute Gary Madine header.
“There was a period when I played every week,” said Antenucci, who was linked with a loan move to Norwich City nine days ago. “I’ve stayed professional and in every training session I work hard. The choice is for the coach.
“You always want to play but it’s normal and no problem because it’s the coach’s choice. We work hard in training and it is up to him. I hope now to have another opportunity (to start).”
Leeds are beginning a two-week international break and will not play again until Blackburn Rovers visit Elland Road on Saturday, April 4.
Antenucci plans to spend time in Italy during the coming fortnight but vowed to return sharp and in-form for the last month of the Championship campaign.
“I’m going home now after eight months of staying in England,” he said. “When I come back here I’ll be better for the end of the season.”
Antenucci took his goal on Saturday – a lobbed finish from 10 yards – after a mix-up in Blackpool’s defence. Moments earlier he had passed up another good chance with a close-range volley over teh crossbar.
“I was lucky the defenders weren’t around, just the keeper, and I tried to lob him,” Antenucci said. “Luckily I scored.
“I was disappointed I missed the chance before because the ball dropped down well but at that moment I felt a player on my shoulder. It wasn’t easy.
“It was difficult to play on the pitch and this match was different to others.
“It wasn’t good.”

Leeds United: Ngoyi’s first-team future still hanging by a thread

Yorkshire Evening Post 22/3/15
Phil Hay
Granddi Ngoyi’s loan at Leeds United is in danger of ending without a single first-team appearance after a fresh recurrence of his thigh strain denied him a debut at Blackpool on Saturday.
The midfielder is back in the treatment room with the injury he was carrying when United signed him on a half-season loan from Italian club Palermo in January.
Ngoyi broke down during his first week of training at Thorp Arch but he looked to have overcome the injury last week and played for 88 minutes in an Under-21 game between Leeds and Crystal Palace on Tuesday.
Head coach Neil Redfearn had tentatively planned to include him in his squad for Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Bloomfield Road but he was forced to omit the 26-year-old after another setback.
Ngoyi will receive treatment during the fortnight-long international break but United have just seven games of the season remaining and Redfearn said he was “disappointed” that he had so far been denied the chance to watch Ngoyi in a Championship match.
United’s season resumes at home to Blackburn Rovers on April 4, one of two fixtures in three days over the Easter weekend.
“He’s got a slight reaction,” Redfearn said. “That’s disappointing because obviously I would have liked to have had a look at him at some point. We’ll have to see how that settles down. The guy’s come here with a little bit of a niggle and it’s ended up being a problem.
“I’d like to look at Granddi before the end of the season and he’d probably have come given us something on a difficult pitch (at Blackpool) – a physical presence.
“I’m hoping it’s just a bit of a tired reaction rather than a strain or an aggravation. Fingers crossed.”
Rodolph Austin was included in the 18-man squad at Bloomfield Road but was left as an unused substitute after a four-game absence.
Redfearn, meanwhile, repeated his call for England to tread carefully with Alex Mowatt and Lewis Cook when the midfielders link up with the Under-20s and Under-19s respectively this week.
Mowatt has been selected for two friendlies while Cook is available for three European Championship qualifiers in France.
Both players started a laboured and scrappy contest at Blackpool and Redfearn said: “They’re important to us. They’ve played most of the games this season and it’s a tough campaign. It takes it out of you physically and mentally.
“The lads could have done with a break but to get called up by your country is fantastic. We don’t want to deny them that.”

Blackpool 1 Leeds United 1: Antenucci pitches in to save Whites

Yorkshire Evening Post 22/3/15
Phil Hay
An impossible surface or not, Leeds United will have no cause to moan about Blackpool’s pitch next season. It was scarcely to their liking on Saturday afternoon but Blackpool are sliding out of the Championship, much to the league’s satisfaction.
Eleven teams have won at Bloomfield Road this season, one of numerous statistics behind the sorry demise of a disenfranchised club, but the mud, the divots and small patches of grass are provoking universal annoyance.
It was, as Neil Redfearn admitted before and after, the same for everybody and his team came to terms with it with great difficulty.
An imaginative cameo from Mirco Antenucci and the Italian’s 10th goal of the season spared United from the ignominy of defeat to a side who have hardly won at all.
The pitch at Bloomfield Road calls for percentage football but Antenucci found a way to climb above an unattractive scramble, changing the pace of Leeds’ display as a substitute and forcing a 1-1 draw with a crafty lob in the 62 minutes.
United’s performance was, predictably, their most disjointed for a while. Antenucci has not made such an impression for some time either.
The 30-year-old is the club’s top scorer and the only player in Redfearn’s squad to have reached double figures for the season.
In spite of that he has spent the past few months kicking his heels and gnashing his teeth; shut out of United’s starting line-up by their results and their formation. Others around him have suffered in the same way and reacted in their own fashion.
Antenucci complained on Instagram, as is the way of the world these days, and did not attempt to hide his dissatisfaction around Thorp Arch. Given the chance to justify his attitude, he took it by punishing some horrible Blackpool defending, with his second goal in four days.
“Mirco started getting free and causing problems,” Redfearn said. “His finish was a quality finish.
“What’s he’s done and what’s he doing is coming on and answering in the right way. He’s doing that with his performances and performing like this, he’s going to play his way back into the team. That’s what you’re asking for.”
Antenucci had answered a call from Redfearn in the 54th minute, introduced alongside Steve Morison.
Redfearn had resolved to give his starting side “the benefit of the doubt and another five minutes” after a slog of a first half but the need for a rethink was glaring at the interval.
The opening 45 minutes were almost chanceless in the sense of opportunities created rather than given away. Michael Jacobs almost slid home an early cross from Andrea Orlandi and Sam Byram whipped a volley narrowly wide with half-an-hour gone but the scrap was absolute.
United’s main attacking assets – Byram, Alex Mowatt, Billy Sharp – rarely strayed into the game.
“I felt a bit sorry for Billy,” Redfearn said. “That lone striker is a bit of a graveyard shift if you don’t get the quality into them.
“Blackpool played the conditions better than us. They’d obviously trained on the pitch and you could see that but they managed the conditions better.
“We talked about it, about how we needed to play and where we needed to put the ball and how we needed to get the midfield facing the right way, but we didn’t do it.
“The number of times we played little five-yard passes across the back and nearly got caught or gave away goals was a problem.
“Luckily enough we got in only 1-0 down so we could do something about it.”
Blackpool scored a minute before half-time with a neatly crafted goal.
Lewis Cook – everywhere in front of Redfearn’s defence – tripped Jose Miguel Cubero outside his own box, leaving Orlandi in prime territory. His free-kick smashed off the bar, struck Marco Silvestri and sat up nicely for Gary Madine to head home from point-blank range.
The interval came quickly and so did Redfearn’s changes. He took issue with the pitch – “all it needs is a path across it and it’s like a public park pitch” – but he did not pretend that his players had initially found a way to cope. Blackpool at least looked like they knew their way around it. Antenucci could have levelled before he beat Tangerines’ keeper Joe Lewis, smashing a volley high over the bar after Gaetano Berardi picked him out with a cross but the forward was instinctive with his finish on 64 minutes as Cubero and Peter Clarke got in a tangle trying to clear Silvestri’s long clearance.
Antenucci was stood in behind Blackpool’s defence, apparently out of the game, but his careful lob found their goalkeeper several yards off his line. Former United defender Darren O’Dea’s attempt at a lunging clearance merely carried the ball into the net.
It set up a last half-hour in which both sides pressed for a win, little though that result mattered to either of them. Blackpool are virtually down and Saturday’s game saw protests against their owner and Football League board member, Karl Oyston. A portion of their fans headed down the road to watch AFC Blackpool instead. Leeds, equally, are looking to next season but after Silvestri pulled off a diving save from Jacob’s free-kick, Bellusci appeared to have won the game with a header midway through seven minutes of injury-time.
The defender wrestled with Cubero as Berardi broke down the left and Cubero went down as Bellusci advanced and buried an inviting cross with an equally deadly header.
Referee Scott Duncan blew quickly and penalised Bellusci, booking him in the process.
The defender’s caution was his 12th of the season, three away from a three-game ban.
“I’ve looked at the replay and the lad (Cubero) seemed to stumble over his own legs,” Redfearn said.
“They’re both at it. I take it that the referee gave a free-kick, I can deal with that.
“But to book Bellusci for the foul is a poor decision. I don’t think the fourth official helped him. I was stood at the side of him and the information he was giving the referee was wrong. It was incorrect.
“But it’s a difficult job, particularly on a surface like that.”

Blackpool 1 Leeds United 1: Antenucci grabs Whites point

Yorkshire Post 21/3/15
Mirco Antenucci’s second-half equaliser for Leeds left Blackpool on the brink of relegation to League One after a 1-1 draw at a disgruntled Bloomfield Road.
Gary Madine had given the struggling Seasiders the lead just before the break, but Italian forward Antenucci struck just after the hour to extend Leeds’ unbeaten run to five games.
Blackpool, the Championship’s bottom side, are now 17 points adrift of safety with just seven games to go.
Before kick-off there were more protests by Blackpool fans against the club’s owners, the Oyston family.
One banner read: ‘RIP BFC: Killed by Greed 2015’ before hundreds of supporters boycotted the game to watch AFC Blackpool instead.
The hosts had the first chance of the game in the eighth minute as Andrea Orlandi flashed a ball across the box which narrowly evaded the sliding Michael Jacobs at the far post.
Leeds almost opened the scoring in the 29th minute when Charlie Taylor dribbled down the left and dinked to the far post, where Sam Byram lashed just wide from eight yards.
Lee Clark’s side threatened after 32 minutes as Madine gathered the ball in the area, but his tame left-footed strike was easily held by Marco Silvestri.
Leeds almost took the lead after 39 minutes when Taylor dribbled through the Blackpool defence but could not poke the ball under Joe Lewis from 12 yards.
But it was Blackpool who struck first in the 44th minute when Madine put them ahead, nodding into an empty net from six yards after Orlandi’s free-kick came back off the bar.
The home side had a good chance to double their lead three minutes into the second half as Madine rose highest to meet Jacobs’ corner, but could only head wide from 12 yards.
Madine was almost in again in the 55th minute, after panicky defending from Giuseppe Bellusci allowed the striker to nip in behind but he failed to control the ball from eight yards when one-on-one with Silvestri.
Leeds squandered a great chance on the hour mark when Gaetano Berardi’s cross found Antenucci 12 yards out, but he volleyed just over with his right-foot as he rushed into the area.
But the Italian made amends a minute later when a long ball forward found him in behind the chaotic Blackpool defence and he lobbed it over Lewis from 12 yards to equalise.
The home side threatened to take the lead again after 70 minutes as Miles Addison charged forward from midfield and poked the ball on the stretch on target but Silvestri got down low to his right to hold on.

Blackpool 1 Leeds United 1: Changes made a difference - Redfearn

Yorkshire Evening Post 21/3/15
NEIL REDFEARN admitted to mixed feelings after Leeds United’s 1-1 draw at Bloomfield Road, with a second-half strike from Mirco Antenucci earning the visitors a point.
Rock-bottom Pool, without a victory since January 31 and seeking to avoid a ninth successive defeat, were the better side in the first half and they were rewarded by an opener just before the interval from Gary Madine.
Redfearn threw Antenucci and Steve Morison into the fray for Alex Mowatt and Billy Sharp early in the second half and the changes helped pep up United, with Antenucci lobbing home an equaliser on 62 minutes - after coming on eight minutes earlier.
On a thoroughly wretched surface, Leeds could not find a winner with a late header from Guiseppe Bellusci ruled out for a foul, with referee Scott Duncan having already halted play moments earlier.
The match was boycotted by hundreds of Blackpool fans in protest against the ownership of Karl Oyston.
On the game, Redfearn said: “The substitutes made a difference and we got a little bit more of a focal point in Morro.
“But I felt a bit sorry for Billy (Sharp). That lone striker is a bit of a graveyard shift if you don’t get the quality into them.
“We looked better with Morro up there and Mirco started getting free and causing problems. The finish was a quality finish.”
On the game overall, Redfearn added: “We’re probably doing Blackpool a disservice. I thought they played the conditions better than us.
“They obviously trained on it and you can see that but they managed the conditions better.
“We talked about it, about how we needed to play and where we needed to put the ball in the right areas, and how we needed to get the midfield facing the right way but we just didn’t do it.
“The number of times we played little five yards passes across the back and nearly got caught or gave away goals was a problem, but luckily enough we got in only 1-0 down so we could do something about it.
“We gave them the benefit of the doubt for five minutes but it needed a change, so we changed it.”

Leeds United: An unforgivable mistake if Leeds don’t keep Redfearn – Hay

Yorkshire Evening Post 21/3/15
Phil Hay
The truth is that if Neil Redfearn was staying and Massimo Cellino was staying, Leeds United’s head coach would know already.
That’s not to say that either man is futureless here but the chronic indecision around Redfearn’s job is self-explanatory if you think about it hard enough. There’s a vacuum of authority at Elland Road – yet another one – and only two ways of properly filling it.
That Redfearn deserves a longer contract is the bleeding obvious in a few words. Leeds either believe in performance-related employment or they are cutting and shutting on a whim. It is equally true that Leeds minus Cellino might not feel able to commit to a new deal. The club are impotent on the big questions without his say-so. Redfearn came to realise that a long time ago.
In the interests of clarity, and not merely in respect of Redfearn’s future, United need one of two things to happen: Cellino to return with all his guns loaded or Cellino to up sticks and sell. He is ducking and diving on that issue, unwilling to say which scenario is likely, and differentiating between his position and that of Redfearn misses the point. One needs the other to act.
Still, the treatment of Redfearn in light of his performance is less than decent. The club could do more than leave him to dangle and play a game of join-the-dots of a few vague promises. He has been asked to organise a pre-season schedule and to offer suggestions for the transfer window but Leeds need a plan for the summer, with or without him.
Their programme last year was put together so hastily that it resulted in two pointless friendlies in Italy (one of which did not involve any opposition). A game at Swindon Town only came to pass because David Hockaday pulled a few strings at his former club and persuaded them to back out of a pre-arranged game with Charlton.
As for transfer targets, Redfearn has been invited to submit lists of players before. The names he put forward for this emergency loan window are either on file or in the bin. He’s been around football long enough to realise that a signed deal outweighs any of these nods and winks. There is a way of committing to a head coach and talking to him about a summer which he and his assistant, Steve Thompson, are not yet contracted for is hardly it. It becomes apparent when you question Redfearn that his job is not being addressed in any real sense. He sounds thoroughly uninformed on the subject of Cellino’s intentions and the question of what Cellino is really thinking.
Whether Cellino knows himself is hard to say but it would not hurt him to make it clear – and make it clear publicly – that if will-power and circumstances allow him to return to Elland Road as owner, Redfearn is his man. It is not as if the 58-year-old is banned sine die. This specific Football League disqualification ends in 42 days’ time. You question in any event whether a new owner would be so irate about having a productive coaching team under contract and already in place. Redfearn is an asset however the land lies.
There is, needless to say, an alternative; that Redfearn and Thompson are not for Cellino. It’s a nonsensical thought when their record is taken into account (Thompson’s in particular is virtually bullet-proof, as is his popularity at Thorp Arch) but Cellino has a habit of finding fault with his coaching staff. Redfearn would struggle to take rejection but he might still appreciate the honesty. And he won’t fail to land another job. Thompson, too, was highly thought-of in Football League circles long before he came to Leeds.
What the players would make of Redfearn’s departure is easy to guess. There was a time this season when the squad’s performance was so poor that their opinion on the coaching team counted for little but there is merit in heeding the body language of a side who are settled and in tune. Not everyone is happy. It’s no secret that Mirco Antenucci has cut an annoyed figure recently – resulting in a highly dubious link to Norwich City last week – but he has no argument with United’s form and, on that basis, no argument with Redfearn. As for the young spine in the current team, they need a philosophy to believe in. Two of them, Sam Byram and Lewis Cook, are out of contract in 15 months’ time. Their motivation for staying put under Redfearn – total faith, regular appearances – could diminish rapidly under another coach. Hockaday did not use Alex Mowatt once. He did not feel confident enough to give Cook a league debut. They have found before that talent is not always seen as talent.
There was no purpose at Elland Road back then and no vision on the playing side. As head coach, Redfearn has risked his neck and taken the club onto higher ground. It would be typical of Leeds United if the club decided to tear it all up and start again. It would also be an unforgivable mistake.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Maintaining form on Redfearn's agenda

leedsunited.com 20/3/15
Neil Redfearn admits it will be a "big ask" of his side to play their third game in the space of a week, but the head coach says maintaining the momentum will come into his thinking when picking the team to face Blackpool on Saturday.
United travel to Bloomfield Road just three days after the midweek victory at Fulham as Redfearn’s side look to extend their current unbeaten run to five games.
"The lads are really upbeat," said the head coach. "We’re on a good run, playing well and looking forward to every game.
"It’s just a case of making sure the lads who are selected are fit and strong and available, ready for the game."
Midfield pair Rodolph Austin and Granddi Ngoyi are both pushing for returns to contention after recent injury lay-offs.
Asked whether he may be tempted into changes at Blackpool, Redfearn replied: "You don’t want to go against the fact that you’ve got to play well to get in the side.
"They’re playing well and winning, you want to keep that momentum.
"It is a big ask – playing Wednesday and Saturday. But we’ve got a young group of players who are strong.
"What we want to do is pick a side that’s going to beat Blackpool. We’ll make sure we go there and make a really good account of ourselves."
Sam Byram marked his return to the starting line-up by netting the opening goal at Craven Cottage, taking his tally to the season, and Redfearn thinks the 21-year-old is thriving in the right-wing position he has occupied since January.
"I think the role suits him," he said. "He’s comfortable in that role and I think he’s a good footballer.
"But what I do think, particularly with young players, is that they’ve got to have an open mind to where they can play and where they can affect games.
"I think it would be wrong to pigeonhole them to just one position because I think they’re that good, the scope is great and we can do lots with these young players.
"They’ve had that mindset throughout their careers, it’s something that I’ve been really big on when I worked in the Academy; being comfortable in area of the pitch. You can see that they are."

Russell Crowe fuels Leeds United takeover speculation

Yorkshire Post 19/3/15
HOLLYWOOD star Russell Crowe has done little to dampen speculation about his possible interest in buying Sky Bet Championship club Leeds.
The 50-year-old Oscar-winning actor and lifelong Leeds supporter sparked rumours he was keen to invest in the club last month when he asked a fan on his Twitter site whether it would be a good idea to buy them.
Crowe did not deny or confirm the speculation of potential investment during an interview on Simon Mayo’s BBC Five Live show on Thursday, but said that he wanted “nothing but success” for Leeds and was “getting a little impatient”.
Speaking ahead of the release of his latest film, The Water Diviner, Crowe also said he had learned a lot about owning a top sports club during his nine years as joint-owner of Australian rugby league side South Sydney Rabbitohs.
“I’ve followed Leeds since I was a little kid,” Crowe said.
“I used to come home from sport in the afternoon, me and my brother, and watch Match of the Day.
“I love the club. I want nothing but success for the club. But like many other Leeds fans - and probably in fact 99.9 per cent - I’m getting a little impatient, you know?”
“Some of your listeners may not know that I own a rugby league team in Australia which, again, is my childhood team and they were a champion team when I was younger.
“Then they’d fallen in to a state of disarray and they were perennial losers. So, nine years ago, I put my cheque book where my mouth is and bought the club.”
The Rabbitohs won the NRL Championship for the first time in 43 years in October and recently beat Super League side St Helens to become world champions.
“Step-by-step, by changing the culture, changing the merchandise, changing the player roster, changing the coaching staff, changing the administrative staff and changing our connection to our community - we have risen from being perennial losers to being competitive, to being dominant - and now we’re champions,” Crowe added.
“I have learnt a lot in nine years - it would give me nothing but pleasure to see that white army marching on together, getting back in the Premiership and being where they should be.”
Italian Massimo Cellino, who bought Leeds from Bahrain investment firm Gulf Finance House Capital in December 2013, is currently disqualified from running the club.
Cellino was disqualified by the Football League in January following his conviction in Italy for tax evasion and had his ban extended until May 3 earlier this month for withholding information about his conviction.
Cellino is currently appealing against the League’s punishment under the Football Association’s Rule K, which could result in an independent arbitration tribunal.

A season of progress - Redfearn says young side heading in right direction

leedsunited.com 19/3/15
Neil Redfearn believes that the 2014/15 campaign has been a "season of progress" with his young side continually improving and learning along the way.
Redfearn has guided United to an impressive turn of form since the start of 2015 and Wednesday night’s 3-0 victory away to Fulham saw his team climb into the top half of the Championship table on the back of a four-game unbeaten run.
The starting line-up at Craven Cottage boasted an average age of just over 23, including four homegrown Academy graduates, and Redfearn sees this as an indicator of the direction in which the club is heading.
"We’re building, that’s obvious," said the head coach. "This season has been tough and we’ve been in a difficult scenario.
"We’ve battled and fought our way out of it, we’ve had to tough it out.
"We’ve got a young side that’s had to learn through adversity, it’s been tough for them.
"But, to be fair to everybody concerned with the club and the supporters, they have seen the green shoots.
"They can see that we’re trying to do the right thing. We’ve got a young side getting better and better.
"It’s been a season of progress, I think. But we’re still in that planning phase and we’re looking to take this on to next season."
With just eight games of the season remaining, Redfearn now his sights set on chasing a top-10 finish after the win at Fulham was United’s fifth from their last six on the road.
"You want to look forward now," he said. "I think we got to a point in the season two or three games ago when we could start looking up rather than over our shoulders.
"We’re looking up now and we’re trying to catch the sides above us.
"If we can have a top 10 finish from where we were at, then it’s a great season.
"We’re in a far better position. We still know there’s a lot of work to do and they’re a young side.
"They’re going to make mistakes at times but the future looks a lot brighter."
Redfearn also hailed the vociferous away support backing his side at Craven Cottage, with a travelling contingent of approximately 3,500 packing out the visiting section.
"The amount that travelled again is phenomenal," said the head coach. "It’s a big club and it’s got this proud tradition.
"The supporters are really proud of the club being successful and they want it to be successful in the top-flight again.
"If this is the beginning of it, then great."

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Fulham 0 Leeds United 3: Whites stage smash and grab raid in London

Yorkshire Evening Post 19/3/15
Phil Hay
Neil Redfearn’s opinion of Fulham is that in spite of their sorry predicament in the Championship, the London club have not done much wrong.
He might be right. Dominant and creative at Craven Cottage, they were beaten by a Leeds United side who smashed and grabbed with a true robber’s touch.
At the moment when Sam Byram first picked Fulham’s pocket, with 41 minutes played, Redfearn would have been more than happy to retreat from London with a result of any sort but this is clearly not Fulham’s year.
One club needed the points last night. The other club took them home.
They will call Leeds fortuitous, and perhaps Leeds were, but Redfearn’s squad have learned to turn and edge games in a way that Fulham can’t.
It’s at least one reason why United are in the top half of the Championship while their hosts lose sleep at the bottom.
Byram’s goal – a simple header in the midst of fierce Fulham pressure – paid Leeds back for digging in and keeping themselves alive, however much they trusted to luck.
That luck was complemented by the reflexes of Marco Silvestri, a stoic figure for the umpteeth time this season.
The goalkeeper dealt with chances from Ross McCormack and Matt Smith, the strikers sold by United for almost £12m last year, before Byram scored and Fulham hanged themselves with a series of glaring misses.
Leeds were barely in the first half but they found themselves in front at the end of it and, true to recent form, the advantage did not escape them.
Sol Bamba added a second goal three minutes into the second half and with that, the contest was done.
Craven Cottage had resigned itself to Fulham’s fate when left-back Konstantinos Stafylidis incurred a red card on 53 minutes for a second bookable offence and Mirco Antenucci came off the bench to wrap up a 3-0 win at the end of normal time.
The night became desperate for Kit Symons, as many others have.
Fulham conceded five times against Bournemouth on their previous home outing, a barrage of goals which gave Redfearn no reason to be shy or reserved.
United’s boss voiced more support for Steve Morison, his barren striker, before yesterday’s fixture but Byram’s return from injury came at the cost of Morison’s place, filling the right wing with an actual winger.
Redfearn’s only change was an obvious one.
Leeds had the added bonus of a mobbed away end and a ‘neutral zone’ nearby, an area which might as well have been the away end. They should also have thrived on a slick and well-kept pitch, unlike the swamp they will contend with at Blackpool on Saturday. Instead, possession ran away from them.
Fulham appreciated the surface more and they passed up the opening goal for the first time after six minutes, gifted the sort of chance that McCormack used to score in his sleep at Elland Road.
The striker had time to bring the ball down with one knee after Giuseppe Bellusci nodded a weak clearing header into his own box but a low volley sailed too close to Silvestri, who dropped down and parried the ball away.
The goalkeeper’s fingertips knocked a Brian Ruiz lob over the crossbar during Fulham’s next attack and then nudged wide a slick strike from Stafylidis.
By the time the 12th minute arrived, Smith’s header had drawn another good save and the resulting corner from Ruiz was careering off the bar. Amid that fierce onslaught, Leeds did well to survive.
Indebted to Silvestri, they drew the sting from the game as rapidly as Fulham turned the screw.
McCormack seemed to be conscious of the scale of the opportunity missed by him in the opening minutes and never properly settled.
The away crowd kept at him with chants of “greedy b******”, a reminder of how acrimonious his departure from Elland Road last summer had been. It did not change the fact that most of the pressure materialised at Silvestri’s end of the field.
The Italian could have done little about a diving header from Smith which bounced inches past his far post on 19 minutes and a 40-yard volley from Bellusci – stroked into the safe hands of Marcus Bettinelli – said everything about United’s struggle to knock on the door at the other end.
In the centre of the pitch, Scott Parker shook off the cobwebs and gave Redfearn’s young midfield a short lesson.
It took half an hour for United to back Fulham up and force a bit of anxious defending inside the home box.
But Leeds relied on an offside flag to deny McCormack after the forward side-footed a header from Smith past Silvestri with the defence in front of him looking stretched and disorganised.
It remained that way for most of the first half.
Yet to Fulham’s bemusement and no doubt deep concern, they reached the interval a goal behind.
Gaetano Berardi, United’s left-back, stole the ball with an aggressive tackle on the wing and produced a hanging cross which Fulham failed to read and Byram nodded calmly into an exposed net.
Fifteen thousand hearts inside Craven Cottage sank. They sank further two minutes into the second half when Alex Mowatt’s corner bounced through the box and asked for only a careful headed touch from Bamba. The centre-back provided it, nodding through the hands of Bettinelli, and Fulham were finished.
Stafylidis was not and two bookings in as many minutes – the second for a stupid kick at Byram – ended his appearance early.
Without him, Michael Turner hit a post, Silvestri pulled off another excellent save from Ryan Tunnicliffe and Smith’s finishing did everything to justify the decision to move him on from Elland Road.
Antenucci, by comparison, volleyed home his first opportunity in the 89th minute, continuing the story of the night. Leeds saw out theirs to the sound of olés.
n Lewis Cook has been shortlisted for the Football League’s Championship apprentice of the year award.
The 18-year-old, who is nearing the end of his first season as a professional at Leeds United, is one of three players in contention for the annual prize alongside Charlton Athletic’s Joe Gomez and Millwall’s Fred Onyedinma.
Cook has been a shining light in a difficult campaign at Elland Road, making 36 league appearances and earning himself an England Under-19 call-up earlier this week.

Leeds United: Redfearn hopeful of being in charge next season

Yorkshire Evening Post 19/3/15
Phil Hay
NEIL REDFEARN insisted he was optimistic of remaining as Leeds United head coach next season after strengthening his claim to a new contract with a resounding 3-0 win at Fulham.
Leeds produced a clinical performance and rode a spate of chances created by Fulham to crush the London club at Craven Cottage and climb into the top half of the Championship.
Redfearn, who admitted to giving his players a “b*****king” at half-time, is close to the end of his existing deal and is yet to be spoken to about an extension, despite United’s compelling form in the second half of the season.
Last night’s victory was their sixth in nine games, enough to lift Leeds up to 12th in the division, and the pressure on the club’s board to clarify Redfearn’s future is mounting on the back of his five-month spell in charge.
United’s owner and former president, Massimo Cellino, is currently serving a Football League ban and Redfearn is not clear if his deal will be extended before it expires this summer.
But the 49-year-old said: “All the talks I’ve had and all the signs are that I’m going to be here next season.
“The club have asked me to plan pre-season, they want me to draw lists (of transfer targets) up so all the signs are there.
“But from my point of view it needs doing sooner rather than later because I want to be here. I want to take it forward and I want to take it on. The lads are buying into what we’re doing and we just need a bit of forward planning.”
Leeds got the better of a Fulham side reduced to 10 men early in the second half as goals from Sam Byram, Sol Bamba and Mirco Antenucci punished a flood of opportunities spurned by their hosts.
Fulham produced 27 shots on goal and Redfearn said: “In the first half I thought Fulham were the better side. It was very unlike us. The lads got a b*****king at half-time but then we took over.”

Redfearn praises ruthless United

leedsunited.com 19/3/15
Neil Redfearn praised the “ruthless” streak in his side following Wednesday night’s 3-0 win away to Fulham, despite admitting United were second-best in the first half.
Goals from Sam Byram, Sol Bamba and Mirco Antenucci secured the three points at Craven Cottage, where the hosts were reduced to 10 men after Konstantinos Stafylidis was shown two yellow cards.
Fulham spurned numerous chances, particularly inside the opening 45 minutes, but United dug in to clinch a biggest away victory of the season so far.
Redfearn said: "Even at 3-0, they were still breaking down the sides and still getting balls into the box. Big Matt Smith was a handful, he had two or three chances that he could have scored.
"But Marco was making the saves and we got bodies in the box. When we went down the other end, we were ruthless.
"I thought they were the better side in the first half, they had the better chances.
"I thought we were a little bit deep and we never got after the midfield. They needed a rocket at half-time.
"I think they knew it was coming because they know how I am, but the first goal just deflated them.
"I thought we really had to tough it out, and we did. We really worked hard. By working hard, we’re finding that little bit of luck again.
"Marco made two or three outstanding saves which kept the game at nil but, as the game wore on, we just got better and better. It finished three but it could have been anything – it could have been six."
Antenucci stepped off the bench to wrap things up with United’s third of the night and his ninth of the season two minutes from time, something which particularly pleased Redfearn.
"We’ve got a real togetherness about us," said the head coach.
"I’m pleased for Mirco tonight, he came off the bench and got his goal.
"I explained to him before about coming on and playing in different positions for us because we play a little bit differently now.
"We play with one up front and attack from wide. He’s got to occupy all positions and he’s getting his head around that.
"He came on tonight, buzzed about and looked bright. He took his goal really well."

Now Mirco Antenucci Understands – Leeds Boss Neil Redfearn Salutes Italian’s Role in Fulham Win

Inside Futbol 18/3/15
Leeds United head coach Neil Redfearn feels that Mirco Antenucci now understands what is required of him after he scored the third goal in the Whites' 3-0 win away at Fulham in the Championship this evening.
Fulham started with intent at Craven Cottage, with both Matt Smith and Ross McCormack looking a threat to the Leeds defence as the home side were clearly on top.
But the former Premier League outfit could not breach the Whites backline and instead fell behind in the 40th minute when Gaetano Berardi crossed for Sam Byram to head the ball into the net.
Leeds then doubled their advantage in the second half, needing just three minutes to do so as Sol Bamba got on the end of a cross to put the Whites 2-0 up in the 48th minute.
Fulham's hopes of a comeback were then dealt a fatal blow when Konstantinos Stafylidis was sent off for a second bookable offence in the 52nd minute, reducing the home side to ten men.
Leeds then put the icing on the cake with a third goal in the 88th minute, with substitute Antenucci getting on the end of good Byram play to get himself on the scoresheet.
And Redfearn was delighted for the Italian, who he feels is now understanding he needs to adapt to the needs of the team.
The boss told LUTV: "I'm pleased for Mirco tonight – he's come off the bench and got his goal.
"I explained to him before about he needs to come on and play in different positions for us because we are playing a little bit differently.
"We play one up front, we attack from wide, we play one behind the front and he's got to be able to occupy all positions. And I think he is getting his head round that now.
"He came on tonight, buzzed about, looked busy and bright, and took his goal really well.
"And if we can get everybody pulling in the right direction and understanding the shape we've got and the way that we're playing then they are all assets", Redfearn added.
Leeds have now jumped up to 12th spot in the Championship on the back of their win.

Leeds pile more misery on to luckless and relegation-threatened Fulham

Guardian 18/3/15
Fulham’s relegation fears deepened after goals from Sam Byram, Sol Bamba and Mirco Antenucci fired Leeds United to a 3-0 victory at Craven Cottage.
Remarkably, the visitors scored with their only three genuine chances of the match, while Fulham missed a host of opportunities, with the former Leeds strike pairing of Ross McCormack and Matt Smith the chief culprits. McCormack and Smith scored 42 goals between them for Leeds last season but little has gone to plan this term as Fulham lie only six points above the Championship relegation zone.
The only saving grace for the manager, Kit Symons, is that none of the four teams below them look capable of picking up a win either. Should that change, however, then Fulham, the pre-season favourites for promotion, will be in grave danger of suffering back-to-back relegations.
They also had the defender Konstantinos Stafylidis sent off for collecting two bookings in the space of a minute on another frustrating evening for the under-pressure Symons.
McCormack, signed for £11m from Elland Road in the summer, should have fired Fulham ahead after only six minutes when he latched on to Smith’s knockdown and raced through on goal. However, Marco Silvestri in the Leeds goal guessed correctly as the Scotland striker attempted to slide the ball across him.
It was a miss that set the tone for the rest of the first half, with McCormack twice finding Smith with crosses in the six-yard box and Smith twice heading off-target.
The once-dynamic pairing did have the ball in the net after half an hour when McCormack met Smith’s header back across goal with a neat sidefooted volley but he was pulled back for offside.
Leeds, by this point, had barely ventured into the Fulham half but in a rare foray forward five minutes before the break, they took a shock lead. Gaetano Berardi crossed from the left and Byram was left all alone to nod the opener past Marcus Bettinelli.
The hosts’ defending let them down again three minutes after the interval when they allowed Alex Mowatt’s corner to bounce through the area before Bamba headed in at the far post.
Fulham’s evening took a turn for the even worse moments later when Stafylidis had his minute of madness. Having just been booked for dissent, the Greek defender had barely let play resume before scything down Byram on the touchline, giving the referee, Chris Kavanagh, no option but to send him off.
Still Fulham piled forward and still they could not find the net, with Ryan Tunnicliffe sidefooting wide from in front of goal and Shaun Hutchinson heading against a post.
Their misery was complete two minutes from time when Byram’s cross was palmed out by Bettinelli to the feet of the substitute Antenucci, who volleyed the ball into the ground and watched it loop into the net.

Fulham 0-3 Leeds United: Sam Byram, Sol Bamba and Mirco Antenucci net as 10-man hosts are beaten at Craven Cottage

Mail 18/3/15
Leeds United delivered a masterclass in smash and grab football as they were battered by Fulham but stole away from Craven Cottage with a resounding 3-0 victory.
The game marked five years to the day Fulham beat Juventus 4-1 in the Europa League, arguably the greatest night in the club’s history.
But defeat left them only six points clear of relegation to League One.
Manager Kit Symons, who was a coach at Fulham in 2010 in that memorable night, was aware of the anniversary.
‘That’s football,’ was all he could summon about their fall, adding: ‘We had 27 shots altogether, I’m incredibly frustrated.
‘I thought we were excellent first half, created numerous chances and didn't take them. I’ve been in and around football for a long time, often there’s sucker punch if you don't take chances.
‘We need three wins to stay up, it’s down to us to go get them. We probably had enough chances to win three games here.’
Twice the home side’s defence fell apart either side of half-time to allow Sam Byram and Sol Bamba to head Leeds ahead.
Fulham went down to 10 men and still managed to outplay their opponents, until substitute Mirco Antenucci made it three late on.
It was inexplicable that Fulham were not in front before Leeds took the lead, five minutes before the break.
Ross McCormack and Matt Smith, facing their former club, raced through early on but could not convert. Bryan Ruiz almost caught out Leeds goalkeeper Marco Silvestri with a 35-yard lob, but he tipped over, then hit the crossbar from a corner.
But out of nowhere, Leeds scored when Gaetano Berardi crossed for Byram to head in completely unmarked and by seven minutes into the second half the home team completely capitulated.
On 48 minutes Leeds went two ahead, an Alex Mowatt corner bouncing all the way through Fulham’s box to allow defender Bamba to head in at the back post. Then left-back Konstantinos Stafylidis was sent off for two yellow cards within 45 seconds of each other to end any hope of a comeback.
Symons said: ’It was ridiculous getting the second so soon after the first. He dived in right in front of the Leeds fans for the second. It seemed the ref was moving on, but someone was in his ear then he changed his mind and went for the second yellow. It was rash and petulant.’
Fulham continued to dominate, despite having a man less, until the 88th minute when Antenucci scored with a first-time shot.
Leeds manager Neil Redfearn said: ’Our lot got a bollocking at half time, I thought we were off the pace. We worked it out and toughed it out. It could’ve been four or five by the end.’

Leeds United: Redfearn needs to poach new striker

Yorkshire Evening Post 18/3/15
Ross McCormack scored more goals for Leeds last season than the current crop of strikers have amassed between them this time.
Phil Hay reports as United aim to deny their former hero tonight.
Leeds United could hardly be more familiar with the strikers at the front of Fulham’s team. They knew enough about Ross McCormack and Matt Smith to think that selling them for the thick end of £12m last summer made financial sense.
The difference those two players might have made to Leeds since then is a moot topic of debate. Their combined total of 42 goals equated to 15th in the Championship last season, two places below the position Leeds occupy ahead of tonight’s game at Craven Cottage, and Fulham are the division’s most unlikely candidates for relegation with nine fixtures left.
“They’re good players but footballers come and go,” said Neil Redfearn, United’s head coach and a man who worked with both strikers while Brian McDermott was in charge at Elland Road. Redfearn thinks a hypothetical discussion about what McCormack and Smith would offer him now is waste of his time and effort but he would not deny that a reliable, goal-scoring forward is something he needs.
Between them, Leeds’ recognised strikers – Billy Sharp, Steve Morison, Souleymane Doukara, Mirco Antenucci and Edgar Cani – have amassed fewer goals than McCormack raked in alone during his final year in Yorkshire. It barely helps to add in the contribution of players who left the club after this season started or have scarcely played; Noel Hunt, Brian Montenegro, Dominic Poleon and Smith himself, who appeared five times prior to his move to London. The statistics speak volumes.
Redfearn watched United fight out a goalless draw with Nottingham Forest on Saturday and saw again where Leeds are weak.
Organised at the back with a fit and competitive midfield, what his side lacked on an uninspired afternoon was a player capable of poaching a goal from nothing, as McCormack used to do.
“That’s something everybody’s looking for,” Redfearn said. “Goals and goal-scorers are priceless commodities. They’re sought after and they’re the sort of players who cost you money.
“When you’re building a side it’s important to have goal-scorers in it. I do think we’ve got goals in midfield – Alex Mowatt will get goals, Lewis Cook will start getting some, Luke Murphy scores, Sam Byram scores and I can see Charlie Taylor scoring.
“But when you come up against a side who are organised, when there’s not much give in the game, it’s your goal-scorers who get you over the line. It’s probably right to say that I’d be looking for the club to do something in that area.”
It is true, still, that Leeds got the better of the deals involving McCormack and Smith; deals which traded both strikers at the very peak of their value and arguably beyond it.
McCormack has scored 10 league goals for Fulham and once in each of the cup competitions. Smith was sent off on his debut and Fulham’s boss at the beginning of the season, Felix Magath, did not bother with him. The 6ft 5in university graduate went on loan to Bristol City and made a point by striking 13 times for a club who lead League One by a street. He went back to Fulham last month and has scored twice in the three games, including an equaliser at Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday.
“He and Ross pose different threats,” Redfearn said. “You’ve only got to look at the size of them – one’s 6ft 5in, the other’s 5ft 8in or thereabouts.
“They’ve got different attributes and both are very good players. We know that because they’ve done well for us in the past. They’re dangerous and, to be honest, that bit of Fulham’s game probably isn’t a problem. It is the other areas where they’ve struggled.”
The league table suggests as much. Kit Symons’s squad have conceded more goals than any side bar Blackpool – a club who are days away from relegation – and their total of league defeats will climb to 20 if Leeds win at Craven Cottage this evening. The odds for survival are on their side still but they are dismally devoid of form and consistency. Prior to the season, they were title favourites.
“They’re a typical example of how unforgiving the division is,” Redfearn said. “If I’m honest, I don’t think they’ve done a right lot wrong.
“They had a mini-revival when they beat us at Elland Road and they looked like they’d breeze their way out of trouble. But the division caught up with them again. That’s the nature of it.”
United, almost three months on from their own crisis of confidence, are more at home in the league than they were when Fulham shaded a forgettable match in Leeds. Saturday’s draw against Forest was no classic but Redfearn’s players did not look susceptible to a team who have averaged almost three goals a game since Dougie Freedman became manager.
Redfearn is happy with his team and, in the midst of several injuries, satisfied with the players he is looking to. He is supportive and defensive of Steve Morison, a player who has switched from lone striker to right winger in the second half of the term and has foregone goals in the process. Morison last scored for Leeds more than two years ago and he had the age-old humiliation of striking a corner flag with a 20-yard shot on Saturday.
Speaking ahead of tonight’s match, Redfearn showed no sign of wavering faith, saying Morison’s attitude and contribution was being undervalued.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Leeds midfielders best in Championship: Redfearn

Yorkshire Post 17/3/15
LEEDS UNITED head coach Neil Redfearn has paid his central midfield department a sizeable compliment – labelling them as ‘probably the best in the Championship.’
United, who travel to Fulham tomorrow night for a reunion with former strikers Ross McCormack and Matt Smith, are enjoying a new year renaissance with the form of the likes of Lewis Cook, Luke Murphy and Alex Mowatt a key component in their upturn.
Mowatt has chipped in with four goals in the past month and been named in the SkyBet Championship Team of the Week on two occasions, while Murphy has looked a player transformed this calendar year following a fraught first half of the season.
Both have played their part in United’s buoyant run of seven victories in their past 13 league matches, with teenager Cook instrumental in a number of those wins.
Nottingham Forest manager Dougie Freedman referred to Cook as United’s dangerman ahead of Saturday’s 0-0 draw, with the 18-year-old already one of the hottest properties in the Championship along with Mowatt.
Redfearn said: “Lewis is a fantastic young talent and part of a really strong midfield.
“He is obviously going to get that sort of attention and our midfield is playing well.
“We have probably the best midfield in this division, centrally and teams are going to try and stop it.
“We have talked about rotating around to get the spare man on the ball through the last week and I felt we did it quite well (on Saturday), to be fair.”
Tomorrow’s trip to Fulham is the first leg of an away double-header, with United travelling to rock-bottom Blackpool 72 hours later.
The Craven Cottage clash is likely to come too soon for the injured duo Rudy Austin (thigh) and Sam Byram (foot), with Redfearn set to experiment and look at one or two more of his academy products in the games and weeks ahead.
Kalvin Phillips and Lewis Walters have both been on the bench in recent games, with Redfearn expected to have a closer look at them at senior level in the not too distant future, with Leeds comfortable in mid-table and able to start planning for next season.
Redfearn said: “We know about some of the players from previous games. There are players out of the picture now who were playing before and we know about them.
“We’ll maybe experiment and try one or two things. We’ve got one or two young players.
“There are a couple of players I’d like to see before the end of the season.
“There might be a point where we change it around a little bit. But if it’s not broke and you’re playing well, you don’t fix it.
“I’ve got a good idea of what the players here are about. But sometimes you need to experiment just to see how they actually look in the heat of battle.
“There’s a difference between an Under-21 game or training and actually being out there in front of 30,000 at Elland Road. There’s that to think about, but there’s time yet.
“But it’s important that we still keep some momentum because momentum’s an important thing, especially when you’re going to try and hit the ground running next season.”
United under-21s face Crystal Palace today at Tooting and Mitcham FC (2pm), with loan signing Granddi Ngoyi to feature after shrugging off a thigh problem.

Leeds United: Rejuvenated players enjoy winning feeling

Yorkshire Evening Post 17/3/15
FOR SCOTT Wootton, Charlie Taylor, Luke Murphy, Sol Bamba and Steve Morison, sampling defeats in the Leeds United jersey so far in 2015 have hardly been a regular occurrence.
Morison has been on the losing side just twice in 12 appearances for United this year, while Wootton has tasted defeat just three times in 13 outings.
For Morison, it is in stark contrast to the first half of the campaign, when he was on the winning side just once in seven appearances, the 3-0 derby success over Huddersfield Town at Elland Road on September 20.
Wootton was also part of a winning Leeds dressing room on just one occasion in the first half of 2014-15 when United beat Bolton Wanderers 1-0 on August 30.
United have lost on just three occasions when Murphy and Taylor have lined up for them this calendar year, with the pair having not looked back after being brought back into the fold for the FA Cup third-round tie against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on January 4.
For Murphy in particular, it is somewhat of a turnaround in his fortunes.
A grim first half of the season to forget saw him dismissed in David Hockaday’s final game in charge, the 2-1 Capital One Cup exit at near-neighbours Bradford City on August 27.
The former Crewe Alexandra schemer’s last game of 2014 was the 2-1 defeat to Wolves at Elland Road on October 25, the final act of Darko Milanic short-lived six-match spell in charge of the club.
Meanwhile, Bamba has been part of a losing side just three times in ten United outings.

Leeds United: Five observations from United’s weekend draw with Nottingham Forest

Yorkshire Evening Post 16/3/15
SATURDAY proved a low-key one for both Leeds United and Nottingham Forest in front of the Championship’s third best seasonal crowd of 30,722 as they played out a frustrating goalless stalemate.
For Leeds, it represented a second successive clean sheet and an extension of their unbeaten run to three matches, but no third consecutive victory in the bargain.
Here’s five observations from the weekend action at Elland Road.

1: Leeds, for all their work ethic, lack a clinical cutting edge in the final third
As Eddie Gray correctly alluded to, Leeds got in some great positions at times on Saturday, but failed to pay due care and attention with their final ball. The second-half was disappointing in particular, with hardly anything manufactured, apart from a late chance which broke to Mirco Antenucci. Billy Sharp was left to feed off scraps and had a particularly frustrating afternoon. It was a shame more could not be created, given that former Whites loanee Eric Lichaj in particular looked a weak link from the early minutes. It was one of those ‘if only’ afternoons for Leeds, whose strikers have managed a combined total of 18 Championship goals between them this season. It does not take a rocket scientist to deduce where Leeds need to focus their recruitment plans on in the summer - with adding some genuine width top of the list along with at least one other central striker with a predatory edge.

2: Sol Bamba and Giuseppe Bellusci are probably United’s best bet in the centre of defence at the minute
The pair were strong enough against Forest, although they did not have too much to worry about with Dexter Blackstock in splendid isolation up front for most of the afternoon. Barring one decidedly dodgy backpass to Marco Silvestri, Bamba was in resolute form and had a far better afternoon than he did against Watford a fortnight earlier. Bellusci is a touch rash and impulsive at times, but produced a sound enough showing and possesses a yard of pace to get himself out of trouble at times. Geatano Berardi was solid enough at left-back and is the sort of pro you need in your ranks and while Scott Wootton had his hands full at times with speedster Michail Antonio, the Forest man’s final option was poor at times.

3: Neil Redfearn, in mitigation, tried to make things happen
In contrast to his counterpart Dougie Freedman, Redfearn tried to manufacture a breakthrough with Mirco Antenucci and Souleymane Doukara thrown into the fray for Steve Morison and Charlie Taylor. Meanwhile, Dougie Freedman sat on his hands, a little strange given that Forest are chasing wins to gatecrash the play-offs. Lars Veldwijk and Tyler Walker represented striking options available to him along with winger Jamie Paterson, but Freedman was content to see the game out. With Leeds comfortable in midweek, albeit with realistic aims to reach the top ten, expect Redfearn to be proactive in the coming weeks, with the likes of Kalvin Phillips and Lewis Walters getting some game time being something he is highly likely to do.

4: Charlie Taylor is adding another string to his bow
Not in his natural position of left-back, Taylor is learning on the job and is providing a handy option out on the left flank, without being the bonafide wing option which Leeds be eyeing in the summer. But he had his moments on the left and could and perhaps should have been hailing his first goal in United colours early on against Forest, with his shot beaten away by Karl Darlow. It was a chance which Neil Redfearn felt Taylor, on his left foot, should have taken. But Taylor is coming along nicely, doesn’t let anyone down and can reflect on a highly positive 2015 so far. He has travelled a fair way so far this year and like with Sam Byram is at least providing another option out wide in midfield.

5: A disappointing afternoon yes, but United can look ahead with confidence and positivity to two winnable games this week
Back in the bad old days, well December, Leeds couldn’t see where their next away win was coming from with the defeat at Derby on December 30 extending their run without a victory on the road to eight matches - with a haul of two points from a possible 24 pretty abject. How times have changed with Leeds having won four of their six Championship games away from Elland Road so far in 2015, with their tally of 13 points from a possible 18 extremely impressive and a haul which is much better than those of free-scoring Bournemouth, Watford, Derby and Middlesbrough. In terms of the Championship away form table over the past six matches, only Norwich City, with 16 points, have pocketed more points on the road. Not picking up at least one win this week would represent a genuine disappointment and while at the turn of the year, United’s mindset was based on nicking something away from home, the goalposts have metaphorically moved. All of their remaining away games do not look that menacing, with the toughest looking assignment on paper seeming to be the Easter Monday trip to Wolves.

Defensive steel pleases Redfearn - Head coach delighted with another clean sheet

leedsunited.com 16/3/15
Neil Redfearn was full of praise for how his side defended in Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Nottingham Forest.
Both teams had chances in either half in front of an impressive 30,772 Elland Road crowd, but there proved to be no way through as the spoils were shared between two of the division’s in-form clubs.
United have now kept five clean-sheets from their last eight Championship outings, something which has particularly pleased the head coach in recent weeks.
"I thought we looked good at the back," Redfearn said of Saturday’s draw. "We defended well when we had to.
"I thought Scott Wootton was outstanding against Antonio because he’s a real handful.
"I thought on two or three times he had him in difficult situations and he handled it really well.
"We talked about Sol covering him when he knocked it into the grass and ran because he’s got blistering pace. I thought they worked it out between them really well.
"Then there was Steve Morison on the right, out of position, but he offered something at the back stick with balls in from Charlie Taylor.
"I’m pleased with the midfield again, I thought they were really good when Forest tried to do something.
"We rotated around and got players on the ball. So I’m pleased, we just needed a little bit of quality at times in the final third to get over the line and get the win."
Redfearn also hailed the contribution Steve Morison and gave his backing to the forward, who occupied a somewhat unfamiliar role on the right wing for the second game in succession.
"He’s doing a job for us out there," said the head coach.
"It’s not his natural position – he’s a centre-forward – but he’s mucked in. He did it at Wigan for us and never quibbled, he’s got on with it and worked hard.
"He worked hard again on Saturday. We changed it around and nobody batted an eyelid – they just got on with it.
"We changed it around and tried to win it, everybody accepts that, but, for whatever reason, it just didn’t quite happen for us in front of goal.
"He’s got my backing, he knows that. He knows I’m on his side.
"He knows I think he’s playing well and that I respect him as a professional. He’s been good and he’s been a big part of this turnaround for us.
"We’ve used him in various roles – as a lone striker and now working up and down the right to do a job while we get people fit. He’s mucked in and he’s a good professional."

Leeds United: Top-10 finish will be a real positive – Wootton

Yorkshire Evening Post 16/3/15
Phil Hay
Defender Scott Wootton claimed a top-10 finish at the end of a turbulent season would be a “real positive” for Leeds United after a gritty goalless draw with Nottingham Forest on Saturday.
Wootton said United’s team had learned to cope with the pressure of playing for the club and were developing a confident mindset on the back of an extended run of good form in the second half of the season.
A tight contest with Forest – a side with a slim chance of making the Championship play-offs – failed to produce a winning goal but Wootton declared himself happy with a solid performance in front of Elland Road’s biggest home crowd of the term.
Leeds are 13th in the league ahead of back-to-back games against struggling Fulham and Blackpool this week, six points back from 10th-placed Blackburn Rovers who won away at Charlton Athletic on Saturday.
Neil Redfearn’s squad are out of contention for promotion but right-back Wootton insisted a move into the top 10 in the final nine games of the season was a meaningful target after a campaign in which the club were threatened with relegation.
The former Liverpool and Manchester United player was one of a number of peripheral figures in United’s squad who Redfearn brought in from the cold at the turn of the year, leading to a dramatic turnaround in results.
Wootton began 2015 on loan at Rotherham United and was briefly in line for a permanent move to the New York Stadium before returning to Elland Road.
“The likes of myself, Steve Morison, Billy Sharp and Luke Murphy were nowhere near the picture and the club looked like we were in a real relegation dogfight,” Wootton said. “But since the turn of the year we’ve all come back into the mix and we’ve all helped. Sol (Bamba) has been a big player for us and Charlie Taylor’s playing well on the left. It’s been really pleasing for us all to pull together.
“We know what this league’s about and I think that’s showing. It’s no fluke with the results and the form.
“There’s a pressure you should expect to have when you’re playing for Leeds United. You should go into games expecting to win and for the first time in a while we’ve got that feeling. We don’t seem to be bothered by it. We know exactly what we’re doing. We’re tough and resilient.
“We’d rather have it that way than be going to places and people thinking we’re going to get beaten, which was probably the case two or three months ago. We’ve turned it round and a top-10 finish would be a real positive way to end the season.”
Saturday’s game produced few chances, with Forest keeper Karl Darlow pulling off good saves in either half from Taylor and Mirco Antenucci and United’s Marco Silvestri denying Ben Osborn and Chris Burke.
Wootton said: “I think a draw was about fair.
“We probably edged it in the first half in terms of chances and territory. They had a really good spell in the second half and we were against the ropes for a while.
“They had pressure on us but we were resilient and solid and it was pleasing to come away with a clean sheet.”