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This was a real p***er. We played as well as I've seen us for quite a while. Some great passing and movement and even some decent through balls and crosses - while he's not consistent Pennant did throw in a couple of blinding crosses last night that a centre forward really should have been crashing onto. Its difficult to believe that we could dominate a game so much and not get the three points - in the main this is down to Nigel Martyn who was excellent - got a top reception too, quite deserved. Its no exaggeration to say that once we'd survived the opening 20 minutes when they scored - Rooney unmarked on the edge of the box, and had another one scrambled off the line, Robinson didn't have another save to make whereas we could have scored 5 or 6 more.
This is odd given that we played our best CHalf pairing in midfield. Both took a little while to get up to speed but when they did the game appeared easy - pass to men in white shirts - tackle men not in white shirts. So Lucas isn't fit enough to play 90 minutes at Chalf but can manage a full game at C Midfield? - let me tell you I've played both (a little while ago) and CHalf is where you go when you don't have the engine for midfield.
Milner who looked knackered at B'burn seemed to have recovered some of his vigour scored a good goal and had 2 or 3 more good chances. I thought he had a pretty good battle against Pistone who is a decent fullback. Pennant - who I forgot to say twice made last ditch goal saving tackles vs B'burn - was everywhere again last night. He goes around fullbacks like they aren't there and when he comes inside the panic seems to spread there as well. It is just the quality of his final ball, sometimes.
Smith was awesome - not quite Henry, Rich - but hey the best bloody English striker in the league (when Shearer retires). Against another keeper he would have had 2 or 3 but not last night and not against Martyn.
I thought the defence as a whole did better when they concentrated on defending. Kelly was solid, Harte didn't get exposed vs Radzinski but his free kicks are still pants, and Duberry won his challenges - he should not be allowed over the halfway line except for corners - although I'm just not convinced by Caldwell.
We spent the whole of the second half in the Everton end - which annoyingly was down at the South Stand - and the one good thing about the last three matches is that we are making chances.
How come Graveson can do so much yapping at the ref and not get booked?
A word about the half time "entertainment" 8 scantily clad "dancing girls" and one "singer" called Tia, I think. The crowd booed at Tia whenever there was a close up of her on the big screen and cheered whenever one of the dancing girls was shown. Now I know Tia wasn't exactly a looker... Had us in stitches. Funniest thing for ages.
Nowt wrong with this performance. Good battling performances all over the pitch and a fair amount of skill and link up play too. We have seen that too many times this season ! When I saw the team I was a bit worried but nowhere near as worried as when I see Liam in the team. With Milner and Pennant lively on the wings and Matteo covering the ground for 3 men all Radebe had to do was sit , tackle and pass an easy ball. He did all three effectively and whilst he did look like a central defender in midfield he did a good job. Here's the downside for me though - bang goes the theory that Radebe hasn't the legs to play 90 minutes at centre half. Remember, that was the reason that we came up with to justify Eddie picking Caldwell and Duberry ! Now we have to ask if Eddie feels our loan signing and weak link Caldwell is a better defender than Radebe ? The answer must be YES. Unbelievable if you ask me. What on earth has Eddie been playing at ?
Having said that it worked last night but it took us 20 minutes to get the hang of it. Rooney and Radzinsky scared us to death in those opening 20 minutes. With four central defenders I don't think anyone knew who was marking who and it could have led to a couple more goals for Everton. Radzinsky made a run in the box, nobody followed him and only an excellent save from Robinson saved us. Everton then took the lead when Rooney danced around us and shot from the edge of the area very similarly to his goal at Elland Road last year. Robinson beaten from another shot from outside the box. Unlucky ? Some Everton fans tried a similar type pitch invasion but this time got thrown out. Shame !
After that though it was one way traffic with Leeds completely dominating. Whether we finally got to grips with the system or Everton stopped playing I'm not sure (probably a bit of both) but Rooney hardly touched the ball in the remaining 70 minutes.
Everytime Everton got the ball we closed them down and they ended up either giving the ball away or playing a long high ball which with two midgets up front is not going to be very productive.
So what about our play ? I don't think I'd be going over the top if I said some of our build up play was top quality. Ok , the final ball, especially from Pennant, was lacking at times but if hadn't been for Nigel Martyn (man of the match) we would have murdered them. Poor finishing also contributed.
Most good things for Leeds involved Smith. He was magnificent and I think he's come on over the last 3 games. He looks like a top class forward. Ok, he's still not scoring regularly but bloody hell he's trying. His control seems to have improved , his passing shows real vision and his shooting is more direct and on target but most importantly he now seems to have that extra yard of pace which enables him to skip around defences with ease. His performance last night reminded me of Henry - and I'm not f''cking joking.
Pennant and Milner both did well and Pennant just goes around defenders as if they weren't there. It's a shame that he can't find that final ball otherwise he'd be a world beater. Milner really struggles out of position on the left wing but you've got to hand it to the lad he really gives it his best shot. The goal shows what he can do when he playes centrally and this is one reason why Gray could be a bit more creative in his team selections. You can't really knock last night's team but put Radebe at the back with Duberry and drop Caldwell then put Milner in the centre and Olembe on the left. Alternatively, put Pennant in the centre and Milner on the right. Either would be good and I would love to see Pennant running through the middle. He wouldn't have to find that final cross that he finds so difficult.
Caldwell was awful in those first 20 minutes. He is flat footed and doesn't react quick enough. I knew Rooney would cause him problems.
Duberry did ok again but let's be sensible and stop egging the tw*t on with pathetic "Dubes Dubes" chants. He treated us to some ridiculous football last night. A 30 yard shot and some blind alley runs down the field. Amusing ? Not in the least. What a cheeky chappy he is !!!! Stick to defending Michael and when you've mastered that then just maybe.
Everton pinpointed Harte in the first half but to be fair he coped with most they threw at him and then they never had the ball at Radzinsky's feet to trouble him. Kelly also did well.
I asked what would happen earlier in the season should Bakke and Johnson get injured. Would Gray regret saying he wasn't going to pick Batty for 'footballing reasons' ? Well, it's happened folks and we are now seeing central defenders having to play in central midfield. Surely Batty should play ? It's a f;ck up of immense proportions and what happens now when Mcphail is fit. He goes straight back in and takes us down. Is Mcphail a better central midfielder than Radebe ? Is he f'ck ! We all know that. I still feel Eddie will take us down. I hope not.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 14/04/2004.
Ultimately this could be the point that secures Leeds United Premiership status for another season. It is just that it did not feel that way last night as Leeds's second biggest attendance poured away into the Yorkshire darkness.
Courtesy of James Milner's 50th-minute equaliser, Leeds have now lost only once in their past five games but after consecutive victories against Leicester here last Monday and then at Blackburn on Saturday, optimism had blossomed that a rescue could be staged.
It may be yet, but the draw leaves Leeds where they have been since October - in the bottom three.