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New Year's Day last year saw us beat yer West 'Am by a handsome margin and was a great individual performance by Mark Viduka. That game was sewn up very early on and led us to believe that 2002 might just be OUR year. Especially as we had just signed another top class striker, Robbie Fowler.
But it was not to be.
In the calendar year we lost more games than we won and some of the performances were absolutely appalling, especially the Chelsea away match.
Still, we are now in 2003 and things are looking brighter.
At least the team has got some self-confidence back - and we are playing a passing game again, instead of the "route one" stuff that has been the fare until very recently. If we keep this up we will not be disgraced this season, which is how it looked until a couple of weeks ago.
Pre-Birmingham saw a smaller than usual turn-out in the Brit - and I am not being facetious in Verner's absence. Armchair listers might have been surprised to see the make-up of the list contingent enjoying a pre-match pint and each other's company: Thirkers, Dunderhead, Nigel Barber and Ed Morrish. Dave Dowden also joined us and promised to post the CAMRA Good Beer Guide entry for the Brit for our delectation.
The word on the street is that the Brit is to close down soon, due to lack of custom. The Brit leaves quite a lot to be desired but it is fairly convenient for those coming from the City Centre. It was almost 2.45 when we left today and we still got to the ground before the teams came out.
Brief match report: Leeds played well for most of the game and thoroughly deserved to win. Birmingham were poor. The ref was kinder to Leeds than I have seen for many a year. The Lowfields linesman was crap - it seems to go with the territory. Viduka was awesome - my MOTM by a mile. Bakke played well. Woody and Mills were a comfortable CB pairing. Harte's corners and defending were poor, why can't Wilcox be allowed to take the corners when Harte is in the team? Somebody has obviously taken Kewell behind the bike-sheds and told him the facts of life, in the past two weeks Harry has worked harder than he has in the past two years. Kelly shows signs of his best form since before his last big injury. Smiffy was subdued until the last 15 minutes. Okon is playing the Batty role quite well, although he did give the ball away three or four times when not under pressure. Wilcox had another influential game. Robbo kept us in the game when it counted. All in all, I left Elland Road for the second time in a week as a happy bunny - not only because we had won but also because the team are playing as a team again. Not like a bunch of strangers indulging in a lunchtime kickabout.
Wouldn't it be nice to win on Saturday and to get a home draw for the next round of t'cup?
4-3-3 does not work. Ok we've won the game but Tel had to revert back to a 4-4-2 with kewell and Viduka up front in the second half for us to be effective. It was only then we started to run the game. Why does Tel continue to go with 4-3-3? Bloody hell, we rarley get a result with this formation. The answer is the old , old problem of accomodating 3 strikers in the team. My heart bleeds for Smith cos he's the one who is stuck out on the right wing. He is ineffective in this position and had a poor first half.
First half their keeper didn't have to do anything apart from pick the ball out of the net whereas Robinson again had to make top class save after top class save just to keep us in the game. Our goal was definitely one to remember. A KELLY CROSS, VIDUKA WINNING A HEADER IN THE BOX and BAKKE PUTTING A HEADER AWAY. I nearly fainted. That was the highlight of the first half. Most of it we just pumped long balls up to Viduka or Smith on the right. It was really terrible stuff and you began to wonder if we were back to square one. If you're gonna rely on people running from the right and left then you need a midfielder who is creative enough to play the ball from midfield. We haven't nobody who does that. Viduka managed to head wide from 5 yards. I would have scored that one.
Second half it was better but still unconvincing. We kept giving the ball away. Bakke, Harte , Kelly and surprisingly Okon were the culprits.
Our second goal was due to a bit of brilliance from Kelly who got the ball on the right and fashioned a brilliant little chip / cross right on to Viduka's head. He really couldn't miss although he nearly did with the keeper getting a hand to it.
Milner came on and looked eager but the rest of the team were just counting down the time and doing the usual corner flag stuff. We could have really murdered them at the end but I suppose with a big game at Scunny on Saturday you can't blame the tactics. So overall I'd say it's a win and you can't grumble at that but I think we've got tactical and positional problems all over the park.
Robinson - our best player. Brilliant , brave saves. MOTM
Kelly - a bit dodgy first half but created the second goal and got better.
Harte - shite. First half he was awful. He gave the ball away and was skinned by Devlin. Second half he improved but only cos Devlin just lost it.
Woodgate - good solid game
Mills - a bit shaky in some crucial positions. Nearly gave away a penalty.
Smith - unhappy on the right wing. Much happier in the centre and nearly scored with an excellent run. Give him the no 9 shirt NOW.
Bakke - best game for Leeds EVER. I heard people saying he was class. Nah, he got up and down the pitch , got his head on a great knock back from Viduka for the goal and showed the odd bit of skill and good play BUT how many times did he give the ball away and those stupid little flicks he tries that never come off. Who does he think he is Rivaldo ? Give Johnson a run.
Okon - I think he'd been on the piss New Years Eve. He looked a bit slower and although he also improved second half he wasn't as commanding as in recent games.
Wilcox - superb , hard grafting performance but with Kewell being pushed out left we lose the width provided by Wilcox.
Kewell - not effective on the left in a 4-3-3. Had a few good moments first half but came alive in the second when pushed up front alongside Viduka where he caused all sorts of trouble with his runs across the line.
Viduka - effective game but if a pass isn't put onto his feet then he won't win it. Number of attempts on target 1 , number of goals 1. Not going to argue with that but let's be honest the only way Viduka is going to score is if someone puts the ball on his head 2 yards out.
I wasn't convinced today against an injury ravished Blues team. Let's face it when you bring Horsfield on to play at centre back - you're f***ed. To our shame they had the best chances today.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 01/01/2003.
Leeds United extended their resurgence to 13 points from five games yesterday when they brushed off a modest challenge by Birmingham, who look wobbly themselves now after reaching their mid-season points target bullishly ahead of schedule.
Leeds were not always convincing and Birmingham had ample opportunity to cancel out Eirik Bakke's early goal but once Mark Viduka made it 2-0 midway through the second half the outcome was not in doubt.
Leeds came into the match with the same level of optimism that proved unfounded a year ago. Then they went top of the Premiership on New Year's Day and dreamed of titles and Europe. This time their buoyancy merely reflected the rediscovery of confidence. It had even moved them above Birmingham in the table.