By Andrew Butterwick
There is an unwritten rule in football that states Leeds United will never beat Derby County.......well at least that's been the case in the last 12 meetings between these two old foes so it was with a large dose of trepidation that I headed for the Theatre of Hope for our latest clash with the Rams. As usual the Happy Chocker, Quiet One and Brother Chris were on board together with the Quiet One's mate Brian who happened to be a Derby fan..............could be interesting?
After last week's surrender of a one goal lead to Blackburn a lot of the pre match debate in the bar concerned the actions of a certain Mr Varney in securing the match winning penalty for Blackburn. He wasn't the most popular player when he wore a Leeds shirt and after his Oscar winning dive he's now right up there in the top 5 of most hated players at Elland Road. The vicious talk of the Blackburn game soon disappeared once the news that Noel Hunt had scored a late winner for the Tractor Boys filtered through.................absolutely unbelievable! He spends 18 months at Elland Road and scores no goals but pops one win within 10 minutes of coming on for Ipswich.... you couldn't make it up. So there were oodles of negativity sloshing about the stand as we took our seats.
Pearce had lost his place to Bellusci as Redfearn opted for a more traditional left/right foot pairing at centre back with the impressive Cooper ensuring the Leeds captain would start the game on the bench. Before the game there was a minute's applause in memory of Blake Cairns and his four friends who lost their live's so tragically in the Conisborough car crash. In a poignant touch after the applause every Leeds player went to the sideline to give Blake's brother, Alex Cairns, a hug before the game got under way.
The opening exchanges were played at lightening speed as table topping Derby swaggered into attack looking to extend their grip on the summit of this very competitive league. Jordan Ibe, on loan from Liverpool, looked as slippery as an Eel as he attacked the Leeds right flank creating the first chance of the game for Hendrick who pulled his shot horribly wide. In a different century games between these two rivals were always one bad tackle away from a brawl and it seemed this tradition was carrying on as "robust" tackles flew in from both sides. Bianchi earned a yellow for scything down Russell whilst Christie soon followed him into the ref's book as the game threatened to boil over after just 15 minutes.
Leeds weathered the early Rams pressure well and started to threaten the Derby backline with some neat football led by Cook and Mowatt in midfield and Antenucci's intelligent running up front. Chances started to appear for the home side, Antenucci wasted a good chance after excellent work from Warnock before a barnstorming run from Mowatt saw him finish with a low shot that Lee Grant turned round the post for a corner. Things were starting to look optimistic for the home fans as the clocked ticked past the half hour mark. For the record Cooper and Doukara had picked up yellows along with Mascarell for Derby, as the war continued. Warnock was peerless at left back playing a true captain's role with a number of perfectly timed last ditch tackles one of which saved a certain goal on 36 minutes.
Leeds were building a head of steam though and Doukara was the next to try his luck but his low shot curled wide of Grant's post. The high energy pressing game had knocked Derby off their stride and Leeds got their deserved reward on 42 minutes. Antenucci won the ball back from the Derby defence before attempting to release Mowatt down the left............the ball ran kindly for the visitors but Mowatt didn't give up and somehow came up with the ball near the corner flag and raced at the panicking defence before laying the ball back to Antenucci who opened his body and slid the ball past the helpless Grant. Get innnnnnnnnnnnnnnn! 1.0 Leeds and the decibel level lifted in LS11.
Derby finished the half with a flourish as they pressed Leeds but the whistle went to leave Leeds leading by Antenucci's goal. A thunderous ovation accompanied the Leeds team off but could we hang onto the lead? The Urinal philosophers were in full flow in the half time debate. "we've gone from not tackling last week to kicking them off the pitch this week" one fan thought, "this is f****** winnable" shouted one optimistic fan. "we've been here before though let's try and keep the lead this week" another cautioned. Mmmm should be a terrific 2nd half I thought as I took my seat for the next 45 minutes.
Leeds launched an immediate blitzkreig of the Derby goal as they went in search of the oh so important next goal. Doukara found room and attempted a shot but it crept wide but Leeds weren't to be denied. Mowatt exchanged passes with Warnock who thundered into the Derby box to pick out Antenucci on the penalty spot who passed the ball beyond Grant into the Derby net. 2.0 Leeds and the Theatre of Hope was rocking. "Top of the League you're having a laugh" rang out from the ecstatic South Stand as they taunted the sell out away support.
With Derby pushing on looking for a goal to get them back in the game Leeds started to pick them off on the counter. Sam Byram got on the end of a swift Leeds attack and drove into the box before testing Grant with a left foot shot. Russell chopped Adryan down on the hour mark to get onto the Ref's bulging yellow card list before the Derby boss McClaren sent on Bryson, Dawkins and Thomas to try and change the game. The Rams were now charging forward in a more direct 4-3-3 formation which opened up space on the flanks. Nerves started to flutter amongst the home fans as the pressure started to build on the home defence but time and again a Leeds body would block the desperate Derby shots.
Stephen Warnock epitomised the spirit of the Leeds team with another goal saving tackle on the prolific Chris Martin with just minutes remaining.............a goal then would have definitely brought on a massive attack of squeaky bums in the home crowd. Leeds had chances at the other end with Antenucci going near to completing his hat trick with a stinging shot just over the bar. 4 minutes of added time arrived with Leeds still repelling all Derby's efforts. Tonge replaced Adryan who had had his best game for Leeds sprinkled with some stunning touches that had the Leeds faithful purring with delight. The referee's final whistle was greeted with unbridled joy both on the pitch and in the stands. After all not only had we held onto a lead we'd also kept a clean sheet........all against the League leaders. Add to that we'd finally beaten Derby for the first time in 87 years and for once a happy weekend was on the cards for us long suffering Leeds fans! Mint.
Captain Fantastic, Stephen Warnock, was my man of the match with a simply awesome display but Cook, Mowatt, Cooper, Adryan, Bellusci and the goalscorer Antenucci will all sleep well tonight after highly impressive performances against the best team in the league. There was a glow of appreciation as the fans streamed away from the ground high on that very toxic drug, a deserved win against a good team. If we can build on this performance you never know where it could lead? Don't you just love Football?
Ipswich away next week and a nine hour round journey into deepest East Anglia. Can Leeds continue where they left off here? Will Adryan add goals to his illusive running? Can Redders wipe the "smile" off his ex Barnsley colleague and opposing manager Mick McCarthy's face?
By Brendan Devereux
Leeds Ladies headed into the unknown this past Sunday travelling to Mossley Hill who were second in the league with a far superior goal difference than anyone else in the league. Leeds made their intentions known from kick off constantly pushing forward at every opportunity & giving Mossley no time on the ball. This was evident on the 7th minute mark when under pressure a Mossley back pass was way too short & Bianca Ross pounced only to see her shot go just over the crossbar.
With Mossley being reduced to shots from distance Leeds looked lethal going forward & after 20 minutes Sophie Scargill whipped in a great cross that Hannah Campbell flicked into the path of Bianca Ross who shot straight at the keeper. One minute later it was Ross & Campbell again linking up as Hannah broke free of a defender & laid the ball off to Binx whose shot deflected off a defender into the keepers grateful arms.
With Leeds not having failed to score in a game this season going into the break goalless seemed unlikely & on 39 minutes Emily Starkie had her trademark shot from near the halfway line which whistled just inches wide of the post. Three minutes later it was a case of anything you can do I can do better when Bridie Hannon picked up the ball on the halfway line & spotted the keeper off her line as soon as the ball left Bridie’s foot the result was never in doubt as the ball sailed in giving Leeds a very deserved 1-0 lead at half time.
As Leeds came back out for the second half Fiona Berry was making her return to first team action & wasted little time in letting the Mossley players know who she was. Within 8 minutes of the restart Fi had clattered 3 players & was then booked for dissent after not quite agreeing with a decision made by the whistle happy referee. As Mossley pushed forward trying to find an equaliser Leeds looked dangerous on the counter attack & on the 63rd minute it was a trademark drive & shot from Hannah Campbell that was spilled by the keeper only to land at the feet of Carey “Kez” Huegett that saw Leeds go 2-0 up. Eager to make the victory that more emphatic manager Jak Oldroyd sent on Vicky Fytche. As the game was drawing to a close Fytche produced a Beckham-esque cross field ball that landed at the feet of Hannah Campbell who cut inside & let fly only to see her shot rebound off the post.
The result saw Leeds climb to joint second in the league with Mossley & will host them at Knaresborough on the 14th of December after the little matter of a FA Cup tie against local rivals Guiseley Vixens on the 7th. With confidence at an all-time high this was not just a win but a professional performance that everyone else in the league should sit up & take notice of as the Phoenix continues to rise.
By Keith Ingham
After another defeat of our own making my thoughts turned to last year when we were struggling for form and in stepped a player who was never loved from the minute he signed on the dotted line, step forward Michael Brown. Boo, hiss I can hear you scream, (well it is pantomime season) but when he did put on the number 17 shirt on you knew exactly you were getting, aggression from minute one until he was withdrawn which didn't happen a lot. There was usually a booking for him whilst he was on the field of play but at least in a snide way he was honest about kicking people up in the air !.
Michael Brown's reputation preceded him and as one of Warnock's favourites he even earned himself another few thousand to keep him going through retirement, but as I write the wily old fix is still playing at Port Vale. So there is life in the old dog still.
Myself I've seen the likes of Mr Brown through the years, tough uncompromising players who lack finesse but make up for that with 100% effort. Flynn, Kamara, Batty, Snodin, Dacourt, Hughes to mention a few. One like one of them would be ideal with the youngsters in the team.
The Leeds midfield on display versus Blackburn Rovers has style and youthfulness but the lack of 'steel' and experience makes it difficult to see out games when in front. Although I wouldn't for a minute swap our exciting quartet I would like to see a 'experienced' head on the bench, yes I hear you say but we have Tonge but he's not the kind of aggressive midfielder we need and they are in short supply in the English game at present.
With the winter months vital to the aspirations of the club, reading the table isn't pleasant at the moment and the last thing we need is another battle at the wrong end of the table. I would like to see before the weekend a player brought in who can come on at vital times and 'steady the ship', Massimo has told Redfearn that there is money there to attain this player so I'm hoping he does, sooner than later.
It's been a difficult season so far and the fixtures up to the festive season look very difficult to say the least. Surely somewhere sat on a highly placed Championship or Premiership teams bench there must be a player who would welcome the opportunity to play at the Theatre of Hope.
Michael Brown though need not apply !.
By Andrew Butterwick
Surprisingly it was blue sky that greeted us as we headed deep into East Lancashire for the clash with Blackburn Rovers. The Happy Chocker, Quiet One and Brother Chris were on board as we joined the exodus of 6,900 Leeds fans heading for Ewood Park hoping to see Redfearn's team halt Rovers impressive seven match unbeaten run. Our record in recent years of playing away in front of a massive Leeds support has not been that inspiring though so expectations were understandably on the low side. Could this be the day we put that jinx to bed? The consensus in our car was definitely on the page of "I'll settle for a point" as we parked the car and headed for the stadium.
Redfearn had stuck with the same team that performed so well last time out albeit against a lowly Blackpool side which meant the impressive Cooper kept his place at centre back despite the return of Bellusci. The game kicked off against a background of deafening noise from the travelling support who had packed into both levels of the Darwin end. Both teams started positively with Rovers' Ben Marshall causing Leeds early problems on the left wing. Sam Byram exchanged words with Bianchi more than once after he was left exposed by the Italian as the home side targeted Marshall's flank as the possible route to success. Twice Marshall cut inside to hit testing shots for Silvestri in the Leeds goal. Leeds' first sojourn into Rovers territory saw Adryan skip his marker with a clever flick but the home goalie Steele sprinted out to smother the chance.
Leeds were battling well in defence as the talented Blackburn side looked for a chink the Leeds back four. Their big centre forward, Gestede, was a handful for Pearce and Cooper and it was his lay off after good work by Marshall that saw ex-Leeds junior Cairney clip Silvestri's bar with a curling shot. It was nip and tuck as both sides looked for that all important opening goal. Antenucci slipped his marker and connected with a sweet through ball only to be pulled back for offside whilst minutes later the imposing Grant Hanley headed a Cairney cross firmly at Silvestri.
The noise levels in the away end lifted on the half hour mark as Leeds suddenly pegged Blackburn back with some fluent football. First Adryan skipped away from flailing Blackburn defenders like a fleet footed Gazelle before striking a vicious curling shot that had goal written all over it before Steele flung himself across the goal to make a miraculous save. Corner Leeds. With the giant centre back pairing of Duffy and Hanley at the heart of the Blackburn defence Leeds opted for a low near post corner which caused confusion in the home defence.............the ball came out to Cook on the edge of the box who struck a stinging volley which was deflected for another corner. Blackburn were on the ropes and Leeds went for the jugular. Another low corner caused panic in the heart of the home defence before Doukara pounced and slammed the ball home to give Leeds a precious lead. Bedlam in the Darwin end as the Leeds faithful celebrated as only they know how. 1.0 Leeds.
Blackburn hit straight back with a Gestede header safely gathered by Silvestri. Leeds were having the better of the game though with Warnock, Cooper, Cook and Adryan all catching the eye as the game headed for half time. Leeds next chance was cynically snuffed out by a Duffy handball as Antenucci left him for dead on the half way line. Although the Blackburn man received a yellow it seemed a poor sanction for preventing the Italian going one on one with the keeper. Half time 1.0 Leeds.
Not for the first time this season I spent the half time break purring over the first half performance at the same time worrying if we could continue the good form into the 2nd half. Memories of the Rotherham capitulation are still raw in my battle weary Leeds United memory bank. Silvestri appeared for the 2nd half in an inside out goalies shirt presumably because of a colour clash with the Leeds strip? My half time worries seemed totally unfounded as first Cook and then Mowatt strode deep into the home defence and tested Steele in the first ten minutes of the half. Blackburn started to push on looking for the equaliser but that just made the visitors dig in deeper. Silvestri pulled off a fantastic save to deny Rhodes from a tight angle after Gestede had won a long ball in the box. Maybe, just maybe this was going to be Leeds' day?
Blackburn were building a head of steam though but started to get frustrated as Leeds remained a goal in front..............that was until Leeds once again stamped on the self destruct button in the 70th minute. An innocuous through ball was chased forlornly by Rhodes before Cooper and Silvestri presented an early Xmas present to the ex Huddersfield as they both hesitated before Silvestri attempted a weak clearance leaving Rhodes a simple tap into the empty net. Bollox! The home crowd woke up and suddenly it was game on with Leeds wobbling like a punch drunk boxer. 1.1.
Once again Leeds were conspiring to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory after leading at half time and this particular fan, along with the other 6,899 travelling fans, were fearing the worst. Blackburn smelt blood and now urged on by the home support went in search of the winner. Ex Leeds "favourite" Luke Varney replaced Gestede for Blackburn and within a minute missed a golden chance as he headed a decent chance wide of Silvestri's goal. The pit of my stomach had now changed to 2nd half mode and an all too familiar foreboding overtook my first half optimism. We were now staring down the barrel of a defeat and there seemed to be little that Leeds could do on the field to prevent it. Redfearn replaced Cook with Bellusci in an attempt to shore up his fast fading team. Bellusci's introduction did add a spark to Leeds and soon Antenucci was latching onto a sublime ball from Adryan to rattle the Rovers's post with a shot that had Steele beaten. Maybe we could snatch a winner?
Thoughts of a winner for Leeds increased as they were thrown a sudden lifeline. Tom Cairney stupidly clattered Cooper after the ball had gone and earned a 2nd yellow. The lad from Kellington was taking an early bath and as a result the home side went into their shell to protect the point they had. With Blackburn sitting deep Leeds were now venturing forward trying to take benefit from their one man advantage. But this was Leeds and as I know all too painfully well we never do things easy. Leeds were about to commit football suicide against a team who were happy to defend for a point.
Leeds had the ball in their own half before sloppily losing it to Rhodes who slotted the ball through to Varney...............Byram's desperate tackle saw a theatrical dive from Varney earn a dubious penalty as the ref pointed to the spot without any hesitation. Bastard. Of course Rhodes converted the penalty to give Blackburn an undeserved late lead leaving the frustrated Leeds faithful in stunned silence. 2.1 Blackburn. Five minutes of added time saw Leeds throw everything forward to try and retrieve a match they should have at least left with a point but all to no avail. It ended 2.1 to Blackburn and most of the seething away support left the ground wondering why we seem incapable of holding onto a lead in the 2nd half of games. We didn't deserve to lose but if you gift a team like Blackburn two goals what do you expect? Warnock was once again outstanding for Leeds.
The journey home was quiet. Are we heading for a relegation dog fight or will the undoubted good football start to be rewarded with wins? With such a fine line between success and failure in this league individual errors are costing us dearly and unless we stop hitting the self destruct button this could be long winter. Still we can always put it right next week against Derby..............hang on a minute?
By Gary Cooper
On a cold and damp afternoon in the wilds of Bronte country Leeds Ladies FC faced a very brave and determined Keighley Oaks in the County Cup and ran out 15-0 winners in a game that saw Leeds Ladies FC records equalled, created and then matched. The score line itself eclipsed the previous club best, the 9-0 defeat of Tingley Reserves in the last round, and the three hat tricks in a single game record was equalled (Emma Bentley, Shelbey Morris and Bianca Ross). Quite an achievement in itself but more records were to come. First Shelbey Morris scored four goals either side of half time setting a record for the most goals scored by a player in one game, a record that lasted no more than ten minutes before it was equalled by Bianca Ross whose determination up front paid off as she hit four goals with only minutes left in the game.
The result meant that in its very first season the club has reached the quarter finals of a cup competition and will now face Ossett Albion Ladies in January as serious contenders for a semi final place.
On the pitch regular first team goal keeper, Lauryn Colman, was replaced by supporters club player of the month for October and striker Carey ‘Kez’ Huegett allowing Colman a much needed rest too nurse a knee injury sustained during training. In truth Kez didn’t have a save to make but provided assists from goal kicks for at least two of the Leeds goals. With fifteen minutes left Kez was allowed to take her usual place up front as Lauryn replaced Hannah Campbell, who kept up her goal scoring record with another fine strike, and it didn’t take Kez long to score from a cheeky back heeled rebound off the keeper.
Erin White (ably replaced by Jemma White in the second half) and Lauren Griffiths dominated the midfield and despite their determination to work themselves into the game the Keighley Oaks girls just didn’t get a chance as time and again Leeds battled and won possession setting up attack after attack. The Keighley keeper pulled off save after save keeping the score to only 15. Griffiths was cruelly denied due reward and a goal after her sweet second half strike came back of the post but her work rate earned her the woman of the match award.
At the back Bridie Hannon swept up every loose ball and never looked in trouble one on one with anyone. Catherine Hammill at only 17 years of age plays with the maturity and quality you dream of in players coming through the clubs ranks. Sophie Scargill made things happen every time she had the ball, Emily Starkie scored her first goal of the season and gave the fans a goal celebration worthy of a Wembley winner, Emma Bentley did her now customary superb job keeping players focused in true Captain style and led by example with her three goals (although one was awarded after a dubious goals panel meeting with the supporters club chairman after the game).
The travelling fans again enjoyed a passionate performance by our girls who just give their all in every game, being Leeds really is a pleasure where Leeds ladies are concerned.
On to league business again next week with the first of back to back fixtures against Mossley away from home where points really do make prizes and could define the rest of our season #whitewinners #phoenixrises
By Steve Barras
A score-draw against Nottingham Forest today was the latest result this season for Leeds u21 team, a Kalvin Phillips brace and a Brian Montenegro goal earned the youngsters a credible 3-3 draw. Dario Del Fabro was sent off for flailing a leg at a Forest player midway through the match whilst Leeds were 2-0 up and Forest clawed their way back into the game and levelled before Montenegro gave Leeds a 3-2 lead. Forest got a last minute equaliser however and despite playing well with only ten men throughout the second half, we had to settle for a point.
The game saw Phillips score his third and fourth goals of the season for the u21’s, his first and second coming against Cardiff and Barnsley and he has also netted for the u18 squad during a 2-2 draw with Sheffield United. The game also saw Montenegro score his fifth goal in seven outings and both are no doubt pushing for a place in the first team squad this season (Montenegro has already made two cameo appearances).
This will be the only time that I will mention ‘off-the-field’ antics during this column. Massimo Cellino has hinted at the closure of our state-of-the-art (twelve years ago) academy complex at Thorp Arch and to be honest when there were minor rumours during the summer I was worried. Thorp Arch for me is the very essence of Leeds United’s future, the loss of it would be catastrophic and crippling to the lifeblood of the club. Since then I have had a slight change of heart.
For those who aren't familiar with the history of our ‘Youth Academy and Training Facility’ here is a quick lesson.
When Howard Wilkinson (Manager 1988-1996) took over Leeds we were training behind the West Stand on Fullerton Park and Wilko wanted a purpose built training facility. Leeds subsequently moved into Thorp Arch in 1994. At the time Thorp Arch consisted of a number of full size pitches and a facility known as ‘The Grange’ but at the turn of the millennium Leeds moved out of ‘The Grange’ and started work on Thorp Arch as we know it today, ‘The Barn’ opened in 2002 and has largely remained the same since. Whilst Wilko recognised that Leeds needed a state-of-the-art base his successors and owners used but didn’t upgrade and we have been overtaken by a number of clubs in this country. We have the best academy in Yorkshire but not in England anymore.
Cellino’s main argument for closing down Thorp Arch is that it is thirty miles from Elland Road and young potential players from the poorer communities find it difficult to get to and from it. One story doing the rounds is that Fabian Delph had to catch three buses before he even glimpsed the complex.
Thorp Arch is actually twenty-two and a half miles from Elland Road but the fact still remains that the poorer families will struggle to justify the cost of sending their son on three buses for the slim hope of him having enough ability to break through.
Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not a Cellino-ite, I don’t look at his antics through rose-tinted spectacles but if he can find a site closer to Elland Road and build a facility that will continue to produce as well as it has been doing lately then I’m all for it. After-all our academy products who led us to the Champions League semi-finals developed at ‘The Grange’ not at ‘The Barn’.
Anyway, back to the present. Before today’s match against Forest, Leeds u21’s were sitting in 2nd place, a point behind leaders Forest and a point in front of Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday.
Pos Team P W D L GD PTS
1 Forest 10 6 0 4 +4 18
2 Leeds 10 5 2 3 +3 17
3 Huddersfield 9 5 1 3 +6 16
4 Sheff Wed 10 4 4 2 +4 16
Saturday morning our u18’s were defeated 3-1 at the hands of Sheffield Wednesday, Frank Mulhern got our goal. Before that game we were in 7th place, twelve points adrift of 1st place Coventry and two points clear of bottom club Crewe.
Pos Team P W D L GD PTS
6 Forest 11 3 2 6 +1 11
7 Leeds 11 3 2 6 -3 11
8 Barnsley 10 3 2 5 -14 11
9 Crewe 9 2 3 4 -2 9
Some of our academy players have been recognised on the international level as well. Eric Grimes has been called up to the Republic of Ireland u21 squad for their two friendly games against Russia and USA. Eoghan Stokes will also join up with the Republic of Ireland but at u19 level for their UEFA Qualification Tournament games and Callum Nicell will join up with the Republic of Ireland u16 squad for their games at the end of November.
Other Academy products currently with the first team who have been called up for their international teams are Alex Mowatt (England u20’s) and Lewis Cook (England u18’s).
By Andrew Butterwick
After yet another week of drama off the pitch I headed for Elland Road in the vain hope that there might just be an outbreak of football to keep the headline writers happy instead of the diet of winding up orders, Football League investigations and alleged new investment bids. Blackpool were the visitors to a decidedly grim and wet West Yorkshire with their collection of misfit players cobbled together in the wake of a summer of disastrous mismanagement of the historic club from their controversial owner Owen Oyston. Oyston, a convicted criminal who served 3 years in prison for rape, not only passed the Football League's fit and proper test but has continually infuriated loyal Blackpool fans with his "cavalier" attitude to the running of their football club...............Mmmm sounds familiar?
As ever the Happy Chocker, Brother Chris and The Quiet One accompanied me as we assessed the prospects of picking up a welcome three points against the Division's basement club. After a run of 8 games without a win even the bottom club appeared to strike fear into some amongst me. Being the uber optimist I am I wagered a fiver on a 4-1 Leeds triumph despite the howls of derision around me. "Send for the funny farm he's completely lost it" was one of the printable comments I heard.
Not surprisingly Pearce replaced the suspended Bellusci in an otherwise unchanged starting eleven. Sharp and Austin returned to the bench after injuries. A poignant Last Post preceded a minutes silence in remembrance of the fallen before the game got underway. To say Leeds started with a bang is a like saying Blackpool's golden mile is slightly tacky. Redfearn's young guns exploded into the match with an electric tempo and clinical passing to boot. It was a chance a minute as Antenucci and Doukara ripped the Blackpool defence to shreds as they gorged themselves on the continuous supply of ammunition from the eager Leeds team. Warnock and Byram were kings of the flanks with Cook, Mowatt and Adryan running riot in midfield. The inevitable first goal came after just nine minutes as Liam Cooper volleyed home from 20 yards after Blackpool failed to clear a corner. Wow! 1.0 Leeds.
The Leeds attacking machine was running like a finely tuned engine as wave after wave of carefully crafted attacks submerged the Tangerines. Joe Lewis was working overtime to keep out Leeds as Antennucci, Doukara and Adryan all tested the Blackpool keeper with the home crowd baying for more. If this was what Redfearn meant by getting his team to play with no fear then bring it on. Then as the clock ticked past 30 minutes Leeds doubled their lead with a magnificent team goal that will be remembered for a long, long time by those lucky enough to witness it in the flesh. First Cooper coolly brought the ball down in his own area and passed the ball into the midfield where swift first time passes released Adryan in the centre circle. The Brazilian sped away and headed for goal before releasing a slide rule ball to Doukara.............just when I thought he wouldn't get a shot away his leg stretched out to steer the ball into the corner of the net and send the 23,000 home fans into absolute delight. 2.0 Leeds and I don't think I've seen a better team goal since the Revie boys annihilated Southampton back in the 70's. To paraphrase Barry Davies...."It was almost cruel"
Leeds were now purring as they knocked the ball about with a swagger. O'Hara had replaced Blackman for Blackpool as the smiling Lee Clark tried to stem the Leeds dominance. Silvestri had hardly been troubled by the basement club's attack as he watched his colleagues go for Blackpool's jugular. Warnock was having another storming game at left back. If there's a better full back in the championship I'll gladly watch back to back episodes of X Factor. The ex Liverpool man was instrumental in the third Leeds goal as he combined with Mowatt to once again open up the Blackpool defence before slipping a ball to Doukara who beat the advancing Lewis to pull the ball back into the box from the bye line..............the ball fell nicely for new Daddy, Antennuci, who volleyed into the empty net courtesy of a slight deflection. Cue the baby celebrations with imitation dummies and the swinging cot........Awww bless. 3.0 Leeds. Unbelievable Jeff. Leeds were winning at a canter and it wasn't even half time. Peter Clarke saw a header go near for the visitors just before the half time whistle went. The home side trotted off to a thunderous ovation after the best half of football seen at Elland Road for a long, long time. Adryan was outstanding, Cooper was excellent and for once the finishing matched the approach play.
The half time urinal philosophers weren't as buoyant as you'd expect after a half of total domination by Leeds. "Hope we don't f*** it up in the 2nd half" one fan gruffly commented whilst another tempered the positivity with "Don't get carried away it's only Blackpool" We're a hard lot to please us Leeds fans. At 3-0 up it would be impossible to better the first half but surely we would keep steamrollering the Donkey Lashers? Errm well not quite.
Lee Clark changed his tactics to try and get his team back in the game. As a result the fluid, open football from Leeds was somewhat stymied as the home side got dragged into a scrappy battle with a number of dubious tackles that the remarkably tolerant ref, Stuart Atwell, chose to not punish with a card of any colour. Nile Ranger started the 2nd half for the Tangerines. The south Standers soon reminded the Pantomime villain that he has a lot in common with his club's owner. He is a big unit though and started to cause problems for the Leeds defence as he and Miller looked to benefit from a more direct approach from the seasiders. Leeds were given a warning on 58 minutes as Ranger missed a headed chance from 8 yards. The flow of chances for Leeds had dried up so Redfearn reached for the subs board and sent on Austin for the tiring Adryan. The young number 9 received a standing ovation as he left the pitch. Tonge also joined the fray in place of the injured Bianchi as nerves started to twitch amongst the home fans even though we were still three up.
On 75 minutes Nile Ranger headed a simple goal to get the visitors back in the game. Panic started to percolate around the ground as the nervy home fans contemplated a another possible capitulation of epic proportions. Don't panic I found myself shouting just as Antenucci so nearly made it 4 after a goal mouth scramble. Leeds had lost their way though and now it was a case of digging in and seeing out the game for the precious three points. Billy Sharp came on for a cameo and despite 6 minutes of added time the game finished 3-1 to Leeds.
Once again this had been a game of two halves in terms of performance but the sheer dominance and quality of the first 45 minutes was more than enough to win this game. Cooper was outstanding. His reading of the game is excellent and will certainly give Redfearn a selection headache once all the centre halves are available. Adryan was simply breathtaking at times and adds such a different dimension to this young Leeds team. Byram and Warnock both had good games and posed a real threat each time they raided the flanks. For me the influence of Redfearn is there for all to see in the way the team are playing with a much higher tempo coupled with a willingness to pass the ball in all areas of the pitch. With patience his team should prosper.
After the international break we have testing games against Blackburn, Derby, Ipswich, Fulham and Forest before welcoming Wigan to Elland Road on Boxing Day. If Redfearn can continue to improve the team through this run of games we should be nicely placed come Xmas day?
By Andrew Butterwick
A combination of fog, traffic congestion and seemingly every obstruction known to man failed to stop me getting to the Theatre of Italian Dreams for the game against Charlton. Admittedly there were only two minutes to kick off when I took my usual seat in the North West corner but at least I made it in time............just. Question was would the effort be worth it or was I about to see another disappointing and frustrating Leeds display? Redders had made three changes to the side that started in the Welsh capital with Cooper replacing the suspended Pearce, Adryan in for Morison and Byram back at right back in place of Berardi. The captain's armband went to Leeds most consistent performer this season, Stephen Warnock.
Just 18,000 were in the old stadium as the game kicked off. Leeds opened brightly with both Ant and Douks testing the Charlton goalie in the first ten minutes both from Bianchi passes. The 4-5-1 formation deployed on Saturday was replaced by the diamond inspired 4-4-2 with an eager midfield four of Mowatt, Cook, Bianchi and the fleet of foot Adryan. The home side looked good in patches in the opening quarter but too often the final pass didn't quite make it to the intended destination. Charlton's Buyens was booked just before the half hour for embedding his knee in Antenucci's back as he completely fooled him with a neat turn. From the resulting free kick crisp Leeds passing released Adryan who danced across the 18 yard line before laying off to Mowatt who hit an absolute screamer that the ref adjudged to have been tipped over the bar. The replay suggested otherwise but for once we got the rub of the green with a ref's decision. Antenucci's indistry was rewarded 5 minutes later when he made a diagonal run into the box but his shot hit the side netting.
When Charlton had the ball they looked a decent passing side but didn't really trouble Silvestri in the first 45 minutes. The half ended goalless in a match that was struggling to rise above the term scrappy. At times the ball was flashing around the centre circle like a pinball table with the tilt alarm blaring out. After saying that there were more positives than negatives for the home side. Adryan, Mowatt and Warnock were at the heart of most of the good things from Leeds whilst Cooper hadn't put a foot wrong at the back. Bianchi looked strangely off the pace though. After our tendency to undo any first half positives with 2nd half negatives this season we all waited with baited breath to see what second period delights we would be treated to tonight. We didn't have to wait long.
With Redders half time pep talk still ringing in their ears Leeds laid down a significant gauntlet as they now attacked the kop end. Adryan and Warnock combined well down the left before the new Leeds Captain pulled a teasing ball back from the bye line...............the ball came out to Mowatt on the edge of the box who curled an unstoppable shot into the top right hand corner of the goal sending the home crowd into raptures. After his impressive goal on Saturday this was another that will feature in the LUFC goal of the season contenders. 1.0 Leeds. Could Leeds now build on the momentum and kill the game off?
The next ten minutes suggested they could as they strode confidently forward. Twice Antenucci found space inside the box but failed to finish as chances started to flow. Just when it looked like we were going to take the game away from the South Londoners the over generous side of Leeds' defending helped the visitors out as Gudmundsson's soft shot was fluffed by Silvestri at the near post and the ball crept agonisingly over the line. 1.1. Deep sigh and count to ten. Leeds did put Charlton under immediate pressure as they looked to regain the lead. Again both Ant and Douks had good chances but couldn't quite convert them.The game was a lot more open now as Leeds attacked with some conviction. On 66 minutes the home crowd were once again on it's feet admiring another stunning goal. Warnock started the move as he picked up a ball on the left and with everyone expecting him to swing the ball into the box he slid a great ball into Mowatt who was lurking with intent 25 yard out. This time he curled his shot into the top left hand corner again leaving the goalie no chance. 2.1 Leeds and a third goal in two games for the young Leeds midfielder. Awesome. Surely we wouldn't lose this lead would we?
Leeds had the momentum and once again looked for the killer third goal. Antenucci twice had shots blocked as he tried to add to his goal tally. Sloth replaced the tiring Adryan on 70 minutes. Another highly promising performance from the young Brazilian. Charlton looked to rescue the game by throwing on the giant Onyewu to try and grab the equaliser. His height caused the Leeds back four trouble but the home side were doggedly defending their precious lead and starting to dream of a welcome three points as the game entered the final ten minutes.
Bellusci has done many good things in his short career with Leeds but he also has his moments of well plane stupidity. We were about to witness two such moments in quick succession. First he dragged Onyewu down just inside the Leeds half to give away a needless free kick. From the free kick Byram conceded a corner. The corner came over and the ref pointed to the spot. Why? From 100 yards away I had no chance of seeing but whatever it was Bellusci received a yellow card. He had clashed with Ben Hiam and depending on your view it was a harsh decision by a shit ref or a stupid, unnecessary foul by an over impetuous mad Italian. I went for the latter. Gudmundsson tucked away the penalty with ease and the scores were all level again at 2-2. Even deeper sigh and count to twenty.
Leeds attempted to take the lead for the third time but time was running out. Cook had a shot blocked on the edge of the box before more good work from Mowatt found Byram hurtling into the box on the right. His cross cum shot nearly caught out the Charlton keeper. 5 minutes of added time yielded one more chance but Cook pulled his shot excruciatingly wide. A final corner gave the home fans a flicker of hope but it came to nothing as the ref blew for the final time. Full time 2-2.
Definitely two points dropped after two absolutely stunning goals from Alex Mowatt. Despite the frustration of gifting two goals to the Londoners there were still more good than bad points from the game. Mowatt had to be man of the match but Warnock, Adryan and Cooper all gained mentions in dispatches. This team is still work in progress and patience is needed but there are definite signs that once the team gels we should have a better 2nd half of the season than the first.
Blackpool arrive at Elland Road on Saturday ripe for a nice juicy three points? I live in hope.