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Leaving home at 6.45am with a journey via tube, train, car and bus in front of me, i was questioning my sanity given our recent form. But I guess yesterday proved why we do it.
A trouble free journey got us to the pub before 1pm, so i'm not quite sure how we managed to miss kick-off J
We started with a new formation, one of those flexible ones where it's meant to be 4-3-3 when we're attacking and 4-5-1 when defending, but often turned into the opposite under O'Leary's guidance. For once it worked, Deane had a storming game upfront and Healy and Oster supported him well from the wide positions, with Wright also getting forward well in support.
The first half was obviously the best 45 minutes of the season by a country mile, apart from a bit of a goalmouth scramble just after we arrived, we were mostly in total control.
A mere minute after we'd made a total mess of a corner and ended with the ball at Sullivan's feet, 5 seconds after taking it, we got one right. As the corner floated over the top of everyone and Deane headed it in at the back-post. We were just calming down from the shock of Deano scoring when we scored again. Preston's defence, which was a bit of a shambles all day, failed to clear that bobbed around the box and Healy latched onto it to crack it home.
Two nil and "Let's go f*cking mental" rang out from an astonished Leeds end. Rather helpfully Preston had given us the whole end in a smallish ground and we were able to out sing them throughout.
Another sweeping move finished with Deane nodding over Wright's cross when he probably should have scored and with Wright breaking forward in support of the front 3, we kept Preston on the back-foot. Another attack ended with Healy shooting over the bar and at the other end we were rarely troubled, in fact the closest shave was self-inflicted, as Sullivan's clearance ricochet of one of their strikers and trickled towards the goal before hitting the post and rolling out of play.
Just before half-time a third, Healy was put away down the left and showed enough confidence to ride a tackle before firing the ball under the keeper and celebrating in front of the Preston fans with the stiff arm salute that got him sent off against Wales. Not a popular chap. At the other end we were in shock and a chant of "What the f*ck is going on" rang out, in rather different circumstances from Wednesday.
At half-time we discussed how we were going to screw this one up. The consensus being an early Preston goal, a second with 20 minutes left and a last minute equaliser. For a while it looked possible, as Cresswell found a whole in oue defence and calmly beat Sullivan. This was just as myself and Jabba discussed Gregan, as Jon asked "whose Gregan marking", I tried to defend him by saying he was filling the space in front of the back four. The goal was made in that, big empty, space.
For awhile we looked under pressure as the Preston crowd woke up and we were fortunate that a couple of clear opportunities were hit straight at Sullivan. At this point Oster began to get into the game and used the space created as Preston pressed forward to his advantage. Proving that he was a threat running with the ball and but some decent crosses in. One of these provided dividends, as though Oster looked like he'd overhit it, Deane managed to head it back across goal and Walton was left with an open goal to make the game safe.
After the fourth we looked in control again and really should have scored another when Pugh was set free down the left but hit an awful cross behind the unmarked Wright. Healy then wriggled away from a couple of tackles on the halfway line before hitting a wild shot into our end. A late Preston goal really made no difference and half the home fans were long gone by this point. In the last minute we should really have had another, Richardson got to the by-line and cut a ball back across the face which eluded the onrushing Wright and Deane hammered it into the keepers midrift.
We seem to be consistently inconsistent producing decent performances when we least expect it, so I hope this continues but I wouldn't count on it.
Sullivan 6 - Not a massive amount to do, but a couple of solid catches when needed in second half.
Kelly 7 - Have no problem with him at all, despite coping a lot of stick, one of our few consistent players.
Pugh 7 - Looks comfortable at left back though only one real forward foray.
Carlisle 7 - A solid performance, won a lot in the air.
Butler 6 - OK
Walton 7 - One of his better games.
Gregan 6 - Wandered around, fouled a few people, pointed a bit, normal service.
Wright 8 - Easily his best game for us, covered a lot of ground and was constantly running off Deane. Would have scored but for some poor final balls.
Oster 7 - Decent debut, not too involved in the first half, but in the second showed he had the ability to beat his man and get a cross in, before tiring towards the end.
Deane 8 - A constant threat, Preston could never cope with him in the air and deserved more free-kicks than he actually got given. Could have got a couple more though.
Healy 8 - Nice to have an intelligent player rather than the normal headless chickens, uses the ball well and nice to have a calm finisher for once.
They had a striker with blonde spiky hair called Smith, who kept mouthing off, wonder who he reminded me of.
Got home about 15 hours after I left but for once it was worth it.
This is why going to football is the greatest thing in the world. Not much enthusiasm in the morning about the game until I got on the train at Leeds.
Anticipation was high and everyone seemed to be buzzing. Was this cos everyone was looking forward to seeing Gregan, Wright & co or was it because there was a big game turn out to repay the compliment from Preston a few weeks earlier when their lads had surprisingly turned up outside Wetherspoons and had a good old toe to toe ? Who knows but it might explain why we were greeted by police from all over Lancashire, drafted in especially to deal with the infamous Leeds lads.
On to the game and I wouldn't get too excited about the result but at 3-1 and even 4-1 I thought we looked nervous and I thoroughly expected Preston to get back into the game. Luckily we had a couple of outlets today - Oster and Healy. Both are intelligent players who have a bit of pace and savvy when it comes to pass and move football. We lined up with a 5-4-1 formation which I thought was a bit negative but it worked and we could switch to 4-3-3 on the attack such was the movement and work rate of Oster and Healey. The other main reason why we did so well was that Preston were shocking in the first half. They didn't even compete.
Even Gregan and Wright looked ok as they were given the freedom of the park. Gregan still managed to look slow and as for being 'immense' (KB Quote) well yes... immensly fat. To be fair though I thought Wright and Gregan upped their game and with Leeds packing the midfield at times they didn't suffer as much as they usually do. There seemed more options and always someone to pass to rather than the long ball to Deano. In the first half we actually were putting some nice passing moves together. Haven't seen that for a while. We can't do this every game though, they need to stand alone in midfield.
It was the defence that worried me yesterday. Carlisle Butler and Pugh (and Sullivan) , looked edgy and shaky all day long. Killa was dropped and I think we'll lose him if he sees himself getting dropped for defenders who are cleary not as good as him. Preston's first goal said it all. It was simple pass and move football that left Butler bamboozled. He just stood and watched as Cresswell stroked it into the net. He doesn't get tight to the attackers and the reason why is that he doesn't want to commit himself too much because he hasn't got the acceleration and reaction times to recover should the attacker turn quickly so he lets them make the first move a yard or two up the pitch and then positions himself accordingly. It works against most average strikers in this league but it only takes something a bit different and he's knackered. Killa leaves nothing to chance and defends like a premiership defender. Give them no room at all. It's all very frustrating. In the second half Preston had some decent chances to get back in to the game - we just gave them too much space.
Other positives - Deano , much better but let's be honest he should have had a couple more. I wonder when the last time was that he scored with his feet ?
Sullivan - 6 Did ok but one or two misunderstandings with his defenders one nearly leading to a goal
Kelly - 7. One of his better games, I think Oster helped.
Pugh - 5. GOt through a fair amount of work although I though Preston caused him a few problems. Needs a good run at left back.
Carlisle - 5. Shaky. Their second goal he just wasn't close enough to Cresswell and him and Butler played like strangers.
Butler - 5. Beginning to look a a bit slow and static for me. Never mind experience Killa is so much better.
Gregan - 6. Was given time so was able to actually contribute to this match. Some good defensive clearances. Faded second half. Immense he wasn't he just was better but let's get things into perspective he can't have been any worse.
Wright - 7. Had a couple of decents shots, was involved in our best passing movements but still not convinced. In and out of the game. LOads of arm waving and pointing but in with lots of players around him to do some of the leg work he showed he can play football.
Oster - 9. Lively, can beat a man, good crosses and god work rate. He also provides a good outlet for our play something which has been missing. He has to sign.
Healey - 9. Two good goals but also our best player. Man of the match.
Deano - 7. One of his better games. Same old Deano though in front of goals.
Walton - 6. Can't miss from 2 yards. I thought first half he did well but as usual he faded second.
Crowd - good little ground this. Great Leeds turn out and passionate support. Made you proud.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 08/11/2004.
The respective welcomes for David Healy and Sean Gregan could not have been in starker contrast, yet they played an equally ruthless part in the downfall of their former employers.
Healy's two first-half goals stifled the predictable abuse directed at the Northern Ireland forward, less than a fortnight after he incensed those Deepdale regulars who mistakenly believe that footballers hold a loyalty to anyone but themselves by accepting Leeds United's overtures.
Apart from a painful early challenge from Richard Cresswell, Gregan enjoyed a warmer reception, having helped the club from the old Second Division to the verge of the Premiership in a golden 18-month spell at the start of the decade. But the midfielder's performance was equally lacking in sentiment.
While the battle for control of Elland Road reached a temporary impasse as the Anglo-American consortium planning a takeover provides proof it can fund a £25m buy-out, Leeds steadied matters somewhat on the pitch by halting a run of four successive defeats.
For that they can in part thank a helpful fixture computer which allowed them to complete a comfortable double over Preston within three weeks, their only victories since mid-September.
Healy's goals re-opened wounds laid bare by his £600,000 move and, in addition to Brian Deane's first league goal for Leeds in a decade, rendered the contest dead at the interval.
"It felt a bit weird playing against my former team-mates," Healy admitted. "I was expecting that but, if it had been six months down the line, it would have been different. I've moved on to bigger and better things - that's why I decided to sign for a new club.
"All goals are good ones, whether they're from three yards or 20, but it was a smashing feeling. The main thing is that we're back on track as a team with a game in hand." The teenager Simon Walton added a fourth after the break as Leeds scored as many in an hour as in the previous nine games, sandwiched between a brace from Preston's top scorer Cresswell.
Kevin Blackwell, the Leeds manager, felt the two former Preston players tipped the balance in his side's favour: "Sean's a massive player for us. In previous games he's had to nurture a very young midfield but this time I could tell him to go out and express himself.
"David Healy's not just here to score goals. He can contribute so much to our game and he proved he's the sort of player we need. He's intelligent and can play at a high level." Preston are without a win in four games and await an answer from Gregan's former West Bromwich team-mate Scott Dobie after having a £750,000 bid accepted as they aim to fill the void left by Healy's departure in the wake of Ricardo Fuller's move to Portsmouth earlier in the season.
Cresswell's well-taken goals failed to paper over the cracks, and he admitted: "David's a class player and I enjoyed playing with him because we had a good link-up. But he's gone and there's a gap left."
Man of the match: David Healy (Leeds United)
Copy from Football Unlimited of 07/11/2004.
Leeds ended a dismal run of four league games without a win with this convincing all-round team effort, which left Preston looking second best.
David Healy, roundly booed when he ran out just eight days after leaving Deepdale, continued the long tradition of players scoring against their former teams, three weeks after playing for Preston in Leeds's last win.
Brian Deane, looking something like the formidable striker of old, gave Leeds their start. Prolonged pressure led to a right-wing corner, which Jermaine Wright aimed at the far post. Preston keeper Gavin Ward, hassled by Healy, missed the ball and Deane headed down into the net.