Looking Forward

 

LEEDS UNITED (Away)

Premier League

Saturday 10th January 2004

With the win over Birmingham City putting four points between us and Leeds United, the gap will narrow again, should Tottenham turn in another of their pathetic away performances.  What is needed is a bit of grit aligned with some pressing forward to give Leeds problems.  An early goal could make the crowd quiet at worst and shouting for changes at best. 

Already missing Smith through suspension and Batty, Wilcox and Radebe through injury, Leeds will be desperate to get something from this match after falling to a 0-1 defeat at St. James' Park on Wednesday.  Striker Michael Bridges is back in contention and after nearly two years out with various injuries, he will be keen to make his mark against the side he used to support ... even though he didn't know it was so far from his native North-East !!  Aussie Mark Viduka has a bit of a love-hate relationship with the Leeds crowd and his freak goal against Arsenal gave them the lead, but his overall contribution is the part of his game that raises question marks over his future at the club.

One player who might soon be leaving Elland Road, if rumours are to be believed, is Paul Robinson, the keeper.  And his destination could be White Hart Lane, with Tottenham supposedly weighing up a 1.5 million bid for the England goalie.  A big lad, he gets down well and is a good shot stopper, but needs to command his box more to make sure his defenders know what he wants from them.  Among those defenders is a youngster called Matthew Kilgallon, who I last saw a few months back at Stevenage Borough FC playing for West ham Reserves against their Tottenham counterparts.  I don't think he played much in the first team at Upton Park while on loan, but he looked a decent enough player in the stiffs, while perhaps lacking a little experience.  He isn't the strongest of players, but then we only have Zamora who might be described as physical in our forward line.  Other regulars in the back line are Michael Duberry, Ian Harte and Gary Kelly.  Duberry is back in favour after the Bowyer/Woodgate court case and is settled at Leeds, although he is always a little lacking in concentration when under pressure at the back and maybe Fredi can force him into an error or two, using his pace to exploit Duberry's lack of speed too.  Neither full back is blessed with the greatest pace and Dalmat might fancy his fleet footedness against Harte, although he might try and put Stephane out of the match by intimidating the French winger with heavy challenges.  Kelly is not of the same physique as Harte and might have problems, but his experience might be put to use to stop Jacko marauding up the left wing.  

Captain Matteo will be looking to put in a good performance in his last match before suspension and Sakho and Olembe might also be playing their last games for a while with the African Nations cup coming up.  Matteo is the heart and soul of the side at the moment with Smith.  His effort and determination keep the side together and he will put in a 110% performance to try and stop Spurs.  Salomon Olembe is a pacy and nimble Cameroonian midfielder, who might soon be on his way as his loan period might not be extended, with Lamine Sakho a forward with pace and trickery, but perhaps a little on the light side for the rigours of the Premiership.  A fans favourite, Leeds have a 3 million option to sign the French Under-21, who will now play for Senegal, but they will probably not be able to follow up any interest they might have in the striker because of financial strictures.

Seth Johnson is back playing in midfield after injury problems, where he is joined by loan Gooner Jermaine Pennant and Eirick Bakke.  The Norwegian has also just come back after a knee injury that kept him out for months, while Pennant has relished the thrill of regular first team football, scoring a solo goal against Chelsea t Elland Road recently.  Youngster James Milner was recalled from loan at Swindon Town to put some meat into the attack or midfield, where he has been played recently.   One new face to most Spurs fans will be Aaron Lennon, who became the youngest Premier League player at 16 years and four months earlier this season. A short and pacy winger, he had great success in the England Under-6 set-up and was fast-tracked into the Leeds senior side following good youth team performances. 

Taricco is available again for Tottenham, but I think it would be a rash decision to bring him back into the side, which played so well against Birmingham.  I know Pleat likes experience, but Taricco might wind the Leeds crowd and players up to new heights of effort, while Jackson will get on with his job and provide more attacking threat as well as the ability to defend more ably than Taz.  Gus and Anderton paired in the middle of midfield might not be the best duo, with Leeds no doubt trying to win the battle here as early as possible to establish superiority and spring forward from midfield.  Ricketts might be a better bet, with Dalmat being the outlet ball.  Hopefully Keane will continue his good scoring record for Spurs against Leeds and Kanoute will give us a send-off present, rather than a sending off present like he got last season playing there for West Ham.  Mind you, if he did see red, at least he would serve his suspension while away with Mali !! 

With both sides presented with the stark realisation that too many more losses could open the trapdoor, it will be a fiercely fought affair and a close one too.  With two wins behind Spurs, they might just edge the final scoreline ...

PREDICTION : -   Leeds United  1   Tottenham  2

For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.

VIEW FROM THE OTHER SIDE

Is it as bad as it looks for Leeds ?

You've got me at a confused time again. After great results against Charlton, Fulham and Chelsea, we've screwed up badly by just taking two points from Man City, Villa, Wolves and Newcastle. Worse still, a gap is starting to appear between the bottom 6 or so and the mid-table group, but any sort of winning run could turn things around.

And what of the off-field problems ?  Is there a saviour on the horizon ?

Latest one on the horizon is Phil Green. I'm a bit dubious given his somewhat rough reputation. BUT if Green can see some profit to himself in this deal and does the necessary to keep us up this season, stabilise next year and then sods off with a few more million in his pocket then I'd be happy. But this is the guy who paid himself 200 million last year - it's not as if he needs the odd extra million and it's hard to see him doing it out of the kindness of his heart  (though maybe a favour for Allan Leighton to be called in later?). Obvious parallels with Alan Sugar (though he didn't have to start with the crippling debt we've got).

I suppose with Batty looking doubtful and Smith suspended, some of the battle might be missing from the side.  Anyone likely to put in some fight (not literally) ?

Duberry has actually been playing very solidly at the back and Matteo as a midfielder has given us some defensive bite (albeit too sharp when he picked up 2 yellows at Wolves). Johnson & Morris are too lightweight - lots of running around but not good positional sense and not the same ball-winning ability in the tackle as Batty.

And what of the newer names like Kilgallon  ?

Jon Woodgate Mark 2 - but with added brain cells. Real possibilities for him and Frazer Richardson - young right back - to go a long way.

Will Sakho and Olembe be trying to impress before they go off to the African Nations Cup ?

If they get the chance. Sakho was great for a couple of games, then lost confidence and was dropped and has only recently return. Olembe was doing brilliantly as a makeshift left-back before Eddie Gray brought Ian Harte back into the side - one of the few managerial decisions Eddie has made that most of us disagree with. I guess they both think they'll have nowt to prove because it's too late to have any real impact on the squad selection in Tunisia, and there's little prospect of them staying on at Leeds at the moment.

And Bridges is back.  How's he doing ?

He was coming in a couple of months back - then has dropped out a bit.  Still looks short of pace, strength and match fitness. We'll need him very soon with Smithy about to start a 2-game ban and only one yellow away from 10 for the season and another ban.

What do you think the line-up will be ?

Robinson - Kelly, Duberry, Kilgallon, Harte - Matteo - Pennant, Bakke, Milner, Olembe - Viduka. 
Maybe Johnson for Olembe.

And a prediction ??

3-1 to us as we suddenly find our scoring boots. Our big problem since the Fulham game has quite simply been our inability to create chances.

And how do you see things panning out for the rest of the season ?

Hmmmmm.... A lot depends on this next month or so. After you lot, we've got Saints, Boro, Villa and Wolves before hitting Man U & Liverpool.  We've not done too badly on top half teams but have lost to Wolves, Leicester & Pompey: we need to grind some wins out of those games if we are to hope to stay up - but I'm still convinced we have the players to do it.

Thanks to Jabba from 
www.leedsfans.org.uk

PLAYERS UNAVAILABLE

LEEDS UNITED : -  David Batty (ankle); Alan Smith (suspended); Lucas Radebe (hamstring); Jason Wilcox (knee); Stephen McPhail (suspended)

TOTTENHAM : - Christian Ziege (thigh); Dean Richards (knee); Jamie Redknapp (knee); Dean Richards (calf)

COVERAGE : 
TV :  No live TV coverage
Radio :  
Internet :  www.spurs.co.uk   Live webcast    (subscription service only)

 

 

Leeds United   0     Tottenham   1     (Half-time score : 0-0)
Premier League
Saturday 10th January 2004
Venue : -  Elland Road
Kick Off : -  15.00 p.m.
Weather : -  Mild, dry
Crowd : -  35,365
Referee : -  M. Halsey (Lancashire)
Teams : -  
Leeds United : -  Robinson; Kelly, Duberry, Kilgallon, Harte; Pennant, Bakke, Matteo, Olembe (Sakho 67); Barmby (Milner 67), Viduka (Bridges 46)
Unused subs:  Carson, Richardson

Tottenham : -  Keller; Carr, Doherty, Gardner, Taricco; Dalmat, Anderton (Poyet 89), King, Davies; Kanoute, Keane
Unused subs:  Hirschfeld, Postiga, Jackson, Kelly

Colours : -  (kits courtesy of http://www.colours-of-football.com)
Leeds United Tottenham
Scorers : -  
Leeds United  -  
 None

Tottenham -   Keane 57

Cards : -  
Leeds United  -  None

Tottenham -  Taricco (foul) 20

Once more Robbie Keane declined the celebration of a goal against his former employers, but this one that won this match could make a big difference to both clubs' immediate future.

One moment of clinical finishing was the decisive difference between the two sides seeking to climb away from the foot of the Premiership and Keano was alert to Taricco's quick free-kick to control the ball, allowing himself time to steer the ball past Robinson and into the net for the only goal of the game.  Robbie had given the Leeds defence the most problems and had kept Robinson busy on quite a few occasions.  The goalie had to dive at his feet after Dalmat nearly put him in and Robbie hit a shot over the bar from 20 yards out.

It was Gary Doherty though who had the first chance of the game, with a header from Anderton's corner that made Leeds' keeper dive to hold the ball, before Pennant was testing Keller at the opposite end with a free-kick.  Despite the Gooner (who is on loan) drawing a harsh booking for Taricco, the Spurs full back had a very good game.  He was tough in the tackle, got his body between himself and the ball when shielding it (as you are supposed to do !!) and also made some perceptive passes forward to instigate attacks.

Tottenham moved the ball around well in the early stages and this took some of the sting out of what was expected to be a ferocious start.  Perhaps the inert pairing of Barmby and Viduka let Spurs off the hook.  Barmby came closest for the home side, when he hooked a ball across the face of the goal at full stretch, but could not convert it.  Meanwhile, every time Dalmat got the ball, you could see the Leeds players blanche as white as their shirts.  his direct running and spell-binding ball control left them bewildered and just after the half-hour, he produced a typical run that saw the ball end up in Robinson's arms through a deflection to avert any danger.

Anderton's long range effort brought another good save from the England international between the Leeds sticks and he had to be alert to deny King who raced in for the rebound, as it dribbled towards the goal-line.  If Spurs are interested in Robinson, he will have done himself no harm with his performance today.  It was mainly down to him that the score was 0-0 at half-time.

Viduka did not appear for the second half and it was revealed that he has had been worried about an illness in his family back in Australia, which may have explained why he was replaced by Bridges.  The striker, returning from injury, did not inflict much pain on Spurs and was easily dealt with by the Tottenham defence.

Meanwhile, Robinson's gloves were still being put to good use, with Keane jinking past a couple of defenders to shoot and force a save, while Anderton hit a volley that just went wide of the post.  Dalmat was also keen to score after his brace of goals on Wednesday, but he was flashing the ball across the goal rather than into it today.

There were few instances when Keller was called into action, but Kilgallon nicked the ball of Keane and strode forward to strike a shot goalwards, but it was always going away from the goal.  Tottenham's biggest let-off came on 70 minutes, when Pennant put a corner into the danger zone and Bridges, all alone about 10 yards out completely missed the ball.  

One goal was looking a slender lead, so Spurs pressed forward again, but in missing the many opportunities they created, they failed to put the game out of the home side's reach.  Robinson kept out Fredi's firm drive, while Taz ran forward and as the Leeds defence, reduced by Duberry's injury and all the subs having been used, backed off, he hit the ball from the edge of the box and Robinson got enough on the ball to take it over the top.  Both Kanoute and Poyet, on for Anderton, went close in the closing stages and the whistle brought to an end the match which Tottenham never looked like losing, but never convincingly winning.  

In the final analysis, they did enough to take all three points and they haven't done that very often over the last couple of years away from home.  With the Leeds side not really passionate in front of their own crowd, perhaps Tottenham did well to meet them without Smith and Batty, who are the heartbeat of the team.  Perhaps it was enough to keep passing the ball around and keep it away from their goal.  The passing went stray a bit at the end, when Leeds didn't have their full complement of players; a time when they should have been making the home team run after the ball.  Still, two wins in two games is the tonic the side needed as well as the fans.  There is some hope now, as another eight wins and we will have the 40+ points everyone thinks is enough to secure avoidance of the relegation places.  We shouldn't get too complacent, but the way Spurs are playing their should be enough in their game to pick up points that looked unlikely a few games ago !!

 

MEHSTG TOP MAN : -  MAURICIO TARICCO

Barry Levington

 

FLYING THE WHITE FLAG

 

With Tottenham having been in the bottom three up until a week ago, it is too dear to our hearts to see Leeds in the place below where we were.  The side offered little resistance to the promptings of the Tottenham team, with the crowd - normally fiercely behind the team - quiet and unwilling to stay until the end.  With a meeting of creditors on 19th January, it may be that the team, and indeed the club, stay the course.

Spurs played some good football in with some middling stuff.  The passing was good, but too often in the second half, we gave the possession to the home side, even though they proved unable to make that possession pay.  Keller had one of the quietest days he has had in a Spurs shirt all season, with all but the last few minutes having little to do.  Those corners at the death had already seen some of the Leeds fans flood out of the ground.  There has possibly been no other occasion when so many seats were empty before the end of a match at Elland Road since we met Everton in the FA Cup semi-final there in 1997.  The supporters appear to have accepted that the poor home form is an indicator of the fate of the side.

Tottenham had a string of chances, many of which were criminally wasted, while they were tight at the back and Taricco was especially impressive, even though he picked up a booking early on.  Perhaps then he had to rely on his defensive art which he often discards for some willingness to torment his opponents.  Doherty was in the right place at the right time and Carr, along with Gardner, getting in the challenges which made a difference to the result.  Gardner disturbed Viduka and Barmby when breaking into the box.

With Dalmat's trickery, Leeds were always at a loss at how to handle him; backing off was not the answer and nobody in the side or on the touchline had noticed that.  His running is key to the way Tottenham are playing at the moment and he strikes terror into the hearts of defenders, as they cannot commit themselves or they are lost.

Fredi had one of those days when he does a lot of work, but the art of scoring eludes him.  Perhaps he has other things on his mind ??  Keano meanwhile latched onto Taricco's shrewd free-kick and got his body between the ball and Duberry.  That meant that the Leeds defender could not foul or he would have conceded a penalty and been sent off.  Keane took the ball on and hit his shot into the ground thus confounding Robinson' dive.  The goal was enough to take the win, but Leeds failed to rally and Spurs picked off their play, building moves from taking possession.

Spurs will have been happy with the form of Robinson, who made a good save from Taricco's drive and from Kanoute's angled shot.  He would make a good replacement for Keller if we can pick him up for 1.5 million.  As for the club's interest in Viduka, it was not the game to judge him on.  Concerned about his sick father back in Australia, he failed to trouble the Spurs defence in the way he normally does.  I am not sure that he would be the striker we need ... do we need another one anyway ??

It was a straightforward win in the end.  One that did not indicate that Leeds were struggling and perhaps they are resigned to their fate.  Whether there is someone more determined to save the club and raise the Leeds flag, everyone will know on 19th January.

Sterling Performance

 

Other scores this weekend :

Arsenal

4 Middlesbrough 1 Saturday
Birmingham City 2 SCBC 1 Saturday
Blackburn Rovers 3 Bolton Wanderers 4 Saturday
Charlton Athletic 2 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 Saturday
Fulham 2 Everton 1 Saturday
Leicester City 0 Chelsea 4 Sunday
Liverpool 1 Aston Villa 0 Saturday
Manchester United 0 Newcastle United 0 Sunday
Portsmouth 4 Manchester City 2 Saturday

 

League Table
 
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Manchester United 20 16 2 3 40 14 50 +26
2 Arsenal 21 14 7 0 40 14 49 +26
3 Chelsea 21 14 3 4 40 17 45 +23
4 Charlton Athletic 21 9 7 5 30 23 34 +7
5 Liverpool 20 9 5 6 30 21 32 +9
6 Newcastle United 20 7 8 5 27 22 29 +5
7 Fulham 21 9 4 8 33 29 31 +4
8 Aston Villa 21 7 6 8 21 25 27 -4
9 SCBC 21 7 6 8 19 17 27 +2
10 Birmingham City 20 8 5 7 19 25 29 -6
11 Bolton Wanderers 21 6 8 7 25 33 26 -8
12 Everton 21 6 6 9 25 28 24 -3
13 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 21 7 3 11 24 30 24 -6
14 Middlesbrough 20 6 6 8 17 23 24 -6
15 Manchester City 21 5 7 9 30 32 22 -2
16 Blackburn Rovers 21 6 4 11 31 35 22 -4
17 Portsmouth 21 6 4 11 25 32 22 -7
18 Leicester City 21 4 7 10 28 35 19 -7
19 Leeds United 21 4 5 12 18 42 17 -24
20 Wolverhampton Wanderers 20 3 6 11 18 43 15 -25

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