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I really enjoyed this. The quality of the football wasn't we'd become accustomed to in recent years but the effort, the new faces trying to impress, the sunshine, the return of the Balti pie and an opposition keeper called "Camp" all added up to top class entertainment. This is a league where defenders are allowed to whack forwards (not in the Soprano's sense, but you know what I mean).
Derby were the more composed for the first 20 minutes without really threatening but once our guys had introduced themselves to each other things began to click. The team looked like it had some backbone. Tackles flew in. Players tracked back and on the whole knew where they were supposed to be. The back 4 looked solid - I think a combination of Sullivan and Butler's experience saw to that. Kelly looks alright at theis level where his nouse makes up for his missing bit of pace and he linked well with Richardson. Kilgallon is out of position at LB but that said he did a good job there - frequently coming inside to cover the holes in the middle of defence. Again he linked well with Pugh. Duberry is much better at this level - the team has come down to his level rather than vice-versa - but he is still only the fifth best CHalf at our club and I cannot see any logic behind picking him over the others. Butler is slowish but he is good in the air, strong in the tackle and organises the defence well. We've got him for his leadership qualitites as much as his footballing ability I reckon. He almost scored with a flying volley from a Duberry knock down.
The fringes of the midfield were well covered by Pugh and Richardson - whereas the centre was a weird mix - sometimes it was very effective with Walton tearing into tackles and breaking up the play, although his passing was iffy - but my God 16 years old ! - and Wright who has a more laid back approcah to midfield play makes tidy passes and offers options but doesn't do box-to-box stuff.
Did someone say that Walton is a CHalf really?
Up front - Joachim was really impressive - strong, fast, good control, gets up well - he was twice through on goal and with a bit more composure he could have had a couple. If he keeps fit he looks very promising. Ricketts - if he ever gets fit he might be dangerous - his control looks good and wins stuff in the air, but he was a cert to go off after 70 minutes - to be replaced by dear old Deano - its like finding that faithful old dog that you thought you'd lost when you moved house, suddenly sitting on the front porch years later. He'll be useful for his nuisance value this year if nothing else.
Richardson's goal was the only time the lad used his left foot all match but he used it well. Although if we'd have let that in I'd have felt it a bit soft.
This was a low quality game from start to finish between two teams who found it difficult to play any football whatsoever but bloody hell I enjoyed every minute of it and what a difference to see a Leeds team battling for their lives. It was 100% commitment from the start. No teamwork , no cohesion, just blood , guts and determination by a team full of players who have everything to prove. There could have been half a dozen yellow cards in the first 20 minutes but maybe this is par for the course in the second Division (ok, Championship !).
It wasn't until mid way through the first half that we actually strung some passes together with Wright, Walton and Richardson combining well down the right. In fact, it seemed our only attacking option was through Richardson on the right. He seemed to have the beating of their left back and did so on many occasions. He has shown today that in this division he has too much to offer to play at right back where I would have started him today. All credit to Mr Blackwell. Pugh on the left , at first, seemed to reluctant to get down the wing and I thought he looked like a left back playing on the left side of midfield. Again this was proved wrong as the game unfolded. Pugh, like Richardson proved he has the skill, pace and strength to play in midfield. He beat his man on a few occasions and would have done better if not cynically brought down by the trailing Derby defender. Danny Pugh will never get his name sung by the Leeds fans but he looks like he's got that touch of class that so many others will lack in this division.
So back to those awful first 20 minutes. The defence ! This is where I think Blackwell got it all wrong. Duberry. What can you say about this bloke ? Give him a 50:50 tackle and he'll win it , give him a 50:50 header and he'll win it, give him a ball to chase and he'll be first there, ask him to be aware of runners in around the box and he hasn't got a clue. No positional sense whatsoever. He'd be the same no matter what level he plays at. A complete liability in and around the box. I saw Butler and Kelly screaming at Duberry to get hold of his man but it's like trying to tell a young kid not to eat chocolate, Duberry just bounces around gravitating towards the ball. He just plays on instinct and I'm afraid you can't do that in an organised defence which is what Butler is trying to achieve. Once again we are treated to better defenders having to play out of position to accommodate this buffoon. Killgallon and Radebe are both better defenders and both have great positional sense. Either should replace Duberry at the centre and when you consider that Blackwell signed Crainey 'on loan' so he could sit on the bench it seems incredible that he should play Killa out of position. The only reason I can think why he plays Duberry is his pace and his ability to cause a few problems on set pieces. Does this compensate for his complete lack of awareness. I don't think so.
I thought Killa did really well but it is so obvious that he isn't a left back. I hope the only reason KB decided to put Radebe on the bench was to cover for Walton as he tired. There can be no other reason. As for Butler well I was horrified during those first 20 minutes cos he looked slow and fat. He defends like Rio in that he lets players turn and run at him but unlike Rio he hasn't the change of pace to respond. He'll get roasted if he comes up against a Julian Joachim. Having said that I thought he got over those shaky first 20 minutes and began to use his head and experience to really marshall the defence. He won most things in the air and compensated for his lack of pace by some top class positional defending. You just can't teach that. By the end I thought he looked mighty impressive and for a debut as captain I'd say he's done well.
Derby were a poor side but played all the football. At times we were on the back foot as they stroked it around in midfield. I counted one move with 9 passes in. I reckon our best was probably 3 or 4. Our midfield second half had run out of steam with Walton out on his feet and Wright continuing to be anonymous in the centre. Jermaine Wright played the perfect Mcphail game. (had to get him there somewhere !). On the ball he seemed like the only Leeds player that actually had an eye for a pass. Short , intelligent , accurate balls to a white shirt (most of the time) but that's where it ended. He looks slightly overweight and did not impose himself on the game although he showed signs that he can get up and down the pitch and also doesn't lack pace I think he just needs to get fitter. I think this lad can play. He will need a partner in the centre though who can get into the box from midfield. Like all last season we struggled to link midfield play to the attack which resulted in the long ball game being played. This was ineffective for two reasons : first, most of the long balls were aimed at Joachim!!!! And secondly, Ricketts when he did receive a high ball won nothing in the air.
Walton was another player playing out of position. He is so obviously a centre back playing in midfield. He has the energy and tackling ability to win balls and be a real nuisance in the midfield but his distribution is really poor and time after time he gave the ball away. For a debut at his age though I have nothing but respect. He sweated blood and really got in where it hurt. His future won't be in midfield though.
Up front we caused them problems mainly through Joachim's pace. He had two one on ones with their keeper and fluffed them both but I thought he played really well and towards the end he also showed some great bits of skill as he put Pugh in the clear late on. Some say goalscoring is his weakness but I think he'll get 20 this season. A bit of pace up front ' how refreshing is that. As for his partner Ricketts , well he was disappointing. He was weak in the challenge, never won a thing in the air and looked unfit at times. Having said that there were won or two moments that made me think that he could be useful. He showed a bit of pace and also showed a bit of skill as he brought a ball down , side stepped his man and tried an ambitious lob from 30 yards. I think he needs more games.
We could have won this 4-1 but we also could have easily lost 2 or 3 -1. It was a strange game. Crowd - disappointing I thought but if all games are going to be like this then I'll have no complaints. I've said all along I'd much rather see a 16 year old kid battling his heart out than Viduka (had to get him in there somewhere) strolling around the pitch. It was good to see.
Sullivan - 7. He had two saves to make , he made them. Did he know much about the shot in the final minute. Who cares. A bit too much Robinson like jittering at times. His he coming ? but for a debut he did well.
Kelly - 6. Usual Gary Kelly but should have been booked when he was skinned for pace late on. Note the same player as he used to be but will do at this level. Provided decent support for Richardson's runs down the right.
Killgallon - 7. Out of position but did a bloody good job. Ref nearly gave the game to them as he insisted Killa had to go off for blood on his shirt. Two near post corners followed which caused us problems.
Butler - 7.5 Got stronger as the game went on but will his lack of pace cause us problems and is he a better defender than Killa and Radebe ?
Duberry - 6. Decent second half but a complete liability at times. No brain. Just cos he's the highest paid defender in the league doesn't mean we have to play him.
Richardson - 9. Excellent. Our only real effective form of attack throughout the game.
Walton - 7. Heart, commitment and some superb tackles from a 16 year old. Out of position though.
Wright - 5. Needs to do much more and get much fitter. He was suffering with cramp late on.
Pugh - 8. Nice, tidy, effective left sided player with a bit of pace and good dead ball skills.
Joachim - 7. Missed the two best chances of the game but his pace caused Derby problems.
Ricketts - 4. Will need to improve.
Deane - 7. Won 3 out of 3 headers when he came on and caused problems in the box. Everything Ricketts should have been doing but it's the same old Deano I'm afraid. Gentle giant. If he got nasty (went on a course run by Duncan Ferguson) he'd be dangerous.
Radebe - 7. Did is usual job in the centre. Would look quality at the back.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 09/08/2004.
In one breath Kevin Blackwell talked about temperatures of 105F, in the next about the Arctic circle. It was one of those days at Leeds when emotions dipped and soared, when the reality of the bleak present was offset by an event that had become rare recently at the club, a home win.
Three points means the fans can look forward; no points and they would have had to look at themselves and ask why just over 30,000 turned up.
Optimism and pessimism had rubbed shoulders like the "walk-up" thousands queuing for the turnstiles. These punters, too scarred to buy season tickets any longer, will be crucial to Leeds as the club try to reboot themselves in this rebranded - make that defaced - Football League.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 08/08/2004.
Sven-Göran Eriksson did not attend this fixture, and it might be a very long time before he does. The nearest thing to a spotlight-shirking England manager was Howard Wilkinson, and even he is unlikely to be back in a hurry.
Leeds United won, that was the main thing, and though there were encouraging signs from several of the youngsters Kevin Blackwell has brought in, no one is pretending this season is going to be pretty. You can see what they mean by the 'Real League'.
'We looked rusty at times, there was a lack of understanding, but that is only to be expected,' the Leeds manager said. 'The desire was good though, I'm sure we can build on that once we start getting used to each other.'