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D'you want to know how good this felt?
3-1 up 5 minutes from the end and we get a free kick on the edge of their box - chump I sit next to starts digging me in the ribs and going "Hartey, Hartey" like he hasn't been paying attention for the last 2 years.
Its easy to forget how good a win like this feels - how easily we took that stuff for granted - how long it has been and how much we miss it. The noise in the ground yesterday at times was like a European night. Its also easy to get carried away - this was Wolves and they are so s***e as to make us look good. They have booked the first seat on the relegation express no doubt. This result shows that with a bit of fight and a bit of luck...you just never know.
We came out looking lively and interested - Pennant was murdering their left back, Viduka and Smith were getting stuck in to the CHalfs. There were a few half chances and then a crossed ball came in the nall bobbled all over the place as defenders tried to clear and forwards tried to shoot eventually it fell to a combination of Smith and Viduka which was blocked point blank by the keeper and it fell to Smith who stabbed home from about 18 inches. In front of the Kop. Cue crowd going mental. Smith larging it up...and how the love flowed.
Then of course we disappeared into our shells and hadn't a clue what to do. Bakke and Johnson completely lost midfield. Cort started pulling the previously comfortable Matteo and Caldwell all over. We stopped finding Pennant and Milner with the ball. The jitters well and truly set in. Eventually they scored - long ball knock down - 25 yards out low and hard between two defenders - Robbo slow to move (whether he was unsighted or not...?)
The fight was on. There were plenty of flying challenges. Smith was getting hauled all over by their Chalf. Bakke got booked. How Rae didn't get booked after some terrible fouls and a series of arguments with the ref is beyond me. Then Pennant picked up a loose ball on the right wing, went one way, then another, then back and lofted in a high cross to the back post which Smith nodded down, a shot was blocked and it fell to Matteo just inside the box, who took an age to trap it before finally squeezing a shot between, under and round a whole regiment of flying defenders one of whom deflected it into the corner.
2-1 at half time.
The second half was a different game. For once we completely bossed it. We looked dangerous on the break. We could have scored 4 or 5 more. The midfield was surging forward and running beyond the forwards. The wing men were murdering their full backs - Milner making a monkey out of Irwin was particularly sweet - the 2 forwards were busy, competetive, supporting each other. There was movement for the man with ball to aim for. It was just like watching a football team play. Eventually the ball came high to Smith on the right hand corner of the box he nodded it over his defender and ran on to the knock down himself hitting a low hard cross to the back post where Milner sliding in hammered it up under the cross bar into the back of the net. From then on the pressure grew and grew - Viduka hit the bar with a high reaching header, Pennant blazed the rebound high and glorious. Viduka headed a free header at the back post straight at the keeper - after a wonderful dummy and run down the left by Milner to set him up.
Then finally in injury time, Viduka took the ball to feet on the top left of the box, turned down and inside his man, put his head down and charged for goal - he thundered the ball in from 8 yards out and just kept running - he flew over the hoardings and into the waiting arms of the crowd. He really wanted that goal.
At the end the players stayed on and milked the applause. It felt good. It felt like we'd won something.
Hopefully we can build on this and it will give the players some confidence - especially in front of goal. But let's remember it against Wolves.
Robbo - little to do - sluggish - flapping at crosses - but I heard the rumour that he was the one insisting that Spurs loan him back to Leeds until the end of the season so that he didn't leave them in the s*** - fair play really.
Kelly - quiet, tidy game
Domi - patchy - some good challenges, some awful stuff. Replaced at half time by Harte - who proceeded to celebrated his call up for Eire by winning a few headers, lumping a few passes into touch and generally being kept away from free kicks by the rest of the team.
Caldwell and Matteo - were solid at the back - apart from that 20 minute spell in the first half - but they seemed to spend the whole of the second half bickering like an old married couple.
Pennant and Milner - always looking to get the ball down and run at the defence at pace - sometimes the final ball is still lacking, but that's just experience. At the moment its great to have a couple of fast keen young wingers. Pennant showed good attitude too - tracking 40 yards back, late in the game, and making a bob-on sliding tackle.
Bakke and Johnson - almost anonymous in the first half - the doughnut formation returned - but in the second it was a different story - fighting for every ball - good passes sprayed about - Bakke supporting the forwards and driving forward at every opportunity - Johnson was a loose cannon with his reckless challenges but he got away with it.
Smith and Viduka were excellent. They did get in each other's way sometimes, but they linked up well together at times too. They both missed good opportunities, but they both scored and it looked like it really meant something to each of them. But what I reall think it was was that they rose to the challenge of being senior pros out there and they played with pride.
Cripes and spring is in the air....
I knew I saw spirit at Villa and we definitely took this forward to the match last night. I couldn't really fault the attitude of any of the players. Ok, it was only Wolves and they are the worse team I've seen this season but it was a win and when you've lost 6 on the trot (or was it 7 ?) you begin to wonder when the next win and even the next goal is coming from.
From the off we were up and at em and I'd say that first 15 minutes set the stall for the rest of the game. Biting into tackles , chasing everything and even a bit of football now and again. As soon as we scored through a very scrappy goal from Smith our play deteriotated and we let Wolves back into it. We sat back and let them have the run of midfield. Too much space. We were almost afraid of being in the lead. One of the Wolves midfielders found himself in acres of space and thought he'd have a crack and hey presto 1-1. Robinson beaten by a shot along the ground from 30 yards !
The game died a bit then and I just couldn't see us getting back into it. Wolves were playing all the football. Fortunately Carl Court (how big is he !!??) didn't lokk to be on his game and for once luck was on our side with Wolves gifting Matteo a goal just before half time. I don't think we really deserved it but f'ck it , we didn't deserve to be 1-0 against Villa at half time on Saturday.
Second half , totally different story. We were magnificent and I'd say that's the best 45 minutes this season even if it was against the worse opposition. Milner showed me that with a bit of confidence he can be the player he promised to be in those early showings. I've never questioned his commitment to the team but at times he does look like a boy in a man's game. Last night he skinned Irwin so many times poor Dennis must be thinking about hanging his boots up. He created chance after chance for the likes of Viduka and Bakke but they were all squandered. We should have scored at least another 3 goals last night. Not content with creating chances he decided to get on the end of a Smith cross and convert one for himself. I was well chuffed for the lad, he deserves it.
Pennant on the other side was equally committed. He was guilty of fluffing a great chance and as always his final ball wasn't quite there but he ran his socks off and caused panic amongst the Wolves defence. Second half we dominated in every area. Smith and Viduka worked hard throughout and with Milner really creating problems they found they had a bit more room to operate in than usual. I still find them too static and if Milner or Pennant are not causing problems then they both end up playing with their backs to goal and that means going nowhere. Smith on occasions tried too hard. He should have had a hat-trick and definitely gave the "he's not a natural goalscorer" opinion some ammo. At the back I thought we looked fairly comfortable although Robinson didn't help matters. He flapped at crosses and elected to punch when it would have been easier to catch. He gives his defence the jitters. He can in no way be considered an England keeper until he gets the basics right. Matteo and Caldwell did well.
I'm not convinced by Caldwell but he's only had two games and has done ok. He is a step up from Duberry. Matteo played the captains role again and even scored a goal. You can't fault Matteo. Kelly worked hard yet again but sometimes his distribution is that of a non-league player. Domi did well. I think he's definitely worth a run in the team. He took some sh*te for the Leicester away performance but I think if you're playing in a defence with the clown it's always going to be difficult. He has pace and nice control and showed that he can tackle. Don't know why he went off. A good night indeed.
Robinson - 4. Basic goalkeeping errors.
Kelly - 6. 100% , poor distribution
Domi - 7. Getting better , ,showing promise
Matteo - 8. Captain's performance
Caldwell - 7. Unspectacular but solid. What we need. If Gray brings Duberry back and tampers with defence again he wants shooting.
Johnson - 8. Best performance in a Leeds shirt. Needs to do it week in week out. How many times have we said that of Johnson only for him to turn in a stinker the following week ? Needs a ball player alongside him.
Bakke - 5 Very poor first half. He's so uncomfortable on the ball and can't even do the basics. A classic case of this was when Milner beat two men and squared a long ball to Bakke on the edge of the box. Bakke was off balance as he almost always is . He didn't shoot, he didn't pass , he didn't even control the ball and in the end just poked it forward embarrassingly to a Wolves player. It typified the man. Second half he upped his workrate and did manage to get involved but it's all effort and no quality. He's not the answer. Against stronger defences we need midfielders that are going to make a difference. All Bakke can do is run round with no real aim. I don't care whether Batty has shagged Gray's daughter or killed his f'cking cat , to say that you're not going to play Batty cos of "footballing reasons" and that put Bakke on to play is one of the biggest contradictions I've ever f'ckin heard.
Milner - 8. Frightened Irwin to death. Mind you, it was only Denis Irwin.
Pennant - 6. A bitty performance.
Viduka - 7. Hard working performance. Held ball up well, scored a good goal which he would never get away with playing against most premiership defences. Still too slow.
Smith - 6. Worked hard but failed to deliver. Scrappy goal. But he was there. I'll like to see Viduka score a few more goals like this.
Harte - 6.5 Thought he did really well although on the few occasions that Wolves decided to run at him he did his usual disappearing act.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 11/02/2004.
There is a long haul ahead of Leeds United, but perhaps they are at last mustering perseverance. Their gradual assumption of control in the second half last night was capped by Mark Viduka's deft turn and bruising shot in stoppage-time. That goal saw them switch places with Wolves, moving off the bottom on goal difference to creep within a point of Leicester City.
Now they have to advance their position further with long-overdue deeds. Elland Road has inspired a surfeit of words about a lack of victories. There has even been fighting talk from Viduka on the training ground and in print, difficult as it is to envisage the ambling Australian ever being cast as Henry V.
Martial declamations ought not to be necessary. Leeds continue, in theory, to have a better side than several clubs in comfortable positions, but the weighty talent seldom leaves much of an impression. There should be no capering over this success against opponents who have not recorded an away win in the top division for 20 years.