Friday, 29 April 2011

Need a bit of luck as we enter the last chance saloon

Andy O'Brien fighting for Leeds as we go down to Palace
Leeds host Burnley tomorrow in what is a game that can only be described as 'win or bust'. United are 3 points adrift of 6th placed Nottingham Forest and just the one solitary point off Millwall and opponents Burnley in 7th and 8th with only two games remaining. Simon Grayson and his side are relying on both sides dropping points while they must pick up the maximum 6 points available from a difficult run-in. Beating Burnley will see the Whites move above their near by neighbours.

Leeds' game kicks off at 12.45 which allows them to apply the pressure on Forest and Millwall assuming United take all the points in a huge game which will say fair well to the Elland Road faithful for another season. Luciano Becchio is again doubtful and it is becoming for likely that our top goalscorer will watch the Championship seasons climax from the sidelines. Leeds are also without Barry Bannan who was recalled by Aston Villa earlier this week. George McCartney is expected to return to the side.

Leeds complete comeback at Burnley
Leeds are currently experiencing their worst run of their campaign having not seen themselves record a victory in 5 games. This run has dropped them out of the Play-offs and seen them slip to 9th which is their worst position in 6 months. As well as this United are no longer the league's top scorers with Norwich passing their total last weekend. Unlike Leeds the Clarets have won 3 of their last 4 games which has propelled them within contention of a Play-off place however they also rely on other sides slipping up.

It's now or never for both sides tomorrow afternoon as they are striving to keep their Npower Championship season alive with victory. 30,000 fans are expected to turn out to see this crucial match up. This sell-out crowd will say goodbye to their hero's after the game and the players will be doing everything to repay the fans fantastic support with a big 3 points tomorrow!

Barry get's recall

Barry Bannan has not been allowed to see out his tenure at Elland Road when Aston Villa recalled the midfielder earlier this week. The midfielder made seven appearances for Leeds since joining in March. He failed to score but was a superb addition to the squad and would have only hoped to help us secure a Play-off position. He rejoins Villa with the best wishes from all at Leeds United and on behalf of everybody thank him for his contribution.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Has our season come to a bitter end?

Leeds have lost 1-0 at Crystal Palace. A Neil Danns deflected strike after 75 seconds puts our Play-off hopes in tatters! The defeat has virtually sent both Sheffield United and Scunthorpe United down the trap door into League 1. A bad day for Yorkshire football.

Simon Grayson named an unchanged side which in my mind seemed a brainless decision as the players had just 2 days to recover and with players like Bannan and Somma on the bench I was utterly surprised. I'm a huge Simon Grayson fan and think he's a very good manager and I'm not blaming him, so don't think I'm pointing the gun at him. The players are 100% responsible. I think this current crop of players are extremely talented but probably lack a bit of experience. Robert Snodgrass and Max Gradel have had fantastic seasons but I must ask have their flames just burnt out at the wrong time. Both wingers missed the first month of the season, Snodgrass (injury) Gradel (suspension) but since then they have been ever presents in the United starting eleven.

Luciano Becchio has missed the last 2 games through injury and I believe that has had a big impact. Becchio always seems to score. The worst possible time to get injured and possibly the worst player to get injured. So where do we go from here? Burnley on Saturday. 4 games without a win and needing Notts Forest to lose. Not too difficult, surely. I'm a very optimistic Leeds fan and with this still possible we shouldn't give up hope on the men in white.

Let's journey back to May 8th 2010, at home to Bristol Rovers on the last day of the season. 33rd minute - Max Gradel sent off! 47th minute - Darryl Duffy scores, 1-0 down! Do we give up? NO. 58th minute - Jonny Howson scores, 1-1! 62nd minute Jermaine Beckford scores, 2-1! 90+5th minute - The final whistle blows, Leeds are PROMOTED to the Championship.

We must unite together once more. Yes it is out of our hands but we must fight until the end. Keep the faith in Simon Grayson, it has been a fantastic season no matter what happens and the future is bright for Leeds. I do strongly believe that the captains armband belongs around Jonny Howson's right bicep. Secondly Billy Paynter needs to be dropped, it just isn't his time.

Let's siege the Palace!

Leeds head to Selhurst Park to take on Crystal Palace this Easter Monday off the back of a goalless draw against Reading on Friday night. Simon Grayson's young United side fell out of the play-off positions for the first time since early December. It couldn't be closer to decide you secures 6th spot and that final play-off spot with Notts Forest, Leeds and Burnley all tied on 66 points with just goal difference separating the sides. Even if all three teams win Leeds will return into the top 6 if they go 1 goal better than Forest during today's round of fixtures.

Leeds put in a valiant performance to end Reading's 8 game winning streak, the Whites did everything but score. That could be result of the absence of top scorer Luciano Becchio. He remains a doubt for today's clash. Grayson may consider a change after the fans got frustrated with the performance of Billy Paynter. With only two short days to recover and prepare Grayson is expected to ring the changes.

It's everything or nothing for Leeds now, with Burnley and QPR as their last two fixtures it is a must win if they are to keep the dream of a return to the Premier League alive.

Point drops us out, but keeps hopes alive

Simon Grayson's Leeds side hosted Reading at Elland Road, the atmosphere was tense as the home crowd were well aware of the games importance. Reading had the first chance of the game when Jobi McAnuff got a smart ball down the wing from Shane Long only for his chance to smothered by Kasper Schmeichel.

Leeds were next to excite when Jake Livermore's cross reached the head of Robert Snodgrass but his effort superbly tipped over the top by Alex McCarthy. The atmosphere was electric at times despite few chances being created. It was the right boot of Max Gradel which was next to test McCarthy his shot from range moved in the air and the Reading keeper's save agonisingly trickled past the post. Leeds looked the more likely in a half of few opportunities.

The second half started with a change in personnel for Grayson as he subbed the carded Livermore for Neil Kilkenny after the Spurs loanee put in a few rash challenges. United had a flurry of chances as they began to seize control. But it was Reading to have the first clear sight of goal when Andy Griffin went past Gradel with ease and when Bradley Johnson failed to close his thunderous strike went harmlessly into the side netting.

This time it was Johnson on the offensive. He picked the ball up in midfield and surged into the box skipping away from defenders but his finish was poked flush against the crossbar. With the game heading towards its climax he turned to super sub Davide Somma and Sanchez Watt to spark magic, they replaced Jonny Howson and Billy Paynter.

The Royals had a chance against the run of play. Mikele Leigertwood found space and saw his curling shot just creep past the post which was met with a despairing dive from Schmeichel. The travelling fans thought it was in! Leeds' never say die attitude came into play once more as Gradel struck one from distance again. McCarthy parried to Gradel and he crossed for Snodgrass who's header was once more thwarted by McCarthy.

Reading looked to shut up shop for the final few minutes as Leeds dug deep for a winner. In added time Watt nicked the ball away from McCarthy but failed to turn and get his shot on goal. That proved to be the last action of a thrilling 0-0 draw at Elland Road. A good point for both sides, Leeds will be disappointed not to have capitalised on their dominance but the draw ends Reading winning streak and keeps the Whites in the hunt for a Play-off place.

Att. 24,564
Leeds 0-0 Reading

Friday, 22 April 2011

Reading - Reward or Ruin?

Leeds United face their toughest test of the season tonight as high flying Reading come to Elland Road. The Royals have won 8 games on the trot which has propelled them into the play-off spots, and they are now in serious contention for a top 2 finish. Unlike Reading, Leeds have gained just 4 points from their last 5 games which has eliminated their aspirations for automatic promotion and put their play-offs hopes in jeopardy.

Simon Grayson's side could slip out of the Play-offs tonight if they fail to beat Reading. The fitness of Luciano Becchio has caught the attention of all United fans. The Argentine was injured after stepping off the bench against Watford on Saturday. Questions have been raised to whether he was injured by a fan who invaded the pitch after Becchio opened the scoring. Grayson has ruled him as a doubt for tonight's clash. Davide Somma who started on Saturday is favourite to head the line for the Whites tonight. Ross McCormack could also stake a claim after stepping off the bench in Leeds' last few encounters, finally Billy Paynter will be striving to get back in action after serving his 3 match suspension.

It is all poised to be an action packed game with both sides needing a victory to achieve their goals. Leeds are still the leagues top scorers (78) whereas Reading are the country's form side. Leeds are defiant at home having not lost in 15 league encounters. As well as this The Royals have never recorded a victory at Elland Road.

Reading have not lost a game this season in which they have opened the scoring, they have also bagged 18 goals in the last 10 minutes of games. Ian Harte will face his former club and insists he is entirely focused on what is current club is doing.

The pressure is building on a Leeds side that has by far exceeded expectations this term however the fans always have high standards and nothing but the play-offs will do. Grayson has said individual errors have cost his United side and although the Yorkshire outfit have been entertaining they have lacked a certain mental strength at times. The players must be all focused when they cross that white line tonight and play for the famous badge and try to capture the dreams of the Elland Road faithful.

Key Players: Leeds - Max Gradel and Barry Bannan
Key Players: Reading - Jimmy Kebe and Shane Long

My Prediction: Leeds 4-3 Reading

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Don't look back and wonder what if!

Pressure is mounting on Simon Grayson and his team as several teams are closing in rapidly on United's envied 6th place. With QPR a shoe in for the title there are 4 teams; Cardiff, Norwich, Reading and Swansea all realistically fighting for that 2nd automatic promotion spot to the top flight. The second battle is for that much desired 4th play-off place that Leeds currently occupy. Nottingham Forest, Hull, Millwall and Burnley are the sides with a chance of crashing the Yorkshire sides party.

Leeds are without a win in 3 league matches losing to Millwall and Derby on the road before drawing to Watford at Elland Road on Saturday. They face a Reading side on Friday that have won 8 games on the bounce in the league which explains there sudden surge into automatic promotion contention. Anything other than victory on Friday night could result in falling out of the Play-off spot for the first time since the beginning of December.

The Elland Road faithful will be on edge as the season nears its climax. Grayson's men have a tough run in and need to put everything on the line if they want to get back to the cherished land of the Premier League. Every game has to turn into a cup final for the Whites now. Friday is now the focus has 3 points is more important than ever. Grayson has been tinkering with his starting eleven of late, let's hope he comes up with the right formula come Friday night.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Do Leeds have the bottle in a must win game v Watford?

After a second successive defeat to Derby County on Tuesday night it leaves Leeds in a precarious position sitting just one point inside the play-off spots. With automatic promotion surely out of reach now it may allow Simon Grayson's side to focus entirely on securing a much craved top 6 finish.

As all United fans will know Leeds love to do things the hard way. But do we have the bottle? Leeds know all about what it takes to get in the play-offs but this time we are far from favourites. Leeds' young side have been doubted all season, but until recently Grayson's valiant fighters have not given anybody anything to doubt, until now! The Whites face a tough challenge at home on Saturday to Watford who are still trying to keep their play-off dream alive however it is becoming ever more unlikely, with the side sitting in 11th place 7 points adrift of 6th placed Leeds.

The time is now for Leeds and everything must be put on the line come Saturday. Captain Jonny Howson never seems to stop driving his side forward. Top goalscorer and fan favourite Luciano Becchio must find his goal scoring touch once more as the seasons close draws near. The great Dane Kasper Schmeichel will be pivotal in shutting out opposing threats. Wingers Robert Snodgrass and Max Gradel must continue to torment if the Whites are to go marching on to the Premier League. If there was ever a time for new signing Ross McCormack to start scoring it has to be now! Finally what can Simon Grayson conjure up as he seeks to take his boyhood club back to top flight?

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Disappointed Leeds head to Derby

After Leeds' bitter defeat to Millwall on Saturday Grayson's side are on their travels again as they are in much need of 3 points at Derby. Paul Connolly returned for Leeds on Saturday and he is in contention of facing his old club tonight.

Grayson has many options to his disposal with only Billy Paynter missing out through suspension. George McCartney and Sanchez Watt missed out on Saturday through injury and they both could be vying for a return. Ross McCormack was introduced for the final 10 minutes against Millwall and he will be hoping for more action against Derby. Loanee Jake Livermore replaced Barry Bannan in the starting 11 for the trip to Millwall and competition between the two loan players seems to be ripe for tonight.

Leeds slipped to 6th in the Championship after Reading leap frogged them with a win over out of touch Notts Forest. A win for United would keep their automatic promotion chase alive but far more importantly would go one step closer to securing a play-off place.

The Whites are still the leagues top scorers bagging a staggering 75 goals, they will be aiming on increasing that total tonight. Derby were 2 points clear of United in December but now find themselves 19 points adrift of the Yorkshire club.

Tonight should be another stern test for Leeds as Derby haven't lost in 7 but if United show the quality they have before this season back to back promotion could still be on the cards!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Can we dominate The Den?

Leeds head to bitter rivals Millwall today off the back of a superb three points against Notts Forest. The Den seems to be a bogey ground for Leeds of late with the Whites losing their last two games there. Leeds will be confident going into the Lions Den winning three of their last five games and only losing two out of their previous 13 league matches.

When the sides met all the way back in August at Elland Road, Leeds were 3-1 victors. With Davide Somma scoring a brace and officially making himself known by all Leeds fans.

Millwall are aiming to put in a late surge to secure a play-off place, they currently sit in 8th spot six points off 6th placed Reading who are top of the league's form table. Last time out a well taken Steve Morison chip earned Millwall three points against Hull City.

It is sure to be a fierce contest with both sides topping the Championship's foul table Leeds (474) Millwall (470). Leeds' explosive attacking exploits are in line to be tested with Millwall keeping 18 clean sheets, second only to QPR. No team has beaten Leeds without scoring at least 2 goals this season. United have scored more goals (73) and have had more attempts on target (276) this season than any other side.

Grayson said earlier this week that he had numerous injury doubts for today's game however he was keeping his cards close to his chest and didn't reveal any names. The only known absence is Billy Paynter serving the second match of his three match ban.

The two sides were promoted with Norwich from League 1 last season and the rivalry is set to recommence today as the race for promotion hots up again at the Den today!

Leeds destroy Forest!

Simon Grayson's Leeds side demolished Nottingham Forest after a well fought first half, full of controversy. The sides entered the game 5th and 6th respectively in the league and given all the history it had all the ingredients to be a cracker.

Leeds showed the early running as Max Gradel was brought down on the edge of the box before squandering the chance much to the frustration of his boss. Forest responded with their own free-kick in a dangerous area. Lewis McGugan set his sights but it was an anticlimax for the travelling supporters as his shot was drilled into the wall.

It was a scrappy start with both sides trying to find their rhythm. Forest looked the more likely as they started to pen Leeds into their own half. Despite the superior possession they struggled to trouble Kasper Schmeichel. United had a few chances of their own. Robert Snodgrass used his trickery on the edge of the box before creating space for himself, but the Scotsman produced a timid effort that Lee Camp safely gathered.

The opening half an hour had frustrated the home fans but their this encounter was about to get a shot of adrenaline. On 35 minutes the visitors should have been in-front when the ball was squared to Marcus Tudgay in the box leaving Schmeichel nowhere but Tudgay's lackluster strike was blocked on the line by in-form Leigh Bromby. Leeds looked to break but as Gradel threaded the ball through to George McCartney, Forest midfielder Chris Cohen lunged two footed at pace and left McCartney on the deck. Grayson was furious and entered the field of play causing a brawl including players and staff. This remonstrated memories of the reverse fixture when players lost their rags after a stamp on winger Sanchez Watt.

Referee Mark Halsey consulted with his linesman before producing a what would be a pivotal red card for Cohen. Replays showed it was a perfectly timed challenge and that he got the ball. However in the rules of the game if you come of the ground two footed to make a challenge it is a red card. The atmosphere at a packed Elland Road had suddenly come apparent as the sides went into half-time at 0-0.

Grayson had to rally his troops to ensure they made the extra man count and whatever his words where at half-time worked a trick at his Leeds side took the lead on 51 minutes. Snodgrass played a spectacular ball for Eric Lichaj who crossed for Jonny Howson and the Leeds skipper controlled the ball well before poking the ball past Camp. Billy Davies and his side were up against it. United added for misery to 10 man Forest 7 minutes later when Luciano Becchio headed home after Bromby's header came back off the post giving the Argentine his 17th league goal.

The Elland Road faithful were at full voice and a crucial 3 points seemed ever closer. United were cruising and were so nearly 3 up when Snodgrass saw his curling effort hit the top of the crossbar. But it wouldn't be Leeds United without giving the home fans a scare when substitute Gareth McCleary turned Barry Barran well on the edge of the box and bent the ball into the top corner leaving Schmeichel motionless.

The next 5 minutes were crucial as Forest looked to put United under the cosh but as it has been so many times in the past weeks Gradel popped up with a touch of class. The Ivorian made it 3-0 when Bradley Johnson headed the ball to him just inside the box allowing him to hook the ball into the bottom corner magnificently.

Grayson handed a debut to loanee Jake Livermore in place of Barry Bannan and it wasn't long until he made an impact. Livermore turned well into the box and tested Camp, he parried to Becchio but his shot was somehow saved by Camp, it fell to Gradel who smashed the ball into the roof of the net rounding off a spectacular 4-1 victory.

Leeds move that much closer to securing a play-off spot and put more pressure on Nowich in 2nd.

Att. 29,524
Leeds 4-1 Nottingham Forest

Howson 51 - Leeds
Becchio 58 - Leeds
McCleary 65 - Notts Forest
Gradel 73 - Leeds
Gradel 87 - Leeds

Friday, 1 April 2011

It all starts tomorrow

Leeds United take on Nottingham Forest in tomorrow's televised clash. The sides share a rich history which adds extra incentive to the game for both the fans and the players. The reverse fixture certainly had an element of spice to it as a player brawl broke out. The game ended 1-1 at the City Ground back in August. It is a huge fixture. United find themselves 1 point ahead of Forest with both sides occupying a play-off place. Simon Grayson and Billy Davies will both be targeting the 2nd automatic promotion spot however a chasing pack including Reading, Burnley and Watford are thriving on the possibility to crash the party.

Over 30,000 people will attend this vital match up. Form doesn't count for anything at this stage of the season with every side playing sweating blood for their own targets and aspirations. Leeds must respond from a shocking performance against Sheffield United. They have had two week off however 7 first team players have been away with their nations. I believe the break came at the perfect time for the Whites who now have to rally together to fight for promotion.

Skipper Jonny Howson is the only doubt for Leeds ahead of tomorrow's clash. Grayson said that if he is not 100% fit he won't play because there are 7 more crucial games after this one. Billy Paynter won't feature after receiving his marching orders last time out at Bramall Lane. He is serving the first of his 3 match ban. Everybody else is available. Ross McCormack could make his return to the squad after his blistering scoring record for the reserves. New loan signing Jake Livermore is available to make his debut after completing the formalities last week.

Davies has ruled out his captain Paul McKenna after he picked up an injury in training. Talented striker Rob Earnshaw is a major doubt for the game as he is suffering with a torn hamstring.

Goals have been Leeds' forte this season being the league's top scorers, but have the goals dried up? United have failed to score in their last 2 games and if unless they can turn the heat up in front of the Elland Road faithful tomorrow they might find it a challenge with Nottingham Forest having the second best defence in the division only second to league leaders QPR. Although Forest's defence is strong they have scored the least amount of goals out of the teams in the top 9.

Forest have not won in 7 and haven't beaten Yorkshire opposition all season! To add further misery to the travelling side, Leeds are unbeaten in 12 at Elland Road. Leeds seem to be the comeback kings this season with them snatching 22 points from losing positions.

Key match-ups tomorrow:

Two of the finest stoppers in the Championship will walk across the white line tomorrow and will do anything to stop the ball from crossing their goal line. It's Schmeichel v Camp.

Explosive wingers are a priceless asset for teams nowadays and tomorrow should be a fine exposition of the quality both teams have within their arsenal. It's Gradel v McGugan.

All in all it has the makings for a sublime promotion encounter and I'm sure everything will be left on the pitch after an enthralling 90 minutes at Elland Road.