Sunday Times 28/10/07
Leeds take it easy
Leeds 4 Millwall 2
Richard Rae at Elland Road
Gus Poyet may be leaving - the Uruguyan is expected to accept the post of assistant to Juande Ramos at Spurs tomorrow - but Leeds march on. Dennis Wise cut an isolated figure without his long-standing side-kick, but the United boss celebrated a year in charge by overseeing his team’s 11th win in 13 games; incredibly, given the 15-point handicap under which they began the season, it took them into a playoff position.
Yet Millwall almost punctured the bubble of anniversary good-will within five minutes of the start. Will Hoskins and Gary Alexander exchanged passes in the penalty area before Hoskins lifted the ball over Casper Ankergren and into the United net, only to see the linesman flagging for offside.
Jamie O’Hara headed Ahmet Brkovic’s cross over the bar, and Brkovic himself saw a deflected shot spin wide of the post as the visitors, initially, looked the more dangerous team.
As the half drew on, however, Leeds began to find an attacking rhythm of their own. Jermaine Beckford twice shot wide, Seb Carole fired straight at Millwall keeper Lenny Pidgeley and Tresor Kandol headed past a post.
Shortly before the break they went ahead. Carole beat Danny Senda down the left and though his cross was half-cleared, the ball arrived at the feet of David Prutton, who curled a right-footed shot beyond Pidgeley.
Hoskins almost embarrassed Ankergren at his near post shortly after the restart, but it was Pidgeley who was the goalkeeper left blushing when his attempted clearance thumped against Beckford. The forward collected the rebound and slid the ball into an empty net.
Jonathan Douglas, allowed time to turn and shoot inside the area, made the game safe with a third; two minutes later, he drove a free kick through a feeble wall to make it four.
Humiliation beckoned for Millwall, but Leeds perceptibly relaxed. Hoskins pinched one back with a deflected shot, Brkovic another with a header to start the nerves jangling, but Leeds tightened up again and should have scored at least one more before the whistle.
Wise chose not to appear for the postmatch press conference, leaving his “acting” assistant Alan Thompson to field the questions about Poyet. He did his job solidly, revealing Poyet had texted all the players and staff to wish them luck before the game.
“I think the boys were all a bit flat and down yesterday when Dennis said Gus was possibly going,” said Thompson. “He’s been a big part of what’s happening here and he’ll be missed.
“But in the end it’s about what goes on over the white line and we have good players here.”
For Millwall, assistant manager Colin West said: “I thought the players battled well after the mad 10 minutes at the start of the second half.”
There is a sense of inevitability about Leeds’s rise now. Up by Easter, if not before.
Star man: Jonathan Douglas (Leeds)
Player ratings. Leeds United: Ankergren 6, Richardson 7, Heath 7, Rui Marques 7, Clapham 6, Prutton 7, Douglas 8, Westlake 6, Carole 7 (Weston 77min, 5), Beckford 7 (Da Costa 89min), Kandol 7
Millwall: Pidgeley 5, Senda 5, Robinson 5, Shaw 5, Frampton 6, Brkovic 5, Fuseini 4 (Simpson 61min, 5), Dunne 6, O’Hara 5, Hoskins 6, Alexander 5

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