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Comrades - do not despair. We were beaten by the better team. In fact we were beaten by the first team that I have seen this year that I know are better than Leeds - not by much, but by enough - I'll go so far as to say that they will get promoted. The team that Wigan have is the result of several years of accumulation of talent, of playing and training together, of sound financial backing and all the other things that we do not have the luxury of at the moment. Aside from Gregan - of whom more later - I can't honestly say that I thought any Leeds players had bad games - one or two were middling and a few disappointed at times, but overall as a team we are getting better.
The first half was even, with some good attacking football played at both ends. Healy looked much better than he did for PNE the other week - he makes good runs off his marker, pulls the defence out of shape, lays the ball off well and isn't frightened to have a crack himself - he'll do OK if he keeps this level of commitment up. He linked well with Johnson who was playing left side midfield/left wing and who I though had a decent game - his best game for the first team. The ball was played into his feet and he ran at Wigan. His pace and control unsettled them and led to few shots/crosses. He does get a bit overexcited at times and holds onto the ball when he should release it or tends to run up blind alleys.
Kilgallon and Carlisle did particularly well up against the two hottest strikers in the league - Ellington and Roberts. I can't remember if either had a clear sight at goal. But what they did do was hold the ball up and lay it off to midfielders coming through - these guys were free because neither Gregan or Walton was tracking back with them. Time and again this caused us real problems and sure enough this is where the 2 goals came from. I haven't seen either goal on the TV so all I have is my memory of them live, but both seemed to be good passing and slick movement aided by one or two half hearted attempts at tackles - the second in particular seemed to ask questions of Sullivan's positional play. The second was a real sickener because it came from a break out following our most sustained and threatening period of pressure in the Wigan box. But overall in the second half we were second best by quite a long way. They gave us a lesson in passing the ball to feet, in moving to make angles for the man on the ball and general quick thinking. They also did not do what we did time and again which was give the ball away having won it back seconds before. The number of times we did this was astounding - whether it was Gregan/Walton/Wright when he came on, or Carlisle hoofing it from the back. Its simple football logic - if you keep giving the ball back to a better team they will eventually score.
One of the real big differences on Sunday was their no.21 - Bullard - outstanding in midfield. He orchestrated the whole thing, took the deadballs, switched play, scored the second goal - reminded me of a young MacCallister. Our midfield duo never got near him. Gregan needs to lose a stone if he's to be any good at this level - even then I think his temperament is suspect - he would rather go round leaving his foot in, digging his elbow in - trying to bully the opposition with physical intimidation rather than beat them at football. Bullard left him looking like a fat boy on the door of a dodgy club yesterday. The other problem was that when Wigan scored their second nearly all of our lot went into hiding - nobody showed for the ball - nobody started organising the shape of the team - we were floundering for 20 minutes or so yesterday while Wigan took the piss.
Having said all of that we did create 4 or 5 good chances in the last 15 minutes - through Healy, Johnson, Pugh and Lennon - all of them fell to Deane who made powder puff attempts to finish the move off each time.
SULLIVAN - mainly solid, but possibly at fault for the second.
KELLY - again within his own limitations did reasonably well - possibly missed a tackle for the first goal.
PUGH - looks our best left back of the season so far. He's comfortable there - gets tackles in and still overlaps - shame he's our leading scorer really.
KILGALLON - best CHalf we've got - should keep his place and should keep it in the C of defence - but he won't because KB will play Carlisle and Butler. Some of the tackling and blocking in the first half was awesome. Some of the hoofs out of defence in the 2nd half were questionable.
CARLISLE - big tough hard stupid Carlisle - generally I like the way he plays - but he gets booked for something stupid - he then continues to make at least 3 other challenges for which he could justifiably have been booked - not clever. He's also first to the fight when something boils over.
RICHARDSON - was largely anonymous - perhaps he should have a spell at right back.
WALTON - too young to be really critical - esp as not in his real position - but why the hell is a 16 year old CHalf with dodgy distribution taking our deadballs? And why isn't he in the middle for them? Presumably as a CHalf he's pretty good in the air. Is it a question of senior pros not standing up to be counted?
GREGAN - absolutely effing awful - disgraceful performance - strolling around occassionally picking a fight is not good midfield play.
JOHNSON - really pleased for him - played his heart out - made them put 2 men on him - several times he almost wriggled right the way through the defence.
HEALY - as said earlier - this performance gave real hope to Leeds fans - let's just hope that we can try and give him the service he needs - in to feet - and not get him to play off the long ball to Deane/Ricketts.
DEANE - won loads of irrelevant stuff in the air - fluffed 4 clear cut openings in the last 15 minutes - not good enough at this level I'm afraid.
Wright - came on and made little impact - possibly slowed midfield up even more in tandem with Gregan.
Lennon - once again fizzed and popped and tried to make the best of some dreadful passes to him.
Half time entertainment - 2 folks blindfolded spun round in the centre circle and then released to see who can make their way back to their own goal quickest??? WTF - but it did please one guy in the kop who leapt with clenched fists and red face screaming as "our" guy came home first...hmmmm
Copy from Football Unlimited of 01/11/2004.
The last undefeated record in England goes on. It belongs to Wigan Athletic, leaders of the Championship, purveyors of fine passing, mean defence and a team with a better goal difference than Arsenal. Perhaps it is time to wake up to Wigan Athletic.
Keep this up and they will be in the Premiership around about March. Tomorrow night the side managed by Paul Jewell arrive at Stoke City, 16 games unbeaten already and with a six-point lead over second-placed Ipswich Town.
It is early, as Jewell continually points out, but a club who were admitted to the Football League in 1978, who had not even played in this division until last season - and who receive coverage mainly for the small size of their home crowd - are getting closer to Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United by the week.