League One Round Up…

September 20, 2009

With just over a sixth of the season gone there are some teams who are performing as expected, some who aren’t, some who are over-performing… Then there’s Norwich.

The Canaries entertained league leaders Charlton at Carrow Road with the home crowd giving their team voracious backing and emerging with a point thanks to a last-gasp Grant Holt equaliser. The Canaries fought back from 2-0 down to secure a draw which left Charlton in second place below Leeds. Norwich are firmly entrenched in mid-table.

Bristol Rovers are leading the pack in the race to catch the top two, Paul Trollope celebrated his new managerial contract by leading The Pirates to a 3-1 victory at Brentford, they were 3-0 up at HT.

Millwall have started to stir out of their slumber by defeating Huddersfield 3-1 at the New Den, thanks to two goals in two first-half minutes whilst MK Dons and Colchester both moved into the top six. MK Dons beat Wycombe 1-0 thanks to a Doumbe goal on HT, whilst Colchester dispatched Hartlepool 2-0.

Southend won 3-2 at Brighton to keep in a shout of the play-off places but they were the only other team to win away.

At the bottom, Southampton recorded their first win of the season, beating Yeovil 2-0 to move them to -2 points, five points above them are Tranmere Rovers, who lost 2-1 at Exeter to add to the disgruntlement of the Rovers faithful, and Stockport’s 2-1 win against Leyton Orient left the visitors below the safety line.

Elsewhere, Swindon and Walsall drew 1-1 and Oldham beat Carlisle United 2-0 at Boundary Park.

Four Star Leeds Take Pole Position

September 20, 2009

Whites March to Summit as incredible winning home run continues…

Leeds United 4-1 Gillingham (Third Division / League One)

Higgs – Crowe (Kilkenny), Kisnorbo, Bromby, Hughes – Snodgrass (Michalik), Howson (c) Doyle, Johnson – Becchio (Grella), Beckford. Unused Subs:- Ankergren, Prutton, Robinson.

Goals:- (LUFC) Johnson (14, 26), Howson (46), Beckford (80) – (Gills) Barcham (50)

Att:- 21,026

Leeds United’s tag as pre-season favourites for promotion is beginning to bare fruition as they put Gillingham to the sword to record yet another home victory, making it 15 league home victories in a row and unbeaten since January in all competitions at home.

As seems to be their custom now, Leeds once more started with the ferocity of a TGV, determined to pulverise their opponents before they could entrench themselves around their penalty area.

It took less than a quarter hour for Leeds to take the lead, a corner from Robert Snodgrass was met my a meaty Bradley Johnson header which arrowed into the top right corner of the Gills net (14).

Johnson, who scored a cracker of a goal the last time these two met in May 2008 seems to enjoy playing against Gillingham, and scored a second goal in the 26th minute when he hared down the left flank, cut inside and from an acute angle rifled the ball through the legs of Simon Royce and into the net.

Leeds largely controlled the game but Gillingham almost found a way back in to the match when former Leeds player Curtis Weston’s cross-cum-shot evaded both the on-rushing Simeon Jackson and the far post.

The start of the second half saw two goals in five minutes, but that told only part of the story.

At the start of the second half Jonny Howson trebled the lead for Leeds when he set himself up for a half-volley which he fired past Royce with aplomb from a Snodgrass pass (46), almost directly from the restart Beckford cracked the cross bar with an innovative effort and moments later Becchio headed wide form eight yards following a Johnson cross.

The next goal did come, but it arrived from a rasping strike via Gillingham’s Andy Barcham, who was able to turn and pull a goal back after Leeds could only half-clear (50).

The goal seemed to move momentum towards the Gills and they gradually grew more confident, matching their willingness to attack with their willingness to assault Leeds players, leading to Snodgrass, Beckford and Grella all feeling aggrieved when they were elbowed in feisty challenges but receiving scant help or protection from the officials.

Although Jackson headed over from in the six-yard box after good play down the Gills’ left, Leeds rarely looked threatened and cemented their victory with ten minutes to go when Beckford had an open goal in which to head in a rebound from a deflected Doyle shot which hit the bar, with ‘keeper Royce lying in the back of his net having been unable to flick the original shot over (80).

From then on it was a procession but the biggest cheer was reserved for the news filtering through from Norwich, confirming that Leeds would be the first outright leaders of the league this season.

Man Of The Match:- A toss up between Johnson and Howson. Johnson has improved leaps and bounds and looks like he knows what his role is at the club, whilst Howson was immense, with his all round game securing the goal it deserved.

Miscellaneous News / Catch-up.

September 18, 2009

Due to recent upheaval, there has been very little in the way of match reports/LUFC news on this pages for a good few weeks. Rather than try to remember every single event that occurred since the Watford game, I’ll simply give a brief run-down of what’s happened…

August Transfer Window, Leeds sign Leigh Bromby from Sheffield United. Bromby, a lifelong Leeds fan, has signed a four year deal with the club, and will provide competition across the defence due to his versatility. Also signing is South African striker Davide Somma, who impressed after a trial at the club. Moving out of the club were Alan Sheehan on loan to Oldham Athletic and a couple of youngsters who were allowed to gain experience with lower league/non-league clubs.

Saturday 29 August…

Pandemonium in Braintree town centre as Leeds fans celebrate after the League Cup draw pairs Leeds with Liverpool. The tie takes place on 22nd September and is live on satellite TV. Leeds fans were in Braintree drinking before the game vs Colchester, which saw both sides‘ 100% go on the line…

Colchester United 1-2 Leeds United (Johnson, Beckford)

A drab first half which was notable for seeing whether each side would finish 11 v 11 after a pernickety official booked and reprimanded players for fun was quickly forgotten after Bradley Johnson headed home a free-kick in front of the away end. The Weston Homes Community Stadium has swapped the ends for home and away supporters this season, leading to fans’ confusion as they were trying to enter the wrong end of the ground with a couple of minutes spare before kick-off. Kevin Lisbie (who once scored a hat-trick v Liverpool way back when…) equalised from the spot after Rui Marques gave away a second penalty in as many away games (and received an earful off Patrick Kisnorbo). Beckford decided the match with a typical poacher’s goal, latching onto a poorly executed clearing header by former Leeds man Alan Maybury and prodding in.

Saturday 5 September…

Leeds given home tie in Johnstone Paints Trophy against Darlington. It will be the second time both clubs have met this season after the 1st round League Cup tie in August. It’s also the second time both clubs will have played each other in the JPT, Leeds have won each of the last two games by 1-0 scorelines. The game takes place on 6th October.

Leeds United 2-0 Stockport County (Grella, Michalik)

L’ubo Michalik celebrated his first start of the season by prodding home a loose ball to double the lead Mike Grella had given Leeds. Grella scored his first competitive goal for the club after eight minutes, curling the ball in from the edge of the penalty area, whilst Michalik was able to react earliest after the Stockport goalkeeper dropped a Johnson free-kick. Leeds should have trebled their lead in the second half, when Robert Snodgrass missed a penalty, hitting it too close to the Stockport ‘keeper Fon-Williams.

Friday 11 September…

Southend United 0-0 Leeds United

Leeds were indebted to a penalty save by Shane Higgs to preserve their unbeaten record. Never offering anything other than half-chances, the cagey game was set alight in the 66th aminute when Lee Barnard was pushed in the area by Leigh Bromby, but Higgs guessed right, dived left, and superbly saved the resultant spot-kick. Jermaine Beckford spurned two great chances, firstly allowing a ball to run away from him when presented with a chance on goal, and secondly firing directly at Shrimpers ‘keeper Mildenhall from point-blank range in the final five minutes. A point was a fair result although the highlight involved a minibus, alcohol, Meatloaf’s ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ album and a successful alcohol pit-stop after the game.

Snoddy At The Double As Leeds Progress

August 26, 2009

Leeds United 2-1 Watford (aet), League Cup, 2nd Round

Higgs – Crowe, Marques, Kisnorbo, Hughes – Snodgrass (Becchio), Howson (c), Doyle, Johnson – Grella (Kilkenny), Beckford (Showumni). Unused subs: – Ankergren, Michalik, Prutton, Robinson.

Goals: – (LUFC) Snodgrass (38, 98) – (WFC) Sordell (86)

Att: – 14,461

Robert Snodgrass scored his first and second goals of the season as Leeds held off a strong challenge from Watford to progress to the third round of the League Cup following extra-time.

Snodgrass opened the scoring when he latched onto a through ball and held off several challenges before slotting past Richard Lee in the Watford goal.

That goal appeared to have won the tight contest but Watford refused to lie and gained a deserved equaliser with just four minutes of normal time left when youngster Marvin Sordell scored at the second attempt of asking, when his low driven shot evaded the badly positioned Higgs in the Leeds goal.

Leeds won it though in the first half of extra-time when Showumni’s flick-on was gleefully accepted by Snodgrass who toe-poked the ball past the on-rushing Lee and into the Watford net to send Leeds through to the next round with Saturday being the day of the draw.

Man Of The match – Snodgrass. Scored two well taken goals and is strating to show sparkles of the form he was in last season.

Introducing… Watford

August 26, 2009

Leeds United v Watford (League Cup 2nd Round, Elland Road, 7.45pm)

Neither Leeds nor Watford fans need reminding of the last time these two teams played each other in a competitive fixture, and not simply because the event took place only three years ago.

The 2006 Play-off final saw heavily fancied Leeds attempt to reclaim their place in the Premier League following a two year wilderness period, whilst Watford were expected to put up a good fight and enjoy the day.

Watford did indeed enjoy their day as they trounced Leeds by a 3-0 score-line which really did not do the Hornets justice – to say Leeds didn’t turn up would be unfair on the Hertfordshire club who coped far too easily with Kevin Blackwell’s attempted 4-5-1 / 4-3-3 formation and looked deadly when given a chance in front of goal.

The demise of Leeds is well chronicled, but Watford have hardly enjoyed the often bumpy journey since then as much as many believed they would.

It is a journey which sees just two players left in the Watford squad from that May Day in 2006, and another recruited as their permanent manager – Watford’s third in nine months.

The man at the helm, Malky Mackay, was originally caretaker manager following Adie Boothroyd’s departure from the club in November last year but was only offered the role of manager this June after Brendan Rodgers left the club to take over at Reading after just over six months in charge.

If that seems a little perplexing, it merely peels back the skin of the chaotic mess Watford have struggled to emerge from over the past two years.

Their Premier League campaign lasted 38 games with the club finishing bottom and relegation to the Championship was confirmed long before their full quota of league games had been completed in 2006-7 season.

Not so surprising there then, the problems reared their head a year later though, where despite being supported by one of music’s wealthiest artists in Elton John, the Hornets were paying out huge sums of money which even he may have bulked at.

Most players were on Premier League wages and the club needed to regain their status to support their income, but the 07-08 season fizzled out with Hull beating Watford in the Play-Off semi-finals 6-1 on aggregate.

Such a scenario was almost unthinkable in early November, with Watford rightly justifying their tag as favourites for promotion by leading the league, however, the fact that they slipped to only just scraping into the play-offs on the final day of the season spoke volumes about the problems the club had in the final six months of the campaign.

Resigned to another season of non-Premier League football, Watford had to sell to survive and the results continued their downward trajectory from the previous season as Watford flirted with relegation.

Although they stayed up with something to spare last season, the man brought into save them – ex-Chelsea reserve coach Brendan Rodgers – was off to Reading, a club who had persuaded him to return after Steve Coppell’s resignation. Faced with a manager who angled for a return to Berkshire and the pay-off due to come their way to ease their financial troubles, Watford had little choice but to accept.

While the choice of Mackay was thought of as the cheap option for a club about to fight relegation, Watford have so far started well with a win (at Nottingham Forest), a couple of draws and a defeat to promotion favourites Sheffield United, leaving them in mid-table.

The finances still haunt Watford though, with striker Tommy Smith expected to miss tonight’s game in order to agree personal terms for a move to Portsmouth, with Watford having little choice but to accept the Premier League club’s offer.

Prediction – While Watford are still uncertain of how far they could fall and will want to hope they can scrape through this to line up a money-spinning tie next round, there is a confidence around Leeds which suggests their own downturn has levelled and things are looking up. Leeds to win 2-0 with Snodgrass grabbing both. Leeds 2-0 Watford.

League One Round Up…

August 25, 2009

Charlton keep apace with Leeds, whilst Norwich win their first league game of the season and Exeter have a long time to celebrate…

Only Leeds and Charlton hold 100% records in the league now following Colchester’s 2-1 loss at MK Dons, who themselves have recorded back-to-back wins and are hovering with intent in sixth place. Jermaine Easter and Carrington gave the Dons a 2-0 lead, with Vernon replying for the U’s, who face Leeds on Saturday.

Charlton won 2-0 at home to Walsall thanks to a goal in each half, Llera and Wagstaff scoring as the Addicks plod on with the minimum of fuss.

Another side who are doing better than thought are Bristol Rovers, having won three games in a row since losing Lambert to Southampton. The luckless visitors were Huddersfield who lost 1-0 at the Memorial thanks to an 84th minute penalty converted by Hughes for the hosts.

Norwich City were the other team to win at home, defeating a poor Wycombe 5-2, despite being 3-0 ahead, Wycombe pulled two back either side of half-time before the Canaries scored two more to reaffirm their dominance of the game.

There was a 0-0 draw, a 1-1, draw, a 2-2 draw and a 3-3 draw during this round of fixtures. Southend and Millwall played out a 0-0 at Roots Hall, Millwall’s next away match is at West Ham in the League Cup, where SAS, Interpol and Mossad will be present to try and quell the inevitable riots that will (probably) ensue.

Southampton and Brentford drew 1-1 at St Marys, Leeds old boy Dan Harding scoring for the Saints who are stuck on -8 points, while Oldham and Swindon shared four goals, with both sides’ second goals coming in second half injury-time!

Yeovil and Leyton Orient drew 3-3, with the home side taking the lead three times, only for the O’s to equalise three times.

Another game featuring six goals was at the Withdean, where Brighton lost 2-4 at home to Stockport with three players being sent-off, Elphick and Hawkins left the home side with nine-men, while Bridcutt was sent-off for Stockport – who earned their first league win of the season.

In the battle of the longest trips, both travelling sides won, Hartlepool winning 1-0 at Gillingham, whilst a Marcus Stewart penalty sent the Exeter faithful home happy… from a 700 mile+ round-journey to Carlisle.

Tranmere Escape With 3-0 Leeds Loss

August 25, 2009

Leeds United 3-0 Tranmere Rovers (League One / Third Division)

Leeds ‘only’ score the three goals

Unbeaten home run since January continues

Higgs – Crowe, Marques, Kisnorbo, Hughes – Snodgrass (Robinson), Howson (c), Doyle (Kilkenny), Johnson – Becchio, Beckford (Grella). Unused Subs: – Ankergren, Michalik, Prutton, Showumni.

Goals: – (LUFC), Johnson (15), Beckford (35), Becchio (86)

Att: – 21,692

Three goals scored was scant justice for the Leeds United team as they turned in one of the best performances seen at Elland Road for years, helped in part by a stubborn Tranmere who failed to alter their game plan.

So comfortable were Leeds and so woeful were the visitors that long before the end of the game both sets of fans had lost interest in the competitive aspect and simply pondered the missed chances by Leeds – who had turned it into an art form.

The bare statistics of a Johnson header on the quarter hour, a Beckford side-foot past the wrong-footed ‘keeper 20 minutes later and a Becchio header at the death – set up via Johnson’s rasping free-kick which rebounded off the bar – do not begin to convey the utter supremacy that Leeds held throughout the match.

The first warning sign came after 12 seconds when Beckford was put through one-on-one with Luke Daniels in the Tranmere goal only to be denied by a good save from the West Brom loanee.

Beckford then became the first of many players to become acquainted with the woodwork when Doyle’s superb play sent him through in the fourth minute only to see his shot hit the right-hand post and watch in frustration as the rebound evaded the stretching Doyle who had followed in.

Beckford also fired over from inside the Tranmere area following a good work down the Leeds right and a cross which found the United marksman in acres of space, however, his swivel turn and shot merely troubled the spectators in the South Stand.

The inevitable happened shortly after when Crowe received a great ball from Howson and had enough time to pick his cross which found Becchio. The Argentinean’s header was brilliantly turned away by Daniels, only for Johnson to react quickest to slide the ball in from an acute angle (15).

It was harsh on Daniels, who deserved an award for keeping the score down to three but it was simply what Leeds deserved.

As well as saving smartly from both Beckford and then Becchio after being unable to hold the former’s first shot, Daniels also provided the asset for Rovers’ only serious attack of the first half, when his clearance caused Marques hesitation and allowed the ball to fall invitingly for former Leeds striker Thomas-Moore who saw his effort brilliantly blocked by the recovering Patrick Kisnorbo.

That was one of the two attacks which Tranmere produced in the entire game, the second of which took place in the final minute of the game when Higgs was forced into a smart save down to his right and the net result of which still produced a Leeds attack where sub Micky Grella was sent clear by Crowe’s clearance and turned the Tranmere defence inside out seeing his first shot blocked and his second hit the side netting when nearly everybody in the ground thought hew had scored his first competitive goal for Leeds.

Beckford’s own personal duel with Daniels was gaining momentum and the striker ultimately made the Merseysiders pay for more poor defending when Goodison failed to intercept Andy Hughes’ long ball, leaving Beckford with the opportunity to score, which he did, sliding the ball past Daniels’ statuesque body – even then Beckford needed the post’s help to deflect the ball in (35).

Bradley Johnson, still on a high after his first goals of the season clearly fancied his chances of improving his goal tally when he was sent through against Daniels, but his lack of composure meant his shot was placed easily to Daniels’ right-side which the ‘keeper half-blocked, leaving Johnson holding his head in his hands.

For the second Saturday in succession, the Leeds faithful had the pantomime villain they were thirsting for when Michael Ricketts emerged on to the scene, but any hope that he could break his duck at Elland Road with a visiting team was given short shrift by Leeds, who relentlessly pressed Tranmere and were able to dictate the game at least 10 metres inside the Tranmere half.

The visitors were architects of their own downfall, John Barnes expected every attack to involve sweeping football and to be built up from the back, but as Leeds fans could have pointed out to the ex-England star, former Liverpool players who try to impose a pattern of play on a team which does not have enough quality or enough time afforded to them at this level will achieve nothing but failure.

Almost every time Tranmere were in possession they looked for the next man to pass to and Daniels distributed to the closest player, no matter how many Leeds players were around him. Leeds simply harassed Rovers at every chance, no mean feat given the stifling heat.

Beckford’s afternoon frustrations were once more being taken out on the woodwork, this time the crossbar coming to Tranmere’s aid and then moments later an exquisite overhead kick was deflected wide of goal.

It was not simply Beckford who was peppering the Tranmere goal with shots, Kisnorbo hit a hopeful shot which took a deflection and forced Daniels into a brilliant one-handed save to tip the shot around his left post, while Jonny Howson also went close with an effort which sailed over the goal, dipping too late, then Daniels continued his heroics much to Johnson’s anguish.

When Daniels was beaten from a Snodgrass corner, Becchio headed at the post, saw the rebound hit him and then smuggled around the post by the defender on the line.

It was the 86th minute when the Tranmere goal was finally breached; Johnson hammered a free-kick as hard as possible only to see it come back off the crossbar with Daniels beaten. Happily the rebound was met by Becchio’s header who returned the ball into the net with interest (86).

The goal was the least that Becchio deserved, whose all round play was superb and his tenacity demonstrated when he lost the ball when one v one with a defender, and still had the desire to hound the three Tranmere defenders it needed to surround him and clear the ball out for a throw-in.

Even after that goal Leeds were not finished as sub Grella, on for Beckford, could and maybe should have given the scoreline added gloss. Leeds will play a lot worse and win by a greater margin, the only silver lining was that the chances missed in this game did not prevent them from gaining the three points to keep up their 100% winning record.

MOTM: – Bradley Johnson – Involved in everything and could/maybe should have scored more than the opening goal. He’s starting to look like a Leeds player and seems to be fitting into the jigsaw. Becchio was a paper-width away from taking the award, but Johnson just shades it.

Introducing… Tranmere Rovers

August 21, 2009

As a general rule of thumb, most clubs need continuity and not upheaval if they want any sort of success to be achieved.

Naturally there are exceptions to the rule, namely Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, who seem to thrive on the unstable nature that their clubs appear to operate in but it would be stretching beyond plausibility trying to link the ‘chaos theory = success’ formula at those clubs with Tranmere.

Under Ronnie Moore last season, Rovers were two minutes from sealing a play-off place when leading 1-0 at Scunthorpe, the side who had occupied the last place at the start of the final round of games in 2008-9.

Rovers were on course for the play-offs and Ronnie Moore was close to having parts of the Wirral renamed after him for the feats he had achieved as both a player and as a manager on limited budgets until Tranmere’s – and his – world caved in.

Firstly, captain Cliff Byrne was red-carded and from the resulting free-kick Scunthorpe equalised to secure the point they needed for the play-offs and eventually, promotion to the Championship.

Ex-Everton supremo Peter Johnson, who had taken over Rovers, waited until Ronnie Moore had begun to reassemble his squad over the summer before sacking him, and approached John Barnes to take over the club, to which the ex-England international accepted.

As decisions go, it raised eyebrows, notably among the Tranmere faithful, who were trying to fathom out why a man with experience and contacts in lower league football was booted out for an ex-Liverpool winger whose management record earned him the sack at Celtic after eight months in 2000 and had coached Jamaica with so little success that the Jamaican FA were happy for Barnes to leave them and accept the offer made by Tranmere this summer.

Johnson all but admitted he made his choice by theory of financial gain. The reasoning is that Barnes will draw passing Liverpool fans that can’t go to Liverpool games or can’t afford to watch Liverpool play, and would quite like to watch one of their stars from the late 80s and early 90s coach a team which would bear the hallmarks of the Anfield Boot Room footballing tradition.

The theory goes that Barnes will use the Liverpool magic and his contacts to link up with the LFC academy and take players on loan and create a genuinely exciting footballing side who will push for promotion to the Championship.

To say it has been a summer of upheaval is no lie, with new signing Mark Allott exiting the club almost as soon as he arrived, the victim of the revolving managerial door bolted on to Prenton Park.

Barnes wants his teams to play flowing football with attacking wing-play and the ability to dazzle the opposition with the ethos on keeping the ball and stretching them, but what was easy to achieve with recognised internationals in the Liverpool camp will not be so easy a challenge with lower league players who are playing at this level because of their lack of technical skills and ability.

While he does have the wily but young Jason McAteer as his assistant who has played for Tranmere and can offer some knowledge towards Barnes in terms of what to expect in the lower leagues, it remains to be seen whether players such as Paul McLaren can fully compute what the boss expects.

McLaren has re-signed for Rovers from Bradford, along with Alan Mahon from Burnley, and John Welsh has joined from Hull. The main name of interest for Leeds fans will be the recent signing of Michael Ricketts after his release by Walsall, and the striker is expected to line up alongside newly appointed captain Ian Thomas-Moore (who added his wife’s name to his) in an ex all-Leeds strikeforce.

So far the Tranmere promotion vehicle is yet to roar, with the team having won one of their three games (at home to Gillingham) and losing to both Yeovil and MK Dons – although they have progressed to the next stage of the League Cup after thumping Grimsby 4-0.

The loss of key goalie Danny Coyne to Middlesbrough has been offset by the loan signing of Luke Daniels from West Brom, but the midfield loss of Jennings and Anthony Kay has caused a whole new set of problems altogether for the new Tranmere boss, something he is struggling to cope with. It will be how he copes with the remoulding of his team and how long he is given that will decide where Rovers will end up this season.

Prediction: – If Leeds stay focused and don’t grow restless they should win this, with or without one of Thomas-Moore and/or Ricketts scoring in front of the Kop. Leeds to win with Beckford and Robinson scoring the goals. Leeds United 2-0 Tranmere.

League One Round Up…

August 21, 2009

Norwich seem determined to stay in the news as the main story while on the field Huddersfield go goal crazy and MK Dons actually trouble the statisticians…

Fresh from sacking Bryan Gunn, Norwich wasted no time in unveiling his successor, Paul Lambert, who had resigned from his position as Colchester boss and took a watching brief at Brentford as Norwich under Ian Butterworth lost to the Bees. Dickson and Hunt gave the hosts a 2-0 lead before Tudor-Jones scored a consolation in second half injury-time.

Colchester, the club who inflicted the 7-1 defeat on Norwich and thus causing the chain of events to occur, found themselves 1-0 down at home to Gillingham thanks to Leeds old boy Curtis Weston’s 10th minute strike. However, Colchester, still riding the crest of a wave, fought back to win with goals from Scott Vernon and Kevin Lisbie to make it 2-1.

It appears 7-1 spankings are becoming the rage in this league as Huddersfield scored seven for the first time in a decade against hapless Brighton, who had the distinction of seeing goalkeeper Michel Kuipers sent-off for conceding a penalty at 2-1 and the replacement goalkeeper Smith booked straight away for time-wasting before the kick.

It made no difference; Novak dispatched the kick to add to goals by Kay and Clarke while Roberts, Drinkwater and a Theo Robinson double made it 7-1. Ex-Leeds loanee Liam Dickenson scored the (unknowingly) consolation goal and it could have been worse for the ‘gulls, as Smith saved another Huddersfield penalty in the second half from Rhodes.

We’re now changing direction from teams who can’t stop scoring to MK Dons, who until the 82nd minute at Tranmere had failed to trouble the goals for or against columns. That was until Jabo Ibehre slid home a cross to win the game for the Dons.

It was MK’s first win of the season, and Millwall also secured their first win of the season against Oldham, who missed a penalty at the New Den as two goals from Martin and Harris won the points for the Lions.

Bristol Rovers continued life after Lambert with a 2-1 victory at Hartlepool whilst Charlton did likewise at Leyton Orient to keep up their 100% record in this division. The third away 2-1 victory of the night belonged to Carlisle who won a (even at this early stage) vital relegation battle at Stockport to record their first win of the season.

Swindon also scored their first win of the season by beating Southampton 1-0 after a ninth minute winner to leave the Saints still marooned at the bottom of the table on -9 points, whilst the West Country derby between Exeter and Yeovil finished 1-1 (Yeovil scoring both goals) and the East of London suburbs vs. West of London suburbs kind-of-derby-but-not-really-unless-TV-try-to-hype-it-up (phew…) also ended 1-1, both goals coming in the first half as Wycombe and Southend cancelled each other out.

Late, Late Leeds Leave Saddlers Stunned

August 21, 2009

Walsall 1-2 Leeds United (League One/Third Division)

First win at Banks’s for United

Dramatic last eleven minutes decide the game

Higgs – Crowe, Kisnorbo, Marques, Hughes (Robinson) – Snodgrass (Prutton), Howson (c), Doyle (Kilkenny), Johnson – Becchio, Beckford. Unused subs: – Ankergren, Michalik, Grella, Showumni.

Goals: – (LUFC) Johnson (83), Beckford (87) – (WFC) Parkin (79, pen)

Att: – 8,483

A stunning winner three minutes from time by Jermaine Beckford handed Leeds all three points as the visitors ensured one of the most unlikely endings to a game happened in many a while.

Beckford had no right to win a long clearance by Marques but his perseverance paid off as Walsall defender Smith could only half clear, allowing an alert Beckford to react quickest and latch on to the free ball before rifling it into the bottom left-hand corner past Clayton Ince’s dive (87).

As recently as eight minutes earlier, such a scenario as unthinkable for all except the most optimistic of the near 4,000 Leeds fans packed into the Banks’s Stadium, as a drab game exploded into life following a Walsall penalty, given for a foul against Rui Marques after he tackled both Steve Jones and the ball in the penalty area.

It was a harsh decision for which Marques was penalised but Sam Parkin did not quibble and dispatched the gift, driving the ball directly down the centre of goal, past the left-diving Higgs (79).

Leeds hit back four minutes later from a Robinson corner which was met with a diving header past the static Walsall defence by the late arriving Bradley Johnson, with two defenders unable to stop the ball crossing the line (83) before Beckford sealed the points to the delirium of the Leeds faithful.

It was harsh on Walsall who although not creating clear chances had certainly done enough to earn a point from the game, but must have thought they were on their way to all three points once Parkin had broken the deadlock.

The gameplan of Chris Hutchings’s involved playing a counter attacking system with Parkin operating alone upfront supported by Jones and then midfielders once a foothold had been established in the Leodensian half.

However, once they conceded possession, to a man the Walsall team retreated to the half-way line, allowing Leeds to play with as much freedom as they wanted in their own half without ever threatening to build up momentum and create chances in the Walsall half.

To an extent the ploy worked, Leeds were frustrated and in pushing up to try and play football in the Saddlers half they left themselves potentially exposed, something the home side were keen to exploit.

Whilst Crowe was once more given a torrid time at right-back, the major talking point of the half was Rui Marques’ challenge on Sam Parkin when chasing a through ball. Parkin went to ground against the Angolan – who was the last man – but whilst Parkin’s appeals for a penalty fell on deaf ears, there was contact outside the area which the referee missed and allowed play to continue with Shane Higgs.

Although the main talking point was from a Walsall attack, the main chances fell to Leeds. Firstly Howson tried his luck testing Clayton Ince early on before Bradley Johnson’s cross saw Beckford stretch for the ball and divert it goalwards, only for Ince to make a fine save by pushing the effort onto his left-hand post and away.

Beckford was infuriated when a late flag from the linesman denied him a goalscoring opportunity before half-time when he had rounded Ince but probably to his relief, the shot was cleared before it trundled into the net.

It was obvious though that the Leeds forward was living on scant service with his partner in crime Becchio more often than not dropping deep to cancel out the attempted overlapping of the Walsall full-backs and it nearly cost him and Leeds dear after half-time when he was involved in a scuffle with Steve Jones and kicked-out at the ex-Burnley and Crewe striker whilst both were on the ground.

Fortunately for Leeds, the referee took no action, but whether Beckford will be reported to the FA for this mindless act of petulance remains to be seen.

When Beckford focused on his game he was almost unplayable. The Walsall defence could not handle his movement and his willingness to shoot on site, which bought decent saves from Ince, while the latter was helpless when Beckford’s exquisite control of a through ball was not matched by his snatched shot wide of the Walsall goal despite him having more time than he possibly realised.

If Walsall were sparse as an attacking force in the first half, they made even less headway in the second half, not aided by Grayson’s willingness to swap Doyle for Kilkenny and Hughes for Robinson, thus pushing Leeds further up the field and letting them dictate the game from inside their opponents half, something Leeds were guilty of not doing until that point.

It came against the run of play then, when in their two serious attacks of the second half, Mark Hughes headed a chance wide of goal after Higgs had misjudged a cross, and then minutes later Walsall took the lead when Jones clashed with Marques in the penalty area.

The referee, mindful of the appeal he turned down in the first half was in no mood to make the same decision again in front of the Walsall support and dutifully pointed to the spot and Parkin converted.

Leeds to their credit refused to be beaten and where under previous managers would have accepted a defeat, under Grayson they launched wave of attacks directly from the kick-off after the goal, culminating in them winning a corner, which Robinson delivered with delicious curl towards the far post for the unmarked Johnson to head home.

By the time the mini-pitch celebrations by the jubilant away support had subsided Leeds were ready to try and sneak a winner, and the icing on the cake was duly applied when Beckford’s winner with just three minutes left broke Walsall hearts and teed up another pitch invasion by the almost disbelieving Leeds faithful.

By the time Snodgrass had missed a chance to seal the victory when firing wide after good approach play, the chants from two sides of the ground were sung brazenly about where Leeds were going to end the season and if this game is anything to go by, the supporters may just be correct in their predictions.

Man Of The Match: – Simon Grayson. Can’t give it to any of the team because save for the last ten minutes they were poor all around and mostly kept in check by a diligent Walsall. Grayson’s substitutions and system tweaking turned the game, with the base camp being built for the final assault before Walsall had taken the lead.