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This match was completely overshadowed by the massive uncertainty surrounding Leeds United. The travelling leeds fans were more subdued than I have ever seen at an away match. Even after we had gone ahead. Then when the Gillingham equaliser came, followed by the inevitable taunt of "You're not singing any more..." - there was a general consensus that we weren't singing anyway, regardless of losing our lead.
Despite the much vaunted fans protest, it didn't really amount to a hill of beans. A few banners here and there, a number of hopelessly inadequately visible leaflets waved in the bright sunshine - but no sustained, passionately vociferous chorus of dissent. Sure, we had the odd chants of "what the f56k is going on?" as we kicked off and a half-hearted "sack the board, sack the board..." at half time. But all pretty tame stuff.
Most of us appeared to be catatonic, driven to distraction by the way the squad is being mauled apart in a desperate attempt to repay the O'Leary/ Ridsdale memorial overdraft.
So it isn't surprising that a muted feeling among the faithful fans was quickly transmitted to the team on the pitch, who with very, very few exceptions didn't seem to be completely engaged with the task of winning a place in the last 16 of the FA Cup.
Once again, our midfield failed to create. Our strike force fired blanks. Kewell missed our best chance when he lofted well over the bar from about 12 yards after their 'keeper had already gone to ground.
Frustration was the name of the game and Viduka's sending off was representative of another bad day at the office for an unenthusiastic Leeds team. We have to do it all again at Elland Road, a week on Tuesday.
No scores on the doors, just observations:
Defence: badly at fault for their goal Midfield: Smith and Wilcox tried, Okon and Bakke were on the pitch. Strikers: no service, no ambition
Substitutes: none used - Leeds are obviously saving on apperance money at the moment. It was crying out for some pace from Milner after the equaliser. Radebe seemed to be carrying a bad knock and it's obvious that TV will only play Duberry as a matter of last resort. Robbie Fowler will never be match fit, if he doesn't even get the last 20 minutes.
All in all, an unforgettable game.
How different a day than from my last FA cup match (Cardiff). A crowd more interested in watching their own team than taunting us, in fact the only thing that annoyed me was their slagging off of Lucas when he was injured. Most people seem to have given Dom the MoM but Lucas ran him pretty close, just for giving 110% even with those knees, which must resemble a mechanno set and give him real problems getting through Airport Metal detectors (Just like Caddy's nipples). Gillingham had the best of the 1st half without really casuing any problems. Everything seemed to come down their right and Lucic wasn't particualrily impressive, with Dom, having to do alot of covering. Bakke had a decent game and even managed to kick himself in the head. He made some nice touches and if the pitch had been better could well have assisted or scored. Okon and Wilcox did OK in the tackle but their distributon was pretty lame. Smith played well and didn't get booked and generally ignored the petty attention that he gets all the time mowadays. His reaction to the fans after the goal shows that he, at least, cares what we think. The Leeds end was very subbdued, but generally good humoured, and gave the unkempt and messy haired groundsman a bit of grief, I kept me hat on.
Their equaliser, while predictable, wasn't really deserved, I couldn't see Vidukas challenge, but as Dom said, if Marco had meant it Hessenthaler would have been drinking his post match champagne thru a straw.
I was pretty depressed at the whistle, but on reflection and seeing the results of other prem league teams it doesn't seem so bad, we are in the 5th round, which isn't something I've neen able to say for a while.
In times as dark as these, little chicks of light like Matteo's return and Lucas's courage, shine thru, and despite everything thats happened in the last few months I still give thanks the big purple elephant in the sky that he made me a Leeds fan. I've yet to see us win in the flesh this season, but I'll be at Chelsea on Tuesday as optimistic as ever.
Half hearted protest , crap no roof atmosphere and a dire game. Good result though if you consider the pitch and Gillingham's up and under style. You don't see that style much these days but I thought our defence coped very well especially man of the match Matteo. A real captain's performance and I've not said that too often about him.
More worrying was our failure to get any grip on the midfield apart from a spell in the second half after we has scored. We passed it around well in that spell -Okon, Smith and especially Wilcox moved around well without actually creating anything but it was good to see and shows that some of ou midfield are quite comfortable on the ball.
I've read some of the other reports and I still find it hard to accept that people (Stotty) can criticise Okon's performance without even mentioning Bakke. Bakke was absent yesterday. Against a 35 year old, cheating, second rate, player manager he was completely outplayed. He is given this free role but doesn't actually do anything. I counted 4 passes - 2 which were overhit. He did NOTING else. At least the limited Okon holds his position gets the ball and finds a white shirt. He sits in front of the defence and does a job. He is very negative but is twice as effective as Bakke. Bakke really is crap and should be off loaded immediately. He is the main weakness in the team. He stands out a mile. Surely we'd get 5k for him off York or Doncaster. Maybe not.
Up front :- again somebody criticised Kewell and said that he was a luxury up front that we couldn't afford and he should be played on the left wing or given a free role. So what does that make Viduka? I counted 4 attempts on goal for Leeds. 3 by kewell, 1 by Smith. Kewell did well to muscle his way in for his best chance and then fluffed it Ronnie Rosenthal style. BUT the fact is he makes the chances to miss them although I do find his attitude is far too layed back at times. Viduka YET AGAIN went through a match against poor opposition with no shots on goal, no headers, no half chances no nothing. A complete utter waste of space. The best thing about this match was his sending off. 3 match ban . maybe Smith will get a game up front.
There was one chance wheh Kewell got into the box from the left rolled a ball into the six yard box and no f'cker was there. Viduka was 3 yards off the pace. Same old story. You could have bet your life that Smith would have piled it into the back of the net. Smith - excellent. Completely out of position but really making a difference through hard work and skill. Twice he failed to deliver when through on the right but at least he was there and let's face facts he's NO F'CKING RIGHT WINGER TERRY !
Why no subs? With 10 men West brom showed ambition against us , they continued to come forward and nearly socred. I wanted us to get Milner and Fowler on and go for it even with 10 men. We shit ourselves and ended up kicking for the corner rather than getting the ball into the box. Shite tactics from a manager who has little faith in his team.
Fan protest - nothing really but if Woody goes then West Ham is going to be interesting. I won't be going in the ground that day if they sell Woody. Come on Peter Ridsdale , speak to the fans. A few months ago we couldn't turn the tv on without seeing you on question time , local news etc. Now the silence is deafening.
Another cup game against lower division opposition, another one-goal lead, another failed attempt to defend from the edge of our own penalty area for the last half hour. It's all so predictable. The only surprise was that we didn't concede another goal in the closing minutes, but all in all that was truly painful to watch. For once it's clear where the blame lies: Venables, Kidd, Kewell and Viduka all played significant roles in our failure to beat mediocre opposition.
Venables and Kidd because of our shocking tactics, and Venables' refusal to put on a single substitute in the second half, when our midfield was looking tired. We looked at our most dangerous when passing the ball forward to feet, yet again and again, we passed it back for a defender to hoof it upfield. Where DOES Kidd get the idea that this is the way to beat teams? We never did it before his arrival, but it seems to be his favored tactic. I hate it, and wish he'd taken the England job full time. His is the one fat salary we could stop paying with no cost on the field. As for Venables, the game was crying out for Milner to be brought on to terrorize the tiring Gillingham defenders, but Venables decided an O'Leary-like policy of no subs no matter how the game is going was best. Our corners have reverted to woeful again: why does Kidd tell them to either play it to the near post at knee-height, or pass it back to the halfway line? And worst of all was the decision to not go for a winner, but sit back and defend a one-goal lead. How many times does this policy have to fail spectacularly and embarrassingly in cup games before our current management realize it's stupid?
As for Kewell, his body language and work rate have improved, but he provided yet more evidence that he is not a born striker. He was through on goal, with the keeper committed, and shot over from perhaps seven yards. Hopeless. Alan Smith, Robbie Fowler or James Milner would have buried that chance. Kewell misses most one-on-ones with the keeper, and in my opinion is a luxury we cannot afford in one of the two striking positions. I suspect this is why the big Italian clubs haven't come in for him recently, despite his professed desire to play there - in Serie A you only get one chance like that a game (sort of like today!), and for the sort of money Kewell's on, you're expected to finish. We should either employ him as a left-winger, a Scholes-like attacking midfielder, or sell him.
And as for Viduka, where to start? Kewell played him a delightful ball across the face of goal. All that was required was for him to sprint/slide to get his foot on it. He didn't even try. Just looked at it. He's too fat and slow. Smith, Milner or even Bakke would have gotten on the end of that. And as for the sending off, it's hard to find fault with the ref. Hessenthaler definitely made a meal of it, but Viduka knows better than to elbow someone in the face right in front of the ref.
Viduka and Kewell struggled to put a single shot or header of consequence on target throughout the entire game. That would be very disappointing against Arsenal or Man U. Against Gillingham - GILLINGHAM!!! - it's inexcusable.
I've rarely been more pessimistic and despondent about affairs at the club than I am now.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 27/01/2003.
They run a tight ship down at Gillingham. The squad cost less than £1m and the club have spent only £75,000 on new players in the past two years. Not that Paul Scally does not like his football. Indeed, the chairman popped into the freshly built press lounge to ask the assembly whether they enjoyed the game. It was just as well Terry Venables was not looking in at this cosy scene.
Venables is torn, which explains why he spoke on Saturday afternoon with a curious mixture of fatalism and enthusiasm about his precarious position as manager of Leeds. He says he is caught between opposing forces, for a successful team and a healthy bank balance. "The club has got a very heavy predicament," he said. "We want it to be successful but it tends to pull you in two directions."
Despite his further frustration of seeing victory thrown away, largely due to Mark Viduka's red card, Venables drew back from his stance only 24 hours earlier. Any loss of Jonathan Woodgate - and Venables insisted "to my knowledge there has been no bid" - from Newcastle may not be the final straw.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 25/01/2003.
A sense of frustration and self-destruction is following Leeds United around like dog mess embedded to the bottom of a shoe. Terry Venables, so weary of incidents he cannot control undermining his club, was obliged to watch one of his own players throw a spanner in the works.
With 11 minutes to go, as his beleaguered team had an awkward FA Cup tie under control with the clock running down, Mark Viduka - in an inexcusably harmless position it must be said - caught Andy Hessenthaler in the head with an elbow. Instant red. Suddenly a Gillingham team who hadn't forced a single save out of Paul Robinson all game smelled blood and broke to plunder an equaliser.
The local hero took the towering shape of Mamady Sidibe. They call him 'Big Mama' in these parts. Born in Mali, bred in the French football system, and brought to Gillingham via exotic Swansea, the 23- year-old sent an angled drive past Paul Robinson and created a small tremor in deepest Medway. Apparently Sidibe knew little about their illustrious opponents before the match. A mid-table Premiership side was the extent of his knowledge.