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November 30: Nobody should be remotely surprised that Leeds slumped out of the FA Cup at Histon on Sunday. The hosts are on fine form in the Conference and have made a speciality of scoring from set pieces. Leeds are in patchy form and have made a speciality of conceding from set pieces. The TV cameras were there. The pitch had the sort of standing water and ball-halting mud puddles that would make any sane referee abandon the game before the start - or at least no more than 2 minutes in. But Histon adapted to the conditions much better than Leeds in the first half and although Leeds' passing was much slicker, the team never did enough with it. The price was paid when the inevitable lapse of concentration at a corner saw Histon's players rising barely-challenged in the box and the ball bounce tamely inside a post abandoned by the defender just seconds before. Although Leeds improved after the break - Lubo Michalik being particularly unlucky with the hosts making committed and impressive stops. The final whistle blew, the Leeds fans shook their heads and vanished into the gloomy afternoon. Not the produest moment in the club's history...
November 28: Gary McAllister is facing a vital month without the services of Jermaine Beckford. The striker pulled up with a hamstring problem after scoring against Northampton, and initial examinations are suggesting he'll be out for a minimum of a fortnight but possibly much longer. The manager said: "He's a quick healer, but we'll let it settle down before he has any scans because at the moment there will be a bit of stress in that area because of the tear. We'll let it settle and I would think a minimum of three or four weeks. He is a big loss. His performance levels has moved up this season. He is a finisher and he scores all different types. After last season's goal-scoring exploits, he has backed it up this season. He wants to beat his tally and it's looking good."
November 27: The club actually made an operating profit last year as the debt-free post-administration entity took advantage of the huge crowds and clean slate to make 900,000 in the 14 months to July. Player trading brought in a further 3.6m - and if retained in the club this will almost certainly go towards improving the facilities and sorting out the freehold mess that Krasner's Krazy Kats left behind. A statement issued by the club read: "On the field the club are seeking to gain promotion to the Championship at the earliest possible opportunity and to continue strengthening the club's academy. Off the field, the directors have identified the repurchase of both the Thorp Arch training facility and Elland Road as a priority within the next 12 months. We are also seeking to gain consent for the development of the East stand of the stadium to both increase income generated by the club on non-match days."
November 26: Gary McAllister's grip on reality - and possibly his job - loosened a little today after he wheeled out Standard Management Excuse 17 for thedefeat at Northampton - "They tried more because we're so great". He said: "We've got to be up for these battles. When we're going away to grounds - I don't watch Northampton week-in week-out, but the effort used by them, is that the same every week here? If it was, they'd maybe be up in the similar position as us in the league." With Jermaine Beckford leaving the field clutching his hamstring, McAllister knocked back the idea of quick replacements: "There's no point in bringing people in that aren't going to better the side - if there's somebody that can come in and make us better then we're going to be there trying to act. I don't think there's any need to panic and make massive changes - the crux and the ethos is going to stay the same and the 20 players have bought into that."
November 21: Malcolm Christie has yet to sign a contract but he's been cleared by the Football League to turn out for Leeds in Division One games - which gives Gary McAllister a selection poser for Saturday's visit of Hartlepool. Jermaine Beckford's hat-trick at Northampton shows that he's back on form so should start - and it would be hard to leave out Luciano Becchio based on his workrate and consistent scoring record, so that looks like Christie will be in line for a bench place unless Macca pushes his new signing out on the wing (so watch out Rob Snodgrass?). Alan Sheehan came through a training match unscathed but it's not clear if that's enough match fitness for him to get back into the squad for what could be a tough battle in cold and blustery conditions.
November 17: Helped by a deflection and some less-than-brilliant goalkeeping, Gary McAllister's much-rotated squad strolled through to the second round of the FA Cup and a potentially huge banana skin at Histon. Jermaine Beckford put Leeds ahead on 13 minutes, and just before the half-hour mark a huge deflection from Jonny Howson's shot left the Northampton keeper stranded. Ben Parker's hit-and-hope from 35 yards paid off courtesy of a lucky bounce and total misjudgement by the keeper to give Parker his first goal for the club. David Lucas had made some good saves earlier to preserve the advantage, but with a minute remaining before half-time, poor marking at a corner gave Northampton hope. That hope lasted barely a minute as Beckford somehow worked an opening on the left before curling the ball past the now demoralised custodian. Beckford completed his hat-trick and ended any hopes of a home recovery 10 minutes into the second half as he broke the offside trap to pick up Neil Kilkenny's pass and calmly slot home, and although Jason Crowe scored his second of the game from another corner in injury time, the loyal band of travelling Whites were already scratching their heads and realising that it was easier to get to the middle of the Ukraine for a UEFA Cup game than it was to get to Histon by public transport on a Sunday.
November 14: After taking the lead with three minutes on the clock, this should have been a much more successful afternoon than it turned out to be. Robert Snodgrass's opener from Luciano Becchio's cross set Leeds up for a decent first half, but Hudderfield battled throughout and equalised just after the break after Ankergren flapped at a cross and presented Joe Skarz with a simple chance to bring the scores level. With injury time ticking away, Paul Telfer gave the ball away on the halfway line and former Leeds loanee Danny Cadamarteri turned on the pace and put in a cross for Michael Collins to snatch the winner. On the positive side, Leicester could only draw and we're still just 3 points off automatic promotion and 4 off the top. On the negative side, Millwall, MK Dons, Peterborough all won to leapfrog us, and Oldham also snatched a win at Northampton to move within a point, leaving Gary McAllister's side just in a playoff spot. The worrying thing at the moment is that the certainty we had through September and October have evaporated, and team selection and tactics seem to be up in the air as a result of injuries and doubt in the minds of players and manager alike. The Beckford and Becchio partnership needs to be restored, and the manager needs to take a long hard look at the midfield rather than pointing the finger at defensive lapses because - strangely given his playing experience - that's where the team is lacking most right now.
November 11: After such a thrilling first match, Setanta have decided they would like their customers to benefit from the excitement and footballing excellence that will no doubt be on offer in the replay against Northampton. The date has been set for next Monday night - November 17 - so book your seat in the pub now or be disappointed.
November 11: Rams boss Paul Jewell was full of praise for the opposition and couldn't believe that his team hung on to win after a flying start at Pride Park tonight. Derby went ahead on 6 minutes and doubled the lead 12 minutes later. Jewell said: "After 18 minutes it was one-way traffic and I was wondering how many goals we were going to score. I thought I might be able to actually sit back and enjoy a game for once. Every time we went forward we looked like we were going to score. But then, give Leeds credit, they absolutely dominated possession and scored a good goal and hit a post. They battered us for 70 minutes... They will feel aggrieved. We have been fortunate, no doubt, but sometimes you need that in football." Gary McAllister was disappointed with the result - but happy with the performance. He said: "I am lost for words really. I passed on my thoughts to the players and I think you can imagine what I was saying to them. I am not a massive follower of statistics but they had four attacks and scored twice. Our football was good but the last thing I wanted was to have to come out after the game and say we played wonderfully well but we are out, and that is the case and I am disappointed." He went on: "I think when you are in trouble you have got to show bravery. Bravery is not clenching fists and banging into people, it is about getting your players on the ball and going into tight areas to receive the ball... That is what impressed me and pleased me the most - our response at 2-0 down."
November 10: Should Leeds manage to overcome Northampton in the FA Cup replay, they will be set up as giant-killing fodder for the mighty Histon FC - and ITV agrees, choosing the match to be played in their Sunday lunchtime slot on November 30. Histon chairman Gareth Baldwin said "It's a wonderful occasion for Histon FC. It promises to be a very special day for our fans, staff and all the players and one we will all look forward to." And think how much better it will be if they end up playing Leeds instead of Northampton...
November 09: Former Leeds dead ball specialist Ian Harte (sorry, can't describe him as a left back due to absence of any defensive ability) and ex-Derby striker Malcolm Christie have been training withe the squad. Harte spent last season as a bit-part player at Sunderland and unsurprisingly found Roy Keane unimpressed during the summer. Christie came to the end of a 2-year spell at Boro in May 2007 and has since been unattached but is trying to regain match fitness and catch the eye of the odd manager and might be of interest to Gary McAllister.
November 07: By any stretch of the imagination, Friday night's draw against Northampton was not the greatest performance by a Leeds team - but neither was it the worst - although the early goal conceded and the failure to press home the advantage of eleven vs ten aren't exactly rare or difficult problems. With a visit to Derby lined up in the Carling Cup this week and a replay against Northampton to organise after Harlepool, the main issue is that we're going to end up playing two games a week for the next two months if we're even remotely successful - and the one thing we don't want is players getting tired or picking up injuries because they're overstretched.
November 03: Many Leeds fans were scratching their heads at the weekend as rumours of Dean Windass's impending arrival on loan from Hull did the rounds. True or not, he has a reputation as a Leeds-hater from his time at Bradford, and for Gary McAllister to be considering him - never mind any other 40-year-old would be unthinkable to many. However by Monday, the smoke and fog were clearing: Hull said that Leeds had made no approach, and Gary McAllister revealed that Windass had played in a training match at Thorp Arch - though just to get a game and keep in shape since his opportunities at Hull are so limited this year. McAllister said: "Dean is a good pal of mine and I've known him for years. If we strengthen, then it'll be in other areas of the park."
November 01: The away defeat jinx has been broken - but only just. Luciano Becchio headed home a Frazer Richardson cross with 7 minutes gone at Cheltenham. But the team failed to press home the advantage with Jermaine Beckford finding the outside of the net rather than the inside when presented with a decent opening in the second half. Cheltenham shouldn't have presented much of a problem with an injury pile-up leaving them exposed, but the lack of a cutting edge must worry Gary McAllister and it will be interesting to see what changes he makes for Friday's cup clash with Northampton.
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