By Mark Rasdall
Saturday sees the latest in a brief series of football encounters between Leeds United and Yeovil Town. There have been few meetings between these two clubs to date and, in the heyday of the great Leeds United teams, such a fixture would not only have been considered to be a mismatch but surely some kind of mistake by the schedulers.
We last played them away in April 2010 and won 2.1 on our way to promotion from League One. The only Football League team from Somerset, Yeovil were themselves promoted to the Championship for the first time in their history after beating Brentford 2.1 in last season's Play-Off Final. Their rise up the leagues has been spectacular in recent seasons though it took them 108 years to enter the Football League which they did in 2003.
Perhaps known best for FA Cup giant killing (notably Sunderland in 1949 - always good for LUFC supporters) and their former ground - Huish - which had a famous slope to the pitch, they are now seeking further league success and that mission continues at Elland Road this weekend.
Having taking time to adjust to the higher level, they beat Forest 3.1 last week which will have done their confidence no harm at all and manager Gary Johnson is suggesting that an early goal for them will silence the Leeds United fans. Well, your fans aren't going to silence us, Gary; no opposition supporters could ever even dream of doing that but you might just get an early goal.
Having got in front against Huddersfield Town so early in last week's derby game and then clawed our way back into it, there was no getting away from poor defending once again. The horrors of Millwall and Derby County are clearly not too far away and much has been talked about our defence again on Leeds United forums this week.
We all thought the 3-5-2 formation which demolished Birmingham City might just provide the strategic platform Brian McDermott has been looking for. It still might be but basic defending remains the bedrock of any team's consistent success and clearly this is still a work-in-progress. However, with good performances and especially wins, confidence will grow if we are all patient and stick with it. I imagine we might see the new Lithuanian international defender Marius Zaliukas playing some part on Saturday though. Apparently he had a storming match for the Development Squad against Barnsley in midweek and already seems more Lucas than Roque.
The real problem for me, though, is reputation. We assumed we would beat Huddersfield last week as no more than county neighbours on the fringes of a West Yorkshire we dominate. Many are already assuming a heavy defeat of the yokels from the countryside this weekend. We have to get away from this. I grew up with the great Leeds team as so many of us did. Even Wilkinson's and O'Leary's Leeds United football teams (let's not mention the management) suffered by comparison, often because of this same 'big club' reputation. It can only cause pressure for everyone at the club in trying to deliver 'certainty' in a game where uncertainty provides its biggest excitement for fans up and down the country. In turn we fans just become more stressed and disproportionately demoralised if things don't pan out the way we were assured they would.
Yes, Yeovil will be out to slay one of the great former giants of the game but we have to build and grow our club to become contemporary giants once again. Yeovil have every right to be playing at Elland Road and I am looking forward to a good, competitive match. I do think we will have too much for them but let Brian's team do the talking for us, especially from back to front (hope that doesn't sound too daft?). Let's then hope that Yeovil's players return to the West Country with a point made but no points in their collective bag.
By Farai Diza
Many Leeds fans have questioned Brian McDermott's ability to lead the Whites back to the Premiership after the self proclaimed master of promotions - Neil Warnock - failed to navigate the club past the rigours of the Championship.
But this season might just bring some stupendously good news for all those that are moaning and for those who are half full.
Having witnessed recent developments in the new arrivals department, this team will improve under McDermott and we will have a good run in this season. BM is building and it will take time.
Next season some players will go and new additions will be made. BM will bring in decent players and the players that he has brought in will improve and become fan favourites.
In the passing of time we will have a good side which will gain promotion to the premiership. Will we have a really good side in the premiership? Well that depends on how good Salah Nooruddin and David Haigh really are? The good teams that don't have rich owners have very good business skills and know how to build and sell their brand, bring in the best players under the best managers.
Only time will tell. This season will be better than last season and next season will be better than this season. I really do believe that this will come.
By George & Tom Chellis
So far this season, Leeds United have attempted to use every possible formation under the sun, to no avail. McDermott’s faith in the diamond midfield has yielded almost nothing, with the formation at least contributing to, at times, relegation-like form and a huge lack of creativity. Until finally, a breakthrough. Operating in a 3-5-2 system, our once floundering squad of underachievers broke into stride to annihilate a quite frankly abysmal Birmingham City. With this in mind, @LUFC_ Calypso assess whether the formation should be here to stay, or whether it is yet another short term solution to an on-going problem of not knowing how we should set up.
On many levels, 3-5-2 makes perfect sense. Operating with 2 wing backs allows those selected (we assume Byram and Warnock) to add the much desired width that so far has been totally absent, whilst also leaving the defensive ‘rock’ (if we can call it that) intact to deal with the counter-attacking play that can be so effective. In addition, wing backs provide the extra man power going forward, and with many fans and pundits alike have criticised a lack of desire to commit players to already lacklustre attacking moves, this seems like a system that can incorporate this. On the subject of attacking influence, playing 2 up front, could also stop the state of isolation that has occurred up top, particularly away from home, in which whoever has played up front has spent the large majority of the game chasing down inaccurate ‘hoofs’ from the back. With this system in place, it encourages far more cohesion between the midfield and the forwards, something that we definitely need to continue to score more goals and win more games.
Furthermore, this system allows us to play our best XI, all of which in the position that best suits them. For too long this season we have tried to develop a striker in Ross McCormack to a central-attacking-midfielder, and clearly this hasn’t worked. It is undeniable that Ross belongs up front, and as part of a partnership. In a search for the aforementioned width we desperately crave, all of our over-abundance of central midfielders have been asked at one time or another to do a stint on the left side of the midfield. Whether it be Austin or Green, Murphy of Mowatt, we cannot continue to field a team in which at least 2 players are playing in positions they are just not well-equipped enough to play in. 3-5-2 uses 3 central
midfielders, only leaving McDermott with the task of deciding which 3 to play and not who to play where.
By and large, the system seems to work. Although we must not get carried away with beating a emphatically poor Birmingham, at home and with a squad hungry for a result, the system we played paid a large part in the destruction of Lee Clark’s men. For the first time this season, we looked a right handful in front of goal and as stable as any Leeds United defence can be simultaneously. This is unheard of. Scoring more than 2 for the first time in a long time, we missed as many if not more glaring opportunities, and both Ross and Matt Smith could easily have taken the match ball home on last Sunday lunchtime. In contrast, the system clearly has frailties. Saturday’s performance against Huddersfield was largely disappointing, mostly down to the inefficiencies of the system. We found ourselves chasing back in last ditch attempts to hoard off the Town counter-attacks all too often, raising serious questions. This system seems fairly dependent on the wing backs putting in consistent high quality performances, something I’m not convinced that Warnock and LWB is capable of.
Having said this, with the current squad that McDermott has available to him, this is the most suitable and potentially successful system in his arsenal. For the sake of the players and the fans, we believe that this system must be operated on a regular basis, and continuity is the key when it comes to formation. It’s now down to Brian to pick our best XI and the players themselves to regularly find the form that saw a rejuvenated Leeds side run riot at Elland Rd last time out, not the underwhelming form that left us with a bitter taste in the mouth at the John Smith’s Stadium. If we can do this, maybe this season can’t be written off quite just yet.
By Andrew Butterwick
The day of West Yorkshire's answer to some Spanish derby called El Classico had arrived. Admittedly El WestYorkio didn't have the same ring to it but there was certainly plenty of local passion, pride and pre match tension in the air as we made our way down the hill from the station to the aptly named John Smiths Stadium. Who needs the Nou Camp? Disappointingly the stadium might carry the name of a famous West Yorkshire Bitter but there wasn't a drop of alcohol on offer once inside the ground due to West Yorkshire Police's restrictions. Good job the Happy Chocker had brought plenty of emergency rations for the short train journey then!
All the pre match discussions involved Blackstock, Vaughan and Smith. Surely Smith would keep his place after his efforts against Brum? Brian McD's sensible pre emptive strike in signing Blackstock to prevent him continuing his fruitful run of scoring against Leeds might also benefit the mighty whites if he could also score a few for us. Off the bench to get the winner today was a possibility? The Puppy Dogs were going to miss their top scorer James Vaughan who kindly got him self sent off last week in preparation for the El WestYorkio derby. Town have had enough problems scoring when he was in the team this year never mind when he's sulking in the stands. But this was a derby.............anything goes in a derby as the form book flies out of the cliched window. This was a local difficulty with more than just three points at stake.........well at least for the Town fans it is!
The atmosphere inside the stadium reached boiling point as kick off time approached despite the ridiculous start time. As expected Brian McD stuck with last week's winning team with Blackstock on the bench. Town plumped for returning local lad Stead to replace Vaughan up front. The dazzling autumnal sunshine showered the rocking stadium as the game got underway. Leeds were immediately on the front foot and within a minute Smith drew a good save from Smithies with a looping header. Mowatt struck the resulting corner deep to the back post where Smith rose like a Saturn V space ship and thumped home a towering header. 1.0 Leeds. The packed away stand erupted in unexpected early joy. Leeds have never lost a lead after scoring first this season so hopes were high as the inevitable anthem of Marching On Together wafted into the Kirklees sky.
The early goal sparked a frenetic period of Leeds pressure as Town rocked from the unexpected early blow. Smith tried his luck again but his attempted shot was blocked. Town responded with an attack of their own which Tom Lees ended by conceding a corner in front of the massed ranks of Leeds fans. With a mass of bodies in the six yard box Hammill picked out Ward in acres of space on the edge of the box who had plenty of time to control the ball and then hit a screamer past the helpless Kenny. 1.1 and the home fans in ecstasy all with less than ten minutes on the clock. What a start to El WestYorkio!
The goal sent Leeds into their shell and encouraged Town to settle on the ball and enjoyed the majority of possession for next 30 minutes. Chances started to flow at both ends. Duane Holmes, who HC at first thought was a girl, nearly gave Town the lead from the edge of the box only to be denied by a fantastic Pearce block. Hammill was next to go near with Kenny tipping his shot over the bar. Leeds were constantly 2nd to the ball and struggling to stay in the game. Despite this Leeds sliced the home defence open with a lovely move down the right but Byram's cut back was gratefully hoofed into the stand by a Town defender. The game was slipping away from Leeds though as the midfield pairing of Mowatt and Murphy struggled to make any impact against a lively home midfield.
Half Time came with the game still tied at 1.1. Town had had the better of the first half but both sides had spurned chances to add to the score. The tannoy announcer had his usual dig at Leeds fans during the interval "entertainment" with his piece de resistance rolling out an ex Town player who apparently scored the winner against Leeds some 30 years ago in a Milk Cup tie................wow! Once he'd finished his comedy piece the teams were back on the pitch ready for the 2nd period. Confidence wasn't high amongst the fans around me. A lot had switched to doom and gloom mode such a short time after last week's triumph against Brum.
The early part of the 2nd half was scrappy and tense with both teams yielding the ball far too easily when in possession. Chances were still there though......... Danny Ward headed over from inside the box while Smith so nearly caught Smithies out with a left footed shot at the other end. Maybe we could snatch a win after all? Leeds enjoyed a burst of pressure culminating in Luke Murphy missing a golden chance as he dragged his shot from 8 yards wide with the goal gaping in front of him. What a miss! It was going to be one of those days. Austin was next to spurn a chance as he failed to convert a lay off from McCormack. As if to rub salt into our wounds after tantalising us with some serious pressure we then handed the initiative back to Town as Lees turned a cross into his own goal. 2.1 Town and their fans were dancing with delight.
What Leeds desperately needed was a quick response but what we got was the sight of Jon Stead rounding Kenny only to thankfully roll his shot against the post. Leeds were like a punch drunk boxer waiting for a knockout. Brian McD decided it was time for Mr Blackstock to enter the fray in place of the disappointing Murphy. Town had given a needless free kick away on the right hand touch line. Leeds' latest loan signing trotted into the penalty box and with his first touch glanced a delightful header past Smithies into the net. 2.2 and the roar of delight and relief from the Leeds fans must have been heard as far away as Nottingham. Not a bad way to mark the start of your Leeds career Mr Blackstock.
Now all we had to do was hang on for a point with just under 20 minutes left. That warm glowing post goal feeling didn't last long though. The local press headline writers were soon salivating as local lad Stead was somehow given the space in the box to rattle the ball past Kenny and into the bottom of the net. 3.2 Town and this topsy turvy derby took another turn. Leeds now had just 14 minutes to retrieve something from the game. Ross Mac went down in the box under a heavy challenge..........play on...........Smith climbed high at the far post but his header went inches wide whilst he ended up entangled in the net and then Blackstock was clearly dragged down in the box in added time only for the ref to bottle the decision and wave play on. It ended 3.2 to Town.
This wasn't a good performance from Leeds but they did have chances to get a result. The midfield struggled today and I thought the ball into Smith was used far too frequently at the expense of playing the ball on the floor and getting round the back of the fragile home defence. Blackstock looked good for the short time he was on but last week's flying wing backs were hesitant and disjointed this time round. In midfield we were far too easily muscled off the ball and even Ross Mac seemed to be off colour. This Leeds team is still work in progress. Smith showed his promise though and despite the defence shipping 3 goals Pearce battled gamely throughout.
The journey home was a muted affair. I suppose I should be used to losing in Yorkshire derby's by now but no matter how hard I try and how much practice I get it still leaves me with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Still Yeovil up next at Elland Road.........that should give us hope....................
By Rob Atkinson
Sometimes, some fairly well-worn phrases have more than the usual resonance. They reek of wisdom and what John Cleese refers to as "the bleedin' obvious". People nod wisely and murmur approvingly to each other, "What else could they do? It's not rocket science." Such a phrase applies this weekend to Leeds United and it goes "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". It neatly says all that needs to be said about the case for giving last week's team, last week's wing-backs formation, another shot at the home of our beloved neighbours Huddersfield Town.
What will actually happen of course is in the lap of Brian McDermott, a manager whose options have recently been opened up by the addition of loan hit-man Dexter Blackstock. Leeds have been after another striker for some time, so naturally they've finally managed to snare one in the aftermath of their most goal-laden performance for many a moon.
Brian is a man who normally plays his cards quite close to his chest when it comes to the make-up of his team - and he has been known to favour a "horses for courses" approach, picking the best team and formation to do the job on any given day. Like the rest of us though, he seems still to be basking in the afterglow of that thrashing of Birmingham, and is quoted as saying that Saturday's team "takes care of itself", so a no-change policy with increased quality on the bench seems almost certain. El Hadji-Diouf should be available for sub duty after his return from compassionate leave, and of course Micky Spillane's mate Dexter Blackstock will be there and hoping for a chance at some stage of the game.
Huddersfield meanwhile are shorn of their top scorer and main threat James Vaughan, who serves the first of a three game ban for his violent conduct red card in last week's defeat at Leicester. Manager Mark Robins is optimistic that his side can cope with what seems on the face of it a significant loss of firepower- Vaughan has scored 9 in 12 starts this term. Martin Paterson, Jon Stead, Duane Holmes and Danny Carr, a quartet of players yet to trouble the score-keepers so far this season, will be competing to fill the vacant forward berth.
Leeds will not have to worry about the impressive Vaughan on Saturday - but they will be up against that familiar chip-on-the-shoulder mentality that so often sees the lesser Yorkshire clubs do embarrassingly well against us. The attitude they clearly took into the Birmingham game, which saw them dictate from the off and never let their opponents settle in the first half, will be needed again at Huddersfield if the team are to overcome the desire of the home side to slay Big Brother from up the road. If Leeds earn the right to play, they will be expected to win - but it's a battle that will inevitably be hard-fought.
On balance, and because I just can't believe for the life of me that Leeds can replicate last week's performance levels, I feel that a draw is the best we can reasonably expect from this derby day. It's unlikely to be a goal-less stalemate -again, two clean sheets on the trot for Leeds would beggar belief - but I think Leeds have enough about them, at the end of a good week, to emerge with credit from a 1-1 or 2-2 draw.
By Mike Courtney
Having just about recovered from the euphoria of last weekends thumping of Birmingham its back on the road again, albeit a short hop to Huddersfield, for the Leeds bandwagon. It's been an interesting week on the transfer front with the loan signing of Dexter Blackstock secured and the impending arrival of Lithuanian defender Marius Zaliukas. Just when the fans stopped screaming for signings we bring in fresh blood and a striker at that to add to the crop of front players we already have. Whether Blackstock can gain a starting place following the performances of Smith and McCormack last weekend remains to be seen, we also have Noel Hunt fresh from a hat-trick with the development squad, Diouf back from compassionate leave and Poleon itching for a game, competition up front is hotting up.
BMAC has indicated that barring injury he will stick with the starting eleven from last week and who can argue with that following our best performance in recent times. The 3-5-2 formation certainly worked at home and it remains to be seen if it can work on the road. Confidence will be high and we should be looking to build on that performance against a side that we have had success in recent times. There are no easy games at this level and the attitude has to be right from the start, we need to get at them from the off pressing high up the field like last week.
Austin is again key to this and if he can keep the pressure on the Terrier's defence then we should be able to carve out the chances for Rossco and Smith. Smith was a revelation last week and to borrow a phrase from X-Factors Louis Walsh "He reminded me of a young Lee Chapman". His headed goal last week was a throw back to Wilko's championship winning side and I had memories of Chapman's goal against Villa in a 4-1 win in our title winning season. If Smithy can get half the goals Big Lee got, he could help us mount a charge for the Premier League. But before we get ahead of ourselves we need to put a few wins back to back and climb the table to get within touching distance of the top 6 by Christmas. If we can perform like last weekend that is a distinct possibility but its not been long since we were very poor against Derby, so lets see what happens over the next few weeks before we get carried away.
The signs last week were very good and it put a smile on a lot of Leeds fans faces and shortened the working week, but if our attitude isn't right at lunchtime then those smiles could quickly become frowns and the doom and gloom merchants will be out in force. BMAC has shown he is willing to change and adapt his style of play when needed and it was certainly needed after the run of poor performances and results we had been on up to last week. Now is the time to kick on and prove that the beating of Birmingham was not a one off and that we have the squad to compete in this division.
The team is not the finished article by any stretch of the imagination but the additions of Blackstock and possibly Zaliukas will in my opinion give us a bit of strength in depth. With the return to fitness of Sam Byram and the emergence of young Mowatt in midfield, we are definitely in a stronger position than we were a few weeks ago. A win is a must to build on last weeks win and get us moving in the right direction and I think its a game we can win and have us smiling again by 2pm. Leeds to win 3-1.
MOT Leeds Leeds Leeds
By Rob Atkinson
After all the fuss and speculation which has raged around Leeds United's transfer policy, seemingly forever, today we finally have a new man into the club with every indication that another addition is imminent.
Dexter Blackstock, the man with the name straight out of film noir, has joined the club on an initial three month loan deal, the term expiring on January 25th. It is reported though that the deal could be extended to the end of the season - if things go well
Reaction among Leeds fans could best be described as "mixed". There are those who are diving straight for the stats book and then pressing the panic button because of Blackstock's average scoring record. Others feel that he's the kind of tall, mobile striker that could cause problems in the opposition area and create more chances for the team as a whole, as well as contributing a few himself - even if he's not the most prolific. Yet Blackstock's overall record of 83 goals in 306 career appearances is respectable enough; it may well be that this is a player who needs a change of scene in order to get him firing.
I cautiously tend towards a positive point of view and expect that the lad will have something to offer Leeds for however long he's with us. Judgement should really be reserved anyway - this signing comes at a time when all the signs indicate that Brian McDermott has decided to give the 3-5-2 wing-backs formation, so devastating against an admittedly inept Birmingham side last weekend, an extended go. This might mean a reappraisal of the existing staff will be taking place as well as an assessment of what any new attacking influence might contribute.
It was quite clear on Sunday that there was suddenly much more potential to cause damage up front than we had offered up to that point, much better supply from wide areas. It remains to be seen whether the likes of Varney and Hunt would thrive in that team shape, but they will surely get their chance - presumably the development squad will also be playing three at the back for the duration of the arrangement with the first team. In any event, the addition of another striker though can only increase the sense of competition for the two main striking roles, and that's got to be a good thing.
The other thing about 3-5-2 is the need to have enough central defenders of sufficient quality and this is where ex-Hearts skipper Marius Žaliūkas may well come in, especially with the news that teenager Ross Killock has gone on loan to Chester. This Lithuanian international is a man with some pedigree who could add a decent slice of quality to our existing defensive resources, as well as being a positive influence - give or take his lurid disciplinary record - on our younger central defenders. The deal is described as "close" on the Official site, so it's highly probable he'll be coming in. If Žaliūkas does sign then, on top of the capture of Blackstock who sounds to be champing at the bit, it will have been a very good week for Leeds United, starting as it did with a long-overdue comfortable victory, the type of sweet experience we'd all but forgotten.
The Birmingham win may well turn out to have been the type of turning point in our season that beating West Ham was for Reading a few years back, when McDermott's side suddenly threw off a shaky start to the season and stormed to the title. To think that might happen for Leeds United is surely the wildest of optimistic dreams - but you just never know. It is, after all, a funny old game.
By Farai Diza
Although no new signings or loan deals or otherwise were done yesterday, I do believe there is a clue that there might be new signings for the REBORN MIGHTY WHITE'S today.
So much has been said in the papers about how Brian McDermott's cruise ship intends to recruit before the titanic hits the iceberg.
Top of the list are former Manchester United target Marius Zaliukas, Chris Burke and Mr Blackstock or Dexter to me.
The clue with the Zaluikas guy is he said, "You would have to ask the gaffer" which in my eyes is telling BM will be his gaffer.
As for Dexter, he'll sign for LEEDS UNITED on a short loan deal, WHY? Because he knows there is NO BETTER FOOTBALL CLUB IN THE COUNTRY LIKE THE ONE AND ONLY LEEDS UNITED.
Saturday is already starting to feel like it will be a good one. But everyone needs to get behind Brian and his team and scare the sh*t out of the Yorkshire 'terriers' who it must be said are not pitbulls.