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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Leeds United Preview

So we've beaten at last, concede more than we have previously this season and all without scoring. Three records broken on one night that illustrate we still have a long way to go, and add to that the news that Bristol's win at Southampton leaves them just a single point behind us.
So not a very good night but the omens were there to excuse us. We've never won in Colchester in the League and we've never beaten one of Boothroyd's physical teams but unfortunately for everyone the next game is probably the most difficult of any fixture, away at Leeds.
Parky's response to Tuesday was that it wasn't a 3-0 defeat. Well, we can all remember a 3-0 scoreline that wasn't fair on the play ( a 0-3 defeat to another bogey team, the spanners, at Sainburys in 1988 stands out) but judging from the fans reports on the game we looked jaded and couldn't response to the two quick goal first half goals. Parky has already said that all our mistakes came in one night and "we have to be careful not to overreact" but with only three centre-halfs and one off on international duty next week while another is clearly hesitant on 4 yellows, perhaps a change should be made in the middle of defence - especially as Sammy Sodje knows a little about the strengths of Leeds after his loan period there last season culminating in the Play-Off semi.

So on to Leeds and after more news about their controversial ownership in yesterdays guardian it seems that Ken Bates lied about his situation, doesn't own any shares and they are in fact owned by a Cayman Islands registered Fund with 10,000 shares and may possibly have never been properly ratified by the Football League. All adding to the thought that if you ever needed an example of football mismanagement, look no further than Leeds United.

After the glory years in the sixties under Revie when they changed their kit to all white to copy Madrid, they dreamed of more of the same in the new millenium. After 4 years under David O'Leary, never finishing outside the top 5 and a European Cup semi-final in 2001, the following season it all started to fall apart. Under Peter Ridsdale they had taken out loans totalling 60 million in anticipation of further Champions League income but in 2001/02 they only finished 5th and failed to qualify for the Champions League and O'Leary was sacked that summer as players were sold to pay back the debts. They dropped to 15th in 2002/03 under Terry Venables and then Peter Reid but the inevitable happened the following season.

So fast forward to today, and this is Leeds' third year in Tier Three and it looks like being the last. Dennis Wise was in charge during their relegation to Tier Three for the first time in their history in 2006/07 and then left for Newcastle the following January leaving Gary McAllister in charge for the remainder of 2007/08. He managed to get them into the Play-Off final despite the 15 point penalty but lost 1-0 to Doncaster. But the following season, a run of 5 defeats in a row, culminating in a 3-1 reverse at MK Dons and a slip to 9th place saw McAllister sacked and Grayson took over in December 2008 but he in turn failed again against Millwall in the Play-Off semi's.

Simon Grayson's second home game in charge back in January was his first defeat at Leeds, a 2-0 defeat to Carlisle, but they haven't lost since, in the league anyway, although a 1-1 draw in the Play-offs with Millwall and a 1-0 League Cup defeat to Liverpool do spoil the record. Grayson is yet another youngster - he's 39, although he does look older - learning his trade in Tier Three and it was him that got Blackpool back into Tier Two in 2007 and took them to their highest position for 36 years the following season before Leeds enticed him away in December 2008.

So 1st v 2nd should see the biggest crowd that the Addicks have played in front of this season. Capacity at Elland Rd is over 39,000 but strangely for a club doing so well their biggest gate, of 27,000, has been for the opening game against Exeter City. Since then gates have dropped and the average is only 23,000, down from last season.


Unbeaten at home in the League since Doomsday, its the meanest defence against the most prolific attack in League One, although we are now equal with Colchester. Their home results have been; Exeter 2-1 on opening day, Tranmere 3-0, Stockport 2-0, Gillingham 4-1 and a 1-1 draw to their nemesis Carlisle, the last team to win in the League at Elland Rd. In the last three games, before Carlisle, they had 2-0 half-time leads while they lead Exeter and Carlisle 1-0 at half-time. They have also beaten Watford at Elland Rd in the League Cup although they had to win in extra time after Watford equalised with 3 minutes left.

And although they are currently on a run of 13 League games without defeat with eleven wins and two draws in that run, they have now failed to win either of their last two games at Elland Rd against Liverpool and Carlisle and according to Grayson didn't play very well at MK Dons last weekend.

The only ex around this weekend for the opponents is Tresor Kandol who has returned to Leeds after loan spells last season at Millwall and the Addicks. But we are unlikely to see as he hasn't played at all this season and he's unlikely to even make the bench especially as Grayson apparently has trouble counting to seven.

Who Are Yeh?
The goalie responsible for the lack of goals and the unbeaten record is 32 year old Shane Peter Higgs. He saved a penalty in the 0-0 draw at Southend to preserve the draw. But the number one is Danish Casper Ankergren, twice winner of the Danish league with Br√łndby and he could continue in goal as Higgs has a injury from the MK Dons game.

The lack of goals conceded has been down to a settled defence of Crowe, Kisnorbo, Bromby and Hughes and clearly Grayson knows his stuff because three of them, and the goalkeeper, are new men recruited during the summer.

Right-Back is ex-Arse and Palarse Jason Crowe whose move from Northampton caused Frazer Richardson to look for a new challenge. Another new boy is Aussie Patrick Kisnorbo bought from Leicester in June and yet another new signing is defender Leigh Bromby from the Blades. But both Crowe and Higgs were missing on Tuesday with a hamstring strain and thigh strain respectively and then they lost Bromby, off injured on 37 minutes against Carlisle, so there's a few question marks about the Leeds defence for this weekend.
Another summer signing is experienced Irish midfielder Michael Doyle bought from Coventry, the oldest, at 28, in a young midfield.

For while Grayson has gone for an experienced rearguard with an average age of 30, Leeds have a young midfield with Snodgrass, Howson and Johnson all in their early twenties with local Leeds boy Howson, aged 21, being the biggest influence, the youngest in the team and has been the captain until Naylor's return to the defence from injury on Tuesday.

The Dangerman
No surprises here for its obvious that Leeds' main man is their number nine from Ealing Jermaine Beckford. Another ex-Chelski starlet, he was released in 2003 without playing a game and moved to Wealdstone where 54 goals in 82 appearances took everyones attention, even from the Addicks.
Snapped up by Leeds in 2006 for a palty 35k and despite all that transfer talk he's still popular with the fans, and has been their Player of the Year for the last two years probably because of his goals, 34 all told last season. And he's got six already this season.
Whats Their Secret?
Like the boring old Leeds of the 60's, defence comes first and they have the meanest back four this side of the Premiership. The most clean sheets, five, in League One and only 7 goals conceded in 13 games, including cup games against Watford and Liverpool, and they take it to obsessive limits with not a single goal conceded in the first half of any game so far. Having bored the other team into a coma they then go for the jugular and have scored 6 of their 17 League goals in the last 10 minutes.

After 19 seasons together its a not very bright 21-11 to the Yorkshire lot with just 4 wins and 4 draws in our 19 games at Elland Rd. But since that dramatic Play-Off win we've been there 6 times and only lost twice with 3 draws and a win in 2002. Our last game was a 3-3 draw on the 8th May 2004 and in fact they have a bit of a soft spot for us as that was Leeds' last home game in the Premiership in a year in which they finished 2nd to bottom on 33 points with a massive goal difference of Minus 39. Hence the back to basics approach, I suppose.

And that was the year, just 5 years ago, when the Addicks finished highest ever in the Premier, 7th, the gooners went unbeaten and manure suffered nine defeats. How times change.

The Team
We have our very own ex this week with Frazer Richardson returning to Elland Rd after joining the Addicks during the summer. Born in Rotherham, he spent his youth at Leeds and had 9 years there and played for them in that very last Premier game in May 2004 against us. And we've already mentioned Sodje's time there last season and Parky, we'd like to see him start.

There is no news on the fitness of Jose Semedo but his holding role appears key to our team and we can only hope that he's fit in time. Parky's one for stability and will, in view of his comments, field his usual side with the only additional question mark being Llera.

Elliot; Richardson, Dailly, Sodje, Youga; Sam, Semedo, Racon, Shelvey, Bailey; Burton.

It would be nice to puncture their neat and tidy pristine first half stats with a goal and with their late surge usually producing goals we may have to. They too were upset on Tuesday, not only by injuries, but by one of their bogey teams, Carlisle, who have only lost 3 of their last 8 games at Elland Rd.
Carlisle used a five man midfield for most of the game to defend in numbers before bringing on an extra striker 20 minutes from the end which got them the point.
A draw looks the best we will be able to manage but I do remember a shock 2-0 win at Sheffield United back in March 2008 after conceding three at Blackpool in a 3-5 defeat the previous weekend. The truth is we won't rate it as a miracle even though 31 out of the 37 pundits on cafcpicks see a defeat.

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