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So the train's left on time, arrived on time, you've linked up with everyone you're supposed to meet. In the pub, the food is solid stuff and well cheap and the beer's acceptable. You get to the ground on time. There's nobody sitting in your seat. Then the match starts and that's the weekend spoiled.
Eirik Bakke was the latest welcome return to the starting line-up (making up for the departure of the off-form Lee Bowyer), and with Olly also back in the XI this should have been a straightforward win against a bottom-half team. But if you want to win games, you've got to create the chances, take them and then defend solidly - and that's something we're just not capable of right now.
In one of several good moves in the first half, Fowler and Viduka combined and set up Eirik Bakke in the box: he seemed to miskick it from where we were at the other end of the ground - but the net bulged nonetheless and we were off to a happy start. Ian Harte has clearly been reminded about his defensive duties - he barely ventured over the halfway line - and Gary Kelly was similarly restrained. Dacourt was running the midfield, and Rio and Dom were untroubled at the back. But we weren't creating many actual chances, and Crossley wasn't needed to stop much in the way of genuine attempts on goal.
In fact, it needed a good save from Nige (cunningly disguised so that the ref thought that Carbone had blasted over the bar) and some scrambled defending that meant that Boro went in at the interval a goal behind.
Steve McClaren made some big decisions at the break - notably bringing on the only-just-fit Alen Boksic to add some bite to the attack, and changing formation to give Carbone more room in midfield and Whelan more service up front. It soon paid off in bizarre fashion as Boro scored an equaliser when Paul Ince's harmless shot hit a divot and left Nige flat-footed as the ball span over his shoulder and into the net. For those of you with longish memories, Bobby Davison scored a similarly groundsman-inspired goal in the tie at Elland Road 13 years ago, so I guess that makes us even. Quite when we'll get the chance to level up with Real Madrid for their turf-induced goal last year is anybody's guess, cos we'll have to be in the Champions League to do that.
As it was, Leeds weren't behind for long: Ince committed a foul on the edge of the box and Harte finally ventured forward. Instead of following his recent idea of aiming for Row Z, he chipped it over the wall for Robbie Fowler to get in front of his marker and flick a header into the net. 2-1 up again despite not making many real chances we were happy and in front.
With the match entering the final quarter it was clear that Mark Viduka (cost: £6-7 million) was absolutely knackered and was barely able to run. No problem we thought, we have Robbie Keane (price £11 million) on the bench, and if we bring him on we'll be able to stretch them out, keep them under pressure and have an easy win. No such luck. DOL stayed firmly glued to the bench, finally deciding to replace the exhausted man of the match Dacourt with 5 minutes remaining. Almost immediately we were in trouble: Nige pulled off an astounding save from a point-blank Whelan volley that had the whole ground on its feet, applauding striker and keeper alike. From the corner, we decided not to follow the conventional wisdom of actually marking people, and the defence stood and looked amazed to see Dean Windass rise to take an unmarked header and square the game with injury time beckoning.
Another two points gone, Champions League football disappearing over the horizon and the UEFA Cup looking like it might only be attainable by relying on Arsenal or Chelsea to win the FA Cup or by embarking on a pre-season tour of Europe's least accessible cities in the InterToto.
We were the better side today - but that doesn't mean we deserved to win: in order to justify that tag you need to create chances and see them saved, hacked clear, hit the woodwork. You need to see players trying all they know, changing tactics, switching the play and always chasing. We didn't have that, and Boro - however limited they may be - were more deserving of the point they got for a draw than we would have been for a win.
Vague ratings for our lot. Nige: didn't do much wrong - not a lot he could do for either goal and pulled off a superb save. Kelly/Harte: better defending but no options going forward (but since the reverse is what I've complained of before I'll shut up). Rio/Dom - solid enough (but surely someone should have taken responsibility for marking Windass. Olly - superb all-round play, both in defence and attack: man of the match. Bakke: not a bad performance considering he's been out with injury for so long. Batts: looking like he's past his best I'm afraid - passes are too square and just not managing to pull off the same tricks he was doing earlier this season. Kewell: creating a bit - but mainly for himself and not enough for the team. Fowler: ran himself into the ground, covering for the midfield, coming looking for the ball and always trying to get open. Viduka: crucial to setting the goal up, holds the ball up brilliantly - but can't play for 90 minutes so why wasn't he replaced?
Copy from Football Unlimited of 11/02/2002.
Court cases, community service, Cardiff City; newspaper vendettas, occasional brilliance, red cards, yellow cards and fancy dress: you could write a book about Leeds United this season.
After what turned out to be only their second point from the last 15 a new chapter could begin with a question: February - just how serious is the malaise at Elland Road?
Judging by the way Harry Kewell dallied half-heartedly throughout, Rio Ferdinand marched off and David O'Leary bristled afterwards, "pretty" seems an applicable answer. Leeds are in a bit of a state and they are eight points off the top four and Champions League.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 10/02/2002.
For different reasons, at either end of the Premiership, this was a match neither side could afford to lose and that knowledge bred a cautious approach for much of the game. In the end, neither side did lose, but David O'Leary will be furious that his out-of-form Leeds side effectively threw away two points.
In the first 10 minutes, the teams resembled two boxers easing their way into a fight, throwing long-range jabs. Gary Kelly and Robbie Fowler had shots for Leeds, then Franck Queudrue for Middlesbrough. All were on target, but didn't trouble the goalkeepers.
However, Leeds were already looking the more adventurous side, as shown when Harry Kewell's volley almost deceived keeper Mark Crossley in the 12th minute.
Copy from Yorkshire Evening Post of 11/02/2002.
THE knives are out and being sharpened after yet another United slump left their Champions League dream hanging by the thinnest of thread.
This was more than simply a disappointing performance. It was more than just two points dropped.
A 2-2 draw against possibly the most unimaginative team in the Premiership serves only to underline the truly dire state which Leeds find themselves in at the present time.
Middlesbrough were so poor in the first half that Leeds should easily have disposed of them by the break. Two months ago they would have, but this is a Leeds side seemingly playing with little confidence and, in too many areas, with little passion or bottle.
United boss David O'Leary has already admitted that his team have had their confidence knocked by the events of recent months and he now has a massive job on his hands to turn things around before it is too late.
This is possibly the biggest test of the Irishman's short managerial career as he bids to prevent what, for the time being at least, is still only a slump from turning into a major crisis.
But the United supporters are already beginning to run out of patience and unless things improve soon then O'Leary and his management staff could find themselves under intense pressure to deliver.
Of course, O'Leary has faced criticism from the fans before. When things were going wrong in the middle of last season he was under the spotlight to get things right.
He did, eventually, sort it out and now he and the frustrated supporters will be left clinging to the hope that once again they can embark on a carbon-copy run which propelled them up from mid-table and into fourth place.
Put simply, nothing else will do as the likes of Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal continue to pull away from the chasing pack. Leeds must improve - and quickly.
There are plenty of games remaining and enough points left to pick up, but unless they start showing some kind of form, desire and guts then it is hard to see just how United will qualify for Europe next season.
O'Leary tried extremely hard to mask his disappointment at the final whistle. He must wonder where it has all gone wrong. A solution is required and they need it immediately.
Of course when you are feeling as down in the dumps as United currently are then things rarely go right for you on the field, and there was evidence of some horrendous luck yet again at The Riverside.
Eirik Bakke had given Leeds a 19th minute lead in a first half which was totally dominated by the Whites against an extremely poor Middlesbrough side.
A bit more application and a touch more effort going forward and surely the home side would have fallen apart.
Gary Kelly did fire one in from long distance and Robbie Fowler too tried his luck, but Boro keeper Mark Crossley was equal to both attempts.
Bakke's goal was a well-worked effort as Martyn's long kick was flicked on by Harry Kewell to Mark Viduka who in turn knocked a cheeky back-heel into the path of Fowler who raced through on goal. Instead of shooting, however, the Leeds striker touched a delicate ball into the path of the on-running Bakke and the Norwegian made no mistake from 10 yards.
It should have heralded an avalanche of goals, but United did not capitalise on their opening and slowly they allowed Steve McLaren's strugglers back into the match.
Benito Carbone, signed up on loan from Bradford on Friday, was inspirational. The little Italian could and should have equalised just before the half hour as Gianluca Festa's ball over the top caught the back four cold and while he had time and space to bring it down and pick his spot, the spot he picked was high and wide.
McLaren made an all-important double change for the second half as he introduced Robbie Mustoe and, more vitally, Croatian striker Alen Boksic. It gave them a huge lift and they started dictating the game.
Leeds were thrown onto the back foot, however, nothing could have prepared them for what happened next.
As Boro captain Paul Ince let fly with a speculative 51st minute left foot shot there seemed little danger.
Lacking power and pace, it looked destined for the arms of Nigel Martyn. But as the England keeper went down to pick the ball up it struck a divot in the six-yard-box and looped up over his shoulder and into the net.
It was a shocking and cruel goal which epitomises just how things are going for the team at the moment.
They did hit back to take the lead once again but it was a false dawn of hope for the travelling army of Whites.
Ian Harte's free-kick was on target but heading for Crossley's hands until quick-thinking Fowler ducked across in front of him to flick a diving header past the stationary keeper.
It should have been the winner but Leeds failed to kill the match off and Boro hit back.
Boksic sent a header wide and a couple of Carbone strikes were easily held by Martyn before they finally hit Leeds with a late, late equaliser.
Once again it was cruel on Martyn who had made a truly world class save to deny Noel Whelan's thunderous volley, only to then be beaten seconds later as Dean Windass leapt unmarked to head home Carbone's corner from just six yards out.
A confidence-boosting victory had been ripped from their grasp and now O'Leary and Co must make good use of this two-week break to finally get this faltering Champions League charge back on track.
If they don't then you can bet those knives will have been cut to a viciously sharp point in the meantime.