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Saturday, 26 February 2011

Swansea outclass lacklustre Leeds!

Swansea move 8 points clear of Leeds after embarrassing the Yorkshire side. Leeds never got going today and looked fearful at the back. Grayson made one enforced change with Davide Somma coming in for the suspended Bradley Johnson. Swansea have conceded 6 goals at the Liberty Stadium all season, Leeds conceded that many in one game at Elland Road.

Leeds couldn't get possession and were working hard to to get the ball of the Welsh side. The first chance came to Swansea when the ball fell to Scott Dobie in the box and he struck the post. Leeds looked clueless. When ever they got the ball they gave it away, this was not the Leeds side the 3,000 travelling fans have been used to watching. The Swans were ahead on 13 minutes after they traditionally started from the back and got the ball to Sinclair on the left, he played a nice one-two with Luke Moore to finish past the helpless Kasper Schmeichel.

This performance resonated with the feeling of Tuesday night when Barnsley didn't give Leeds anytime on the ball. Leeds were sloppy and didn't look like getting into the game. Nathan Dyer was slaughtering George McCartney on the right hand side and he nearly made it two when his shot was pushed out for a corner by Schmeichel.

Phil Dowd was the next man to contribute to Leeds' miserable start when he booked Alex Bruce for a brilliant challenge on Dyer. Bruce won the ball cleanly and then Dyer went down over Bruce's legs. The game started to die down slightly with Leeds praying to get to half-time at 1-0. It could have been so much better for Leeds though when a Robert Snodgrass curling shot was blatantly blocked by the arm of Alan Tate. Dowd gave nothing despite Leeds' protests. He may have not had a clear view but the linesman had no excuse! Premier League officials? Kilkenny was then booked for his protests, Dowd not making any friends.

This abysmal decision seemed to spur Leeds on. Somma should have scored on the edge of half-time when a free-kick reached him in the box but Dorus de Vries tipped the strikers headed onto the bar. That brought the half to a close. Grayson will have been encouraged by the way his side ended the first period.

Leeds started brightly but so did Swansea. Schmeichel was called upon to make a regulation save from a Dyer header. However it was virtually game over when Phil Dowd pointed to spot after Max Gradel brought down Dyer. Sinclair stepped up to make it 2-0 for Swansea after slotting the ball in the bottom left hand corner. Moore came close to adding another instantly but Schmeichel saved well with his legs.

It was Somma again with the chance to get Leeds back in the game but when the South African found himself through on goal he squandered the chance when his timid effort was pushed over the bar by de Vries.

Sanchez Watt entered the fray on the hour in place of Luciano Becchio who brought his frustrating afternoon to a close. Once again Schmeichel came to the rescue when he saved superbly from a Mark Gower free-kick.

Swansea finally killed the game when Moore was slotted through and cleverly stabbed the ball past Schmeichel. The Dane must be getting sick of conceding goals. With the game out of reach Grayson saved McCartney from seeing red and further embarrassment by replacing him with Ben Parker. Billy Paynter also was given a run out replacing Snodgrass who like on Tuesday looked frustrated with his own performance.

Swansea were cruising and were just passing the ball for fun. Leeds did have a few more chances in the game firstly Watt pulled a strike just wide and Paynter turned and got his shot away which was well saved from de Vries. Somma had the last go for Leeds, he brought the ball down in the sky and volleyed narrowly over.

Leeds' retched afternoon was brought to a close. Leeds have a dismal record against Welsh opposition this term. The question is have Leeds reached their peak? What looked a fatigued United side today face Doncaster on Saturday, a game that will be very telling in whether Leeds have the credentials in earning a priceless Play-off place.

Att. 19,309
Swansea 3-0 Leeds

Sinclair 13 - Swansea
Sinclair 55 pen - Swansea
Moore 72 - Swansea

Leeds travel South

Leeds go into battle with 2nd place Swansea today. Simon Grayson's side were victorious at Elland Road when the sides met in September. Goals from Bradley Johnson and Luciano Becchio completed a second half comeback to record a 2-1 win. United are without Johnson today, the midfielder was dismissed for a second bookable offence on Tuesday night.

Swansea have been in blistering form since losing to rivals Cardiff. The Swans find themselves second in the form table only behind Leicester. City beat Coventry in mid-week whilst Leeds could only manage a draw in a 6 goal thriller with Barnsley. Scott Dobie is vying for a place in the starting eleven today after coming on to score the winner in mid-week. Garry Monk and Andrea Orlandi will miss through injury again.

Leeds will most likely adopt a change of shape in the absence of Johnson. Grayson will probably prefer a 4-4-2, this means he should hand a start to either Davide Somma, Billy Paynter or Ross McCormack. Paul Connolly is the only absence through injury which means loanee Eric Lichaj will continue at right back. The Whites will be looking to bounce back from two consecutive draws. The players might have been encouraged as 5,000 fans turned out at the White Rose centre to meet the players on Thursday.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Leeds are still learning

Simon Grayson's side have come under fire once more after an enthralling 3-3 draw with Barnsley last night. The message I will say is this. This is our first season back in the Championship, it is a relatively new group of players and although we are pushing for promotion we are a young side still learning our trait.

It was sloppy errors last night that cost us. But you have to look at the game as a whole. Credit to Barnsley they came of the traps like a racehorse and dictated the pace of the game. We were instantly on the back foot, even when we were leading the game we never once settled into our natural flow. Was this a result of backlash from the Norwich game? Maybe. This is a strong, competitive league and to contend at the top we need to be at our best in every match.

Max Gradel's performance is one of the few positives that can be taken. The Ivorian continues to wreak havoc on the left wing. Luciano Becchio reached 15 goals for the season when he headed home the equaliser. Despite scoring his performance lacked the quality he has provided in the vast majority of games this term.

The defence has been our Achilles heel so far in this campaign. It seems Leeds have to bag 4 goals to secure a victory. One could only think of what the damage would be without Kasper Schmeichel guarding the goal line.

Bradley Johnson is the next topic on my mind. I thought he put in an impressive performance before he was given his marching orders on 52 minutes. Johnson has got mixed press. Talking to some people after the game their view on his performance was split. He now misses the trip to Swansea on Saturday after getting dismissed for a soft red card.

Firmly focused on another six pointer. Swansea are now the team to catch as they occupy the second automatic promotion spot. Leeds will be aiming to cut the gap to 2 points on Saturday. Grayson will almost certainly opt for a 4-4-2 shape without Johnson. This raises the question of who will partner Becchio up top? The smart money would say Davide Somma however I think Saturday could be the perfect time to give Paynter or McCormack the chance to win the hearts of the United fans.

Finally Simon Grayson, he got us out of League 1 and now he is targeting back to back promotions to the Premiership. He has been superb for the club so far and will continue to do so for many years to come. In my mind the perfect man to guide this young, developing squad of players.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Added incentive for visit of Barnsley

Leeds welcome a Barnsley side who have slumped to 14th in the table since crushing United 5-2 at Oakwell. Leeds have struggled playing on Tuesday nights with a record of P-7 L-4 D-3 W-0, they will be aiming to reward the fans tonight by breaking their Tuesday night duck. Leeds love to provide entertainment. So far this term a staggering 108 goals have been scored in their games, only second to Peterborough (125) in the entire Football League.

Grayson is expected to name an unchanged side, however he may be tempted to hand a start to in-form Davide Somma. Sanchez Watt has recovered from a hamstring injury and he might feature on the bench tonight for United.

Barnsley are without a win in three games and have only recorded one victory in their last five matches. The Tykes have got a good record in Yorkshire derbies this season only losing one in six. Barnsley sold their talisman Adam Hammill to Wolves in the January transfer window, a player that was instrumental in the drubbing given to Grayson's side in September.

Leeds will have added motivation to set the record straight at Elland Road tonight. They will want to wrap up another three points before a huge six-pointer down in Swansea on Saturday.

Monday, 21 February 2011

McCormack Who? What? When? Where? Why?

Who is Ross McCormack? The 24 Glaswegian striker has got an impeccable scoring record but Ross hasn't had the knack at Elland Road. His scoring record speaks for itself. During his time at Cardiff he bagged 65 goals in 74 appearances. So far for Leeds he is yet to break his duck in 14 appearances, mostly off the bench.

What does Ross McCormack do best? (This video shows his goals for Cardiff)


When will Ross McCormack get his chance? Honestly I think he is going to have to wait a little longer. With Becchio and Somma scoring freely and Grayson seeming to prefer Paynter to him, his chances will most likely be limited.

Where will Ross McCormack get his first goal for Leeds (if he does)? I would love to think it would be in front of the Elland Road faithful, but who knows? He has already netted two goals for Leeds but both were ruled out by the officials.

Why has Ross McCormack not been given more of a chance? This might possibly be the one question I would confront Simon Grayson with if I were to run into him. What I have seen of him has been extremely positive. He clearly has talent, if we can get him scoring it might just be the magic gem that secures Leeds promotion.

I would love to see Grayson give McCormack more football and I think a pairing with Becchio might just be the magic formula.

Is Somma a starter?

Marksman Davide Somma has been in superb form of late. He's bagged 11 goals so far this season and came of the bench to score with his first touch against Norwich on Saturday to earn Leeds a more than deserved 2-2 draw. There is no doubt that Somma has impeccable finishing qualities, however questions have been raised over the rest of his game.

Grayson's preferred shape is a 4-5-1 or a 4-3-3 depending on whether you view Gradel and Snodgrass as strikers. This formation has brought the best out of skipper Jonny Howson who is given license to play in a more advanced role. This however restricts other strikers Billy Paynter, Ross McCormack and Somma to a place on the bench with star man Luciano Becchio occupying that lone striking role.

Dilemma for Grayson. To slot Somma into his system this would involve either dropping top goalscorer Becchio or change the shape to a 4-4-2 which would most probably see Neil Kilkenny drop to the bench. Somma has been patient and has taken his chances in every sense of the word. Leeds entertain Barnsley on Tuesday and Somma will be hoping to get in on more of the action, but will it be of the bench?

Leeds were shocked at Oakwell when they were defeated 5-2. Somma stepped of the bench that day for Lloyd Sam and scored a consolation goal for a dismal United. The performance that night is long forgotten, and Howson insists tomorrow night isn't about revenge.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Can a fan change a match?

The question I raise to all you readers today is can a football fan change the result of a match? Yesterday against Norwich I found myself chanting on my own before the fans around me picked up the song "We are Leeds... We are Leeds... We are Leeds!" and within seconds it was circulating around the Kop. A matter of moments later Davide Somma struck the equaliser. Now I'm not nearly big headed another to say I'm the reason for snatching a 2-2 draw on Saturday. But it is interesting to think if I or somebody else during the game had not stood up and acted in a certain manner, would that have effected a particular event in the game? Personally I believe a fan can alter a game for a team. It would be brilliant to hear what you all think!

A point a piece for promotion chasers

Heavy snow surrounded the City of Leeds in the morning before kick off which forced a pitch inspection at noon. But once again a sterling effort from the Elland Road ground staff allowed the game to go ahead. Simon Grayson named an unchanged side for the visit of Norwich.

Leeds came flying out of the blocks and came agonisingly close to getting an opener after just five minutes when Jonny Howson saw his solo effort just go past the post. United could count themselves extremely unlucky a few minutes later when Luciano Becchio's header was tipped onto the post by Paul Ruddy. The atmosphere was electric. On 18 minutes it was the home fans who were sent into raptures when Robert Snodgrass flicked the ball towards Becchio at the back post and he rose above Adam Drury to celebrate his 14th of the season and more importantly, to give Leeds a priceless 1-0 lead.

Norwich looked to respond. Kasper Schmeichel was first tested when David Fox's effort from range forced a theatrical save from the Leeds stopper. As the Canaries looked for a way back into the game Leeds were counter attacking at pace. Howson came within a whisker of making it 2-0 after Eric Lichaj's cross reached the skipper in the box. Howson had three stabs at the cherry, his first effort was blocked, his second strike thundered against the crossbar and when it fell once more his overhead kick couldn't be directed.

Norwich were maintaining possession and that pressure tolled in the final minute of the first half. A cross from deep was nodded down by Grant Holt towards in-form Arsenal loanee Henri Lansbury to hammer home an equaliser. It was fast paced encounter with both sides winning and losing the ball in each others final third. The half was brought to a close, Leeds could count themselves slightly unlucky not to go into the interval with the lead.

The game was wide open, both sides new the value of 3 points. Wes Hoolahan was running the game for Norwich but Snodgrass was doing the same for United, the whites were looking to get the ball out wide to him at every opportunity. Chances came and went for Leeds but it was Holt who came within inches for City when he flicked the ball past Schmeichel only to be denied by the woodwork. Moments later the frazzled Leeds defence left Hoolahan in acres of space on the right hand side and he slotted it in the far hand corner, Lichaj couldn't manage to clear the ball of the line and only helped it on its way. 2-1 Norwich.

The fans were rightfully angry. United should have buried it in the first half and now they were paying the penalty for not converting their chances. Grayson turned to 10 goal man Davide Somma, the super sub did it again. The ball dropped to the marksman on the edge of the area, and with his first touch he send Elland Road into ecstasy. Leeds back on terms!

The game entered the closing stages with the everything up for grabs. Norwich have had a habit of scoring late goals but it was Grayson's men who looked the more likely. Becchio was replaced by Billy Paynter. It was so nearly another stroke of genius by Grayson as Paynter played a clever one two with Somma and Leeds were denied a winner as Ruddy pulled off a spectacular save to denie Paynter his first Leeds goal and all 3 points for the Whites.

That concluded proceedings, the snow had melted away at Elland Road after this fiery matchup. This performance will give Leeds confidence as they continue their serge for back to back promotions.

Att. 31,601
Leeds 2-2 Norwich

Becchio 17 - Leeds
Lansbury 45+1 - Norwich
Hoolahan 68 - Norwich
Somma 75 - Leeds

Friday, 18 February 2011

Canaries all too familiar

Paul Lambert's Norwich arrive at Elland Road on Saturday two points happier than Simon Grayson's in-form Leeds side. United have won their last two games and have only lost once in their last 18 league encounters. The form of wingers Robert Snodgrass and Max Gradel is widely regarded as the fundamental reason for this superb run. Leeds are also the Championship's top goalscorers netting 57 goals in 31 games. Snodgrass of late has been in unstoppable form however he is yet to bag a goal in front of the Elland Road crowd this season. This is a record he will be aiming to break as 30,000 fans are expected to turn out for this 6 pointer on Saturday.

Norwich however are also in a rich vain of form keeping the pressure up on leaders QPR. City were stuck down in their last trip away from Carrow Road when their were defeated 2-1 by Eddie How's Burnley.

Both sides come into the game knowing all too much of each other's capabilities as Grayson and Lambert aim to secure back to back promotions to the top flight. Norwich pipped Leeds to the post last season in League 1 as United had to settle for second but both sets of fans will remember the last minute drama that engrossed the fixtures last term.

It is set to be a thriller at Elland Road tomorrow with both teams relishing the chance to move one step closer to that illusive prize of Premiership football. A real six pointer tomorrow. Will this be the game that makes or breaks Leeds' promotion charge?

My Prediction: Leeds 3-2 Norwich

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

International class

Leeds United are now establishing themselves as a club with a host of international talent. Jonny Howson made his first England U21's appearance today after stepping of the bench to join an exclusive club. Winger Robert Snodgrass has also been called up for Scotland's game in the nations cup, the 23 year old missed out last season when he was included in the squad but missed out through injury.

Neil Kilkenny has just returned from the Asia Cup after reaching the final with Australia. Although his contributions primarily came off the bench it signifies a bright future for the 25 year old playmaker. Striker Davide Somma caught the eye of Bafana Bafana by scoring 11 goals in 11 starts for the Whites this term. Finally Ramon Nunez who has rarely featured in a United shirt won MVP at the Centro Copa America which suggests he has high levels of potential.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Jonny gets England call

Leeds home born skipper Jonny Howson has got his first England U21's call up. Howson will take part in a Tuesday's fixture that sees England take on Italy in Empoli. Jonny has been producing consistent fantastic performances for Leeds this term as they are pushing for promotion.

Best of luck to him, well deserved!

Somma snatches Elland Road win

Simon Grayson fielded an unchanged side from Tuesday's clash with Hull. Coventry arrived at Elland Road having not recorded a win since early December, surely the rot had to end sometime? Ross McCormack was not featured on the bench for United as Grayson recalled Ramon Nunez who was MVP at the Centro Copa America.

It was a nitty gritty start for both sides however the first chance fell after 18 minutes when Robert Snodgrass crossed for Luciano Becchio, the Argentine couldn't of asked for a better chance and to the disbelieve of the home fans he only managed to stab it wide. Max Gradel was causing havoc down the right hand side, he skilfully took on Jordan Clarke but lost his composure as he fired wide of Kieran Westwood's near post. Gradel put Clarke on toast once more but this time saw his effort go high and wide. The explosive Ivorian was involved again when he released George McCartney down the left flank, he pulled it back perfectly for Becchio only for him to drag his effort wide.

There was a worrying feeling around Elland Road as Leeds failed to convert their chances, the home side pressed again but shouts for a penalty were turned down when Bradley Johnsons cross appeared to strike the hand of a City defender. There was little in the way of chances for the visitors but they could count themselves lucky to make it into the break level.

Grayson's men started brightly in the second half and put the visitors on the back foot. Coventry's battling defence was finally broken on 55 minutes when Gradel's cross was knocked back across the face of goal by Jonny Howson, allowing Davide Somma to grab his 11th of the season and put Leeds deservedly ahead.

Snodgrass and Gradel were taking on defenders for fun but it was the Scotsman who was next to test Westwood when his curling effort was well saved. It took 64 minutes for Coventry to worry Kasper Schmeichel when Aaron Gunnarsson went close in the United box. Somma thought he had sealed the win on 72 minutes when he superbly chipped Westwood unfortunately he was flagged offside.

Alex Bruce was next to get in on the action when his fierce shot went agonizingly wide. Gradel was a victim of a late challenge from Clarke as Coventry planned a final surge. Neil Kilkenny replaced Somma to tighten things up which marked the Australian's first return to Elland Road since his exit to the Asia Cup. Clive Platt had one last chance for Coventry but Schmeichel made a good save to deny the striker.

That was the last noticeable event which marked a crucial win for Leeds as they keep the pressure up on the front runners in the Championship title race. Grayson's men are entertained by Bristol City next Saturday as they will be eyeing up another 3 points.

Att. 27,033
Leeds 1-0 Coventry

Somma 55 - Leeds

Friday, 4 February 2011

Karma

Angered Hull manager Nigel Pearson has come out and slammed Lloyd Sam for his challenge on Liam Rosenior at the KC Stadium on Saturday. He called the challenge as "cowardly". The incident occurred in the last 10 minutes of the fixture that saw the sides see out a second 2-2 draw so far this term. However I must say, what goes around comes around. During the 2-2 draw at Elland Road Ian Ashbee threw his elbow at Luciano Becchio which left him with a nasty black eye. The referee took no action in either game. Rosenior need oxygen and was taken to hospital and although Becchio suffered minor injuries the principle remains the same. Leeds can shrug of sour comments from Pearson as they prepare for the arrival of Coventry City at Elland Road tomorrow.