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3 points is 3 points. That's the only thing that matters right now. In the main this was a good performance against a s*** Leicester team in which 15 minutes of blind panic and completely shapeless defending was nearly very costly.
A flawlessly observed minute's silence was followed by a huge roar from the crowd and Leeds rode that for the first 15 minutes or so. Storming forward taking a 2 goal lead. On the 11th minute, from our fourth corner of the game, Johnson swung it in, again failing to get it past the first man who nodded it out, Kelly picked up the loose ball and knocked it to Johnson who'd come back up field from the corner on the right, and he crossed it in first time to the back post where Duberry rose and headed firmly down and back across the goalkeeper. A minute and a half later there was all sorts going on in their box, Smith had a swing and missed, but managed to prod it past a defender and Viduka produced an instantaneous overhead kick to bury it from 8 yards out. Wonderful.
Moving Matteo into midfield seemed to provide some backbone in there and free Johnson up. Johnson who for the first 20 minutes played like an all conquering midfield superstar - he was everywhere tackles flying in and pinging passes off left and right - great stuff. He couldn't keep it up for 90 minutes and didn't. I don't agree with Eddie's decision to move Matteo into midfield because it weakens the defence - there was absolutely no leadership and no-one getting them organised in that spell when Leicester scored 2 - If you have to move Matteo to midfield then play Lucas for f***'s sake. The idea that either Caldwell or Duberry are a patch on Lucas is ludicrous. The defence treated us to a repeat of Dad's Army where everyone runs around shouting, "Don't Panic, Don't Panic" while quite obviously panicking - and almost cost us the game because Leicester had two or three more chances to score which they spurned before Smith 's goal. By the end the defence was crying out for some stability, for shoring up ...and on came Harte.
After scoring those two early goals we were generally dominant without really looking like we were going to walk it - Viduka went through following a defenders slip but he elected to volley from 20 odd yards out rather than bring it under control and move in on goal, where he is deadly, and in the end it sailed wide. Smith hit a volley on the turn that sailed past the post. We had a penalty shout turned down in each half. The referee and linesmen were awful - Smith and Pennant in particular were the target for some ferocious tackling/assaults (delete as appropriate).
We came out at a charge in the 2nd half. Pennant several times broke free down the right, got into great positions and chose to play really odd crosses - a delicate sandwedge to the far post when a low driven cross across the 6 yard box would have caused havoc with defenders and forwards charging in. Walker made a string of good saves to deny the forwards. Then suddenly at around 65 minutes it all went pear shaped - our midfield disappeared and the defence turned to jelly. Caldwell is struggling at this level and we all know it and Duberry kept suddenly appearing up front, on the wing anywhere but at bloody CHalf. The amount of time Dickov - a name that should be a sentence too, how apt - had in our penalty area for their first goal, was criminal. And then Izzet ran unchallenged and banged one in. Again where was the midfield? And why does Robinson keep getting beaten from long range?
This left the last 15 minutes on a knife edge. They pressed and were clearly in control of the game while we were drowning not waving. No-one took the team by the scruff of the neck and said "for f**** sake sort it out". Our bench remained seated while their mob were up and down giving orders, urging them forward. After a couple of good chances for them and a decent save from Robbo, the ball broke out to Pennant, then Smith who laid it forward for Milner down the left, he crossed left foot first time onto the 6 yard line where Viduka chested it down and back and Smith lashed it home with venom. Cue half the Kop heading for a cuddle with young Alan.
Somehow we hung on for the remaining 5 or 6 minutes.
Robinson - good saves at cruicial times, he is now winning crosses but
why is he punching and not catching?
Lots of songs like "just a team full of rapists", "when she says no she means it", etc but my favourite shout was by a bloke as we were leaving who got to the top of the gangway stairs and turned to shake his fists at the away fans and yelled "now f*** off and eat yer crisps" - and he was really angry.
Does Eddie Gray know what he's doing ? You have to ask. Previous to this game he praised his midfield for their performance against Man City (particularly Liam) and blamed his defence for the Brum defeat. So what does he do ? He drops Mcphail out of sight for last night's game. Why, if he was so happy ? Someone's telling porkies Eddie ! He then moves Matteo , a player who Eddie himself "should play in his proper position as a central defender" into midfield to replace the excellent Mcphail. He then picks yet another NEW central defensive partnership to cope in our most important game for years yet again leaving Lucas on the bench.
Let's face facts folks. Eddie is blindly tinkering around with the team and being f'cking lucky with it. His use of Mcphail in the last few matches has cost us points and possibly survival. Is that an over dramatic statement ? I don't think so. Even with Matteo in midfield last night you could see how much we actually competed in midfield. We haven't done that since ..... err...... before Eddie picked Mcphail. No coincidences there Eddie !
The defence was an accident waiting to happen and although we played well all over the park in the first half the signs were there. Duberry spooned one directly in the air early doors and Caldwell was slow to react on more than one occassion. Only poor play from over the hill Ferdinand kept the scores level. You could see from very early on that Bent had the better of Caldwell who it's clear to see now we have seen a few games is not up to the job. Flat footed with no turn of pace he is struggling against poor attacks. God knows what Henry , GudJohnsen and Hasslebaink will make of him not to mention Andy Cole and Wayne Rooney.
Anyway, let's get on to the positives cos there were plenty. I thought all 4 midfielders did well. Pennant was exceptional and yet again we saw more examples of how effective he is passing the ball from a CENTRAL position. The times he disappoints are when he is on the wing. He terrorised Leicester from the off. He's a great young player just wish we could afford him. Milner as always was inspirational. Out of position so obviously he doesn't let that worry him. He tries everything and it doesn't always work but he picks himself up off the floor and chases back. He is without doubt one of the most committed players I've seen at Leeds for a long time. Johnson looked like a different player with someone beside him that was prepared (and able) to do some leg work. Matteo was that man and he covered more ground than Liam's covered in 5 games in those first few minutes. Matteo was everywhere and some of his tackles were slightly reckless and I was surprised not to see him go in the book. Not only was he chasing down in attack , he covered on numerous occassions for the woeful defence. He was also seen shouting at Caldwell, Domi and Duberry. I think we need 2 Dom Matteos. Up front I thought Viduka and Smith were brilliant. Ok, Leicester's defence were the worse I've seen this season but Smith played a blinder and when his winner went it really was earnt. His control and general play was of a very high standards. He still spent a fair amount of time scrapping around but he seemed to have that extra bit of quality to step around the defence at will. On one occassion he brought a high ball down on the edge of his own box showing great control then proceeded to run the length of the pitch takingon anyone in sight. He could (and maybe should) have layed it off to Milner but he went for goal and I think last night he showed that he really can be a quality striker. Viduka also played well and they actually combined well at times. I'll be optimistic and say that on that form they could keep us up but deep down I really think Leicester would have made John Pearson look good.
At 2-0 up I thought we could have killed the game but equally I was thinking that we needed a third because the defence was going to crack at some point and it did !
At 2-2 there was only one winner and that was Leicester and they should have converted at least one of the chances after that. It is a credit to Leeds that we came back and won the game. I think this team with Radebe at the back can stay up.
Robinson - 7. Now chooses to punch on every occassion
Harte - 6. Had a decent free kick. Maybe Eddie brought him on due to Domi's lack of presence but surely Lucas would have been better.
Crowd - tension in the air.
Eddie - 6. He got away with it but only just but I fear for future team selections.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 06/04/2004.
Yorkshire has not been without a team in English football's top tier for 20 years and Leeds United played last night as though determined to defend the county's honour.
They might easily have wilted in the midst of Leicester's second half comeback but will go into Easter with invigorated confidence courtesy of Alan Smith's late and decisive contribution to a relegation battle that had just about everything, including a stoppage-time sending off for Mark Viduka.
Viduka will rue his recklessness in kicking the ball away for his second booking of a fraught night, particularly as it will mean him missing another critical match in the Premiership quagmire, this time against Portsmouth on April 25.