Leeds United F.C. History
Leeds United F.C. History : Foreword
1919-29 - The Twenties
1930-39 - The Thirties
1939-46 - The War Years
1947-49 - Post War Depression
1949-57 - The Reign of King John
1957-63 - From Charles to Revie
1961-75 - The Revie Years
1975-82 - The Downward Spiral
1982-88 - The Dark Years
1988-96 - The Wilko Years
1996-04 - The Rollercoaster Ride
2004-17 - Down Among The Deadmen
100 Greatest LUFC Players Ever
Greatest Leeds United Games
Players' Profiles
Managers' Profiles
Leeds City F.C. History
Leeds City F.C. Player and Manager Profiles
Leeds United/City Statistics
Leeds United/City Captains
Leeds United/City Friendlies and Other Games
Leeds United/City Reserves and Other Teams


Part 1: Kevin Blackwell - So near and yet so far 2004-06

Part 2: Dennis Wise - An Unwise move 2006-07

Part 3: Gary McAllister - Return of the Mac 2007-08

Part 1: Kevin Blackwell - So near and yet so far 2004-06

2004-2005: Season Statistics: Games, Results, Appearances, Goalscorers
Football League Tables for the Season

Kevin Blackwell: Born 21-12-58 at Luton, had a journeyman career as a goalkeeper with several clubs but never rose to any great heights, in fact he was, in reality, a failure to put it nicely. His career was as follows: 1986-89: Scarborough, where he played forty-four games. 1989-93: Notts County, where he never played a game. 1993-93:Torquay United, where he had eighteen games. 1993-95:Huddersfield Town five appearances. 1995-97: Plymouth Argyle where he played twenty-four games before retiring.

Blackwell worked hard to gain the UEFA 'A' coaching badge and successfully complete the UEFA 'A' goalkeeping course. He was thought to be the first to gain two UEFA 'A' badges in England. He took advantage of what the FA had to offer and gained invaluable experience and it cemented his ideas and helped him structure his sessions better.

He became Sheffield United Coach under Neil Warnock and was accredited with making them a fitter and more mobile squad and brought on several young players. Leeds boss Peter Reid gave Blackwell his big chance after being impressed with the way he helped Sheffield United reach the First Division play-off final and the semi-finals of both the FA Cup and Worthington Cup. The approach from Reid came as a big surprise to Blackwell, as he didn't know Peter Reid and had no connection with him or Leeds United in any way shape or form. He was thought to have been head-hunted, and Reid spoke to quite a few managers and players and who all endorsed Blackwell's ability. He was coach to Reid and then Eddie Gray, before taking over for the last game in the EPL at Chelsea. With a possible takeover of the club, he was embarrassingly made to wait before being appointed Manager on the same day as Alan Smith left for Manchester United!

Considering the clubs financial situation and the consequences of relegation, it came as no surprise that wholesale changes were made to the Elland Road Playing Staff and other football related positions. Gone were the Loan Players: Pennant, Caldwell, Domi, Camara, Sakho, Roque Junior, Olembe, and Chapuis. David Batty retired. Michael Bridges went to Bolton Wanderers, Jason Wilcox to Leicester City, Stephen McPhail to Barnsley, Nick Barmby to Hull City, Dominic Matteo to Blackburn Rovers, Ian Harte to Levante, and Danny Mills to Manchester City, all departing on Free Transfers and Paul Robinson went to Tottenham Hotspur for £1.5 million, Alan Smith crossed the Pennines to Manchester United for £6 million, James Milner went to Newcastle United for £3.5 million, and Mark Viduka departed to Middlesbrough for £4.5million, but in several cases there were hefty settlements to players,who were paid over a period of time.

It could be said that, Juniors apart, Gary Kelly, Michael Duberry, the injured Eirik Bakke, Seth Johnson and Lucas Radebe, and fringe players Matthew Kilgallon, Aaron Lennon, Frazer Richardson, Jamie McMaster, Harpal Singh, Andy Keogh, Simon Johnson, Simon Walton and Martin Woods were at Kevin Blackwell's disposal as the new season commenced.

In came Danny Pugh from Manchester United, Michael Ricketts from Middlesbrough, Jermaine Wright from Ipswich Town, Julian Joachim from Coventry City, Danny Cadamarteri from Bradford City, Paul Butler from Wolverhampton Wanderers, Clarke Carlisle from Queens Park Rangers, Matthew Spring from Luton Town, Neil Sullivan from Chelsea, all arriving on Free Transfers, while Brian Deane, Craig Hignett, Steve Guppy and others came as unattached players. Stephen Crainey came initially on loan from Southampton before United paid a fee of £200,000 for his services. There was a regular stream of players, coming on trial, such as Mark Kinsella, Chris Bart-Williams and Keith Gillespie, but all were ultimately not offered a contract. This would be a regular feature of life at Elland Road in the Coca Cola Championship League and there was also a long succession of players coming in and out on loan.

It therefore, came as no surprise when United fielded seven debutants for the first game in the CCCL against Derby County and this would balloon to twenty-six before the end of the season. This did not include Brian Deane who had already debuted in 1993! So it was that United lined up as Sullivan; Kelly, Duberry, Butler, Kilgallon; Richardson, Wright,Walton, Pugh; Ricketts, Joachim. Radebe came on for Walton, and Deane for Ricketts, while Carson, Crainey and Guppy remained unused on the bench.

Danny Pugh became an instant hit with the fans with a great effort on debut and there were strong games from Walton, Joachim, Sullivan and Richardson, who got the only goal of the game on seventy-two minutes in a hard won victory. Considering that the team had been stitched together in a very short period of time it was an excellent performance against reasonably strong opposition and, apart from rustiness, United played as a unit and looked well drilled, well organized and worked hard for a deserved win.

Butler and Duberry were solid in central defence. Kelly was back to his form of a few years back, while Matthew Kilgallon impressed with his ability to adapt to being played out of position at left back. Behind the defence Sullivan showed that he was probably the best keeper outside of the EPL and Scott Carson must have wondered how long he would have to wait before next featuring in the first eleven. Ricketts caused Derby problems and had several good touches but looked a little out of practice, and it was he who released the impressive Joachim, who set up Frazer Richardson for the winner.

However, it was in midfield where United were strongest, Danny Pugh covered more ground than anyone on the park and was a constant menace down the left flank, while Frazer Richardson did the same on the right and it was fitting that he should be rewarded for his efforts with a superb strike. Wright prodded and probed, while Walton put his height to good effect and generally put his foot in where others did not dare. Considering he was a central defender, he linked up play well and was not frightened to get forward. He tired a little in the closing stages and the evergreen Lucas Radebe substituted on 65 minutes.

Pugh was unlucky twice, Joachim was denied by the keeper but Duberry headed over a fine cross from Wright and Butler volley over from close range. Sullivan had done his job quietly and efficiently even if semi-redundant, but he had to earn his wages in the last minute with a blinding save, as Derby made a last effort to salvage a point. It was early days, but a new chapter had started and it appeared that United could make their presence felt in their new surroundings.

United were unchanged for their first away fixture in the CCCL at Gillingham and again it was Danny Pugh who won the accolades with good support from Sullivan, Kelly and Richardson, but United were given a rude awakening to life on the road in the CCCL with a visit to the Priestfield Stadium which was packed to capacity, albeit with less than 11,000 fans. Gillingham were strong and were willing to fight for everything and what they lacked in skill they made up in effort and honest endeavour. Leeds did show a willingness to match the home team at their own game and enjoyed plenty of possession but after conceding two sloppy early goals they could never recover.

United were rocked by a fortunate strike after only four minutes, when a twenty yard shot from Byfield hit Wright and was deflected out of Sullivan's reach. This was the cue for some sustained Gillingham pressure and the United defence came under attack, not to mention some off the ball niggles. Kilgallon was left clutching his face after Roberts appeared to stick out an arm and Walton was wound up by the experienced Hassenthaler, who came on half way through the first half.

Kilgallon went close for United and forced the keeper to a spectacular save as United assumed the ascendancy. While they were still in with a chance at 1-0 they had too big a mountain to climb after they conceded a silly goal just before half time. There was a lapse of concentration as a throw in was helped on by a chip and the unmarked Agymang pulled the ball back to Roberts, whose shot hit Butler before going in off the post.

After seeming unsettled at the start of the second half, it was to United's credit that they carried on the fight. They were rewarded with Pugh's eightieth minute strike, after substitute Steve Guppy's cross drive could only be parried by the keeper and Pugh was on hand to steer home the rebound. This saw United pressing for an equalizer but they had left it too late. They finished the game in thirteenth place.

Wolverhampton Wanderers were the next opponents at Molineux and were expected to provide United with stiff opposition, as one of the likely promotion candidates. There was a debut for Stephen Crainey at left back in place of Matthew Kilgallon, while evergreen stalwart Lucas Radebe replaced the young Simon Walton in midfield and Brian Deane was given a first start since his return, in place of Julian Joachim as striker. Walton and Joachim dropped to the bench. United were struck a double blow to their already paper thin squad when Duberry was sent off and faced a three match suspension and Lucas Radebe was stretchered off and out for the rest of the season with a ruptured Achilles.

While Radebe's absence was pure bad luck, Duberry's was self inflicted as, after previously being yellow carded for an off the ball infringement with Miller, on the report of a linesman, he was also guilty of leaving a trailing leg, after Miller had got the wrong side of him, and thereferee quickly produce the red card and pointed immediately to the penalty spot with just five minutes to go. This gave Wolves the chance to take full points, but Sullivan crowned a fine individual performance by saving the ensuing kick with a superb save to keep honours even. Sullivan had performed well throughout and although rarely troubled by a strangely tame Wolverhampton attack he was called upon to make two valuable blocks before the penalty save.

Leeds were not much more adventuresome but their defensive efforts, with Butler outstanding against his former club, merited at least a point. United went to Wolverhampton with a team devised to frustrate the home team and this was accomplished with their second clean sheet in three games. Apart from the penalty, United had finished strongly and had three chances to settle the game. Frazer Richardson sent a shot wide after some good approach play and then blazed over as he cut in from the right, before finally right on time Deane sent in a looping header which was goal-bound until cleared off the line by a defender. A draw was a fair result and United remained in thirteenth spot.

There was talk of a Casino being built at Elland Road. With pending changes in the gaming laws. United were one of several clubs who were looking into the possibilities of a new revenue stream. Talks of an American based casino giant taking over the club for £29 million were immediately dismissed by the club.

There was news of the signing of Cameroon international Serge Branco from Stuttgart as United hosted Nottingham Forest. Steve Guppy was given his run on debut in place of the injured Radebe, with Clarke Carlisle also debuting in place of the suspended Duberry, while up front Joachim replaced Ricketts as Deane's strike partner.

United were robbed of a deserved victory as the inexperienced referee awarded Forest a penalty for an obstruction by Guppy on Evans, which the Forest midfielder milked as a penalty, with an exaggerated dive. For much of the contest United had outplayed Forest and created enough chances to have won this game convincingly. United had seventeen shots on goal. Deane, who won everything in the air and had a tremendous game, was unlucky when his downward header bounced over the bar. Joachim's pace worried Forest but, while once unlucky, he should have scored on another occasion but he continued to work hard and would have deserved to open his account on this showing.

Kelly, who kept Forest danger man Andy Reid on a short leash and Crainey who had a fine game at left back stood out for United. Clarke Carlisle had a fine debut and he and Butler were solid in central defence. Guppy's arrival gave Wright a chance to enjoy more freedom in midfield and with Pugh as busy as ever. United dominated the midfield, while Richardson again worked hard Guppy and Crainey linked up well. Crainey did well on the attack and twice scraped the woodwork firstly with a header and then with one of his fine free-kicks.

Pugh missed out with a good header, as did Frazer Richardson with a left-foot curler. Steve Guppy, who was desperate to win a permanent contract, did his chances no harm with a good display, capped off with an excellent header to out-jump the Forest defence at the far post, and convert Frazer Richardson's cross after twenty-five minutes. United didn't sit back but continued to take the game to Forest and were denied on many occasions, while at the other end Sullivan made a couple of stops as Forest made a late rally. United always looked like winners but Evans ran into Guppy in the area and Andy Reid converted despite a valiant attempt from Sullivan, who dived the right way. From that point on Forest retreated into defence and spent the last twelve minutes defending desperately to keep out the all out attack coming from United. The sides remained locked at 1-1 and it was two points lost rather than one gained from United's point of view and they eased up to twelfth place.

Neighbours Huddersfield Town provided the opposition for the First Round League Cup tie at Elland Road and Ricketts was given a chance up front in place of Deane. There was a quality display in central defence from Clarke Carlisle as Huddersfield's Terriers gallantly gave their all in an entertaining and fiercely contested local derby. The defence was the foundation for United's narrow victory with Carlisle and Butler dominant in central defence as were Kelly and Crainey at fullback.

Huddersfield battled hard and enthusiastically but they never looked like breaching the brick wall Leeds defence, as United kept their third clean sheet in five games. Town were much livelier than United but the home team seemed happy to dig in and protect their lead. It would have been nice to see United as more of an attacking unit and neither Ricketts nor Joachim had yet opened his account. Ricketts had a strong tussle with the Town defence and emerged on top and it was he who headed against the Town crossbar before Danny Pugh pounced to force the ball home for the winner after twenty-three minutes. Joachim did not have the same opportunities to shine but his effort deserved more reward than he was presently getting.

Huddersfield had arrived with a defensive plan aimed at frustrating the home side and, apart from an early header, it was half an hour before they emerged as an attacking force. Pugh had already put United ahead and Frazer Richardson had gone close to doubling the lead.

Huddersfield did have some chances, as a header hit the woodwork and Brandon twice found himself in space but wasted the chances and it wasn't until the seventy-first minute that Sullivan was called into serious action, when he reacted quickly to deny Brandon after a defensive error. This brought on Jamie McMaster for Guppy and he made a big impression with a lively display for the last twenty minutes. He almost scored with his first touch, when he forced the keeper to save at full stretch with a pile driver from twenty yards. He continued to taunt and torment and gave Blackwell food for thought but United never really looked like conceding a goal despite four minutes injury time and United progressed safely into the Second Round.

Duberry replaced Carlisle and Ricketts dropped back to midfield to replace Guppy with Deane taking his place as striker alongside Joachim, as United visited Blackwell's former team, Sheffield United, at Bramall Lane. There was no happy return for him as his team was out-thought and out-manoeuvred by Neil Warnock's Sheffield United.

It was a clear indication that Leeds are desperately short of quality players in their squad, with Danny Pugh, Frazer Richardson and Jermaine Wright playing in the midfield engine room and all trying to adapt to playing in an unfamiliar position. On the flanks Ricketts was asked to play wide right and Joachim wide left with Deane left to plough a lone furrow up front. Wright was not accustomed to, or suited to, the holding role in midfield and was much better in his usual role of feeding the strikers and if a good holding player was found it would allow Pugh and Richardson more freedom to express themselves. It would also allow Blackwell to rotate his other young talent such as Aaron Lennon, Simon Walton and Jamie McMaster and give them more opportunities to gain the necessary experience.

Leeds created absolutely nothing at all but for a long time it looked as though Butler and his defence were going to keep another clean sheet and secure a valuable point. It would be unwise to assume that Sullivan and the defence could work miracles every game and when they dipped in this game the Blades were handed the game on a platter.

Duberry was singled out by a section of the travelling fans early in the game and his confidence wilted noticeably. His early booking did not help either and he had a tough afternoon. It turned out to be another Bramall Lane horror show reminiscent of the double Cup exit of just over a season previous and this defeat was just as disappointing.

Sheffield had the better of the first half but only created a handful of decent chances which Leeds dealt with quite comfortably and Sullivan was not seriously extended. Ricketts failed to pick a superbly timed run from Pugh and selfishly opted to shoot instead, while Richardson worked an opening but fired narrowly over the bar. Sheffield finally got the goal they needed just five minutes into the second half. Leeds lost possession and Tonge fed a lovely ball to Ward for the striker to score. It was the end for Leeds as they only came to defend and after Sullivan had made a fingertip save, he was beaten for a second time as Harley curled a free-kick over the wall and past the keeper.

United's only further chance fell to the hapless Duberry who managed to hit the woodwork from just three yards out with twelve minutes to go. The final whistle was sweet relief to Leeds and a dejected team trooped off after suffering their second loss of the season. It was a poor disappointing performance and unless a spark was added it would be mid-table mediocrity or worse rather than being in the chasing pack, as they slumped further to be in sixteenth position.

There had been talk that Blackwell was hot on the trail of Sean Gregan, the West Bromwich Albion holding midfielder, but Leeds were only interested in a loan or free-transfer, whereas the vendors were looking for a substantial fee.

Former Manager Peter Reid brought his new charges, Coventry City, to play his former deputy's Leeds United and it was the apprentice who triumphed over the master and the new boss over the old boss. To be truthful United cruised past Coventry with alarming ease. Clarke Carlisle was back for the out of sorts Duberry and Simon Walton took over from Ricketts in a reshuffled midfield. Blackwell reverted to 4-4-2 and the result was there for all to see. Granted Coventry were not in the same class as Sheffield United but Blackwell's tactics were good enough to beat his former boss this game, if not in the previous one.

Clarke Carlisle stood out for United and each member of the defence was in top form and easily snuffed out the much vaunted Coventry attack. The midfield also played well with Wright, who had a hand in all three goals, and Pugh particularly outstanding. There was plenty of effort up front and it was good to see Joachim finally getting on the score sheet. United won the battle by working hard for each other, biding their time and finishing with a flourish with Coventry running up the white flag long before the final whistle. It wasn't a pretty game to watch but United stuck to their task and, with a renewed steadiness in front of goal, showed that in this form they were more than a match for the supposed better teams in the division.

The cornerstone for the victory was a strong uncompromising defence, a hard working midfield and a good display of natural instincts in front of goal. Leeds were guilty of a couple of early misses but their domination and determination paid dividends just before the break, when a free-kick by Jermaine Wright was met at the far post by Clarke Carlisle who scored with a looping header. His defensive prowess and a well taken goal fully vindicated his recall and could be contrasted to the fortunes of the hapless Duberry who was again the target of the boo-boys as he warmed up on the touchline.

Even Peter Reid was given a standing ovation by the fans as he emerged from the tunnel to take his place in the dugout. It was the only solace he got all afternoon except when he saw his team hit the woodwork and then just after half-time force a diving save from the dependable Neil Sullivan. United and Joachim were rewarded for their endeavours twenty minutes from time, when he was on hand to score from close range after the keeper couldn't hold Wright's strong header. Coventry full back Carey got his marching orders for a second yellow card for a foul on Pugh, who had tormented him all afternoon. The scoring was rounded off just on time when Wright's shot could not be held by the keeper and the impressive Pugh was on hand to tap home the rebound to complete the 3-0 score-line which saw United remain sixteenth in the table.

There were rumours of impending incoming players and an Iraqi takeover offer. Chairman Krasner said no bid had been made but the board would listen to any bids which were in the interests of the club and he further stated the talks for the sale and lease back of Elland Road were well advanced.

It was an unchanged United that made the long journey to Home Park where Plymouth Argyle were the hosts. It was another disciplined performance from every United player, with Jermaine Wright in superb form once again in midfield.

It looked as though all the pieces in the jigsaw were finally being put in place as they made the classic away performance to get their season up and running. The value of the win can be measured by the fact that Plymouth came into the game having only lost once at Home Park in the previous eighteen months. United weathered an early storm and quickly won the battle for the middle of the park and followed that up by playing some of the best football seen from a Leeds side in recent seasons. They passed the ball quickly; their movement was sharp and they created chances in abundance against a side that prided its self on its miserly home record. The foundation was built on a solid back four with Sullivan marshalling it superbly and it never looked like conceding. It had now gone 180 minutes since last conceding, and Plymouth must have though they were running into a brick wall. However, it was the midfield that shone brightest and none more so than Jermaine Wright, who was the driving force behind the victory and now freed from the holding role he showed his attacking prowess and was the moving force in pushing Leeds forward. He was well supported by the lively Simon Walton and busy wide men Richardson and Pugh, who were supplemented by Kelly and Crainey adding their weight with some telling crosses into the box which often caused problems. Big Brian Deane made his presence felt particularly in the air, while Joachim showed quick feet in creating a couple of useful openings.

The attendance of over 20,000 was Plymouth's largest crowd in years and contained almost 1,400 who had made the long trek from Leeds, which meant a twelve hour round trip and they would have been pleased with the Leeds performance; the chances created and would have forgiven them for not winning by a bigger margin.

United recovered from a shaky opening to take control of the game, the onslaught started when Jermaine Wright broke from midfield and embarked on a sixty yard run on goal, which culminated in a shot-come-cross which both Walton and Joachim desperately tried to make contact with on the line. It was the cue for twenty minutes of sustained pressure which culminated in the match winning goal, two minutes before the break. Walton had a shot saved, Deane had an effort blocked by the keeper's legs and Pugh headed wide from the rebound. Wright was the next to go close when he shot over after good build up play.

It looked like more frustration as a Walton pile-driver was blocked but in the ensuing melee Butler rose high to head goalwards as the Argyle defence failed to clear their lines and Marion Keith could only help it into the net, with the United skipper claiming it should have been his goal, and not an own goal. This was immediately followed by Plymouth's only effort of the night as Keith sought to make amends and capitalize on a rare Carlisle miss-header, but Sullivan was equal to the task and pulled off a fine save. United continued to create chances. Joachim twice went close while Matthew Spring came off the bench to make his debut and had a fine dipping effort tipped over the bar by the keeper and Wright and Richardson both had near misses. Just as the game seemed won the referee added five minutes injury time and United had to endure ninety-eight minutes of play before they final could take home the points. The win move United up into the top half of the league to ninth spot and with a game in hand on most teams their chances of improvement looked good.

There was news that Sean Gregan had been signed from West Bromwich Albion for £500,000 rising to a possible £1 million with add-ons, subject to his passing a fitness test.

There was a debut for Sean Gregan in midfield in place of Simon Walton as United travelled to struggling Crewe Alexandra at Gresty Road, looking to add another three points to the recent run of good results. Jermaine Wright was again the fulcrum for United while Sullivan in goal, Butler in central defence and Pugh with both goals also shone in the 2-2 draw. Was it a case of one point gained or two points lost? If you say that Pugh's leveller with only two minutes to go suggests it was a priceless draw you may have a point, but it was also fair to say United should have had them dead and buried long before that! Leeds dominated in terms of possession and created enough chances to win two games but that would hide the fact that they twice had to come from behind to equalize. It was a game that United knew they should have won.

Crewe played pretty football and had two good strikers in Steve Jones and Dean Ashton but United tried to be equally pretty, when they should have opted for a more physical approach. Butler was well known for his physical approach and Sean Gregan was bought to beef up the midfield but, while showing some classy touches, he looked well short on match fitness. His presence allowed Jermaine Wright to play his more natural attacking game and his prompting and probing made him a constant threat and he was unlucky not to open hisgoal-scoring account for United. There was the feeling that Gregan and Wright could become the best midfield pair in the CCCL once they had gelled, but even at its embryo stage the partnership was too much for Crewe and they stroked the ball around at will.

To Crewe's credit they didn't give in. They took the lead shortly after half-time and were resilient enough to bounce back to take the lead again after United had equalized. It was an example of their character in front of a nigh capacity crowd of just over 9,000, which was swelled by 1,588 travelling United fans. Crewe served an early warning of their attacking capabilities to force Sullivan to tip over a Jones header, but United dominated the half and there were chances aplenty. Joachim hit a post and Richardson followed up but had his shot blocked on the line. Richardson also went for power and not precision just on the break and another chance went begging.

Two minutes after the break Carlisle inexplicably handled in the box and although Sullivan guessed the direction of the kick, Ashton's power and precision were too much and it went into the corner of the net. This jolted United into action and they were level six minutes later, after Pugh had shown good anticipation to forced home the rebound after Joachim had hit the underside of the bar, and they still continued to dominate.

With Wright leading the charge and Deane causing the defence all kinds of problems it seemed inevitable that United would go on to win, but after Jones had had one effort disallowed he made no mistake soon afterwards, with only seven minutes left on the clock. The goal clearly rattled United and only a great twenty-five yard shot from Danny Pugh enabled them to again draw level with just two minutes to go.

The draw kept the unbeaten record going but saw United drop to tenth. There was news of the loan of Southampton striker Brett Omerod in time for the next clash with high-flyers Sunderland.

United rang the changes for the Second Round League Cup Tie with Swindon Town, and they lined up: Sullivan; Kelly, Carlisle, Butler, Kilgallon; Joachim, Spring, Gregan, Pugh; McMaster, Ricketts. With Walton replacing McMaster (sixty-one minutes), Cadamarteri for Joachim (seventy minutes), Deane for Ricketts (eighty minutes) with Carson and Duberry unused. United made it four games unbeaten with an unglamourous steamroller victory over plucky Swindon Town.

The visitors could count themselves unlucky as they played some neat football but lacked the killer instinct to get a stranglehold on the game. Matthew Spring made his run on debut for United while Danny Cadamarteri made his debut from the bench. After just nine minutes, it was Kelly's beautifully weighted forward ball that found Ricketts and he in turn advanced forward before delivering a neat finish to give United the lead. The keeper beat away a powerful strike from Julian Joachim and a Kelly cross caused havoc as a Swindon defender headed it on to the bar. Jamie McMaster was unlucky not to get his first goal for the club when, after great work from Pugh, his goal-bound shot hit Ricketts and was hacked to safety. It was a first half which showed United's inefficiency at killing off inferior opposition. There were fine performances by Kelly and Kilgallon, with Spring also impressive, while Gregan moved one match closer to match fitness.

After being cannon fodder in the first half, Swindon came out for the second half meaning business. Parkin fluffed a good chance before Sullivan got down well to a low drive from O'Hanlan. However, although Swindon pressed hard, they did not have the class to penetrate the United rearguard and there were no dramas like the previous season as United eased through 1-0 for their third win in four games and their sixth clean sheet in ten games.

For the Friday night Elland Road encounter with high flying Sunderland there was a debut for loan signing Brett Ormerod, who partnered Brian Deane up front in place of McMaster and Ricketts. Crainey returned at left back in place of Kilgallon, while Richardson and Wright returned in place of Joachim and Spring in midfield. There was a minutes silence prior to the kick-off to mark the passing of former United Manager and Sunderland player Brian Clough.

Captain Paul Butler led by example with good assistance from Clarke Carlisle and Sean Gregan. A disallowed goal and a missed penalty proved costly as United were beaten for the first time in the season at Elland Road. Brian Deane had what looked a perfectly good goal disallowed and Brett Ormerod should have done better with the penalty, but on balance Sunderland were the better team and deserved their victory with the first goal conceded by United in open play this season.

In the eleventh minute Danny Pugh had swung over a corner from the right and Deane rose majestically the head in unchallenged. There looked to be nothing wrong with it, but the referee blew for an infringement by Ormerod on the keeper, but on inspection of the replay it seemed that he had ruled incorrectly. Sunderland had the better of play and Sullivan and Butler denied Elliott while Robinson screwed a shot wide. Carter also went close as Sullivan pushed his powerful shot round the post which the referee inexplicably gave as a goal-kick. The winner came in the sixty-fifth minute when the Leeds defence was caughtnapping at a free kick. Robinson quickly took it to Elliott who held it up for Robinson to drive under the diving Sullivan with the defence in disarray.

With sixteen minutes to go, Ormerod wasted a great chance to draw United level, after ex-United loanee Stephen Caldwell slipped at a corner and by using Carlisle to break his fall he performed a perfect Rugby tackle and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. It was expected that Wright would take the resultant kick but Ormerod, keen to get off the mark, grabbed the ball and his weak kick was easily saved by Poom.

The miss was the final nail in the coffin as Sunderland easily coped with a Leeds Route One tactic of up and under. United were so frustrated at Poom's ability to handle the high ball that Butler showed his exasperation by felling the Sunderland keeper. United had struggled in the middle of the park and in marked contrast to the previous three outings where there had been chances aplenty, it was telling that no real chances had been created. Jermaine Wright had been quiet by his standards and the wide men Richardson and Pugh had little chance to shine and consequently were unable to feed the strikers. Gregan showed signs of gaining match fitness and settling in with a determined effort in which he broke up play well, but in the end there was nothing to show and United slipped to twelfth and would need to improve for their match up with Stoke City if they were not to lose touch with the leading bunch.

United were unchanged for the visit of the highly rated Stoke City, who were safely ensconced in one of the play-off positions in fourth spot. United had Gregan in command of the midfield ably backed up by Wright and Pugh who stood out, while Carlisle was strong in defence and Ormerod always caused problems for Stoke in attack. As a unit they were streets ahead of Stoke and dominated proceedings from go to woe, while Stoke seemed content to sit back and soak up the constant United pressure while hardly venturing into the Leeds half.

The shots on goal told the story, Leeds United eighteen, Stoke City two, with corners ten to one, and it was fair to say that Leeds would have spent seventy of the ninety minutes peppering the Stoke goal but the knock out punch was never delivered. The referee appeared to turn down a cast-iron penalty appeal from Brian Deane late in the game after a clash with Gerry Taggart, but otherwise the referee was quite happy to blow his whistle at regular intervals for petty infringements by Stoke, who used it as a ploy to slowdown the onslaught. Stoke sat so deep that United were able to show they are capable of some neat play on the deck when the opportunity arises. Unfortunately United's quality in the last third was not quite what it should have been and they were unableto find their way past what can only be described as a remarkable rearguard action.

Ormerod was very impressive up front and at times it was a nine man attack that United threw at Stoke, but it was still not enough to gain them the three points that their domination merited. As early as the eighth minute Ormerod was denied by a superb tackle from Taggart and the battering continued incessantly up to the ninety-fifth minute when Deane headed narrowly wide after a pinpoint cross from Ormerod. In between Leeds had shots blocked, knocked the ball wide, sent a couple of shots over the bar and saw at least two kicked off the line with the keeper beaten. Wright was probably the unluckiest in front of goal and was the victim of a double block in the sixtieth minute after De Goey flapped hopelessly at an Ormerod cross. Ormerod showed no fear of running at defenders and was subject to rough house treatment throughout. With Kelly and Crainey prepared to shoot from distance, Carlisle forcing corners and a downward header from Butler was scrambled to safety as the United defence showed that they were trying to get in on the scoring act also. Even with five minutes injury time United still couldn't penetrate the Stoke defence and the game ended 0-0 and United dropped to fifteenth but, goals apart, their confidence was sky high.

Danny Cadamartei was sold to Sheffield United for £50,000 and once again United were unchanged for their visit to Cardiff City in their Ninian Park bear-pit. United emerged with a second 0-0 draw in two games but this time the boot was on the other foot as Cardiff missed a penalty and then hit the bar three times in the second half, as United held on to complete their eighth clean sheet of the season. Played in front of a sell-out 17,000 crowd, 5,000 above their average, Cardiff rose to the occasion and played well above their relegation zone status. The pressure-cooker atmosphere also got to the referee and he handed Cardiff a generous penalty, when McAnuff tumbled under pressure from Crainey. Fortunately Sullivan was equal to the task and was able to save the tame kick with his legs.

While Cardiff employed the big kick at every opportunity, United were content to play controlled football even though there was very little spark. United's wide men struggled against two uncompromising full backs and Ormerod and Deane were well held by the Cardiff central defenders, even though their tactics and tackles were not always legal. A Jermaine Wright corner was flicked on by Brian Deane and Clarke Carlisle's bullet header was somehow cleared off the line, in the best opportunity of the first half. There were few excuses three minutesinto the second half for United failing to take the lead. Danny Pugh found Jermaine Wright with a delightful pass down the left but Ormerod could not apply the finishing touch to his pinpoint cross from close range. This spurred Cardiff to greater efforts and with Carlisle outstanding at the back, with solid assistance from Butler, United did manage to weather the storm but only just, as they were forced to defend deeper and deeper. Parry and McAnuff both went close before Cardiff upped the pace and hit Leeds with the final onslaught. Campbell turned a Perry shot against the woodwork before substitute Jerome repeated the feat, when he smashed a shot against the bar, before McAnuff was the next to rattle the Leeds crossbar. The goalless draw saw United slip to sixteenth position but with only one defeat in seven games the record looked good, if you disregarded that they had managed only seven goals in nine games, and they have failed to score in 270 minutes of football. It was hardly promotion form and a quality striker was clearly a priority.

Kilgallon and Walton replaced the injured Crainey and Wright, while Ricketts was in for Deane up front, for the Elland Road clash with Preston North End. United had already made two bids for David Healy the Preston striker and although they had been turned down there were strong rumours that he was bound for United and that he had made his last appearance for the Lancastrians.

It was surprising that he played, as his appearance in the game was not expected, as it would be his 150th for the club and triggered a £100,000 payment to his former club Manchester United. Not surprisingly he was the centre of attention and after being substituted after seventy-five minutes the Leeds fans chanted his name and bizarrely he responded with a cheeky wave from the dug-out. While he was on the pitch, the diminutive Northern Ireland International striker showed enough quality touches to underline why Leeds are so keen to prise him away from Deepdale.

He was not, however, the star of the show. That accolade rested firmly on the shoulders of Danny Pugh, who is fast becoming a firm favourite with the crowd. Having arrived as a left back, he had adapted well to the wide left midfield role and in the game was once again very impressive and was at the very core of everything that was good about United. He was the danger man with a tremendous individual display, and his probing and intelligent runs were rewarded by scoring the winner after seventy-nine minutes. United had gone fully seven hours since they had last scored and when Pugh rifled home from close range it ended a barren run which had spanned a full 430 minutes.

Ormerod impressed also, being involved in the lead up to the goal,but helimped out of the action after colliding with the goalpost. Ricketts was adisappointment and was replaced by Deane on the hour mark and it was no co-incidence that the new twin spearhead was the impetus for the breaking of the barren run. The squad featured four teenagers, as Aaron Lennon came off the bench and three other players were under the age of 22. Jermaine Wright was sorely missed. Sean Gregan was the only experienced midfielder United had on show, but Pugh and Walton were willing workers and United's biggestthreat. It was they who carved out United's best chance of the first half when Walton broke up play and knocked the ball wide to Pugh but as he sent across a pinpoint cross Walton was unable to direct his header goalwards.

With Gregan being an ex-Preston player there seemed to be some angry verbal exchanges with the Preston bench which resulted in their Assistant Manager being given his marching orders, while on the pitch there were several personal battles and on one occasion two or three players were pushing and shoving even though the ball was not anywhere near. It added an extra edge and both teams had their chances in the second half with Etuhu missing a free header before Ormerod dispossessed a Preston defender and made good ground before laying it on for the impressive Pugh. Even though it wasn't the performance that the fans had hoped for it was three points which took United into tenth positionand extended the defensive non-conceding to 285 minutes, almost five hours since Neil Sullivan was last beaten.

There was further news on the proposed Casino at Elland Road. Stanley Leisure, UK's biggest casino operator, had acquired an option to purchase 2.8 hectares (7 acres) of land next to the Elland Road ground. Should planning permission and government deregulation of the gaming industry follow, it is thought a Las Vegas style Casino would be built by the end of 2007. It would create around 1,000 jobs and cost approximately £125 million to build. United were paid £5 million for the option and their association with the casino ceases with the sale of the land and there is no future profit sharing agreement or any further income to Leeds United once the sale is completed. "We have now received £5m from Stanley Leisure, which means we have managed to reduce Leeds United's debt burden from £103m the day the current board took over, to just over £30m." Mr Krasner said.

For the trip to second placed Reading, United started off unchanged and were off to a flyer as Simon Walton scored in the first minute. Facing a team who were sure to be in with a shout in the final reckoning at the end of the season, a defiant Leeds stood firm to collect a well deserved point from their trip to Madejski Stadium.

Kilgallon stood out in a strong defence in which Sullivan and Carlisle also gave excellent performances. Reading were a lively outfit but United started and finished the stronger of the two teams and could easily have come away with all three points after a spirited performance. The hosts played some very good football and showed all the hallmarks of a team who would be challenging for promotion, but United were able to soak up the pressure and but for a stunning last minute save by the Reading keeper would have won the contest. Ormerod and Ricketts both deserved praise for their work-rate and all out effort. It was Ormerod who created the goal for Walton with a delightful cross after he had made space for himself on the right and Walton could not believe the amount of space he was allowed as he made no mistake with a close range header to give United a shock lead.

It wasn't until just on half-time that Reading were able to level matters and United showed great character by fighting back in the second half. The Reading midfield duo had played together since they were juniors at Arsenal and their understanding showed, while they also had two players on the flanks whoshowed plenty of quality and United spent much of the opening period on the back foot as a result. Kilgallon did extremely well considering he was up against one of Reading's better players and kept him neatly in check, while Kelly made some timely blocks and Carlisle was outstanding as he and Butler stood firm against Reading's strong front pairing. Sullivan was busy throughout and was his usual tidy self. It was not all one-way traffic and Ormerod had a low shot saved, while Ricketts showed great quality in controlling a looping ball from Gregan before firing narrowly wide. It looked like United were going to go into the break in front but luck was in Reading's favour. After Sullivan had done well to parry a close range header onto the post, unfortunately the rebound went straight to Owusu, who grabbed the equalizer. Reading came out firing on all cylinders for the second half and wasted three very good chances before United were able to claw their way back into the game.

Gregan, Richardson and substitute Spring all shot over as Leeds finished strongly, while at the other end Kitson failed to connect with the goal at his mercy. Leeds could have stolen it in stoppage time when Brian Deane met a Danny Pugh corner with a powerful header but somehow Hahnemann, the Reading keeper, reacted quickly to spread himself to beat the ball away. It was a quality save which gained his side a point. The crowd of over 22,000 contained 3,000 of the travelling faithful and they would have been pleased with the point but at the same time disappointed that it was not three as United dropped to thirteenth place, but maintained their run of only one defeat in the last eight games and hoping that the funds can be found to bring in the extra quality that is required for United to mount a serious challenge for promotion.

United were again unchanged as they moved to the south coast to the miniscule Withdean Stadium home of Brighton and they trotted out to the cheers of 600 of their supporters, severely restricted by the less than 7,000 capacity of the ground. Woeful could describe many things about this fixture. The ground, the referee and United's display!

Two controversial dismissals, an own goal and horrendous weather conditions all helped towards Unite's downfall at the worst stadium they will ever have to visit for a League game. The ground could not be blamed for the disastrous defeat nor could it be blamed for the indiscipline showed by certain Leeds players. It was a woefully abject performance by both teams and the normally reliable United defence gift wrapped the three points and contrived to provide Brighton with enough chances to win the game. By the time Clarke Carlisle had headed beyond Neil Sullivan in the fifty-ninth minute United had already made many misplaced passes and hashed clearances to give Brighton chances their play did not deserve. Indeed if Clarke Carlisle had not got the unfortunate touch it is hard to believe that either side would ever have scored.

Late substitute Aaron Lennon did add some life but it was one of those games where the result was inevitable. The referee seemed intent on booking as many Leeds players as he could. Kelly was the first, after Carlisle took a swipe at a Brighton player right under the referee's nose. Sullivan got booked for telling him that he had made a stunning save as the referee pointed for a goal kick. Kilgallon was twice carded and sent off for two fifty-fifty challenges, while Butler managed to earn a yellow and a straight red within a space of sixty seconds apparently for swearing at the lineswoman. It earned him a two match ban and he would be missed, as he was United's best defender by a country mile. Sullivan earned his pay with a couple of fine saves, Walton, Gregan and Ormerod seemed to try, Carlisle, Kilgallon, Richardson, and Pugh were below their usual form and Kelly and Ricketts must have been ashamed to pick up their pay packet! United slipped to seventeenth position and appeared to be well out of contention, but after such a display they must have been watching over their shoulders at the teams below.

United were severely hit by suspensions and injuries and Ormerod was not allowed to play. So a much changed team lined up for the trip along the south coast to Portsmouth. Sullivan; Kelly, Carlisle, Walton, Pugh; Richardson, Gregan, Spring, Simon Johnson; Deane, Joachim. Lennon came on for Joachim on 72 minutes, Keogh made his debut as replacement for Gregan, four minutes from time while Ricketts took Johnson's place a minute later.

The threadbare United restored some pride after the abysmal efforts at Brighton a couple of days before, and tore into a complacent EPL outfit as if they were out to avenge memories of a 6-1 thrashing sustained on their last visit to Fratton Park. When Portsmouth roared into a two goal lead on the half hour the travelling faithful could have been forgiven for thinking that they were in for a repeat. Thankfully they were wrong and Kelly made up for his prevous inept performance by pulling on the captain's armband and giving a fine inspirational performance, to lead by example. He linked up well with Richardson, crossed well and was a constant source of encouragement to the younger players. His only disappointing moment was when he was adjudged to have brought down the Portsmouth player for their match-winning penalty. It could have gone either way but on this night it went against him. Brian Deane was also inspirational and revelled in the stream of crosses and was always a threat, while Gregan provided a calming influence in midfield. Pugh and Walton both playing in their normal positions for the first time and were happy and comfortable after voluntarily playing out of position so long.

Maybe United started too cautiously and paid Portsmouth too much respect as the weakened eleven was subjected to incessant pressure for the first twenty minutes. Sullivan had already pulled off two blinding saves before he was left exposed and Kamara scored from a narrow angle after fourteen minutes. United reorganized themselves and battled their way back into the contest. Deane had a header saved and another went narrowly over the bar as he revelled in a stream of fine crosses from Kelly, while Richardson hammered a low ball across the goal but there was no one to supply the finishing touch. Leeds were playing some nice football with Simon Johnson, Spring and Gregan featuring strongly, but it was the home side that went ahead 2-0 on the half hour with the debatable penalty. But United finished the half strongly and reduced the arrears five minutes before the break. It came from the source they had revelled in all night, as Kelly found space on the right, and Deane met the cross to head home his first goal since returning to Elland Road, to bring United back into the game. The tall striker also had the ball in the net again early in the second half only to be ruled out by the linesman's flag. Leeds continued to press and Richardson was incheswide, Simon Johnson forced the keeper to a desperate save and Taylor seemed to handle in the box when pressured by Richardson. Ricketts and Keogh were thrown on as United employed four strikers in an effort to improve the score-line but it was to no avail and United went down 2-1 but could not have fought harder.

There was a fine debut for David Healy, who made his debut after being finally signed from Preston North End for a reported £650,000. He replaced Julian Joachim to partner Brian Deane in the strike force, while Kilgallon returned to central defence after suspension with Walton moving back into midfield at the expense of Spring. The League leaders Wigan Athletic proved to be a class act with Bullard and Mahon running the show from midfield. The quality that oozed through the Wigan team as they eased to victory showed exactly what it takes to mount an effort at CCCL level and was a lesson for all those connected with Leeds United and gap between the haves and have nots was glaringly apparent.They showed all the hallmarks of a team destined to lift silverware and take the quantum leap into the EPL.

Leeds were far from disgraced, but were just simply outclassed by their ruthless opponents. United more than matched them in the first half but twoquick-fire goals early in the second half settled the match as a competition.The United weaknesses were clearly exposed. But, the Wigan midfield was much more expensively assembled and clearly had far more experience than their United counterparts. Only Gregan was able to match them in the experience stakes, while Richardson and Walton are playing out of position and still learning their trade, and Simon Johnson had never played left midfield before.

Healy and Deane linked up well, with Healy quite happy to act as provider when needed. Kilgallon, playing for the first time this season in his preferred central defensive position, was outstanding in defence, with good support from Clarke Carlisle, and they snuffed out the dual threat of Ellington and Roberts, who were the league's most prolific scorers, so they can take great heart from their efforts. Although out of position, Simon Johnson was the pick of the midfield and combined well with Healy to give the Irish striker the chance to test the keeper. Gregan was fairly ineffective after coming off second best in a challenge from McCulloch on the half hour and was nursing a hip injury for the rest of the match. The incident caused a flair up with Carlisle getting booked and he was fortunate to stay on the pitch minutes later when he hauled back Roberts. Wigan seemed to be content to shoot from distance and this proved no problem to a goalkeeper of Sullivan's calibre.

Wigan took the lead almost immediately as the second half started, when Alan Mahon pounced with a lethal left foot strike after some neat build up which saw Leeds caught short. United replied with Healy being denied by a superb save by Filan, but the visitors showed their strength on the counter attack and hit Leeds with a sucker punch. Roberts fed the impressive Bullard and with Pugh and Kelly chasing shadows, Bullard took it on before delivering a lethal finish past a helpless Sullivan. A quality finish and a signal of their clinically execution of the difference in class, as United now occupied sixteenth spot, and bizarre as it may seem in terms of where the two teams were two years ago they were now far behind the likes of Wigan in terms of financial muscle.

Off the field there was movement in the financial field as a USA based consortium of Nova Financial Partners and Sebastien Sainsbury were reported to have made a bid to take over the club, while present incumbents headed by Chairman Gerald Krasner say they have yet to see the colour of their money, while there was talk of yet another consortium waiting in the wings. Should the US bid prevail it was mooted that they would be making money available to Kevin Blackwell to bolster his team.

The apparent shambles that is fast becoming Leeds United transferred itself on to the pitch as United turned on an unacceptably bad performance against Burnley at Elland Road, who had started the evening in a lower position than them.

Watched by the would-be new Chairman Sebastien Sainsbury they could hardly have inspired his confidence in them. Even anyone not having football knowledge would have known that the product would be hard to market and in a store would probably rot on the shelf. The incumbent board appeared to have little confidence in him, and his US backing team, putting their money where their mouths were, and were presently negotiating with a local consortium led by Norman Stubbs.

Butler returned to central defence with Kilgallon moving to left back and Pugh up to left midfield, with Simon Johnson being omitted. Joachim replaced Richardson at right midfield while Jermaine Wright was fit again and replaced Walton. It was worrying that the result was achieved with what was, on paper, possibly United's strongest team. The team looked a shadow of the side that had ground out a series of good results at the start of the season and it was hard to imagine that a much weaker team had fought so hard to give the League's best team a real run for their money only a couple of days previously.

Only Jermaine Wright, Julian Joachim and David Healy showed any fight and came out of the game with any credit. It all should have been so different, when United got off to the best possible start as Jermaine Wright celebrated his return by scoring after only 12 seconds, with Kilgallon's long pass being knocked on by Healy, for Wright to lash the ball out of the reach of the Burnley keeper. Unfortunately the rest of the United team were just not at the races and the performance was undoubtedly the worst of the season.

There was barely ten minutes on the clock when Clarke Carlisle had an aberration and sold Neil Sullivan short with a back pass. Sullivan did his best to rescue the situation but to no avail. United seemed to go to pieces and constantly gave the ball away cheaply with misplaced passes and aimless balls forward and it came as no surprise that Burnley took the lead on the half hour. Burnley whipped the ball into the box and after Sullivan could only parry a header, Richard Duffy slotted the ball in from the narrowest of angles. The second goal did spark Leeds momentarily into life and Deane had a couple of headers saved, Joachim hit the woodwork and Wright had an angled drive saved by the keeper. Blackwell tried to change things around by going to three at the back, but Leeds could never get back into the contest and were lucky that Burnley did not increase their lead as they contrived to miss three excellent second half chances. The final whistle was greeted by boos and jeers from some supporters who had come to expect better than being humiliated by the likes of Burnley on their own pitch and found United in eighteenth place and struggling.

John Oster had been signed on loan from Sunderland and he went straight into the team in place of Kilgallon, playing on the right flank, with Healy on the left flank and Pugh dropping to left back for the visit to Deepdale and David Healy's quick return to play against his former employers, Preston North End.

United completed the double over their Lancastrian foes and, unrecognizable from embarrassing defeats to struggling Brighton and Burnley, turned on a power performance and give their most comprehensive display of the season to overwhelm the home team.

They produced a scintillating first half performance and were deservedly 3-0 to the good at the break. Two goals came from David Healy, less than two weeks after leaving Preston, and his contribution was outstanding as Leeds played the ball on the deck and moved it quickly. But it was not just the David Healy show, as there were outstanding displays all across the park. The back four were solid and formed the foundation which saw the midfield and forward line run riot. Gregan, a former Preston favourite, was given a standing ovation by the crowd as he took the field and was at the hub of a stronger, more experienced, United midfield, which allowed Wright and Walton to be more adventurous and it had been no coincidence that Jermaine Wright played far better when Gregan was behind him and it was he who ran the show in midfield. His passing and vision was excellent and it was he who created two of the four United goals.

Deane's height was used to good effect with Oster and Healy working the flanks to give United width. Two of the goals were from set pieces and straight from the training ground. The first came after just twelve minutes when Deane stooped at the far post to head home a Wright corner. Three minutes later it was 2-0, Pugh delivered a free-kick deep into the Preston box and, with Carlisle unsettling the Preston defence, Healy pounced to shoot the loose ball past the keeper. Leeds were playing superb football and went close as Deane headed a pinpoint Wright cross inches over. It got even better as, with Wright again thearchitect; he played a long ball forward to Healy who showed great composure to hold off a defender before delivering another lethal strike, just prior to the break.

Preston came out fired up for the second half and Cresswell reduced the arrears after fifty-four minutes but United weathered the storm and came back to grab a fourth after seventy-two minutes, when Oster's deep cross was beautifully laid back by Deane for Walton who scored from close range. Leeds United fan Cresswell did get a second for Preston seven minutes from time but it was too little too late and United cruised to a well deserved victory which saw United move up to fifteenth place.

After the game there was an embarrassing Radio spat between a present Director, Melvin Helme, and the would be future chairman Sebastien Sainsbury the gist of which was put up or shut up as the protracted talks were inconclusive.

It was reported on Friday 12th November that the club had announced that negotiations for the takeover by the American-backed consortium had ended after a 1pm deadline had passed and that Elland Road was to be sold under a sale and lease back deal. Mr Krasner also revealed that the club's board was in "advanced discussions" with a local consortium. United called a press conference at Elland Road that afternoon to clarify the latest developments in the Sainsbury takeover saga. A joint announcement by the club and Nova Financial Partners earlier in the week had stated that proof of funding had been established. Leeds's urgency for completion was prompted by the need to pay back the latest instalment of the loan owed by the current board to Jack Petchey, or trigger a £2 million penalty clause.

Mr Krasner said: "Leeds United can confirm that current negotiations for a takeover of the club have ceased with Nova Financial Partners. We can also confirm that today we are in the final stages of completing the sale and lease back of Elland Road." Mr Krasner, who said the sale of Elland Road should be finalised later that day, would not say how much the deal was worth but confirmed that it meant the loan owed by the board to Jack Petchey would be paid off in full. The Leeds board, fearing that the Nova deal might not go through, had also been in talks with a local consortium believed to be headed by local businessman Norman Stubbs. Mr Krasner said: "We are in advanced discussions with a local consortium which we hope to finish over the coming weeks."

United unsurprisingly were unchanged for the visit to Portman Road, home of second placed Ipswich Town.United could have won and should have drawn but lost 1-0, as a single scrappy goal settled an encounter which Leeds dominated for long periods and turned in a performance which made a mockery of the huge difference between the two teams in the league table. At the end of the game Ipswich shared top spot with Wigan and were undefeated in ten games, while Leeds sank to nineteenth and had won just one game of the last five. It would have been hard for a neutral to decide which was the side riding high in the League and which was on its knees at the bottom, but Leeds, apart from a twenty minutes spell in the second half either side of the decisive goal dominated the contest. They created plenty of opportunities, particularly in the first half and their display could have been said to be better than their display in the same stanza at Preston given the relative positions of Preston and Ipswich. The vital difference was that they hit the net three times at Preston but in this case could not register a legal score. A couple of marginal offside decisions proved decisive, while the Ipswich keeper made several good saves to thwart them.

Gregan was in fine form and was United's outstanding player but there was a subdued and substandard display from Jermaine Wright on his first return to his former club, which was marked by a rough ride from his former fans who turned on their former favourite. It clearly affected his play and while keeping Ipswich danger-man Horlock relatively quiet for long periods he made a rash challenge on Wilnis, as his frustrations got the better of him, and he was replaced by Joachim after seventy-four minutes. Gregan broke up play well and his distribution was first class. He was the platform on which Leeds built attack after attack. David Healy and John Oster were again key figures on the flanks, causing trouble throughout, while Walton provided good support down the middle for Brian Deane. It was the positive approach shown by United and if it could be repeated they would collect more points than they would drop. Indeed it took only fifty-five seconds before they had the ball in the net, but the effort was ruled offside. Gregan started the move which Deane knocked on and Healy showedgreat natural instinct to rattle the ball wide of the keeper. The dreaded flag was up in the air again moments later when Walton and Oster combined to send Healy en route for goal. Oster had an effort beaten away by the keeper, who was again on hand to stop a looping header from Gregan from finding the net. Ipswich offered little in reply and it was 35 minutes before Sullivan was called into action as Bent headed straight into his hands.

Ipswich switched tactics in the second half to match those of Leeds and with three up front they had their best spell, which featured the only goal of the game. There was a bad misunderstanding between Kelly and Carlisle, and Bent took advantage to score the only goal of the game, six minutes into the second half. Sullivan made a valiant attempt to stop it and it was debatable whether he had control of the ball when Bent kicked the ball out of his hands. The goal rattled Leeds and it took them a while to regain their composure but could have stolen the game as substitute Joachim headed down a Pugh corner, but after a neat turn, Deane was unable to apply the finishing touch from close range and the keeper spread himself well to save.

United were again unchanged, despite rumours that they were in the market for Crystal Palace midfielder Shaun Derry, for the visit of Queens Park Rangers to Elland Road. The hapless visitors went away on the receiving end of a 6-1 drubbing. It was a result that has been long coming after some fine performances for little reward against classy opposition. Brian Deane, who had spent much of the season ploughing a lone furrow up front for scant reward, was finally rewarded for his perseverance, while his team-mates also rose to the occasion by turning in their most complete display to date. It was a surreal afternoon, Deane even had a further goal disallowed and had picked up the match ball by half-time with his first hat-trick in a Leeds shirt, but it should not have been surprising given the United recent performances.

United now had quality in abundance and though consistency would be the key, they had now strung together three consecutive displays where they had looked lively, inventive and creative. Quite rightly, Deane would take the plaudits for his goal-scoring feat, but the other scorers Healy and Wright also turned in high-quality performances. Healy’s finish for the first goal on nine minutes was pure class. Wright got the third goal after twenty-three minutes and it was fitting reward for his tenacity after a substandard performance at Ipswich and he revelled in the open spaces of Elland Road and with his neat touches and quick-thinking he was back to his best. Oster had really impressed in the three games since arriving on loan and had provided the width required for United to play with a three pronged attack. He had the rare ability to beat his man for pace and skill and if he progressed at present rate he would no doubt be signed permanently. Walton and Gregan were also key players as United pummeled high flying Rangers into submission.

Complete team performances are rare, but this was just about as good as it gets. After conceding a goal in less than two minutes Leeds went on the rampage and rattled five past their bewildered opponents before half time. When Healy produced an exquisite finish after good work by Kelly and Deane to level the scores no one would have suspected the massacre that was to follow. United went ahead on thirteen minutes when Walton back-heeled to Wright and Deane was on hand to convert the cross from close range. Ten minutes later Deane headed towards the box and a Rangers defender could only help it towards goal and Wright reacted quickly to poke the ball home at the second attempt. Rangers were in disarray and United were on the warpath and wrapped up the game with two goals in a minute just before half-time. The first came when Deane finished off a move involving Oster and Wright and then the big striker completed his hat-trick by converting a Kelly cross.

The second half was always going to be an anti-climax and when Healy missed a penalty following a foul on Walton it seemed the crowd's cries of "We want six" were going to be ignored. But Deane answered their call when he was on hand to capitalize on a defensive error. The result could have been wider but 6-1 was good enough as United edged up into seventeenth position.

Once again United were able to field an unchanged team for the visit of Watford to Elland Road. The expected deal for Shaun Derry fell through, embarrassingly after United had paid for his medical, and there was talk of boardroom unrest but potential investor Norman Stubbs is due to return from a Caribbean holiday and things could be resolved. After the run of good form culminating in the 6-1 thrashing of Queens Park Ranger expectations were high and it was once again the case of "after the Lord Mayor's Show" as United were lucky to scramble a 2-2 draw. United twice came from behind but it was a game that neither teams deserved to lose. United played some good football at times but paid a heavy price for their generosity after twice handing Watford the lead.

After nine minutes no one picked up Dyer as he headed in at the far post and in the seventy-first minute the visitors second was right out of the "how not to defend" manual. Pugh sold Gregan short with a bad pass which left him in difficulties, he compounded the problem by trying to play a shocking back pass to the keeper which hit Butler and was cannoned straight into the path of Dyer, who did not look a gift horse in the mouth. In Gregan's defence it was his only mistake in an otherwise good personal performance as he patrolled in front of the back four, in a game where the forwards took the eye and defences looked anything but stable. United were very generous in the firsttwenty minutes and allowed Watford to create several good chances, and before the goal Sullivan had already pulled off a fine save to deny Chambers and after the goal made a fine stop from close range to thwart Dyer. Midway through the half United came to life and equalized on twenty-one minutes as Deane held up a long ball from Butler and Wright was on hand to thump the ball home. Deane was again the key figure but unlike in the previous fixture he was unable to get his nameon the score-sheet. Oster was the chief provider with a stream of crosses and Wright turned in his usual impressive, hard working performance to be the pick of the Leeds team.

In the first half Gregan went close as the keeper pushed his effort over the bar but the second half was not so impressive with Healy having a header brilliantly saved by the keeper before Dyer was handed the gift wrapped goal with less than twenty minutes to go. It looked as if Watford would take the full points but three minutes before the final whistle the industrious Wright sent a pinpoint cross for Clarke Carlisle to head in at the far post to give United a deserved draw. It moved them up to fifteenth on the ladder.

There were two team changes for the visit to Millmoor and bottom of the table Rotherham United, who were still looking for their first win after twenty games. Kilgallon replaced Pugh at left back and Ricketts came in for Deane up front.

The turmoil off the field continued with Sebastien Sainsbury returning to make a bid of his own, but like his bid with the American Consortium the Directors thought it was "A Mickey Mouse" bid and placed no faith in it, they seemed more interested in the Norman Stubbs bid. A tirade from Gerald Krasner was seen live on Sky prior to the kick off when he was interviewed on the matter. He was very scathing in his appraisal of the bid and said they were wasting his time as they could not be relied on. Not the sort of thing to fill the fans with expectation of future stability. So not only did they become the victims of the first side to lose to Rotherham but became the unwanted victims of yet another smear campaign after Sebastien Sainsbury reappeared with rank bad timing to make yet another of his offers to "buy" the club. The off field uncertainty, created by a man who had already broken promise after promise, was bad enough,but the result was just plain embarrassing.

It was made worse as Leeds totally outplayed Rotherham for the majority of the game and yet failed to beat a team that was within four games of gaining the unwanted mantel of the Football League's all time record for consecutive games without a victory. Rotherham showed why they had such a bad record and really didn't look capable of stopping the run and in truth United should have won by an avalanche of goals. They battered Rotherham from the off and could have been 3-0 up before the crowd had time to sit down. Clarke Carlisle hit the woodwork three times in the first six minutes and such was United's speed of the early passing and movement that it looked like there could only be one outcome. Carlisle limped off in the fifteenth minute he was replaced by Richardson who took the left back spot with Matthew Kilgallon taking the vacant spot in central defence, but still United attacked incessantly and it was men against boys.

David Healy was the standout and never stopped, while Simon Walton was always a problem bursting forward from midfield. Kelly and Oster linked up well and Rotherham simply could not handle the constant surge forward. However United couldn't maintain that pace and after not being able to score before the hour mark anxiety set in. The speed and intensity waned although Healy was still threatening. Ricketts slowly drifted out of the clash and as the clock wound down Leeds became increasingly sloppy in possession and started to give the ball away and the amount of pressure on the Rotherham goal subsided. Ricketts should have converted a Healy centre and there was no one on hand to put in an Oster cross. The longer it went the more worried United and their fans became.

After seventy-seven minutes the inevitable happened. The Leeds defence allowed Barker to back heel across goal in a rare Rotherham attack and McIntosh was on hand to rifle the ball home from close range. United then responded by throwing men forward. Joachim came on for Walton and Butler pushed up as they became increasingly desperate as Rotherham got every player back in defence. The final whistle came and a broken and despondent United trooped off with heads bowed and totally demoralized. They slipped to sixteenth.

Deane returned in place of Ricketts as United faced Leicester City at Elland Road and once again there was another match where they promised much but achieved little. The off field problems and uncertainty, the talk of takeovers, cash flow and potential administration seemed to not only affect the players but also the fans mindsets as the fans, albeit a minority, turned on the players and vented their anger at another show of how to lose a football match without really trying.

They had plenty of possession, plenty of effort, domination in patches against a very average side but ended up once again with nothing to show for their efforts. Two soft goals gifted victory to Leicester and they tumbled to their fourth home defeat of the season. Leicester took the lead two minutes into the second half when United had several chances to clear their lines and failed to do so and paid the price. There appeared to be a blatant hand ball by a Leicester player, which was missed by the referee, but that could not be offered as an excuse for bad defending. The second goal was even more calamitous. An innocuous cross from Gillespie was met by Kelly, who, instead of clearing, headed it past his surprised keeper to score a goal that most strikers would have been proud of. That was in the seventy-seventh minute and it killed off the game for United and the fans voiced their disapproval of the woeful defending. Just as at Rotherham they had played some neat football early on, carved out good openings, failed to take any of them, then lost their grip and became anxious and finally conceded goals from defensive failures and became more desperate and wilder in their attempts to retrieve the game. As they chased the game Healy and Oster had to drop deeper and deeper in search of the ball and Deane, who missed one gilt-edged chance in the second half, was left to plough a lone furrow upfront. The more the game wore on the more the midfield struggled and as Gregan started to struggle so did his collegues as most moves had started with him. Healy had gone close in the first half but the Leicester defence marshalled by Dion Dublin held the United forwards in check. Healy was also unlucky to have the ball in the net after nineteen minutes but it was ruled out for offside. The keeper also made a blinding save to deny Oster. United also had two penalty appeals turned down. Several headers went narrowly wide and Carlisle had a header blocked on the line and Butler also went close. It mattered little as the scoreboard said 0-2 and United slipped to nineteenth on the ladder.

With takeover and investment talks moving at a slow pace D-Day was looming ever closer for the Elland Road club. The next crucial date was 15th December 2004 when £ 1 million was due to the Inland Revenue. If United failed to meet the payment the Inland Revenue could be able to consider their options and could take the first steps of putting the club into administration. This would have entailed issuing a statutory notice of non-payment followed by a formal winding up petition against the club. The whole procedure could take up to eight weeks and there would have to be proof to the courts that the club could not pay its debts. Leeds still owed the Inland Revenue £4 million in staggered payments and administration could lead to the restructuring of that and other debts. Creditors usually favour a period of administration as they usually feel they have more chance of getting their money back.

Elland Road had been sold to Jacob Adler and was subject to a twenty-five year leaseback agreement, under the terms of the agreement the club had to pay the first three months rent upfront. Unless an investment deal was struck soon the spectre of administration was an issue that would not leave Leeds United alone, and, while ever it remained a possibility the uncertainty would remain with the club.

Bricks and Mortar had been sold, training pitches had been disposed of on a sale/leaseback basis, staffing had been reduced, costs had been slashed and many players had been offloaded. Most of the money raised had gone in servicing debt, particularly after the long-term season ticket did not find popularity. Since then United had been at a virtual standstill. They were currentlyin talks with one group of investors in the hope of avoiding administration. The Norman Stubbs Consortium, the group closest to completing a deal, were determined to come up with a rescue passage. They were in the throes of questioning the club's financial position before formalizing the offer. The Accountants were expected to play a key role as it would not make sense to "throw good money after bad" from the investors' point of view. It could cost £10 million to safeguard the long-term future of the club, which had no tangible assets. United insisted that the deal was making progress and remained confident about their chances of securing the investment.

The American Consortium of Nova initially offered a way out, until they failed to offer firm proof that they had the £25 million available to pump into the cash deficient club. London-based Sebastien Sainsbury was still hovering in the background amid claims that he was about to launch a rescue bid, but the entrepreneur might have found that, even if he conjured up the funds, £25 million may not have been enough to achieve his aims of buying back Elland Road and Thorpe Arch and still have had left enough disposable cash to lift the business.

Chairman Krasner was defiant that Leeds wouldn't fall into administration but unless a substantial investment was secured in the near future the consequences were dire. Should administration happen the scenario was that Leeds would lose ten points, in accordance with the new Football League Rules, and the club would be immediately plunged into a relegation battle. The administrators would assume control of the club, the first step being a creditors' meeting to discuss the proposals under which the club have been placed in administration. The ultimate aim of the administrators would be to sell the club as a going concern, providing the majority of the creditors approve the proposals. The administratorwould be responsible for the day-to-day running of the club, coupled with the search for investment to safeguard the longer term future of the business. Administration would continue for as long as the courts believed it was necessary.

Kilgallon moved across to replace Carlisle in central defence with Richardson coming in at left back while Pugh replaced young Walton in midfield for United's visit to the Boleyn Grounds at Upton Park, home of West Ham United. There was a late, late penalty from David Healy to secure United a point with almost the last kick of the game. It was only justice as United had previously seen two blatant penalties waved away. Equally West Ham could have felt aggrieved once and for once luck shone on United. The goal was just reward for United who had been more than a match for a team who occupy the upper echelon of the league and were being strongly tipped for promotion. It was vital that after winning only two from ten and losing two on the trot that United restored their fortunes before the Christmas games. United stuck to the system that had won against Queens Park Rangers and Preston North End and served them well against Ipswich, Watford and Rotherham and here again they looked strong and took the initiative.

Danny Pugh had a cross deflected to safety and Healy saw a shot parried by the keeper before being thwarted again by the keeper as he tried a chip. Brian Deane also had a good opportunity when he took advantage of a poor back-pass but his curling chip shot hit the top of the bar before bouncing to safety. Danny Pugh was hauled down by Anton Ferdinand just on half-time but the first blatant penalty was not acknowledged by the referee. At the other end Harewood miscued a header which cannoned off Kilgallon for Chadwick to score from close range after fifty minutes. Leeds played good football and made good build-ups on the floor rather than looking to the aerial presence of Deane. However as the game progressed the familiar anxiety set in, as Deane fired wide from close range after good work by Healy. They were denied a penalty when McMaster's cross was clearly handled by Powell in the box. Again the referee didn't see the incident. The Leeds players were about to complain to the referee when Healy took a tumble under pressure from Lomas and the referee pointed to the spot. It was just reward as Kilgallon stood out in defence ably assisted by Butler while Gregan, Pugh and Healy were the pick of the rest. United's position improved slightly to eighteenth as a result.

United were unchanged for the visit of Millwall to Elland Road and let a valuable win slip from their grasp. Jody Morris, who had failed to score in an eight month stint with United, wrecked United's hopes when he stepped up to convert a penalty with three minutes to go. To make matters worse he went on a long celebratory run taunting the home crowd with his hand cupped to his ear, in clear reference to the hostile reception he had received on his Elland Road return. It created a volatile atmosphere and later there were clashes in the streets between rival fans and police, as sounds of hatred filled the streets around the ground. It was an ill-deserved goal, as Leeds had been by far the better team, but as usual had failed to deliver the knock out blow. It was once again the old familiar scenario of Leeds dominating and then throwing the game away late in the game after they became frustrated by their inability to convert their many chances.

John Oster, who was by far United's best player, had given them the lead two minutes before the break with his first goal for the club. David Healy, Brian Deane and Frazer Richardson all went near to getting the crucial second goal but either could not hit the target or were thwarted by the keeper. Millwall were a physical side, who passed the ball well but they were totally unable to exert either of those skills on a game in which they were clearly second best. Butler and Kilgallon were buttresses in defence while Gregan had a good game in front of the back four. Kelly and Richardson often pressed forward and caused problems while Danny Pugh was his usual busy self in midfield, but Wright looked tired and jaded and was United's weak link. Oster caused mayhem all game and he was the main danger to Millwall while Healy posed problems on the left and Deane was his usual aerial presence while Sullivan had little to worry about in goal.

In the second half Oster had a low drive saved, Healy had a shot on the turn which flew narrowly wide while Richardson hit a curling shot from 25 yards which was diverted for a corner. The penalty was the killer as Ifill took a tumble in the box under pressure from Kelly. After United profiting from a fifty-fifty decision at West Ham this week it was their turn to accept the referees fine line decision that had dire consequences.

The goal was greeted by groans from the frustrated home crowd and United had now won only two of the last thirteen League matches and with Gregan and Walton picking up their fifth bookings the side was likely to be depleted in the near future, but they were six points above the drop zone and ten off the play-off spots in nineteenth position, but anything could happen, in a Division where each team could defeat the others on a given day. Nothing could be taken for granted.

United travelled to the Stadium of Light for their encounter with high-flying Sunderland, without the services of the suspended Gregan and Walton and on loan Oster unable to play against his present employers, with Lennon and Spring deputizing. After weeks of playing well and not getting the results United were finally rewarded with a 3-2 victory. Although threadbare and young United showed more enterprise and ability than their hosts and for the first time in weeks they got the result their endeavours deserved. They also won against the odds and again suffered on the wrong end of a dubious penalty.

Aaron Lennon gave United the lead on the half hour when he scored his first senior goal converting coolly after good work from Deane and Healy. The penalty came just two minutes before half time when Spring was adjudged to have pushed Whitehead. Spring certainly raised his hand but Whitehead seemed to go to ground far too easily. So it was all square at the break, but United had been by far the better team. It came as no surprise when Deane rose majestically to head home a Healy cross just on the hour mark. It was a fitting reward as he was a constant cause of panic for Sunderland with ex-Leeds player Caldwell and Breen just unable to cope with his presence. Paul Butler and Matthew Kilgallon were dominant at the back and it was fifty-three minutes before Sunderland threatened the Leeds goal from open play. Kelly and Richardson were strong at the back and Jermaine Wright adapted well to Gregan’s position just in front of the back four and Pugh and Spring were industrious in the box-to-box midfield work. Out wide Lennon and Healy had far too much pace for the sluggish Sunderland backs and were always dangerous but Deane was the star and a nightmare for the Sunderland rearguard.

All in all it would be unfair to single out any players as it was United's most complete performance of the season. Joachim came on as substitute for Lennon after seventy-eight minutes and was soon in the action and put the icing on the cake when he hammered home after good work by Wright. Ricketts replaced Deane with four minutes to go and there was also a debut for Martin Woods who replaced Healy almost on full time. Arca converted a curling free-kick deep into injury time but the score flattered Sunderland who were by far the inferior team. So at last United had achieved an outstanding victory, which only served to emphasise the relative closeness of the Division where form changed on a week to week basis, but for now it edged United up to sixteenth place.

Gregan was back in place of Spring in his usual position in front of the back four with Wright pushing further up in midfield as United completed a double over Plymouth Argyle at Elland Road.It was their first home win since November and gave them the maximum six points from the Christmas fixtures.

The 34,500 crowd was swelled by 1,500 Plymouth fans that, incredibly, had made the long journey from Devon and they urged their favourites on but while some might argue they deserved something for their gutsy performance it was fitting that United should get the points as they had not profited from several recent good performances. Having said that, the United performance was nowhere near the class which they had shown in those previous encounters and they had to scrap and slug their way and it was a reward for them and their fans that the emerged victorious.

There were times when the midfield struggled and lost possession in vital areas, but they stuck at it and in the end prevailed as they showed character and will to win in abundance. Plymouth flooded the midfield with five men and this made it difficult for United to get their 'Sunderland aces' wing combination of Lennon and Healy and aerial threat Deane into the game. It did not make for pretty viewing and the first half ranked with the worst for the season.

United's hopes sank as the injured Deane did not reappear after the break and was replaced by the diminutive Joachim. It was one of those games where you wonder if a goal will ever come. It did in the first minute of the second half as Richardson fed Healy and his low cross was bundled into the net by hapless defender Gilbert and served to ease the tension. Danny Pugh, who had crawled out of his sickbed to turn in another hard-working performance, played in Healy, who in turn played an inch perfect pass for the arriving Jermaine Wright, who had timed his run to perfection to beat the off side but watched in amazement as his shot hit the inside of the post and bounced to safety. The near miss seemed to stir Plymouth and it was United's turn to defend as Argyle surged forward in search of an equaliser. United, with Wright and Pugh dropping back to supplement the defence ensured that Argyle found the route to goal securely locked. With memories of conceding a late goal against Millwall still fresh in their memories United did not panic and were rewarded with an excellent goal from Healy, who latched on to a long through ball and being played onside by an injured prostrateArgyle defender he scored with a sublime chip from 30 yards just before full time. Six minutes into injury time Plymouth reduced the arrears but it came too late and United moved up to fourteenth place nine points off the play off spot and nine above the drop zone. Butler was a rock in defence but all the defence had good games in another all round team performance.

So ended a year, that United would sooner forget, whether it be on or off the field, unfortunately the instability off the field had also been reflected by inconsistent performances on it. Truly it was a year to forget.

There was a debut for loan signing from Leicester City, striker Nathan Blake, in place of the injured Brian Deane and a place on the substitute bench and an half hour run for Icelandic international signing Gylfi Einarsson, who has had to wait since October for his clearance from Norwegian club Lillestrom, against Crewe Alexandra at Elland Road. Any hope of stringing together a reasonable run was spoilt as the visitors went away 2-0 victors leaving United to ponder why once again they had lost a match which they had dominated.

Crewe packed their midfield and frustrated United but it was the home team that dominated and had the bulk of the chances. Aaron Lennon seemed to carry all United’s attacking hopes on his young shoulders, as Healy and Blake were largely subdued. There were several scouts at the game and it could not have done his future playing prospects any harm, but it does raise the spectrum of losing young stars like himself, Simon Walton, Frazer Richardson, Danny Pugh, Matthew Kilgallon and even Scott Carson who may be sold to ease the financial burden. Lennon was the only danger Crewe faced and he time and again breezed past Crewe defenders only to see no takers for his crosses or the keeper equal to his shots on goal. In fact Crewe were deeply indebted to their keeper, Clayton Ince, who was their star performer and saved them on countless occasions.

Crewe opened the scoring in the sixteenth minute when Lunt, who had a fine game in midfield, sent a corner right on to the head of the unmarked Dean Ashton who had the space to convert at the near post. It was a bad goal to give away but Leeds rallied. Healy had a shot deflected to safety, Pugh volleyed wide and Lennon had a shot saved by the keeper as Crewe pulled nine and ten players back to defend their lead with disciplined defence. Lennon again went close after the interval and Pugh almost got on the end of one of the youngsters crosses, but it was Crewe who scored next and it just about killed off the game as a contest. The home defence failed to deal with an Ashton flick-on from a Lunt free-kick and Rivers made no mistake as he rammed the ball into the net.

Lennon, Kilgallon and Richardson attempted to inject some life to the later proceedings but even the introduction of Einarrson had no effect on the Crewe defence or the score-sheet. Einarsson replaced the ineffective Pugh on sixty-two minutes and Wright, who also had had a shocker, was finally replaced by Walton after seventy-two minutes. To make matters worse Paul Butler received his second yellow card of the day when he hauled down Varney and the consequent red meant that he would miss the next two games. Simon Walton rattled the bar in the dying moments and Healy forced Ince to a last-minute save to keep his goal intact as United stayedfourteenth but had again lowered their flag to inferior opposition.

United fielded their youngest side yet, as some changes were forced and others were positional, as they visited Highfield Road, home of Coventry City. Gary Kelly was replaced by Simon Walton, with Richardson switching to right back and Pugh going to left-back and Walton into his place in midfield. Clarke Carlisle came into central defence for the suspended Paul Butler. They finished the festive season on a high note with another fine victory, as United completed another double at their expense.

After their poor showing against Crewe the strikers and midfield had plenty to prove, and this they did with a much enhanced performance. Blake and Healy buzzed with renewed vigour and each was rewarded with fine strikes. The only downside was the dismissal of Clarke Carlisle after being twice debatably shown a yellow card. His dismissal sparked a desperate rearguard action in the last few minutes as Coventry searched for an equalizer. United dictated play for three-quarters of the game and were far more convincing winners than the 2-1 score-line suggested.

Sullivan was almost redundant; the central defensive partnership of Carlisle and Kilgallon was tremendous while Richardson and Pugh were neat and tidy and snuffed out any threat down the flanks. Gregan was commanding in front of the back-four. Walton worked tirelessly, and he and Wright showed neat touches. Lennon was very tricky on the right and seemed to cause all teams trouble with his pace and crosses. Blake was a strong presence and became a firm fan favourite when, in the twenty-eighth minute, he hit a real net-buster to open the scoring with his first goal for the club. He was so pleased with the strike that he wanted to hug everyone in the ground but the referee booked him before he had completed the first few rows. The referee had a penchant for flashing the yellow cards at any remote opportunity, and this was to be Carlisle's problem later in the game, as he booked players with little provocation, but gay abandon. United doubled their lead after the hour mark as Healy struck. Blake and Richardson were involved in some lovely build-up play before Wright intelligently fed Healy who cut inside a back-pedalling defender and bent a left-footed shot beyond the reach of the diving keeper.

This raised chants from the home crowd for the dismissal of their former Leeds boss Peter Reid. Not content with that they greeted the introduction of former Coventry favourite Julian Joachim for Blake in the seventy-eighth minute by vicious booing, which he answered in the best possible way, with two superb runs just to show what he is capable of. The home fans did respond when in the late flurry they had a glimmer of hope when they scored eight minutes from time after a corner was not cleared. The glimmer became larger as Carlisle was sent off two minutes later and United hung on grimly for the remaining six minutes and the inevitable injury time and Sullivan finally had to earn his wages with a fine save in the dying minutes.

It was United's third double of the season, a rare occurrence in recent seasons, but they stayed in fourteenth position and were happy to get three wins out of the last four.

In the FA Cup there was a visit to St Andrews to play EPL Club Birmingham City in the Third Round Tie. With the absence from suspension of both Butler and Carlisle, there was a return to the team for Michael Duberry, and Gary Kelly also returned with Richardson switching to left back and Pugh dropping to the bench. United slipped quietly out of the competition at the first hurdle for the third time in four years after failing to recover from a string of early set backs. They gifted two early goals and were never in the race after that, and try as they may, it was men against boys. The youngsters gave all they had and substitute Danny Pugh, Richardson and Kilgallon all had fine games against far more experienced opponents. The damage was done early in the game and by the time Duberry had limped out of the game after twenty-two minutes they were already 2-0 down and had to make their second reshuffle as Blake had already ruptured a hamstring and been replaced by Joachim minutes earlier, and now Pugh took Duberry's place as Gregan was pulled back into central defence with Pugh in midfield. United had hardly settled down before they found themselves chasing the game. Heskey tookadvantage of the Leeds defence being all at sea to chip Sullivan in the eleventh minute.

The second soon followed when Duberry, who had been recalled from a loan spell at Stoke City, was dispossessed in the middle of the field and Birmingham had a clear path to goal. It was to be Duberry's final game for Leeds and on his woeful presence in this game and his previous effort at Sheffield United he would not be missed. Although United battled well and often tested the Birmingham keeper there was always the impression that the hosts always had something in reserve and in the end, while Leeds possessed the hardest workers,Birmingham had the extra class that decided the tie. It was a different Leeds after the departure of Duberry as his replacement Danny Pugh totally revitalized United and maybe he was out to prove that he should have been in the starting eleven.

Healy, Kilgallon and Walton all had chances in the first half while the Birmingham Keeper Taylor pulled off a stunning double save to deny Richardson and Joachim early in the second half. He also stood tall to block a Lennon volley on the hour mark, but United were made to pay for their profligacy when Morrison provided Carter with the chance to score his second five minutes later. Later Wright and Lennon both went close but it was always going to be a bridge too far and Birmingham ran out 3-0 winners but the score flattered them.

Butler returned from suspension in place of Duberry, Joachim took the place of the injured Blake and Pugh regained his midfield spot as Gregan was ill and Wright slipped back into Gregan's place in front of the back four as United entertained Cardiff City at Elland Road. There was also a place on the bench for loan signing Leandre Griffit from Southampton, but he did not get a run.

It should have been a routine victory against a team sitting in the bottom four but it ended with United clinging on to secure a point. United ripped Cardiff apart for almost half an hour with some very entertaining football but then slowly lost their way as the game progressed and another controversial penalty handed Cardiff the opportunity to score a deserved equalizer. Simon Walton scored his first ever League goal at Elland Road after just fourteen minutes when he finished off a lovely move involving both Lennon and Healy and Leeds were in early control. That was as good as it got and, after threatening a rout and playing some great football, United slowly found themselves pegged back in a game they should have gone on to dominated. Wright, Pugh and Walton gradually lost the midfield and faded badly, while Lennon too was clearly not up to it and was replaced by Carlisle after 57 minutes. Six minutes earlier, Cardiff had drawn level from the penalty spot. It came in controversial fashion as Langley nudged the ball too far past Sullivan and then took a tumble over the keeper's body and hit the deck. Thorne gratefully accepted the gift and scored from the spot. It changed the complexion of the game and United really lost the plot from there on and it was only the visitors who looked capable of claiming the three points. Thorne had a couple of attempts to test Sullivan, Collins went close from a set piece and Inamoto brought out the best in Sullivan with an audacious chip from distance. United were solid in defence throughout and they formed a wall which never looked like being breached and the fans were left to ponder whether it had been a valuable point gained or two precious points dropped as United maintained fourteenth spot.

There was talk of administration and the possible deduction of ten points which, if implemented, would put United right in the relegation dogfight. On the financial front there was talk of Alan Leighton emerging as a key figure in the Leeds United rescue bid. While some might view this akin to putting Dracula in charge of the Blood Bank there was talk of him being part of the Norman Stubbs consortium according to some sources. Leighton supposedly tabled a bid for the club eleven months previous and this would be his second time of stepping out of the shadows to mount a rescue package for United. He had been Deputy Chairman under previous regimes and was seen to be just as deeply implicated in the financial mismanagement as Ridsdale and others even more so when taking into account his fiduciary duty to maintain a watch over his co-directors. Leighton was involved during the clubs heady days of just three years ago but stepped down the previous December supposedly to mount a rescue bid. It never eventuated and some thought that it was mainly a cover to backslide away from the crisis in the same way as his former Co-Directors. The Stubbs consortium met to decide if they would press ahead with their investment package. The group had completed the due diligence procedure but were concerned about the club's precarious financial position and whether £11 million would be enough to secure the long term future. Leighton was one of four investors in the group, who would be putting their own money in and the meeting was expected to prove crucial in deciding the club's future. Experts in the field were reported to have warned the group against investing and if they proceeded they could need the assistance of the main creditors to ease the burden. The current debt stood at around £25 million but would rise again should there be any default on any further payments. Payments due to the Inland Revenue for PAYE and VAT were overdue. Indeed the Inland Revenue could have put a winding-up order on the club after it defaulted on a £1.2 million payment during the previous month. The American Bondholders were thought to be due for a payment in the next month. Leeds had appealed to former managers and players, who were owed money to come to a revised agreement in order to help the investment procedure. It was believed that United still owed £8 million in football debts. The Stubbs consortium could also have sought the backing of leading figures in the city in the hope of securing further investment to bridge the gap between their ready cash and the amount required. Failure to come to an agreement within the next forty-eight hours would have left the club on the brink of administration. Chairman Gerald Krasner had admitted that the prospect of calling in the administrators was a real threat if an investment deal could not be secured, but it was also thought that they could still have kept the wolves from the door. The current board signed a "whitewash agreement" when they took control of the club undertaking that the club would remain solvent for a minimum of twelve months. Some financial experts believed that, without further investment, administration was inevitable. Administration would have seen the club docked ten league points under the new League rules and this would have put United deep in the relegation battle as they would have slipped into the bottom three should the deduction have become fact.

One week previous, Sainsbury, who was believed to have investors ready to back a £25 million takeover of the Championship club, had said: "I can confirm a meeting took place last Thursday with Ken Bates during which a potential investment was discussed". Bates had added: "I have been linked with so many clubs and if they were all true it would take it up to thirty-eight. I cannot help what these people say. It is utter rubbish."

So maybe Mr Sainsbury was more than a little surprised when Bates swiftly moved in to make a bid which the Leeds Board accepted while disregarding the other bids from himself and other consortiums. Ken Bates, the former owner of Chelsea, made a remarkable return to football as chairman of Leeds United, insisting that he wanted to lead the club back to their former glories and relished "one more challenge".

Bates, 73, bought a fifty per cent stake in the club for £10 million. He headed a four-strong board which also included Peter Lorimer, the Leeds legend, who continued in his role as director and point of contact for the fans. The takeover should have eliminated the threat of administration for Leeds, who were top of the Premiership as recently as three years previous. Bates ended a ten-month exile from football after leaving Chelsea, which he had sold to Roman Abramovich for £17 million. Bates said "I'm delighted to be stepping up to the mantel at such a fantastic club. I recognise Leeds United are a great club that have fallen on hard times.We have a lot of hard work ahead of us to get the club back to where it belongs in the Premiership and with the help of the fans, who have stuck by the club through thick and thin, we're going to do everything in our power to ensure that happens. Our first task will be to put short, medium and long-term plans in place to secure the financial future of the club and thesewill include buying back, in due course, Elland Road and Thorp Arch. Fans could then ensure that no would-be property developer will be able to end the playing of football at Elland Road."

Former chairman Gerald Krasner was forced to sell Elland Road and the Thorp Arch training ground last year to Manchester-based property developer Jacob Adler to ease the club's debts. Leeds were eight points off the play-offs but Bates did not want promotion in the current season. "I'm not sure whether getting to the play-offs is realistic or not but I wouldn't like us to get promoted this season" he said. "If you go up too soon you only come down again. Maybe if we can win promotion in the next couple of seasons, establish ourselves in the Premiership, get a top six place and go back into Europe." Bates also reassured Manager Kevin Blackwell about his future; saying "He has got a contract until the end of next season, so I'll tell him to go out and prove himself. He has had a difficult job to do. I'm not looking to bring anyone in and I will help him however I can."

Bates also paid tribute to Krasner and his fellow directors who had assumed control in March 2004. "Gerald Krasner and his team have performed miracles by reducing the club's debts from £103 million a year ago to a present figure of £21 million. Obviously, everything has had to be sold," Bates added. "Though the old Board have done eighty per cent of the work they needed someone else to finish off the job. We have bought the shares in the club for a nominalconsideration and now it's a question of working capital. It's no exaggeration to say Leeds are very hard up. It's going to be a tough job and the first task is to stabilise the cash flow and sort out the remaining creditors. But there is light at the end of a very long tunnel. For the past year it has been a matter of fire-fighting - now we can start running the club again. Among the existing debts are £8 million owed to former managers and players.

"This is a good day for Leeds United which dispels all the rumours," said Blackwell, who was appointed last May. "What I will say is that I've just started building something here and I hope I get a chance to finish it." So hopefully there had now been a return to stable financial responsibility and the Manager, Coaching Staff, and players could concentrate on football.

Ken Bates ushered in a new Elland Road era by declaring: "Today is the first day of a new Leeds United." The former Chelsea Chairman staved off the threat of administration when his United rescue package was finalised in the early hours of today. Bates becomes United Chairman with immediate effect and former Chelsea Finance Director Yvonne Todd, his lawyer Mark Taylor and Elland Road legend Peter Lorimer are all on the new-look Board. Bates said: "Today is the first day of a new Leeds United. I'd ask people not to expect miracles. I'm promising nothing, but will work hard to achieve. There's a lot of hard work to be done and I'm looking forward to it. I am delighted to be stepping up to the mantle at such a fantastic club. I recognise that Leeds United is a great club that has fallen on hard times. We have a lot of hard work ahead of us to get the club back to where it belongs in the Premiership and with the help of the fans, who have stuck by the club through thick and thin, we are going to do everything in our power to ensure that happens. Our first task will be to put plans in place to secure the financial future of the club and these will include buying back, in due course, Elland Road and Thorp Arch. We will also be looking at ways in which the fans can control the football pitch itself. Fans could then ensure that no would-be property developer will be able to end the playing of football at Elland Road. The previous directors, including Chairman Gerald Krasner, have all stepped down, but have pledged their assistance during the handover." The departing board members were understood to have left around £4.5m in loans in the club to ease the process. Krasner said: "This deal was done for the benefit of the football club. We sat down with Mr Bates and he never wavered. He behaved like a true football man. I'm sure when the fans learn of his long-term plans they will see this was done for Leeds United."

Bates's takeover was believed to have taken less than seventy-two hours. Krasner and fellow director Melvyn Levi met him in London on the Monday afternoon when the outline of a deal was thrashed out. The remainder of the board threw their weight behind the bid at a series of meetings yesterday. They also considered two other offers, one of which was a revised bid by Leeds-based businessman Norman Stubbs. Although his consortium had been in discussions with the club's major creditors, they were pipped to the post when Bates firmed up his bid. Bates, whose first chairmanship was at Oldham in 1965, inherited a club with debts of around £20m and he was quick to pay tribute to the work of the outgoing board. His arrival will put an end to speculation that United are about to slip into administration.

The new era was marked by a rare piece of good fortune as Leeds faced Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium.

A shocking own goal by Wayne Thomas completed a day of celebration for United as the rejuvenated club continued their climb up the Coca Cola Championship League table. The single goal victory came less than thirty-six hours after Ken Bates had stepped in to secure the club's longer term future. Bates was not on hand to see the win but it is just as well as he would not have been impressed with the first forty-five minutes, which was about as bad as any half can get. It was far different in the second half when United showed character and determination as they took their game to a higher level by taking a positive approach.

4,000 fans had made the trip and they were extremely vocal and played no small part in inspiring their favourites to victory. Only forty-eight hours before, the players had been told the club did not have the finance to pay their wages, yet a new owner emerged from the shadows and in a whirlwind couple of days the whole outlook had changed again.

There was a return for the influential Sean Gregan, restored to his position in front of the back four, as Wright was pushed up from Gregan’s position to replace Walton. Carlisle took over from Kilgallon in central defence and Deane replaced Joachim up front. There was a place on the bench for Paul Harrison, on loan from Liverpool as part of the deal which took Scott Carson to them for £1 million.

The first half was no spectacle in terms of entertainment and the number of United attacks could be counted on one hand. In contrast Stoke created three excellent opportunities and tested Neil Sullivan a few times from close range. Stoke were physical and direct and tested the Leeds defence early on, but once Butler and Carlisle had gained their composure there was never any chance of them scoring. Kelly and Richardson shutdown any trouble down the flanks, while Neil Sullivan was in top form in goal and starred as he kept a clean sheet. Lennon struggled throughout and seemed to be unfit and was replaced by Joachim at half time, and he showed a greater willingness to run at the Stoke defence. Danny Pugh got himself embroiled in an ugly incident, where punches were thrown and several players were involved in scuffles. Leeds were rewarded for their dogged fight twenty minutes from time when Lady Luck at last shone on United. David Healy whipped in a cross from the right, Thomas, who was under no pressure, took a swipe at it and somehow the ball swung goal-wards and left a scrambling keeper with no chance as it spun into the net. United pulled down the shutters and held on to take a vital victory. The win took Leeds up to eleventh in the table.

Joachim and Ricketts replaced Lennon and Deane as United visited the resurgent Derby County at Pride Park. Statistically Derby County had not beaten United in any game for eighteen years but two second half goals left United wondering of what could have been as the record came to an end. After battling for 60 minutes United were beaten at their own game as Derby twice scored on the breakaway to win 2-0, but there could be little to complain about by United. They had battled hard for a good hour but were under heavy pressure and something had to give, but they were certainly second best and Derby look like a good bet for at least a play-off position. They had improved a lot since being defeated at Elland Road in the opening fixture and were well organized, hard working and played good football.

United found them hard to handle and could not impose themselves on the game, despite a strong spell early in the second half. At times possession was squandered too easily and this meant that Derby resumed their siege of the Leeds goal. The United defence had looked uncharacteristically suspect particularly with an offside trap that was out of sync. With the defence under pressure it meant that both Gregan and Wright were back to supplement it and the midfield suffered accordingly. Sullivan, who played with a suspected broken thumb, pulled off two stunning early saves while Butler was resolute in central defence and managed several crucial challenges. Derby, who looked good going forward, looked vulnerable at the back but although United had some periods of possession they were unable to profit. Ricketts clattered the Derby keeper after twenty seconds and it set the tone for the match, and Pugh and Gregan were not taking prisoners in midfield.

Healy tested the keeper in the opening period, Gregan had a shot deflected over the bar and Pugh put a header wide after great work by Wright and Joachim. Derby were content to pepper Sullivan from distance, which caused him little discomfort and half-time came goalless. United finally threw off the shackles and had a purple patch for fifteen minutes after the interval. They nearly had a repeat fluke own goal when Johnson sliced a Healy cross inches wide of his own goal. Carlisle had an appeal for a penalty for handball turned down, while Healy saw a shot saved at the second attempt by the keeper. Unfortunately United failed to capitalize on their superiority and were caught on the break and Smith held off the challenge of Richardson and Sullivan coolly slot it home. Once behind Leeds relied more on graft than craft and while creating a couple of half chances they were ineffective and the introduction of Leandre Griffit for his debut in place of Joachim after 65 minutes, the replacing of Ricketts by Deane four minutes later, or Walton replacing Wright after 75 minutes, were not able to produce the required result. It came as no surprise that once again Derby scored when a shot was deflected off Richardson and beyond the reach of the stranded keeper and, despite four minutes injury time, Derby ran out worthy winners but United remained in eleventh spot.

Bates met the fans. His intention from the outset was not to please everyone, and he may have entered the bear pit of last night's fans forum expecting to please no-one. But as he rose to a standing ovation "the likes of which are no longer distributed freely at Elland Road" at the end of an enthusiastic but constructive verbal joust, he may have felt that an early battle in his long war had already been won. The brash and thorough control he exerted on the Press hours earlier was evident again, mixed in with a sense of humour which wasappreciated by most. Criticism of him would be acceptable, he told a busy if not full banqueting suite, provided those firing shots could accept a volley in return, and the crowd was happy to play by his rules. Alongside but largely in the shadows sat out-going Chairman Gerald Krasner and Bates' wife Suzannah, whose shy reluctance could not have differed more from her husband's brimming confidence. They were hungry, Bates joked, "and I noticed there's a chip shop over the road", but in truth he was happy to be feasting once more at the table of top-level football. In his own words, it is what he does best.

Bates spoke at length about his immediate plans, indulged in complete silence broken only by the occasional laugh. "All mobile phones off, thank you," he immediately ordered, and a shaven-headed fan whose ringtone later broke his chain of thought was asked: "Are you going to give us a cabaret? Oh, and get your hair cut." The mood was barely dampened by his occasional slip of the tongue which saw the mouth say Chelsea when the brain was thinking Leeds, an indication of how much his work and achievements at Stamford Bridge still dominate his thinking. The rows of supporters in front of Bates were more concerned with the substance of his takeover than his quality of public speaking. "You've had so many false starts over the years and you're sick of it," he said, summing up in one sentence the mood of the forum. "But there will be changes and some will affect the fans. Any change pleases A, and upsets B. All I ask of you is to put Leeds United first and be part of the team that's going to put Leeds United back where it should be." His authority over the floor was unyielding and carefully-constructed points were repeatedly met with a demand to "just ask the question". Those questions ranged from the sceptical to the quietly optimistic: Bates was asked directly whether Krasner had "backed the right team" on this occasion after involving Geoffrey Richmond during his own takeover last year, to which he replied: "The proof of the pudding is in the eating; wait until you've had a few mouthfuls." He also resisted attempts to discover the identity of United's other shareholders, and immediately dismissed the increasingly fashionable option of adding asupporter to the board. But as often as he could, Bates was happy to reassure his new followers. Manager Kevin Blackwell's job was safe, he repeated, and no players would be sold without his agreement. The supporters have heard that several times before and Bates wisely added: "Unless we're being offered silly money, in which case make sure we get as stupid a deal as possible." The issue of selling the Elland Road pitch and the name of Leeds United Football Club to supporters was also raised briefly, although most were happy to accept that Bates needed more than six days in charge to finalise the scheme. And, as is United's way, there was bad news as well. Bates admitted that the club were heading for a £6 million loss next year, a shortfall of around £120,000 a week, and warned that season ticket prices were unlikely to remain static. Discussions over the buy-back of the Thorp Arch complex revealed that the club would not be able to repurchase the first-team training pitch, although Krasner claimed it would "have no detrimental effect" on the academy. As he rose to dismiss hiscongregation, Bates was met with a spontaneous round of applause which developed into a standing ovation from many. He seemed genuinely touched and said: "Let's look forward, have some fun and enjoy ourselves. That's what football's all about." It was the perfect antidote to the poison of finance, which the supporters are so weary of listening to. Above all they flocked to Elland Road in search ofhonesty, and Bates could hardly have been more frank when he said: "We won't tell you what we want to do; we'll do it and then tell you what we've done." In the afternoon Bates was Cilla Black, and by night he took the form of Frank Sinatra. He'll do it his way.

Ken Bates did not get the result he had hoped for at his first game he was able to view his new club. Walton, Einarsson, on debut, Lennon and Deane were in for Wright, Pugh, Joachim and Ricketts as United took on Brighton at Elland Road.

Lennon gave a superb display while Kelly and Carlisle stood out in defence but Butler was not his normal self and Gregan was strangely off beam while Deane seemed lost up front. It was the usual familiar script as United started off like a house on fire, were the better team, then could not provide the killer punch, lost control and finished up hanging on desperately to save the game. It took a defender to show the forwards how it was done when two minutes before half time Clarke Carlisle was given a second bite at the cherry by the Brighton defence and he accepted it with a clinical finish into the roof of the net. Either side of the interval Gylfi Einarsson and Paul Butler wasted heading chances by directing them into the arms of the keeper when it seemed easier to score. Walton wanted one too many touches after a good run earned him a chance. Brian Deane screwed horribly wide from a good position. Healy was thwarted by a last ditch-tackle. Gary Kelly had an acrobatic lob brilliantly scooped away by the keeper.

Aaron Lennon led the Brighton left side defenders a merry dance with his pace and trickery and turned on a one man show of outstanding brilliance, particularly in the first half. Not for the first time he was watched by EPL scouts and it seemed just a matter of time before he made the inevitable advance up the ladder of fame. He left to a standing ovation on seventy-eight minutes to be replaced by Matthew Spring, while Eirik Bakke came on for Simon Walton with two minutes to go, for his first game after long-term injury and he took the field also to a standing ovation. He quickly made his mark on the game with a thundering challenge on Carpenter which got him a yellow card and he must have had visions of getting the red card, which saw the end of Oatway's participation in the game only moments previous, for kicking out at Walton. The arrival of Spring saw United go 4-4-2 with Healy the additional central striker and he conjured up a great chance to put the match beyond doubt but Brighton raced to the other end and got the equalizer as Butters scored with a towering header with nine minutes left on the clock. The 1-1 draw kept United in eleventh spot.

There was a debut for loan signing Michael Gray from Blackburn Rovers, who had been taken on board for the rest of the season, at left-back in place of Frazer Richardson, while Jermaine Wright returned in place of Simon Walton, as United took 4,000 fans with them to Turf Moor to meet Burnley.

Gray had a fine debut and looked a class act, subduing former Leeds loanee John Oster and making telling runs down the left flank. Gregan bossed the midfield and Healy was always a threat up front. There was a first United goal for Icelandic International Gylfi Einarsson, who scored the winner when he powered in a bullet header from an excellent Lennon cross after sixty-six minutes. The goal secured the three points to keep United on the fringe of the promotion race, and was a fine finish to a neat move but it was more significantly a just reward for United's overall supremacy against a team undefeated at home for three months and had not even conceded a goal since the first week in November. United had several good chances to take the lead before they scored and were full value for their win. For eighty minutes they showed all the hallmarks of a good side but had their usual failure of not being able to score.

They were safe as houses in defence, worked like terriers in midfield and created enough chances to have won the game easily. Yet they spent the last ten minutes defending desperately after the all too familiar nerves crept into play. The late onslaught started when Clarke Carlisle needlessly conceded a penalty, by bundling over Ian Moore, to hand Burnley their first chance of the game. Neil Sullivan pulled off his third penalty save of the season. It finished when he again denied the taker Ian Moore, as he pulled off a brilliant one handed save. It was United's fourth away win in five outings.

In the first half Healy had fashioned a couple of half-chances and had the ball in the net in the fortieth minute when he met a Lennon cross but was ruled off-side. He really ran the Burnley defenders ragged and Sinclair succumbed to his frustrations and got himself sent off after seventy-eight minutes for kicking Einarsson with the ball twenty yards away, while Healy also caused Cahill nightmares and the youngster was lucky not to see red when he wrestled Healy to the ground after thirty-eight minutes and, being the last defender, was lucky the referee showed amazing leniency and only produced a yellow. Deane went close as the keeper tipped a header over the bar, while Gregan was wide with another attempt. In the second half there was desperate defending from the hosts and Deane was wayward with an effort, before Lennon tied the Burnley full back in knots to deliver the cross for Einarsson to power home. Even after the missed penalty United still pressed and Lennon was only denied by a last ditch tackle and substitute Danny Pugh was foiled by the keeper from close range. There was three minutes of stoppage time but United won through to rise to tenth spot on the ladder within striking distance of the play off spots and there was talk of a three month loan deal for Rob Hulse the West Bromwich Albion striker, who watched from the stands and would have been impressed by what he saw.

The loan acquisition of Rob Hulse was duly completed and he took his place in the line up as striker in place of Brian Deane, in an otherwise unchanged line-up for the visit of fourth placed Reading to Elland Road.

There was a two goal debut for him and he looked the final piece in the jigsaw puzzle as for the first time since defeating Queens Park Rangers 6-1, United had the game wrapped up long before the customary late-game palpitations were due. On this form United were good contenders for a play-off spot and Reading were dead and buried with still 30 minutes to go. Hulse can rightly take the plaudits for his strikes but it was as good a team performance as you are likely to see. Healy had a superb game on the left and he and Hulse were given licence to press forward on the back of the efforts of the midfield three who took a firm grip and snuffed out anything that Reading had to offer. Gregan was a towering presence in the middle of the park and Wright and Einarsson cover plenty of ground as they overcame the Reading midfield, which is widely regarded as the best in the League. Reading arrived in fourth spot and are not there by fluke, but in this game they were clearly second best and were overran by a United team desperate to put on a good performance in front of their own fans and restore some pride at Elland Road. They had won only one of the last seven games at home and only five victories all season.

There were a couple of early scares, as Reading showed their quality with two good moves, but United gradually gained the upper hand. Healy and Lennon both went close before Hulse forced a stunning save from the Reading keeper after a good cross from Kelly. The keeper again had to be alert to deny Lennon as United began to stamp their authority on the game. The opening goal came after thirty-six minutes when Healy latched on to a through ball and showed good body strength to hold off three challengers to slip the ball under the keeper. Hulse could have made it 2-0 soon after the break but failed to hit the target and Reading almost equalized as Sullivan, who had not had much to do, was deceived by a cross from the right leaving Les Ferdinand a clear cut chance right in front of goal, but fortunately for United he volleyed over the bar and that was the last trouble Reading caused the United defence. United replied almost immediately with Hulse getting his first on fifty-six minutes after good lead up from Gregan and Healy for Wright to tee him up to lash the ball home from the edge of the box. It was a quality goal and a quality build up. It was a memorable goal but his second, seven minutes later, was even better. Healy knocked the ball forward and Hulse escaped the clutches of his marker and the Reading offside trap to rifle the ball in from thirty yards. It was the strike of a confident striker and belied the fact that he had played little competitive football for nearly nine months, and showed he had an eye for goal and made him an instant hero with the fans. It was threatening to become a rout but the traditional late lapse gave the visitors a goal. Sullivan twice made blocking saves and then kept out a header towards his own goal by Gary Kelly, but there was little he could do as a low cross was back-heeled in by Owusu but as it came in the eighty-ninth minute, it was little other than a consolation, as United maintained tenth spot.

Shaun Derry was finally signed on a free transfer from Crystal Palace and replaced Einarsson in an otherwise unchanged team for the visit to second placed Wigan Athletic at the JJB Stadium. To say that United were totally and utterly outplayed and outclassed would be an understatement such was the one-sided nature of the contest. From the first moment to the last Wigan ran the game and the only positive that United could extract from the game, apart from Sullivan's heroics between the posts, was that the hosts didn't take all their chances or it would have been a cricket score. United were very relieved to leave the JJB Stadium with just a three goal defeat because it could easily have been 8-0.

In front of their best crowd of the season, boosted by 5,000 travelling Leeds fans, Wigan were simply supreme in every department as their Manager later observed it was their best display of the season. United could not cope with their pace and movement. Their prolific strike duo of Jason Roberts and Nathan Ellington gave the Leeds defence a physical nightmare, while their midfielders were allowed to roam free in support of their front runners as United failed to pick up the runners from midfield and the end product created a very one-sided contest. It was men against boys. Having won four of the previous five games United arrived full of confidence and feeling that they were more than a match for anyone, but for the first time this season they were seriously outclassed by a side which showed more fight and quality on the ball. Defensively Leeds were a bag of nerves and in midfield only Gregan emerged with any credit.

They were opened up for the first time after only ten minutes when Teale was allowed to cross for Ellington to tap in from close range. It set the tone and Leeds were constantly chasing shadows. Roberts scuffed a shot at Sullivan, then shot over, had another effort superbly blocked by Sullivan and then had a goal disallowed for offside. He also twice teed up McCulloch but he was equally wasteful in his finishing. Bullard should also have scored in the early period, but Sullivan recovered well to make yet another super save.

Feelings within the United team were running high and Gregan and Kelly were seen in an angry exchange and it was said that others were confronting each other during the interval break. It must have had some effect as United started the second half better and Hulse appeared to have been brought down in the penalty area but the referee waved play on and so Leeds' last chance of equality passed and Wigan soon resumed their ascendancy. An unmarked McCulloch headed in a Bullard corner for them to go 2-0 up after fifty-six minutes. United went to 4-4-2 but to no effect, apart from Richardson and Healy combining to create a chance but then it was back to Wigan dominance. Roberts held off Kelly and Richardson to hit the inside of the post and then, moments later, he was denied once again by Sullivan. Mahon eventually wrapped up the game in the seventy-fifth minute with a repeat solo effort similar to the one he scored at Elland Road in the reverse fixture. It was the first time that Leeds had conceded three in the CCCL but it could have been eight, as United came crashing down to earth but they still maintained tenth spot.

Kilgallon came in for Carlisle and Walton replaced Wright as United entertained sixth placed West Ham United at Elland Road. New boy Shaun Derry stole in four minutes from time on his home debut to score the goal which gave United a deserved win. The intervention of the classy midfielder came just as it looked like being the too familiar story for Leeds, after surrendering the lead on home turf for the fourth time in seven games.

As usual United had looked the better team until they they scored, then came the wobble, the customary equalizer and the tense finale when the opposition look to cash in on their brief spell of domination. Cardiff, Brighton and Millwall have all profited similarly but this time Derry popped up to finish off a lovely move to secure a merited victory.

Putting things in perspective, West Ham did not have a look in until the hour mark as United showed no hangover from their Wigan drubbing. The game was won in midfield with Gregan, Walton and Derry outstanding. Kelly had a good game at right back and linked up well with the outstanding Aaron Lennon, who shone brightest of all on the right flank. Gray and Healy also worked well together down the left and it was from the flanks that United's supply line came. Gregan was again boss of the midfield and the United midfield stamped their authority on the contest. The West Ham central defender MacKay was a stumbling block and their keeper Bywater was kept busy with a stream of crosses and it was surprising that the teams went to the break on level terms.

It only took six minutes of the second half before United took a deserved lead. Lennon was the provider when he skated round his full back to deliver a pinpoint centre for Hulse to hammer home from close range, as he got hid third goal in his third appearance. It was a fitting reward for United's enterprise and should have been the cue for them to go on and put the game beyond West Ham's reach. Apart from a long range speculator from Williams, West Ham had not had a shot at goal and had virtually not had a look in.

However, as usually happens when United score at home, it was the away team that raised their game and started a period of domination. Williams served notice by rattling the crossbar, but the warning wasn't heeded and he got West Ham back in the game on sixty-eight minutes with a delightful looping shot.United started to sit deeper as the Hammers continued to press and after Sullivan had denied Etherington, Sheringham fired wide with the goal gaping. Lennon responded for Leeds but the keeper was equal to the task, while at the other end Etherington hit the post for a second time. It was Derry, though, that had the last word as he s howed remarkable coolness to round of a lovely move involving Danny Pugh and David Healy as United remained in tenth spot, but only six points away from fourth spot. The game was watched by United's second biggest homecrowd, 34,115, bettered only by the Christmas fixture with Plymouth Argyle. Best of all was at Sunderland's Stadium of Light for the Boxing Day fixture which pulled 43,253.

They played before one of the smallest crowds, when they visited The New Den home of Millwall when there were only 11,510 patrons, including 2,005 of the travelling faithful. Kevin Pressman had arrived on a free from Leicester City and Marlon King on loan from Nottingham Forest and both took their place on the bench, while the run on side remained unchanged. The two teams started the game level on points, with Millwall just ahead on goal difference in nineth spot. Rob Hulse scored the equalizer to make his tally four in four games and a draw was acceptable to both teams as they edged to within three points of the play-off positions. The 1-1 draw was probably a fair result from a game which promised so much but delivered so little. Millwall had the better of the first half, while Leeds shaded the second. Both teams failed to create enough chances and when Hulse levelled the scores with twelve minutes to go both teams seemed more than happy to settle for a draw.

Millwall were strong, direct and physical, while Leeds played the neater football but failed to make their possession count. Shaun Derry was United's most creative influence and Aaron Lennon was impressive and tricky but did not see enough of the ball to make a telling influence. Hulse was United's other key man and he was rewarded with a excellent goal when, after a good knock down by Butler, he swivelled to produce a fine shot on the turn to give the keeper no chance. United would have been disappointed not to get on level terms much sooner as they were by far the better team in the second half, conversely Millwall would argue that they let a lead slip and dropped two points on home soil. They had taken the lead after seventeen minutes after Leeds had threatened to dominate the early exchanges. Marshall, the Millwall keeper had to be smart to save from his own fullback who headed a Lennon cross goal-ward. Michael Gray curled a free-kick just wide and Lennon had another cross deflected into the arms of the keeper as United temporarily bossed the proceedings.

It was the home side that took the lead in lucky circumstances. Quigley returned a corner back across the six yard box and the ball was diverted after it hit Robinson leaving Sullivan stranded. The goal gave Millwall confidence and they pressed forward, often with four strikers. Dichio had a strong presence and tested Butler and Kilgallon to the fullest while livewire winger Simpson brought out the best in Michael Gray. There were few chances but both teams had shouts for a penalty waved away. In the second half Kelly had a terrific effort saved by the keeper, while Hulse tried his luck from distance. Millwall had a couple of good efforts with Quigley heading wide from close range and Sullivan saving well from Sweeney. United switched to 4-4-2 when they introduced Marlon King for Simon Walton on the hour. King ran well and made a promising start in a Leeds shirt, but with Millwall defending with ten men behind the ball United could not find a way through, until Hulse produced his natural goal scoring instincts to finally beat the Millwall defence. Seth Johnson entered the fray in the eighty-fourth minute when he replaced Healy and straight away produced a crunching tackle to signal his arrival and dispel fears of his fitness. The game droned on and very little peace was disturbed as the security operation was mounted to keep both sets of fans out of harms way and the game and the operation finished quietly, as United slipped into nineth spot.

Jermaine Wright stood in for Shaun Derry as United's only changed for the visit of Gillingham to Elland Road. Gillingham were third from bottom and deep in relegation worries fourteen points worst off than United, who must have been expecting easy pickings. However, just like in the second fixture of the season, United were knocked out of their stride by Gillingham's robust approach. It was a game to forget in more ways than one.

United were once again indebted to Rod Hulse for his fifth strike in as many games to salvage some pride from the torrid encounter. When all else had failed he showed good old fashioned striking instinct to capitalize on an error to ensure United had something to show for their efforts against gutsy opponents. It took a fifty-eighth minute melee to wake United into life and prior to that Gillingham had had it all their own way and were good value for their lead. They were physical, defended stoutly, were well organized at the back and hit United on the break. United played at a slow tempo, their midfield never got to grips and, with the exception of the odd Lennon sortie, offered little attacking threat. Hulse was lively when given the chance but Healy was starved of service and given little chance to shine against a defence which his pace and guile should have ripped apart. United]s predictable approach was food and drink to the solid Gillingham rearguard. Gillingham didn't show much threat either until the fortieth minute when Flynn found himself unmarked in the box with all the time in theworld but shot straight at Neil Sullivan. It should have been a warning, but Gary Kelly, who had a nightmare game, hauled down Henderson on the edge of the box moments later and from the resulting free-kick Flynn rolled the ball to Hope and his shot took a wicked deflection off the wall to beat Sullivan. Gillingham would have gone to the break 2-0 up had not Sullivan denied Mamady Sidibe from closerange. After the break they again wasted another clear cut chance when Jonathan Douglas headed straight at Sullivan when he had the time to pick his spot.

Tempers had been simmering and Gregan had been on the end of an horrendous tackle from Jonathan Douglas in the first half and just before the flare-up United had been denied a clear cut penalty after Simon Walton had been fouled by Nyron Nosworthy and the decision simply poured fuel on to the fire that was always threatening to rage.

Henderson and Gray clashed in a push and shove in front of the dugout and before long players from each side traded punches before almost every player, several substitutes and members of both management teams were involved in the melee. After the dust settled the two original protagonists were sent off and the game recommenced. Kelly had been replaced by Richardson. He was a vast improvement over the woeful Kelly and Marlon King replaced the equally ineffective Wright and Leeds began to look more cohesive.

Hulse and Healy failed to connect with a Lennon cross and Kilgallon had a header kicked off the line. Predictably Gillingham packed their defence but were still quick on the counter attack and Flynn showed great anticipation but failed to connect with a cross from Southall. United were well in the ascendancy and Hulse finally levelled the scores with nine minutes remaining. Substitute Marlon King again looked lively and supplied the cross and Hulse profited from a mix up between the keeper and a defender to score.

United dominated the remainder of the game and Healy went close to claiming the winner, but Gillingham stood firm to take a well deserved point in their battle against relegation. United once again left it too late and slipped down to tenth but more importantly almost out of contention for a play off spot, although there is still a mathematical possibility.

Richardson came in for the suspended Michael Gray and Danny Pugh replaced Sean Gregan in midfield with Jermaine Wright taking on the anchor role for the visit to second bottom Nottingham Forest's City Ground in another fixture United were expected to win.

In the end United had to thank the safe hands of Neil Sullivan for their collecting of the single point. He saved his fourth penalty of the season and his ability, and the inability of the forwards to score, contrived to produce the goal-less draw. The dour scoreless draw realistically consigned United to another season of CCCL football while virtually condemning Forest to the lower divisions.

It was a very poor performance by United and only the 1-0 defeat at Brighton had been worse. The penalty United conceded was their tenth of the season and although Sullivan had saved four of them it made poor reading as a statistic. Sullivan was one of the few United players who could hold their head high in a poor team performance. Danny Pugh, who returned on the left of midfield, contributed strongly and was head and shoulders above any other Leeds outfield player. Lennon could have contributed but once again he received poor or no service. Hulse and Healy too received scant service, but that cannot excuse the fact that there was no shot on goal other than a deflection which the Forest keeper saved with ease.

An injury to Frazer Richardson in the eighth minute and saw the arrival of Clarke Carlisle and a reshuffle in the United defence with Kilgallon going to left-back. Butler led his defence well and they were solid. The midfield was poor, although Pugh shone and Walton got stronger as the game wore on, but United failed to get on top of a team that had been decimated by injuries and even at full strength were one of the worst in the league.

Leeds had the bulk of possession but they were as wasteful as they have been all season. It was Leeds' inability to keep possession of the ball that led to Forest having several first half chances. Curtis tested Sullivan after he ran through the midfield unchallenged, and Perch tried his luck from distance after a poor clearance. He also put an effort wide after Thompson had been allowed to run through the open spaces of the United midfield while Taylor headed wide. Carlisle had a couple of headed half chances for Leeds. The second half soon saw Taylor almost give Forest the lead when his shot cannoned off the post with Sullivan beaten.

United went on to dominate the second half but the Forest keeper was hardly tested. Seth Johnson was introduced for the ineffective Wright in the sixty-sixth minute but it was the Forest substitution that almost changed the game. Commons, who did not start as he was not fully fit with flu, soon tested Sullivan with a pile-driver of a free-kick and almost immediately he was brought down by Kelly for a blatant penalty. He dusted himself down and stepped up to take the penalty but Sullivan made the vital save. The game droned on and not even seven minutes of injury time could change the outcome. They remained in tenth position, but were left wondering why they have been unable to beat any of the bottom eight clubs apart from Coventry.

There was a break in fixtures and United played a friendly against Gary Kelly's home town team Drogheda United. Julian Joachim scored in a 1-1 draw.

United had signed Ian Moore from Burnley for £50,000 and Keeper Sasa Ilic on a free from Aberdeen and while Moore made his run on debut Ilic was on the bench for the home clash with Wolverhampton Wanderers. The team was hardly recognizable from the Nottingham Forest fiasco and lined up as follows: Sullivan; Walton, Butler, Kilgallon, Pugh; Derry, Johnson, Moore, King; Lennon, Hulse. Einarsson replaced Johnson after seventy-three minutes, Healy replaced Hulse after seventy-four minutes and Spring came on for King after eighty-five minutes leaving Ilic and Carlisle unused on the bench. With Richardson injured, Kellyunavailable with flu and Gray suspended, United had to play Simon Walton at right back and Danny Pugh at left back which in turn further depleted the midfield and it was lucky that Derry and Johnson were available after injury and Moore was purchased from Burnley, came in on the right flank to become the twenty-seventh player to make his debut for Leeds in the season and Marlon King lined up on the left side of midfield with Lennon pushed up just behind Hulse in attack. Waltonadapted well to his new role, as he had done to the various positions he had beenasked to play. King also excelled and was a key man, Johnson showed good form, although a little rusty after his long lay off, but it was Derry who took the honours for Leeds with a tremendous performance in midfield.

Although the team and system was unrecognizable from Nottingham Forest, again only one point accrued and for the fourth successive match United dropped two points. Derry stood head and shoulders above the rest and totally bossed the midfield and Paul Ince, but sadly no one else could raise their game to the same heights and neither goalkeeper was truly tested.

Both sides had enough possession to produce something meaningful, but all too often the attacks broke down and clear cut chances were few and far between. King had an opportunity in the first half after the keeper made a hash of clearing and Wolves tried shooting from distance with Ince putting one over the bar.

The opening goal, which came after forty minutes was the first real effort on target. Naylor whipped in Wolves' first corner of the game and Carl Cort eluded the Leeds defence to stoop and head past Sullivan. On balance it was an undeserved lead and Hulse twice had a couple of half chances to restore parity before the break. In the fiftieth minute a Wolves defender's backchat saw the referee march a free-kick a further ten yards forward and up stepped Shaun Derry to place a delightful curling shot over the wall and though Oakes seemed to have it covered he must have lost its flight as he flapped helplessly as it nestled into the net.

It should have been the cue for Leeds to go on and win but they didn't and Wolves almost grabbed the full points late on when Miller had a shot blocked, a Seol cross deceived everyone and missed, Miller hit a post and Naylor went close from a free-kick. So the points were shared and both teams looked forward to life in the CCCL for another season as United dropped to twelfth spot.

On the day of the game with Sheffield United Ken Bates outlined his thoughts on the future of Leeds United and in particular his attitude to Season-ticket holders.

Bates: You'll get what you pay for: A twenty-five per cent increase in the cost of Leeds United season tickets has caused uproar. But here, in an exclusive interview with YEP Sports Editor Phil Rostron, Chairman Ken Bates defends the steepness of the rises and expands upon his plans to restore Premiership football to Elland Road.

Ken Bates was unrepentant about a season ticket price hike that had stunned Leeds United fans, save the manner in which it was presented. The United faithful were reeling from a twenty-five per cent increase in the cost of watching their team and the chairman conceded: "It may have been delivered in a more appropriate way, but those shortcomings are something to learn from next time. We have inherited an old system."

Taking stock of the outpouring of grief since last week's announcement, Bates says: "The fact is that it's four price rises in one. Previous regimes made a mess of their price-fixing strategies and now, really, it's pay-up time." And despite the furore season ticket renewals are simply pouring in and exceed £100,000 in just two days.

"To those who have complained, where possible we are contacting them to talk through the situation. The current financial state of play at the club is that £6m is owed to former players, agents and managers. Outstanding PAYE/VAT is £3m. Former directors' loans, due in 2009, total £4m. There are currently four players still at the club who take over fifty per cent of the total salary bill, which is still nearly £12m a year. Due to the sale and leaseback of Thorp Arch and Elland Road we now pay £1.7m a year in rent. That is the burden that the club has to carry before even starting to spend money on players, refurbish the shabby stadium and start to move forward. By the way, I don't take anything in salaries or fees as a consultant, so none of your money is going into my pocket. My question is simple: how would you solve the problem. It is not acceptable to say there must be some other way. Tell us what it is."

"All constructive suggestions will be welcome and given serious consideration, although I suspect they will be few and far between. I have been encouraged by the response of our corporate members and sponsors. Many who, for whatever reason, were reluctant to support the previous regime are coming back in droves. To clear up some misunderastanding on the family section, this has not been abolished but reduced and moved to the wings of the East Stand. Season ticket holders in blocks L30, 31 and 32 are being relocated to blocks L28, 29, 33, 34 and 35 at family prices. It seems to me that it is only reasonable that fans paying full price should have the better seats. Due to the decrease in capacity we are asking those single adults who have held a season ticket in the family section to relocate. Displaced season ticket holders in the East Upper will be given first choice of a relocated seat from May 16 and when the refurbishment is completed will have first refusal of their former seat.

Bates says of the previous board: "They were great at fire-fighting, but they spent too much time at that and did not identify the underlying problems, which were the losses. We have stabilised the losses, improved the organisation, tackled the season ticket issue, rationalised the staff with an awful lot of people gone or going, improved inter-departmental relations from a situation where the left hand didn't know what the right hand was doing and still found time to strengthen the team with the likes of Michael Gray, Rob Hulse and Shaun Derry. But we have a cost base that we can't get away from. The Inland Revenue, who were going to bust the club on January 24, have agreed to be paid in instalments.Maybe fans should look at the fact that there have been no price rises for a considerable time, but that hasn't stopped costs from going up. Electricity, Gas, Water, Diesel, Fuel, Telephones, Council Tax and National Insurance have all gone skywards, then there are the players' wages under contractual obligations. People going on holiday have to pay more for the pleasure yet despite all these things they think their football club can just stand the burden. It can't."

"I've phoned sixty or seventy people personally over the past three days and we haven't had one knock-back yet. I've been talking them through it. One old lady said that her first reaction had been disgust, outrage and a determination never to set foot inside Elland Road again but that she'd sat down with her family, had a cup of tea, talked about it and concluded that she would, after all, be coming back." "You know, if you want a club, you've got to pay for it. And you get what you pay for. The first of the benefits for fans in return for their increased season ticket prices is the knowledge that their club will survive. Secondly, we are spending money on improving facilities. As we speak there are architects and quantity surveyors going round looking at the possibilities." "The real problem is change. And if you make a change somebody is going to moan because their nose has been put out of joint. You know...the 'I've always sat here' type. There have been people sitting in the family section who have no right to be there. Thirty-five year-old divorced men with no kids. The fact is that there is now some structure to it. The best seats in the house will go to those who are paying the highest prices." Bates is targeting the Premiership but is making no promises. "Never make promises, just deliver is my motto," he says. "A referee's offside decision in the last game of the season can cost you. But that's football. Look at West Brom against Everton on Sunday. Everton were denied two clear penalties and those decisions could cost the club £20m if they prevent them from making Europe. What I can tell you is that next season's squad will bear more of a resemblance to this season's squad than this season's does to last season's. I think Kevin Blackwell has done a marvellous job. In July he started with one player, Gary Kelly, and has built a team. I don't believe that. We were in the relegation places at Christmas and since then have risen to the dizzy heights of ninth. Obviously it took Kevin time to put together a squad. Now we're a comfortable twelfth having lost three matches in twenty. We've drawn too many. Of course I want Premiership football, but I want to get up there and stay up there. I was terrified when people started talking about the play-offs and being the third team to gain promotion this season. We'd go up and come straight back down again. We would be humiliated. We haven't got the money to buy a Premiership team and the team we have here would struggle to win a game in the Premiership.I don't want to build a dream and wake up to find it's a bloody nightmare. We don't want overpaid, under-performing, lazy, overweight prima donnas. We want players who are skilful, have a lot of guts, are fit and want to win. I'm not going to say people who want to kiss the badge, because that has been devalued. We've identified our shopping list, but can we afford them? I've been in the game for forty years now and I've never named player targets for the simple reason that it alerts the opposition, who might have more money than you." Modern-day Chelsea may provide the glamour in English football but it was a different story when Bates took over. "The average gate was 12,000 and the similarity with Leeds was that five per cent of the tickets were complimentaries. The ground was apalling, they had a poor team and there were no training facilities. Middlesbrough got 350 acres for £800,000 and you wouldn't get a house for that money in London. So you can imagine how difficult it was to find a training ground. The piece of land that I identified out near Heathrow airport is the one that Roman Abramovich is now working on, so I did all the work and he's getting the glory. Never mind. Such is life. I had John Prescott turning down one potential site because he ruled that the referee's whistle might disturb the mourners at the adjoining cemetery. We wasted two years on that project." "When Abramovich does build his training ground I hope it's as good as the one we have here at Leeds. It's superb. But we had a hooligan problem, poor supporter facilities, low prices and plenty of fiddles going on. It took time to sort it out. But I was 51 then, I'm 73 now. I haven't got time to mess about. New Stadium? No. It would cost a bomb and the fact is that Leeds United's name stinks in the financial world. They were doing alright until Peter Ridsdale bought his goldfish. That was at a time when I was doing £120m in securitisations and was 80 per cent there when Leeds screwed it up. The attitude in the finance world now is, 'Football? You must be joking. Leeds told us it was a safe bet and we lost £60m.' It will be a long time before the American institutions get involved again." So Bates has a clear message for United fans who want a return to the Premiership and it's this: Put up and shut up.

Those words must have been cold comfort to the many thousands of United fans contemplating how they would be able to afford their Season Tickets and after the game with Sheffield United at Elland Road they would have being seriously questioning the capability of this team to go within a bull’s roar of ever seriously laying claim to EPL status, as once again they were given a football lesson by a far superior outfit.

Healy replaced Moore with Lennon reverting to his accustomed role on the right flank. The final result was an acute embarrassment for any Leeds United fan and to the team and Management staff if they had any feelings apart from numbness after being humiliated by their biggest defeat in the CCCL and more unforgivable it was at home to their nearest and most bitter CCCL rivals. Elland Road had not witnessed such an emphatic defeat since Liverpool triumphed by the same score in the days of David O'Leary in February 2002.

Embarrassment and humiliation seems to go hand in hand with this fixture in recent times and for the fourth time in three years United collapsed against the Blades in a dramatic and humbling fashion. Leeds were outplayed, out-thought and out-fought by their local rivals with too many players having off days and apart from a twenty minute spell in the second half when the game was already lost beyond recall, Leeds came a distant second to Sheffield. Leeds plotted their own downfall and handed the visitors three goals on a silver platter and it could have been a larger margin had they taken all of their chances. The last of the goals came after Paul Butler had suffered a sickening injury when he collided with keeper Neil Sullivan, and was out cold for fully two minutes and was taken to hospital for observation. Poor Simon Walton had a torrid time playing out of position at right back and was at fault for both Sheffield first half goals and was substituted six minutes before the break by Sean Gregan, who quickly collected his twelfth booking of the season for chopping down Tonge within a minute of his arrival and then pushing Harley. He at least showed fight but the game was lost before his arrival and only Aaron Lennon seemed to be interested in restoring some pride but he fought a lone battle as his collegues went missing in action. Healy looked uneasy in his role behind lone striker Hulse who in turn was not involved enough. The midfield was simply non-existant as Sheffield played neat football with pace and movement which was too much for Leeds to cope with.

Webber got the first in the second minute when he left Walton and Butler standing to score with a neat finish inside Sullivan's near post. It was a goal that rocked Elland Road and Webber passed up two more good chances before Leeds-born Nick Montgomery made it 2-0 as he scored from close range after a corner was not cleared. Hulse rattled the woodwork in response just before half-time but seventy-five seconds after the break ex-Leeds player Andy Gray marked his first return since leaving Elland Road by scoring with a superb strike from the edge of the box. This was the cue for a Lennon led Leeds revival and incredibly they created seven chances in twenty minutes but were unable to improve the score-line. Lennon could have won a penalty, Moore headed across goal, Johnson was denied by the keeper and then flicked the rebound wide, Healy had a low shot blocked, and Pugh went close with a fine effort. After seventy-three minutes Butler and Sullivan were involved in an horrendous mix-up and Gray scored at the second attempt. Unites remained in twelfth spot but their supporters aired their displeasure at the increased season ticket prices and the woeful performance.

Kelly returned at right back for Walton, Carlisle deputized for the injured Butler in central defence, while Gray returned after suspension to replace Pugh at left-back and Gregan replaced King in a reshuffled midfield as United visited Watford at Vicarage Road, and came away with full points after a vastly improved performance.

The 2-1 scoreline did not do justice to United's superiority and if they had taken all their chances it would have been a much wider margin. Watford could equally claim that only abbrilliant performance from Neil Sullivan denied them victory. Leeds again started slowly and looked nervous in central defence and it took them a long time before they imposed themselves on a side low in confidence and self-belief. It was only the second time that Kilgallon and Carlislehad played together and an early lack of understanding showed before they both settled down. Sean Gregan was also below par for much of the first half but he supplied the cross for Rod Hulse to open the scoring and looked stronger after that. Goalkeeper Neil Sullivan again took the plaudits, fully illustrating why he had been elected player of the year, with three tremendous reaction saves late in the game, but there were several others who deserved recognition fora good performance. Gary Kelly took the captain's armband and led byexample from the back with a strong and effective display on the right with Michael Gray also in good form on the left. Johnson and Derry did well in midfield as did Gregan after a slow start. Up front Rod Hulse took a terrible buffeting from the Watford defence but came back for more and never took a backward step. Demrits dismissal was for two needless fouls on the striker but his defensive partner Cullip could consider himself fortunate that he remained on the field, as on balance on accumulated attempts to maim Hulse he was the bigger offender. It was disappointing that David Healy had to leave the fray so early in the game with ankle ligament damage. His departure did pave the way for Ian Moore to play for over an hour and he linked up well with Hulse and was unfortunate not to score. Marlon King who replaced Lennon for the last twentyminutes and more also showed plenty of quality in his play. King, Moore, Johnson and Hulse all went close in the closing stages and created several openings. King was inches wide, Hulse put one over the top from close range, Johnson had a couple of shots blocked and Moore twice came within inches.

The pressure came after Watford had been reduced to ten men in the fiftieth minute, but prior to that it had been a close competition. Watford had started well profiting from some early mistakes and tested Sullivan early on, but Leeds created some good openings and took the lead after twenty-six minutes. Gregan played a lovely ball through the middle and Hulse's stooping header went over the keeper and into the net. Gray went close as he tested the keeper from distance, while Johnson had a go from a free-kick. Watford were handed an easy route back into the game four minutes before the break, they were given thefreedom of the penalty area and they scored after Sullivan had parried the first attempt. Leeds responded and, after the dismissal of DeMerit, took control. Moore and Johnson went close to getting the winner before it came from the unlikeliest of sources. Kilgallon sent in a long high ball from the left of the box and picked out Carlisle at the far post and he made no mistake with his far post header on sixty-seven minutes. Hulse and King went close later but it was Watford who carved out the best chances in the late exchanges, but it was Sullivan who earned his wages with three good saves to deny them. The win was their first inseven matches and took them back to tenth spot.

Gregan dropped back into defence to replace Kilgallon, with Einarsson taking his place in midfield, while Marlon King started upfront in place of the injured Healy, as United visited Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road in search of another double.

United had been cruising with Sullivan not having been called on to make a save of note and seemingly on course for the double before the referee showed Shaun Derry a red card and completely changed the game. Rangers had had plenty of possession but had rarely troubled United. The dismissal was a stupid, senseless incident and all those involved should be kicking themselves. Derry should not have raised his hand, Gallen should have kept his mouth shut and the referee should have exercised better judgment rather than being influenced by the crowd and other players. It all arose over Gallens complaint that Derry hadn’t put the ball out of play quick enough as a Rangers player lay injured and escalated from there. It changed the course of the game as it gave Rangers the impetus they needed to go on and snatch a draw. They made the most of their superior numbers and put pressure on United and eventually went on to equalize with four minutes to go, as Gallen forced Sullivan to make his first save after gliding through the Leeds defence but, after beating the ball away the Leeds keeper could do nothing as he tucked away the rebound. Normally it would have been just reward for a Rangers side that showed more ambition in the second half but, up to the dismissal United had weathered the storm and appeared to be heading for a hard-fought away success. The numbers were actually evened up in stoppage time when Adam Miller was sent off for the second yellow card for a foul on Hulse, but the game was over by then.

Rangers also claimed a penalty in the first half after Gary Kelly had hauled down hauled down Marc Bircham but the referee did not agree. Kelly and Gray were effective on the either side while Gregan was his usual solid self and Carlisle made some vital clearances in central defence and Leeds never had to rely on Sullivan to bail them out.

In midfield Seth Johnson had his best game since his return and it was fitting that he opened the scoring in the twenty-fourth minute with his first goal for eighteen months, as Rangers failed to clear a corner and he volleyed home from the edge of the box and Leeds were good value for their lead at half time. Hulse should have increased the lead on the hour but shot straight at the keeper. After the dismissal and Gallen's equalizer, Gallen almost won the game for Rangers, but Sullivan pulled off a world class save to tip the ball on the post and safety. The draw kept United in tenth spot ahead of Rangers and Stoke City on goal difference.

Kilgallon returned to central defence and Gregan returned to midfield in place of the suspended Derry, while Richardson and Spring replaced Lennon and Johnson in midfield. While Moore was preferred to King upfront as United took on third placed Ipswich at Elland Road. The draw was not the result Ipswich had been looking for and results elsewhere meant that Sunderland were champions and Wigan and Ipswich were locked in a struggle for second spot and automatic promotion.

United were more than worthy of a point against the team that had led the League throughout January and February and given the possession they enjoyed were unlucky not to take the maximum points. United were better in all departments and were far more positive than their highly credentialed opponents and on the rare occasions Ipswich threatened the United defence was magnificent. Kelly and Gray were towers of strength in the full back spots and Kilgallon oozed class in central defence with Carlisle, and they handle the twin threat of Bent and Kuqi with ease. Sean Gregan had an excellent game in the middle of the park and Matthew Spring marked his Elland Road debut with a goal and Frazer Richardson adapted to the right flank well. Hulse was superb up front, had a fair and clean battle with the Ipswich central defenders and was unlucky not to get his name on the score-sheet.

Ipswich stuck to their pretty passing principles throughout but even when they stepped up a gear they were unable to get the winner their position required. Their best chance fell to Tony Currie's nephew Darren who side-footed wide in the last minute from what could only be described as "a sitter". Ipswich had taken the lead after eleven minutes in United's only defensive lapse, when Horlock found Kuqi in space and his miss-hit shot deceived Kelly and Sullivan. Not to be outdone, United came straight back and equalized through Matthew Spring, when he powered a header home from a pinpoint Richardson centre.Many thought two goals in a minute was the cue for a goal-feast but they were disappointed, but both sides had their chances in an evenly fought contest. Horlock volleyed over from distance and Magilton found Kuqi unmarked but he was unable to control it.

United were more ambitious and some fine build up play saw Richardson find Einarsson but he was foiled by the off-side flag. Gray was knocked to the floor in the Ipswich box but the referee ruled in the negative, while Naylor had to be alert to react quickly to a Moore cross with Hulse poised at the far post. There was disappointment for Leeds when Walton, who had just come on for Einarsson, fell with no one near him and had to be stretchered off with a hamstring injury.

His departure allowed Jermaine Wright a twenty minute run against his former team and his introduction almost had an immediate impact. With the boos of the away fans ringing in his ears Wright broke from midfield and fed Moore, who played a neat ball through to the onrushing Hulse, but his powerful finish was rule out by the offside flag. Ipswich did press after that but it did not alter the scoreline and the 1-1 draw saw United drop to twelfth.

United were unchanged for their final away fixture against Leicester City at the Walker Stadium in what turned out to be a typical end of the season game with United showing little interest in the outcome as there was nothing but pride to play for. Unfortunately Leicester were not of like mind and showed plenty of pride and should have been more than 2-0 up at the break such was their dominance. It was a poor way to finish what had been a fine away campaign for United and had there been anything at stake it would have ranked with their worst of the season.

Leicester scored twice in the opening half to put the game beyond United's reach and it was as well that United upped their involvement in the second half or a much larger defeat would have ensued. In fact United were the better team in the second half but they were unable to find a finishing touch. Rod Hulse uncharacteristically missed two half-chances and Marlon King missed a penalty but if United had got back in the game and any share of the points it would have been unfair to the hosts.

Apart from Neil Sullivan who pulled off a couple of vital reaction saves no one stood out in what was a very much below-par performance. Lennon, who had been left on the bench because of tiredness, did inject some life into proceedings after his introduction on the hour mark. But that aside, the travelling 2,400 had little to cheer and would have left the Walker Stadium feeling short changed, as the one time encouraging campaign has disintegrated from a position of play-off possibilities to one of a succession poor results and the end of any interest in the promotion outcome and the best they could now hope for was eleventh.

Dion Dublin headed in from a corner in the sixth minute and only Sullivan's reflexes stopped it from being 2-0 inside ten minutes. Williams spurned a great opportunity and Connelly headed against the crossbar from two yards and Carlisle threw his body in the way to deny Dublin a certain goal from the rebound. It was after thirty-nine minutes that Leicester finally doubled their tally when Hughes gifted Connelly an easy goal and that effectively was game over. In the second half Walker denied Kilgallon, Hulse couldn't find a finishing touch after good work by Lennon, who also played in King, but he was crowded out. Walker denied King again after good work from Kelly, but even after Spring had gained a dubious penalty, King could not beat Walker from twelve yards. United did have another penalty appeal turned down but were unable to make their possession count and the away campaign ended on a disappointing note and United dropped to fourteenth position.

Sean Gregan moved back into defence in place of Clarke Carlisle and Danny Pugh was given the left back spot in place of Michael Gray. There was a return for Aaron Lennon for Richardson; Wright took Gregan's spot in midfield, while Marlon King took Einarsson's midfield spot as United entertained Rotherham United at Elland Road in the season's final fixture.

Rotherham had long been relegated from the CCCL but United had pummelled them for 180 minutes without being able to find the net. United bettered their Millmoor tally of hitting the woodwork, when they managed to achieve the feat on four separate occasions but they were again left cursing the Miller's luck and failed to sign off on a winning note. The only difference from the Millmoor encounter was that Sullivan was forced to make two good saves and only a dreadful finish from Proctor ensured the visitors three chances counted for nothing. There was little doubt of who were the better team but even so Leeds were unable to finish the season on a high note.

United had the better of a scrappy opening and chances galore went begging. Pollitt saved from Hulse after thirty-two seconds and that set the tone for the contest. Hulse put another over the top, Pollitt denied Lennon, and Spring hit the outside of the post when clean through. Hulse hit the post at the start of the second half, Pollitt pushed a Spring shot on to the woodwork, and Marlon King, in his last loan period game, rattled the upright after more good approach play. United were far more creative and Ian Moore impressed with his workrate and effort in the dual striker role. He was unselfish, industrious and playing alongside a natural striker had his best game to date. Lennon stood out with his creativity and ran the Rotherham defence ragged. As at Millmoor, it took Rotherham over an hour to muster anything of note but when they did it tested United. YEP player of the year Neil Sullivan, showed his quality by denying McLaren and Proctor with two superb saves. Proctor was guilty of heading wide with the goal at his mercy and when he did get the ball in the net four minutes from time his effort was ruled out for offside. Gavin Rothery did not get a run from the bench but there was a rousing reception as Danny Pugh made way for Lucas Radebe, who strode on to the pitch one last time for United and was handed the Captain's armband by Gary Kelly. Due to a pitch invasion on the final whistle there was no customary lap of honour from the team and the 0-0 draw was United's eighteenth draw of the season which highlights the difference between promotion and a midtable fourteenth which was United's final position. United announced the signing on a permanent basis of Rod Hulse from West Bromwich Albion for £800,000.

In the season United finished fourteenth and used thirty-seven different players on the pitch in all competitive games. Healy led the League scorers with seven, followed by Hulse and Deane with six and Danny Pugh with five. Deane and Pugh also scored in the League Cup. Neil Sullivan was ever-present with 46 appearances, followed by Gary Kelly 43, Paul Butler 39, Sean Gregan 34(1), Danny Pugh 33(5), Jermaine Wright 33(2),Clarke Carlisle 29(6),Frazer Richardson 28(10), David Healy 27(1), Matthew Kilgallon 26, Brian Deane 23(8) and Simon Walton 23(7).

2005-2006: Season Statistics: Games, Results, Appearances, Goalscorers
Football League Tables for the Season

For Unitedís second season in the second tier, albeit grandiosely referred to as the Coca-Cola Football League Championship, it looked like another season of consolidation rather than an all-out assault to regain Premiership status. After plummeting the depths in the past few seasons fans in general seemed to accept that there would be no miracles on the horizon and the close season saw the disappearance of another jewel, in the form of Aaron Lennon, being snapped up by Tottenham Hotspur for a giveaway £800,000. He was later to impress in the Premiership and gain selection for the England World Cup squad.

Others taking the exit door were Simon Johnson to Darlington, Julian Joachim to Boston United, Martin Woods to Sunderland and Paul Keegan to Drogheda United, all on free transfers. Seth Johnson was offered a settlement on his excessive wages and was declared a free agent and rejoined Derby County. Aidan Boothroyd, newly appointed as Watford Manager, returned to Elland Road to take Clarke Carlisle, for £100,000, Matthew Spring, for £150,000 and out of time loanee, Marlon King. All players had shown reasonable form but could not find a regular place at Elland Road.

Gary Kelly apart, United off loaded their last overpaid relic of a bye-gone ďDream-timeĒ when Eirik Bakke was loaned to Aston Villa for the season. There were loans too for the seemingly out of favour Michael Ricketts, who was loaned to Cardiff City and then Burnley, and Jermaine Wright who went firstly to Millwall and then Southampton.

Incoming loan players were Jonathan Douglas from Blackburn Rovers for the full season and Liam Miller from Manchester United from the end of October and eventually for the rest of the season, while late in the season Danny Graham came in from Middlesbrough.

Coming in permanently were Goalkeeper Ian Bennett from Birmingham City, USA International Left Winger Eddie Lewis from Preston North End and ex-England midfielder Steve Stone from Portsmouth, all on free transfers. England under-21 left back Dan Harding came in from Brighton at a fee decided by tribunal. Robbie Blake joined from Birmingham City for £800,000.

Early into the season Richard Cresswell cost £1,150,000 from Preston North End. Angolan International defender Rui Marques joined on a free from CS Maritimo, but could not secure a place and was loaned out to Hull City. Australian International midfielder Joel Griffiths was the subject of a long drawn out transfer procedure with Swiss club Neuchatel Xamax, but finally joined late in the season for £150,000, while the promising young striker Jermaine Beckford was also a late signing, from non-League Wealdstone for £50,000.

There were several pre-season friendlies against what can be best described as mediocre opposition, with the glaring exception of Glasgow Celtic, all were against clubs not expected to tax United too much.

It came as some surprise, therefore, when Norwegian Second Division outfit FK Haugesund emerged 1-0 victors in the first game of their two match Norwegian tour. Kevin Blackwell was able to pick from strength with only Sullivan, Stone, Blake, Moore and Walton unavailable. He opted for almost two complete teams in each half. The first half featured Bennett; Kelly, Butler, Kilgallon, Crainey; Wright, Bakke, Johnson, Pugh; Hulse (Sandos sub 37 mins), Healy. While the second stanza featured Bennett; Richardson Carlisle, Gregan, Harding; Spring, Derry, Einarsson, Lewis; Ricketts, Sandos.

There were impressive debuts for Eddie Lewis and Daniel Harding, who forged a strong left flank in the second half, but Stephen Crainey and Danny Pugh were also almost as impressive in the first half. Eirik Bakke and Seth Johnson, too, impressed after long layoffs.

The first half was marred by an injury to Rob Hulse, who was forced out of the game after a reckless challenge. Angolan international Freddy Sandos replaced him for the rest of the game, but enthusiasm apart failed to impress. United went behind to a sloppy goal fifteen minutes into the second half and from then on there was lots of niggling and Shaun Derry and Michael Ricketts were involved in spats with their opponents. Matthew Spring went close for Leeds and Shaun Derry twice created chances which were spurned by his collegues.

In the second game of the tour there was a deserved victory over Stavanger IF 2-0. Blackwell gave all fit players, except Gylfi Einarsson a run, Ian Moore replacing Rob Hulse in the starting XI, which was Bennett; Kelly, Butler, Gregan, Harding; Wright, Derry,Bakke, Lewis; Moore, Healey. At half time Kelly, Gregan, Bakke and Moore were replaced by Richardson, Kilgallon, Johnson and Sandos, while on sixty-two minutes Butler, Harding, Derry and Lewis were replaced by Carlisle, Crainey, Walton, and Pugh. Finally after seventy minutes Wright and Healy made way for Spring and Ricketts.

Gary Kellyís pinpoint cross enabled Eirik Bakke to open the scoring early in the first half and Matt Spring scored with aplomb in the final minute, after being set up by the energetic Freddy Sandos, who apart from forcing the keeper to a great save also provided Michael Ricketts with a golden opportunity to score but he still contrived to miss from close range with the goal at his mercy. Former United favourite Alf Inge-Haaland made a twenty minute guest appearance for the hosts.

For the trip to Darlington, who included ex-Leeds players Clyde Winjhard and Simon Johnson, Manager Kevin Blackwell gave a start to Robbie Blake and a first run on for Gylfi Einarsson. The starting line up was Bennett; Kelly, Butler, Gregan, Crainey; Wright, Derry, Bakke, Johnson; Healy, Blake. It took Robbie Blake just six minutes to open his account, taking a pass from David Healy, he held up the ball well before creating space for himself and shooting low past the diving keeper. Richardson and Einarsson replaced Kelly and Blake after fifty-five minutes, followed by Walton for Wright seven minutes later, Kilgallon for Butler on seventy minutes, Pugh for Bakke twelve minutes later and Ricketts replaced Healy for a token last three minutes. Harding, Carlisle and Wilberforce remained unused on the bench.

United travelled to Parkhead for the most testing of their pre-season friendlies to face Glasgow Celtic and emerged with a creditable 0-0 draw. Paul Butler was instrumental in marshalling the back four, which enabled Ian Bennett to keep his third consecutive clean sheet. Gary Kelly and Daniel Harding looked the part as the full backs and Sean Gregan played well alongside his skipper in central defence, while Matthew Kilgallon showed he was equally reliable when given his chance. Shaun Derry again ran the midfield with good support from wingers Jermaine Wright and Eddie Lewis and Eirik Bakke did his chances no harm, while up front Robbie Blake and David Healy, who took a knock on the ankle, combined well in the absence of Rob Hulse.

Frazer Richardson and Matthew Kilgallon replaced Gary Kelly and Sean Gregan after sixty-seven minutes, before Michael Ricketts was given a run in place of Robbie Blake five minutes later. On the seventy-seven minute mark there was a triple substitution with Matt Spring, Stephen Crainey and Gylfi Einarsson replacing Daniel Harding, Eirik Bakke and David Healy. Clarke Carlisle and Danny Pugh replaced Paul Butler and Eddie Lewis six minutes later, while Simon Walton came on for Jermaine Wright for the final five minutes. Seth Johnson remained unused on the bench.

Blundell Park Cleethorpes was the next venue, as Grimsby Town hosted United in their penultimate pre-season friendly. After a defensive mix-up, featuring Clarke Carlisle and Matthew Kilgallon, had allowed the home team to take a thirteenth minute, a left foot rocket from Frazer Richardson nine minutes later earned United a 1-1 draw. The run on side was Bennett; Richardson, Carlisle, Kilgallon, Crainey; Wright, Derry, Einarsson, Lewis; Blake, Ricketts, with Wright, Lewis and Blake leaving proceedings after sixty-five minutes in favour of Spring, Walton, Pugh and the livewire teenager Ian Morris.

Grimsby almost won the game but ex-United left back Tom Newey was thwarted by the diving Ian Bennett from the penalty spot in the second half, but it would have been rough justice as United squandered several chances and were the better side on the night.

Unitedís final pre-season game took them to Oakwell to play neighbours Barnsley and another workmanlike performance saw them emerge 2-1 winners, although two seemingly perfectly good goals were disallowed and many other chances were created. Sullivan returned for the second half and seemed to be hard pushed to displace Ian Bennett, who started the game as first choice keeper. Paul Butler and Sean Gregan again forming the central defensive pairing, while Gary Kelly and Daniel Harding appeared to have cemented their hold on the full back slots, it seemed as if the defence had picked its self, as Fraser Richardson and Matthew Kilgallon remained unused on the bench. Jermaine Wright and Eddie Lewis appeared to have made the wing positions their own, while midfield anchorman Shaun Derry was a certainty with Eirik Bakke getting the nod to complete the midfield. In the absence of the injured Rob Hulse, David Healy and Robbie Blake had staked their claim to the striker roles. Indeed they combined well to score the goals which gave United victory.

David Healy opened the scoring just after the half hour mark, soon after having an even better effort disallowed. Robbie Blake added the second in the second half after an hour and was unlucky to receive an offside flag for an equally impressive goal moments later, while Eddie Lewis also hit the bar and shot narrowly wide. There was a standing ovation for Eirik Bakke when he was replaced after seventy minutes as a precaution after receiving a knock. He was soon followed by Daniel Harding, as during the later stages the United defence seemed to be too clever and were caught out as Barnsley got a consolation goal.

United were off to their usual winning start to the new campaign, having not lost an opening day fixture since their St Jamesís defeat by Newcastle United in their promotion year, which commenced in August 1989!

It was a fine all-round display by United who showed no sign of nerves and put together a convincing comprehensive performance where there were no weak links, indeed, apart from a twenty minute spell after half-time, United totally dominated proceedings.

A major disappointment was the crowd of only 20,440, Unitedís lowest opening day attendance for forty-four years and the lowest first game attendance since 1986. The line up was as expected: Sullivan; Kelly, Butler, Gregan, Harding; Wright, Derry, Bakke, Lewis; Blake, Healy. Michael Ricketts came on for Robbie Blake after seventy-six minutes and Frazer Richardson replaced Jermaine Wright for the last ten minutes. Bennett, Einarsson and Kilgallon remained unused on the bench.

Shaun Derry bossed the midfield and was the United star, with Gary Kelly, Eirik Bakke, Eddie Lewis and David Healy also outstanding. United played neat football, were solid in defence and were rarely troubled by a Millwall side, which showed plenty of fight in the second half. They resisted the chance of sitting back and inviting pressure after taking the lead on twenty-eight minutes. Millwall failed to clear an Eddie Lewis corner and David Healy pounced to volley home before keeper Marshall could react. United won the game in the middle of the park with Eirik Bakke playing his first game in eighteen months. He was here, there and everywhere winning tackles and making his presence felt as he pushed forward. Meanwhile, the immaculate Shaun Derry won everything that came his way, was neat and tidy in his distribution, and never put a foot wrong. Up front, Robbie Blake and David Healy combined well and worked their socks off. Indeed, the two diminutive forwards only lacked the height but never the determination, as they would not let themselves be out-muscled by the Millwall central defence.

Millwall came at United after the interval and, after Dan Harding had been dispossessed as he hesitated in clearing, Don Hutchinson rifled an unstoppable equaliser from twenty-five yards, just on the hour. The goal triggered United into action and seventeen minutes from time Eirik Bakke was hauled down by Elliott and David Healy scored from the resulting penalty. Michael Ricketts replaced Robbie Blake with fourteen minutes to go. Probably in an effort to provide more weight and directness in attack, and aimed at getting a third to put the match beyond doubt, but it proved unnecessary. Overall Manager Blackwell must have been pleased with the result and the performance, even though David Healy and Sean Gregan picked up yellow cards for foul play.

United were unchanged for the visit to Cardiff Cityís Ninian Park for their first away trip of the season. They took the lead after twenty-two minutes when Gary Kelly and finally David Healy combined well to provide Robbie Blake with the opportunity to score his first League goal for Leeds. For a long time it looked to be good enough to provide United with only their second league victory at Ninian Park in 84 years, as they dictated play for the first hour. However the curse of Ninian Park struck again as Jason Koumas marked his home debut with an exquisite thunderbolt to produce a wonder-strike from distance, as the Leeds defence back-pedalled and held off him. Worse was to follow when in the sixty-seventh minute Matthew Kilgallon was adjudged to have deliberately handled in the box and Purse converted the resulting penalty to become the third person to open his club account on the night.

United could count themselves unlucky in having two goal disallowed for off-side, while David Healy shot over after being put through by Eddie Lewis and Jermaine Wright similarly failed to hit the target, all before Cardiff had equalised. Sean Gregan had looked as solid as a rock alongside the impressive Paul Butler and neither had been troubled before Cardiffís first goal. Few would have realised that the skipper was playing with a pain-killing injection, but he had to give it second best at half time as the pain took over. Matthew Kilgallon took his place, and though he was an extremely competent performer, the nous and experience of the skipper was sorely missed as Leeds started to crumble.

While the spine of the United team had looked good in the first half, with Eirik Bakke and Shaun Derry again combining well in the middle of the park, and Gary Kelly again excelling at right back with Eddie Lewis again posing a major threat down the left flank, it began to creak in the second half as Cardiff slowly got back into the game, as United squandered several easy chances to increase their lead. When Cardiff equalised, the lively David Healy, who had formed a very potent attack with Robbie Blake, was replaced by Michael Ricketts but it mattered little. Cardiff soon took the lead from the spot after a hand ball, which hardly seemed justified, especially as United had an even more blatant hand ball in the Cardiff box, when Bakkeís shot was clearly stopped from crossing the goal-line by a defenderís hand. There were also a few ugly incidents. Derry and Harding were exchanging words in the last few minutes as the game went from Unitedís grasp, much to the delight of the home crowd, who plumbed the depths with several unpalatable chants. Paul Butler and Shaun Derry picked up yellow cards. A game United should have won but didnít enforce their advantage and paid the price.

Ian Bennett made his debut in goal, while Michael Ricketts was preferred to David Healy, who dropped to the bench, where he joined Frazer Richardson, Gylfi Einarsson, Matthew Spring and Matthew Kilgallon for the visit to Kenilworth Road home of newly promoted Luton Town, who had got off to a flyer by winning both games against former EPL duo, Southampton and Crystal Palace. Luton played a neat brand of football moving the ball quickly and were obviously riding on the crest of a wave. They created a couple of chances but thecentral defence of Paul Butler and Sean Gregan were in top form andkept them scoreless. United also had their chances but the two defenceswere generally in command. Former United Junior Warren Feeney linkedwell with his striking partner but could not break the United rearguardwith Ian Bennett commanding his area well. It was just as well theywere in commanding form as Gary Kelly and Dan Harding struggled to copewith Lutonís fast raiding wingers. Eddie Lewis had a good second halfwhen his crosses were a cause of danger to the Luton defence. WhileRobbie Blake worked hard up front, it was a mystery why Michael Ricketts was preferred ahead of regular scorer David Healy. There was a marked improvement after Healy came on for Robbie Blake in the sixty-seventh minute, quickly followed three minutes later by Frazer Richardson replacing the ineffective Jermaine Wright in midfield while Gylfi Einarsson came on for the equally ineffective Michael Ricketts on seventy-four minutes.

United lacked potency in midfield and although Eirik Bakke did have a couple of half chances and Shaun Derry just failed with a header early on, generally there was little creativity particularly in the first half. Bakke did manage to put Ricketts in the clear but the chance went begging as the striker side footed wide with only the keeper to beat. Luton were happy to hang on for the point to maintain pole position in the Division, as Leeds finished the stronger of the two teams, and United too were happy to gain a point at the expense of the leaders.

United made several changes for the visit of expected high flyers Wolverhampton Wanderers, Frazer Richardson was preferred to Jermaine Wright and Gylfi Einarsson took over from Eirik Bakke in midfield, while there was a welcome return of Rob Hulse in place of Michael Ricketts as striker. The bench was Neil Sullivan, Matthew Kilgallon, loan signing Jonathan Douglas, David Healy and Michael Ricketts. Another poor attendance, 21,229 (including 2,000 Wolves fans), were treated to a fine performance from United against a side which had only suffered one defeat since Glenn Hoddle had taken over in December of the previous year. United took their chances well and defended superbly in the first half when put under pressure by the lively visitors, who proved to be best team United had encountered since Wigan gave them a lesson several months previously. Indeed they were always a threat until United put the game beyond doubt on the hour mark.

United were off to a flyer as Eddie Lewis opened his goal-scoring account after only eight minutes, but it was hard going from there on as Wolves threw everything at them. It was more about the superb performance of Paul Butler, who repelled his former team-mates as the defensive lynchpin, and the outstanding goalkeeping skills of Ian Bennett. Gary Kelly was composed at right back and Frazer Richardson covered acres of ground defensively and in trying to get forward, while Sean Gregan and Daniel Harding both had fine games in defence. In midfield Shaun Derry had to do the work of two as Gylfi Einarsson struggled to cope in the first half, but improved as the game progressed. Miller rattled the United bar and Ricketts put an easy chance over the bar as Wolves took the ascendency and tested the United defence to the full and were lucky to make it to half time still clinging on to their slender lead.

Manager Kevin Blackwell bolstered the midfield and on fifty-seven minutes he gave a debut to Jonathan Douglas in place of Robbie Blake. Rob Hulse popped up to grab the second after sixty minutes and Wolves, having thrown everything bar the kitchen sink at United, visibly wilted and seemed to concede that they would not get one goal never mind the two then required to put them on level terms. Rob Hulse had battled hard and it was fitting that he was on hand to finish off a Gary Kelly free-kick, which had been nodded on by Gylfi Einarsson, for him to slide the ball past the keeper. He left to a standing ovation as he was replaced by Ricketts after seventy-five minutes and David Healy was given ten minutes in place of Einarsson as United sought to press home their superiority.

United entertained Oldham Athletic in the Carling Cup First Round and gave chances to a few non-regulars. Hulse, Lewis, Derry, Kelly and Butler were rested and there was a debut for Rui Marques and chances for Richardson, Kilgallon, Crainey, Pugh and Ricketts. The line-up was Sullivan; Marques, Gregan, Kilgallon, Crainey; Richardson, Douglas, Einarsson, Pugh; Healy, Ricketts. Robbie Blake replaced David Healy for the last nine minutes while Bennett, Harding, Wright and Moore were unused on the bench. It gave Danny Pugh a chance to show his talents, as he and Sean Gregan stood out for United. There were eight changes from the team that beat Wolverhampton Wanderers and first half goals from Michael Ricketts and Frazer Richardson were enough to give United an easy victory against mediocre opposition, who never looked like seriously challenging the hosts.

Stephen Crainey and Danny Pugh formed a formidable left side partnership while Matthew Kilgallon and David Healy showed their worth with good performances. Michael Ricketts had his best game for the club to date, while Jonathan Douglas and Gylfi Einarsson bossed the midfield. Rui Marques had a nervous start and Neil Sullivan had little to do. Unitedís opener came after twenty minutes when Sean Greganís powerful header fell for Michael Ricketts, who held off a challenge to score. Four minutes later it was all over as David Healy showed good touch to tee-up Frazer Richardson, who rifled the ball home, as United kept their third consecutive clean sheet and the 14,970 crowd went home happy.

For the visit to Norwich Cityís Carrow Road, United reverted to their regular XI of Bennett; Kelly, Butler, Gregan, Harding; Richardson, Derry, Einarsson, Lewis; Healy, Hulse. New signing Richard Cresswell debuted from the bench, replacing David Healy after seventy-four minutes, while Jonathan Douglas came on for Rob Hulse for the final ten minutes. Neil Sullivan, Robbie Blake and Matthew Kilgallon were unused substitutes.

The victory eased United into equal second on the ladder and showed that they were going to be a force to be reckoned with in the seasonís fight for promotion, as Rod Hulse scored his eighth goal in fifteen appearances to give United full points with a typical strikerís effort and one that any predatory goal-poacher would have been proud of. From an Eddie Lewis corner, Frazer Richardson returned a far post cross which was met by Paul Butler, who headed down for Rob Hulse who hammered the ball home from point blank range. It was no more than he deserved as he had hit the bar with a header in the first half, narrowly failed to latch on to a fine Gylfi Einarsson knock down, and seconds before his goal had almost succeeded in breaking through a crowd of defenders. Partnering the hard working David Healy for the first in the season, he showed that his physical presence would trouble many future opponents. The introduction of £1 million signing Richard Cresswell, showed that United with have plenty of physical presence whenever either is around. While Rob Hulse starred and David Healy was not far behind, it was a total team performance as they played as a unit and showed a strong work ethic. Eddie Lewis and Dan Harding linked well down the left, with Lewis showing great touch and Harding had his best game to date, subduing thealways dangerous ex-United speedster Darren Huckerby. Shaun Derry was again magnificent in midfield, while Gylfi Einarsson worked hard to provide the link to the front-line and was particularly strong in the air. Frazer Richardson covered acres of ground down the right flank both in attack and helping Gary Kelly, who continued his fine seam of good form and again caused trouble from set pieces. Paul Butler and Sean Gregan once more were immense in defence and Matthew Kilgallon must have been wondering if he would ever get a start, such had been their combined contributions in the season to date. Ian Bennett was commanding in goal and kept his third clean sheet for the season as United were in charge except for ten minutes either side of half-time.

Due to international commitments of both teams the next fixture, the home clash with Crystal Palace, was postponed and it created a match in hand, which was not played ultimately until late March, which meant that United and Palace were always a game in hand against their rivals throughout that six month period.

United were unchanged, as fresh from leading Northern Ireland to a famous victory over England by scoring a spectacular winner, David Healy almost single-handedly pulled United back from the brink of defeat in their home fixture with Brighton & Hove Albion. He scored twice and then figured strongly in a third, when United made a dramatic late comeback after conceding for a third time. Healy could have had a hat-trick in the first fifteen minutes, but scored twice in the second half and it was his shot that led to Jonathan Douglas scoring a late equaliser. It was a breathtaking contest which Leeds should have on, could have lost, but ultimately achieved an honourable draw. United conceded three goals at home for only the second time since relegation from the EPL. While they stretched their unbeaten run to five games, it was incredible that a normally shot-shy team like Brighton were the ones to break the run of clean sheets by United and it must be said that the game would have been approached as a home banker on recent form. While Leeds were stretched on occasions by the speedy visitors, they created enough chances to have won the game at a canter.

The goalkeeping heroics of Henderson, the on loan Republic of Ireland under 21 International from Aston Villa, and the woodwork, thwarted United many times, as David Healy, on three occasions, Rob Hulse twice, Eddie Lewis, and Einarsson had to cut short their goal celebrations, all in the first twelve minutes! Brighton absorbed the onslaught and on twenty-eight minutes broke at pace with Seb Carole leaving the Leeds defence floundering and his cross was knocked in by Leon Knight. It could have been worse as Hammond headed over just before half time when it seemed easier to score. The pace of Seb Carole and Leon Knight was causing the United defence all kinds of problems and shocked silence greeted their second goal seven minutes into the second half. Knight made the running for Carole to shoot through the legs of Daniel Harding and past the unsighted keeper and it seemed as though United might crumble. That could have been the case in previous seasons but not in the current one.

United brought on Jonathan Douglas for Frazer Richardson and Richard Cresswell for Rob Hulse after fifty-seven minutes. David Healy led the revival as he scored twice in five minutes, starting in the sixty-fifth minute, when Jonathan Douglas showed good vision to get the ball beyond the defence and provide David Healy with the sort of ball he thrives on for him to make no mistake. Douglas again figured in the second as he found Paul Butler who nodded down for Healy to hammer home. The game had been turned on its head and United seemed firm favourites to win and with Robbie Blake coming on for Eddie Lewis with ten minutes to go it seemed only a matter of time. But just three minutes later Brighton again broke and the hapless Sean Gregan deflected Knightís cross past his bewildered keeper. Ian Bennett had stood no chance with any of the three strikes and yet had not had to make another save. Right on time justice was done as Robbie Blake got the ball into the danger area and David Healyís blocked shot fell for Jonathan Douglas who delightedly drilled the ball home. Shaun Derry, Eddie Lewis, and Rob Hulse, all shone for Leeds as did substitutes Jonathan Douglas and Richard Cresswell but the stand out was David Healy and at the end of the day United found themselves in seventh spot.

For their visit to Hillsborough to meet near rivals Sheffield Wednesday, United shuffled the pack with Stephen Crainey replacing Dan Harding, while Ian Bennett, Frazer Richardson and Rob Hulse took the places of the promoted Neil Sullivan, Jonathan Douglas and Richard Cresswell, on the bench, as United once more showed poor derby form and allowed the home team to record their first victory of the season. Wednesday fully deserved their victory and Kevin Blackwell must have wondered what had gone wrong with his team who had previously looked the part of promotion candidates. United were never in the game until the final twenty minutes when they threw caution to the wind in a vain effort to compensate for the sloppy goal, which had been conceded after only eight minutes. Fortunately Wednesday failed to take advantage of a succession of gifts that could have put the game far beyond Unitedís reach and it was seventy-six minutes before the Owlsí keeper was called upon to make a save. The equaliser never came as United put on Frazer Richardson after sixty-seven minutes for Gylfi Einarsson, who had a nightmare and was totally ineffective, followed by Robbie Blake for David Healy four minutes later and after a further four minutes Rob Hulse came on for Richard Cresswell. Frazer Richardson started to make inroads down the right flank, while Jonathan Douglas moved into the middle and United had some modicum of success in gaining control of the midfield.

After Shaun Derry had failed to clear, United had conceded a free-kick which Eagles drifted over the watching wall and past a stunned Neil Sullivan and things didnít improve as they should have gone two down after fifteen minutes but somehow the Wednesday skipper managed to put the ball wide from close range. United did get the ball in the net as Eddie Lewis played David Healy in, only for the flag to go up for offside. David Graham also missed a golden opportunity when he elected to pass to an offside colleague when he had a clear pass to goal. Neil Sullivan kept United in the game with two stunning saves. David Healy slashed one effort wide before substitute Robbie Blake had a shot deflected to safety, and then Shaun Derry played in Frazer Richardson for him to allow Gary Kelly to cross for the lively substitute Rob Hulse to force the Wednesday keeper to a terrific save. It wasnít all one-way traffic as Brunt forced Sullivan to pull off another super save as he shot from distance. United tried their hardest in the final minutes but Wednesday deservedly held on to take the points and United dropped to tenth in the standings.

A visit to Loftus Road to meet Queens Park Rangers was next on the agenda and Rod Hulse replaced Richard Cresswell, who took his place on the bench, where Danny Pugh and Ian Moore sat instead of Frazer Richardson and Robbie Blake. Shaun Derry was Man of the Match with Eddie Lewis also outstanding, but there were no poor players for Leeds, only a poor referee who did his utmost to be the centre of attraction and the game suffered accordingly. His persistent whistling for petty fouls, particularly in the first half hour ruined the game as a spectacle. The sending off of David Healy on sixty-five minutes was a travesty and by then he had already dished out five yellows without much valid reason in four cases, in what had been a quiet game, but it exploded after Healyís dismissal and strangely only resulted in a further one yellow, to Shaun Derry.

United were well on top but the stop start of the first half hour only served to stop them from asserting this superiority. Early in the game Jonathan Douglas was played in by the impressive Eddie Lewis, but somehow managed to put his low cross over the bar from close range. Lewis was always a threat and Healy and Douglas combined well while Rob Hulse was always a menace in the box. Shaun Derry again proved that he was no only a fine protector of the back four but his vision and distribution were vital to Unitedís attacking build up. In general it was a total turn around from their inept display at Hillsborough and the team closed down well and fought for everything, and, when in possession, played neat football to created some decent chances. On forty minutes Gary Kelly sent over a free-kick from the left and Rob Hulse was left enough space to hammer the ball home from close range and he could thank poor marking by the Rangers defence for this goal which couldnít have come easier. It was no more than United deserved and they set out to try for a second. Gylfi Einarsson had one header blocked on the line, while David Healy and Rob Hulse caused havoc as Shaun Derry sprayed the ball around.

Healy was dismissed for a spat in back-play with Bircham, who had spent most of the game winding up the United players and had been very lucky not to be shown a card for an horrendous challenge on Einarsson moments earlier, and seemed the oppressor in the spat as he appeared to elbow Healy. The sending off prompted a melee between the two teams and not only reduced United to ten men but allowed Rangers back into the game and forced them to defend for the rest of the game. Richard Cresswell replaced Rob Hulse for the last twenty minutes. However, United were strong in defence and hung on for a deserved win.

United were still on the road, this time to Millmoor to face Rotherham United in the second round of the Carling Cup, which prompted a few changes to the team. Frazer Richardson for Gary Kelly, Matthew Kilgallon for Paul Butler, Ian Moore for Shaun Derry, Danny Pugh for Eddie Lewis and Richard Cresswell for the suspended David Healy. Shaun Derry was rested to the bench, where he was joined by Ian Bennett, Eddie Lewis, Daniel Harding and Rui Marques. It proved to be a comfortable 2-0 victory, with Richard Cresswell crowning a fine performance with both goals and forming a dangerous twin spearhead with Rod Hulse. Millmoor was a desolate place with building still going on and parts of the ground unavailable for spectators resulting in a sell-out 5,445 crowd which included 1,000 from Leeds. Matthew Kilgallon had a good game alongside Sean Gregan in the back four, while Ian Moore and Danny Pugh both gave good accounts of themselves on the flanks with Richard Cresswell deservedly getting both goals and Frazer Richardson did his regular first team aspirations no harm. United were well in control at the back and Neil Sullivan was virtually redundant, while Jonathan Douglas and Gylfi Einarsson got through a lot of work and bossed the midfield. Richard Cresswell opened the scoring in the nineteenth minute when he took advantage of poor defending to ram the ball home. Eight minutes later, after Rod Hulse had pressured the keeper, Cresswell was again on hand to double his tally and put the tie out of Rotherhamís reach. United completed their sixth clean sheet in ten games and easily progressed to the next round.

It was back to the League for the home fixture with Ipswich Town and back to the now usual team of Sullivan; Kelly, Butler, Gregan, Crainey; Douglas, Derry, Einarsson, Lewis; Hulse, Cresswell. Richardson, Blake, Moore, Bennett and Kilgallon occupied the bench. Shaun Derry was again Unitedís best performer as he battled alone in midfield with scant support from the rest and yet United dominated possession, created enough chances to have won two games, missed a penalty and could feel aggrieved that they had shown enough killer instinct to have won the game easily. It was Ipswich that scored twice from far fewer opportunities and took full points for their 2-0 victory as United slumped to their first home defeat of the season.

Ipswich had not won in weeks and looked likely to continue their poor run until Parkin put them ahead after almost half an hour. United were unable to benefit from their domination of possession and compounded this by giving away two easy goals. As against Brighton a fortnight previous they were caught on the break twice as fast breaking forwards took advantage of Unitedís vulnerability against swift breaks, and their inability to kill off the challenge from inferior teams has already lost them vital points. Inconsistency seemed to be the problem and a defence which boasted six clean sheets in eleven games was again caught napping, with both goals very preventable and the chance of joining the top flight of promotion contenders was lost. The first goal conceded came after almost half an hourís sustained pressure from United, when a long ball over the top found Bowditch in acres of space on the right wing with plenty of time to pick out Parkin on the near post and he bundled the ball home. The second twenty minutes from time came when Garvan lobbed the ball over the back four and found Parkin who again took advantage of the static defending. It was the sign of surrender as heads noticeably went down and there was never any question of the repeat of the recovery from a two goal deficit as was the case against Brighton.

There were few bright spots for United, as only Shaun Derry could have held his head high, although Eddie Lewis had a good first half and Richard Cresswell and Rob Hulse gave it their all. There was little creativity from midfield with Gylfi Einarsson and Jonathan Douglas sadly out of touch and lacking the quality to open up the Ipswich rearguard. Rob Hulse forced the keeper to a fine save and Eddie Lewis hit a post, but when Richard Cresswell failed to score from the spot it was clearly not going to be Unitedís day. Manager Kevin Blackwell sought to change things with the introduction of Frazer Richardson for Gylfi Einarsson on the hour and then Robbie Blake for Gary Kelly thirteen minutes later, before giving Ian Moore his chance in place of Rob Hulse with nine minutes to go. It was all to no avail.

There was a slight shake-up for the visit of Derby County in the following midweek as Frazer Richardson took Jonathan Douglasís place on the right of midfield as he was switched to central midfield in place of Gylfi Einarsson, who took Richardsonís place on the bench, in an otherwise unchanged team. Rob Hulse completed his first hat-trick as a United player when he hit the net three times in twelve minutes in the first half to ensure that finally United turned their dominance into three points. All three goals were typical goal-poachers strikes and Eddie Lewis and substitute Robbie Blake were prominent in the victory and the three strikes. The American winger followed up his fine game against Ipswich with a stream of crosses and was again the supplier in chief to the United strike force. He made the opening for the first goal, after thirty-two minutes, as he made the running before Robbie Blake supplied the pass for Rob Hulse to open up his account from close range. Five minutes later Lewis got behind the defence and squared for Hulse to rise and nod the ball home. Just before half-time it was again Lewis who was the provider when his pot shot was not held by the keeper and Hulse was on hand to force the ball home.

Things had not look good for United as Richard Cresswell was forced to leave the field after only twenty-seven minutes with a shin injury, but the advent of Robbie Blake as his replacement saw the opening up of the Derby defence and their keeper becoming nervous to the extent that he could be faulted for all three goals. Derby played neat football but Seth Johnson was totally outplayed in midfield as Shaun Derry and Jonathan Douglas took a firm grip with Frazer Richardson and particularly Eddie Lewis always a threat, as both ploughed up and down the wings to good effect. The defence was solid even though Sean Gregan conceded his second own goal in three home matches and Stephen Crainey looked to be lacking in confidence and made way for Matthew Kilgallon with five minutes to go, while Ian Moore was given a run for the last quarter of an hour giving hat-trick hero and man of the match Rob Hulse a welcome rest. The win took United up to sixth spot and only four points adrift of third place.

For the visit to fellow promotion hopefuls Watford at Vicarage Road there was a place for midweek substitutes Matthew Kilgallon, who replaced out of form Stephen Crainey and Robbie Blake, who replaced the injured Richard Cresswell, leaving a place on the bench for David Healy and Danny Pugh. Eddie Lewis was clearly feeling the injury which had caused him to be in doubt right up to kick-off time and was but a shadow of his normal self and had to be substituted after sixty-six minutes by Danny Pugh. Another of Unitedís better players in their midweek win Robbie Blake also struggled and was replaced by David Healy less than ten minutes into the second half. Midweek hero Rob Hulse had a torrid time and was locked in a dire struggle with Doyley with no quarter asked or given. It was never going to be pretty as Watfordís route one tactics and dour defending meant it would never be a game for the purists as defences dominated, with Gary Kelly and Paul Butler outstanding for United.

The two midfields cancelled each other out, but it was United who had the better chances and the least luck, as Rob Hulseís shot hit both posts without crossing the line, which was as close as either side got to breaking the impasse, although United had two claims for a penalty turned down as first Spring was given the benefit of the doubt after four minutes and then MacKay twenty minutes later. Watford enjoyed a minor spell of pressure in the first half but the United defence stood firm. Neil Sullivan was tested on a couple of occasions but generally it was a dour boring affair and both teams were glad to see the final whistle with their goals rarely threatened. Both teams were seemingly happy to have gained a point rather than having conceded full points to their fellow rival for promotion. The pitch was not a good advertisement for the grounds manís prowess and it reduced even good players to the ranks of honest toilers in a very forgettable game with a predictable outcome.

A Visit to Turf Moor for the first Roses battle of the season with Burnley saw a recall for Dan Harding at left back with Matthew Kilgallon taking a place on the bench instead of Danny Pugh. In a spiteful match that culminated in Shaun Derry being attacked in the tunnel by a Burnley player after the final whistle, United took the points with a fine 2-1 triumph. The game was won in the midfield with Shaun Derry, as usual, showing the way with Jonathan Douglas and Eddie Lewis both outstanding, and Frazer Richardson also playing his part. Gary Kelly and Paul Butler shone in defence but Sean Gregan was not at his best, while Dan Harding seemed quite comfortable as he eased himself back into the first team. Up front Rob Hulse and Robbie Blake toiled manfully.

United were the better team throughout and always looked the likely winners, but when Sean Gregan conceded a penalty, on the hour, in the second half, Burnley took the lead against the run of play. Akinbiyi had beaten Gregan in an aerial challenge and on escaping his clutches was unceremoniously upended by the defender on the bye-line for an undeniable penalty. Chances to that point had been few and far between but Robbie Blake should have done better as he side-footed wide after being put through by Rob Hulse but at half time the smart money would have been on a single goal away win.

On the half hour Shaun Derry had been booked for a late challenge on Branch, who took no further part in the game. Sinclair clattered Robbie Blake from behind and was lucky not to see red as was Harley for hauling down David Healy. Sean Gregan and Rob Hulse also saw yellow, as did Hyde for Burnley.

Kevin Blackwell responded to going behind by throwing on David Healy, in the sixty-ninth minute, in place of the hard-working Frazer Richardson and two minutes later he was involved in rounding Harley and being unceremoniously hauled to the ground. Eddie Lewis stepped up to send a beautiful curling free-kick past the Burnley keeper. The celebrations had hardly ceased when four minutes later Lewisskipped past two defenders on the left to send over a perfect cross for Rob Hulse to rise and head home the winner.

With three minutes to go Ian Moore came on for Rob Hulse and a minute later Gylfi Einarsson was on for Robbie Blake. Shaun Derry went close to making it three but was denied by the keeper and Ian Moore was clearly impeded in the box in the last minute but the referee, who had a poor game and contributed to the atmosphere by his ineptitude, failed to give the penalty. The travelling faithful gave the team and Kevin Blackwell a rousing reception at the end of the game.

There was an unchanged team for Southamptonís visit to Elland Road and they were able to cement fourth spot with another 2-1 victory. It was not an easy victory and United spent a lot of time on the receiving end, as Southamptonís pace and adventure pegged them back for long periods and it was to the teams credit that they were able to secure the win, even though it was due to Southamptonís inability to finish rather than Unitedís dominance or even any semblance of being the better team, but on balance it could have been more as United hit a post and Niemi made a brilliant save early on. It was a fine game of football which kept the crowd on the edge of their seats and fully entertained.

Leeds set the tone with two superb early goals. They set off like a house on fire and could have scored very early when Frazer Richardson sent across a perfect ball for Rob Hulse to force Niemi into a brilliant save from a point-blank header, and it was after only eleven minutes that Gary Kelly similarly got down the right wing and crossed for Rob Hulse to rise and place his header to perfection and give Niemi no chance of saving. Soon afterwards Eddie Lewis rattled the post with a curling free-kick but on nineteen minutes the second goal arrived and it was one from the picture book. Shaun Derry and Rob Hulse were both involved in the build up and Robbie Blake opened his Elland Road account with a superb curling shot. It was a wonderful piece of magic and must surely have boosted Blakeís confidence. At this point it looked as if it would be a run away victory, but Southampton soon came into the game and the sixteen year old Theo Walcott, who had already been wasteful when given a great chance to give his side the lead, left Paul Butler struggling in his wake and despite a valiant attempt by Neil Sullivan, his point blank save was only good enough to push it on to the post and it crept into the net in the twenty-fifth minute. Comparisons were being made of his pace and stature being similar to Aaron Lennon and others were likening his striking ability to Wayne Rooney, but there was little doubt that he was an outstanding talent and heading for the big time. He was quite wasteful, however and put another effort over the bar and Leeds went into the half-time break marginally in front on the judgeís scorecard.

In the second half and particularly the last half hour it was all Southampton as they dominated the midfield and cut the United defence to ribbons. Kevin Blackwell saw the way the United defence was struggling with Paul Butler and Sean Gregan all at sea against the pace of the Southampton attackers and Dan Harding was also finding it hard to cope. He withdrew Sean Gregan and introduced Matthew Kilgallon after fifty-six minutes and United, while still struggling against the Southampton attackís pace and movement, held firm. David Healy replaced Robbie Blake after sixty-five minutes and Gylfi Einarsson replaced Frazer Richardson ten minutes later, but the changes were only cosmetic and replacing tired legs. In the outfield only Eddie Lewis and Robbie Blake and to a lesser extent Rob Hulse, Shaun Derry, Jonathan Douglas and Gary Kelly could have been happy with their performances and if not for a superb display in goal by Neil Sullivan the game would have been easily lost, as he proved himself to be Mr. Reliable with a string of fine saves to make him Unitedís man of the match.

Not unpredictably United kept the improving Matthew Kilgallon in their run on eleven with Sean Gregan taking his place on the bench against run-away leaders Sheffield United in the next game at Elland Road. United secured a share of the points and held the League leaders to their first draw of the season. United further cemented fourth spot on the ladder when a wonderful Frazer Richardson goal was cancelled out by a strike from Kabba as the two White Rose rivals put on a great display of football and a draw was a fair result although Warnock would have been the happier of the two managers by preserving the status quo, with Sheffield maintaining their twelve point advantage, having lost only two of their fourteen games to date. Paul Butler led by example and never gave the Sheffield striker Shipperley a kick and when substituted after sixty-five minutes he had made no contribution to the game whatsoever. He was ably supported by Matthew Kilgallon who totally justified his selection with an impeccable display while Shaun Derry was in charge in midfield. In fact, Jonathan Douglas apart, the whole United team were on song. Robbie Blake and Rob Hulse both gave their all and, in the only real chance for Leeds in the first half, Rob Hulse headed wide of the post, with an effort that he would usually have converted after a Robbie Blake cross had been deflected into his path. Although at the other end the superb Neil Sullivan did make one fine save from Kabba.

Leeds deservedly took the lead after fifty-three minutes when Robbie Blake did well to jink his way free and set up Frazer Richardson on the edge of the box for the midfielder to rifle in a pile-driver of a shot, which gave the keeper no chance. It looked as though it would be the winner, but sixteen minutes later with United uncertain whether to go for an emphatic victory or defend their slender lead, Kabba caught the defence in a moment of hesitancy and grabbed the equalizer. Robbie Blake always looked capable of winning it for Leeds and it was a surprise to see him replaced after sixty-five minutes, even though David Healy was always capable of achieving the same effect. Gylfi Einarsson replaced Frazer Richardson two minutes later and Ian Moore replaced Jonathan Douglas with seven minutes to go, but although Leeds finished the stronger of the two teams they were unable to produce the second goal and honours finally finished even with little to choose between the two sides. Indeed, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Derby County and Southampton had all given United more trouble than the run away leaders.

For the Carling Cup Third Round tie with Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park United rested a few tired players and lined up as follows: Sullivan; Richardson, Butler, Kilgallon, Harding; Moore, Einarsson, Gregan, Pugh, Healy; Blake; with Douglas, Lewis, Hulse, Bennett and Walton on the bench. The team said that key players were rested and that progress was not anticipated and the weekend game with Reading was of more importance, and so it proved.

United showed little ambition with a makeshift midfield of five and a lone striker. They paid the price for their lack of ambition, because despite plenty of hard work they never looked like causing an upset. Blackburn should have had the tie wrapped up by half time but poor finishing kept Leeds in the game. It was very one-sided with United defending for almost the entire game with Robbie Blake unable to get control of the ball and the two Blackburn centre backs were able to push the ball forward with monotonous regularity and Ian Moore and David Healy looked exactly what they were, two strikers playing on the wings of midfield and were rarely in the game either. Sean Gregan and Danny Pugh tried hard enough but just could not cope and consequently the back four were under constant pressure and despite dogged resistance the result was inevitable.

Sullivan watched Kuqu shoot wide, pushed an in-swinging Pederson corner over the bar and saved two from Pederson and Dickov all before the end of thirty minutes. He then pushed a Savage free-kick over the bar while Todd contrived to head over from close range with the goal at his mercy. Blackburn were short of spark and ideas but the advent of Bellamy at half-time changed matters, as he created all the three goals in the final thirty minutes. On the hour he played in Emerton who lashed the ball past Sullivan. The goal prompted Leeds to go 4-4-2, Jonathan Douglas replaced Sean Gregan and quickly Eddie Lewis replaced Danny Pugh with David Healy pushing up to join Robbie Blake up front.

It was too late and Bellamy worked a perfect cross for Dickov to convert with ease. This prompted the appearance of Rob Hulse for Robbie Blake and there were ironic cheers as he had a pop shot from distance for Unitedís only shot on goal all night. Gylfi Einarsson made a two footed lunge at Savage and was red carded and not unsurprisingly Blackburn added their third in the last minute as Bellamy played a one-two with Neill, who was allowed to race through the defence to score with ease. Leeds deservedly lost the tie and were eliminated from their first competition of the year.

United reverted to the normal formation for the visit to Madejski Stadium, home of undefeated front runners Reading, with no changes from the team that had performed so well against leaders Sheffield United. Sixty-sixth minute substitute, David Healy, scored his sixth goal of the season after seventy-five minutes to equalize a sixty-third minute goal by Reading to give United a deserved point. The draw took Reading to eighteen games undefeated while United extended their unbeaten League run to six games. Before the introduction of Healy United had defended stoutly with Matthew Kilgallon being outstanding in defence but Neil Sullivan, Gary Kelly, Paul Butler and Daniel Harding all give first class displays to keep United in the game. The midfield four were disappointing, with Shaun Derry well below his usual form, as Reading showed why they usually dominate the midfield and take command of matches. Rob Hulse and Robbie Blake had little opportunity to show their full capabilities but foraged well to compensate for the lack of creativity from the midfield.

United had threatened briefly in the first half but Reading had by far the better of the first stanza and pressed on in the second to deservedly take the lead just past the hour mark. They had thrown everything at United and gone close on several occasions before Gunnarson picked up the ball on the edge of the area to shoot through a crowd of players with Neil Sullivan unsighted. Kitson had a chance to kill off the game two minutes later but his header failed and the game changed with the introduction of David Healy. He was not frightened to run at the home defence and they were soon in retreat. He created a good opportunity for Jonathan Douglas but he made a hash of his chance to equalise. Healy would not be denied and duly got United on level terms. It was Reading who were left praying for the full-time whistle as United threw on Ian Moore for Frazer Richardson but ultimately justice was done and the spoils were shared.

United retained their finishing eleven, with Frazer Richardson and Robbie Blake dropping to the bench for the trip to Gresty Road and Crewe Alexandra in what looked like an easy game against one of the cellar-dwellers with only two victories to their name. Leeds went from heroes to zeros in turning on their worst performance of the season. In the end only a Paul Butler own goal separated the two teams but that did not tell the full tale as if Crewe had won by five or six they wouldnít have been flattered, but they squandered chance after chance or were frustrated by a series of fine saves by Neil Sullivan, the only United to emerge with any credit. Incredibly United were in the competition right up to the final whistle but it would have been a travesty had they got anything from the encounter.

It was a thoroughly inept performance from Leeds, Jonathan Douglas had a very poor game and he and Shaun Derry were way below par and the team suffered accordingly. Only Paul Butler and Matthew Kilgallon in defence, and Rob Hulse up front, showed any effort and United were once again deeply in debt to Neil Sullivan for keeping them in the game. There did not seem to be one United outfield player capable of stopping Creweís neat simple approach play. Only the home teamís lack of finishing power saved Leeds from a drubbing as Crewe were unable to increase their lead after Butlersí seventh minute blunder. Kevin Blackwell made his usual substitutions to try and pep things up with Robbie Blake on for David Healy after sixty-five minutes, Frazer Richardson for Ian Moore seven minutes later and finally Danny Pugh for Dan Harding with nine minutes to go. Robbie Blake had a couple of half chances, Rob Hulse shot over the bar, Frazer Richardson had a shot scrambled off the line and Gary Kelly skimmed the bar from outside the box in the last minute. Had it gone in it would have been a travesty and it seemed funny that United were sat in fifth spot with a game in hand on third place Watford, who they only trial by three points, while Crewe seem virtual relegation certainties but would have been glad of the three points that kept them in contact with fellow strugglers.

Kevin Blackwell responded to Unitedís poor recent midfield performances by taking Liam Miller on loan from Manchester United. He went straight into the team for the home fixture with Preston North End at the expense of Jonathan Douglas who dropped to the bench, while Frazer Richardson took the place of Ian Moore, who also dropped to the bench, and Danny Pugh missed out altogether. In a game which was very poor considering both teams hold pretensions of promotion but both had to play second fiddle to the referee DíUrso, who blew his whistle at the least opportunity and ruined any chance of the game reaching any great heights or having any free-flowing rhythm.

The two teams would next meet in the last game of the season and Unitedís inconsistency meant that both teams would join another ten teams with the potential to make the play-offs but both would have to improve on this performance to win that play-off, as Reading and Sheffield United already appeared to have booked their places to the Premiership even at that early stage of the season. After seven games in twenty-one days there were claims of the team being jaded but it held little water as the same conditions applied to all clubs in the League.

Rob Hulse played carrying an ankle knock and did his best but David Healy did not seem interested against his former team-mates and Eddie Lewis was equally insignificant. With Shaun Derry again off the pace and Frazer Richardson making no impact, Liam Miller, while making a bright start, made little impact, but the midfield was often by-passsed. DíUrso was soon in on the act as he ruled out a header from David Healy in the fifth minute, apparently for a push. Rob Hulse showed a willingness to chase lost causes and got in a couple of headers but was well shackled by the Preston defence as Leeds showed little imagination or variation. There were no goals from Rob Hulse, Robbie Blake or David Healy, or any flash of brilliance from Eddie Lewis, and Shaun Derry had little influence on the midfield, all of which had been deciding factors in previous games. Matthew Kilgallon and Paul Butler were strong and resolute in defence and Neil Sullivan was as reliable as ever, but better opposition would have punished Leeds for their worst home performance of the season to date. DíUrso managed to find thirty-three fouls and book five players and totally ruined the game as a spectacle.

There was a welcome break from the League competition and United took a trip across to France to play Amateur team Rodez, where a Danny Pugh goal was enough to ensure victory. It gave Blackwell a chance to give his fringe players a game leaving the same eleven intact for the full game. It was Ian Bennett; Frazer Richardson, Rui Marques, Sean Gregan, Stephen Crainey; Nick Gray, Gylfi Einarsson, Simon Walton, Liam Miller, Danny Pugh; Robbie Blake.

For the trip to St Maryís, home of Southampton, the regulars were all back, with Robbie Blake getting the nod over David Healy in the starting eleven and the Irish International took his place on the bench, alongside Jonathan Douglas and Ian Bennett with Danny Pugh and Simon Walton, who were preferred to Sean Gregan and Ian Moore.

This was in many ways a watershed for United, as it showed them at their best and worse, but more than anything it showed that all things are possible, not matter what the odds. It was a comeback of unimaginable proportions, the like of which is seldom seen. United scored four goals in the space of fifteen minutes and no-one watching the game in the seventieth minute would have dreamed that Southampton, already three goals to the good, would do anything but increase their lead, such was their dominance and Leedsí ineptitude.

Southampton had never looked in any kind of trouble and their midfield had so dominated the game that they seemed capable of scoring at will against a team that showed little skill or fight. Marian Pahars, who had returned to first team duties after a long lay off, gave the Saints the lead after twenty-seven minutes, with a goal straight from the training ground. Eight minutes later his fellow midfielder Nigel Quashie doubled the lead after Theo Walcott had tied Matthew Kilgallon in knots. The third followed on the stroke of half-time when Daniel Harding resorted to stopping a header with his hands and Quashie converted from the spot. Three up and in total dominance, Southampton must have been contemplating a cricket score in the second half. Fortunately, for United, Pahars was feeling the effects of his recent lack of match practice and he did not come out for the second half and Dennis Wise was also quickly withdrawn. Neil Sullivan kept Leeds in the game with two stunning saves as United still failed to cope.

After sixty-seven minutes David Healy was thrown into the fray in place of Frazer Richardson. To that point Leedsí display had been as bad as Southampton had been good, but with Healy pushed up front, Liam Miller started to come more into the game as Healy showed more invention, something that had been sadly lacking in Unitedís game to that point. Suddenly docile players found energy and fight, and slowly the tide turned as Healy and Blake found holes in the Southampton rearguard. Four minutes after Healyís arrival, skipper Paul Butler headed home a Gary Kelly corner and with almost twenty minutes left it seemed little more than a consolation goal. Even when the hard working Robbie Blake scored a second six minutes later, there seemed little immediate trouble. However it must have sent shockwaves through the Saints defence, who became visibly drained of confidence as United started to exert pressure. Higginbotham particularly looked decidedly uncomfortable and it was he that handled a David Healy shot. The confident Ulsterman made no mistake from the spot to level with still six minutes left. United were not happy to accept a draw and close up shop, they just kept on attacking! Rod Hulse got in the act after a quiet day as he unselfishly pulled the ball back for the charging Liam Miller, who took it in his stride, to lash it past the keeper for United to take an unbelievable lead and steal the points with four minutes to go.

It was a vital win which kept United well in touch with the leaders rather than sinking as low as tenth, which is what was on the cards with twenty minutes left. David Healy was a total revelation, Paul Butler was strong throughout, Liam Miller raised his game with a storming finale and Neil Sullivan kept United from capitulation with a couple of brilliant saves when needed. Robbie Blake worked tirelessly and Shaun Derry got stronger as the game progressed. After being totally outplayed for almost seventy minutes, there was a purple patch for the final twenty minutes! A brilliant comeback and congratulations were in order on a fabulous result, but despite everything it would have been unwise to disregard their truly awful display for the majority of the game. It did give hope for what could be achieved when the team play to their strengths and give their all. It gave hope for the rest of the season as it was against a team who had such a strong home record.

Burnley were the next visitors to Elland Road, and, not surprisingly, David Healy remained in the run-on team at the expense of Frazer Richardson, who dropped to the bench, where Sean Gregan took the place of Simon Walton. Robbie Blake had his best game to date and fully deserved his goal to cap an impressive display. Paul Butler and Matthew Kilgallon were sound at the heart of the United defence, while Dan Harding was exposed at times against a lively young winger, while Gary Kellyís game improved after half-time and Neil Sullivan had little to do. Shaun Derry and David Healy worked hard in midfield, where Liam Miller and Eddie Lewis were below par and Rob Hulse had a frustrating evening up front. While not a convincing display, United were easily the better team and cemented a top six place and edge past their opponents.

It was good to see back to back wins against a team that had won their last four, as after being unable to gain the ascendancy in the first half, they stepped up a gear and had enough quality to overcome a worthy opponent. Matthew Kilgallon rattled the underside of the bar with an excellent header as early as the fourth minute, but United failed to create another chance in the first half hour, while at the other end Neil Sullivan made a good block from OíConnor and Sinclair headed over, Dyer had a shot deflected wide and McGreal headed wide, as Burnley looked a better team than the one United had beaten at Turf Moor a few weeks previously. They looked like a team who had won seven of their last nine games and if they had prevailed they would have jumped to fourth place.

United always seemed to have something spare and United sent them a warning in the shape of a Derry-Lewis move which ended in Eddie Lewis hitting the side-netting, but with David Healy moving up from right midfield to make a three pronged attack with Robbie Blake and Rob Hulse. Three minutes into the second half Rob Hulse had a goal disallowed for offside. Liam Miller soon went close as he played a quick one-two with Robbie Blake but his shot was blocked. It fell to David Healy to give United the lead from the spot after fifty-five minutes, as he kept his nerve to slot home his third penalty of the season. Burnley had a reply disallowed for taking a free-kick too quickly, but Robbie Blake did not make the same mistake when presented with a free-kick on the edge of the Burnley box, after seventy minutes. Burnley resorted to niggles and fouls and the usual yellow cards followed as United sent on Frazer Richardson for David Healy with ten minutes left, while Jonathan Douglas and Danny Pugh played the last minute in place of Paul Butler and Gary Kelly, but by then the game was beyond the men from Turf Moor.

Paul Butler missed the away trip to the Den and Sean Gregan deputised, with Gary Kelly taking the captainís armband. Simon Walton took Sean Greganís place on the bench where Ian Moore replaced Danny Pugh. United completed the double over Millwall and made it three games on the trot with maximum points. It came in the form of a last minute strike from David Healy and United triumphed over a relegation candidate after previously dropping points to cellar dwellers too often for comfort in the season to date. The win meant that United had gained an incredible seven points, on one-time runaway leaders Sheffield United, in the last three games played in the space of a week. However, they still trailed the now second-placed club by ten points, but were well entrenched in the play-off places.

They dominated the match from start to finish and it wasnít until the eighty-second minute that Neil Sullivan was called upon to make a save. Gary Kelly led by example and was Unitedís stand out performer, closely followed by David Healy, Rob Hulse, Robbie Blake and Eddie Lewis. Indeed all players played well and, after Shaun Derry succumbed to an injury, Jonathan Douglas performed well for all but the first thirty-seven minutes. Manager Blackwell opted for a 4-3-3 formation and it gave Gary Kelly the chance to get up and down the right wing and his crosses were a constant cause for panic in the Millwall rearguard. With Eddie Lewis in fine form on the left, there was a plentiful supply to the forwards with David Healy meriting his winner and his co-strikers Robbie Blake and Rob Hulse were unlucky not to figure on the score-sheet. The defence was totally unruffled and the midfield of Jonathan Douglas, Liam Miller and Eddie Lewis was in complete control.

Only the woodwork and some fine saves by the Millwall keeper kept Leeds from being out of sight by half time, as Eddie Lewis and David Healy both hit the post and the keeper denied both David Healy and Jonathan Douglas with first class saves. United kept pounding away at the Millwall defence in the second half and the keeper again denied Douglas, David Healyís goal-bound shot hit the grounded Hulse, while the unfortunate Hulse only produced an air-swing when given a chance, all be it from a tight angle. It seemed as if United had been repulsed, but in the third minute of injury time David Healyís powerful shot was deflected past the wrong footed keeper to give United a deserved winner. So for the first time in three years United had won three on the trot and the traveling faithful were rewarded with yet another away win.

The win was not without its costs as Shaun Derry, Jonathan Douglas and Sean Gregan were all unavailable for Unitedís home encounter with Leicester City. Captain Paul Butler returned in place of Sean Gregan, Simon Walton had his first run of the season in place of Shuan Derry, while Danny Pugh and Stephen Crainey took the place of Jonathan Douglas and Simon Walton on the bench. United triumphed 2-1 and moved into third place, their highest position since relegation with their fourth consecutive win. On the pitch United looked a far better side than a month previous while off the pitch there was news from Chairman Ken Bates of more financial stability.

Manager Kevin Blackwell again opted for a 4-3-3 formation and United carried on where they had left off against Millwall and played good attacking football. With Robbie Blake, Rob Hulse and David Healy playing up front United looked capable of scoring goals as they created more and more chances with the attacking formula. Gary Kelly had a licence to get up and down the right flank and the midfield men were encouraged to press forward and have a go themselves, while defensively the three front-runners were the first line of defence as they closed down and chased. The more attacking and adventurous formation produced a better type of football and entertainment for the watchers. The game was helped as a spectacle by the willingness of Leicester to attack and make the game free-flowing rather than adopt the regulation nine-man defence often preferred by visitors to Elland Road.

Neil Sullivan was forced to make two early saves and this set the tempo of the game, but United soon settled and looked dangerous themselves, as Eddie Lewis skimmed the crossbar after good approach play and Rob Hulse headed just over. Hulse had the ball in the net after fifteen minutes but his celebrations were cut short by the offside flag. It was hammer and tongs for the first half until United finally broke the deadlock four minutes before half-time. It was a routine straight from the training ground, with a rehearsed move from a free-kick in which Eddie Lewis played a back-heel for David Healy to pick his spot. It was only justice as United had been denied a penalty, after a handball had been missed by the referee, for the first of many mistakes he made to change the course of the match.

In the second half Rob Hulse headed against the crossbar before Leicester started to get the upper hand in the possession stakes, but United never looked in serious trouble. In defence Paul Butler and Matthew Kilgallon were commanding and in midfield Simon Walton broke up the play very well and United never looked like conceding a goal, until the referee gave a penalty to Leicester after the clumsy Rob Hulse had brought down Gudjonnson. It was a foul but contact was clearly made outside the box. It mattered little as Gudjonnsen equalized from the spot after sixty-nine minutes. He made amends a few minutes later, when he gave Matthew Kilgallon the benefit of the doubt, as he appeared to be in an offside position, when he netted after Robbie Blake fashioned an opening for him. Leicester defender, McCarthy, was so incensed by the decision that his protests earned him a red card. It was a rare piece of luck but Leicester pressed for the equalizer and, after sending on Frazer Richardson for Simon Walton after eighty-four minutes and Ian Moore and Danny Pugh for David Healy and Robbie Blake after eighty-nine minutes, the referee indicated there would be six minutes of stoppage time. Fortunately they hung on and put more pressure on Sheffield United as they extended their winning sequence to five games.

Sean Gregan was back in place of Simon Walton for the visit of Cardiff City and Walton dropped to the bench, where he and Jonathan Douglas replaced Frazer Richardson and Stephen Cairney. Hopes had been high after the good recent form and points accumulation that Cardiff would prove to be an easy win, as on paper it was less of a challenge than recent games. It came as a great surprise when United turned on their worst display in a long time and the players seemed like strangers to each other. It had seemed that they had, after the Southampton come-back, at last found the level of consistency required to mount a serious promotion challenge. It all went wrong right from the first whistle as it soon became apparent that they lacked any spark, the tempo was slow and they never managed to raise it. The midfield was totally ineffective and their poor form meant there was only ever going to be one outcome. It was a rare occasion when all eleven players were off-form at the same time. Paul Butler and Matthew Kilgallon were the only two who could hold their heads high. Gary Kelly managed a couple of good crosses, while Rob Hulse twice got himself into positions where he should have threatened the goal.As a team, Manager Kevin Blackwellís summation of ďRubbishĒ was not far from the truth and he also claimed it was their worst performance of the season, although some could argue the Crewe performance was equally as dire.

Cardiff opted for the packed midfield to stifle United and like it often does at Elland Road there was no answer as the 4-3-3, so effective in recent weeks, could not give the width required to cause Cardiff any problems, even though their wing backs seemed slow and cumbersome they were never put to the test. Jason Koumas was the best player on the park and it was he who scored the deciding goal after being upended on the edge of the box by Sean Gregan. He arose to dust himself down and beautifully curl the ball round the wall to give Neil Sullivan no chance, on the half hour mark. It was a goal worthy of winning any match. United rarely looked like scoring, although Robbie Blake was wrestled to the ground early in the second half and Eddie Lewis went close with a header in the dying minutes. Kevin Blackwell rang the changes as Danny Pugh replaced Dan Harding after fifty-six minutes, while Jonathan Douglas replaced the ineffective Sean Gregan after sixty-nine minutes, and Ian Moore came on for Robbie Blake seven minutes later, but none were able to spark any life into a totally drab and uninspiring performance by the home team, who missed a great chance to improve their position as others faltered.

Simon Walton and Richard Cresswell were called up to replace the absent Gary Kelly and Rob Hulse, while Shaun Derry returned from injury to replace Sean Gregan, who dropped to the bench, in midfield as United travelled to Molineux for the game with Wolverhampton Wanderers. United suffered their second consecutive 1-0 defeat against a team that seemed to be there for the taking. United just could not muster any chances of note and their once comfortable position in the play-off zone came under threat, with fifth place Stoke City, Unitedís next opponents, only two points adrift and Wolves jumped to sixth spot with their first win in five games.

It was quite apparent that, while United were well organized and defensively sound, there was still a glaring lack of quality and creativity in the opponentís one third of the field. The work-rate was also acceptable, and David Healy in particular grafted well and offered a glimmer of hope. However, to win games there must be an ability to open up the opposition and Leeds managed it only once in the whole game and as an attacking threat were a non-event. Richard Cresswell returned after a long lay-off and looked unfit and tired quickly, while Shaun Derry, who also was returning after injury looked very rusty in midfield. Paul Butler was commanding against his old club in central defence and was ably abetted by Matthew Kilgallon, while up front David Healy gave his all. Sullivan had to be on top form in goal and made a fine save to push the ball onto the woodwork and away to safety.

Early in the game Matthew Kilgallon did well to get in a header from an Eddie Lewis cross, but it was saved by the Wolves keeper, who also thwarted David Healyís follow up. Later Liam Miller played in the impressive David Healy but Matthew Kilgallon failed to get a touch on his tantalizing cross. That was all United had to offer and Wolvesí response was immediate as they rattled the bar from distance and forced Neil Sullivan to a fine save from the follow up, then three minutes later they got the goal that won the game. Naylor, who had been a worry with his runs down the left flank, sent across another probing cross and Soel totally miscued his far post finish but unfortunately for United it fell kindly for Ganea to score from close range. United introduced Ian Moore for the tiring Richard Cresswell after sixty-eight minutes and Dan Harding made way for Jonathan Douglas with five minutes to go, but to no avail. There was plenty of huffing and puffing by United but their cause was not helped by Simon Walton being dismissed for a second yellow with seven minutes to go and Liam Millerís yellow a few minutes later was his fifth and meant he missed the game at home to Coventry City.

There was plenty of Christmas cheer for Unitedís Boxing Day home game with Coventry City, as they ran out easy 3-1 victors. Gary Kelly made a welcome return at the expense of Simon Walton at right back, with Jonathan Douglas replacing the suspended Liam Miller. Rob Hulse, Frazer Richardson and Jermaine Wright took their place on the bench in place of Ian Moore, Jonathan Douglas and Sean Gregan. The best crowd of the season, 24,291, was on hand to see United get back into winning form. After two consecutive defeats United were under pressure to perform. season by any stretch of the imagination, they did improve their game and their quality overcame a team that played well above their lowly League position. It was a question that United scored three quality goals as opposed to Coventryís one, but the fact that the visitors hit the woodwork five times indicated that United did not have it all their own way.

United played the better football but Coventry were direct and posed a threat from dead-ball situations. The long ball down the middle was tailor-made for Paul Butler and his dominance was the foundation of Unitedís win. However Jonathan Douglas, Matthew Kilgallon, Gary Kelly and Dan Harding all made decisive challenges. Despite a viral infection, Shaun Derry shone in midfield until he was given the job of man-marking Hutchinson late in the game. While upfront David Healy and Robbie Blake, both playing in the wide roles, put in long stints while Richard Cresswell took his goal well. After thirty-four minutes Cresswell caused consternation in the Coventry defence, as David Healy sent over a looping cross, and the ball fell kindly for Jonathan Douglas to gleefully volley home from close range. Coventry responded by pressing forward and United were not allowed to go into their shell and sit back on their lead. McSheffrey forced Neil Sullivan to push the ball round the post. Eddie Lewis was back to thwart a Coventry shot after they had hit the inside of the post and then they clipped the woodwork again from a set piece.

Half-time brought no respite for United as Coventry again pressed forward from the second half whistle and after going close on several occasions the equalizer, which had always seemed immanent, duly came on the hour mark as Hutchinson unleashed a venomous strike from twenty-five yards out which left Sullivan grasping at thin air. The goal stung United out of their lethargy and they were back on level terms after only ninety seconds, as David Healy delivered a pinpoint cross for his comrade in arms, Robbie Blake, to lash the ball home. United finally put the game beyond the visitors as with ten minutes to go Robbie Blake again figured prominently, breaking from the halfway line and feeding the onrushing Richard Cresswell, who scored with aplomb with a fantastic angled shot. With victory seeming assured United threw on Rob Hulse for Robbie Blake, but were given a scare as Paul Butler tangled with McSheffrey in the box and from the resultant penalty the Coventry striker added to Coventryís woe by hitting the bar. With the miss went any chance they may have had of salvaging a point. Frazer Richardson replaced David Healy on the full-time mark as United shored up their three points.

Manager Kevin Blackwell kept faith with the same eleven for the visit to the Britannia Ground, home of Stoke City, with Liam Miller getting the nod over Jermaine Wright on the bench. United could thank their solid defence, in which Matthew Kilgallon, Paul Butler, Gary Kelly and the penalty-saving king, Neil Sullivan, excelled. Despite Stoke being the more dominant team, United maintained their 100% record at the Britannia Ground a far cry from their poor record at Stokeís former home venue of the Victoria Ground. They took the best of their few chances, while Stokeís attack foundered on the rock that was the United defence. After winning there the previous season with a lucky own goal, United again rode their luck as, apart from missing a penalty, the former Leeds misfit Michael Duberry answered everyoneís prayers in the dying moments when it was he that was presented with an open goal, but managed, as only he could, to hit the crossbar with a chance that would have been a schoolboyís dream.

Stoke had all the early pressure and dominated for long periods in the first half and United were glad to go to the break on level terms. Referee Halsey had been very heavy on both sides as the game was punctuated by fouls and needless stoppages and United would have been glad when he didnít reappear after the break as a result of an accidental collision with Robbie Blake. United had suffered from lack of width as they played 4-3-3 and David Healy played just behind the front two of Robbie Blake and Richard Cresswell, in a tactical change in the secondhalf. Eddie Lewis was restricted in his movements and Stoke were able to pour forward down the flanks but Dan Harding put up a good defence, albeit being given little protection, and United had their only period of ascendancy.

In the first half Jonathan Douglas twice shot wide, Paul Butler had a volley stopped and Richard Cresswell had a point-blank header deflected but, after Gallagher had twice shot wide early in the second stanza, United took command for a while. Richard Cresswell was thwarted by the keeper after being supplied with a good cross from Dan Harding and again it was Cresswell who could not find space to maneuver after good play by Robbie Blake. David Healy made way for Liam Miller after sixty-six minutes, which saw Eddie Lewis given a more advanced role as an orthodox winger and it paid almost immediate dividends. Jonathan Douglas delivered a cross from the right and Eddie Lewis got behind the Stoke defence to sweep the ball home for his third of the season with twenty-one minutes to go.

United then proved that they are capable of grinding out away results, but not without a bit of good fortune, as Stoke threw everything but the kitchen sink at them in one prolonged final assault and Sullivan pulled off a fine save from Bangoura before pushing a Sigurdsson shot round the post. Stoke really should have won the game in the last few minutes but for Duberryís amazing miss. They also were presented with a penalty in the first half when their man mountain defender Sibide allowed pint sized Gary Kelly to ďpushĒ him over the box in a scramble after Neil Sullivan had spilled a routine shot. Justice was done when Sullivan saved the resultant penalty from Gallagher. United nevertheless got full points which saw them back in third place with a seven point cushion in the playoff places.

Liam Miller was preferred to David Healy, who dropped to the bench, and Stephen Crainey came in for Dan Harding for the final game of 2005 as United entertained Hull City. Jonathan Douglas netted both goals as United won in a canter and the score flattered Hull in what was one of Unitedís easiest wins of the season. Hull started in a flurry but after thirty minutes United started to totally dominate and in truth it could have been a cricket score. Matthew Kilgallon was a stand out in a dominant defence although Stephen Crainey looked understandably rusty after his long absence, but it was in the midfield that the foundation for the easy victory was made, with Shaun Derry, Jonathan Douglas and Liam Miller in exceptional form, while Robbie Blake was again in top form up front in tandem with Richard Cresswell and Eddie Lewis.

With Rob Hulse and David Healy restricted to the bench it was obvious that United had the depth and quality to make a determined push for promotion, as they extended their run to seven wins out of the last nine matches. Liam Miller had his best match since joining the club on loan, and with Shaun Derry showing his class and Jonathan Douglas in full flight and rewarded by two goals, it was not surprising that Eddie Lewis used to the freedom to skip down the touchline and send across a string of tantalizing crosses. Robbie Blake missed two chances but showed great touches in an outstanding performance, while in defence Neil Sullivan earned his wages with two fine saves and Gary Kelly and Paul Butler kept up their recent good form.

Jonathan Douglasí first strike came in injury time in the first half and sent the visitors in with heads bowed and United had the ascendancy. They should have been ahead after 29 minutes when Richard Cresswell dispossessed a Hull defender to set Robbie Blake up with a clear run on goal, but the Hull keeper spread himself and Blake was denied a golden opportunity. Moments later Blake was again played in by a Gary Kelly cross but was unable to apply a finishing touch. In reply Hull hit the crossbar and after Paynter had firstly been stopped by Matthew Kilgallon he was also thwarted by a fine save from Sullivan but that was the end of the threat from Hull. A good ball out of defence by Matthew Kilgallon found Robbie Blake and he showed great skills to feed Jonathan Douglas, who made no mistake to register his second goal in three games. In the second half United were denied what appeared to be a blatant penalty, as a Hull defender clearly handled and it was highlighted by the big screen replay. They were not relieved for long as Richard Cresswell got in a header which was blocked and his follow up shot hit the bar but Jonathan Douglas was quickest to react and scored from close range to increase the lead in the fifty-sixth minute.

From there on it was United playing keep ball and denying Hull any possession without exerting themselves. Richard Cresswell almost added a third as he had the ball in the net with a looping effort, but Robbie Blake was adjudged to have been offside. Rob Hulse and David Healy replaced Richard Cresswell and Robbie Blake with just over ten minutes left and there was time for Healy to chip over with the Hull keeper in no-manís land. Two minutes later Danny Pugh was given a run for the tiring Stephen Crainey. It was a merited 2-0 victory to make it three from three in the Christmas period with the prospect of more from the visit to Plymouth Argyle quickly following.

Unsurprisingly United were unchanged for the visit to Plymouth Argyle at Home Park. They kicked off the New Year with their fourth consecutive win and made it eight from the last ten as they appeared to have found the consistency required to mount a serious assault in the promotion stakes.

Plymouth started the game confidently befitting a team that had been undefeated in their last four games, but after weathering early pressure United took control. Eddie Lewis was the architect of victory and was well supported by top displays from Robbie Blake, Richard Cresswell and Liam Miller but in truth this was a fine team win with no apparent weak links. While Leeds took time to settle and Plymouth attempted to move the ball quickly and had similar opportunities, they never really troubled United. Matthew Kilgallon made a couple of timely clearances, but keeper Neil Sullivan had little to do. Leeds could have had their noses in front before half-time with Eddie Lewis running the show down the left and Richard Cresswell and Robbie Blake showing some deft touches and Blake was unlucky not to give them the lead just on half-time when his powerful shot was deflected narrowly wide.

The 1,161 travelling faithful roared them on and the break came with the distinct possibility of a seventh away victory of the season. Indeed it only took seven minutes after the break for Richard Cresswell to score his first away goal for Leeds. Liam Millerís low shot was pushed onto the post and scrambled away for a corner. Gary Kellyís corner was not properly cleared. Eddie Lewis gained possession on the edge of the area and his shot was deflected in by the predatory Cresswell. Eight minutes later it was 2-0 and game over, as Robbie Blake was rewarded for his hard work as again Eddie Lewis sped down the left flank to send a tremendous cross for Blake to lash it home at the far post. It could easily have been more as both Cresswell and Blake forced the Argyle keeper to fine saves while Lewis had an effort blocked by a defender. United still hadnít finished and threw on Rob Hulse for Robbie Blake with eight minutes to go, and after Liam Miller had been brought down in the box, it was Hulse who grabbed the ball first and easily scored his first goal since October. United had emerged as the only team likely to challenge Sheffield United, whose lead had now been trimmed to a manageable eight points, for the automatic second place promotion place.

Rob Hulse was preferred to Richard Cresswell, who dropped to the bench where Simon Walton replaced Frazer Richardson for the visit to Wigan Athleticís JJB Stadium for their Third Round FA Cup clash. There was a large contingent of the travelling faithful, 3,700, who packed one end of the ground and gave a huge vocal backing to their favourites, who were riding the crest of the wave and were now able to measure their progress against an EPL team, who had won the CCCL at a canter the previous year and were now well positioned in the upper echelons of the Top Division. An eighty-eighth minute equalizer gave United a well deserved draw and matched their opponents in most departments.

The first half was fairly uneventful but Wigan took a surprise early second half lead through David Connelly. United took the match to Wigan and ultimately it was Rob Hulse who stabbed the ball home just before the final whistle after United had what seemed a good shout for a penalty for handball turned down. It was the kind of game that either side could have won. Each could have claimed to be the better team and both had plenty of chances to do so. For Leeds Paul Butler and Matthew Kilgallon were resolute in defence while Gary Kelly raided well on the right flank and Stephen Crainey had his best game to date at left-back. Shaun Derry shone in front of the back four, which gave Liam Miller and Jonathan Douglas the chance to get forward and support the hard working Robbie Blake and Eddie Lewis, while Rob Hulse led the line well in a hard physical battle with the Wigan defence.

Jonathan Douglas went close early on and was twice thwarted by the Wigan keeper, but for the home team McCulloch wasted a good headed chance and also spooned a good chance straight into Neil Sullivanís hands, while Robbie Blake had a good shot blocked early in the second half. Then Connolly passed the ball into the net after good work from McCulloch to give Wigan the lead. Liam Miller only just failed to chip the keeper and Robbie Blake almost played in the onrushing Jonathan Douglas. United went gung-ho putting on David Healy for Robbie Blake after sixty-eight minutes and Richard Cresswell for Jonathan Douglas eleven minutes later. With ten minutes to go Wigan should have sealed it but Connolly wasted two easy chances in a minute and they were left to rue it as Leeds finished the stronger of the two teams as they pressed for the equalizer and Rob Hulse scored with a typical finish to take the tie to a replay at Elland Road.

Richard Cresswell for Rob Hulse, who dropped to the bench, was the only United change as they visited cellar-dwellers Brighton & Hove Albion at their miniscule Withdean Stadium. For the second season since relegation United tasted surprising defeat on the south coast and the record shows they have failed to beat the perennial relegation candidates in four attempts since leaving the EPL. United had never looked like winning and the 2-1 defeat brought to an end their proud recent record. The fact that there was little difference between the playing surface and the local beach could not be offered as an excuse.

Carole and Hart, the two Brighton front men, caused the United defence all kind of problems and it seemed all at sea in the first half an hour, when the midfield was over-run and allowed Brighton to attack at will. Brightonís back four were simply not tested enough but looked suspect. United played the neater football but failed miserably in the final third, where Richard Cresswell ploughed a lone furrow as the midfield failed to give good service, and even when Rob Hulse was brought on for Liam Miller after sixty-nine minutes, there was no noticeable improvement. Initially Leeds took the offensive with the wingers making good progress and it was almost ten minutes before Brighton had possession and Paul Butler had already failed with a header.

Brighton soon took control and Hart was unlucky when he saw his deflected shot loop over the stranded Sullivan but inches over the bar. Soon after, they could have been 3-0 up, with a little luck. Hammond headed against a post, neat play saw Reid ghost in behind the Leeds defence to shot home untracked on the ten minute mark and that was quickly followed by Hammond not accepting a very easy chance, as he shot wide from close range. The Leeds defence was looking very brittle with Paul Butler and Matthew Kilgallon very shaky, uncertain and unsettled. However United took to the attack and dominated the closing stages of the half. Robbie Blake had the Brighton keeper at full stretch to keep out his shot, while Richard Cresswell headed over and then had a shot deflected over the bar. They were given a lifeline when referee gave them a debated and generous penalty, when he adjudged Lewis to have been fouled by Reid in the box. Robbie Blake duly stepped up and converted via the inside of the post. This was much to the annoyance of the home team and its supporters who contested the decision vociferously.

Brighton defended like demons and broke quickly in attack, but it seemed that there was going to be a 1-1 stalemate and United were made to pay for their lack of attacking ideas and ability, as Brighton took the lead with ten minutes to go. Reid, who seemed well off-side, got behind Eddie Lewis and, with the Leeds defence static and in unison with an unsuccessful appeal, Hart strode on to the resultant cross to smash it past the helpless Neil Sullivan. The introduction of David Healy for Robbie Blake and Danny Pugh for Eddie Lewis two minutes either side of the Brighton winner made no difference. Richard Cresswell and Rob Hulse both headed over in the final minutes but the result seemed inevitable and Leeds had lost the impetus in their chase of second place Sheffield United. They will pray that Brighton can soon find an alternative venue to replace the nightmare that is Withdean, but it seems that the aberration is not confined to Brighton as United have been beaten three times in five visits to relegation candidates this season.

United were without Shaun Derry for the FA Cup Third Round Replay with Wigan Athletic at Elland Road and Simon Walton deputized. David Healy and Rob Hulse were preferred to Robbie Blake and Richard Cresswell up front, with Gylfi Einarsson filling the vacancy on the bench. It was a classic FA Cup Tie and it was a pity that there had to be a loser as the teams traded goals with gay abandon with Leeds three times regaining parity in the playing time of the match. The crowd was on their seats for the whole game and there were none taking an early mark such was the suspense and intensity of the game. It was 2-2 at full-time, 3-3 at the end of extra time and it was finally settled on penalties, 4-2 in the visitors. Leeds, and indeed Wigan, could hold their heads high and well deserved the standing ovation that both teams received at the final whistle and no doubt the viewers were equally enthralled by the televised thriller, which had everything that an FA Cup tie could produce.

Matthew Kilgallon was magnificent at the heart of the defence, while Rob Hulse was equally outstanding upfront with David Healy, who provided the goals. Liam Miller also emerged with credit, getting forward often and always in the thick of the midfield battle. Wigan took the lead after twenty-three minutes when, after a quick attack, Johanesson took advantage of a fine display of Jason Robertsí skill, which resulted in the ball coming back right into his path, after it had rebounded off a post. The Leeds three-man midfield was increasingly finding it difficult to cope with the darting quick movements of their Wigan counterparts, so it came as quite a surprise and a tribute to their resilience when they levelled five minutes before the interval as Rob Hulse headed the ball over the line but it was somehow it was scrambled clear even though the TV replay showed it was probably over the line, but David Healy made sure it counted as he forced it home from close range.

Wigan were back in front again early in the second half as Jason Roberts again showed his skills, this time on the edge of the box, before lashing a thunderbolt past the groping Neil Sullivan. Right on cue United roared straight back and, after Leeds-born defender Matt Jackson had handled in the box, David Healy stepped up to convert the penalty for his and Leedsí second. With a couple of minutes to go United sent on Gylfi Einarsson for Liam Miller, quickly followed by Richard Cresswell for Eddie Lewis but before he left, Liam Miller hit the underside of the bar with a sizzling volley, while at the other end Sullivan made two fine saves to keep the scores level before Wigan again took the lead thirteen minutes into extra time, and again it was Jason Roberts who was involved. The tiring Simon Walton gave away a free-kick which Kavanagh took quickly and caught the Leeds markers napping to pick out Roberts who rose to head his second and Wiganís third goal of the night.

15,000 Leeds supporters urged United on with the chant of ďAttack, Attack, AttackĒ and attack they did, and with five minutes left they again equalized from a most unlikely source. Gary Kelly had not scored since netting in a CupĖtie at Crystal Palace way back in 2003, but after the Wigan defence failed to clear properly and from the edge of the box he delivered a superbvolley to give the keeper no chance. It was only Kellyís fourth goal ever for Leeds and it sent the game to penalties. The usually reliable David Healy inexplicably sent the first penalty over the bar, but Richard Cresswell and Robbie Blake made sure of theirs before Rob Hulse smashed the fourth over the bar too and with Wiganís Bullard, Teale and Roberts all converting, it was left to Kavanagh to put it beyond Unitedís grasp as he made it an unassailable 4-2. There was no disgrace in losing this Cup-tie by such a slender margin and it now left United with just the League to concentrate on.

Sean Gregan was recalled to the heart of the United defence with Matthew Kilgallon not even making the bench, while Shaun Derry returned at the expense of Simon Walton, who dropped to the bench, while up front Robbie Blake and Richard Cresswell were rotated with David Healy and Rob Hulse, who was rested for the visit of neighbours Sheffield Wednesday to Elland Road. Eventually United won easily but with no goals until the sixty-ninth minute, the final result came as something of a surprise. However after dominating in terms of possession United were well worth the victory in the dour derby.

Sheffield Wednesday came into the game on the back of three consecutive victories but had clearly come with the intent of getting a 0-0 draw with the possibility of stealing a 1-0 win, if they got lucky. They did achieve their objective for two-thirds of the game as their defence held firm against almost constant Leeds pressure. Wednesdayís negative approach made for poor entertainment but as soon as Paul Butler opened the floodgates they had little option but to chase the game and United capitalized on the space created. Strangely, Wednesday claimed that they had scored moments before Butlerís strike, when the solid defender was on hand at the other end to scramble a header clear with the visitors claiming the ball had crossed the line. It was Wednesdayís only chance. Stephen Crainey and Sean Gregan both had good games in defence and the United midfield dominated for the whole game with Richard Cresswell and Eddie Lewis particularly outstanding up front. In a disappointing opening spell United created several chances, with Sean Gregan having a shot blocked; Jonathan Douglas a header saved by the keeper and Eddie Lewis had an effort blocked after some intricate approach play. Before the half-time break Jonathan Douglas had sliced wide and Sean Gregan shot over.

Just past the hour mark David Healy came on for Robbie Blake and was soon in the heart of the action. Jonathan Douglas did well to hook the ball back after a Paul Butler header drifted wide and the captain made no mistake with his header which easily beat the keeper. A second goal was not long coming as Richard Cresswell headed home a Gary Kelly corner on eighty-one minutes. Two minutes later Simon Walton came on for Liam Miller and was instrumental in Unitedís third. He picked up a beautifully flighted ball down the left wing from Stephen Crainey and his cross was lashed into the net by the enthusiastic Richard Cresswell, in stoppage time. The win maintained Unitedís ten point advantage on their play-off spot but plunged Wednesday just two points off the relegation zone.

Rob Hulse was back in place of Robbie Blake, who dropped to the bench at the expense of Gylfi Einarssen as United visited their early season conquerors Ipswich Town at Portman Road. David Healyís individual brilliance had turned games Unitedís way at Burnley, Reading and Southampton and made Ipswich the fourth as he came off the bench to score from the spot to gain United a share of the points. It was a decision hotly contested by Ipswich who claimed it was a ball to hand situation, but as with Jackson in the recent clash with Wigan Athletic, there was clear indication of the defender raising his hands unnecessarily and the referee had no hesitation in awarding the penalty, two minutes from time. It had looked as if United were going to finish up 1-0 down after failing to capitalize on their sizeable amount of possession, so justice was done.

United had started brightly with Rob Hulse having a shot parried, Liam Miller a low drive saved, Shaun Derry screwed a shot wide and Rob Hulse had a fine header saved just on half time. Gary Kelly was eager to get forward and the defence, with Stephen Crainey looking more confident with every game, looked solid. Once again United paid the penalty for standing appealing for off-side as the Ipswich keeper punched clear a Rob Hulse header and the home team broke at pace with Haynes taking advantage of the static defence to easily beat Neil Sullivan. The same player should have doubled their lead minutes later when he turned Paul Butler inside out but his shot did not match his approach work and it hit the bar and bounced clear.

David Healy was introduced in place of Liam Miller just before the hour mark and Richard Cresswell was allowed to go back to his more familiar role of down the middle striker, as United changed formation to 4-4-2 with Healy and Lewis down the flanks and a twin strike-force of Cresswell and Hulse. It was the signal for United to go on all out attack for the last half hour. Supple, the Ipswich keeper, showed his class with another superb reaction save to again thwart the unlucky Rob Hulse, after he had been put through by a superb ball from Eddie Lewis. Jonathan Douglas then had a goal-bound shot deflected as the pressure from United mounted. A David Healy solo effort was stopped by an Ipswich defender throwing his body in the way. Then there was the penalty for United to level after fully two minutes protest from the Ipswich team. Understandably there was four minutes of stoppage time and Ipswich were quick to appeal for a hand ball as Sean Gregan hacked the ball clear, however, the final chance fell to Leeds but, after being played in by Rob Hulse, David Healy was stopped by an offside flag. With Palace losing to Preston and Cardiff also drawing with Millwall, the promotion situation remained same as United maintained their ten point advantage over the seventh placed Welshmen.

David Healy replaced Rob Hulse in the starting line up for the home encounter with Queens Park Rangers as the United supporters were hoping for a repeat of the previous seasonís 6-1 thrashing. QPR had to field a patched up eleven due to injuries and five players were on debut, including goalkeeper Phil Barnes on temporary loan from Sheffield United. It was small wonder that the QPR Manager labelled his team ďQueens Park StrangersĒ and it was Barnesí indecision and lack of understanding with his co-defenders that gifted United their lead just before half-time as Richard Cresswell back-headed a Lewis free-kick. It was Lewis that shone for Leeds but it wasnít until seven minutes from time that Paul Butler got his second goal in consecutive home matches to seal the victory. Eddie Lewis supplied the final pass for both goals and he in turn was freed by a wonderful pass from Stephen Crainey for the second.

From the very first minute it was Eddie Lewis that looked the most dangerous player on the pitch and Richard Cresswell and Paul Butler were able to feed off his quality deliveries. Prior to Cresswellís strike the QPR defence were lucky to scramble a Lewis cross away for a corner with Cresswell waiting to convert. He also brought out the best in the QPR keeper, but he was not alone in keeping up a supply of quality crosses as Gary Kelly, who was in a rich vein of form, played his part from the right. Lewis caught Barnes in two minds for the first goal and the keeper came off his line too late as Cresswell read the situation perfectly to beat him to the well flighted ball to back-head over the stranded Barnes. QPR never really threatened and the game was as good as won.

Liam Miller made good use of the space offered and caused problems in the second half, with Jonathan Douglas looking equally at ease while Shaun Derry hardly had to break a sweat in the anchor role. Barnes redeemed himself in the second half with a good save from Liam Miller, but was left exposed again as Richard Cresswell wasted a free header from another Eddie Lewis cross. Robbie Blake came on for the hard working David Healy after seventy-two minutes followed six minutes later by Rob Hulse for Richard Cresswell. It was Rob Hulse who came within inches of adding to the lead after Barnes had denied Lewis with a save at full stretch and Cresswell had not been too far away. United made certain of the points after a fantastic ball down the left from Stephen Crainey found Eddie Lewis and his cross was headed home by the onrushing Paul Butler with seven minutes remaining. The win kept United in touch with Sheffield United, who they trailed by eleven points while it took them three points clear of fourth placed Watford.

It was Robbie Blake and Rob Hulse up front in place of David Healy and Richard Cresswell, who were both rested as a precaution, and Ian Moore and Gylfi Einarssen took their place on the bench for the visit to Pride Park home of Derby County. United missed a golden opportunity to further close the gap on Sheffield United as they threw away two points to their inferior low-placed opponents. Derby were fighting for their championship survival and defended as if their lives depended upon it and did it by fair means or foul. Kevin Blackwell bemoaned the referee spurning Unitedís appeal for at least two penalties. Rob Hulse and Robbie Blake both appeared to have been unfairly impeded in the first half, while substitute Ian Moore went down under pressure from a Derby defender late in the game, and even the defender thought he was lucky to get away with it. United should not have needed to bemoan decisions that were not given as they dominated the first twenty minutes and the Derby defence looked decidedly suspect, but Derby battled back using effort rather than skill to nullify the superior United.

The Derby defence always looked vulnerable and it was hard to understand why Rob Hulse was left to plough a lone furrow down the middle while Robbie Blake and Eddie Lewis hugged the touchlines. It remained that way for the entire match as Ian Moore replaced Robbie Blake with twenty minutes to go and merely duplicated what Blake had been doing previously. Eddie Lewis and Gary Kelly tried hard to provide Rob Hulse with service but there was simply no one around to pick up the scraps when he managed to get a vital touch. United were nowhere near their best, but have played worse and still won convincingly in the season to date. They should have been one up in the first ten minutes but Robbie Blakeís goal-bound effort was somehow deflected over the bar and later in the half Paul Butler forced the Derby keeper to a fine save, both chances were provided by the in-form Eddie Lewis.

United passed the ball around with ease but could not convert their approach play into goals and were lucky that on loan striker Danny Graham, from Middlesbrough, was unable to get power into his header and Sullivan saved with ease, but on fifty-four minutes. The same player was gifted the best chance of the match but failed to beat the keeper when he was clear through on goal. Leeds were equally inefficient as both Rob Hulse and Liam Miller wasted good chances. With Watford beating Sheffield United in the previous game, they had drawn level with United and had then easily won to take them two points clear, while Sheffield United had also dropped two points. The two points lost at Pride Park had cost United dearly. With a game in hand United would have been in a strong position if had they got full points.

For the vital home clash with fellow promotion chasers Watford, Unitedís run on eleven remained the same but Richard Cresswell and David Healy replaced Ian Moore and Danny Pugh on the bench. It was Robbie Blake who led the United charge with a well-taken second half brace, which sent Watford to their first defeat of the year, United back into third spot and reduced the deficit on Sheffield United to just nine points, as they split the points in their top of the table clash with Reading, and Leeds still had that game in hand! Blake took the man of the match award and United fully merited their victory even though they were assisted by two Watford players receiving their marching orders.

Watford had taken the lead five minutes before half time and their goalkeeper was the first to see the red card after he brought down Rob Hulse in the penalty box just on the hour mark. The second dismissal involved Darius Henderson, who started the all-in Elland Road brawl when he clashed with Michael Gray when playing for Gillingham in the previous season, inexplicably he elbowed Sean Gregan in the face right in front of the referee, just two minutes later. The referee had blown a cantata all night and did his best to ruin the flow of the game by his constant whistling for petty infringements. Even with nine men Watford worked hard and it was never easy for United who took a massive confidence boost for the promotion run-in. Originally employing the 4-3-3 formation, with Robbie Blake roving infield rather than operating solely down the right wing, United changed to 4-2-2 with Blake joining Rob Hulse in a twin striker role at the start of the second half. They took the game to Watford and in the opening twenty minutes of the second half their play was a joy to watch as they put the Watford rearguard under constant pressure as Jonathan Douglas and Eddie Lewis pushed down the wings in a four pronged attack.

Watford had scored four goals in each of their last three games and it was a credit to the Leeds defence that, apart from a stunning free-kick, they posed little threat to Neil Sullivan in goal. Robbie Blake went close in the first half when he forced the keeper to tip over his rasping shot. Watford employed route one tactics and the keeper was the usual launching pad and they took the lead with a terrific curling free-kick after Sean Gregan had fouled Marlon King on the edge of the box. United ended the first half peppering the Watford goal and continued their pressing as Robbie Blake had a goal disallowed for offside just two minutes into the new half. They carved up Watford time and time again and were denied a penalty as Rob Hulse was wrestled to the ground by two defenders but there were no doubts moments later as the keeper brought him down as he rounded him. Foster was sent off and Robbie Blake converted to make new keeper Chamberlainís first action to pick the ball out of the net. Henderson joined Foster in the dressing room two minutes later and United carried on battering the nine-man Watford and chances came and went as the moments ticked by. United sent on David Healy and Richard Cresswell for Jonathan Douglas and Rob Hulse after seventy-four minutes and it was the substitutes who combined to provide the chance for Robbie Blake to hammer home with just nine minutes left. Elland Road erupted on the final whistle and again as the Sheffield United result was announced. After such an outstanding performance United were on the crest of a wave.

Eirik Bakke made a rare appearance in place of Shaun Derry, while Ian Moore replaced Richard Cresswell on the bench, as the rejuvenated United visited the Walker Stadium to take on Leicester City. Once again United gave away two points to an inferior team and, while the point further cemented their play-off position, it was hard to believe that it was the same team that had so convincingly stopped Watfordís long unbroken winning streak and the supporters had every reason to expect more.

United were poor from the off and were behind after only five minutes when Eirik Bakke conceded a free-kick on the edge of the box. Gudjonssonís kick was deflected and there was Hulme to take advantage of some sloppy defending and marking to squeeze the ball justinside the post. As against Watford United were handed the numerical superiority as Leicester skipper, Patrick McCarthy, for the second time in the season received his marching orders when he pulled down Rob Hulse in the area and was adjudged to be the last man in the defence after only ten minutes. Robbie Blake stepped up and fired home the equalizer to bring United level. United pressed home their advantage and soon Robbie Blake was narrowly wide, Stephen Crainey tried his luck from distance, while Rob Hulse failed to take advantage of a great through ball from Eirik Bakke and fired weakly at the keeper.

United seemed strangely lethargic and the midfield struggled to get any control on the game and as a result the service to the forwards was poor. With Leicester still keeping two forwards in their attack it gave United the numbers in midfield to have taken control of the game but the wingers failed to exploit the situation. The introduction of David Healy for Eirik Bakke after fifty-six minutes did help but it took the injection of Ian Mooreís pace to liven things up when he replaced Robbie Blake after seventy-one minutes. He became Unitedís biggest threat in the last twenty minutes as they finally got on top, but it was too little too late and the game fizzled out to a dull draw and Unitedís dismal record at the Walker Stadium continued. United dropped to fourth place and were now eleven points behind Sheffield United, albeit with a game in hand.

David Healy kept his position at the expense of Eirik Bakke, who dropped to the bench where new signing Joel Griffith replaced Simon Walton, as Gary Kelly celebrated his five-hundredth Leeds appearance in the home game against Luton Town. United reverted to 4-4-2 after the miserable display at Leicester and two goals in five minutes in the second half ensured that he was able to celebrate his milestone with a victory, as Jonathan Douglas just shaded him for the man of the match award. His forty-ninth minute strike was coupled with a close range strike from Eddie Lewis soon after to keep alive Unitedís faint hope of automatic promotion, although the visitors did stage a late comeback to have United hanging on desperately in the end as they hung on to win 2-1 and extended their winning home run to six. The result took United to within eight points of second placed Sheffield United and with a game still in hand the race was once again opened.

United were lucky not to have a penalty awarded against them before Jonathan Douglas had opened the scoring as Sean Gregan clearly handled inside the Leeds box but the referee ruled it was ball to hand and United broke away to score at the other end. It was a pivotal moment but Luton could look back and regret not having capitalized on three good chances in a dour opening period when United had the best of the possession but yet Luton had created those chances. Coyne headed a free-kick over the bar from close range after ghosting in at the far post unmarked, Foley then headed over from within the six yard box and Brkovic made a hash of his chance when well placed. Unitedís best chance of the half came from David Healyís cross but the keeper stopped in from reaching the waiting Rob Hulse. The Hatters must have been kicking themselves in the break for not making their chances count as after the break United stepped up a gear and twice scored early in the second half.

Jonathan Douglas, who started in midfield for the first time since the loss to Crewe in November, was involved in both attack and defence as he worked tirelessly and it was fitting that it was he who opened the scoring with a fine goal after good work by Robbie Blake and Rob Hulse. Eddie Lewis doubled the lead moments later when he slid in to convert an angled cross from Hulse. It looked all over, but Luton staged a grandstand finish in the last ten minutes of the match and penned United back in their own area. Vine had a shot deflected wide and Howard saw a free-kick stopped by the wall before Luton got their consolation as Howard out-jumped Douglas to score with six minutes left.

Things started to look ominous for United and Neil Sullivan came to Unitedís rescue with a reaction save to deny Howard with just two minutes left when it seemed Howard was sure to score. Luton defender Davis got his marching orders after his second yellow card with a minute or so left,to make it four sending offs in the last three games by Unitedís recent foes. Eirik Bakke had come on for David Healy after seventy minutes while Ian Moore had replaced Robbie Blake with two minutes to go but neither had much effect. The fixture ended with Gary Kelly charging down the middle of the park in a vain attempt to round his day off with a rare goal, but it was not to be.

Shaun Derry was back in place of David Healy, who dropped to the bench with Danny Pugh as they were preferred to Joel Griffiths and Gylfi Einarrson, for the visit to his old club Crystal Pace at Selhurst Park in a vital clash by two of the Championshipís promotion candidates. United fired a warning to all the potential candidates with their best performance of the season, in which they were magnificent from the first minute to the last as they cut Sheffieldís lead to just six points. On the form showed in this match United proved that they could be more than capable of producing a finish that would see them overhaul Sheffield United and take the second direct promotion spot. United had played well enough all season to be in the top six the whole season but the win at Crystal Palace was the best performance by a United side in Kevin Blackwellís reign and for several seasons prior. This was an all round team performance in a game that just had to be won if they were to maintain their second spot aspirations.

The foundations for the success were laid in the best midfield performance of the season. Shaun Derry broke up play superbly in the anchorman role while Liam Miller and Jonathan Douglas were simply magnificent. Douglas was in everything all afternoon from testing the Palace keeper twice in the first five minutes to making last ditch goal-saving tackles in the last few minutes. Miller had his best game for the club and had a hand in both goals. He was also responsible for many of the United attacks with quick thinking, intelligent passing and the ability to break quickly were vital. The United trio totally outplayed their Palace counterparts and apart from the final minutes totally dominated. Gary Kelly and Stephen Crainey snuffed out any threats down the flanks and Paul Butler and Sean Gregan were solid and uncompromising in central defence where EnglandĎs World Cup hopeful, Andy Johnson, was made to look mediocre. Neil Sullivan was largely unemployed but was called upon to make several good saves in the dying stages. Upfront Robbie Blake and Eddie Lewis were sharp and always a threat, while Rob Hulseís hard work and effort were important in the fine victory.

United were fast out of the blocks and tore into Palace from the off with their keeper soon called upon to save twice from Jonathan Douglas. He first palmed away a looping header for a corner and this time Douglas stooped low to head into the corner but the keeper somehow clawed the ball to safety. Eddie Lewis volleyed wide as United pressed for a goal. It came after thirty-three minutes as Liam Miller carried the ball from deep to serve Rob Hulse out wide, with his back to goal he did well to get his cross in and after a Palace defender missed his clearance, Robbie Blake sneaked in to get the decisive touch. The second and decisive goal came eight minutes into the second half with Liam Miller again the provider with a delightful cross from the right, after good work from Gary Kelly and Jonathan Douglas, and Hulse was on hand to stab the ball home from close range.

United had dominated the game for over an hour and, from a team who rarely drop points at home, it was only to be expected that they would at sometime rally. In the last twenty-five minutes they started to get back into the game and Neil Sullivan showed his worth with two fine saves and United got defenders back in numbers to defend stoutly as the need arose. The home team also failed to put shots on target which eased the problem for United, but Palace eventually got their names on the score sheet as McAnuff scored with a pile-driver deep into injury time. It was too little too late and United had their destiny in their own hands with a game in hand and still having to play their bitter rivals Sheffield United.

United were unchanged other than Matthew Kilgallon replacing Danny Pugh on the bench for their home game against Norwich City and the anticipation of further progress in the chase for promotion. With Sheffield United seemingly wilting under the pressure the fans were eager to roar United on. With nine games still to go promotion was well within their grasp provided they could maintain their recent consistency. It was a day of mixed fortunes and emotions, as United dominated the game for long periods but in the end were lucky to get a point in injury time. However they were left ruing their inability to get full points as the news filtered through that the Blades had been defeated and ultimately United were only five points behind and so it was a good day but it could have been far worse or much better depending on the way Unitedís fortunes changed in that day as the story unfolded.

United had been so much in control that by half-time and 1-0 up it seemed just a formality that full points would be assured. Unfortunately United eased up, took their foot off the accelerator and allowed the Canaries back into the game and before they knew where they were they were it was 1-2 and staring defeat in the face. They equalized with almost the last kick of the game and thankfully did not finish up empty-handed.

Leeds had controlled the opening stanza and Robbie Blake was denied with a couple of early saves by the Norwich keeper. The inevitable opener came after twenty minutes when Robbie Blake fed Eddie Lewis, who showed great trickery to lay the ball in the path of Rob Hulse, who had timed his run to perfection as he picked his spot with the visitors appealing in vain for offside. It looked like the start of an avalanche but nothing eventuated apart from a brilliant save by the Norwich keeper, who managed to dive full length to push the ball round the post from Hulseís fine header just four minutes before half-time. It was a vital save and kept the Canaries in the game.

The PA system had announced that Sheffield were losing and all seemed well as United returned for the second half but Norwich returned rejuvenated for the second half and United started to look uncomfortable as the Norwich forwards started causing the Leeds defence problems. Neil Sullivan made a good save to deny Docherty from close range, but United did not heed the warning and allowed Simon Charlton to put in a cross from deep and Hughes ran untracked to rifle home the equalizer after fifty-seven minutes. It gave Norwich more confidence and should have increased their lead afterwards when McVeigh wasted a great opportunity after Huckerby had taken on the defence and pulled the ball back to him. Inexplicably United failed to learn by their good fortune and it was the same pair who combined in identical fashion a minute later for McVeigh to make sure and give Norwich the lead with a quarter of an hour left on the clock.

The goal woke United from their nightmare and but they could not gain any advantage from 15 minutes of basically route one football which was playing right into the hands of the visitors defence and the United fans were starting to accept another disappointment. Deep in injury time United were awarded a free kick on the edge of the Norwich box and Eddie Lewis stepped up to curl the ball round the static Norwich keeper to gain United a surprise share of the points and the crowd erupted as confirmation came through that Sheffield United had been defeated by Coventry City.

United travelled to in-form Coventry City at the Ricoh Arena, with Matthew Kilgallon replacing the suspended Sean Gregan and Gylfi Einarsson took his place on the bench. United managed a point and with Sheffield United once again being defeated, this time at Norwich, it took them to within four points and a game in hand with a fixture between the two protagonists still to come. Coventry had beaten Sheffield United at the Ricoh Arena the previous week and had only suffered one defeat in the last eight home fixtures, yet Leeds never really looked like losing the fixture but after conceding a goal in the first half hour, they went in at half time 1-0 down without really troubling the Coventry keeper but nevertheless after playing some decent football. However Coventry too had played well and on balance deserved their lead which came from a well worked opening which was finished sublimely by McSheffrey. Matthew Kilgallon was looking decidedly rusty and McSheffrey led him a rare old dance and was unlucky not to have scored more. Hutchinson had had a strong free-kick pushed on to the bar by Neil Sullivan and McSheffrey again broke free but could not apply the finishing touch. The half ended with Paul Butler in a blazing argument with the referee, who was escorted from the pitch.

In the second half Leeds made two chances for Jonathan Douglas who was firstly denied by a defenderís legs after good approach play and then he headed over from a tight angle after a pinpoint cross from Eddie Lewis. Liam Miller got back into the game with a series of good runs and the quiet Robbie Blake was replaced by the livelier David Healy on the hour mark. Eddie Lewis also started making headway down the left flank and the hardworking Rob Hulse had a header cleared off the line and quickly missed two more reasonable chances to equalize. Ian Moore came on for Jonathan Douglas with fifteen minutes to go and it was he who provided the cross for Eddie Lewis to hook the ball goalwards and a defender handled to give David Healy the chance to hold his nerve after two minutes of arguments and clinically put the ball out of the keepers reach with just two minutes left on the clock.

It was the vital catch up home game with Crystal Palace next and David Healy was preferred to Robbie Blake while new boy Jermaine Beckford took Gylfi Einarssonís place on the bench. The balance of power swung again in the race for promotion as United missed a glorious chance to turn up the heat on the rest of the field. They were defeated 1-0 by the visitors to remain four points behind Sheffield and now a point behind Watford with Palace only four points adrift and all teams having played 39 games.

It was Unitedís first home defeat of the year and suddenly the key to automatic promotion was no longer in their hands as the well drilled Palace team pulled themselves back into the equation and there was a complete role reversal from the game at Palace less than three weeks previous. While United had the lionís share of the ball they did little with it and were a shadow of the side that had looked such a force in the promotion stakes. Their persistence with the long ball up the middle to Rob Hulse became repetitious and played right into the hands of the Palace defence as it became more and more predictable. Palace rarely left their own half during the second half and yet Leeds could only manage one attempt to cause the Palace keeper concern and it fell to Matthew Kilgallon, who had arrived unmarked at the far post to meet an Eddie Lewis free-kick but could only head straight into the keeperís hands. There were good efforts from Gary Kelly and the hard tackling Shaun Derry, who started with a series of ball winning tackles against one of his former teams, but received little or no support in midfield with Liam Miller in particular going AWOL.

United were fortunate that they did not go in at the interval at least three goals in arrears had it not been for Neil Sullivan who three times saved well from the Palace strikers but could do little about the deciding goal just two minutes before the interval, when Paul Butler was left stranded as the rest of the defence chased shadows and McAuff was left alone to pick his spot. United did have a couple of attempts on goal as Gary Kelly tried his luck from distance but the keeper got his fingertips to it and then Jonathan Douglas headed wide from a Kelly free-kick. Rob Hulse had a couple of headers off target but had poor service with the wingers operating too wide and only Jonathan Douglas getting forward from midfield.

Robbie Blake replaced the ineffective David Healy just past the hour and striker Jermaine Beckford was introduced at the expense of full back Stephen Crainey with just short of a quarter of an hour to go, while Eirik Bakke was on for Jonathan Douglas for the last five minutes. All was in vain, as although Beckford added pace his best effort just squirmed past the upright, but he was also adjudged offside even if he had hit the target. United threw five men forward and even when Palace won a corner they only sent up two players for it. Palace were the best team to play at Elland Road in the season and looked well capable of going on a run to overtake United, Watford and maybe even Sheffield. It was only Unitedís second defeat since the turn of the year and while they were quite capable of carrying on in their previous good form they would have to create more chances and convert them if they were to do so.

Sean Gregan was back from suspension to relegate Matthew Kilgallon back to the substituteís bench where Joel Griffiths got the nod over Ian Moore and Eirik Bakke as United greeted Stoke City at Elland Road. Once again United failed to score and slipped up as Sheffield United won to increase their lead to six with six games left to play. They had now gone 340 minutes since a goal was scored from open play and frustration showed no sign of ending against Stoke as the familiar pattern of dominating possession but being unable to convert the good approach play into chances or goals against a team who came to defend and rely on a chance breakaway to maybe steal the points.

Kevin Blackwell had changed his tactics and reverted back to 4-4-2 with David Healy partnering Rob Hulse upfront and even had two strikers and the attack-minded Joel Griffith on the bench and, although all got a run, with Jermaine Beckford on for David Healy after sixty-three minutes, Robbie Blake for Jonathan Douglas five minutes later and finally Joel Griffiths for Eddie Lewis with a little over a quarter of an hour to go, none could raise any hope let alone trouble the scorers. While no one could fault Rob Hulse or David Healy for effort they did not receive the service they needed as United failed to put it together in the final third of the pitch. It was disturbing that no one had the ability to open up the Stoke defence and their central defence of Hill and Duberry had a relatively easy afternoon with surprisingly little pressure. Leeds had only one decent shot on goal and that came from full back Stephen Crainey who unleashed a dipping shot from distance which skimmed the bar, while Rob Hulse had two downwards headers which went wide.

Stoke were no better and were restricted to one header that went wide and a speculative shot from distance which caused Neil Sullivan no discomfort. Sean Gregan made some timely tackles early on and was outstanding on his return to the team. Unitedís best move of the second half came when Shaun Derry released Rob Hulse, who back-heeled into the path of Liam Miller, but the Stoke defence closed him down before he could get in a shot. The introduction of Jermaine Beckford and Joel Griffith did inject a little pace and urgency into the United attack, but although they did show touches of promise there was little else. Stoke almost stole the points but Neil Sullivan saved the day with a fine stop. The final whistle was greeted by a chorus of boos, but other results, Sheffield apart, favoured Leeds and they finished the day joint third.

It was Robbie Blake for David Healy in the run on side with new loanee Danny Graham and fit again Frazer Richardson taking the places of Jermaine Beckford and Joel Griffiths on the bench as United travelled to Hull City for their April Foolís day encounter at the KC Stadium. It saw Unitedís pretension to challenge Sheffield United for the automatic promotion spot disappear, although still mathematically possible. On the bright side they only required two more points to ensure their play off position but having now gone five games without a win and three without a goal and it was now 430 minutes since the last goal from open play and 272 minutes since they found the target at all. Disturbing facts but reflecting their abysmal current spell which did not bode well for the play-offs.

Against the lowly Hull City they seemed disinterested and it was the home team that took the game to United and it was apparent from the clash of the two attacks and defences what the outcome was going to be. At one end the burly Parkin gave the stout Paul Butler and Sean Gregan their most testing physical encounter of the season, while at the other end the Hull central defence was under no pressure from Rob Hulse, who was well shackled and outnumbered. United did create chances but failed again to severely test the oppositionís keeper. Paul Butler fired over with the goal at his mercy and later Liam Miller failed to hit the target when given an easy chance. United started well enough and kept possession very well but as soon as they arrived in the last third of the pitch the moves petered out. Eddie Lewis had forced the Hull keeper to push his early free-kick round the post, but United were lucky not to have been behind at the half-time break after Parkin had the ball in the net, but, despite Crainey having headed it into his path, he was adjudged off-side. They could also thank Neil Sullivan for thwarting two commendable attempts on goal by the Hull attackers and right on half-time he foiled Parkin.

There was still hope for given their ability to improve in the second half and their ability to win away from home, but Hull stuck to their task well and denied United the space in midfield. Green shot over for Hull while Parkin and Fagan continued to cause the United defence problems. At the other end Jonathan Douglas hooked a chance over the bar and Liam Miller fired wide after being set up by Robbie Blake. It all went wrong for Leeds in the seventy-sixth minute as Green found space on the right and Parkin muscled himself into position to head in at the far post. United immediately threw on David Healy and Danny Graham for Liam Miller and Eddie Lewis followed three minutes later by Frazer Richardson for Robbie Blake but they still didnít manage any real urgency until the final few minutes when David Healy sent a free-kick narrowly wide and Rob Hulse shot over, after good work by Danny Graham, but it was too little too late and the poor run now stood at five games without a win. Manager Kevin Blackwell must have wondered what had caused the wheels to fall of a machine that not so long ago had realistically threatened automatic promotion, while at that moment they would not have fancied their chances in the play-offs on current form.

Frazer Richardson and David Healy were preferred to Liam Miller and Eddie Lewis and Jermaine Beckford was on the bench for Danny Graham as United entertained Plymouth Argyle at Elland Road. Even though they gained a point that ensured a play-off spot, United had now gone over six hours without a goal and four complete games and the crowd mocked them with chants of ďPremier League, You are having a laughĒ. And even ďYouíre not fit to wear the shirtĒ was heard directed at players who only a few weeks previous had been hailed as conquering heroes. The cold hard facts were that they finished the game nine points adrift of Sheffield United and the final outcome would now be decided once and for all in two games time when United were due to visit Bramall Lane. After Unitedís fine win at Crystal Palace at the start of March, when hope sprung eternal, United had slowly sunk further and further behind in the promotion race and that euphoria has been totally eroded. Indeed since that game United had scored but one goal from open play and that was over eight playing hours previous. Even worse, they were not creating chances to even look like scoring and had amassed a paltry four points from the last eighteen contested. The lack of confidence and conviction was very apparent in the game and no-one would have realized that the fans were aware that their team had reached the play-offs for the first time since 1987.

The crowd particularly targeted Rob Hulse and Stephen Crainey for their abuse, and while Hulse was not at his best, but playing through the pain barrier for the good of the team, Crainey was sound in defence and did little wrong. United enjoyed virtually all the play but the fact was that the Argyle keeper was only called upon to make two saves in the entire game, such was their lack of inventiveness and cutting power. Gary Kelly had tried his luck from distance and Robbie Blake curled a free-kick wide, while Rob Hulse shot wide with Robbie Blake better placed. David Healy went closest when he fired past the post just before half time. Gary Kelly had been playing even though suffering from flu and, after thirty-six minutes, he was replaced by Jermaine Beckford, who showed some neat touches, and it was he who eventually tested the Plymouth keeper after eighty minutes with a low drive. Four minutes later the keeper pulled off a fine block from a Robbie Blake free-kick, but David Healy had hit the side-netting, Jonathan Douglas had headed an Eddie Lewis corner wide, while the out of form Hulse was crowded out after being released by Beckford. It was the kind of chance that Hulse would have put away with ease earlier in the season.

Plymouth had little to offer, and Paul Butler and Sean Gregan had their forwards in their pockets, while Frazer Richardson showed up well after dropping back to take the place of the flu-stricken Gary Kelly. Neil Sullivan had to make one save and watch a header sail over the bar, but otherwise he was totally untroubled. It was Unitedís sixteenth clean sheet of the season but, apart from the non-stop effort of Shaun Derry in midfield and the promise of Jermaine Beckford up front, there was no indication of any attacking capabilities from United as the introduction of Eddie Lewis for David Healy midway through the second half and Liam Miller for Jonathan Douglas, with fifteen minutes to go, showed no improvement and United now faced an Easter double header against the top two teams, Reading and Sheffield United, low on confidence and with little to play for except pride.

For the Easter Saturday visit of runaway leaders Reading, United rang the changes with Matthew Kilgallon, Eirik Bakke and Liam Miller replacing Sean Gregan, Frazer Richardson and Robbie Blake(a flu victim), while the bench comprised Ian Bennett, Danny Pugh, Danny Graham, Ian Moore and Jermaine Beckford. There were plenty of good points to come out of the game as United found that Readingís style of play was more to their liking than the massed defences of relegation-threatened opponents They put on a performance which must have not only pleased their supporters but scared their play-off rivals, as they produced an outstanding display against the team that had only lost two games all season and were only two points from a century of points. They would have fully merited a well-earned win, but a lucky goal five minutes from time gave the visitors an unwarranted share of the points. The leveller not only extended Unitedís winless streak to seven games but almost ensured that United could not catch Sheffield United for the second spot. On the positive side it did ensure that the goal drought had been ended which was probably more psychologically important than the fact that Leeds were denied victory at the death.

Rob Hulse got the goal two minutes into the second half, a full 409 minutes since David Healy scored at Coventry City in mid-March and the relief was enormous. It was no more than United deserved and it should have been enough to secure United full points, but Reading, who had not had a shot on target up to that point, snatched a share of the spoils when Ingimarsson headed a Gunnarsson cross back across goal and Kitson, clearly in an offside position, got a touch to steer the ball goalwards and Hunt somehow bundled the ball over the line. An ear-piercing ďWe are LeedsĒ was the crowds immediate response and although the lead had been lost the crowd did not let it upset atmosphere. The crowd had laid the platform for the display by giving Kevin Blackwell a standing ovation as he took his place on the touchline. It was the Leeds faithful at their very best and the almost 25,000 crowd cheered their team on as an almost surreal atmosphere of peace and harmony returned to the stands and confidence came flooding back on the field.

Shaun Derry was immaculate in midfield and turned on a superb performance in the middle of the park as he snuffed out the forward runs of Harper and Sidwell, usually Readingís most dangerous players, and also showed the attacking side of his game by being responsible for creating Unitedís goal. He was ably assisted by Eirik Bakke and Liam Miller and just like in the game at Palace, when the engine room was able to function, United fired on all cylinders and become a very dangerous team. Liam Miller made several good runs and was much more mobile than of late, but it was Eirik Bakke, starting only his fourth game of the season, who showed enough quality to suggest he might be a key figure in the final run in. Matthew Kilgallon made a good return and he and Paul Butler kept the dangerous Reading strikers quiet. Gary Kelly and Stephen Crainey gave nothing away and got in several telling crosses, with Crainey being particularly dangerous. With Robbie Blake a flu victim, Jonathan Douglas was pushed up wide right to join the hard working David Healy and Rob Hulse in a three pronged attack. Healy was seen tackling back and making challenges by his own corner flag, while Hulse was responsible for a clearing header over his own bar and then almost snatching a goal at the other end as Leeds broke quickly from the resulting corner.

There were many encouraging signs to be found and the only downside was that full points were not achieved. Reading keeper Hahnemann had to be alert to save from Shaun Derry, Jonathan Douglas and Rob Hulse, while Eirik Bakke was only inches over when he tried to delicately chip the keeper and Healy had a shot from halfway which drifted wide of the mark with the keeper stranded. There were chances aplenty created by Leeds while Reading could only muster three. Readingís style of play obviously suited Leeds as they came trying to win rather than defending in depth and it clearly favoured United who had only lost once against top six opposition in eight games. If that record could be maintained it would bode well for the play-offs.

After their sterling display against the League leaders it was understandable that United maintained an identical line-up for their Easter Tuesday encounter with second placed Sheffield United at Bramall Lane, which had rarely been a happy hunting ground recently and had been the scene of several embarrassing Cup exits in recent years. The game finished all square at 1-1 and Sheffieldís fans celebrated their automatic promotion, while Leeds left quite happy with their performance and it boded well for the play-offs. The draw extended Unitedís good performances against the top six sides in which they had only lost one of the nine encounters thus far in the season and if they had shown a better nose for goal they could have been celebrating a rare ďderbyĒ victory. Sheffield could have argued the same as had they taken their chances during a twenty-five minute spell of domination in the first half the result could well have gone their way.

Both sides felt they each had a good claim for a penalty rejected. Eirik Bakke was clearly upended in the box in early play, while Kebba felt he should have had a penalty after a challenge from Stephen Crainey late in the game. The speedy Sheffield wingers exposed Unitedís defence and they were in front after only ten minutes as Eirik Bakke headed a corner past his own keeper. Sheffield were rampant and Neil Sullivan, Stephen Crainey, Gary Kelly and Paul Butler all made timely blocks, while Kebba twice tested Sullivan. The keeper also saved from Akinbiyi in a one-on-one situation. United had weathered the storm and came back to score with a fantastic individual goal from David Healy. He showed great control to leave several Sheffield defenders in his wake before unleashing an unstoppable shot which gave Kenny, the Sheffield keeper, no chance. Gary Kelly had featured in a succession of poor tackles and after the goal he went over the top on a Sheffield defender. There were some embarrassing scenes as Warnock started to vent his anger at the Leeds players and coaching staff, before the referee banished him to the Stands. Shaun Derry was again Unitedís lynchpin and best player, while Liam Miller made some good runs. Rob Hulse held the ball up well and went close on a couple of occasions. Eirik Bakke lost control of the ball when closing in on goal and Kenny got down well to deny Liam Miller. Ian Moore replaced David Healy with eleven minutes left, and Danny Pugh was on for Eirik Bakke a minute later, as United tried to turn their domination into goals. It was not to be and in the end a draw was a fair result for both teams.

The on-loan from Middlesbrough Danny Graham replaced Rob Hulse and Eddie Lewis was back in place of Jonathan Douglas, while there was no place for Ian Bennett, Danny Pugh and Jermaine Beckford on the bench, which featured Ian Moore, Steve Stone, Robbie Blake, Sean Gregan and Jonathan Douglas for the last home game of the season against Crewe Alexandra. The game marked Kevin Blackwellís one hundredth game in charge and fittingly it ended the barren run which has set in since he signed his new contract in early March. It came from a rare David Healy header seventeen minutes before time. There was also the added boost of long-term injury-strickened former England International Steve Stone at last able to make his debut and playing for the final twenty-nine minutes, after replacing Liam Miller. He showed good touches and finishing the game strongly and without any after effects. The final pecking order in the play off race had still not been finalized, with Palace seemingly favourites for the sixth spot and with Preston dropping two points at Hull, United moved into fourth spot.

Leeds made very heavy weather of beating a team that had long been doomed to relegation in one of the most one-sided games you were likely to see. It was almost shots in as Crewe were absolutely awful in the first half as Leeds mounted attack after attack and it was truly amazing that they had nothing to show for it as half-time came with the score still 0-0. Danny Graham limped out of the game after forty-two minutes to be replaced by Ian Moore, but he had been guilty of missing the two decent chances that had come Leedsí way. He headed wide after an Eddie Lewis cross found him at the near post and then failed to beat the keeper in a one-on-one situation as the keeper beat it out to Liam Miller, who had his shot blocked by a defender on the line. There were other chances as Shaun Derry, Stephen Creaney, David Healy, Eddie Lewis and Eirik Bakke all went close in the one way traffic, with the Leeds defence merely onlookers. Robbie Blake replaced Eddie Lewis after sixty-six minutes and the onslaught continued unabated until finally YEP player of the year Gary Kelly crossed from the right for David Healy to head home the winner. Again Shaun Derry was Unitedís star with his non-stop tackling and passing which has enabled Eirik Bakke and Liam Miller to get forward. Bakkeís suspect hamstring was a worry as the midfield was now starting to look dangerous and the general confidence of the team was returning even though the goals are not coming in torrents. United had to visit Deepdale for the final fixture knowing that whatever the result they would be involved in the play-offs in the ensuing week against an opponent as yet unknown but more than likely it would be three games against Preston North End in very quick succession!

For the final game of the League fixtures with Preston North End at Deepdale, Kevin Blackwell fielded a very under-strength team in an effort to conceal his likely team and plans for the play-offs. It was Neil Sullivan; Frazer Richardson, Sean Gregan, Matthew Kilgallon, Danny Pugh; Simon Walton, Steve Stone, Jonathan Douglas; David Healy, Robbie Blake, Ian Moore; with Ian Bennett, Jermaine Beckford, Joel Griffiths, Dan Harding and Gylfi Einarsson on the bench. Steve Stone played a full game while Simon Walton, Danny Pugh and Ian Moore had rare starts.

While this was a typical end of season game with nothing really to play for Ian Moore ran well and caused problems, Danny Pugh was sound defensively, Simon Walton covered acres in midfield and Frazer Richardson showed good touches at right back. Preston were uncompromising and physical in defence and their big men made size count against the smaller lightweight Leeds attackers. Sean Gregan and Matthew Kilgallon were solid in defence for United, who seemed to take the game as a training session. Preston threatened to run United ragged in the early stages, with their midfield trio controlling the game, and it gave United a sample of what might be likely in the play-offs. Jarrett was particularly dangerous and it was a trip on him by Matthew Kilgallon on the edge of the box that led to Prestonís opening goal seven minutes before the break. Dichio had played on, but when he made a hash of his attempt on goal the referee called play back for the free-kick. Stock curled a beautiful shot round the poorly constructed wall leaving Neil Sullivan no option but to pick the ball out of the net. It was no more than Preston deserved as they had been good value for their 1-0 lead on the break.

After fifty-two minutes Jermaine Beckford came on for Ian Moore and fourteen minutes later Joel Griffiths replaced Robbie Blake. Simon Walton headed into the side-netting after ghosting in at the far post from a Danny Pugh corner, but that apart it was not until the final minute that Beckford tested the Preston keeper. By that time it was all done and dusted and fourth place had already gone to Preston when, after Dichio had fired over from close range, former Leeds loanee Brett Ormerod made sure with thirteen minutes left. Frazer Richardson had done well to make a headed clearance but it fell to Ormerod who, after a couple of ricochets in the six yard box, forced the ball home from close range to clinch the game for Preston. With the game won Preston took their foot off the pedal and Leeds came more into the game but both teams were glad to hear the final whistle and put an end to the necessary evil and no doubt would come back with a bit more fire and purpose in the two games scheduled for the following week when one team would get to the Final and the other could start making plans for the following season.

The season which had seen its ups and downs, with a reasonable but inconsistent start which was kicked into motion with the fine come from behind win at Southampton which seemed to give the team the self belief and confidence to take off on a good unbeaten run which saw them challenging and with a game in hand always well placed but just a little out of touch with the two runaway leaders. After two consecutive defeats in early December they stuttered but recovered well to go on another unbeaten run culminating in a fine win at Crystal Palace and the very real prospect of overtaking Sheffield United for the second spot and automatic promotion. Unfortunately after that the wheels fell off and the season stuttered to an unsatisfactory end with only one victory in ten matches and that being against a side that was already relegated. However fifth position meant that they were only three games away from promotion and having an excellent record against their possible opponents on paper their prospects were good.

So it was that United entertained Preston North End at Elland Road in the first of the home and away knock out ties for the right to play the winner of Watford and Crystal Palace in the final playoff decider in Cardiff on the twenty-first of May 2006. United were almost at full-strength, with only captain Paul Butler unavailable, as they lined up with Neil Sullivan; Gary Kelly, Sean Gregan, Matthew Kilgallon, Stephen Crainey; Liam Miller, Shaun Derry, Eirik Bakke; David Healy, Rob Hulse, Eddie Lewis; while the bench comprised Ian Bennett, Jonathan Douglas, Steve Stone, Robbie Blake, Richard Cresswell. It proved to be a very even contest with both sides claiming they could have won but Prestonís fans and management went further claiming that they held the high ground as a result of a 1-1 draw on foreign territory and in the Managerís words it was ďjob doneĒ as he and his supporters went over the top in celebrations at the final whistle.

There was a lot of hammer and tongs football as befitted such an important match and this included several nasty, niggling, time wasting incidents and gamesmanship, mostly from Preston but their organization and determination was also apparent. The match officials were far too over officious and the game suffered accordingly. It was United who started brightly and made all the early running and had an early claim for a penalty turned down. After Nugent had failed to keep his nerve when given an easy chance from a corner in the seventh minute, but even before that United had a claim when Matthew Kilgallon was floored by the Preston defender Mawene in what appeared to be a definite penalty. Kilgallon also hit the woodwork with a powerful header from an Eddie Lewis corner and David Healy had a free-kick blocked. Then Liam Miller had two chances in quick succession, first he was denied by a smart save from Nash, the Preston keeper, and then McKenna pulled off a superb tackle to stop his progress on goal. It was all Leeds but the luck wasnít with them.

Preston came out of their blocks quickly in the second half and it was they who now applied all the pressure. Again Nugent was allowed to have easy access to the goal, as he picked up the ball unchallenged before going on a mazy run and holding off four United players to shot home, after only three minutes of second half action. It was a bad goal to concede by a defence which had looked virtually impregnable. With the Preston defence looking equally impregnable and uncompromising it was hard to see where United could get back on level terms let alone establish a home leg lead. Preston continued to press for a second and OíNeil shot wide and Alexander missed a good chance when he fired across the face of goal. At the other end Eddie Lewis had another shout for a penalty turned down before Brett Ormerod was denied by Neil Sullivan to keep United in the game. Steve Stone replaced Eirik Bakke after fifty-eight minutes and fourteen minutes later Robbie Blake was sent on in place of David Healy.

United had now taken up the initiative and were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box. Eddie Lewis delivered one of his trade mark set piece kicks towards the Preston goal and Alexander could only help divert it further to leave his keeper stranded as the ball nestled in the net for the equalizer. Two minutes later Lewis fed Rob Hulse but his further progress was halted by the offside flag. Richard Cresswell was sent on for Shaun Derry as United pressed for the lead with Sean Gregan being unable to accurately direct his header from a Robbie Blake free-kick into the goal. Richard Cresswell received an elbow to the face and an all-in melee of twenty-one players ensued before peace was restored and Cresswell somehow received a yellow card, presumably for retaliation. Right on time United were indebted to Stephen Crainey for pulling off a last-ditch block on Dichio and the game ended in a deserved draw. United had been roared on by a 36,000 crowd and it certainly helped them lift their game and, while there would only be 2,800 cheering them on at Preston, if United can lift accordingly in the same way as their fans, then the tie would still be wide open, as the two teams were well matched and the result would count on the luck of the bounce or the whim of a referee.

United decided there was little to lose in the return leg and went for all-out attack, chosing not to have a keeper on the bench and restoring Frazer Richardson and Jonathan Douglas for David Healey and Eirik Bakke who dropped to the bench. Once again Captain Paul Butler was unavailable and Unitedís aggressive outlook paid dividends and, after a night of high drama, they claimed the spoils of victory with gripping, terrific performance to eliminate Preston North End from any further participation in the play-off procedure. Rob Hulse and Frazer Richardson got the goals that counted. The game was full of extremely physical and tense combat and even had a thirty-four minute interval due to a power failure. Preston had a goal disallowed and with United 2-0 up and coasting they had two players sent off, Stephen Crainey and Richard Cresswell, and both would miss the final in Cardiff against Watford.

After the scenes at Elland Road and their insistence that it was a Ējob doneĒ, the home announcer said ďwelcome to our penultimate game before we reach the PremiershipĒ which only served to provide the encouragement that United needed to make them eat their words. The tactic of playing Frazer Richardson in an attacking role on the right was a master stroke, for not only did he curtail the Preston left back Alexander from making runs, but he played a big part in Unitedís attacking movements. Neil Sullivan was also a key man in dictating the pace of the game but was also at his agile best to keep a clean sheet. Sean Gregan and Matthew Kilgallon were outstanding at the heart of the defence while Gary Kelly and Stephen Crainey were strong in their defensive duties and managed to get up and down in the support and building of the attacks. Shaun Derry was solid and ferocious in the midfield anchor role while Liam Miller showed neat touches and good movement, but it was Jonathan Douglas who really caught the eye and was seemingly everywhere. Up-front Rob Hulse threw off his shackles and matched the two Preston defensive heavies literally punch for punch as their battle often teetered on the edge and several times threatened to boil over. Down the flanks Frazer Richardson and Eddie Lewis initially nullified the attacking moves of the Preston full-backs but later played their parts to the full as Unitedísattacking options increased with their grip on the game in a team performance not seen since their inspirational win at Crystal Palace.There was an enthralling opening to the game which saw the challengescome thick and fast and Rob Hulse and Davis clashed as early as the thirteenth minute in what was a sample of the personal battles being fought all over the pitch which continued throughout the game.

The blackout came just at the right time as it served to dampen the tempers and short fuses which had been lit just prior to the break when eighteen players were involved in a melee after Matthew Kilgallon had clashed with Nugent in the United penalty box. After the break it was United who came out firing on all cylinders and twelve minutes into the second half Rob Hulse gave United a well deserved lead as he headed home from a corner and to seal an obviously well-rehearsed move. Given Unitedís usual ability to preserve a one goal lead, particularly away from home, it looked as though Hulseís strike would have won the game but just four minutes later they made doubly sure. Liam Miller was the architect, setting up Rod Hulse, with a fine pass before the big striker played in Frazer Richardson, who calmly picked his spot and made no mistake to fire the ball home.

With the game seemingly won, Preston were thrown a lifeline as Stephen Crainey, who had already been booked for needlessly kicking the ball away, received a second yellow for a dubious foul on Nugent and got his marching orders. Frazer Richardson duly dropped back to left back and Neil Sullivan was called upon to make two superb reflex saves to deny McKenna and Dichio as Preston tried to get back in the game and take advantage of Unitedís reduced numbers. With eleven minutes to go, Richard Cresswell came on to replace Rob Hulse, who left the field to a standing ovation from the Leeds fans, and he was twice booked in mysterious circumstances and United were down to nine men deep into injury time. Steve Stone had been sent on in place of Eddie Lewis with three minutes of normal time left. Mears then headed home a goal and Preston thought they had a lifeline until the referee saw the linesmanís flag raised for offside and their celebrations were quickly cut short. When the referee blew the final whistle after more than six minutes of time on, the United team and travelling fans were in raptures as they celebrated their victory in a game that had all the elements of what is good, bad and ugly, but United had proved they were the better side on the night and fully deserved to progress to the play-off final in Cardiff and they could head there with every confidence after such an emphatic display and victory.

The interest in United was intense as the mad scramble for the prized tickets took place. All of a sudden there were 40,000 fans that were lucky enough to get a ticket, and many thousands who were not so fortunate. Then there were the millions who watched the game on TV.

I was one of the fortunate 40,000, thanks to a long time friend and United fanatic, to whom I am eternally grateful. I could write a book on the story of the intrigues which took place before I finally had the prized piece of paper in my hand. We were on the road before the sparrows were awake and were soon joined by the exodus of United fans which came from all corners of the globe and clogged every motorway and by-way heading for the capital of the principality. The day was similar to my first taste of a major final at the countryís finest venue (1965 Liverpool at Wembley, after nearly 20 years of supporting mediocrity!). The dark clouds had gathered and the heavens had opened. Fortunately the Millennium was much more modern and its retractable roof ensured that at least the supporters would not get soaked to the skin as was the case in 1965! Cardiff was also inundated by the invading hordes, from Watford and Leeds, but thankfully there was no trouble between the fans but rather much bonhomie and friendliness was soon apparent.

The scene was set for the return to the EPL of one of its best supported teams. Unfortunately the team did not turn up, but rather a pale imitation of the team that had comeback so valiantly against all the odds at Southampton, played Crystal Palace off the park in their own backyard and prevailed in the physical battle at Deepdale.

The team that took the field showed several changes from their Deepdale triumph. Captain Paul Butler had recovered from injury and took the place of the suspended Stephen Crainey, with Matthew Kilgallon switching to left back. The suspended Richard Cresswell could not take his place on the bench and Manager Blackwell went for safety first, and included keeper Ian Bennett in his stead.

It was a disastrous day for United and their expectant fans. They had no arguments. They were outplayed, outfought and totally outthought by a Watford team who were better in all departments. The display was much at odds with their performance at Preston when they were strong, robust, physical and clinical. None of those qualities were apparent, but rather they lacked any creativity or invention in midfield and Watford dominated this area for the whole match and their quick and inter-changeable forwards pulled the United rearguard all over the park and created holes at will. There had been a glimpse of hope early in the game as Shaun Derry had a shot deflected to safety by a Watford defender and it set the tone of the game as United failed to capitalize on early match nerves, and a suggested instability in the Watford defence, but it soon passed and with it any chance that United may have had of prevailing and it was soon the Leeds defence that looked vulnerable.

It came as no surprise when DeMerit powered in to head home a corner in the twenty-fifth minute, with Rob Hulse holding his head in his hands for not tracking him. Shaun Derry did try hard in midfield but Frazer Richardson was not the success he was at Preston and was replaced by Robbie Blake at the start of the second half, while both Liam Miller and Jonathan Douglas were anonymous and United seemed to be seeing their hopes go down the drain by half-time as they surrendered the midfield. Rob Hulse was hauled down by the Watford keeper just before half-time but the fans hopes were dashed as the referee called the ball back for a previous infringement by a United player.

With the introduction of Robbie Blake, he went up to join the attack as Kevin Blackwell changed from 4-3-3 to 4-4-2, but it made little difference and United were lucky not to go two behind early in the second half. Ex-Leeds striker Marlon King played in Darius Henderson, but, with another ex-Leeds player Matthew Spring running into space, his final pass was poor and the chance was lost. The warning was not heeded and in the fifty-seventh minute Watford doubled their lead as Chambers turned Eddie Lewis in the box and hisshot looped off the wingerís boot and onto the post before rebounding off the diving Neil Sullivan and into the net. Maybe a lucky goal butno more than Watford deserved and it finished the game as a contest.

United visibly wilted and despite the efforts of Paul Butler, Sean Gregan and Shaun Derry to breathe life into the United effort they got little response. It was as if Leeds had hoisted the white flag, even though there was half an hour remaining. David Healy, a somewhat surprise omission from the team to date, came on for the ineffective Liam Miller and he did test the Watford keeper with a low drive. Sean Gregan headed over the bar, Eddie Lewis tested the keeper with a skimming shot and Shaun Derry, Unitedís best player by a country mile and one of the few seeming to care, had an header cleared off the line and must have known it was not going to be his day. At the other end MacKay had an header cleared off the line before the Shaun Derry was adjudged to have unfairly brought down Marlon King in the area, with six minutes to go, and Darius Henderson put the final nail in Unitedís coffin by converting the resultant penalty. It was all over and even Shaun Derry conceded it was all over and the clock was wound down as Eirik Bakke relieved Sean Gregan from further suffering for the last five minutes.

Unitedís pain was there for all to see and the final ceremony was played out to banks of unoccupied seats at the Leeds End as the Leeds players held their heads in shame. It was painful to watch and the disappointment set in as once again I realized that Leeds had faltered at the last hurdle in another quest for some glory and a Radio Aire/Leeds interviewer stuck his microphone in front of my mouth and asked the immortal moronic question ďHow do you feelĒ. I suppressed the urge to strangle the life out of him for posing such an unfeeling and imbecilic question and said ďI have supported Leeds for so long that I am used to failure at the last hurdle. I feel, now, that this is just the most recent in a long line of such disappointments which started for me at Wembley in 1965 and have continued with monotonous regularity culminating with todayís abject disappointment. I am as usual uncomfortably numbĒ

And then there was the four hour journey to reach the outskirts of Cardiff before encountering further congestion on the Motorways clogged by equally disappointed Leeds fans. I was thankful that my friend drove the whole way to his home where we arrived at 1.00am and ultimately I arrived ďhomeĒ in Leeds at 4.00am and got some shuteye before facing the journey back to Oz. Happy Days! So came down the curtain on a season which had several times promised so much and yet finished with nothing. Some things never change.

United had finished the season in fifth spot with 78 points from their 46 games. They had used 29 players in all competitions. Gary Kelly and Paul Butler headed the appearances in the League with 44, followed by Eddie Lewis 42(1), Neil Sullivan 42, Jonathan Douglas 32(8), Rob Hulse 32(7) with Robbie Blake 31(10) the only players to start more than 30 times. David Healy managed 24(18), and it was he who led the scorers with 12 in the league and 2 in the cups and play-offs, along with Rob Hulse with an identical record, with Robbie Blake running them close with 11, all in the league.

2006-07: Season Statistics: Games, Results, Appearances, Goalscorers
Football League Tables for the Season

After going so close to obtaining promotion back into the EPL via the play-off Final, United were installed as early favourites for promotion by the bookmakers. The supporters looked to see some impetus from the management that might give them encouragement in their belief that a return to former greatness was imminent.

On the positive side there was the return to full fitness for Steve Stone and Eirik Bakke, to bolster the hole left in midfield by the departure of loanees Liam Miller and Jonathan Douglas.

Danny Graham had departed before the previous seasonís end and soon other more permanent team members were on the way out. Prolific goal-scorer Rob Hulse departed for Bramall Lane in exchange for an initial £2.2 million which could rise to £3 million if certain events took place. He was soon joined by deputy goalkeeper Ian Bennett for an undisclosed fee and having no cover for either it was seen as a backward step. Especially as United had also allowed Danny Pugh to go to rivals Preston North End for £ 250,000 and Simon Walton to join Charlton Athletic for £ 500,000, both good young players thought to have a promising future at Elland Road. It was understandable that Michael Ricketts and Jermaine Wright were allowed free transfers to Southend United and Southampton respectively, as neither had showed any inclination to merit their supposedly high wages. Australian Joel Griffiths was also allowed to leave on a free transfer and returned to his homeland.

David Livermore was signed from Millwall for £400,000 on 21st July and then departed for Hull City for the same amount on 1st August, leaving the supporters mystified. According to Manager Blackwell he really wanted Kevin Nicholls from Luton Town but when he seemed unavailable he bought Livermore. Nicholls was duly bought for £ 750,000 and Livermore, being surplus to requirements, was sold. Daniel Harding, who was thought to have a bright future when purchased, was allowed to leave on a free and in part exchange for Ipswich Townís Ian Westlake. Sebastien Carole came in on a free from Brighton and Hove Albion while Hayden Foxe was also added on a free from Portsmouth after a lengthy trial period.

There were several emerging juniors and Jonathan Howson, Robert Bayly, Simon Madden, Jonathan Lund, Danny Rose, Sam Hird and Gavin Rothery were all given shirt numbers in the squad. There were further loan players brought in to give temporary cover for the deficiencies in the squad. Geoff Horsfield came in on six months loan from Sheffield United, Tony Warner was loaned by Fulham initially for a month but then extended to end of the year. Right on the closing of the transfer window, Jonathan Douglas finally signed a three year deal and he joined from Blackburn Rovers for an undisclosed fee, while Eirik Bakke was paid up and he left for his homeland with SK Brann. Now all the big earners had departed, except for Gary Kelly. Promising young full-back Ben Parker and the young Jermaine Beckford were loaned out to Bradford Park Avenue and Carlisle United respectively to gain first team experience.

At the end of Kevin Blackwellís reign there were further loans of Alan Wright from Sheffield United, Adam Johnson from Middlesbrough, both for a month as successive successors tried to plug the perceived gaps.

United kicked off the pre-season with a tour of Norway featuring two games against FK Sparta Sarpsborg and Sandnes Ulf. For the first game they lined up with Bennett; Richardson, Fox, Parker, Harding; Stone, Bakke, Einarsson, Carole; Beckford, Blake. After seventy-three minutes Gary Kelly, Paul Butler and Matthew Kilgallon replaced Frazer Richardson, Hayden Foxe and Ben Parker in defence while Joel Griffiths replaced Steve Stone in midfield and Rob Hulse and David Healy replaced Jermaine Beckford and Robbie Blake as the strike force.

There was a goal and a fine performance from Eirik Bakke to impress Manager Blackwell, who would have been pleased that Steve Stone came through his seventy-three minute outing to confirm his return to full fitness. There were debuts for Sebastien Carole, Ben Parker and Hayden Foxe, and it was the speedy Frenchman who was fouled for Eirik Bakke to score from the spot in the second half but United were denied victory by a late goal. It was Eirik Bakke that set up Robbie Blake for the best chance of the first half but his shot was parried by the keeper. Blakeís strike partner Jermaine Beckford also passed up two reasonable chances before United finally took the lead five minutes before the interval, when Frazer Richardson made a good foray down the wing and his dangerous cross was deflected into the goal by a defender. Robbie Blake was once again denied by the keeper after the interval, before the hosts drew level with a soft goal. Unitedís defence failed to repel a long goal-kick and a Sarpsborg substitute clipped a tidy finish beyond Ian Bennett to equalise. Eirik Bakke restored Unitedís lead from the spot midway through the second half but once again the United defence failed to protect their advantage and Sarpsborg equalised late in the game. David Healy came close to grabbing the winner in the dying minutes, while at the other end United had to thank Dan Harding for making a goal-line clearance as the game finished level at 2-2.

There was a 2-1 victory for United in their final game of the tour at Sandnes Ulf. They lined up Sullivan; Kelly, Butler, Kilgallon, Parker; Stone, Einarsson, Bakke, Harding; Hulse, Healy. After sixty-eight minutes Hayden Foxe replaced Matthew Kilgallon in defence, Frazer Richardson and Sebastien Carole came on for Steve Stone and Eirik Bakke in midfield, while Jermaine Beckford and Robbie Blake took over from Rob Hulse and David Healy in attack. The game against the second division team was played in pouring rain and the conditions and the wet ball made it difficult for both teams.

There were several very physical challenges and both Steve Stone and David Healy felt the full force of an over enthusiastic defender before the home team took the lead after twenty minutes. Ben Parker was robbed in a crunching tackle on the halfway line and Kiehl gave Sullivan no chance with a fine shot. United clawed their way back and both Dan Harding and Matthew Kilgallon were denied by the home keeper. Eirik Bakke was again in top form and he soared to head home a superb Gary Kelly cross to equalise right on half-time. Robbie Blake got the winner just eight minutes after coming on as a substitute, when he coolly slotted home from close range after a good build up.

Unitedís first pre-season friendly on home soil saw them defeated 2-1 by League Two Hartlepool United at Victoria Park. Manager Blackwell was not perturbed as he was giving a chance to several trialists and new signings. There were games for trialists Robbie Elliott of Newcastle United and Mark Fotheringham, formerly of Celtic and Dundee, and new signing David Livermore from Millwall. The line up was Sullivan; Kelly, Foxe, Butler, Elliott; Stone, Fotheringham, Bakke, Livermore; Healy, Blake. Jermaine Beckford replaced Robbie Blake at half time, Sean Gregan was on for Paul Butler on the hour mark, Joel Griffiths came on for Mark Fotheringham thirteen minutes later and finally it was Frazer Richardson who replaced David Livermore twelve minutes before the end, leaving Ian Bennett and Ben Parker unused on the bench.

Steve Stone crowned a fine display by getting Unitedís goal on the hour, but Hartlepool were already two goals to the good by then, with young Hartlepool striker James Brown getting both. Stone formed a good partnership with Gary Kelly down the right flank while on the left David Livermore made a steady but unspectacular start. Behind him Robbie Elliott had a similar game but had a couple of efforts on goal. Scotsman Mark Fotheringham was a little more impressive on the right of central midfield, where he was paired with Eirik Bakke, and it was he who set up Unitedís only goal.

United dominated possession in the early part of the game with neat football and their passing and movement was good. David Healy and Robbie Blake linked up well in attack and with the rest of the team, but there was no end product. Healy was marginally wide after he executed a fine turn and shot after fourteen minutes and a quarter of an hour later Robbie Elliott volleyed straight at the keeper after a cross from Gary Kelly. While Leeds were pretty, it was Hartlepool who were the more effective in the box and ex-Leeds player Mark Tinkler crossed for James Brown to coolly pick his spot after fifteen minutes to give Neil Sullivan no chance.

After the introduction of Jermaine Beckford, David Healy again came agonisingly close with a superb header from a Gary Kelly cross after fifty-one minutes with the home keeper pulling off a superb save as he dived low to save at his left-hand post. It was, however, Hartlepool that increased their lead four minutes later as former Owlís protege Ritchie Humphreysí free-kick was headed home by the ever alert Brown at the far post. United responded on the hour with Robbie Elliott releasing Mark Fotheringham down the left and his cross was pushed out by the keeper, but only as far as Steve Stone who drilled the ball home right in front of the travelling faithful. They should have levelled nine minutes from time as Frazer Richardson found Steve Stone, but his cross was met by Joel Griffiths whose header was wide from six yards. One minute before time a Robbie Elliott screamer from twenty yards was acrobatically tipped over by the home keeper to leave the home team the victors 2-1.

Things did not improve as United were again beaten 2-1 at Glanford Park by Scunthorpe United in their next pre-season friendly. United lined up Sullivan; Kelly, Butler, Gregan, Parker; Richardson, Bakke, Livermore, Carole; Beckford, Blake. French trialist Embelle Garra replaced Jermaine Beckford for the second half, while Bennett, Griffiths, Rose, Morris, Bayly, Hird and Howson remained unused on the bench. Once again it was a sad disappointment for Manager Kevin Blackwell, as although Robbie Blake gave United the lead five minutes before the interval, Scunthorpe hit back and equalised within a minute, and then got what proved to be the winner seven minutes into the second half. United had made a good start but Jermaine Beckford had twice strayed offside to spoil promising moves. Eirik Bakke was very unlucky after only six minutes, when after good work by Robbie Blake he saw his low shot beat the keeper but hit the foot of the post and rebound to safety. Bakke also had a good chance to equalise in the seventy-fifth minute but shot wide from near the penalty spot.

There was a visit to Notingham Forestís City Ground for Unitedís penultimate pre-season friendly and there were more Leeds debutants as goalkeeper Darren Ward managed three minutes, Jonathan Howson was introduced in the last minute, Robert Bayly was given 16 minutes and Ian Morris played the whole of the second half. Worryingly new signing Kevin Nicholls was injured in training and was out for several weeks and he joined Richard Cresswell, David Livermore, Stephen Crainey and Shaun Derry who were all unavailable from injury and Eirik Bakke and Neil Bennett, who were withdrawn due to injury in the match. The line-up was Sullivan; Kelly, Butler, Kilgallon, Harding; Carole, Bakke, Stone, Lewis; Moore, Healy. Ian Morris and Sean Gregan replaced Eddie Lewis and Matthew Kilgallon at half time, Ian Moore made way for Jermaine Beckford after fifty-five minutes, Robbie Blake replaced David Healy on the hour, Robert Bayly replaced Steve Stone after seventy-four minutes, Darren Ward replaced Neil Sullivan for the last three minutes and Jonathan Howson replace Eirik Bakke in the final minute.

While the 3-2 victory was a welcome relief, it solved no problems, as many likely first team players were not available, and two others left the field injured. Sullivanís injury appeared serious enough to doubt his fitness for the CCCL kick off with Norwich City and after the departure of able deputy Ian Bennett, Manager Blackwell may have to turn to on loan keeper Darren Ward, who was available on free transfer from their opening opponents. A very patched up under done outfit seemed to be Kevin Blackwellís only likely option for Unitedís first League game since the play-off.

United started off in 4-4-2 formation with Steve Stone partnering Eirik Bakke in central midfield, with Sebastien Carole to the right and Eddie Lewis returning on the left. With Ian Moore and David Healy the two pronged attack, the attacking formula paid off as United swept into the lead after only three minutes. Moore found Steve Stone with a beautifully weighted pass and he took it to the bye line before splitting the Forest defence for David Healy to side-foot home from close range. Healy threatened to double Unitedís lead after another clever pass from Ian Moore gave him the chance to angle the ball across the face of the Forest goal. Forest went close as they shot narrowly wide and they finally equalised four minutes before half time. Sean Gregan had replaced Matthew Kilgallon at half-time and the defence hadnít had time to settle before Forest took the lead two minutes after the break, when a cross from the left evaded Unitedís static markers and Holt crashed a powerful header past Neil Sullivan.

Leeds pulled themselves level on the hour mark with a piece of magic from Eirik Bakke. After a free-kick had been awarded in Unitedís favour he quickly picked up the ball and, before the keeper could get his wall set, he calmly planted the ball into the far corner of the unguarded net. Forest continued to look the more dangerous of the two teams and wasted several good opportunities before United clinched the game eight minutes from time. Again it was Eirik Bakke involved as he attempted to test the Forest keeper from distance, but the ball cannoned of a defender and nestled in the back of the net past a bemused keeper. Unfortunately the game finished with Neil Sullivan limping off followed by Eirik Bakke with a suspected knee injury.

Unitedís final hit out was a testimonial for Grimsby Town Manager Graham Rodger at Blundell Park. It provided Kevin Blackwell an opportunity to give a few fringe players and trialists a run. Darren Ward had a full game in goal, while there were trials for Carl Asaba from Sheffield United, former Fulham and Marsaille defender Jerome Bonnissel, ex-Cologne defender Roland Benschneider and Frenchman Embelle Garra got a second run. Youngsters Simon Madden, Bailey Camfield, Sam Hird, Scott Gardner, Robert Bayly, Jonathan Howson and Ian Morris were all given a run. The line-up was Ward; Richardson, Bonnissel, Gregan, Benschneider; Einarsson, Asaba, Bayly, Lewis; Beckford, Moore. Scott Gardner replaced Carl Asaba at half time while Sam Hird and Embelle Garra replaced Gylfi Einarssen and Ian Moore on fifty-six minutes, Simon Madden and Ian Morris were on for Frazer Richardson and Eddie Lewis after sixty-five minutes, while Bailey Camfield replaced Jerome Bonnissel on seventy-seven minutes and Jonathan Howson was on for Embelle Garra after eighty-four minutes. Mark Wilberforce was the unused keeper.

Eddie Lewis was Unitedís saviour as he netted seven minutes into the second half to equalise Grimsbyís ninth minute strike. Youngster Mark Wilberforce was left on the bench as Darren Ward was given the full ninety minutes to impress Manager Blackwell. Gylfi Einarrson had an early chance to equalise but guided a close ranged header wide of the goal, while Jermaine Beckford saw his shot beaten away by the Grimsby keeper shortly afterwards. Ward was given a chance to shine when he proved himself equal to Rankinís twenty-sixth minute shot but then United started to take command and United saw a shot cleared off the line and Carl Asaba watched his shot blocked. The equaliser came from Frazer Richardsonís persistence and it allowed Eddie Lewis to beat the keeper after fifty-two minutes, but Ward still had a further chance to impress Kevin Blackwell, as he again denied Rankin in the dying minutes and so the score was locked at 1-1.

Kevin Blackwell frantically sought to bolster his depleted team and brought in goalkeeper Tony Warner on loan from Fulham and striker Geoff Horsfield on loan from Sheffield United, while Eirik Bakke was deemed fit to play and for their opening game against Norwich City at Elland Road the team that took the field was: Warner; Kelly, Butler, Kilgallon, Crainey; Stone, Derry, Bakke, Lewis; Healy, Horsfield. Seb Carole replaced David Healy after sixty-nine minutes, Ian Westlake was on for Eirik Bakke after seventy-seven minutes, Ian Moore replaced Stephen Crainey for the last five minutes, while Sean Gregan and Robbie Blake were unused on the bench.

Neil Sullivan had failed a late fitness test on a dead leg and Tony Warner took his place in goal and was one of for players making their debut for United. Geoff Horsfield joined him in the run on XI while Ian Westlake and Sebastien Carole debuted from the bench. Not for the first time United were indebted to David Healyís striking ability, as he got the only goal of the game from the penalty spot four minutes before the end of the first half. However, it was the defence that shone with Matthew Kilgallon just being pipped by goalkeeper Tony Warner and striker David Healy for man of the match. Warner was kept busy as Norwich started quickly and in the seventh minute Earnshaw picked up a terrible intended back-pass by Shaun Derry only to be foiled by the onrushing keeper, who made and impressive and vital save to keep the scoresheet blank.

Starting in a 4-4-2 formation United made the early running and tested the Norwich rearguard. So it was they that had the majority of possession in the first half hour but gradually the Norwich midfield led by Etuhu started to get on top and the fast raiding Earnshaw and Huckerbyís speed started to cause the United defence all kinds of problems. Earnshaw was particularly dangerous and only three fine saves by Tony Warner and a post stopped him from getting a deserved goal. His seventh minute effort was followed by a header going narrowly wide, and a snatched effort missed the target after he had dispossessed Paul Butler. The United captain struggled to cope all game and, after a crude tackle on a Norwich forward, the ball broke for Earnshaw to rifle a fine shot past the diving Tony Warner only to see it rebound off the inside of the post.

Manager Blackwell had seen enough and went to a 4-3-3 formation with Steve Stone on the right of midfield and David Healy wide right and Eddie Lewis wide left of the front three. The three man midfield suited Shaun Derry and he came more into the game. This paid dividends as Steve Stone played in David Healy who coolly beat the keeper only to be pulled up for being marginally off-side. Healy also had another shot saved by the Norwich keeper but finally got his revenge after Steve Stone had been blatantly tripped in the area and he step up to convert the resultant penalty four minutes before half-time.

Norwich continued to press after the break and Earnshaw was twice denied by reflex saves from Tony Warner. At the other end, Geoff Horsfield managed to miss from a yard out after Steve Stone had expertly guided Stephen Craineyís cross-field pass across the face of goal. Earnshaw had one final effort to get on the scoresheet but three minutes from time his shot crashed against the outside of Tony Warnerís right-hand post. Other than that, although being second best for several periods of the game United showed commendable control to ensure that their record of being unbeaten in the opening fixture since 1989 remained intact.

United were unchanged for their visit to Loftus Road to meet expected strugglers Queens Park Rangers. It was a game that they were expected to win, did all the work, dominated for long periods and in the end failed in their mission for full points and the home team stole their point as United bemoaned dropping a couple. While United had been fortunate to get full points at home to Norwich, they could be understandably disappointed at not gaining a maximum against a team that should have been buried in a landslide such was Unitedís dominance. United were just not ruthless enough to put the game, which was theirs for the taking, beyond doubt rather than having to settle for a 2-2 draw. This could only have pleased the QPR Manager, while leaving Kevin Blackwell very frustrated and annoyed.

The overall quality of performance by United fuelled the thought that they would again be amongst the leaders in the charge for the EPL, but the result sowed the seeds of disillusionment at having thrown away two points that at a later stage in the season could prove very valuable. Kevin Blackwell again chose 4-4-2 as his starting formation but quickly changed to a five man midfield and it seemed at this early stage of the season that a single spearhead was his preferred option. QPR started very well for such a poorly credentialed team but Blackwellís tactical response quickly swung the game in Unitedís favour. The home team created two chances in the first four minutes but both were wasted. A lack of communication between Tony Warner and Matthew Kilgallon gave them the first chance but the QPR attacker scuffed his shot, then the same player found Tony Warner alert to the danger to save his low shot after he had been gifted a chance after running into a huge gap left by Paul Butler and Matthew Kilgallon. The onslaught was brief and the reshuffle saw a tightening in defence. United took command of the midfield and soon created their own chances. An Eddie Lewis corner gave David Healy the chance to get in his shot which cannoned off the QPR keeper in the nineteenth minute, and this was followed eight minutes later by Healy forcing the keeper to show good reactions to save once again. Ian Westlake replaced Eirik Bakke after five minutes of the second half, while Sebastien Carole came on for David Healy after seventy-seven minutes. Seven minutes later Ian Moore was introduced in place of Geoff Horsfield. Steve Stone had his best game to date for Leeds and he and David Healy were the two outstanding performers and the main source of danger for QPR. It was Stone who was involved with both Unitedís goals. After sustained pressure, it was from Stoneís cross in the sixty-fourth minute, that Healy directed hisheader over the QPR keeper only to see it cannon off the underside of the bar, but the ball bounced kindly and Eddie Lewis was able to volley home into the unprotected net. The goal should have been sufficient for United to kill off the game, but ten minutes later a contentious penalty conceded by Stephen Crainey for a push in the back of the QPR winger Ainsworth, saw Rowland step up and beat Tony Warner from the spot to put the hosts back on level terms. Unitedís response was quick and to the point, it only took a minute before a Steve Stone lob was dropped over the home defence and straight into the path of Geoff Horsfield who took one touch before volleying into the QPR net, with the goalkeeper given no chance. Once again it should have been game set and match but once more the United defence made a gift in injury time as a cross looped over Stephen Craineyís head and Ainsworth took the ball to the bye-line before centring for Baidoo to side-foot home, with little or no opposition from the United defence.It could have been worse, as QPR might, and should, have stolen the points as they finished as if it was a cup-tie and this produced two excellent chances for Jones, but thankfully for United he declined them both. So United in the end were thankful for a point, but for the first twenty-five minutes of the second half United had so dominated the proceedings that Tony Warner did not have any work to do before being confronted by the penalty, that was when they should have made their dominance count and put the game beyond the grasp of the home team. On the balance of the two games to date four points was probably a fair reflection and well within expectations of averaging two points per game to attain promotion.

Ian Westlake took the place of Eirik Bakke with Frazer Richardson filling the vacant spot on the bench as United visited Selhurst Park for the away fixture with Crystal Palace and memories of Unitedís fine performance in the same fixture in the previous season, filled them with an expectation of a similar performance. Neither team seemed to be of the calibre they both produced last season, and both looked below the benchmark expected of teams pushing for promotion. In a game that could have gone either way, neither team deserved to win but Unitedís chances received a severe blow with the sending off of Geoff Horsfield after only fifteen minutes. Once more Kevin Blackwell could feel aggrieved at not getting any points after battling right until time on for injuries before conceding that all important goal. Even with only ten men for the majority of the game United would not have been lucky if they had taken full points. Eddie Lewis was denied by a post with the best of the chances that fell Unitedís way. It was a ridiculous sending-off not that it wasnít merited, but that it was such a stupid act for the loan player to commit, and it couldnít have enhance his chances of a permanent contract as it cost United this game and meant he would be suspended for several games as a consequence. The ball was running out of play far from Horsfieldís feet when he ran into the back of the defending Hudson and reacted by flattening the Palace player by the swinging of an arm. While Horsfield felt he had been hard done by, the mere fact that he raised and swung an arm was sufficient to get him a red card in the view of the officials. Palace had been given a numerical superiority and United had little choice to play only David Healy up front, where he was left to fight a lone, unassisted battle against the Palace defence. Shaun Derry did strive manfully and was the pick of the engine room of both sides and he made many telling passes while anchoring the midfield. United were cursing their luck at not being in front at the interval as in the twenty-second minute Eddie Lewis had clipped the woodwork in an incisive raid by United, when David Healyís cross found him in space at the far post, after hitting the post the ball fell kindly for Healy but his shot was saved by the goalkeeperís legs. The chance was one of several that fell to Healy in the first half but none were in the easy category. After the interval, Palace introduced Freedman and began to look more menacing as he caused immediate consternation in the United defence and Cort was left with an easy header which he failed to take advantage of. It did signal a change in the game, whereas in the first half the Leeds defence coped easily with the Palace attack, now they lost control of the game as the opposition superior numbers began to tell. Amid the pressure United did manage a few sorties and Shaun Derry had the chance to open the scoring when presented with a free header from a Steve Stone corner after fifty-eight minutes, but he headed over and with that missed chance Unitedís hopes of winning disappeared. Tony Warner parried Kennedyís goal-bound effort two minuteslater before watching a Cort header narrowly go over the bar and from then on the United keeper was constantly involved in stemming the tide for the rest of the game. Frazer Richardson was sent on in place of Eddie Lewis after seventy-five minutes and a minute later Ian Moore replaced David Healy, while Sebastien Carole took the place of Steve Stone right on full-time, but none were as successful as the Crystal Palace seventy-third minute substitution which saw the introduction of Clinton Morrison, and it was he who added to Unitedís woes. After another Tony Warner save from Freedman with three minutes to go it looked as if United had survived, but Morrison used his strength to hold off Matthew Kilgallon and his volley from six yards crashed into the back of the United net with virtually the last kick of the game deep into injury time for the only goal of the game.

Robbie Blake replaced the suspended Geoff Horsfield, while there were places on the bench for Eirik Bakke and Jermaine Beckford at the expense of Ian Moore for the visit of high-flying Cardiff City to Elland Road. The 1-0 defeat was soured even more by a verbal joust between Ken Bates and Peter Ridsdale, the rival chairmen. Ridsdale seems incapable of grasping the fact that his regime created the sorry demise of the club and yet he still claims to be a Leeds fan while having a celebratory wine to toast their defeat.

United had gambled on the fitness of Steve Stone, but it was a gamble that failed as he broke down after only half-an-hour and had to be replaced by Eirik Bakke. He had been influential to that point but he pulled up in obvious pain after making a tackle in his own box and it was plain to see that he could not continue, and was replaced two minutes later. United did have several chances to take the lead, but the referee was unmoved by Stephen McPhailís bringing down of Ian Westlake in the box seven minutes before half-time, while he also gave the benefit of the doubt to the Cardiff defender, Darren Purse, who seemed to divert a goal-bound shot from Eirik Bakke, with more than a hint of hand-ball, during first-half injury time. The chance had fallen to Bakke from an Eddie Lewis corner and this seemed the most likely avenue for producing a goal for United, as his delivery from dead ball situations was excellent. It was from such source, after twenty-one minutes, that Matthew Kilgallon had the best chance to score, but he couldnít direct his header into the net and it finished in the empty South Stand. Cardiff were equally wasteful with Chopra heading wide when well placed, just prior to the interval.The second half developed into a grim battle, with both David Healy and Robbie Blake testing the Cardiff keeper. After sixty-eight minutes Jermaine Beckford replaced Blake and added a little more impetus, soon firing into the side-netting as the Unitedís performance gathered momentum. The game seemed to be drifting to a scoreless draw when Matthew Kilgallon needlessly lost possession on the edge of the Cardiff box and City broke away for Flood to get beyond the Leeds defence for Chopra, who had anticipated his run and crosswell, to return the ball to the far post for Flood to slide in and score, withonly six minutes remaining. Blackwell threw on Seb Carole for Eddie Lewis buthe failed to trigger any inspiration as once more United did not seem to havethe answers when the questions were asked in the final minutes of matches, eventhough Cardiff were reduced to ten men with the late sending off of Darren Purse. It seemed as if the skill had deserted Leeds and while the effort was thereand indeed at least ten chances were created, but none were of sufficient effect that scoring was a formality and so the win took Cardiff into joint topspot and the Leeds players left the field to a chorus of booing by the barely18,000 crowd, which had witnessed their latest capitulation as they sank to eighteenth position with four points from four games. Their enthusiasm had been dampened by the heavy rain and another mediocre performance which had seen them concede defeat at the death for the third consecutive game.

It was the First Round Carling Cup Tie against Chester City next on the agenda at Elland Road, as United finally scored and got back to winning ways. As usual there was a run for a few of the fringe players as United lined up: Sullivan; Richardson, Gregan, Foxe, Crainey; Carole, Bakke, Lewis, Westlake; Blake, Beckford. Ian Moore replaced Jermaine Beckford after seventy-five minutes and David Healy and Matthew Kilgallon were on for Robbie Blake and Hayden Foxe with a minute to go, while Jonathan Howson and Danny Rose remained unused on the bench. There were just over 10,000 on hand to witness what could best be described as an uninteresting match, as Unitedís performance was only as good as it was necessary to win, which says little, as Chester, not so unpredictably, came to stop United scoring and very little else. It was Unitedís fifth game in seventeen days and Manager Blackwell resisted the temptation of leaving out more of his regulars as the alternatives were not available. Considering that in the past United had twice fallen to their Division Two opponents in giantĖkilling acts, they had to treat them with respect to avoidanother banana-skin embarrassment. With Chester employing five at the back and four across the midfield and one token plodding striker it was little wonder that the game was just an exercise in attack and defence, with United lacking cohesion to break down the Chester defence particularly in the first half. Robbie Blake had two long range efforts which were ineffective and Jermaine Beckford was dwarfed by three Chester central defenders as he struggled in his role of main strike-force. Beckford started the second half in more positive vein and saw a strong shot whistle past the post in the first minute after the break. Eirik Bakke was the man to break the deadlock after twelve minutes of thesecond half as everyone was starting to get visions of a penalty shootout asthe only way to break the deadlock. The goal came from a frantic scramble in the Chester box and it was typical of the game in general. Seb Carole had won possession in Chesterís half and his clever pass created space for Robbie Blake to press into the box, where his shot rebounded to Eddie Lewis, whose shot was diverted by a Chester defender onto a post for Bakke to stab the rebound into the net for his first goal for United in thirty months. There were good performances from Hayden Foxe, in his first competitive game since 2003, who was solid in defence and also went close with two headers, while Eirik Bakke continued his good form from the game with Cardiff. Frazer Richardson and Ian Westlake both threatened the Chester goal, while Seb Carole hit the post as United sought to put the game beyond doubt. At the other end Chester had their only chance of the match, when Gregg Blundell found himself onside and unmarked with only Neil Sullivan to beat, but he lost his composureand hooked a woeful effort wide of the goal. It was still too close for Kevin Blackwell to throw on Jonathan Howson and Danny Rose and in the end David Healy and Matthew Kilgallon were thrown on in the last minute purely as a time-wasting device. However, United progressed to meet Barnet in Round Two, which was the object of the exercise.

Sheffield Wednesday were only one point and two places above United as they played host to the White Rose Derby at Hillsborough. United reverted to their now normal line-up of Warner; Kelly, Butler, Kilgallon, Crainey; Carole, Derry, Westlake, Lewis; Healy , Moore and the bench comprised, Sullivan, Foxe, Richardson, Blake and Beckford. Eirik Bakke was not included and it seemed that he had a clause in his wage contract that rewarded him for appearances. The chairman felt it was time that Bakke moved on as he was too expensive to play and had played his last game for Leeds. He returned to his home country with Brann, before the window closed, after negotiating a settlement for his contract to be paid out. Sean Gregan had been picked for the game, but a family illness caused his withdrawal and Ian Moore moved into the starting XI instead of the bench. A David Healy penalty ensured that United took full points to give them seven points from five games, which while not spectacular, kept them well placed in a solid position. United took their time to settle and for the first twenty minutes looked a very disorganized team. They allowed Wednesday to dominate the midfield with their superior numbers, but Wednesday did not make the most of their period of dominance and it was costly as they faded in the second half. Tony Warner was kept busy throughout the first half, saving a free-kick from Brunt and watched shots from Burton and OíBrien skim past th e posts. He was well beaten seven minutes before the interval by a looping cross from the right which struck his far post, but Burton lifted his shot from the rebound over the bar from the six yard mark. United had clawed their way back into the game and started to get on top inthe first twenty minutes of the second half and this produced the move that led to United winning the match. Seb Carole, who had had a quiet first half, started to show his speed and skill to leave the Wednesday full back struggling to keephim under control and when Ian Moore found him in space in the box after fifty-five minutes, he tested the Wednesday keeper, who could only parry his shot away from goal. Eddie Lewis snapped up the loose ball but saw his shot headed clear. United should have scored a minute later when Paul Butler got in his cross but it flew between Shaun Derryís legs four yards out from goal and another chance went begging. United were now applying sustained pressure and it paid off in the sixty-sixth minute when an innocuous ball from Stephen Crainey was allowed tosqueeze through the Wednesday defence and David Healy timed his run well to take the ball in his stride and bear down on goal. He was met by the Wednesday keeper on the edge of the box and brought down. The referee had no hesitationin pointing to the spot and brandishing a red card at the crestfallen keeper. There was some debate on whether the tackle took place inside the area, or if any contact had been made and it was five minutes before Adamson took his place between the Wednesday posts. David Healey just waited patiently and, without batting an eyelid, dispatched the ball perfectly into the far left hand corner of the net to give United the points. Manager Blackwell sent on defender Hayden Foxe to replace Seb Carole in the eighty-first minute and, instead of pressing for a second, invited Wednesday to equalise if they could. However, Wednesdayís pressure amounted to nothing and even with five minutes added for stoppages they never looked like scoring.Unitedís ranks looked threadbare with Bakke on the way out, the impressive Warner due to return to Fulham, and not being able to provide one midfield replacement player on the bench and the Transfer Window set to close on 31st August.

To solve their midfield problems, United went to Blackburn Rovers and brought back Jonathan Douglas, who had had a successful loan period in the previous season, while they finally persuaded Fulham to extend the loan of Tony Warner, until the new year after seemingly having signed up the Charlton Athletic keeper Andersen on loan for the rest of the season, but then preferring the Warner option. Meanwhile Eirik Bakke had packed his bags and returned to his homeland. So for the home game against Wolverhampton Wanderers, United had Jonathan Douglas in midfield instead of the injured Shaun Derry with Steve Stone and Sean Gregan on the bench in place of Frazer Richardson and Hayden Foxe, from the team that had won at Hillsborough.

United put on a fine performance but both teams lacked the finishing power needed and Wolves won 1-0 for the fourth time in the season, to illustrate that goals were always at a premium when they were playing. It took a goal of sheer brilliance to decide the game deep into injury time, as substitute Jay Bothroyd rifled home a drive from twenty-five yards in the ďgoal of the seasonĒ category. United could well complain that they were the better team and deserved the points, but they failed to convert one of the seventeen chances that they created or were presented with. They had only scored once at home in the three games to date and only three times from open play in the seven matches to date.

The United defence looked impressive while Ian Westlake shone in midfield and Seb Carole was another driving force. If Seb Carole had scored from an easy chance in the thirty-eighth minute, it would possibly have opened up the floodgates, but he pushed the ball straight at the Wolves keeper when the goal beckoned. Ian Moore had released Jonathan Douglas, who took the ball to the by-line and after he pulled the ball back David Healy could not make contact and it left Carole with the simple task of putting the ball into either corner of the net, but he hit the keeper, who had gamble in going to ground and spreading himself. Carole would have merited a goal, as he was Unitedís best player on the day.

As early as the sixth minute, Paul Butler was just wide as his curling shot left the Wolves keeper flat-footed and then the custodian was on hand to produce a commendable save from Ian Moore nine minutes later. Twice in the second half the Wolves centre back was fortunate to be on the line to save with the keeper beaten. David Healy and Ian Moore both put in plenty of effort but were thwarted by Wolves tall and uncompromising defence. Tony Warner was forced into a fine save in the first minute of the second half, before Eddie Lewis beat the keeper with a curling free-kick, but unfortunately it also passed the post as well. Jermaine Beckford was on for Ian Moore after seventy-eight while Steve Stone replaced Eddie Lewis five minutes later. Stone was unlucky not to score two minutes after coming on, but that was the last of Unitedís chances and a 0-0 draw seemed immanent. However, not for the first time, United were undone in the final minutes. In this season alone, they had lost five points in the final ten minutes and the latest two to be lost happened in the ninety-second minute. Bothroyd, who had come on as a half-time substitute, seemed to have strayed into an off-side position early in the move but there was no flag and he was there to finish the move by collecting the ball and angling across to the right-hand corner of the United box, which left him with a very narrow angle to shoot at the United goal, but his shot was sweet and straight as an arrow and beat Tony Warner for pace and accuracy. It was a great goal with which to win any game but it was the only time Warner had looked like conceding and United could only have themselves to blame with all the possession and chances they had.

Surprisingly after his performance against Wolves, Seb Carole was dropped to the substitutesí bench in favour of Steve Stone with Geoff Horsfield returning from suspension to replace Ian Moore for the visit of Sunderland to Elland Road. There was a place on the bench too, for Kevin Nicholls but none for Neil Sullivan and Jermaine Beckford. Sunderland had had a terrible start to the season already having been knocked out of the Carling Cup by Bury and had lost their first four league games, which had caused Niall Quinn to step aside as manager and bring in the untried Roy Keane. However, the new manager had produced a turn around, and Sunderland registered their third consecutive victory and thoroughly deserved their emphatic 3-0 victory.

Former United loanee Liam Miller returned to his home ground of the previous seasonto give Sunderland a deserved lead, after United had kept them out for almost half-an-hour. Robbie Elliott, who had featured as an Elland Road pre-season trialist, started the move by carrying the ball deep into United territory before laying it off to Wallace who in turn found Miller unmarked to beat Tony Warner with a low drive. Warner kept United in the game by saving Kavanaghís goal-bound shot eight minutes before the interval, but could do little to stop him six minutes later, when he again was put through to double the visitorís lead. There was a call for Blackwellís resignation from an isolated section of the crowd, as their frustration with Unitedís performance and the seasonís results showed. Indeed they had already lost as many games at home as they had for the whole of the previous season and they were in a relegation position for the second tier for the first time in almost half a century!

Paul Butler played with an injury for the whole game and struggled to cope, while Steve Stone and his fifty-fourth minute replacement, Seb Carole, both lacked fitness. Kevin Nicholls came on with United trailing 2-0 as he replaced a tired Eddie Lewis at half time, even though he was not match fit such was Unitedís lack of fully-fit players. With the transfer window now closed and loan players at a premium there seemed little chance of things improving in the short-term. Nicholls had only been on the pitch a couple of minutes when Sunderland got their third goal to put the game totally beyond Unitedís grasp as Robbie Elliott scored with a blistering drive which gave Tony Warner no chance. No blame could be placed on the United keeper as he was their man of the match.

After the third goal Sunderland shut up shop and invited United to stop them from keeping a clean sheet. Robbie Blake, who had replaced David Healy after sixty-three minutes, had one worthwhile effort which curled wide with eight minutes left but otherwise the Sunderland defence never looked like being breeched. While Unitedís performances may not have been relegation class, and there could easily have been far more points on merit, the simple facts were that United were struggling and in the relegation zone no matter what!

Badly in need of a confidence boost, United next faced a trip to the Ricoh Stadium, home of Coventry City, and the midfield was almost totally changed. There was a return for Sean Gregan in place of Jonathan Douglas, while Kevin Nicholls was given the nod over the less than match fit Steve Stone and Seb Carole came in for Eddie Lewis. The replaced players all dropped to the bench.

United lost their third league game on the trot and were left last but one on the ladder just one point above bottom club Queens Park Rangers, with only seven points from eight games and scoreless in those three games and, with games on the horizon against some of the front runners, the position looked as if it would get worse before it got better.

Despite Coventryís present good form United were hoping that their past record against them would stand them in good stead, as they were undefeated in the last fourteen encounters between the two clubs. They had done the double in their first year after relegation and a win at home and a draw away in the ensuing season. However, they went into the game low on confidence and it showed in their play in the first half, but overall they created enough chances to have won the game easily. David Healy hit the crossbar after only eight minutes and once again the old problem of the inability to score goals once again manifested itself and, just as in the game against Wolves, they were left to rue the misses. Healyís chance came from a quick counter attack started by a throw from Tony Warner to Ian Westlake after a corner and his deep cross found Healy, who had timed his run to perfection, but unfortunately his header beat the keeper but skimmed off the bar to safety.

The Coventry winner came after twenty-six minutes as their midfield cut a swathe through the United ranks resulting in the ball being headed into the path of their strong midfielder Tebb, who had stood out as their best player, and he broke into the United box and with Tony Warner bracing himself for the expected shot, he spotted Stern John unmarked on eight yards out and he buried the pass into the United net.

Ian Westlake had fought well in midfield but Sean Gregan never settled and Stephen Crainey was nervous at left back and it came as little surprise that Manager Blackwell shuffled his pack, replacing Gregan with Jonathan Douglas at half-time. It had an immediate effect as United started to get back into the game as they started to function more effectively. Ian Westlake soon had a shot punched out by the keeper and a well-timed pass from David Healy, a couple of minutes later, was wasted by a poor touch by Geoff Horsfield. At his best Horsfield would have scored easily but his lack of match practice due to a four match suspension showed, as did the lack of confidence which currently grips United. Steve Stone replaced Seb Carole after sixty-nine minutes as United kept up the impetus.

Kevin Nicholls had a busy full debut and went close with a curling shot and both David Healy and Robbie Blake, who had replaced Ian Westlake for the last six minutes, might easily have snatched an equaliser as United tried to capitalise on their superiority in the late second half. Blakeís opportunity came deep in injury time when he curved Steve Stoneís cross past the post. Nevertheless, United were indebted to Tony Warner for two outstanding saves that kept United in the game.

The final whistle was greeted by a chorus of chants for the removal of the Manager and, while recently luck had not been on his side, the sideís dismal record could not fail to indicate that warning signs were clear for all to see.

For the Carling Cup Second Round clash with Barnet at Elland Road, United took the field with Sullivan; Kelly, Kilgallon, Foxe, Crainey; Stone, Douglas, Nicholls, Lewis; Horsfield, Blake with Moore, Derry, Howson, Westlake and Carole on the bench. The 3-1 victory turned the corner for United in many ways. Being their first win since Hillsborough on 27th August, the first goal since Healyís penalty in the same game and their first home win since beating Chester in the first round of the Carling Cup one month previous, when they last scored from open play. Robbie Blake had settled the Unitedís nerves with a goal in the seventh minute, when he latched onto a Gary Kelly through ball to beat the Barnet keeper with ease.

Unitedís injury situation worsened with Geoff Horsfield picking up a hamstring injury and being replaced by Ian Moore seven minutes before the interval. While on the bright side Shaun Derry came on for Kevin Nicholls for his first run since his hernia operation, after sixty-five minutes. There was also a run for Jonathan Howson, who replaced Steve Stone for the last quarter of an hour.

For Ian Moore it proved also to be the end of the drought as he scored his first goal for United after forty-five appearances and nineteen months since arriving from Burnley. His goal after fifty-five minutes could not have been simpler, as Hayden Foxe headed on Eddie Lewisís corner for Robbie Blake to flick the ball goalwards and Ian Moore was on hand, just one yard out, to lash it past the keeper for a poacherís dream. He must have wondered if all his Christmasí had come at once as it took him less than twenty minutes to register his second. It was a goal of true quality with Robbie Blake again prominent as he his run dragged the Barnet defence out of position and this left Moore in plenty of space for him to hammer a sweet finish beyond the keeper from the edge of the box.

Barnet had tried to make the game more entertaining by introducing two strikers for the second half and one of them, Kandol, forced Neil Sullivan to make a save but the visitorís few attacks proved to be rare irritations to the United defence. The ease of the situation allowed Manager Blackwell to introduce the nineteen year old Jonathan Howson for his debut, and he almost scored with his first touch and later tested the Barnet keeper with a powerful shot in injury time. The visitors did get on the scoreboard after a deflection from a corner, but United were good value for their victory with Robbie Blake and Ian Moore the outstanding performers as they progressed to the third round with ease.

Unfortunately for Kevin Blackwell it proved to be his last game in charge, as his contract was cancelled on 20th September 2006. His record was P 115 WH 26 DH 19 LH 12 FH 76 AH 54 WA 18 DA 18 LA 22 FA 52 AA 63

He had taken over as manager of Leeds United in 2004, after initially being coach under Peter Reid and Eddie Gray. After relegation from the Premier League, he was given the unenviable task of rebuilding Leeds' team after huge debts forced the jettisoning of its highly paid stars. He was forced to make a record number of signings for the club in 2004-05. He focused on value for money, buying players that, while talented, had not made the highest grade. Although early results were poor, perhaps affected by boardroom turmoil that saw the new board struggle to put the club onto a sound financial footing and in time led to its takeover by Ken Bates, Blackwell led the side to challenge for the playoffs, before a run of draws slowed progress, leaving Leeds in mid-table.

Blackwell had been seen as a temporary appointment; perhaps to be replaced by a more glamorous name, but his success in stabilizing the team, and his initial popularity with fans, led Bates to suggest that he had a long term future at the club.

In the summer of 2005 Blackwell was giving financial backing and bought some high profile players for the new season. Proven strikers Richard Cresswell, Rob Hulse and Robbie Blake gave Blackwell plenty of firepower up front, while International winger Eddie Lewis arrived to supply the ammunition. Once again Blackwell had convinced in-demand players to join Leeds. Blackwell's shrewd tactics away from Elland Road and attacking style at home (where nine out of ten matches were won) proved very effective and, by the end of February, Blackwell had guided Leeds to third spot. This almost guaranteed a play off spot, with automatic promotion remaining a possibility. He was rewarded by Ken Bates with a new three year contract. Unfortunately, the Leeds team then produced some distinctly average performances and had to settle for their play-off place. This made a lot of Leeds fans disgruntled and many blamed it on Blackwell using the same tactics week in week out, with teams being able to predict this and counteract them.

Blackwell took his Leeds team into the Championship playoff final, after beating Preston North End 3-1 on aggregate. However Leeds lost the final 3-0 to Watford on 21st May 2006. A string of bad results followed in both pre-season and the start of the championship season 2006-07 and on 20th September 2006 his contract as Leeds United manager was terminated. As Blackwell left the club, Leeds were lying twenty-third in the table, with seven points from eight games.

There was then a period when indecision reigned, as Ken Bates had dismissed Kevin Blackwell without having a suitable replacement. He went for the cheap and easy option, handing the reins to coach John Carver and it was he who led United into their next home game against high flying Birmingham City at Elland Road. Given recent results United approached the game with trepidation as the visitors came into the game as joint leaders of the competition, ten points and twenty positions better off than United and the new acting Manager stuck with the strongest available, tried and true team of Warner; Kelly, Butler, Kilgallon, Crainey; Douglas, Derry, Nicholls, Lewis; Horsfield, Healy. Sullivan, Foxe, Westlake, Stone and Moore were on the bench.

John Carver had promised a reaction from United and so it was that they shook off their inertia and showed what they were capable of as they took the game to Birmingham and against all the odds emerged 3-2 victors, and deservedly so. Was it beginnerís luck or the emergence of a new Messiah? Only time would tell but for now the fans were ecstatic with the change of fortune and Kevin Blackwell was soon forgotten. Whether John Carver could keep it up would be the test, as only consistently good performances would get United out of their current predicament, but the first step had been taken and United pushed their points into double figures and moved up to eighteenth, two points above the drop zone and six points short of a playoff spot!

The crowd of 18,898 went home happy, having been treated to an exciting, value for money match and while Birmingham Manager Steve Bruce would not accept that his side were outclassed, they had come close to being overrun in the first half and were clinging on desperately with ten men when they finally conceded the winning goal. It certainly was an enthralling battle between two sides that were expected to be frontrunners for promotion in the betting prior to the start of the season and the visitors were quoted as saying if they did not get automatic promotion they would have underachieved.

The win ended a sequence of three successive defeats in the league and stopped United from going bottom, which is what would have been the case had United lost. David Healyís sixth minute searing volley gave United an early lead and marked the first goal from open play at Elland Road in the season and Leeds, for the first time for many months, looked like a team capable of scoring at will. Bruce claimed that had they not had a player sent off with almost twenty minutes left, they would have won the game. The truth was that they were lucky to have even been in touch by the interval.

Birmingham had struck first with McSheffreyís twenty yard shot hitting the post in the fifth minute, but there was a fast retort as David Healy gave United the lead in the next minute, as Eddie Lewisí free-kick eluded the defence and fell for the unmarked Healy to volley home at the far post. The fans were quick to acclaim their heroes with enthusiasm, but were soon rocked, as the visitors equalised, after only thirteen minutes. The City centre back was up helping in attack when he found himself with the ball in the United box and he hit the ball first time onto the post, but unfortunately for United and the unsighted Tony Warner the ball rebound onto the keeperís back and rolled into the net. The own goal could have sapped Unitedís confidence but instead they roared back on the attack immediately. Jonathan Douglas made inroads down the right flank to feed Geoff Horsfield, who was felled by a rash challenge in the box. Up stepped David Healy to score with all the assurance of a regular penalty taker to send the Birmingham keeper the wrong way and United were back in the lead.

Shaun Derry and Matthew Kilgallon both should have added to the goal tally before half time but Unitedís ability to create chances was as encouraging as the score-line. Geoff Horsfield appeared to have increased the lead, when he shot home from a Kevin Nicholls flick in the seventieth minute, but he fell foul of the linesmanís flag. Birmingham lost Damien Johnson as a result of an appalling aerial challenge which flattened Ian Westlake, who had replaced Eddie Lewis in the sixty-ninth minute, four minutes later and the straight red card brought Birmingham to life. Bendtner left Stephen Crainey and Matthew Kilgallon standing as he cut inside and beat Tony Warner as he shot low to his left. On another day this could have knocked the stuffing out of United, but this was not one of those days and after Ian Moore had replaced Geoff Horsfield in the seventy-seventh minute, Unitedís tireless perseverance was rewarded just eight minutes later, as Steve Stone, who had replaced the impressive Shaun Derry four minutes earlier, turned up on the right wing to deliver a cross of Premiership quality, which had a Birmingham defender stretching, and caused him to divert the ball into his own net.

It was a fine performance by United as all the players rose to the occasion and proved equal to the challenge of one of the best teams in the league. Shaun Derry, after a lay off for an hernia operation, stood out in his best game of the season, reminiscent of some of his displays as United charged up the league in the previous season. With Kevin Nicholls improving with every game, and Geoff Horsfield and David Healy always looking dangerous, it boded well for United to improve their lowly position and return to a position to which the fans are more accustomed and happy with.

West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns was always going to be a daunting proposition, and United were pleased to name an unchanged team after their impressive performance of the previous week. Unfortunately the win against Birmingham, which had suggested that everything in the garden was rosy, turned out to be a one off and Manager Carver was brought down to earth with a resounding thud. It could have been so different, as things started out entirely in Unitedís favour. With the score at 0-0 and thirty-three minutes gone, the Baggies defender Paul McShane committed a professional foul on Geoff Horsfield in home teamís box and not only was he red-carded but he also conceded a penalty. Up stepped David Healy, who had already gained United six points so far in the season with his unerring accuracy from the spot, to fulfil the fans dreams, but instead hit the advertising hoardings well wide of the West Brom goal. Even allowing for that miss the odds should still have been on United with their numerical superiority, but it did not excuse it.

It was a battle of the stand-in managers, with Nigel Pearson stepping up temporarily to fill the shoes of the recently sacked Bryan Robson, while John Carver was into his second game as acting boss. The Leeds boss must have wondered where was the width in midfield provided in abundance by Jonathan Douglas and Eddie Lewis in his first match. He must also have wondered what had happened to his formerly reliable back four which had been so niggardly for his predecessor.

The Leeds defence was pierced at will by the Baggies and conceded four goals (against ten men!) which had not happened since Sheffield United had achieved the feat in April 2005. United were still getting over the penalty miss when West Brom took the lead after thirty-nine minutes. Tony Warner misjudged a Koumas corner for Albrechtsen to have a free header and Warner could only watch as it beat Gary Kelly at the back post. Worse was to come in the second half, after Steve Stone was introduced after the break for the injured Gary Kelly and Ian Westlake was on after Kevin Nicholls was stretchered off eight minutes later, and the defensive frailties were exposed even further.

Kamara, an half-time substitution, doubled the lead twenty minutes into the half. After Carter had run unchallenged into the United box, he squared a low diagonal pass for his team mate to score with ease. Fourteen minutes later Kamara collected the ball inside the United half and ran at Paul Butler, who backed off the speedy striker. He reached the area still confronted by three defenders in front of him, but his acceleration took him past Butler and Kilgallon to leave Kevin Phillips with an easy task to score. Unitedís defence was in total disarray having lost Kelly and Nicholls and deprived of their normal formation, but to everyoneís amazement, they finally made the numbers count as they staged a come back in the last ten minutes to give the travelling faithful visions of a Southampton-like comeback.

Ten minutes after Ian Moore had replaced Eddie Lewis on seventy minutes United staged their come back as, with away fans streaming out of the ground, Geoff Horsfield reduced the lead by turning Perry before firing past the keeper. Then, almost immediately, got in an header which came back off the post to leave Steve Stone with a simple finish to score his first United goal. It was one-way traffic and United pressed for an equaliser, but two minutes into injury time they fell for the sucker punch. Kamara used his speed and exploited the United all out assault when he latched onto Phillipís quick pass to send him on his way towards goal and, as Tony Warner advanced to counter the danger, he coolly lobbed the ball over him and into the empty net to settle the contest once and for all.

Gary Kelly had recovered in time for the visit of Stoke City to Elland Road and a challenge from a team lower in the table than themselves, but Kevin Nicholls had not, and was replaced by Ian Westlake. Tony Warner paid the price for conceding four goals and was replaced by Neil Sullivan, who got his first league game of the season. The on-loan Alan Wright was given his debut at the expense of Stephen Crainey. Richard Cresswell made his come-back from injury with a place on the bench along with Tony Warner, Hayden Foxe, Steve Stone and Robbie Blake.

It was the first of two games at home against teams who at the kick-off started with similar or less points in the league as United and should have been a good guide to their current ability. That being the case they were in for a rude awakening as Stoke, who had only managed a single victory all season, steamrollered them in an emphatic 4-0 home reversal, which had the warning bells ringing load and long. Instead of posing the question ďcan we make up the six points to get into the play-offsĒ, the result left the fans asking the question ďdo we have the quality to stave off relegationĒ, as the grim reality of Unitedís rapid decline sank home. Indeed, in answer to the second question, after eleven games and only three victories and seven losses grave doubts had to exist, as they seem to have lost all sense of direction.

The crushing defeat was a result of persistent and familiar failings, which had been the case under Kevin Blackwell and, if anything had worsened under John Carver. United had shown a commitment to attacking and entertaining football in the three games under the acting manager but with the defence haemorrhaging goals at an alarming rate the hole needed to be plugged. While United had been getting their fair share of possession, they had not looked like a team capable of converting that possession into goals, moreover, they had also shown a distinct lack of confidence and character. This was well illustrated as soon as Stoke went two up, the heads drooped and defeat meekly accepted.

Stokeís record before this game was truly abysmal, but they had picked up Salif Diao and Rory Delap on loan and with Lee Hendrie, another quality EPL player loaned from Aston Villa, they started the game confidently. It only took seven minutes for Hendrie to make his quality count. Matthew Kilgallon was fortunate to remain on the pitch when he was the last line of defence and he pulled down a Stoke forward on the edge of the box. He was punished with only a yellow but United were punished with a goal as Hendrie lifted a delightful free-kick over the wall and beyond the groping Neil Sullivan. The keeper was repeatedly exposed by his uncertain defenders and Stoke should have been further in front before United had their first threat on the Stoke goal in the twenty-third minute. David Healy crossed for Geoff Horsfield to force the Stoke keeper to make a brilliant parry, unfortunately Eddie Lewisí shot from the rebound failed to get through a crowd of players and the keeper was able to regather the ball. Three minutes later Geoff Horsfield was withdrawn due to a hamstring injury and Richard Cresswell was given plenty of time to impress as he came on for his first run of the season.

Stoke forward Pericard should have doubled their lead just before the break as he slipped his marker only to head a wonderful chance wide from a Delap cross, and the signs became increasingly ominous as the Stoke full-back Higginbotham dropped a free-kick onto the United bar soon after the resumption. Five minutes later Stoke doubled their lead when Griffinís raking shot beat Neil Sullivan at the near post as United visibly started to fall apart. This prompted Manager Carver to make a double substitution, as he threw on Steve Stone for Ian Westlake and Robbie Blake for David Healy, but they had hardly got on the pitch when more inept defending allowed Higginbotham to convert a gift free header from a Hendrie corner.

The angry reaction of the crowd told the team and acting manager of their disapproval and an ironic cheer came as Jonathan Douglas sent in a wayward shot fifteen minutes from time as the home crowd start to leave in droves. The ones who remained were subjected to more humiliation as a lucky penalty taken by Robbie Blake was saved by the Stoke keeper and, to make matters worse, Fuller stepped off the bench to curl home another delightful goal in the dying seconds. The quality of the finish showed the difference between the two teams. Stoke were classy and ruthless. Leeds were uninspired and just plain toothless. They fell to twenty-second, only two points above the bottom club but with seven defeats in eleven matches they were now anchored in the relegation zone.

For the second of the crunch games, against Leicester City at Elland Road, the injured Geoff Horsfield and Alan Wright were replaced by Richard Cresswell and Stephen Crainey, while new loan signing from Middlesbrough, Adam Johnston, debuted in preference to Eddie Lewis and Ian Moore got the nod over Ian Westlake. Frazer Richardson got a place on the bench alongside Tony Warner, Hayden Foxe, Robbie Blake and Ian Westlake.

United sank to their eighth defeat in twelve games with another less than inspiring performance against mediocre opposition, which, when considering that this was almost the same team that won through to grace the Millennium Stadium, with a one off chance of attaining EPL status only the previous May, was hard to digest such a sudden fall from grace. Even worse were the facts that they had already lost more games on home soil than they lost in the entire previous season, when, at the same stage, they had accumulated twenty-one points to sit in fourth position. It was little wonder why the fans found it hard to accept the sudden fall from grace and vented their anger accordingly.

There was a return of a little heart and endeavour to their play but as Leicester deservedly left with all the points it proved beyond any doubt that the rot had well and truly set in. The defeat culture had taken root and it would be hard to shake.

Leicester approached the game cautiously and allowed United to take the initiative and boss the possession, but, after failing to capitalise on the situation, United fell behind to a vicious shot from Danny Tiatto on the half hour. The crossbar, the post and Neil Sullivan stopped them from increasing their lead until ten minutes from time when they finally got through to put the game beyond Unitedís reach. And another team who were previously struggling for form were allowed to gel so convincingly at Elland Road, which is no longer a fortress nor as intimidating as it used to be.

For the first thirty minutes United had by far the better of the play but had nothing to show for it, while Leicester who seemed to have come to defend did have two efforts that sailed harmlessly over the bar. It all changed with Tiattoís goal, as he lost Shaun Derry and scored with a fine shot into the roof of the net from distance. It was soon followed by a woeful attempt from a Leicester forward who lobbed the ball high over the goal with only Neil Sullivan to beat, while another effort looped onto the crossbar minutes before the break.

In the second half Shaun Derry was soon called on to clear off the line and after fifty-three minutes Unitedís chances were lessened as Matthew Kilgallon saw red as he brought down a Leicester forward just outside the box. From the resulting free-kick Neil Sullivan made a great save to push the shot onto the post and behind for a corner. United sacrificed David Healy for defender Hayden Foxe to fill the gap left by Kilgallon and Neil Sullivan immediately pulled off another fine save to keep out a low shot. Robbie Blake replaced the ineffective Cresswell after seventy-one minutes and four minutes later United were denied an equaliser, as the strikerís header clearly crossed the line on the action replay but when your luck is out, these decisions tend to go against you! Unitedís performance with ten men deserved better, but Leicester got their second in a breakaway before Paul Butler reduced the arrears from a Gary Kelly cross with four minutes to go. Unfortunately, even with five minutes of injury time that was all they could muster, after Ian Westlake had been thrown on for Adam Johnston at the end of normal time and United slumped to twenty-third, just one point above bottom club Hull City.

Hayden Foxe came in for the suspended Matthew Kilgallon and Ian Westlake for Ian Moore, while Robbie Blake was preferred to David Healy up front as United travelled to Luton Town at Kenilworth Road, while Healy, Moore and Lewis joined Warner and Richardson on the bench.

It was now five weeks since the departure of Kevin Blackwell, and still Unitedís inadequate performances continued unabated with further humiliation in the shape of another thrashing, this time to the tune of 5-1 and they now had won only five out of twenty-six matches since the former Manager was handed a new contract in March 2006. Once again the total capitulation and lack of fight or pride was clearly apparent as the white flag was run up early in the second half to disgrace the club and the 1,800 travelling fans as they were again used as cannon fodder by the opposition. Luton were unbeaten at home, but the lack of fight ensured their easiest victory of the season.

Luton were ahead after just twelve minutes as Hayden Foxe lost possession to former United junior Warren Feeney, who set up Edwards to beat the advancing Neil Sullivan. Foxe made amends only five minutes later as he rose to head home an Adam Johnson corner to put United on level terms. That was the way it stayed until fifty-five minutes had elapsed, with United having looked reasonably secure apart from a couple of minor scares and shared the possession evenly. Ian Westlake and Jonathan Douglas in particular took the attack to the home team, but it all changed ten minutes into the second half as the home team regained the lead, with Warren Feeney again featuring with the cross that was chested in by a team mate. Sixty seconds later Edwards delivered for Vine to set up Bell, who forced the ball past Neil Sullivan. United threw on David Healy for Robbie Blake in the sixty-third minute and tried to rally with Paul Butler and Richard Cresswell both having headers blocked on the line, but the flurry was short and up went the white flag. After seventy-two minutes Eddie Lewis and Ian Moore were thrown on for Ian Westlake and Richard Cresswell but to no avail, as Heikkinen got the fourth with a simple header and Unitedís defence was again decimated when Vineís cross was run in by the unmarked Edwards, who beat Neil Sullivan from eight yards, as Luton went nap.

With an abysmal record of one win and four losses in his five games in charge and seven for and a colossal seventeen against John Carver fell on his sword and Ken Bates was forced to act. He ultimately went to Swindon Town and paid up former Chelsea players Dennis Wise and Assistant Gus Poyetís contracts and they watched from the stands as reserve team coach David Geddis piloted United for the Third Round Carling Cup tie with fellow cellar dwellers Southend United who were on equal points but a better goal average and one place above the next to bottom United.

The Leeds line-up, which was picked by Dennis Wise but managed by David Geddis, was, Warner; Kelly, Butler, Kilgallon, Crainey; Douglas, Westlake, Richardson, Lewis; Moore, Healy. Sullivan, Carole, Cresswell, Bayly and Blake were on the bench. Wise was left with no disillusions about the scale of the challenge he had accepted after another dismal performance in which Southend exposed all Unitedís weaknesses and deficiencies. Inept passing, suicidal defending and an acute lack of confidence figured high on the long list he had to tackle.

After Wise had delivered motivational words of encouragement to his new team, he left the running of the team to David Geddis while he and assistant Gus Poyet observed the match from the stands and duly noted the lack of quality displayed by Leeds in every quarter of the field. He must have observed the crying need for new blood, for although the team must have known that this was their audition to impress their new manager, there were few individual performance of skill, character or desire that would have caused a ripple of recognition. It would have been safe to assume that the axe would be hanging over several players who had consistently failed to perform. It would have been equally obvious that Wise would need the financial backing of Chairman Ken Bates in the January transfer window if the squad was going to be improved. It transpired that the victory in this tie drew the plum fixture of the next round with a home tie with Manchester United, but at this juncture it was more important to succeed in the CCCL rematch of the two teams at Elland Road on the following weekend, but for now, United spurned the chance of the rich pickings of the next round with another woeful display which sacrificed the possibility of the large financial prize.

Southend came to into the match with an abysmal record away from Roots Hall. In six games they had only managed to earn two points and score only two goals in the process, but like too many previously struggling teams they found their feet at Elland Road and dominated United as if they were world-beaters. Leeds produced four shots on goal compared to the visitorís ten.

Southend had the added handicap of having their striker Billy Painter stretchered off as early as the twenty-second minute, but they overcame that disruption to stagger Leeds with two goals in three minutes. The porous nature of Unitedís backline was exposed in the thirty-third minute when a long clearance caught Stephen Crainey out of position on the left side of the defence. Simon Francis collected the loose ball in the United box and a desperate challenge from Crainey brought him down. Hammell sent Tony Warner the wrong way from the spot and United were in arrears. The second goal was even worse as a cross from Francis should have been an easy clearance for Matthew Kilgallon, but the out-of-form defenderís delay in clearing allowed Gutteridge to block it. The rebound fell kindly for Hooper who gleefully hammered the ball goal-wards with a powerful shot which found the net through Tony Warnerís arms. United replied just before the break through Ian Moore who finished off a swift attack which had sparked off a mass scramble in the Southend goal area by stabbing the ball home, but that glimmer of hope faded as the home team reverted to type after the break.

Unitedís inability to maintain possession for any meaningful length of time allowed Southend to dominate the midfield and Tony Warner came to Unitedís rescue after a mistake by Butler allowed Hooper an unopposed run on goal in the fifty-ninth minute. The keeper was helpless to intervene when another Southend attack found the United backline AWOL and although Crainey managed to block their first shot on goal the ball fell kindly to the unmarked Hooper to score with ease after sixty-four minutes. The game was lost. Richard Cresswell came on for Stephen Crainey in the sixty-ninth minute, and in a double substitution Robert Bayly was given his debut as he replaced Eddie Lewis. Robbie Blake was thrown on for Ian Moore with three minutes left, but it was all too easy for Southend as apart from Tony Warner, Gary Kelly and Ian Moore United had shown little fight or enthusiasm, with Paul Butler, Matthew Kilgallon, Stephen Crainey and David Healy all inept and anonymous. Dennis Wise had witnessed the all too regular scenario first hand and he must have departed certain in the fact that he faced a monumental challenge to motivate and give confidence to a team that had totally lost any confidence they once had and he would have to ring the inevitable changes to make it possible.

Photographs of the era:



Back Row: Steve Agnew (Reserve Team Manager), Harvey Sharman (Physio), Harpal Singh, Martin Woods, Jamie Winter, Martin Hodge (Goalkeeping Coach), Scott Carson, Jamie McMaster, Paul Keegan, Simon Johnson, Allan Sutton (Physio), Bruce Craven (Masseur).

Middle Row: Sean Hardy (Kit Manager), Dean Riddle (Fitness Coach), Matt Spring, Steve Guppy, Brian Deane, Matthew Kilgallon, Michael Ricketts, Michael Duberry, Simon Walton, Clarke Carlisle, Craig Hignett, Seth Johnson, Aidy Boothroyd (First Team Coach), Dave Hancock (Head Physio).

Front Row: Aaron Lennon, Jermaine Wright, Frazer Richardson, Lucas Radebe, Kevin Blackwell (Manager), Paul Butler, Sam Ellis (Assistant Manager), Gary Kelly, Danny Pugh, Danny Cadamarteri, Julian Joachim.

2004-2005: Juniors

Back Row: Simon Madden, Ben Parker, Sean McDaid, Mark Wilberforce, Brenton Leister, Bailey Camfield, Gavin Rothery.

Middle Row: Gary Worthington (Coach), Robert Bayly, Jonathan Howson, Aaron Lennon, Phil Stansfield, Ryan Serrant, Donna Gormley (Physio).

Front Row: Kevin Smith, Craig Steins, Neil Thompson (Coach), Ian Morris, Greg Abbott (Coach), Steven McKeown, Simon Walton.


Back Row: Martin Hodge (Goalkeeping Coach), Rob Hulse, Clarke Carlisle, Michael Ricketts, Ian Bennett, Neil Sullivan, Matthew Kilgallon, Danny Pugh, Simon Walton, Harvey Sharman (Physio).

Middle Row: Dave Hancock (Head Physio), John Carver (Head Coach), Dean Riddle (Head Fitness Consultant), Eirik Bakke, Frazer Richardson, Shaun Derry, Dan Harding, Gylfi Einarsson, Seth Johnson, Jermaine Wright, Darren Mowbury (Performance Analysist), Sean Hardy (Kit Manager), Alan Sutton (Physio).

Front Row: Robbie Blake, David Healy, Eddie Lewis, Sean Gregan, Sam Ellis (Assistant Manager), Paul Butler, Kevin Blackwell (Manager), Gary Kelly, Steve Stone, Stephen Crainey, Ian Moore.


Back Row: Martin Hodge (Goalkeeping Coach), Rob Hulse, Clarke Carlisle, Michael Ricketts, Ian Bennett, Neil Sullivan, Matthew Kilgallon, Danny Pugh, Simon Walton, Harvey Sharman (Physio).

Middle Row: Dave Hancock (Head Physio), John Carver (Head Coach), Dean Riddle (Head Fitness Consultant), Eirik Bakke, Frazer Richardson, Shaun Derry, Dan Harding, Gylfi Einarsson, Seth Johnson, Jermaine Wright, Darren Mowbury (Performance Analysist), Sean Hardy (Kit Manager), Alan Sutton (Physio).

Front Row: Robbie Blake, David Healy, Eddie Lewis, Sean Gregan, Sam Ellis (Assistant Manager), Paul Butler, Kevin Blackwell (Manager), Gary Kelly, Steve Stone, Stephen Crainey, Ian Moore.


Back Row: Dean Riddle (Head Fitness Consultant), Frazer Richardson, Dan Harding, Matthew Kilgallon, Neil Sullivan, Sean Gregan, Jermaine Beckford, Ian Moore, Darren Mowbury (Performance Analyst).

Middle Row: Sean Hardy (Kit Manager), Martin Hodge (Goalkeeping Coach), Harvey Sharman (Physio), Richard Cresswell, Kevin Nicholls, Gylfi Einarsson, Rui Marques, Shaun Derry, Eirik Bakke, Alan Sutton (Physio), Dave Hancock (Physio), Carl Serrant (Fitness Coach).

Front Row: Robbie Blake, Steve Stone, David Healy, Paul Butler, John Carver (Assistant Manager), Kevin Blackwell (Manager), David Geddis (Reserve Team Manager), Gary Kelly, Seb Carole, Eddie Lewis, Stephen Crainey.


Back Row: Jonathan Douglas, Eddie Lewis, David Healy, Hayden Foxe, Jermaine Beckford, Rui Marques, Shaun Derry, Geoff Horsfield, Stephen Crainey, Paul Butler, Neil Sullivan, Gylfi Einarsson, Tony Warner, Frazer Richardson.

Front Row: Ian Westlake, Gary Kelly, Robbie Blake, Ian Moore, Matthew Kilgallon, Seb Carole.


Kevin Blackwell: Manager, Eirik Bakke , Jermaine Beckford , Ian Bennett , Nathan Blake , Robbie Blake , Paul Butler , Danny Cadamarteri , Clarke Carlisle Sebastien Carole , Stephen Crainey , Richard Cresswell , Brian Deane , Shaun Derry , Jonathan Douglas , Michael Duberry , Ugo Ehiogu , Gylfi Einarsson , Hayden Foxe , Danny Graham , Micky Gray , Sean Gregan , Joel Griffiths , Leandre Griffit , Steve Guppy , Dan Harding , Paul Harrison David Healy , Craig Hignett , Geoff Horsfield , Jonny Howson , Rob Hulse , Sasa Ilic , Julian Joachim , Adam Johnson , Seth Johnson , Simon Johnson , Gary Kelly , Andy Keogh , Matthew Kilgallon , Marlon King , Aaron Lennon , Eddie Lewis , David Livermore , Rui Marques , Jamie McMaster , Liam Miller , Ian Moore , Kevin Nicholls , Brett Ormerod , John Oster , Kevin Pressman , Danny Pugh , Lucas Radebe , Frazer Richardson , Michael Ricketts , Danny Rose , Gavin Rothery , Armando Sa , Matthew Spring , Steve Stone , Neil Sullivan , Simon Walton , Tony Warner , Ian Westlake , Jamie Winter , Martin Woods , Michael Woods , Alan Wright , Jermaine Wright .

Part 2: Dennis Wise - An Unwise move 2006-07

2006-2007: Season Statistics: Games, Results, Appearances, Goalscorers
Football League Tables for the Season

Dennis Wise had watched from the stands along with his Assistant Gus Poyet as United had stuttered to an ignominious exit from the Carling Cup against a team that were deep in the relegation mire but had made Leeds look decidedly second best and it did not bode well for the chances of the new Manager and his former Chelsea team-mate and now his Assistant. He went back to his Chelsea roots and tried to mow the meadow as he scythed through the United team unfortunate to have played in the Carling Cup encounter in the previous midweek. New loan signing, Graham Stack, replaced Tony Warner, who in turn dropped to the bench at the expense of Neil Sullivan. Wise probably recalled his skirmishes with Gary Kelly during his playing days and gave the United stalwart the benefit of the doubt at Right Back, but Stephen Crainey was not so lucky as Eddie Lewis assumed his USA team role at Left Back, dropping back from his recent United role of Left-Winger. Central Defenders Paul Butler, who lost the Captainís armband, and Matthew Kilgallon both survived the axe, although more likely because there was just no-one to take their places. Frazer Richardson lost his spot in Right midfield and replaced Sebastien Carole on the bench as Ian Moore was given a chance to show his paces in midfield rather than as an out-and-out striker. Shaun Derry was installed as captain, in Kevin Nicholls' absence, and took over from Ian Westlake, who dropped to the bench in place of Rob Bayly, while Jonathan Douglas was another to escape the chop and held his position in midfield with loanee Adam Johnson returning and taking the Left Wing spot vacated by Eddie Lewis. Richard Cresswell swapped his place on the bench for the chance to partner David Healy up front and Robbie Blake maintained his place on the bench joined by Hayden Foxe, who replaced Cresswell as a substitute. The effect was what Wise and the faithful fans had been hoping for and the team that had conceded seventeen goals in the previous CCCL encounters kept a clean sheet and climbed from their worst-ever League position of twenty-third to twenty-first as Ian Moore repeated his performance of the previous Wednesday to score the first after forty minutes and Robbie Blake, who had replaced David Healy on the eighty minute mark, finally put the game beyond doubt two minutes before the end of normal time. Adam Johnson and Ian Moore were lively early on and the left winger went close after being set up by Shaun Derry, while Ian Moore was probably Unitedís best player until he had to go off with a back injury and was replaced by Frazer Richardson on the hour mark. The defence was much sounder than of recent times and Paul Butler stood out despite taking an heavy knock early on. Johnson made the running for the first goal getting possession deep in his own half and making progress before sending a perfectly weighted pass to Ian Moore who made his run in the centre-forward area and taking the ball in his stride before adeptly beating the advancing keeper. United missed Moore after he had to leave the field, and Graham Stack was called upon more than once to save United as Southend came more into the game, but needlessly picked up a yellow card for time-wasting. However Robbie Blake made sure of the points as he scored with a superb free-kick from twenty-yards, one minute after Ian Westlake had replaced Adam Johnson. While Wise would have been happy to start with a win, it was obvious that there was still a lot of work to be done.

After the Lord Mayorís show came Deepdale and Preston North End gained sweet revenge for Unitedís play-off semi-final win of the previous season and none of the three ex-Preston players in the Leeds ranks could have been proud of their performances. Wise stuck with the same formation with Ian Westlake filling in for the suspended Jonathan Douglas and Geoff Horsfield taking his place on the bench. The Unitedís midfield was totally over-run by their Preston counterparts with ex-United man Danny Pugh having a hand in most of their goals. Unitedís inability to gain possession or retain it for any length of time meant that the defence was deluged by the ever pressing Preston attack. It was a surprise that it took Preston almost twenty minutes to open their account as Pugh fed David Nugent on the right wing and he centred to Stackís near post and Danny Dichio stepped in to glance a clinical header past Stack as the rest of the Leeds defence stood leaden footed. The second wasnít long coming as David Nugent hopelessly outpaced Paul Butler to cross for Danny Pugh to slide the ball into the net, just two minutes later and the game was over as a contest. Graham Stack prevented it from becoming a rout with fine saves from Chris Sedgwick and Sean St Ledger before the interval, but was fortunate not to concede a penalty as Pugh appeared to be fouled three minutes after he had scored his goal. However, there was little he could do as David Nugent, tapped in a third after fine work from Simon Whaley. This prompted Wise to throw on the cavalry, in a death or glory attempt, as Robbie Blake and Geoff Horsfield replaced the ineffective Ian Moore and Adam Johnson after forty-nine minutes as he desperately tried to hope that his four man forward line could get Leeds back into the game. There was no threat to Carlo Nash in the Preston goal, although Shaun Derry did produce Unitedís first attempt on goal after fifty-seven minutes. David Healy had received terrible abuse from his former supporters and he did quieten them briefly as he headed a Richard Cresswell cross into the net with ten minutes to go, but Preston responded with a fourth as Lewis Nealís shot took a wicked deflection to leave Stack helpless. Shaun Derry headed against the bar in injury-time but apart from Graham Stack, who was blameless for any of the goals, Wise would not have been happy with the performances of any of his outfield players.

For the weekend visit to Oakwell, Wise went to 4-3-3 as Jonathan Douglas returned to midfield after suspension in place of Adam Johnson, who dropped to the bench, and Robbie Blake was pushed up front in place of Ian Moore, while Geoff Horsfield started in place of Richard Cresswell who took his place on the bench, along with Gylfi Einarsson. United approached the game against one of the few teams lower than themselves in the CCCL with a degree of optimism, in the knowledge that a win would take them out of the relegation zone for the time being. It was one of the games they were capable of winning and should have won, if they had taken the chances that were on offer to them, but in the end they conceded full points to the home club, who were not the better team. They fell to their seventh defeat in eight games and remained entrenched in the drop zone as they slipped to twenty-third with the worst goal difference in the Division. Graham Stack was at fault after half-an-hour when he punched a lofted free-kick straight from Michael McIndoe straight to the feet of Martin Devaney who quickly put it in the net. In recent times that would have been a sign for running up the white flag but for the first time in the season United hit back after going in arrears and had their noses in front by the break and deservedly so. Shaun Derry arrived at the far post to head home Robbie Blakeís corner to score his first goal of the season to level the scores a minute before the interval and right on half-time Robbie Blake collected a pass from Eddie Lewis to produce a clinical finish as the travelling faithful gave voice to their new found elation. Barnsley had had a chance to score between the two United goals as Marc Richards missed an easy chance from four yards. United replaced Geoff Horsfield with Richard Cresswell on the hour mark but as the game wore on the lack of numbers in the United midfield began to show and Barnsley started to take advantage down the flanks. Michael McIndoe equalised after sixty-five minutes as the pace of Daniel Nardiello, who had replaced the ineffective Marc Richards, began to show up Unitedís defensive frailties. It was Nardiello who also created the winning goal, leaving Paul Butler and Matthew Kilgallon in his wake before teeing up Brian Howard to score the winner five minutes later, and was unlucky not to get on the scorecard himself as his lob later bounced off a post. Wise threw on Adam Johnson for the fading Ian Westlake and Gylfi Einarsson for Jonathan Douglas, but it was too late and United slumped to another demoralising defeat.

Wise persevered with his 4-3-3 system but once more rang the changes. Graham Stack and Tony Warner kept their goalkeeping positions, but Matthew Kigallon was the only defender to retain his position. The injured Gary Kelly, the axed Paul Butler and Eddie Lewis were replaced by Hayden Foxe, Matt Heath and Stephen Crainey, with Eddie Lewis moving forward to left midfield in place of Ian Westlake, who dropped to the bench. Shaun Derry and Jonathan Douglas both retained their midfield spots and Robbie Blake and Geoff Horsfield were rewarded for recent displays by retaining their forward roles but David Healy was also discarded and Richard Cresswell was given a run in his place. Adam Johnson was joined on the bench by Ian Moore and Jermaine Beckford but there was no place for Gylfi Einarsson and others. There had been talk of a large broom sweeping clean the United deadwood with Sean Gregan and Paul Butler high on the list of likely suspects and the idea that Alan Smith might return on loan received a mixed reception and not much enthusiasm from Smith. Wise had made it known that he was not impressed by the lack of physical fitness of his new charges and had put Robbie Blake on a diet and hinted that others would follow Gregan and Butler. Blake underlined his worth to the team with two goals to make it four from four games since his reinstatement in the team. There were reflections of the humiliating loss to Colchester in the FA Cup almost thirty-five years previous as United faced the Armistice Day clash with trepidation as their opponents were not far from having play-off aspirations. They began quietly but upon finding there was little to worry about in the opposition as Robbie Blake missed a relatively easy chance by heading wide with only the keeper to beat. He soon made amends when he received the ball near the half-way line and after being allowed to advance unimpeded, he beat one defender before crashing the ball past Aidan Davison in the Colchester goal, after thirty-six minutes. United easily held on to their lead, with just one flutter as Colchester failed to take advance of an easy headed chance a minute before the break. Three minutes into the second half United had their two goal lead and a stranglehold on the game as Eddie Lewisí perfectly flighted cross was met by a perfectly-timed run from Richard Cresswell as he headed in unopposed at the far post. United put the game firmly out of Colchesterís grasp when Cresswell was fouled by John White in the box and Robbie Blake stepped up to send the keeper the wrong way from the spot, after just fifty-three minutes. Ian Moore came on for Geoff Horsfield after sixty-three minutes, Ian Westlake replaced Eddie Lewis on seventy-six minutes and Jermaine Beckford was a token replacement for Richard Cresswell on the final whistle. With the game won United relaxed their grip on the game and Colchester went close on several occasions and with luck could have made a comeback in the last half-hour, but with Shaun Derry leading by example in midfield and Robbie Blake scoring twice it would have been an injustice to United in what was a fine all-round performance but with Hull City surprisingly beating Wolverhampton Wanderers and Southend United equally surprisingly holding Preston North End United did not really benefit from the win but moved above Barnsley into twenty-second spot and no longer had the worst goal difference in the Division.

With Southampton providing the opposition in the second of the back-to-back home fixtures and their record being on a par with Colchester there were high expectations of another United victory and another leap up the table. Wise kept faith with his team with only David Healy returning for the injured Richard Cresswell, even the bench remained intact. However those hopes and aspirations once more floundered as Unitedís flaws and inconsistencies once more reared their ugly head. It wasnít that United were inferior to Southampton, and indeed they remained in the game for all but the last fifteen minutes, it was just that their inability to capitalise on their chances and the defenceís inadequacies let in another three goals which resulted in another depressing result and the realisation that they and three other teams were starting a mini-league of their own adrift from the other twenty team who soon would have no thoughts of relegation. Yet for sixty-nine minutes the result had hung by a thread of Grzegorz Rasiakís thirtieth minute header and even then the visitors had been flattered by that lead. In fairness to United, they had virtually dominated the first half and had a tight grip on the start of the second half. United had started the game in a hurry and they peppered the Saintsí goal, with Robbie Blake leading the charge. His well judged through ball after three minutes saw Geoff Horsfield get in a powerful shot which went narrowly the wrong side of the upright. Four minutes later Blake provided the pass for defender Matt Heath to commit a glaring miss from less than six yards. After fifteen minutes, the sustained United pressure saw keeper Kelvin Davis pull off a fine save to tip over David Healyís goal-bound shot. Then came the inevitable goal from the visitors totally against the run of play, and even that could not abate the United pressure as Eddie Lewis saw his free-kick cleared off the line and Robbie Blake hit a low shot into the side-netting as the interval approached. The pressure did not relent after the restart as Blake again was just wide and Ian Moore, who replaced Geoff Horsfield after fifty-five minutes, saw a goal-bound effort blocked inside the six yard box. Unfortunately the sustained United storm ran out of momentum and Southampton took advantage of it. Columbian substitute John Viafara, who had replaced an ineffectual Wright-Phillips in the sixty-fourth minute, turned Stephen Crainey five minutes later and sent a low cross to the far post where Rudi Skacel slid the ball in. It was obvious from the run of the game that United were never going to pull back the two goal deficit and it came as no surprise when Skacel turned provider when his corner found Rasiak as the United stood transfixed as he nipped in to glance a header past the helpless Graham Stack. There was no point in arguing that the score was not a true reflection of the game, the fact was that United were twenty-second in the CCCL and five points adrift from the twentieth team.

Nobody would have been looking forward to the long trip to Devon, to face a Plymouth side with a higher league position than Unitedís most recent opposition, but once again the Elland Road enigmas proved just how inconsistent they could be with a fine 2-1 victory against the odds as Wise reverted to 4-4-2. Ian Westlake and Ian Moore got the nod over David Healy and Geoff Horsfield, who dropped to the bench where Sebastien Carole and newcomer Tresor Kandol replaced returned loanee Adam Johnson and Jermaine Beckford. Five successive away defeats, and three months since their last full points away from home was achieved, was an adverse prospect for Unitedís longest trip away from home. Ian Moore, for once, produced an effective display and was instrumental in both Unitedís goals. Only three minutes had elapsed when he won the ball in the air to allow Eddie Lewis to get in his cross and, as the Plymouth defenders followed him to the near post, Robbie Blake was left unmarked at the far post and scored with ease. Moore was unlucky not to get his name on the scoresheet after twelve minutes when he hit he crossbar following Matt Heath heading down for him to get in his shot. The home team was particularly aggressive and the foul count against them escalated and they were lucky to get away with an ankle-tap on Ian Westlake in the box soon afterwards. However with Leeds dominating the midfield it was against the run of play when the Pilgrims equalised. Matt Heath was a fault as he needlessly conceded a free-kick and an hesitant Graham Stack was not blameless as Bojan Djordjic scored with a close-range header to send the teams in level at the break. Just on the hour it was Ian Moore who beat the Argyle offside trap and found Eddie Lewis in space and the winger went on to beat the keeper, Luke McCormick, and put the ball in the net to give United a deserved lead. Predictably Argyle threw everything they had at United in response and Eddie Lewis was to thank for clearing off the line from Lilian Nilisí header and Graham Stack redeemed himself with a fine low save from substitute Nick Chadwick. Tresor Kandol replaced Robbie Blake after sixty-eight minutes and contributed well up front but it was the United defence that held firm, despite four minutes of injury time, to get the full points and push United up a place to twenty-first.

A midweek trip across the Pennines to Turf Moor was the game on Unitedís agenda and they paraded new loan signing Ugo Ehiogu in place of Matthew Kilgallon in an otherwise unchanged squad. United faced another daunting task against a team from the higher echelons of the League with a good home record, but buoyed by their weekend win against the odds came into the game with renewed confidence and more than held their own for fifty-two minutes until it became an uneven contest following the dismissal of Hayden Foxe. Booked in the first half for a foul on Steve Jones, Foxe lost his footing and pushed the ball away with his hand and was unlucky to get another yellow and instant dismissal. By the seventieth minute United were two down and the game had gone. United carved out few chances but had contained Burnley with ease prior to Foxeís departure. However Stack had watched well beaten as a shot from Steve Jones narrowly missed the target and then he tipped over from the same player but apart from a parry to a Wade Elliott free-kick had little else to do prior to the two sides going into the break goalless. Ehiogu was calm and confident in the United defence which easily repelled all Burnley had to offer to that point. United did have their chances and both fell to Ian Moore but he shot straight at Burnley keeper Danny Coyne with his first chance and sliced badly wide with his second. Foxeís departure caused a radical rethink to the United team with Jonathan Douglas dropping to full back, Ian Moore filling-in in midfield and Robbie Blake being taken off to leave his replacement Tresor Kandol as Unitedís lone attacker. The impressive Steve Jones beat Jonathan Douglas on the right and crossed into the goalmouth, where Matt Heath could only partially clear straight to the feet of Gifton Noel-Williams, who gave Graham Stack no chance. Two minutes later ex-United man Andy Gray turned quickly on the edge of the box to beat Stack with a low shot into the corner of the net. Strangely it was Leeds who dominated the remaining twenty minutes, when all the pointers had indicated an imminent avalanche of goals, and it was a great forty-yard pass from Stephen Crainey that found David Healy, a seventy-second minute substitute for Ian Moore, and the Irish international beat keeper Danny Coyne with a shot from outside the box which seemed to take a deflection off Jon Harley. United dropped to twenty-second but looked forward to the next game with Barnsley at Elland Road after two good performances on the road against better opposition.

It was back to 4-3-3, with Jonathan Douglas dropping back and replacing the suspended Hayden Foxe at right-back and Tresor Kandol being promoted from the bench and given his run-on debut up front. The not quite match-fit Fraser Richardson and Jermaine Beckford were on the bench as Geoff Horsfield dropped out. It was a Yorkshire derby that was as enthralling as it was entertaining but could not hide the deficiencies of both teams. All the goals were scored in a breathless first half and illustrated the attacking intent of both teams but in the end said more about their lack of defensive ability rather than the quality of their attack. All four goals stemmed from errors and lapses and illustrated the task of both managers to try to escape the bottom three with such leaking defences. As at Oakwell, despite the addition of Ugo Ehiogu and his class and organisational ability, the Leeds defence had no answer to the pace of Leon Knight and Daniel Nardiello, who led the Barnsley attack brilliantly and was rewarded with both goals. With Gary Kelly still injured and Frazer Richardson still not match-fit, Wise had chosen to replace the suspended Hayden Foxe with midfield-man Jonathan Douglas. It was not that he did not do an adequate job but more that his presence was missed in midfield where United found it hard to retain possession. Nardiello had opened the scoring as early as the third minute, when he got the ball from a throw-in on the left before strolling past Shaun Derry, dummied his way past Ugo Ehiogu and drilled a low shot past Graham Stack into the corner of the net. It did not take United long to reply as Tresor Kandol equalised after eight minutes following total confusion in the Barnsley defence. Neil Austin headed a Jonathan Douglas cross high into the air in front of the Barnsley goal, Keeper Nick Colgan collided with centre-back Paul Reid and Kandol was left with the simple task of heading into an empty net. From then on United carried the greater threat as Robbie Blake twice went close and Eddie Lewis clipped the outside of the post after thirty-five minutes. However, instead of taking the lead United conceded another soft goal as Nardiello struck a minute later. Taking a long ball from Neil Austin in his stride, wrong footed both Stephen Crainey and Matt Heath as he turned inside, Ehiogu attempted to block the ball with Graham Stack out of position but it flew past him and into the far corner of the net. As the first half went into stoppage time Ehiogu took advantage of the two extra minutes to put United on level terms. Ian Westlake took advantage of slack marking to cross to an unmarked Shaun Derry, who headed back across the goal and Ehiogu was equally free to head past Colgan from close range. In the second half chances were still plentiful and Ian Westlake saw a volley turned behind by Colgan while at the other end Stack made an alert save from Leon Knight and Paul Hayes. The game was into its last quarter when United thought they had gained full points. Matt Heath leaped to head home an Ian Westlake corner at the near post, the referee signalled a goal, the Barnsley players accepted it without dissent, but the linesman advised the referee there had been a foul and the goal was disallowed and United had to settle for a point. After twenty-one games United had twenty points and remained in twenty-second place, two behind Barnsley, three more than Hull City and eight more than the seemingly doomed Southend United.

Fourth-placed Derby County with Ex-United midfielder Seth Johnson were the next visitors to Elland Road and United welcomed by Hayden Foxe from suspension which allowed Jonathan Douglas to move into his normal tole in midfield in place of Ian Westfield, while up front David Healy replaced Ian Moore who dropped to the bench, where young Jonathan Howson was given a space at the Jermaine Beckford. Derby opened the scoring in the ninth minute and from there on there was an air of inevitability about the result. The Leeds midfield of Shaun Derry, Jonathan Douglas and Eddie Lewis was overrun by Derby even though Lewis was probably Unitedís best player but Seth Johnson ran the midfield and Derby had outstanding players in Darren Moore, Jon Stead and Giles Barnes. David Healy went close with a volley after seven minutes but that was all the shots United could muster in the first-half. Hayden Foxe provided Healy with the chance but while not letting the side down, it was apparent that he was a central defender playing out of position and that Leeds would benefit from the return of injured Gary Kelly and Frazer Richardson who were specialists in that role. The latter was being eased back into match action due to his ham-string injury and remained unused on the bench. The Derby goal came because Jon Stead was allowed too much room by a hesitant defence and his cross to the back post was headed home by Giles Barnes past a flailing Graham Stack after he had lost his marker, Stephen Crainey. With Johnson in charge derby dominated the first half and squandered several chances. After the break it was a different matter as United played with more determination and Eddie Lewis went close after good work by Shaun Derry and Robbie Blake. Blake also went close but shot into the side-netting, however, the best chance fell to David Healy just before being substituted by Ian Moore in the sixty-seventh minute. A determined run from Blake took him deep into the Derby box and he unselfishly pulled the ball back to Healy from the by-line but the Irish Striker ballooned the ball high into the Kop. Had he scored it would have been a platform for a United victory but it served to revitalise Derby and they went close to doubling their lead with two minutes to go but Steven Jones rattled the bar with Stack well beaten. Leeds, however, had one final chance as Matt Heath got in a header from an Eddie Lewis cross and it flew towards the top corner, but Derby keeper Stephen Bywater reacted brilliantly to turn the ball wide. United remained in twenty-second spot with twenty points after twenty-two games of the forty-six already gone.

Portman Road was the venue for Unitedís next game which marked the halfway point of the season. Ipswich were hovering just above the relegation zone and a win by United could have dragged them into the mire. Ugo Ehiogu was unavailable due to injury and that gave Hayden Foxe a chance to play in his normal position as Frazer Richardson was deemed fit enough to resume at right back. Eddie Lewis dropped back to replace Stephen Crainey to accommodate the return of long-term injured captain Kevin Nicholls, while Ian Westlake returned to midfield at the expense of Robbie Blake as Leeds reverted to 4-4-2 with Ian Moore taking over up front from David Healy, who dropped to the bench, where Geoff Horsfield and Matthew Kilgallon found a place as Jonathan Howson was omitted. Former United players Dan Harding, at left back, and Simon Walton, on loan from Charlton Athletic, and on the bench greeted their former team-mates. The returning skipper provided the bite in midfield and was the games outstanding player and covered the pitch tirelessly until six minutes from the end when he was shown the red card and saw him suspended for three games. The sending-off followed a confrontation with several Ipswich players following Nicholls' challenge on Danny Haynes. Nicholls had been booked for a clumsy tackle on Alan Lee sixty second earlier and when he caught Haynes with an elbow the challenge looked innocuous and accidental but on the linesmanís advice the referee produced a straight red. It seemed a little harsh as Owen Garvan escaped without caution for poleaxing Nicholls in the ensuing melee, while Alan Lee was not sent off for a blatant elbow on Hayden Foxe halfway through the second half. The events of the eighty-fourth minute overshadowed a forgettable game between two mediocre sides. Sylvain Legwinski drove a long range effort straight into the arms of Graham Stack midway through the first half as both teams seemed intent on not losing, rather than winning the encounter as neither side seemed committed to pushing players forward. Unitedís defence looked confident and the new pairing of Matt Heath and Hayden Foxe repelled Ipswich without breaking a sweat until injury-time in the first half which produced the only goal of the game. Leeds should have been in front by then as Tresor Kandol wasted a fine chance after a Jonathan Douglas pass found him totally unmarked. He was unable to control the ball quick enough and the Ipswich defence were given time to put pressure on him and he fired tamely wide from ten yards. Kandolís miss was swiftly followed by Gavin Williamsí match-winner which resulted from a hopeful long ball upfield headed on by Alan Lee which Williamsí quickly controlled before volleying it past Graham Stack. United had their chances to reverse the score-line in the second half as Tresor Kandol missed twice in five minutes. The first was from a gift by Lewis Price who miscued his punch from a Kevin Nicholls free-kick and it went in the air and fell conveniently on Kandolís head, but he only managed to steer the ball wide of an unguarded net. Five minutes later Ian Mooreís lay-off created another opening for Kandol but the keeper reacted well to push the shot round the post. That was as near as United came, but it could have been different if Sebastien Carole had squared the ball to an unmarked David Healy, who was ready to tap the ball into an empty net had Carole not chosen to try to beat the keeper himself from a narrow angle and succeeded only in hitting Price. United had now dropped to twenty-third with twenty points from twenty-three games.

United entertained fellow-strugglers Hull City, hoping that full points would see them leapfrog the Humber-siders on the League ladder. Tony Warner stood in for the injured Graham stack and his place on the bench was taken by Neil Sullivan. Ugo Ehiogu returned to central defence in place of Hayden Foxe in an otherwise unchanged defence, while Jonathan Howson was given his first League start of the season as he replaced the suspended Kevin Nicholls in midfield and Robbie Blake took over from Ian Moore up front and the latter replaced Geoff Horsfield on the bench. Ex-United striker Michael Bridges replaced another ex-United player in Nick Barmby, who was injured. With both sides in the bottom three the game was never going to be a classic and both sides played as if neither was prepared to lose and Hull in particular pulled most of their players back into their own half at the first sign of a United attack. Leeds created the better chances in a dour first half with Jonathan Douglas having an angled shot blocked by Michael Turner, Robbie Blake was just wide with a shot from the right and Tresor Kandol had a header brilliantly tipped over by Boaz Myhill. Bridges did create a chance for himself with some deft footwork but couldnít supply the finishing touch and in the second half Jonathan Howson also controlled the ball well in the box but shot straight at the keeper. So for the third game on the trot Leeds remained goalless and failed to overtake their visitors and remained in twenty-third position with twenty-one points after twenty-four games.

For the Boxing Day clash at the stadium of Light against promotion hopefuls Sunderland, United rested Jonathan Howson to the bench and welcomed Hayden Foxe back at right back with Frazer Richardson pushing up into midfield, while Jermaine Beckford came in for Robbie Blake and David Healy replaced Sebastien Carole on the bench. United faced two former loanees in the shape of central defender Steve Caldwell and midfield-man Liam Miller. There was little doubt that United put up a gallant fight and held Sunderland until the sixty-fifth minute but the lack of trouble that United created to the Sunderland defence always meant that one goal was going to be good enough for the home team to gain full points. Tresor Kandol and Jermaine Beckford posed no threat to the Sunderland keeper Darren Ward who was virtually redundant and this meant that Sunderland could push up and attack incessantly with no fear of a counter attack. While the commitment and resilience of the Leeds defence merited a point Sunderland deserved the full pints for their patience and attractive football. United weathered the storm extremely well in the first half and deserved to go to the break on level terms as Sunderland had only created one clear cut chance as Stephen Elliott got in a shot at the near post but Tony Warner was alert and equal to the challenge as he pushed it round the post. The second half saw the Sunderland dominance reap its reward after Liam Miller and Darryl Murphy both went close before David Connelly turned quickly in the box to create enough space to get in a shot which flashed past Tony Warner and into the net. United did finally trouble Darren Ward and under pressure he failed to claim a high ball but Frazer Richardson was unable to capitalise on it. In Grant Leadbitter Sunderland had the best player on the field and it was fitting that he should put the game beyond recall nine minutes from the end after a fine run by Darryl Murphy and a neat bit of play from Dwight gave him the space to get in his shot from eighteen yards for a classy finish. Late in the game Matthew Kilgallon, who had come on for United after seventy-two minutes in a triple substitution with David Healy and Ian Moore replacing Ugo Ehiogu, Shaun Derry and Jermaine Beckford, made two outstanding blocks to keep Unitedís goal intact, but unfortunately had to limp out of the action after injuring himself in the second challenge. There was further bad news at full-time when results elsewhere showed an unexpected Barnsley victory over Burnley which meant they were now five points behind their Oakwell rivals and had failed to score in the last four games, and remained on twenty-one points in twenty-third position after twenty-five games.

Jonathan Howson was restored to the team with Frazer Richardson reverting to right back with Hayden Foxe dropping out, and the ineffective Tresor Kandol and Jermaine Beckford found themselves on the bench with Ian Moore and David Healy pressed into service in attack. There was a place on the bench for Rui Marques, for the injured Matthew Kilgallon, and Sebastien Carole as deputy to Howson, as United visited the Potteries and Stoke City. After their humiliating 4-0 home defeat earlier in the season United were not relishing the visit and went behind after just twelve minutes, when Lee Hendrie curled a corner high into the box and Tony Warner watched helplessly as Mamady Sidibe rose above a static defence to head home. This resulted in a more attacking United and Jonathan Douglas got in a dipping volley which almost crept under the Stoke crossbar just two minutes later. A sustained United attack left them short in numbers at the back when a quick counter-attack spearheaded by Lee Hendrie saw Darel Russell fail to get any power into his shot and Warner collected untroubled. However, despite this period of sustained pressure Leeds were unable to equalise as long range efforts from David Healy and Eddie Lewis were easily dealt with by Steve Simonsen, but such was Unitedís dominance that the sent wave after wave of attacks towards the Stoke goal and should have had a reward in the thirty-seventh minute when the referee failed to punish Carl Houfkens who climbed all over David Healy in the Stoke box. The pressure eventually told just four minutes before half-time when David Healyís deep cross from the right wing left Simonsen badly exposed and Ian Moore ran in at the back post to leap above his marker to head home a thoroughly deserved equaliser and the teams went in on level terms at the half-time break. Lee Hendrie had struggled with an injury in the first half and was replaced by Patrick Berger at the start of the second half. The Czech International soon made his presence felt and on fifty-eight minutes he restored Stokeís lead with a shot from eighteen yards which deflected off Ugo Ehioguís head and into the United net. It was a sad reward for Ehiogu, who had brought a new solidarity to the United defence and it was more than United could cope with and it became impossible when Richardo Fuller put Stoke further ahead in the seventy-sixth minute after he shot into an empty net after a mix-up between Warner and Ehiogu allowed the ball the run to him and presented him with an unmissable opportunity. United had broken the goal drought but had failed to arrest their losing streak and they remained in deep trouble on twenty-one points from twenty-six games and second from the bottom and becoming increasingly isolated from safety.

New Years Day saw the visit of Coventry City to Elland Road and it was hoped that 2007 would bring a change of fortune for United. Neil Sullivan was given back his position as Unitedís No.1 after some recent unconvincing performances by Tony Warner, who dropped to the bench. There were sweeping changes in the back four where new loan signing Robbie Elliott took over from Eddie Lewis who was pushed up into midfield at the expense of Ian Westlake who dropped to the bench. Hayden Foxe was paired with Rui Marques in central defence as Ugo Ehioguís loan spell had expired and Matt Heath was left out. There was a welcome return of Kevin Nicholls from suspension and he took his place in midfield as Wise switched to 4-3-3 and Jonathan Howson dropped to the bench and Shaun Derry was also omitted, while up front Robbie Blake returned after injury to join David Healy and Ian Moore in the three pronged attack. The five men on the bench were Tony Warner, Sebastien Carole, Jonathan Howson, Ian Westlake and Tresor Kandol. For once United were able to convert their superiority into points, but it was due more to the totally inept display by Coventry, who gave an abysmal performance, rather than United blowing away the opposition. On the evidence of their performance Coventry must come into serious consideration for the drop and the win gave United renewed hope. Unitedís performance was all it needed to be to overcome such poor opposition They started off at a quick pace and the onslaught could have seen the game over by half-time had United hit the net rather than the woodwork. Robbie Blake and Eddie Lewis both saw free-kicks rebound from the crossbar, after David Healy had given United a fifteenth minute lead and when Adam Virgo equalised for the visitors just before half-time after indecision in the United defence, all the United pressure had been for nothing and Coventry went in at the break undeservedly on level terms. United started the second half just as they had done in the first half and pulverised Coventry for the first ten minutes or so with intense pressure. It did have the desired effect as Eddie Lewis got in a clever pass to David Healy whose shot rebounded of the Coventry keeper, Andy Marshall, and Jonathan Douglas placed the ball into an empty net as he followed up on fifty-three minutes. Coventry immediately threw on Leon McKenzie and Dele Adebola and it was Unitedís turn to defend grimly for the last half hour. However the Coventry attack lacked cohesion and Neil Sullivan only had one moment of trouble when he was beaten by a Kevin Kyle header but it flew wide and United finished in front with their first win in eight games. It was a vital win in a vital game but results elsewhere saw Southend United, Hull City and Queens Park Rangers also win as United remained last but one with twenty-four points from twenty-seven games, but at least the losing streak had been arrested.

There was a visit to the Hawthorns as a break in the struggle for points in the CCCL in the Third Round of the FA Cup. Once more there were wholesale changes which heralded the return of Captain Kevin Nicholls from suspension and the inclusion on the bench of new signings Tore Andre Flo and Armando Sa on the bench along with junior keeper Jonathan Lund. The full line-up was: Neil Sullivan; Rui Marques, Matt Heath, Hayden Foxe, Robbie Elliott; Jonathan Howson, Kevin Nicholls, Eddie Lewis; Robbie Blake, Ian Moore, David Healy. Jonathan Lund, Armando Sa, Shaun Derry, Ian Westlake and Tore Andre Flo were on the bench. Some may say that the defeat was a blessing in disguise as it left Dennis Wise and his team with nothing to concentrate on except avoiding relegation. The financial gains from a good Cup run could not be ignored but the odds of achieving that were always stacked high and now Unitedís season is restricted to nineteen vital games which will decide their destiny. Two of their rivals, Southend United and Barnsley, were both involved in draws which meant extra midweek games and the possibility of injury and fatigue, something which United would not have to contend with. That was of little consequence to the two thousand faithful who made their second trek of the season to the Hawthorns and watched as United capitulated almost as soon as the game had started. United were two goals in arrears after less than fifteen minutes and both were due to woeful defending. West Brom opened the scoring in the seventh minute and were virtually assured of a place in the Fourth Round when their lead was doubled eight minutes later. The first was due to the creativity of Jason Koumas, whose dangerous cross forced Robbie Elliott to head over his own bar in the sixth minute. From the ensuing corner Neil Clement swung the ball towards the back post, where a poor clearing header gifted Paul McShane the opportunity to sweep the ball into the net from six yards. For the second, Russell Hoult drove a long clearance towards the edge of Unitedís box and Matt Heathís poor positioning saw the ball bounce into the path of John Hartson. The striker found himself clean through with only the keeper to beat and his low shot slipped through Sullivanís legs and into the net. The home side pressed their advantage further as Hartson headed a Clements cross wide from six yards in the eighteenth minute and then the Welsh striker was thwarted by a brilliant one handed save by Neil Sullivan. Unitedís response was spirited and committed as Robbie Blake twice tested Russell Hoult with goal-bound volleys and Kevin Nicholls was also denied by a brilliant save from the keeper as his shot was curling just inside the post. United made a triple substitution for the start of the second half, as debuts were given to Tore Andre Flo and Armando Sa, and Shaun Derry replaced Ian Moore, Matt Heath and Jonathan Howson respectively, all of whom had struggled in the first half. Armando Sa slotted into the right back spot and Rui Marques moved to central defence. Tore Andre Flo did get a chance to put his name on the scoresheet in the eighty-second minute after Eddie Lewis had found him just four yards out with a fine cross, but the keeper made an instinctive parry and it seemed United were destined to remain goal-less as Derry had missed a golden opportunity only four minutes earlier. Two minutes after Floís miss, West Brom got their third as a Jason Koumas cut-back was forced over the line by Kevin Phillips. The score-line flattered the home team and justice was done when Robbie Elliotís cross forced Paul Robinson to turn the ball into his own net under pressure from Flo in injury time.

After their defeat at the Hawthorns in the Cup the same two teams met again in the League a fortnight later at Elland Road. New loan signing Alan Thompson came straight into the team in midfield replacing Jonathan Howson who dropped to the bench. Armando Sa and Tore Andre Flo were both given run on debuts as Sa replaced Rui Marques, who moved into central defence at the expense of Matt Heath, who also dropped to the bench, at right back and Flo replaced Ian Moore in attack. In a 4-4-2 system Robbie Blake dropped back into midfield and Shaun Derry, Jonathan Lund and Ian Westlake all lost their place on the bench to Ian Moore, Tresor Kandol and Gylfi Einarsson. Despite new players being brought in Unitedís situation had shown no signs of improvement and the stuttered to yet another defeat as their lack of quality was cruelly exposed. United were beaten by two two first half goals from Diomansy Kamara and great strike from Jonathan Greening. Tore Andre Flo got United and himself off to a great start with a goal in the third minute. Indecision by Paul McShane allowed a loose ball to reach Eddie Lewis. His shot was partially blocked by Russell Hoult and from the rebound David Healy had a shot kicked off the line by Curtis Davies. Robbie Elliott collected the ball and swung over a cross which allowed Flo to glance a header past the keeper. It looked as though the Baggies abysmal away record was going to benefit United, but they were level within four minutes and home and dry by half time, and it was really an inspired display by Neil Sullivan that stopped a rout. Their 3-1 interval lead was threaten sporadically after Unitedís other debutant, Alan Thompson, also got his name on the scoresheet with a typical classy free-kick in the sixty-sixth minute, as the introduction of Ian Moore and Tresor Kandol for Robbie Blake and Robbie Elliott in the fifty-seventh minute had the right effect and pepped up Unitedís performance. Thompson was taken off after eighty-three as his fitness ran out and Gylfi Einarsson replaced him, but his goal had temporarily lifted United but they were unable to get the goal to share the points and they remained on twenty-four points in twenty-third position but had now played twenty-eight games.

Suspensions and injuries meant that United were without the services of Tore Andre Flo, Robbie Elliott, Kevin Nicholls, Hayden Foxe, Graham Stack, Ian Moore, Shaun Derry and Richard Cresswell for their visit to the KC Stadium, home of relegation rivals, Hull City. Matt Heath came into the team for Hayden Foxe in central defence, while Eddie Lewis dropped back from midfield to cover for Robbie Elliott at left-back. Frazer Richardson was back, on the right side of midfield, to replace Robbie Blake, who dropped to the bench. Jonathan Howson and Jonathan Douglas replaced Kevin Nicholls and Eddie Lewis in midfield, while Tresor Kandol benefited from Tore Andre Floís absence. Stephen Crainey, Gylfi Einarsson, Sebastien Carole and teenager Tom Elliott joined Robbie Blake on the bench. The Tigers had been in a good vein of form in recent times and started off with an attacking 4-3-3 system, but it was Alan Thompson who went closest to scoring as a typical thirty-yard free-kck looked to be creeping inside the post until keeper Boaz Myhill acrobatically tipped the ball round the post. And United started to control the game and well merited their taking the lead as Matt Heath guided Thompsonís well flighted free-kick past the keeper from six yards with the Hull keeper flat footed. However, a new ground record crowd of 24,311 were subdued by Unitedís strike but they had something to cheer as City fought back and a Dean Windass free-kick just cleared the bar and Matt Heath all but conceded an own goal. Then, deep into first half injury time, Dean Marneyís free-kick bounced awkwardly in front of Neil Sullivan and ricocheted off his body and Nicky Foster rifled in a shot from eight yards. Dean Windass had a goal disallowed for offside two minutes into the second half and then Tresor Kandol was brought down after fifty minutes. As he had done in the previous game against West Bromwich Albion, Alan Thompson scored with a a free-kick of sheer class which this time gave the keeper no chance as it arced perfectly into the top corner to give United the lead. Surprisingly Hull did not mount any sustained pressure in the remaining forty minutes although Substitute Stuart Elliott put a fierce volley inches wide in the eighty-first minute but good defending by Leeds saw that this was the nearest them came. Results elsewhere meant that Unitedís 2-1 victory was no sufficient to avoid Southend going above them on goal difference and they slumped to the bottom position, twenty-fourth with twenty-seven points from twenty-nine games.

United again had to travel after the midweek away game at Hull, down to East Anglia to Carrow Road to face Norwich City in another vital clash. Eddie Lewis and David Healy were unavailable and Kevin Nicholls came into the midfield as several players moved positions to accommodate him and Robbie Blake moved from the bench to striker in Healyís place and there was no place on the bench for Stephen Crainey, Gylfi Einarsson and Sebastien Carole as new goalkeeper Casper Ankergren, Ian Moore, Hayden Foxe and Ian Westlake were there alongside the teenager Tom Elliott. After the high of the midweek win United looked to build on it and for the best part of an hour it looked as if they were going to achieve their objective as they took the lead after twenty minutes when Jonathan Howson scored his first senior goal. Norwich had predictably started strongly but their effort was not sustained as Leeds repelled them with ease, even though ex-United striker Darren Huckerby was denied a goal by an offside flag. Up to the twenty minute mark United had conceded the midfield to Norwich but a long free-kick from Neil Sullivan was flicked into the box by Tresor Kandol and the alert Robbie Blake ceased the loose ball and was left to beat David Marshall in the Norwich goal from an acute angle, he took the option of pulling the ball back into the six yard box and Jonathan Howson swept the ball into the net. It was then a question that neither team could mount any danger on the opposing goal but United were always mindful that a Norwich breakaway might leave their defence exposed and so neither team over-stretched themselves in attack. With the game almost in its last third, however Norwich got the break they needed and United feared. Youssef Safri swung a cross into the six-yard box and Rui Marques did not get any distance on his headed clearance. The vastly experienced Dion Dublin found the ball bounced nicely for him to hammer the ball into the net from the edge of the box and Norwich were level. Leeds should have regained the lead almost immediately but Robbie Blake and Tresor Kandol were guilty of missing easy chances. The Canaries were not so wasteful and Darren Huckerby punished his old club with a goal twelve minutes from time. United failed to press home their advantage from a corner and Norwich gained possession and Lee Croft brought the ball out of defence and found Huckerby with a cross-field ball and it was the former Leeds speedster against Frazer Richardson. It was no contest as with a quick sidestep he beat his marker and accelerated into the Leeds box and his low left-footed shot easily beat Neil Sullivan to nestle in the far corner of the net. Not much later Sullivan could only watch helplessly as Huckerby almost repeated the feat but this time the ball ricocheted to safety of a post. So United failed to build on their midfield win and remained bottom of the League and three points adrift, with twenty-four points from thirty games.

The home game against the struggling Crystal Palace was yet another must win game as United needed to string together a succession of victories if they were to have any chance of avoiding relegation and, after several games against fellow strugglers and the prospect of a few more to come, it was getting to be crunch time down at the bottom. There was a debut for on-loan, from Danish club Bromby, goalkeeper Casper Ankergren and Eddie Lewis returned and took his place at left back with with Neil Sullivan and Armando Sa dropping to the bench. With Alan Thompson picking up a knock in training there was a return for Ian Westlake and Robbie Blake dropped back to the right of midfield as Jonathan Howson was rested to the bench and Ian Moore was brought into the team as striker in his place as Richard Cresswell returned from injury to start from the bench as teenager Tom Elliott lost his place in the squad. After the game there was stories from Dennis Wise of a ďmoleĒ in the squad who had leaked information to Crystal Palace, but just who it was and what had been leaked remained a mystery but he did make the statement that the player would never play again for the club, which only added to the intrigue for those who were interested. Whatever was said might not have foreseen Alan Thompson being injured in Fridayís training and the players were seemingly unconcerned and went out and did the business. United were very slow out of the blocks and were sloppy in midfield, slow and ponderous in attack and lacking in making anyone available to give the person in possession of the ball any reasonable options. It gave Palace the upper hand and they soon carved out chances and, fortunately for United, Casper Ankergren was equal to the task making several fine saves as United continued to labour for the first twenty minutes. It all changed as Leeds gained their first corner shortly before the half hour mark after an Ian Moore effort was deflected behind. Robbie Blake sent over a low bouncy cross and it missed everyone in the crowded box and Matt Heath met it with his head at the far post after had sneaked in undetected by Palaceís static defenders. It was a goal which came from poor Palace defending rather than the quality of the cross but it transformed United and they started to play with a semblance of confidence and they created two more good chances before half-time. Ian Mooreís flicked header from a Robbie Blake corner was goal-bound until a reaction save from Palace keeper Gabor Kiraly denied him but Tresor Kandol headed over when it seemed easier to score. After half-time it was noticeable that neither Ian Moore nor Tresor Kandol posed any threat to the goal and the part fit Richard Cresswell was called on to replace Kandol after sixty-eight minutes. It had the desired effect as just four minutes later, the former Preston striker received the ball in the centre-circle and, seeing Robbie Blake in space on the right, released him with a fine pass and he ran on goal to beat the keeper after a couple of deflections and a favourable bounce. United should have closed out the game but instead allowed Palace to get back into it and were again indebted to Casper Ankergren for two fine saves from Carl Fletcher and Shefki Kuqi. Inevitably a goal came with eight minutes left as Leon Cort climbed highest to head in Mark Kennedyís cross. Robbie Blake left the field with three minutes left to a standing ovation and extra defender Hayden Foxe bolstered the already well performing Matt Heath and Rui Marques in central defence. Once more a win made no difference to Unitedís standing and they remained bottom with thirty points from thirty-one games.

Not many were expecting much change from a visit to Cardiff as United had not won there in twenty-three years and the home team had only lost twice in seventeen games in the season to date. Armando Sa replaced Frazer Richardson at right backing an otherwise unchanged team but Graham Stack replaced Neil Sullivan and David Healy filled the vacancy left by Sa. United would be wondering why they conceded all the points to a team that missed a second half penalty and finished the game with nine men. When Leeds could only muster three shots on goal in the whole match and the goal they conceded was a fine strike from Michael Chopra, but the problem was that they had no one likely to duplicate his effort and they relied totally on the long ball finding the head of Tresor Kandol and it was easy meat for the Cardiff defence, even though United did dominate the game territorially. Robbie Blakeís first effort on goal managed to slice into touch for a throw-in and set the tone for United for the match. Cardiff belied their lofty League standing and their general play was of such poor standard that it allowed Leeds into a game that Cardiff should have won at a canter on paper. Chopra tested Casper Ankergren with a low shot as early as the seventh minute and Ian Moore should have opened the scoring when Rui Marques headed down just five yards out but his weak touch went straight into goalkeeper Neil Alexanderís hands. Rui Marques and Jonathan Douglas collided in midfield and Marques had to be substituted four minutes before the break while Douglas returned to the fray with his head heavily bandaged. It was then that Copra produced a fine shot to beat Ankergren from a free-kick on the edge of the box. He went close to doubling the lead as his glancing header was just wide of the post in first-half injury-time. United tried to add power to their attack by the introduction of David Healy and Richard Cresswell in place of Ian Westlake and Robbie Blake, but it had no great effect. Michael Chopra earned his marching orders after sixty-five minutes after leaving Hayden Foxe bloodied with an elbow to the face. Tresor Kandol was fortunate to stay on the pitch and lucky that his keeper rectified his mistake after deliberately handling the ball in his own box and then watching as the keeper produced a brilliant save to push the ball off the target from Steven Thompsonís spot kick. David Healy flashed a volley wide from the edge of the box but Neil Alexander was never seriously troubled even after ex-United player Simon Walton was sent off with six minutes remaining. Jonathan Douglas finally troubled Alexander with a low shot in the injury time but it was too little, too late and United remained bottom with thirty points from thirty-two games.

Alan Thompson resumed in midfield in place of the injured Ian Westlake, while up front David Healy and Richard Cresswell also returned as Ian Moore dropped to the bench and Tresor Kandol was omitted and Jemal Johnson, the new loanee from Wolverhampton Wanderers took the vacant spot on the bench for the visit of relegation threatened Queens Park Rangers to Elland Road in a midweek fixture. United, spurred on by their biggest crowd of the season, 29,593, due to a generous reduction in prices, could not give them anything to enthuse about as they failed to get past the Rangers defence which offered nothing but hard work and United sank further into the relegation mire as the visitors took their share of the points. On the same night Barnsley beat Hull City 3-0 and Luton Town also won and left United three points adrift from safety with games left diminishing rapidly and another winnable game passed by. With games against better class opposition looming in the form of Wolverhampton Wanderers, Birmingham City and Sheffield Wednesday, United put themselves in the position of needing to get results against one or more of them by failing to beat a team that had lost five of its previous six games including a 5-0 defeat to Unitedís fellow strugglers Southend United. The game was tense and swung from end to end and in some ways it was entertaining but more often desperate and certainly lacking in quality. Leeds could be said to have been unlucky as both Robbie Blake and David Healy hit the woodwork and Rangersí keeper Lee Camp also denied Healy with a brilliant one handed save just before half-time. Jonathan Douglas and Robbie Blake both had shots well saved while Richard Cresswell saw Michael Mancienne clear from under the bar. At the other end Casper Ankergren maintained his good form as he produced fine saves to deny Lee Cook and Dexter Bradstock. The loss of Alan Thompson to a calf injury on the half-hour did not assist Unitedís cause but his departure removed a steadying influence which disappeared with him and often panic set in and passing cohesion was non-existent. Although it was Unitedís first clean sheet in ten games that fact was lost as United dropped two points that were there for the taking and they remained bottom with thirty-one points from thirty-three games.

Frazer Richardson replaced Armando Sa at right-back, Sebastien Carole came in for Alan Thompson in midfield, while teenager Tom Elliott was given a place on the bench as Jemal Johnson could not play against his employers, high flying Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux. Unitedís slender defeat did not become a possibility until the seventy-sixth minute when Micheal Knightly scored as Wolves appeared to be running out of steam from the incessant battering they had given Leeds. They had hit the woodwork twice but failed to test Casper Ankergren sufficiently with accurate shots as their total dominance of all facets of the game was not revealed on the scoresheet, which did not truly reveal the ineptness of Unitedís performance. United produced one effort in either half worthy of note as Alan Thompsonís influence was sorely missed. Richard Cresswell missed the clearest of those chances five minutes before half-time when he headed a Robbie Blake free-kick into the ground and over the bar from four yards. It was not until two minutes from time that they caused Wolves keeper Matt Murray trouble as he was called upon to push the ball over the bar from an Eddie Lewis shot from the edge of the box. It would hardly have done justice if it had made the score 1-1, such was Wolves superiority. The defeat was made even worse by results from other games with Hull City getting three unexpected points by beating Birmingham City and United remained bottom with thirty-one points from thirty-four games and needing a successful run to regain contact and have any chance of avoiding relegation.

Graham Stack replaced the injured Casper Ankergren, Jonathan Howson came in for Sebastien Carole, who dropped to the bench, where Armando Sa, Gylfi Einarsson and Jemal Johnson appeared in place of Hayden Foxe, Tom Elliott and the promoted Graham Stack. Bottom of the table United slumped to their twenty-first defeat of the season as unconvincing Birmingham City leapfrog back to the top of the table, despite Unitedís plucky performance. However, in truth United lacked inspiration or belief and were easily run ragged in the early stages by a Birmingham outfit which had not been consistent and gone down the Unitedís fellow strugglers Hull City the previous game. The Birmingham defence looked vulnerable but could not be exposed despite some hard work by David Healy and Richard Cresswell as the Birmingham attack was much more purposeful and deservedly took the lead in the fifteenth minute when Nicklas Bendtner scored with a fine glancing header. Leeds immediately launched their best attacks and a Richard Cresswell header was deflected over the bar and then Rui Marquesí header narrowly went over the bar. David Healy watched as his mishit shot was cleared off the line by Stephen Clemence. United began to look dangerous as they took control of midfield thanks to Kevin Nicholls and Richard Cresswell went close with a header from a David Healy cross. Birmingham also had their chances and should have put the game beyond Unitedís grasp in the second half as Stephen Clemence scooped the ball over the bar from close in and a brilliant fingertip save by Graham Stack avoided an own goal by Kevin Nicholls, while Nicklas Bendtner hit the post in the closing minutes. However, at the end of the game, it was not unexpectedly another three points lost and United still bottom with thirty-one points from thirty-five games.

For the home game with Sheffield Wednesday the defence remained intact and Ian Moore was drafted into the right of midfield in place of Robbie Blake who dropped to the bench and new loanee Radostin Kishishev replaced the supposedly disloyal Kevin Nicholls. Casper Ankergren returned to the bench in place of the injured Armando Sa and Hayden Foxe returned at the expense of Gylfi Einarsson. With Dennis Wise claiming that his captain Kevin Nicholls was omitted from the team as he wanted to return to Luton Town, this ranked alongside his previous claim there was a mole in the United camp and must have left the fans wondering just what exactly was going on. Results elsewhere where none of the bottom seven managed to avoid defeat resulted in United being no worse off but having played one game more. Wednesday at one point led by 3-0 and while the score-line flattered the visitors it was a lesson in clinical finishing and an indictment of the skill and talent which United lacked in abundance. Marcus Tudgay gave Wednesday the lead after just seven minutes when he headed in a Tommy Spurr cross, moments after Deon Burton had rattled the Leeds bar, but apart from that Leeds were the better team in the first half. Iain Turner in the Wednesday goal blocked a powerful shot from Ian Moore in the fifteenth minute and from then on it was United on the attack with David Healy and Jonathan Douglas both unable to force the ball into an empty net, Ian Moore hit the legs of Lee Bullen on the line and deflected wide and Rui Marques had a header cleared off the line by Frank Simek. United could easily have had two penalties as there seemed a good case for a foul against Steve Watson on David Healy and Richard Wood held back the same player as he broke clear after the half hour, with both offences clearly inside the box. Unitedís finishing once again let them down and they were punished in the thirty-seventh minute when Chris Brunt robbed Frazer Richardson on the right side of midfield and sent in a sublime lob from forty yards out which caught out keeper Graham Stack and the ball was in the net before he could move his feet to cover his goal. Marcus Tudgay received his marching orders for his second bookable offence very early in the second half, but it made no difference as Wednesday further increased their lead with another brilliant goal after fifty-four minutes. It was Chris Brunt who started the move with a quick counter-attack by sending a long ball to Deon Burton who found Glenn Whelan in turn created space for Jermaine Johnson who scored with a smart finish at the far post. United were dead and buried but hit back and after Richard Cresswell had already hit the bar Lee Bullen hacked the ball into his own net after an Eddie Lewis header in the eighty-eighth minute. Then a Richard Cresswell chip brought United back within striking distance just a minute later but Wednesday hung on to the full points and United remained bottom on thirty-one points but had now played thirty-six games.

Casper Ankergren was restored to the goalkeeping role as United entertained fellow strugglers Luton Town and Graham Stack dropped to the bench and there was another new loanee in the shape of central defender Lubomir Michalik from Bolton Wanderers, who became the forty-second different player to play for United in the season and the thirteenth loanee in place of the discarded Rui Marques. Sebastien Carole was given a start in midfield with Ian Moore taking his place on the bench and Robbie Blake too came into the midfield as the young Jonathan Howson was rested, while up front Jemal Johnson was given a chance ahead of David Healy who was found a place on the bench where Armando Sa replaced Hayden Foxe and Tresor Kandol also was also found a place. United hit the bar three times in a very unevenly matched contest in the first half and additionally Radistin Kishishev had a shot cleared off the line. The second half continued in the same vein with the revitalised United creating chance after chance. Richard did finally get the goal that mattered six minutes into the second half which was courtesy of his determination and prowess, when after receiving the ball from Jemal Johnson he turned his marker and flicked in a shot which crept in the far corner beyond the despairing outstretched hand of keeper Marlon Beresford. United were far superior to the Hatters and should have converted some more of the many chances they had created, but with four minutes left on the clock Luton were handed a lifeline as Matt Heath made a rash challenge on the suspiciously offside looking Leon Barnett as he shaped to shoot and sent him sprawling and made the referees decision easy. Dean Morgan, who had come on as a substitute and had interested Leeds earlier in the season, stepped up to take the resultant penalty but his connection was not clean and Casper Ankergren was able to block and then fall on the ball to become the fans hero. He was rapidly reaching cult status as this was his second penalty save in his short Leeds career. It should have ensured United full points, but Leon Barnett, who had been left unmarked just five yards out, headed over and United deservedly won and were by far the better side but while they had now achieved thirty-four points they still remained bottom with thirty-seven games played and just nine left, but at least had their destiny in their own hands and Luton and others firmly in their sights.

Armando Sa came in at left back for Eddie Lewis otherwise Dennis Wise stuck with his run-on side for the midweek visit to Leicester City, with Robbie Elliott taking Saís place on the bench and Alan Thompson was selected as substitute instead of keeper Graham Stack. The game was never going to be an easy one for United as the home side had just reeled off six wins on the trot before falling to Crystal Palace in their last game. While the gaining of a point could be viewed as being a major achievement results elsewhere were no to Unitedís advantag e with relegation rivals Southend United winning at home to Burnley, and Queens Park Rangers took an unexpected point from Derby County. Despite on paper looking tough opposition Leicester were not the task expected and both sides produced a game of poor quality devoid of entertainment. Both teams were restricted to a limited number of half chances as Leeds held the Foxes comfortably without looking dangerous themselves when Leicester goalkeeper Paul Henderson ran from his box to head a bouncing ball clear four minutes before half-time, his jump forced his knees into the onrushing Jemal Johnson who was stretchered off and replaced by David Healy. The referee booked the keeper and awarded a free-kick to Leeds. Robbie Blake took it and miss-hit his shot into the Leicester wall but from the rebound his exquisite volley rifled past the keeper and into the net. In celebration he took off to the opposite end of the ground to express his elation to the Leeds fans and his team-mates followed in hot pursuit and Leicesterís quick kick-off found many Leeds players out of position. Frazer Richardson was nowhere to be seen as Levi Porter broke down the left wing and his cross dropped towards Iain Hume in the centre of the area. His header should have, and under normal circumstances would have, been easily taken by Casper Ankergren but he lost his footing as he moved across his six yard box and the ball bounced tamely over the line and into the net for the Leicester equaliser. After losing Jemal Johnson and then Alan Thompson, who replaced Sebastien Carole after fifty-eight minutes, only to be injured himself thirteen minutes later, there was no was no wonder that United decided to settle for a point and rarely threatened in the last half hour. United could thank Matt Heath for twice putting his body in the way to stop goal-bound shots from Levi Porter and Casper Ankergren was alert to parry a Stephen Hughes shot in the seventy-seventh minute and this enabled them to gain the point and give hope of getting something from their next game at Southend United which now became of enormous importance as they were still bottom on thirty-five points but now with only eight games left.

Unitedís vital visit to Roots Hall saw Robbie Elliott come in as Armando Saís replacement at left back, while Sebastien Carole dropped to the bench as he gave way to the returning Eddie Lewis in midfield and Tresor Kandol was promoted from the bench to take the place of Jemal Johnson up front. Graham Stack and Stephen Crainey joined Carole, Healy and Ian Moore as the available substitutes. Tresor Kandol headed wide with the goal at his mercy and Jamal Campbell-Ryde stabbed the ball wide for the home team when it would have been easier to score, but it was the home team that took the lead after twenty-four minutes when Lubomir Michalik miss-kicked a clearance straight to Lee Bradbury, who off-loaded to an unmarked Mark Gower and the impressive winger drilled the ball past Casper Ankergren. Minutes later Freddy Eastwood should have made it 2-0 but he saw his shot rebound off a post. Leeds hit back with a Robbie Blake free-kick going inches wide and Richard Cresswell saw Darryl Flahavan save his low shot, but Southend were good value for their interval lead. Leeds started the second half the brighter of the two teams and Matt Heathís header from a Radostin Kishishev free-kick turned for a corner by the Southend keeper Flahavan. The same keeper then parried Robbie Blakeís twenty-five yard free-kick before Freddy Eastwood saw his shot deflected onto the roof of the Leeds net. Wise brought on Ian Moore for Eddie Lewis after sixty-four minutes to the cries of ďWise-OutĒ by the travellin g fans but it was his replacing of Robbie Blake by David Healy with just eight minutes to go which proved to be the move that mattered. Southend seemed to be cruising to victory and United seemed down and out and almost certainly doomed to relegation and should have closed out the game but a rare piece of poor marking saw Healy equalise. Healy was fouled on the edge of the box and Robbie Elliott quickly took the free-kick from the right and found the Irishman unmarked and he rifled the ball into the centre of the net. However, that was not the end of the drama as Leeds should have won a penalty in injury time when Simon Francis handled but the referee only gave a free-kick, but it would have been an injustice because for all Unitedís effort Southend had outplayed them and the point took the seasonís tally to thirty-six from thirty-nine games and while they had not achieved the victory that was required the point had left it mathematically still possible to escape the drop.

Preston North End were the next visitors to Elland Road and it saw the return of another loanee, Michael Gray who immediately replaced Robbie Elliott at left back and Elliott dropped to the bench at the expense of Stephen Crainey. David Healy had earned a recall to the starting team at the expense of Tresor Kandol and Rui Marques and Jemal Johnson took their places on the bench in place of Ian Moore and Sebastien Carole. It was Michael Gray who gave an outstanding performance to mark his return and United turned on their best performance since the arrival of Denis Wise but it was David Healy who got the winner and completed the best week of his career as he scored his sixth goal in that period for club and country to put a serious dent in his old clubís march towards promotion. Two Leeds old boys Danny Pugh and Brett Ormerod had combined to give Preston the lead after only four minutes as Pughís excellent pass into the box found Omerod who lost his marker Lubomir Michalik to shoot past Casper Ankergren from an angled twelve yards. Leeds did everything but score in the first half. Richard Cresswell wasted a glorious headed chance to equalise while David Healy got in a power packed shot that should have found the back of the net and both Jonathan Douglas and Robbie Blake had goal-bound efforts blocked in the goalmouth, while Matt Heath hit the foot of a post. Leeds were finally rewarded when the lively Richard Cresswell broke down the left to square the ball to Robbie Blake to slide home at the far post to score his ninth goal of the season after fifty-two minutes. Prestonís David Nugent and substitute ex-Leeds player Michael Ricketts should have restored Prestonís lead but both missed gilt-edged chances. Right on the last minute Eddie Lewis sent over a deep cross and Preston left back Pavel Pergl should have cleared easily but he chose to chest it and David Healy bundled the ball into the net at the far post with his head. It may have been lucky but it had been a long time since United had had a fair rub of the green and it saw then get a deserved full points and their thirty-nine points was sufficient to lift them off the bottom and into twenty-third place with just six vital games left to go.

United were looking to complete a very rare double as Plymouth Argyle made the long trip north for Unitedís next home fixture with an understandably unchanged run on side but Alan Thompson took Robbie Elliottís place on the bench, but Plymouth probably spent most of the time on the long trip home wondering just how they had managed to leave empty-handed. United were far from the team that had performed so well in midweek in their fine victory over Preston North End and they had to be thankful to Lubomir Machalik for his first goal for the club in the eighty-seventh minute for achieving their first back-to-back win in thirteen months and taking them out of the bottom three after being there consistently since the game after they won at Plymouth at the end of November. Knowing that both Hull City and Southend United had both lost the day before had given United hope but it also made them edgy and it was no surprise when poor defending allowed Plymouth to take the lead. Sylvan Ebanks-Blake sent a ball over the top and it caught Frazer Richardson and Matt Heath out of position, allowing Peter Halmosi to race through and drill a shot under Casper Ankergren after thirty-six minutes. Only an outstanding tackle by Lubomir Michalik prevented Barry Hayles from adding a second before David Healy gave United a lifeline in the forty-fifth minute by scoring after Plymouth had failed to deal with a Radostin Kishishev free-kick. Argyle came back in the second half and dominated to such an extent that but for the excellence of Casper Ankergren they would have been two or three goals ahead. The Danish keeper ensured that the scores were level when Alan Thompson delivered a free-kick from the left flank three minutes from time and Michalik powered the ball into the net of the inside of the post to seal yet another late. Late show for United and elevate them to twenty-first place on forty-two points after forty-one games with visits to Colchester United, Southampton and Derby County as well as home games with Burnley and Ipswich Town still to come.

Rui Marques came in for the injured Frazer Richardson at right-back and Alan Thompson replaced Robbie Blake, who dropped to the bench, in midfield, while Tresor Kandol came in for the injured Richard Cresswell up front for the visit to Layer Road and Colchester United. Robbie Elliott and Hayden Foxe came onto the bench in place of Jermal Johnson and Rui Marques. Leeds wasted several good chances to take the lead as the first half ended goal-less. Jonathan Douglasí long range shot was well saved by Dean Gerken, Tresor Kandol blazed a close-range effort over the bar and David Healy shot high and wide when he was put through with only the goalkeeper to beat. Colchester too had their chances with Richard Garcia and Jamie Cureton going close. Garcia tested Ankergren with a twenty-yard shot after the break but it was Leeds that made the crucial break through in the fifty-third minute as Eddie Lewis took the ball down the left wing and after advancing to the edge of the box unleashed a left-foot shot which whistled past Dean Gerken and inside his left-hand post. Colchester were dealt a blow when Kevin Watson had to be replaced by Hogan Ephraim but went close as Chris Iwelumo headed Karl Duguidís cross the wrong side of the post. Hogan Ephraim and Johnnie Jackson both shot over from distance before Colchester got back on even terms when Chris Iwelumo launched himself at a Karl Duguid free-kick to head home from twelve yards with eight minutes to go. United then fatefully suffered the sort of fate that they had been giving their recent opponents as Jamie Cureton pounced to steer the ball home as Hogan Ephraim crossed from the left in injury time for a dramatic winner. United remained on forty-two points and dropped back into the relegation zone in twenty-second position with four games to go.

Frazer Richardson returned from injury at right back with Rui Marques dropping to the bench with Hayden Foxe dropping out, while Robbie Blake was into the starting eleven in place of the suspended Jonathan Douglas with Jemal Johnson coming on to the bench, while Richard Cresswell had recovered from injury and replaced Tresor Kandol as David Healyís strike partner and Armando Sa replaced Robbie Elliott on the bench for Unitedís penultimate match at Elland Road against Burnley. United came into the game having won their last three home games while Burnley too were in a run of form which saw them with a three match winning sequence, so something had to give. The Turf Moor side were never allowed to get in their stride by a Leeds team that was intent on atoning for their defeat at Colchester United on that Easter Monday. It was United that grabbed the only goal of the game in the twenty-first minute when former Burnley player, Robbie Blake, won a corner off Paul McVeigh and Alan Thompsonís flag kick to the far post was met by a Matt Heath header for his third goal of the season. United almost doubled their lead four minutes later when Frazer Richardson rattled the crossbar from thirty-yards. Leeds remained on the attack and it need Burnleyís keeper, Brian Jensen to pull off spectacular saves to keep out close range headers from Richard Cresswell and Matt Heath, while at the other end Casper Ankergren, after being redundant for most of the first half was called upon to save bravely at the feet of Wayne Thomas just before the interval. Burnley came more into the game after the interval but Matt Heath and Lubomir Michalik were solid at the heart of the Leeds defence as was Radostin Kishishev in front of them in midfield and the closest either team came to scoring was when Wayne Thomas almost conceded an own goal as he sought to keep a header from Eddie Lewis from reaching its target. United now had forty-five points from forty-three games but they were still in the relegation zone in twenty-second position marginally outside safety zone on goal difference.

Lubomir Michalik had returned to Bolton Wanderers and Rui Marques was called up from the bench to take his place leaving a vacancy there for Hayden Foxe. Likewise Robbie Elliott was brought in to replace the injured Michael Gray, in an otherwise unchanged run on side, with Tresor Kandol in place of Jemal Johnson. In such a vital match for United Alan Thompson did the team no favours for getting himself sent off after just thirty-four minutes after grabbing Kenwyne Jones by the throat not only did he leave United with ten men for neigh on an hour but he also effectively ruled himself out of the rest of the campaign by the expected resulting suspension. It was all Southampton and Kenwyne Jones headed against a post in first-half injury time and he, Grzegorz Rasiak and Andrew Surman all missed clear chances. In a bad tempered game United struggled to cope with the incessant wave of attacks and it was an accumulation of the pressure that caused them to finally concede with just six minutes to go just when it seemed as if they had weathered the storm and earned a vital point. Djamel Belmadi centred from the right and as Leeds failed to clear Bradley Wright-Phillips lashed it in off the underside of the bar. Despite being roared on by 3,500 travelling fans United failed to respond to their commitment and encouragement and it was as late as the sixty-first minute before they managed a shot on target as David Healy got in a snap shot which Bartosz Bialkowski easily gathered. The loss left United in a critical situation on forty-five points and in twenty-second spot and though mathematically possible, Hull Cityís better goal difference almost ensured that they were down barring a miracle with two games left to go.

Hayden Foxe came in for the injured Matt Heath and the return of Michael Gray saw Robbie Elliott drop to the bench in an otherwise unchanged team, with Jemal Johnson preferred to Armado Sa on the bench and 31,269 fans packed Elland Road for its final game of the season against Ipswich Town. Hope sprang eternal from the United faithful who could not quite believe the predicament the team were in at the end of a season which was a recurring bad dream and many refected on what could have been particularly in two of the last three games when late goals were conceded in the last ten minutes which had made the difference between survival and relegation. This game was no different in that aspect. United established an early lead thanks to Richard Cresswellís strike in the twelfth minute. Alan Thompsonís long pass opened up the visitorsí defence and David Healyís shot wa s parried by the Ipswich keeper, Shane Supple, in the six yard box and Cresswell launched himself into a diving header to put the ball in the net. It was a deserved lead and United were untroubled before half-time other than Casper Ankergren tipping over a shot from ex-United left-back Dan Harding. As news of Hull Cityís taking the lead at Cardiff filtered through United retreated furthe r and further into their shell and became trapped in their own half and riddled with tension. Ipswich threw on three substitutes to press home their advantage and United did not have the capabilities on the bench to counter them. However they could have put the game beyond Ipswichís grasp if Richard Cresswell had been more accurate with a header from six yards which went over the bar. The miss was costly as with two minutes remaining Ipswich forced a corner and Alan Lee lost his marker to glance a header into the far corner of the net to put the visitors on level terms. There were six additional minutes added and a group of misguided supporters emerged from the north-east corner of the ground and ran towards the Ipswich supporters at the opposite end of the ground. The initial invasion encouraged others on to the pitch and the referee called the players off and they all disappeared down the tunnel. Half an hour later the referee insisted on completing the remaining forty-five seconds being played out. It was a sad end to a sad season in which Leeds had paraded three Managers and over forty players and more off-field problems than any club could bear. The final 1-1 draw with Ipswich might have been the finishing blow but the damage was done weeks and months previous and Unitedís tally of twenty-five defeats was always going to drag then down, despite an improvement towards the end of the season.

For their final game at almost-promoted Derby County United gave a chance to several youngsters with Robert Bayly coming into the midfield to replace the departed loanee Radostin Kishishev and Tom Elliott, Jonathan Howson and debutant Fabian Delph coming on to the bench. Robbie Elliott replaced Frazer Richardson in defence and Sebastien Carole replaced Eddie Lewis in midfield while Jemal Johnson was given a run in the forwards in place of David Healey. The club management had accepted the fact that club was relegated and put the club into administration, thereby incurring a ten point deduction which had little effect as they were assured of relegation even without that penalty. It was reasoned that better to clear the financial burdens now than incur a further penalty if done at a future time. As it turned out, that logic was just as poorly conceived as most of the other decisions made by the club management and future events were to prove to have far reaching effects and ramifications which impeded progress just one year later. The game was the final nail in the coffin and the club sank to its worst position ever position in the League and left the second tier of the Football League for the first time in the clubs existence and not with a bang but the faintest of whimpers. As for the game it was held up for ten minutes after ex-Leeds midfielder collided with the referee causing a back injury and resulting in him being stretchered off after less than five minutes. As a result the first half ran for fifty-eight minutes and there was barely time for Darren Currie to give Derby the lead before the teams trooped of after almost an hours play. Unitedís youngsters showed a commitment with the over-enthusiastic Robert Bayly getting a red card after seventy-two minutes after showing up well and second half substitute Fabian Delph showed a cultured left foot but Tom Elliott and Jonathan Howson made little impression. Bayly got carried away with his enthusiasm and flattened Craig Fagan with a wild challenge on the halfway-line. Faganís reaction drew an attempt at a headbutt by Bayly, which though no more than a missed flick was sufficient for the reserve referee to fumble in his top pocket for the red card. The game was thoroughly forgettable, with the exception of Paul Peschisolido hitting the post in the first half, with both sides having little to offer and Unitedís efforts were restricted to a couple of blocked shots and a typical Alan Thompson free-kick two minutes after half-time which the alert Stephen Bywater tipped over without much distress. After Bayly was dismissed Jon Macken rattled the United bar with a header before defender Tyrone Mears squeezed a second goal under the body of Casper Ankergren with just four minutes left on the clock. Unitedís plight was not made easier by an injury to Hayden Foxe which resulted in Richard Cresswell having to play in central defence as United had no defender on the bench. This situation said much for the lack of planning or even the ability to put plans in place for normal eventualities let alone extra-ordinary ones. It was hard to pick any players who were likely to form any backbone to the team for their future even in the third tier and one could only see a new broom sweeping most of the underachieving failures away from the Elland Road scene with many hoping that it would start at the very top. The truth of the matter was that the long-suffering fans, who paid their high season-ticket fees and many who travelled in large numbers to away fixtures deserved better than this. When looking for causes or culprits of the clubís abysmal decline to the nadir of their existence, the queue was endless, from Peter Ridsdale to Ken Bates and all the players and Managers who served them. Could it get worse?

2007-2008: Season Statistics: Games, Results, Appearances, Goalscorers
Football League Tables for the Season

Could it get worse? In a word, Yes. Due to the financial irregularities and typical Bates behaviour, the very existence of the club dangled on a thread until the FA imposed a fifteen point penalty on the club before allowing it to keep its golden share and membership of the Football League. Apart from its very existence being threatened and fifteen points deducted before a ball was kicked in the new season, they were also hamstrung from buying or selling players in the period and as the pre-season games got underway the playing staff comprised triallists, Juniors and a smattering of contracted players. They went across the sea to Ireland to Dublin to take on Shelbourne and had the intention of playing a different eleven in each half to give each player a chance. In the first half they lined up: Gay; Bayly, Marques, Coughlan, Lewis; Carole, Fry, Howson, Westlake; Blake, Elliott. While the second half featured: Gay; Richardson, Heath, Douglas, Boertein; Mullan, Thompson, Prutton, Delph; Constantine, Kandol. Being the only keeper available ex-Norwich City and Southend United keeper Danny Gay played the entire game in goal. Former Sheffield Wednesday skipper Graham Coughlan was at the heart of the defence and Hull City reject Russell Fry was in midfield. The rest of the team were more familiar faces with young Tom Elliott partnering Robbie Blake up front. Blake was soon in the action and clipped the top of the bar from a free-kick, which was won after he had been fouled. At the other end Robert Bayly reacted quickly to thwart a Shelbourne attack. Elliott and Blake combined well and almost made a chance for Ian Westlake, before Elliott made good ground only to see his cross hacked to safety by a Shelbourne defender. United enjoyed all the early pressure and Sebastien Carole rattled the bar after sixteen minutes. United finally took a deserved lead on the half-hour mark as Robbie Blake scored with a free-kick from the edge of the box. Three minutes later Blake found Elliott unmarked at the far post but the denied the young striker, who moments later headed over the bar. The second half saw a major reshuffle and new faces given an opportunity were former Derby County left back Paul Boertein, young ex-Manchester United winger Jamie Mullan, former Sothampton midfielder David Prutton and Ex Port Vale striker Leon Constantine. United won an early corner after Fabian Delph, Alan Thompson and David Prutton had combined well. Alan Thompson anchored the midfield, while Jonathan Douglas marshalled the defence in an unaccustomed role of central defender. Danny Gay had a relatively trouble free evening and it was midway through the second half before he was called upon to make a save from Anthony Flood. In the seventy-second minute he was forced into another save this time from Marc McCullogh but four minutes later United increased their lead, when Matt Heath headed down an Alan Thompson free-kick for David Prutton to score from close range. With four minutes to go Leon Constantine almost made it a scoring debut with a strong shot but the keeper touched it round for a corner, but all-in-all it was an impressive start by United.

Dennis Wise gave another twenty-two players forty-five minutes each at Kit Kat Crescent against York City. In the first half he chose: Gay; Richardson, Marques, Parker, Weston; Bayly, Douglas, Howson, Westlake; Constantine, Elliott. The second half featured: Hammann; Fry Madden Heath, Lewis; Carole, Prutton, Thompson, Delph; Beckford, Kandol. Young Ben Parker was given his first run of the season in defence and ex-Millwall and Swindon Town triallist Curtis Watson got his first start. Unitedís first chance came in the fifteenth minute when Curtis Weston played in Leon Constantine only for the striker to be denied by an offside flag. United did create a couple of chances which came to nothing but their best chance fell to Tom Elliott after Ian Westlake had made good ground down the left and crossed to the unmarked Elliott but his effort was deflected for a corner by York defender David McGurk. There was a first game of the season for Jermaine Beckford, young defender Simon Madden and German triallist goalkeeper Nick Hammann in the second half and the keeper was soon called upon to make two good saves early on. Beckford should have put Leeds in front after seventy-four minutes but shot wide but later after being put through by Russell Fry he tested the York City goalkeeper with a strong low shot but the deadlock remained unbroken at 0-0.

With several players now officially having left Elland Road, including David Healy and Robbie Blake, United were still without a recognised keeper and they took Scott Loach on trial from Watford on their German tour with Nick Hamann the alternate choice. For the first game against Union Berlin United seemed to have stuck with the tried and true of the remnants of the 2006-07 squad together with youngsters such as Ben Parker, Tom Elliott and Fabian Delph and triallists like the keepers, David Prutton, Curtis Weston and Leon Constantine. The starting eleven was: Loach; Richardson, Marques, Heath, Parker; Douglas Prutton, Thompson, Lewis; Kandol, Beckford. The game started at a quick pace and United won their first corner after eight minutes, but Scott Loach was soon in action tipping the ball round the post and then making a good low block. United replied strongly with Jermaine Beckford creating a chance for himself but then he shot wide. Both teams showed good form and created good openings from midfield with David Prutton feeding Tresor Kandol but Christian Stuff averted the danger. On the half hour Alan Thompson went close when he forced keeper Jan Glinker to parry and Eddie Lewis just couldnít quite finish the rebound. At the other end Scott Loach made a fine save to deny Tom Martins after Berlin had opened up the United defence and moments later he again pulled of another great save from Nico Patschinski who got in an angled shot from the left. However Loach was beaten five minutes before the break when Marco Gebhart lifted the ball over the advancing keeper. Nick Hamann replaced Scott Loach at half-time and United started the second half brightly and Jermaine Beckford and Tresor Kandol linked up well before Kandol sent an overhead kick narrowly over the bar and United began to look more assured. There was a trple substitution just before the hour mark with Curtis Weston, Sebastien Carole and Leon Constantine coming on for Alan Thompson, Eddie Lewis and Tresor Kandol. Leon Constantine immediately struck up an understanding with Jermaine Beckford as the substitute made his mark with a shot that was blocked by a Berlin defender. Tom Elliott replaced Jermaine Beckford after seventy-one minutes and he had not been on the field for five minutes when he found his name in the refereeís notebook following a clash with Alexej Spasskov, who had made an aggressive challenge on him. United pressed for an equaliser without success and it was Berlin who rallied in the closing stagesand went 2-0 up six minutes from time when Nico Patchinski rounded off a good move by sweeping the ball into the United net beyond the reach of Nick Hamann, but United were not giving up the ghost and Sebastien Carole almost pulled one back in the final minute with a superb strike from distance.

Unitedís next port of call was supposed to be at Dynamo Dresden, but the game was cancelled amid fears of crowd trouble and Liberec the fourth best team in the Czech Republic played hosts to United in a hastily arranged fixture. United gave several players who had not played in Berlin valuable playing time as the team started with Hamann; Bayly, Heath, Akloul, Lewis; Carole, Weston, Howson, Westlake; Constantine, Beckford. Marques, Loach, Parker, Richardson, Elliott, Kandol and Delph were on the bench. United gave a trial to French defender Maloud Akloul and were lacking bite in midfield without the likes of Alan Thompson, Jonathan Douglas, David Prutton and Shaun Derry, so it came as little surprise that they did not have much to offer other than a wall of ten defenders. Liberac produced the only goal of the game after sixty-nine minutes with a sweeping attack that was finished off by Filip Dort and they gave the visiting defence a thorough workout but Leeds were not found wanting at a competitive level. The Liberac coach was pleased with the Leeds performance and rated them slightly above several clubs in the Czech League, and their attitude gave his team a taste of things to come in their own League where the better sides are frustrated by lesser sides adopting negative tactics and playing without ambition. United were organised and compact but never looked dangerous, despite a height advantage up front United could not take advantage but Jermaine Beckford did get in a clever chip across the goal which beat the Czech keeper and sailed narrowly over and that was as close as United got although Tresor Kandol failed to take advantage of two good chances in the second half.

The third and final game of the tour was against FC Energie Cuttbus from the Bundesliga and United lined up: Loach; Richardson, Heath, Marques, Lewis; Douglas, Thompson, Prutton, Westlake; Beckford, Kandol. Jonathan Howson, Sebastien Carole and Curtis Weston came on for Alan Thompson, David Prutton and Ian Westlake after seventy-three minutes while Elliott, Hamann, Parker, Bayly, Akloul and Delph remained unused on the bench. The game was ruined as a spectacle when the referee reduced United to nine men by dismissing Jonathan Douglas and Jermaine Beckford within two minutes of each other starting in the sixty-fourth minute. Leeds were 2-1 down and giving Cottbus a testing time when Beckfordís sending off brought the match to a standstill with twenty-four minutes left and after much posturing by the referee, players and officials the game finally restarted and was played to an unconvincing end with neither team seeming very interested in the pointless exercise. Cottbus had started the game at a quick pace and were by far the best of the three teams United had played on the tour and they struck fifteen minutes into the game when Stathis Aloneftis scored with a fine shot which left Scott Loach groping after Ervin Skela had opened Leeds up with a precise cross-field ball and it was he that increased the home teamís lead three minutes later with a curling free-kick from the edge of the box and United were in danger of a humiliating defeat. However they survived until half-time without conceding further and soon after the break Tresor Kandol reduced the arrears and brought United back into the game when he managed to stay on-side and collected an Alan Thompson through-ball to slip the ball past the advancing keeper. Then came the bust-up, when a foul by Francis Kioyo on Rui Marques saw a barrage of comments from Jonathan Douglas to the referee and the referee immediately showed him a red-card. Douglas left the field quickly but the tension simmered and Jermaine Beckford was soon walking down the tunnel after questioning another refereeís decision. Dennis Wise summoned the players to the touch-line but then the game resumed after a short discussion between the United Manager and the squad. Soon after Gus Poyet was order from the dug-out for remarks to the referee and Jonathan Douglas who came back to watch the game from the touchline was order down the tunnel in a pantomime performance by the referee.

The next pre-season match involved a trip to Turf Moor to take on CCCL team Burnley and the United line-up was now becoming more predictable as Dennis Wise got closer to his likely team and despite not being able to complete any transfer transactions due to the administration situation and some players being still on trial they lined up: Loach; Richardson, Heath, Marques, Lewis; Douglas, Prutton, Thompson, Westlake; Kandol, Beckford. Eddie Lewis took a knock and was replaced by Ben Parker after thirty-two minutes while Fabian Delph was given a run after fifty-seven minutes in place of Ian Westlake. There was a triple substitution on sixty-nine minutes as Jonathan Douglas, David Prutton and Alan Thompson made way for Jonathan Howson, Curtis Weston and Sebastien Carole, the final change saw Robert Bayly replace Frazer Richardson after seventy-six minutes with Richard Cresswell, Nick Hamann and Tom Elliott remaining unused on the bench. Jermaine Beckford, who was probably the pick of the United players, and Tresor Kandol were the two main offenders as United missed too many chances and ex-United winger Andy Gray, son of Frank Gray, and Ade Akinbiyi showed them how to finish clinically to give Burnley a 2-0 victory. Kyle Lafferty warmed Scott Loachís palms as the keeper saved his early twenty-five yard shot at the second attempt. United responded with an acrobatic overhead kick from Jermaine Beckford and then Tresor Kandol wasted an easy chance as he shot wide. A handball by Matt Heath saw Andy Gray open the scoring from the spot after just fifteen minutes. United replied with a twenty-five yard shot from David Prutton and a Alan Thompson chip but failed to trouble the keeper. United were nearly two down when ex-Leeds loanee Steve Caldwell had a clear header at goal but Scott Loach was equal to the task. In the second half Akinbiya missed and easy chance and not to be outdone Tresor Kandol missed two at the other end, but eight minutes into the half Ade Akinbiya atoned to put Burnley two up and only a vital tackle from Matt Heath stopped Andy Gray from making it three. However United were unable to get back into the game despite an improved performance from their German/Czech games.

United fielded just five signed on players for the visit to Darlington, Jonathan Howson, Jermaine Beckford, Tresor Kandol, Sebastien Carole and Scott Gardner, while Ben Parker had been offered a deal. Scott Loach, Matt Heath, Alan Thompson, Curtis Weston and Rui Marques were all trying to impress the Manager and gain a contract, while Eddie Lewis, Frazer Richardson, triallist Leon Constantine were injured and Hull-bound Richard Cresswell were not included and Jonathan Douglas and David Prutton were omitted as they would be suspended for the opening League fixture. The line-up was: Loach; Gardner, Marques, Heath, Parker; Howson, Thompson, Weston, Carole; Kandol, Beckford. Fabian Delph came on for Alan Thompson after seventy-nine minutes and Robert Bayly replaced Sebastien Carole after eighty-three minutes, while Tom Elliott, Nick Hamann and youngster Simon Madden remained unused on the bench. Captain Alan Thompson was the standout performer for United and Jonathan Howson also caught the eye and laid on the United winner while Tresor Kandol was an aerial threat and Jermaine Beckford was a constant threat. Scott Loach was never really threatened but only because Darlington failed to capitalise on several chances they were offered. United created few chances themselves, the first coming as early as the eighth minute when tresor Kandol headed Alan Thompsonís free-kick over goalkeeper Andy Oakes but Tim Ryan did well to get back and hook it clear. Matt Heath headed across the goal from the resulting corner and towards half time Ryan again hooked the ball out from a Tresor Kandol header while Steve Foster blocked a Jonathan Howson shot in the second half. For Darlington Tommy Wright missed three chances in three minutes and it would not have been a surprise if they had gone in at half-time two goals to the good. Leeds old boy Julian Joachim had an effort kicked away by Ben Parker and soon after came to Unitedís aid as he disposed Tommy Wright in the act of scoring and then Scott Loach saved smartly from Julian Joachim and Tommy Wright in quick succession. United finally scored in the sixty-seventh minute when Jonathan Howson broke through the middle and threaded a pass past two defenders and Jermaine Beckford finished coolly.

United played host to EPL side Wigan Athletic for their final pre-season game at Elland Road. They lined up: Loach; Gardner, Parker, Marques, Lewis; Prutton, Douglas, Thompson, Westlake; Kandol, Beckford. David Prutton, Jonathan Douglas, Alan Thompson, Ian Westlake and Tresor Kandol were replaced in the seventy-fifth minute by Robert Bayly, Curtis Weston, Jonathan Howson, Sebastien Carole and Tom Elliott, while a triallist, L. Coritzo, and Fabian Delph were unused on the bench. Jason Koumas put the visitors ahead one minute before the interval and this was equalised by Jermaine Beckford just ten minutes into the second half but another Koumas goal on sixty-nine minutes sealed the victory, but Leeds could be well pleased with their performance and the way they coped with the EPL club who had invested heavily in in new players during the summer break. On the financial front, United had received back their Ďgolden shareí on the Friday evening at the cost of a fifteen point penalty deduction for the 2007-08 season after the Football League deemed that United had failed to come out administration via a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA), but the administrators had left and United, as Leeds United 2007 Ltd, were Football League members. The crippling points imposition, while it had a motivating effect in the short term, proved too much for United in their fight for instant promotion at the end of the season.

United were looking to get off to a good start to the season and maintain their imposing record of never having lost the opening fixture of the season since a 5-2 reversal to Newcastle United at St Jamesí Park in their Second Division promotion year of 1989-90. They had quickly signed Casper Ankergren and Tore Andre Flo as well as Rui Marques, Matt Heath and Andrew (Andy) Hughes who had been signed just forty-eight hours previous after being freed by Norwich City and they were all in the line-up but freshly-signed David Prutton and Jonathan Douglas were absent due to suspension. The team for their initial game of the season was: Casper Ankergren; Frazer Richardson, Rui Marques, Matt Heath, Eddie Lewis; Curtis Weston, Alan Thompson, Ian Westlake, Andy Hughes; Jermaine Beckford, Tresor Kandol. The bench was comprised of Tore Andre Flo, Jonathan Howson, Sebastien Carole, Ben Parker and Tom Elliott. There was a former United Junior in the opposition, Shane Cansdell-Sherriff, the Australia who United had released to Aarhus in Denmark and he had returned to England and settled into the Tranmere defence under his new name of Shane Sherriff. There were debuts for Andy Hughes and Curtis Weston as United were greeted onto the pitch by over two thousand of their travelling faithful but it was Tranmere who had the first shot with Calvin Zola way off target from distance. Unitedís first chance came after eight minutes as Tresor Kandol arrived at the far post to an Alan Thompson corner but headed wide. The game carried on at a fast pace with both sides looking threatening and Casper Ankergren made a fine save before Tranmere took the lead after twenty-one minutes with a fine header from Chris Greenacre. Jermaine Beckford shot wide in response and was impeded as he tried to force his way through into the box in the second half. Alan Thompsonís free-kick was deflected for a corner and United applied the pressure and the goal came when Matt Heath rose high at the far post from a superb Alan Thompson free-kick after fifty-five minutes. Tempers rose in the seventy-third minute and two players from either side were booked after a melee involving Tresor Kandol and Jermaine Beckford of Leeds and Ian Goodison and Ben Chorley of Tranmere. Three minutes later Dennis Wise withdrew Curtis Weston and brought on Tore Andre Flo in an attacking move and soon the Tranmere keeper Danny Coyne was making a save from a Tesor Kandol header. With three minutes remaining Tranmere had a chance to take the lead but Steve Davies sent a free-kick over the bar and it was United who took the points with just ninety seconds to go as Tresor Kandol got on the end of an Andy Hughes cross to bundle the ball into the net from close range. The fourth official indicated there were five extra minutes but it was Leeds who again had the ball in the net in the time added on, but Jermaine Beckfordís celebrations were cut short by an offside flag.

United showed several changes for their First Round Carling League Cup tie at League Two club Macclesfield Town. United gave youth a chance and rested several regulars with the heavy fixture list in mind. United gave debuts to Scott Gardner, who came in at right back for Frazer Richardson, and Ben Parker, who came into central defence as Rui Marques dropped to the bench. David Prutton and Jonathan Douglas returned to midfield after suspension and Sebastien Carole and Jonathan Howson were also included with Curtis Weston and Ian Westlake dropping to the bench and Andy Hughes and Alan Thompson being rested, while up front Tom Elliott replaced Jermaine Beckford who was also on the bench. Fabian Delph replaced Tore Andre Flo on the bench. Macclesfield created the better chances in the first half but were thwarted by an outstanding display by Casper Ankergren. He made a stunning full length save as early as fifteen seconds into the game to save from Michael Husbands. It was United who were first to get the ball in the net but Tresor Kandol was yards offside. Macclesfield went close after twenty-five minutes as Adam Murray clipped the top of the bar will a volley from distance but their best effort came just before the break as Danny Thomas was thwarted by another brilliant Casper Ankergren save. After the half time break United replaced Sebastien Carole and Tom Elliott by Ian Westlake and Jermaine Beckford and it was the latter who forced a fine reaction save from Tommy Lee after fifty-five minutes. Danny Thomas again went close for Macclesfield before United won the game with a quality move in the seventy-ninth minute. David Prutton picked out Ian Westlake who drilled home a ten yard volley inside the near post with deadly accuracy and United were through to Round Two.

For their second game of the season and their first at Elland Road, against Southend United, Leeds had lost Eddie Lewis, who was in the throes of being transferred to Derby County, which saw Andy Hughes revert to Left-back from midfield, where Jonathan Douglas and David Prutton were now available and Curtis Weston dropped to the bench in place of Tom Elliott in an otherwise unchanged team from the game at Tranmere and on paper it was probably Unitedís strongest team available. The game was delayed by fifteen minutes due to crowd congestion outside the ground. The delay made little difference to United as they took the lead after just three minutes when Jermaine Beckford was upended just outside the box and a trademark Alan Thompson free-kick gave Darryl Flahavan, the Southend goalkeeper, no chance from the set-piece. Southend came close to equalising after fourteen minutes as Alan McCormackís powerful shot cannoned off the woodwork, but Darryl Flahavan had to be alert to beat Jermaine Beckford to a Tresor Kandol flick-on and Kandol should have made it 2-0 on the half-hour mark but his shot was wide. Moments later David Prutton fed Jermaine Beckford and Kerrea Gilbert had to be quick to deny Ian Westlake. Just on half-time Darryl Flahavan made a fine save from Jonathan Douglasí far post header to stop United doubling their lead. Ian Westlake retired injured two minutes before half-time and Sebastien Carole came on in his place. Both sides had their chances early in the second half with Casper Ankergren called upon to twice come to Unitedís rescue while Tresor Kandol saw a header go wide and Alan Thompson tested Darryl Flahavan with a free-kick, and the keeper was again tested by Sebastien Carole on sixty-five minutes. After Seventy minutes Southend drew level after Casper Ankergren had made a good save from Lee Bradbury, Adam Barrett converted from close range. Two minutes later United lost their second player to injury as Andy Hughes limped off to be replaced by Ben Parker, who made his League debut. United pressed for a winner and Jonathan Douglas went close from a corner while Tresor Kandol appeared to be denied by a hand as he headed from close range. Tore Andre Flo came on for David Prutton with just ten minutes to go and it soon paid dividends as the big Norwegian converted a Sebastien Carole cross to put United 2-1 up with four minutes to go. Moments later it was all over as Rui Marques scored his first goal for the club with a backheader from a Sebastien Carole corner and then deep into stoppage time Jermaine Beckford rounded off a memorable afternoon as he fastened on to a long through ball to score with ease to give United a second maximum points and leave just nine more to be wiped out before the slate was clean.

Unitedís third League encounter involved a tricky visit to expected front-runners Nottingham Forest at the City Ground. Jamie Clapham had been loaned from Wolverhampton Wanderers and he went straight into the team at left-back for the injured Andy Hughes, while Sebastien Carole came into midfield for the injured Ian Westlake and his place on the bench was taken by Robert Bayly where Scott Gardner replaced Curtis Weston. There was a lively start to proceedings and Forest had a couple of chances through Kris Commons but Matt Heath and Casper Ankergren made sure they came to nothing. After soaking up the early pressure United countered and went ahead after seventeen minutes as Jermaine Beckford served his strike partner with a fine pass and Tresor Kandol delivered a low drive to beat the keeper and sent the three thousand travelling faithful into raptures. David Prutton had a header from a precise Alan Thompson corner pushed over the bar just before the interval and a flurry of corners saw United with the upper hand at the break. Within four minutes of the restart the scores were level as a Kris Commons free-kick took a wicked deflection to leave Casper Ankergren with no chance. The goal gave Forest added confidence and only a superb tackle by Matt Heath after fifty-four minutes denied Junior Agogo from making it 2-1. Jermaine Beckford threatened the Forest defence but Rui Marques got in a fine block to stop Kris Commons at the other end. On the hour Dennis Wise made an attacking move by bringing on Tore Andre Flo for David Prutton but the action was still at the United end with Rui Marques getting in another block and Frazer Richardson heading the ball to safety. The Forest substitute wasted a good chance with three minutes to go when he shot wide from close range and Forest were made to pay as Sebastien Carole weaved his way down the left and Jermaine Beckford was at the back post to rifle the ball home for the winner right on time, to make it three out of three for United and reduce the deficit to just six points.

United came up against EPL side Portsmouth in the Carling League Cup Second Round Tie at Fratton Park and Denis Wise took the opportunity to rest a couple of his regulars. Tomi Ameobi was given a run-on debut upfront as Jermaine Beckford was rested to the bench and Tore Andre Flo was given a rest from bench duties. Jamie Clapham was cup-tied and Ben Parker took his place with Fabian Delph coming on to the bench. Alan Thompson was rested and Jonathan Howson was elevated from the bench where United only chose four substitutes. Sebastien Carole got in the first shot of the match from distance in the third minute but Niko Krancjar appeared to have hit the stantion of the net just four minutes later but no goal was given, but in a lively opening Tresor Kandol created a great chance in the eleventh minute but was denied by Jamie Ashdown, the Pompey keeper. United enjoyed a good spell of pressure with Tomi Ameobi and Tresor Kandol combining well and Sebastien Carole, Jonathan Howson and Jonathan Douglas to the fore in midfield, so much so that on twenty minutes Kandol was marginally wide and moments later had a goal disallowed for offside.On twenty-seven minutes he headed down for David Prutton who only just failed to get the ball in the net. If United had scored it would have been just reward for their performance in the first half-hour. It took the home side until the thirty-fifth minute to create another chance when Casper Ankergren saved a close range effort from David Nugent, but just before the interval Portsmouth took an ill-deserved lead when Pedro Mendes shot low from the edge of the box and Noa Pamarot deflected it past a wrong-footed keeper. Jermaine Beckford replaced Tresor Kandol after the break and he soon tested the Portsmouth keeper and United were also unlucky not to get a penalty as Matt Heath was brought down in the area by Djimi Traore. United were if anything the better side and probed for an equaliser but it was Portsmouth that almost extended their lead with twelve minutes to go when Casper Ankergren palmed over a long ranged shot from Pedro Mendes and David Nugent headed wide soon after when well placed. Noa Pamarot scored from a Gary OíNeil corner after eighty-one minutes and if 2-0 was harsh then 3-0 was a total travesty as David Nugent slid the ball home at the far post. But even then United kept going until the end as both Sebastien Carole and Tomi Ameobi had shots blocked in the final moments. United were beaten but certainly not disgraced and the score did not portray the closeness of the game.

Andy Hughes was fit again and took the place of Ben Parker, who dropped to the bench, at left back, while Alan Thompson was restored to midfield after the rest to force Jonathan Howson to the bench. Jermaine Beckford replaced Tomi Ameobi up front the latter had done enough to earn himself a place as substitute. New boy Alan Martin was Casper Ankergrenís deputy on the bench along with Jamie Clapham with Scott Gardner, Fabian Delph and Robert Bayly dropping out ofthe squad, as United welcomed Kevin Blackwellís Luton Town to Elland Road for their second home game of the season. Ex-United man Matthew Spring was in the Luton line-up and Ex-Coach/Manager John Carver was in the dug-out, as United quickly got into stride and were unfortunate not to get a penalty in the seventh minute as Tresor Kandol was clipped by Chris Coyne a yard inside of the box but the referee gave the visitors the benefit of the doubt. Alan Thompson mishit his shot when well-placed but Casper Ankergren was lucky not to concede a goal when he dropped a cross and the Luton forwards failed to capitalise on his error. It appeared to be infectious as at the other end Jermaine Beckford missed a sitter. But with United the better team, they hit the front a minute before half-time when a fine cross from Sebastien Carole was expertly turned past the Luton keeper David Forde by ex-Luton man Tresor Kandol. He almost scored again as he hit the side-netting ten minutes into the second half after Paul Furlong had had a goal disallowed for pushing just two minutes earlier. In a close fought game United hung on to take the points and kept their 100% record with their fourth consecutive League victory and reduced the points deficit to just three points. In an incident on the touchline after the final whistle there appeared to be a clash between the rival coaching staffs.

Hartlepool United were Unitedís fifth opponents as United entertained them at Elland Road and they included former Leeds players Robbie Elliott and Ian Moore who both featured for United in their relegation year and were released at the end of it. With Jonathan Douglas away on International duty with the Republic of Ireland and Alan Thompson out with a groin strain United had to reorganise their midfield and moved Andy Hughes up from Left Back, with Jamie Clapham coming in to replace him in the defence and Robert Bayly coming on to the bench, while Jonathan Howson was in for Alan Thompson and Ian Westlake took his place on to the bench. Paul Huntington, a central defender, who had just been signed from Newcastle United was preferred to Alan Martin on the bench. Hartlepool, like United had made a good start to the season and had the first chance to get on the scoresheet but James Brown put the ball over the top. Unitedís first chance took ten minutes to arrive as Sebastien Carole also fired over after Frazer Richardsonís cross had been headed down to him by Jermaine Beckford. United soon got on top and Tresor Kandol gave them the lead after eighteen minutes with his fourth goal of the season as he headed in at the far post after good work from Jonathan Howson had let Frazer Richardson get in a telling cross. The two keeper were in action in quick succession as Jan Budtz saved Sebastien Caroleís low drive and Casper Ankergren somehow kept out a Richie Barker header from point-blank range. The Dane was in action again minutes later as he saved from Godwin Antwi and from the resulting corner Ian Moore hooked the ball high over the bar, but United went into the break looking in control of the game. It only took them three minutes in the second half before they doubled their lead with a stunning goal from Jermaine Beckford who received a through ball from Sebastien Carole and delivered a delicate chip which gave Jan Budtz no chance. Hartlepool did rattle the bar with a shot from Richie Barker and James Brown headed wide but United were good value for their two goal lead and kept their record intact with a fifth consecutive win and the slate had been wiped clean as United had got off to their best start since the triumphant year of 1973, but while United were bottom they were in touch with Walsall and if results fell the right way they had the encouragement of knowing they could be off the bottom after the next game.

Jonathan Douglas was back from International duty and replaced Jonathan Howson, who dropped to the bench, where there was a place for new goalkeeper David Lucas and a return for Tore Andre Flo as Robert Bayly, Ben Parker and Tomi Ameobi dropped from the squad for the Friday night visit to Bristol Rovers. United attracted the biggest crowd ever for the Pirates since they had moved to the Memorial Stadium with an estimated twelve hundred having made the long trip from Leeds in the 11,883 spectators. It took United just nine minutes to take the lead as Jermaine Beckford latched on to a Sebastien Carole cross to clip the ball past keeper Steve Phillips with ease. It should have been the start of a convincing win but the home team almost matched them for possession in the first half and United had to withstand concerted pressure in the second stanza. Bristol centre back Steve Elliott was often beating Jermaine Beckford and Tresor Kandol in the aerial battles and at the other end Rovers forced four corners which produced three good headers from Andy Williams, Byron Anthony and Craig Disley. And United were almost in trouble as Casper Ankergren appeared to handle a lofted back-pass from Jamie Clapham. Bristolís best chance fell to life-long Leeds fan Lewis Haldane but he was overawed and missed the ball completely. Tresor Kandol was no so forgiving as he doubled Unitedís lead with thirteen minutes left on the clock after hard chasing by David Prutton had created the chance for him to hammer home his fifth goal of the season. Jermaine Beckford got his second for the game with a spectacular overhead kick and though the final scoreline flattered them they were good value for their win and made it six out of six and moved off the bottom rung of Division One with three points to show from their eighteen they had merited.

It was thought that United would get a stern test from Swansea City who had won their last two games but came to Elland Road with History stacked strongly against them as they had not won there in fifty-eight years. United were unchanged in their run-on team but Alan Martin and Ben Parker were on the bench for David Lucas and Jonathan Howson. Leeds put Swansea under constant pressure from the kick-off and nearly took the lead after twenty minutes, as Rui Marques got in a goal-bound header from Jamie Claphamís corner but Dorus de Vries pulled off an excellent diving save. David Prutton made a glorious solo run through the Swansea defence but missed his kick at the vital moment when deep into the Swansea area and then Tresor Kandol hit the outside of the post. The Leeds defence gave the Swansea forwards no room or opportunity but they hung onto level terms at the break more by good luck than good play. United were soon back and Jermaine Beckford forced a finger-tip save from the Swansea keeper just two minutes into the second half but then came the goals which Leeds richly deserved. After sixty-two minutes Jermaine Beckford got his sixth goal of the season when he turned Sebastien Caroleís cunning free-kick past De Vries and just five minutes later David Prutton got his first goal for the club when he beat the keeper with a stunning twenty-five yard drive to add respectability to the score-line which was just what United deserved. Swansea did make an attempt to remedy the situation but Ex-United Junior Warren Feeney was denied by a Casper Ankergren block. United claimed their seventh win in seven games, which equalled the club record, and moved up to eighteenth place and the conversations were now about promotion rather than relegation which had seemed a strong likelihood when the fifteen point deduction was imposed.

United went in search of a club record of eight consecutive wins when they visited Gillinghamís Priestfield Stadium with an unchanged starting line-up. But David Lucas, Alan Thompson and Curtis Weston replaced Alan Martin, Ben Parker and Tore Andre Flo on the bench. United almost made the perfect start as Tresor Kandol was denied by Simon Royce after just five minutes and the home side responded when a David Graham shot was stopped by Matt Heath five minutes later. On fifteen minutes United had the ball in the net as Jermaine Beckford confidently stroked in a Tresor Kandol knock-down only to be thwarted by an off-side flag.The action swung to the other end and Casper Ankergren pulled off two fine saves from David Graham and Adam Nowland. Andy Hughes and Tresor Kandol found their names in the refereeís notebook and Frazer Richardson also got a lecture for arguing with the referee and his reluctance to award free-kicks to Leeds, but when they finally did receive a free-kick for a foul on David Prutton, Jonathan Douglas whipped it in and Matt Heath rose at the far post to head it back and Sebastien Carole was there to head United into the lead after twenty-eight minutes with his first goal for the club. Tresor Kandol will need to learn not to bait the referee and he got himself a red card for sarcastically clapping the referee for awarding Leeds a free-kick and United were down to ten men and fifty minutes of the match still remaining. The ten men started the second half brightly and forced a couple of corners and penned the home team in their own half. Beckford was booked for chipping the keeper after being blown up for offside and, after he was flattened by Efe Sodje not for the first time in the game, an act that went unpunished other than the award of a free-kick, the striker was shown red by the referee after a challenge on Sean Clohessy and United were down to nine men after fifty-seven minutes. Dennis Wise immediately took off Jamie Clapham and the already booked Andy Hughes for Paul Huntington and Ian Westlake but the yellow cards flowed unabated as Jonathan Douglas was the next to be booked in the sixty-fifth minute. Casper Ankergren for reasons known only to the referee was the next to see yellow after sixty-eight minutes and the game became a farce. Gillingham now tried to make their numerical superiority count but the closest they got was Andrew Crofts heading wide from a corner as United pulled men back and showed great determination. With ten minutes left Ian Cox blazed high wide and handsome from close range and substitute Chris Dickson headed over as the clock wound down and it looked as though United had defied the odds. Casper Ankergren got down well to save from David Graham at the expense of a corner but right on time the flag-kick produced the equaliser as Ian Cox headed powerfully into the net. It was a poor result when assessing the ineptitude of the opposition who seemed relegation bound but alternately it could be counted as a point gained against the odds but the ramifications were more far reaching depending on the length of the suspensions meted out to the United twin strike-force.

An evening midweek fixture with Oldham Athletic at Boundary Park was the next United fixture and Dennis Wise gave debuts to loan signings Mark De Vries and Wayne Andrews in place of the suspended Jermaine Beckford and Tresor Kandol. Andy Hughes made way for Alan Thompson in midfield and he dropped back to left back forcing Jamie Clapham to the bench, where Tomi Ameobe was preferred to David Lucas. There was also plenty of Leeds influence in the Oldham team with John Sheridan as Manager and Sean Gregan in defence and Michael Ricketts in attack while Andy Liddellís father Gary was also a former Leeds player. There were very few chances in the game as defences dominated to ensure a tense game which Oldham did not deserve to lose. However, Leeds shaded the chances created and Mark De Vries evaded the clutches of Ryan Bertrand in the ninth minute but shot straight at goalkeeper Mark Crossley. Oldham created a chance when Craig Davies found Andy Liddell in the box but he was dispossessed and then Chris Taylor saw his shot from eighteen yards cleared close to the goal. The same player was wide with another shot from distance and for Leeds Wayne Andrews wasted a chance by shooting over just before half-time. David Prutton almost broke the deadlock after the break but his header from six yards brought a great save from Mark Crossley. United finally won the game five minutes into stoppage time when Ian Westlake, who had come on as substitute for Alan Thompson just three minutes earlier, was at the far post to crack in a first-time volley from ten yards after Sebastien Carole found him with a fine cross. Oldham had proved themselves to be a team likely to be among the promotion contenders and United were lucky to take all the points to remain unbeaten after nine games with twenty-five points from a possible twenty-seven of which they still had ten!

United had their twin strike-force back as Yeovil Town were the latest visitors to Elland Road. Jermaine Beckford and Tresor Kandol replaced mark De Vries who dropped to the bench in place of Tomi Ameobi and Wayne Andrews. Alan Thompson was not available through injury and that entailed the usual shuffle of Andy Hughes to midfield and Jamie Clapham to full back from the bench which left room for Unitedís latest signing Portuguese winger Filipe Da Costa, who had finally received FIFA clearance, while Tore Andre Flo was preferred to Curtis Weston. After a quiet opening Yeovil almost took the lead after nineteen minutes when Lloyd Owusu and Paul Warne combined to create a golden opportunity for Anthony Barry but his shot was blocked by Casper Ankergren. Leeds responded with some fine work by Jonathan Douglas and Rui Marques but Sebastien Carole ruined the move by shooting over from eighteen yards, but generally speaking Yeovil were looking the more organised of the two teams. Jamie Clapham tried his luck from twenty-five yards but his shot was well saved and then Leeds were again indebted to their Danish keeper, Casper Ankergren, who denied Paul Warne by pushing his fine shot, from just inside the box, round the post. As the game wore on into the second half Leeds became the more lively team but, after they had had an appeal for a penalty for handball rejected, Yeovil missed a glorious chance when Marcus Stewart shot wide from eight yards. After seventy-six minutes Dennis Wise went for broke as he took off David Prutton and Sebastien Carole and introduced two more striker in the form of Leicester City loanee Mark De Vries and Tore Andre Flo. The double substitution worked like a charm with Mark De Vries heading in a Jonathan Douglas cross after eighty-nine minutes to keep Unitedís unbeaten record intact and make it nine wins from ten.

There was a visit to Darlington for the First Round Johnstoneís Paint Trophy tie and skipper Alan Thompson returned to midfield as Dennis Wise took the opportunity to give some of his less regular players a chance to show their worth. David Lucas was in goal, a defence of Frazer Richardson and Ben Parker at full back with Paul Huntington getting a start alongside Matt Heath in central defence. Curtis Weston, Jonathan Howson and Ian Westlake joined the captain in midfield while Leicester loanee Mark De Vries and Coventry loanee Wayne Andrews were the strikers. Jamie Clapham, Filipe Da Costa, Tomi Ameobi, Alan Martin and Robert Bayly were on the bench. A swirling wind and a greasy surface ensured that the game never rose to any great heights and there was little early action until Curtis Weston worked an opening for Wayne Andrews, who slipped on the poor surface in the act of shooting. The home side got their first chance after twenty minutes ad former United striker Julian Joachim forced David Lucas to make a smart save. Wayne Andrews was next to spurn a chance in the forty-second minute when he headed over and the play quickly swung to the other end and David Lucas saved from Gregg Blundell. Jamie Clapham replaced Matt Heath at half time with Ben Parker moving to central defence to accommodate the left back and it was Parker that United had to thank as he saved his line with a last ditch tackle. However after forty-eight minutes the action was at the other end as Paul Huntington rose to a corner to give the keeper no chance with a bullet header for his first goal for Leeds. Filipe Da Costa was introduced after fifty-seven minutes in place of Alan Thompson and he soon showed his skills as he jinked past three defenders before shooting wide. Mark de Vries almost doubled the lead after sixty-eight minutes when he ghosted in at the far post but hit the upright. Mark De Vries forced the keeper to a fine save and Filipe Da Costa put a free-kick over the bar but it was Darlington who came the closer to scoring as Neil Wainwright wasted a golden opportunity by firing wide from close range and United progressed to the area quarter-finals of the Trophy.

Leyton Orient were Unitedís next challenge at Elland Road and United brought in Alan Thompson from their last League game with Jonathan Douglas unavailable on International duty and there were places on the bench for their two loanee strikers Mark de Vries and Wayne Andrews as well as Filipe Da Costa as they lined up: Ankergren; Richardson, Heath, Marques, Clapham; Prutton, Hughes, Thompson, Carole; Beckford, Kandol and a bench of Huntington, Westlake, Da Costa, De Vries and Andrews. United fell behind after just nine minutes as David Prutton was penalised for a mild challenge on Jason Demetriou near the left touchline. Casper Ankergren totally misjudged Sean Thorntonís floated free-kick which sailed into the far top corner of the net. Soon afterwards Thornton hit the woodwork with a similar effort, but the whistle had already blown for offside. The game was tilted slightly in Unitedís favour when the referee showed a red to the Leyton goal-scorer for a challenge which left Sebastien Carole in need of treatment to a head wound. Just before half-time United went close to equalising when a Sebastien Carole header was cleared off the line by Tamika Mkandawire, but it was the Frenchman who finally got the equaliser with his second goal for the club ten minutes into the second half. He took a short corner to Alan Thompson and did a wrap around to accept the return pass and fired a left-footed shot past goalkeeper Stuart Nelson from just inside the penalty area. United should have taken the lead in the eighty-second minute when Paul Terry brought down Carole in the area but Tresor Kandol spooned the penalty high over the bar. It could have been even more costly in the eighty-sixth minute when Adam Boyd thought he had scored as his shot slipped from Casper Ankergrenís hands and seemed to cross the line but the referee ruled the keeper had recovered it just in time and waved play on. United may have merited a draw at least but after Orient had played with only ten men for the last hour and United spurned a penalty the fans had every right to expect full points but accepted the teams unbeaten record remaining intact.

A trip to the South Coast to the Withdean Stadium, home of Brighton and Hove Albion was next on the United itinerary. Jonathan Douglas was back from International duty and took over from Alan Thompson in midfield, and Leeds played safe with Goalkeeper David Lucas coming on to the bench in place of Filipe Da Costa in an otherwise unchanged squad. Tresor Kandol, who had been the villain of the piece in the last fixture, became the hero as he pounced on a blunder by Brighton defender Adam El-Abd eleven minutes from time to give United victory. It was a victory that was not particularly deserved in front of a record 8,691 crowd for the tiny ground, as Leeds were for long periods second-best to a team that had been unbeaten in five games. Casper Ankergren was forced to a fingertip over the bar save by a rasping long range shot from Jake Robinson in the early exchanges and David Martot should done better with a half-volley from a Andrew Whing cross before half-time. The United twin strike-force was held in check by the Brighton defence which had four successive clean sheets going into the game, with Tresor Kandol being hopelessly wide with a header early on from a David Prutton cross. Ex-Brighton winger Sebastien Carole brought out an acrobatic save from Michel Kuipers but it was the home side that did all the pressing in the second half. Casper Ankergren was forced to full stretch by Alex Ravel and David Martot went close from a Bas Savage cross. The winner resulted from a harmless looking cross from Frazer Richardson which bounced towards the near post but Adam El-Abd miscued the ball backwards towards the goal. The keeper dived at full-stretch to keep it out, but Tresor Kandol was there to pick up the scraps for his sixth goal of the season. It may not have been a true reflection of the play but United had shown great resilience to keep their goal intact and had won ten and drawn two of the twelve League games played.

New loan signing Radostin Kishishev was injured in training and, with Andy Hughes already ruled out, Ian Westlake returned to midfield with ex-Millwall player Curtis Weston coming on to the bench in the only change to the starting eleven, but Filipe Da Costa replaced Mark De Vries on the bench. Gus Poyet was not on the bench as he was rumoured to be heading for Tottenham Hotspur as the Assistant Manager at White Hart Lane and Alan Thompson was in the dug-out with Dennis Wise as United welcomed Millwall, one of the Managerís former clubs. It was the visitors who thought they had struck first, but Will Hoskins was adjudged to be offside in the third minute, but United came back quickly and Jermaine Beckford was only inches over with a shot. Sebastien Carole tested Lenny Pidgeley from the edge of the box before Tresor Kandolís header was off-target in the twenty-fifth minute and Jermaine Beckford shot wide on the half-hour. It was David Prutton that opened the scoring after thirty-five minutes, after Sebastien Carole had nut-megged former Leeds triallist Danny Senda and his cross was headed away by Richard Shaw but straight to David Prutton who found the top corner of the net for his second goal of the season. That was the end of the scoring in the first half but an avalanche of goals followed in the second half with three goals flying into the net in six minutes. The second United goal was a gift, a Lenny Pidgeley clearance hit Tresor Kandol and found Jermaine Beckford, who chested it down before firing in his seventh goal of the season in the fifty-third minute. It was then the turn of Jonathan Douglas to twice get his name on the scoresheet in the fifty-eighth and sixtieth minute. The first was as a result of a superb turn and shot inside the box and then, after Richard Shaw had brought down Jermaine Beckford on the edge of the box, he powered the free-kick through the defensive wall. Millwall did get some consolation as Will Hoskins beat Casper Ankergren from fifteen yards in the sixty-fifth minute and Croatian Ahmet Brkovic, on loan from Luton Town celebrated his debut with a seventy-sixth minute header. But it was United who fully deserved the full points which took them up to sixth place and stretched the unbeaten run to thirteen games.

Andy Hughes was back from injury in place of Ian Westlake, who had a toe injury himself, while on the bench Leon Constantine had recovered from his long ankle injury and replaced Wayne Andrews in an otherwise unchanged squad as United visited Brunton Park, home of promotion rivals Carlisle United, in front of the 16,668 fans, the biggest crowd at the ground since 1976. The hosts had an early shot deflected wide but United almost snatched the lead in the fifth minute as a Sebastien Carole shot beat the keeper, Keiren Westwood, only for Peter Murphy to head out from under the cross-bar. It was the keeper to the rescue in the eleventh minute as he brilliantly pushed a Jonathan Douglas shot over the bar and minutes later he was again at his best to parry a Jermaine Beckford deflection from a Jamie Clapham shot. It was all United and it came as no surprise when they took the lead in the twenty-eighth minute when a Jonathan Douglas shot was not properly cleared by Danny Livesey and Jermaine Beckford was on hand to tap in his eighth goal of the season. United were very much on top and coasted easily to the break as Carlisle offered little threat to their superiority and could easily have doubled their lead as first Jermaine Beckford was narrowly over from twenty yards and David Prutton was also denied by more fine goalkeeping by Keiren Westwood in the injury time period of the first-half. It was still United on the attack when the second half commenced with Tresor Kandol making a chance for Sebastien Carole but he shot straight at the keeper. The home team finally came to life after an hourís play and Simon Hackney unleashed a powerful shot from distance and it flew into the net leaving Casper Ankergren with no chance and less than ten minutes later they took the lead as Joe Garner headed in from a corner. Leon Constantine was given his debut when he replaced David Prutton and, in a seventy-sixth minute double substitution, Filipe Da Costa took over from Sebastien Carole. Carlisle defended solidly once in the lead and United just couldnít find a way through. Filipe Da Costa shot wide in the final moments and Leeds were still pressing as four minutes were added, but it was the home team who added to the score-line as Marc Bridge-Wilkinson scored their third goal from an acute angle following a corner deep into stoppage time and United became the last team in the Football League to lose their unbeaten record and Carlisle remained in pole-position in the fight for promotion from League One.

United were totally unchanged as a sign of confidence in the team as they went from their most northerly game of the campaign to one of the most southerly for a Tuesday night match at Bournemouth. Tresor Kandol returned to haunt one of his former clubs and he helped United erase the memory of the loss at Carlisle by latching on to an Andy Hughes through ball to beat the keeper, Neil Moss, after just four minutes. Ten minutes later he was close again as Frazer Richardson crossed from the right and he got in a header at the far post which was narrowly over. Bournemouth then took charge and created a number of good chances as Jo Kuffour went close in the twentieth minute with a delicate chip and then ten minutes later he got in a scorching drive which was saved by Casper Ankergren. They were rewarded for their pressure with a classy equaliser as the lively Jo Kuffour turned on the edge of the area to set up Jem Karacan, the on loan Reading youngster, who got in a blistering shot into the top right-hand corner to score his first-ever career goal. The home team almost took the lead prior to the break when Josh Gowlingís header was cleared off the line by Matt Heath. Just nine minutes into the second half United were back in the lead as Sebastien Carole exchanged passes with Jermaine Beckford before firing in his third goal of the season and then on the hour mark Lee Bradbury was sent off for striking Matt Heath with a flailing arm and then the contest became very one-sided. United sewed up the game with five minutes to go as Tresor Kandol got his second for the night as he headed home a Frazer Richardson cross.

United played their first FA Cup First Round Tie at League Two promotion contenders Hereford United on a Friday night and rested several players. Frazer Richardson, Andy Hughes, David Prutton and Jamie Clapham were replaced by Paul Huntington, Jonathan Howson, Curtis Weston and Ben Parker, while Jamie Clapham and Robert Bayly took up the vacant places on the bench. There was a near full-house at Edgar Street and the opening was fast and furious with Jonathan Howson getting in a shot that tested Wayne Brown for Leeds and Trevor Benjamin threatening at the other end before Theo Robinson got in a shot which Casper Ankergren saved comfortably after ten minutes. Lionel Ainsworthís speed worried Leeds and he forced a great save from Casper Ankergren as he connected with a header from a Clint Easton cross. A volley from centre-back John McCombe was only just wide of an upright with Casper Ankergren well beaten. Leeds improved as the half progressed and Jermaine Beckford fired just over but Tresor Kandol scuffed his shot straight at keeper Wayne Brown when in a good position. The start of the second half saw the home team twice go close. Paul Huntington sliced a Clint Easton cross over his own bar and then from the resulting corner Trevor Benjaminís header clipped the outside og the post. United hit back and Ben Parker forced an excellent diving save from Wayne Brown. Hereford suffered a blow on the hour when their skipper Karl Broadhurst was stretchered off with an ankle injury after a challenge on Jermaine Beckford and was sidelined for a month but Hereford were not distressed and finished the stronger of the two teams and they earned their lucrative replay at Elland Road on Tuesday 20th November 2007.

For the Johnstone's Trophy tie with Bury there were run-on debuts for Leon Constantine and Filipe Da Costa and Mark De Vries was given a start after rejoining United on loan and youngster Simon Madden was given his debut at right-back. Paul Huntington switched to central defence as Matt Heath was rested to the bench along with Curtis Weston, Jonathan Douglas and Tresor Kandol. Jermaine Beckford was also rested and not on the bench as neither was Casper Ankergren, who gave David Lucas a game with Alan Martin coming in on the bench as his deputy. Robert Bayly was rested from bench duties. Bury started the game at a fast pace with Dave Buchanan making a good run down the right wing and cutting infield into the penalty box but his intended pass to Andy Bishop was cut out by the Leeds defence as they took possession and started an attack of their own. There was a dream start for Leon Constantine who took a through ball from Sebastien Carole in his stride, while holding off a defender, to finish off emphatically to give notice of his arrival on the Elland Road stage and send United into the lead after just eight minutes. Mark De Vries almost got into the act also after fourteen minutes but Bury keeper Robert Provett saved low down to his left. Bury soon came back into the game and equalised on twenty-five minutes. An Andy Bishop close range effort forced United to concede a corner, which was taken by Brian Barry-Murphy and his kick was aimed into the six-yard box where Ben Futcher scored with a fine header. The same player took another corner just three minutes later and this time Andy Bishop was on hand on the edge of the six-yard box to pick his spot with a fine shot. A minute before half-time Filipe Da Costa was given a red card for a two footed tackle on Paul Scott. Leeds were straight on the attack after half time but Bury weathered the storm quite easily and seemed untroubled until the sixty-seventh minute when substitute Tresor Kandol fired in a towering header which had goal written all over it but Jim Provett produced an Ďout of this worldí save to prevent the ball crossing the line. Mark De Vries had a good chance on the seventy minute mark but he also was just wide of the post as he tried to catch the keeper off guard. Simon Madden was next to suffer because of the brilliance of Jim Provett as another superb save kept out the full backís header and in a quick counter attack David Lucas had to be quick off his line to beat Nicky Adams to a through ball from Andy Mangan. Leeds were soon back and Tresor Kandol had a penalty appeal turned down and as United continued to pressMatt Heath had a close range header blocked on the line. Jonathan Douglas got too involved with a protest to the referee in injury time and was booked for the fifth time and his suspension meant that he would miss the FA Cup replay with Hereford United and in the end Bury became the first team to win at Elland Road in eight months and a Wembley dream disappeared.

It was back to the usual tried and trusted, with the exception of the injured Jonathan Douglas, as United lined up: Casper Ankergren; Frazer Richardson, Rui Marques, Matt Heath, Jamie Clapham; David Prutton, Jonathan Howson, Andy Hughes, Sebastien Carole; Jermaine Beckford, Tresor Kandol with a bench comprising Paul Huntington, Alan Thompson, Radostin Kishishev, Leon Constantine, Mark De Vries. Andy Hughes captained United in the absence of Jonathan Douglas and Alan Thompson being on the bench. Tresor Kandol was claiming for a goal after only five minutes as his header was held by Swindon keeper Petr Brezovan, but the referee and linesman both disagreed with his claim, saying it had not crossed the line. Classy teenage midfielder Jonathan Howson was almost punished for losing possession in his own penalty box but Billy Paynterís shot was blocked by Casper Ankergren, while at the other end Jamie Claphamís low drive hit Lee Peacock on the line and rebounded into the waiting arms of Petr Brezovan. Leeds took a controversial lead after thirty-one minutes. Swindonís captain Hasney Aljofree was adjudged to have handled David Pruttonís cross marginally inside the penalty area and after waving away protests the referee watched Jermaine Beckford expertly place the ball in the top left corner. Half-time came with United still in the lead but less than a minute after the break Simon Cox centred for Lee Peacock to shoot past the unprotected Casper Ankergren. Jermaine Beckford got his second goal of the game after fifty-six minutes to take his tally to ten for the season, when he took Tresor Kandolís pass down the middle to score with a half-volley from fifteen yards to restore Unitedís lead. Simon Cox had a goal disallowed in the eighty-third minute when he was adjudged to have handled the ball on the line after Casper Ankergren had parried a header from ex-Leeds Academy player Barry Corr. United moved into fourth spot on the ladder, two points behind leaders Carlisle United.

For the FA Cup Replay with Hereford United at Elland Road, United were lacking the suspended midfielders David Prutton and Jonathan Douglas and the ineligible Mark De Vries and Radostin Kishishev. Rui Marques, Jamie Clapham were omitted in favour of Paul Huntington and Ben Parker with Clapham sitting on the bench. Ian Westlake returned from injury to replace David Prutton and wisely David Lucas was on the bench instead of Kishishev, while Tom Elliott took De Vriesí place on the bench and Curtis Weston was there instead of Alan Thompson. Leeds were second best in just about every department and the score-line flattered them and said more about the poor finishing of Hereford rather than the closeness of the contest. Hereford made the perfect start, taking the lead after just three minutes. Lionel Ainsworth, who had caused United so much trouble in the first encounter, found himself space in the penalty area and placed the ball wide of Casper Ankergrenís right hand. United came back and started to dominate possession and Tresor Kandol got in a powerful header from an Ian Westlake corner which Wayne Brown, the Hereford keeper, fumbled. Despite having a majority of the possession United could not threaten the Hereford goal and Hereford should have doubled their lead before half time when Trevor Benjamin picked out Theo Robinson but he reacted slowly and Casper Ankergren bravely dived at his feet to deflect the ball wide. The save was made at a cost to United as the brave keeper was carried off on a stretcher and David Lucas took his place between the posts. United started the second half a little brighter with Jonathan Howson getting in a long range shot. Hereford were soon back and the dangerous Lionel Ainsworth went close as he unleashed a powerful shot from the right. The United attack was being well held by the Hereford back four and when Jermaine Beckford did managed to get in the clear his shot was saved by Wayne Brown. United had been knocked out of two Cup competitions in the space of a week by two team from Division Two.

United were on the road South again for their next League game with Cheltenham Town and broke new ground at Whadden Road. Casper Ankergren had not recovered from his injury and David Lucas was in goal. Rui Marques was back in place of Paul Huntington, who dropped to the bench and David Prutton and Jonathan Douglas returned from suspension to take their place in midfield as Ian Westlake dropped to the bench and Jonathan Howson was rested. Radostin Kishishev, Mark De Vries and Tore Andre Flo completed the bench as Curtis Weston, Leon Constantine and Tom Elliott made way for them. Leeds were soon on the attack and Cheltenham rode their luck early on as Jermaine Beckford was having an off day with his shooting. He sent an early shot over the bar and then was denied by a last-ditch tackle from David Bird from point blank range. He then hit the crossbar with a shot just approaching the interval and was again off target with a lob, but his worst miss was reserved for midway through the second half when David Prutton won a header from diminutive ex-United loanee full-back Alan Wright and the ball went towards the far post where Beckford had a start on goalkeeper Shane Higgs, but with the goal gaping he shot wide from six yards. He did get the ball in the net fifteen minutes from time when a Jonathan Douglas free-kick was spilled by the keeper and although Beckford was first to the ball to head into an empty net the linesman had already raised his flag for off-side. There was calamity for United with just four minutes to go as David Lucas threw the ball out to defender Frazer Richardson but Cheltenhamís Dean Sinclair got there first and played it out to Andy Lindegaard and although his defence splitting pass was headed out by Lucas it only went to Steven Gillespie who sent it into the net from the edge of the penalty area. The goal visibly shook Leeds and the defence opened up again as Gillespie almost added another in the final minute but thankfully his shot was wide. It was a totally unexpected reversal as the home team who had been bottom before the game with just two wins from sixteen games won only their second home game and kept only their second clean sheet for the season. Leeds should have won in a canter and had nineteen attempts on goal and should have had the game sown up long before the last gasp goal from Cheltenham. The home team had never looked like scoring prior to that and it was a big dent to Unitedís ambition of being top by Christmas.

For the second game running the bottom club provided the opposition as Port Vale visited Elland Road. United were in a form slump having won just one game in their last five games in all competitions, but they roared back to form with an emphatic 3-0 victory over the team from the Potteries. Casper Ankergren was back between the posts after injury and United took the risk of not having David Lucas or any deputy on the bench. Andy Hughes dropped back to left back from midfield as Ben Parker was omitted and he was replaced by Radostin Kishishev, who was elevated from the bench along with Ian Westlake, with Sebastien Carole dropping to substitute alongside Jonathan Howson and Alan Thompson and there was no place for Mark De Vries. United went straight on the attack and the visitors were put under siege but the first goal did not arrive for eighteen minutes, when Andy Hughes went on a long run down the left flank before crossing for David Prutton to rise at the far post to score with a downward header for his third goal of the season. Jermaine Beckford twice hit the post as United tried to convert their superiority into goals but they were fortunate that both Luke Rodgers and David McGoldrick wasted excellent chances for the visitors. Rodgers missed the goal completely from twelve yards when clear through and McGoldrick tried to chip Casper Ankergren but only succeeded in putting the ball high and wide and not very handsome and it was easy to see why Vale were languishing at the bottom. Jermaine Beckford finally got his name on the scoresheet after fifty-five minutes, when he was put through by Rui Marques and then turned and shot low and into the corner of the net for his eleventh goal of the season. He was injured after sixty-seven minutes and limped off to be replaced by Tore Andre Flo and it was he who rounded off the scoring in the eighty-third minute after Tresor Kandol had headed an Andy Hughes throw-in down for him. The 3-0 victory maintained United in fifth spot.

Jermaine Beckford had recovered from his shin injury and there were no changes to the United sixteen as they played host to their nearest neighbours Huddersfield Town for the first time in two decades on the weekend of the tenth anniversary of the death of legendary Billy Bremner. In contrast Huddersfield had two players, goalkeeper Matt Glennon and ex-Chelsea player Frank Sinclair, suspendedand had to give a full debut chance to seventeen year-old Alex Smithies in goal and Robbie Williams at full-back. In front of a 32,501 crowd United were lookingsecond best and could easily have gone behind had Ronnie Wallwork not side-footed an easy chance wide with only Casper Ankergren to beat before a speculative thirty-five yard shot from Jonathan Douglas spun off a greasy surface to leave the debutant keeper grasping at thin air and gave United a lead they did not deserve. Town hit back with Phil Jevons hooking a volley inches wide. Radostin Kishishev, who had already been booked, was given a stern warning rather than a second yellow and Dennis Wise took no risks by replacing him with Jonathan Howson at half-time. Town were still looking the better team but just five minutes into the second half it was United that strung together a fine passing move which ended in David Prutton crossing from the left for Jermaine Beckford to slide the ball home to double Unitedís lead. Twenty minutes later Beckford was again on hand to pick up the scraps after David Prutton had forced Alex Smithies to make a fine parry at full stretch. The two goal hero went off to a standing ovation after eighty-three minutes and on came Tore Andre Flo to duplicate his effort of the previous game and scored the fourth goal three minutes from time. The 4-0 score-line was not a fair reflection of the game and, until United ran away with the game in the second half, Huddersfield had always looked capable of winning, but nothing could take the shine off the emphatic win which took United up into third spot, although Tresor Kandolís booking was his fifth of the season and ensured that he would miss the ensuing game at Walsall.

Leon Constantine was the replacement for the suspended Tresor Kandol in the only change to the run on side, but Dennis Wise opted to have keeper David Lucas on the bench at the expense of Sebastien Carole for Unitedís visit to the improving Walsall. Once more United were not the better team and were more than pleased to get away with a point. Walsall thought they had taken the lead in the ninth minute when a long-range shot from Mark Bradley hit the cross-bar and rebounded to Tommy Mooney, who had the ball in the net, but the 'goal' was disallowed for offside. They then had a great chance in the twenty-ninth minute but Scott Dann headed straight at goalkeeper Casper Ankergren from a Daniel Fox free-kick and ten minutes later the goalkeeper again came to Unitedís rescue when he made a fine save to push the ball round the post from a Tommy Mooney shot from the edge of the box. United tried to step up the pace in the second half but created little danger and, having made all the chances throughout the fine match, Walsall finally took the lead in the seventy-sixth minute when Tommy Mooney got his seventh goal of the season as he was on hand to prod the ball home from close range after Mark Bradley had headed on a Daniel Fox corner. Dennis Wise had substituted Tore Andre Flo for the ineffective Leon Constantine in the sixty-ninth minute and quickly threw on Alan Thompson and Jonathan Howson for Radostin Kishishev and David Prutton after going behind. It paid off, when in the last minute of added on time an Alan Thompson free-kick was deflected off Ian Westlake to leave the Walsall keeper Clayton Ince stranded as United got the equaliser that they hardly deserved. The draw was at a cost, as United finished with ten men after Jonathan Douglas was carried of with a serious left leg injury in the second minute of time added on.

For the visit of Bristol Rovers, Tresor Kandol was back from suspension and replaced Leon Constantine, who dropped to the bench at the expense of David Lucas, while Jonathan Douglas was unlikely to play for quite some time due to the injury sustained at Walsall and he was duly replaced by Jonathan Howson, who was promoted from the bench along with Alan Thompson, with Radostin Kishishev taking his place there, alongside Sebastian Carole. The game started badly for both sides as after just twenty seconds a clash of heads between David Prutton and Rover's left-back Joe Jacobson saw the full back carried off to be replaced by Chris Curruthers and the United midfielder carried on with a bandage around his gashed head. Jermaine Beckford almost added to his thirteen for the season in the fourth minute when he headed Alan Thompsonís pass against the bar but the visitors should have taken the lead ten minutes later but Rickie Lambert shot into the side-netting from fifteen yards. The fans were shouting for a penalty a little later as the ball hit Steve Elliott on the hand but the referee made no reaction. Then Jermaine Beckford was again unfortunate when his shot from distance was well saved by Steve Phillips in the Bristol goal, but the striker was then guilty of a bad miss, when he turned the ball wide from eight yards from a David Prutton cross. He missed another opportunity after the break and then his strike partner, Tresor Kandol, was also guilty of two misses. A scrambled goal six minutes from time finally gave United the points just when a draw seemed inevitable. Sebastien Carole headed an Alan Thompson cross goal-wards and it struck Bristol defender Steve Elliott before crossing the line as the PA system announced that Jonathan Howson had scored and Sebastien Carole had claimed it but the opinion was that it was an own goal. Whoever scored mattered little as it gave United a valuable three points and took them into third place just one point behind the leaders and in striking distance of achieving Manager Dennis Wiseís ambition of being top at the New Year.

United had a Boxing Day trip up the coast to the Victoria Ground home of Hartlepool United for their next game. Alan Thompson dropped to the bench and Radostin Kishishev was promoted to midfield in his place as the only change to the United team from their home win over Bristol Rovers. Once again they allowed an inferior team to put them off their game and they played second fiddle for most of the game in another below-par performance in which they gained a point rather than losing two. Hartlepool had two former United players in their ranks, Robbie Elliott at left-back and Ian Moore in attack and it was the full-back who played a big part in Hartlepool opening the score after twenty-one minutes as he swung over a great free-kick to the far post where his fellow full-back Michael Nelson rose to head in with a powerful downward header. Not to be outdone Ian Moore blasted in a shot, but it was of little consequence as it sailed high over the bar, but Leeds were under the cosh and penned in their own half and on the defensive. They were very subdued in attack and the closest they came to scoring was a Tresor Kandol shot that went harmlessly into the side-netting and a Jermaine Beckford shot which goalkeeper Jan Budtz saved with his feet. Moore was closer in the second half and demanded a finger-tip save from Casper Ankergren to push his angled shot round the post for a corner. United were not allowed to settle down or play flowing football but they stayed in the game and got their reward in the very last minute of the game when a long clearance found Jermaine Beckford wide on the left. He cut inside before hammering a low angled shot across Jan Budtz and inside the far post for an unexpected and dramatic last-ditch equaliser for his fourteenth goal of the season. With the noon kick off United were momentarily top of the table.

For the top of the table clash at Swansea City United made two changes as Sebastien Carole and Alan Thompson were promoted and their replacements David Prutton and Radostin Kishishev took their places on the bench, where Curtis Weston took over from Leon Constantine. There was a large crowd, 19,010, at the Liberty Stadium to witness the epic struggle and they were treated to a feast of attacking football to see out the old year. After early misses by Jonathan Howson and Jermaine Beckford, Swansea took the lead after nine minutes when Alan Thompson chopped down Swansea winger Andy Robinson. The wide man took the ensuing free kick himself and used the wide angle to lift it over the United wall and past Casper Ankergren at the near post. United were qick to reply and a terrible scuffed back-header by Swansea defender Dennis Lawrence sold his keeper Dorus De Vries short and Jermaine Beckford was first to the ball, and executed a clever lob instead of the anticipated shot from a very acute angle and it bounced into the net before any Swansea defenders could intervene. Swansea regained the lead as a result of a hotly disputed corner in the twenty-third minute which resulted in Matt Heath being booked for dissent. It was taken by Paul Anderson and due to poor marking Garry Monk met the ball unhindered on the six-yard line to head past Casper Ankergren. There was a very unsavoury incident in the thirty-eighth minute which saw the Swansea midfielder Ferrie Bodde dismissed for a terrible stomp on Jonathan Howson, which resulted in young United midfielder being stretchered off with his leg injury in a splint and sparked off a melee between the two sides near the centre circle. If United thought that playing against ten men would make their task easier they were sadly mistaken because, after hesitancy by Rui Marques and Matt Heath, Jason Scotland was allowed to run clear and scored Swanseaís third goal in the fifth minute of injury time at the end of the first half. United were stung into action and the second half had hardly started when Alan Thompson was given the chance to try one of his trade-mark free-kicks and he duly obliged with a beautifully flighted strike which beat the Swansea keeper and nestled in the in the corner of the net from the edge of the area to make the score 3-2 to the ten-man home team. Three minutes later he was presented with an almost identical chance but this time, with the Swansea keeper well beaten, it thudded against a post and bounced to safety. Swansea defended resolutely and made light of their deficiency in numbers and also threatened just as much as United in attack and in the end were deserved winners to remain top of the ladder.

New Yearís Day brought a visit from Oldham Athletic to Elland Road and a crowd of 25,906 was on hand to witness it. With Jonathan Howson on the injured list David Prutton was recalled to midfield and Radostin Kishishev was also reinstalled at the expense of Ian Westlake, who dropped to the bench and Sebastien Carole moved from the right midfield to the left. Ben Parker replaced Curtis Weston on the bench where Leon Constantine took up the vacant spot. Former United favourite John Sheridan was Manager of the visitors and he soon saw his striker Craig Davies force Casper Ankergren into the first save of the afternoon. Tresor Kandol had a shot blocked and at the other end Chris Taylor tried his luck from distance before limping out of the action to be replaced by Deane Smalley after only nineteen minutes. Oldham took the lead when Reuben Hazell seized on a poor clearance by Matt Heath and volleyed the ball home spectacularly from twenty-five yards after twenty-eight minutes. Another United error in the thirty-fifth minute by Frazer Richardson, whose misplaced pass was seized upon by Craig Davies, resulted in his shot being saved at the expense of a corner by Casper Ankergren. It only put off the inevitable for a moment as from the resultant corner taken by Neil Kilkenny, Neal Trotman rose to head Oldhamís second one minute later. The disaster did not end there, as just four minutes later Oldham went three clear. Craig Davies was allowed to get in a low cross, which Lee Hughes turned goalwards and Andy Hughes, in an effort to clear his lines could do no more than help it into his own net. There was a double substitution for the start of the second half with strikers Tore Andre Flo and Leon Constantine coming on for the sacrificed midfielders, Radistin Kishishev and Sebastien Carole as Dennis Wise signalled his intention on all out attack. It immediately reaped a reward with Leon Constantine opening Unitedís account with his first touch thanks to a pass from Jermaine Beckford just thirty seconds after the restart. A moment later the pair again combined but this time Constantine was wide of the mark. All out attack had its drawbacks and in a fifty-third minute breakaway Lee Hughes failed to benefit from the ball coming free to him, after Casper Ankergren had parried an effort from Neal Trotman, by shooting wide. United had the ball in the net on sixty-six minutes but Tresor Kandol was ruled offside and soon after Jermaine Beckford put the ball over the bar as United pressed to get back in the game. Fifteen minutes from the end Casper Ankergren kept United in the game with another save to keep out Mark Allott and just three minutes from time it was Rui Marques who made a last-ditch block to deny Craig Davies. Unitedís form over the last five games had shown a remarkable decline and the absence of Jonathan Douglas had been a deciding factor. The loan of Shaun Derry to Crystal Palace could only have signalled his likely exit, which was equally puzzling as his presence was exactly what United needed and if he was fit enough to put in star performances for Palace in the CCCL it was inconceivable he could not have done the same for United. These were thoughts which the supporters were left to ponder over as United slumped to the first home League defeat and conceded three goals at home for the first time but also for the second time in consecutive games.

Dennis Wiseís reaction to the United slump was quick. He signed Oldhamís star player in their Elland Road win, midfielder Neil Kilkenny, and agreed terms for Stoke City midfielder Peter Sweeney and went on a major shake-up of the team. Matt Heath was suspended and so Paul Huntington, making his run-on League debut, replaced him and Ben Parker came in at left back to release Andy Hughes into a midfield role. Neil Kilkenny made his debut and Ian Westlake was installed at the expense of Sebastien Carole, who dropped to the bench as did Radostin Kishishev, but there was no place for Alan Thompson, while up front Tore Andre Flo started in place of Tresor Kadol, who found a place on the bench alongside David Lucas and Curtis Weston. Neil Kilkenny had been loaned from his parent club Birmingham City with a view to a permanent move and the Australian showed some fine touches in midfield. Paul Sweeney did not complete the transfer procedure in time to play after the Scotland Under-Twenty-One International had been pencilled in to start the game. There was no place in the Northampton Town team for Bradley Johnson, who was expected to sign for United for £250,000 in the ensuing week as Dennis Wise pull out all the stops to bolster his midfield. Northampton packed their midfield and defence and employed a lone striker. This ploy held United at bay and they struggled to penetrate the massed defence. It was twenty-three minutes before the visitors had their first let off as Paul Huntington sent a fine through ball to Jermaine Beckford and his shot was parried by goalkeeper Mark Bunn and the follow up from Tore Andre Flo was cleared off the line by Brett Johnson. Eventually Unitedís pressure and patience paid off just two minutes before the break when Frazer Richardson, with a fine individual effort, made a long diagonal run before shooing past Mark Bunn from just outside the box. Seven minutes into the second half Rui Marques, who was due to depart for African Nations duty with Angola, headed in a second after Andy Hughes had turned a Neil Kilkenny corner into the goal-mouth. After Jermaine Beckford had been denied three times, Curtis Weston, who had just come on as substitute for David Prutton, was on hand to steer the ball into the net for Unitedís third in the very last minute and United finished with an emphatic 3-0 victory which was sufficient to reclaim fourth spot on the ladder.

Dennis Wise had been busy on the transfer market signing Darren Kenton on loan from Leicester City and he went straight into the team at Crewe Alexandra as a straight replacement for Rui Marques who was likely to be on International duty for several weeks. He also had completed the signings of Bradley Johnson, who replaced Sebastien Carole on the bench, and Peter Sweeney who replaced Ian Westlake in midfield. David Lucas and Radostin Kishishev gave way on the bench to Matt Heath, returning after suspension, and Alan Thompson, returning after injury. United dominated most of the play but failed to take advantage of the chances that were created and in the end had to fight off some late pressure from the Gresty Road side. Acting captain, Andy Hughes, was the first to threaten the Crewe goal with a fierce volley which flew just over the bar and then glanced a header from a Peter Sweeney cross narrowly wide. It was nineteen minutes before Crewe broke out of their own half but Casper Ankergren was at full stretch to stop a Michael OíConnor header from creeping inside the near post. However, on thirty-six minutes Jermaine Beckford was on hand to score from a Peter Sweeney cross. After that Leeds held the match in their grip by keeping possession and threatening the Crewe rearguard with Tore Andre Flo and Jermaine Beckford keeping Julien Baudet and Chris McCready fully extended. Early in the second half Frazer Richardson had a good claimed for a penalty go unheeded after the ball struck Ben Rixís hand in the box. Within a minute Rix could have equalised but Casper Ankergren was quickly off his line to avert the danger and the home side felt equally aggrieved as they were also refused a penalty after Nicky Maynard appeared to be held back in a good position. United were again lucky when a Chris McCready header rattled the bar. At the other end Tresor Kandol, who had replaced Tore Andre Flo after seventy-seven, was selfish in wasting a chance with Jermaine Beckford far better placed. However, United were lucky that Crewe had used all their substitutes and were reduced to ten men as Julien Baudet limped off with cramp and Crewe didnít have the numbers to over extend United, who moved into third place with their victory.

Bradley Johnson was given his debut against Yorkshire rivals Doncaster Rovers at Elland Road with David Prutton dropping to the bench as Unitedís only change from their midweek victory. A crowd of 31,402 was on hand to see if United could maintain their promotion push and dent the Doncaster record of just one defeat in their previous seventeen games. History was on the side of the home team as Rovers had never won at Elland Road, but it was fifty-two years since they had last clashed. The game was off to a fiery start with the referee breaking up a wrestling match between Bradley Johnson and Jason Price straight from the kick-off and Gareth Roberts was lucky that an off-the-ball lunge at Jermaine Beckford was missed by the referee soon afterwards. Darren Kenton came to Unitedís rescue as he executed a perfect tackle to dispossess James Coppinger of a shooting chance from fifteen yards and there was a further warning as the same player shot into the side-netting. It went unheeded as Doncaster took the lead after twenty-one minutes when Paul Huntington fouled Richie Wellens on the edge of the box and from the resulting free-kick Brian Stock sent a curling free-kick sailing into the corner of the net before Casper Ankergren could move. Jermaine Beckford almost equalised immediately but his excellent volley was superbly saved by ex-United keeper Neil Sullivan. United could not create any chances as Doncaster took a grip on the midfield and soon were forced to ring the changes at half-time as Darren Kenton was injured and replaced by Matt Heath and nine minutes later Tresor Kandol replaced Tore Andre Flo. But it made little difference as Rovers still had command of the midfield and only a scrambling save by Casper Ankergren prevented James Coppinger from increasing the visitorís lead. With eighteen minutes left Neil Kilkenny was replaced by Curtis Weston and though United tested Neil Sullivan several times towards the end and Jermaine Beckford had a shot deflected wide, even after four minutes of stoppage time United were unable to get the ball in the net and fell to their second home defeat of the season and once again had missed taking advantage of winning against promotion rivals.

With Neil Kilkenny under suspension there was a place for David Prutton in midfield and Tresor Kandol replaced Tore Andre Flo up front, as the Norwegian took his place on the bench, for the visit to Kenilworth Road, home of Luton Town. Ian Westlake, Sebastien Carole and new Finnish winger Sebastien Sorsa were included on the bench at the expense of Curtis Weston and Alan Thompson, who were excluded. Luton started brightly and ex-United player Matthew Spring hit a deflected shot narrowly wide but United soon hit back and Tresor Kandol nearly scored against one of his former clubs as he was narrowly over with a calculated lob. Luton responded with a spell of sustained pressure as Paul Furlong twice had shots blocked and Alan Goodall was wide with one of the rebounds. United rode out the storm and after twenty-seven minutes took the lead with a well executed free-kick routine. After Chris Perry had fouled Jermaine Beckford on the edge of the penalty area, Peter Sweeneyís perfectly flighted cross was nodded home by Paul Huntington. Having taken the lead United defended in depth and withstood anything that the home team had to offer until half-time and continued the same routine in the second half. They should have capitalised on two chances created on the break as in the sixty-third minute Jermaine Beckford raced through and rounded keeper Dean Brill and then proceeded to shoot wide albeit from an acute angle, but Tresor Kandol was even more guilty in the seventy-eighth minute as he was through with just the keeper to beat but blazed high over the bar. The misses were costly as Sam Parkin came off the bench to score a stoppage time equaliser as he touched home a Dean Morgan cross with seconds remaining. It left United level in fifth spot whereas victory could have seen them in second spot as other rivals lost games. Points lost that would have been invaluable at seasonís end.

There was a game on the other side of London, at Roots Hall with other promotion aspirants, Southend United the following Tuesday night. It saw the return of Neil Kilkenny from suspension while Casper Ankergren had suffered an hip injury at Luton and was replaced by David Lucas. Bradley Johnson dropped to the bench in place of Sebastien Sorsa while Ian Westlake lost his place on the bench to Jonathan Howson, who returned after injury. It seemed that Dennis Wise had departed to Newcastle United and that Gary McAllister was to be installed in his place but for the time being Technical Director Gwyn Williams was in charge of the dug-out as Dave Bassett had also chosen to depart. It was not going to be an easy task for the former United schemer as he learnt about Unitedís third consecutive game without a win, in which time they had gathered only one point. United had created some good opportunities in an even first half with both David Prutton and Andy Hughes shooting straight at Southend keeper Darryl Flahavan, while Tresor Kandol headed wide and Jermaine Beckford headed into the side-netting from close range. Southend were not inactive either as David Lucas was forced to save from Mark Gower and then Charlie MacDonald. The Shrimpers took the lead after forty-one minutes as Lee Barnard followed up to score after David Lucas could only get a hand to Steve Hammellís twenty-five yard free-kick. The second half continued in similar fashion and Adam Barrett headed over while Lee Barnard was marginally wide, but United should have equalised as they missed two more fine chances as both Tresor Kandol and Jermaine Beckford failed to get their head to a fine Peter Sweeney cross and the it was Kandol who volleyed another excellent cross from Peter Sweeney wide from a yard. They continued to miss chance after chance, firstly after a fine upfield run Jermaine Beckford ballooned the ball high over before Peter Sweeney was just as inaccurate after a long Frazer Richardson throw had given him the chance of a volley from twelve yards. Despite Tore Andre Flo being thrown on as a third striker with ten minutes to go United were unable breakthrough despite attacking with six men as the Southend defence held firm to take the points and push United down to sixth spot.

Photographs of the era:


2007-2008 (Courtesy Paul Gregson)

Back Row: Dennis Wise (Manager), Joe Allon (First Team Coach), Andy Hughes, Ben Parker, Matt Heath, Paul Huntingdon, Tomi Ameobe, Tresor Kandol, Tore Andre Flo, Jermaine Beckford, Rui Marques, Casper Ankergren, Andy Beasley (Goalkeeper Coach), Gus Poyet (Assistant Manager).

Front Row: Gavin Rothery, Jamie Clapham, Scott Gardner, Jonathan Howson, Robert Bayly, David Prutton, Sebastien Carole, Frazer Richardson, Ian Westlake.

2007-2008 (Courtesy Paul Gregson)

Back Row: Daral Pugh (Under-18 Coach), Chris Beasley (Kitman), Scott Gardner, Tomi Ameobe, Tore Andre Flo, David Lucas, Darren Mowbray (Video Analyst), Alan Martin, Paul Huntingdon, Ben Parker, Robert Bayly, Paul Perkins (Physio), Donna Gormley (Physio).

Middle Row: Joe Allon (First Team Coach), Harvey Sharman (Physio), Shaun Derry, Frazer Richardson, Leon Constantine, Casper Ankergren, Tresor Kandol, Matt Heath, Rui Marques, Andy Beasley (Goalkeeper Coach), Neil Thompson (Academy Director).

Front Row: Sebastien Carole, Curtis Weston, Andrew Hughes, Jonathan Douglas, Gus Poyet (Assistant Manager), Alan Thompson, Dennis Wise (Manager), David Prutton, Jermaine Beckford, Ian Westlake, Jonathan Howson.

2007-2008: Juniors

Back Row: Paul Perkins (Physio), Chris Fisher, Duane Grace, Sam Jerome, Ross Wilkinson, Matt Edwards, Stefan Connor, Andrew Milne, Tom Lees, Neil Thompson (Coach).

Front Row: Lee Booth, Josh Falkingham, Chris Ovington, Charles Hutton, Daral Pugh (Coach), Fabian Delph, Liam Darville, Jason Mycoe, Nathan Cartman.


Dennis Wise: Manager, Tomi Ameobi , Wayne Andrews , Casper Ankergren , Robert Bayly , Jermaine Beckford , Robbie Blake , Paul Butler , Sebastien Carole , Jamie Clapham , Leon Constantine , Stephen Crainey , Richard Cresswell , Filipe Da Costa , Mark De Vries , Fabian Delph , Shaun Derry , Jonathan Douglas , Gylfi Einarsson , Robbie Elliott , Tom Elliott , Tore Andre Flo , Hayden Foxe , Scott Gardner , David Healy , Matt Heath , Jonny Howson , Andy Hughes , Paul Huntington , Bradley Johnson , Jemal Johnson , Tresor Kandol , Gary Kelly , Darren Kenton , Matthew Kilgallon , Neil Kilkenny , Radostin Kishishev , Eddie Lewis , Scott Loach , David Lucas , Jonathan Lund , Simon Madden , Rui Marques , Alan Martin , Lubomir Michalik , Ian Moore , Kevin Nicholls , Ben Parker , David Prutton , Frazer Richardson , Danny Rose , Gavin Rothery , Sebastian Sorsa , Graham Stack , Neil Sullivan , Peter Sweeney , Alan Thompson , Tony Warner , Ian Westlake , Curtis Weston .

Part 3: Gary McAllister - Return of the Mac 2007-08

2007-2008: Season Statistics: Games, Results, Appearances, Goalscorers
Football League Tables for the Season

For his first game in charge Gary McAllister had three new signings, left-back Alan Sheehan, on loan from Leicester City, central defender and former loanee from Bolton Wanderers, Lubomir Michalik, and Stockport County striker Anthony Elding and he gave a debut to each of them as he made five changes to the starting line-up. With Casper Ankergren still injured David Lucas continued between the posts but he had been joined on the injured list by Neil Kilkenny and Frazer Richardson, while Tresor Kandol had succumbed to illness. There was a recall for Matt Heath with Paul Huntington dropping to the bench, Darren Kenton switched from central defence to fill in at right back while Ben Parker could not even find a place as a substitute. Jonathan Howson earned a recall to first team duty as he and Bradley Johnson were promoted from being substitutes and Alan Sweeney was relegated to the bench, where keeper Alan Martin was preferred to Sebastien Carole. In the Tranmere ranks were two United old boys Shane (Cansdell-) Sherriff and Ian Moore but they got nowhere near the welcome received by Gary McAllister as he took his place in the dugout to a deafening ovation. Ian Moore was fouled just outside the box by Matt Heath in the ninth minute and Leeds were fortunate not to go behind as the resultant freeĖkick from Paul McLaren rattled the United bar. Andy Hughes had to leave the field after a clash of heads with Anthony Kay and returned six minutes later with his head bandaged to cover the stitches. David Prutton was just over with a free-kick from distance but United seemed to have little to offer in attack as the two sides went to the break without scoring. It wasnít until the sixty-first minute that Jennison Myrie-Williams broke the deadlock as he headed round Matt Heath before beating David Lucas with an angled left foot shot from fifteen yards. Just eight minutes later it was Ian Mooreís turn to celebrate as he headed a Paul McLaren free-kick out of the reach of David Lucas. The other United old boy, Shane Sherriff went close with two headers, one of which was brilliantly saved by David Lucas. Unitedhad no answer and could not improve on the solitary point they had amassed since Boxing Day as they extended their winless run to four games and slipped out of the play-off positions for the first time since November and were now a full sixteen points behind Swansea City and for the first time they were not the highest point gainers in the Division, without the fifteen points that had been deducted by the Football League.

United had Casper Ankergren back from injury and he took his place in goal with David Lucas dropping to the bench at the expense of Alan Martin, while Rui Marques was back from international duty, which meant Matt Heath taking Paul Huntingtonís place on the bench. Tresor Kandol also returned after recovering from illness at the expense of Anthony Elding who ousted Sebastien Carole from the bench. Northampton enjoyed the majority of the first half possession but had little to show for it as Jonathan Hayes shot wide when well placed. At the other end United took the lead seven minutes before the break when Jonathan Howson spun perfectly to volley in a Bradley Johnson cross and United harboured hopes of victory as the game drew to its conclusion. Northampton had introduced Adebayo Akinfenwa to their strike power ten minutes into the second half and he soon showed his power as he muscled his way through and shot marginally wide. Jermaine Beckford failed to increase Unitedís lead as he fired wide from twenty-five yards and fifteen minutes from time Northampton drew level as Adebayo Akinfenwa met a slick delivery from Poul Hubertz after good work from Danny Jackman and the home team increased their undefeated run to six matches since being well beaten by United in January but United were less pleased as they were now in eighth spot.

Nottingham Forest, one of the Divisionís forerunners, were the next visitors to Elland Road and United greeted them with an unchanged team although Frazer Richardson had recovered from injury and replaced Matt Heath on the bench. Forest were almost gifted a goal in the ninth minute when Lewis McGuganís freekick was headed too close for comfort past the post by Leeds defender Alan Sheehan. Kris Commons and Ian Breckin both missed narrowly as Forest looked the likelier team to score, but in the thirty-third minute it looked as though United should have been awarded a penalty when it looked as though Luke Chambers had handled a Darren Kenton cross in the box and United seemed to be getting the upper hand as the half progressed as Bradley Johnson twice went close as it drew to a close. However it was Forest that started the second half the brighter and twice went close to scoring as Nathan Tyson latched onto a through ball but dragged his shot wide. The same player rounded Lubomir Michalik but Will Hoskins just failed to connect with his cross. It was Hoskins who was at the centre of the next moment of controversy in the fifty-fourth minute as he seemed to handle in the box, but referee Mark Halsey refused the claim despite protests from the United players. United still threatened and both Alan Sheehan and Jonathan Howson had shots deflected and an Andy Hughes header was cleared off the line. It was not all Leeds and Luke Chambers wasted a free header and Casper Ankergren saved a low shot from Kris Commons. It was Forest that took the lead in the sixty-ninth minute as Kris Commons sent in a high cross from the left and Julian Bennett rose to head powerfully past the stranded Casper Ankergren. United had Casper Ankergren to thank for keeping them in the game with a fine one-handed save from Nathan Tyson. After seventy-five minutes Jermaine Beckford had a header cleared off the line but eight minutes later he registered his seventeenth goal of the season from the penalty spot after Tresor Kandol had been hauled down. As neither side deserved to lose, a draw was a fair result after an entertaining game which saw United in seventh spot on forty-six points.

Jermaine Beckford was suspended and Andy Hughes could not shake off a knee injury for United's midweek fixture with struggling Crewe Alexandra at Elland Road. On the bright side Frazer Richardson was fit again and took up the role of right midfielder while Tore Andre Flo was considered fit enough to start and Peter Sweeney also moved up from the bench in exchange for Bradley Johnson, while Paul Huntington and Sebastien Carole were found a place as substitutes. There was confusion for the commentators as Crewe fielded two players named Gary Roberts. One was a twenty-one year old midfielder, and the other a twenty-three year old winger on loan from Ipswich Town. Alexandra, who had won only two of their previous seventeen, were hoped to be cannon-fodder for Unitedís recovery but it didnít work out that way even though Tore Andre Flo shot just over the bar in the first minute. His strike partner Tresor Kandol also went close with two headers and then saw a thirty yard drive well saved as Leeds, with Prutton showing the way, enjoyed a glut of possession. However, Crewe should have taken the lead in the thirty-fourth minute when Casper Ankergren made a mess of fielding a cross and Nicky Maynard spooned his shot over an unguarded net from ten yards. There was another let-off, approaching half-time, when a curling free-kick from Kenny Lunt thudded against the United cross-bar with Casper Ankergren well-beaten. Crewe finally took the lead two minutes into the second half when Kenny Lunt chipped the ball to Gary Roberts, the younger, who in turn played in Nicky Maynard and he carried on through to make no mistake with a deadly finish from twelve yards. Jonathan Howson showed have restored United to parity but his shot was so feeble that the Crewe goalkeeper, Ben Williams, had plenty of time to save with ease while at the other end Casper Ankergren saved United as he raced off his line to foil Gary Roberts, the elder. United finally got the equaliser with two minutes to go as Tresor Kandol netted his first goal since November when Sebastien Carole crossed for him to head home from close range. United mounted sustained pressure but even though there was six minutes of stoppage time they were unable to get the winner. They dropped two more points to technically inferior opponents and had now gone seven games without a win and they slumped to ninth place with forty-seven points. They were losing touch with the leading pack as they were now five points from a play-off position.

United must have wondered what was going wrong with their season as new loan signing from Aston Villa, full back Steve OíHalloran, who was drafted straight into the United team at the expense of Alan Sheehan, was injured in the warm up exercises and limped out of the squad with a twisted knee. Frazer Richardson took his place as Alan Sheehan took the spare place on the substitutesí bench. Neil Kilkenny returned to the team, initially at the expense of Frazer Richardson and Bradley Johnson was preferred to Peter Sweeney while Jermaine Beckford returned after suspension at the expense of Tore Andre Flo. Alan Thompson was on the bench in place of Paul Huntington. A twenty-fifth minute Tresor Kandol header was enough to give United the points, rewarded Gary McAllister with his first win, after five times trying, and broke the seven game points drought. It was Tresor Kandolís tenth goal of the season and came as he expertly directed a David Prutton cross into the top left hand corner of the net well out of the reach of the Swindon keeper Phil Smith. Swindon should have equalised just before half-time but Simon Cox headed off-target after finding himself unmarked just three yards out. But, for the second game running, it was Prutton in charge of the midfield stamping his mark on proceedings. Jonathan Howson also played his part and came close to doubling Unitedís lead as his strong volley was just tipped over by the keeper. Suprisingly, Swindon, who were also experiencing a slump with just one win in six games, offered little in the way of a threat although Coxís alarming miss knocked out whatever confidence they may have had and they only tested Casper Ankergren on one other occasion throughout the whole game and that was in the seventy-fifth minute, when Cox found Christan Roberts near the far post, but his strong shot was brilliantly pushed past the post by Casper Ankergren. Five minutes from time the impressive Jonathan Howson was just inches off target with a right-foot volley which screamed just over the bar but Leeds held on comfortably to gain full points and move up into eighth spot on fifty points.

Gary McAllister stuck with his successful line-up for the start of the home game with Bournemouth, but new loan signing from Crystal Palace, Dougie Freedman, was on the bench as was Andy Hughes, who returned from injury, and Paul Huntington as Alan Thompson, Sebastien Carole and Alan Sheehan were the ones to miss out. A bumpy pitch, churned up by a recent World Cup Rugby League match, rain and a gusty wind all combined to make good football almost impossible and United had to battle hard against the relegation-threatened opposition. For the third game on the trot David Prutton was Unitedís inspiration, ably assisted by Jonathan Howson, and the Bournemouth keeper was picking the ball out of the net after just eleven minutes. David Prutton lobbed the ball to the edge of the penalty area and the keeper, David Forde, made a late decision to come for it and only succeeded in colliding with his own defender Neil Young, leaving Bradley Johnson with the easy task of firing the ball into an empty net for his first goal for the club. Bournemouth had had the ball in the Leeds net earlier but Max-Alain Gradel had his effort ruled out because of a prior infringement. They should also have equalised after Casper Ankergren had spilled a cross from Gradel only for Sam Vokes to shoot badly wide and Gradel was also guilty of missing another easy chance as the Leeds defence looked very vulnerable. There was little to choose between the two teams and it was to great relief of the home team when Jonathan Howson carved out an opening for Neil Kilkenny to hit an unstoppable shot from twenty yards in the sixty-third minute. Dougie Freedman was given twenty minutes in which to shine on his debut but had few chances to impress. United were well satisfied with the three points which moved them up to seventh position on the ladder with fifty-three points and kept them in touch with the play-off places.

United were once again unchanged for the third successive time as they entertained lowly Cheltenham Town in a midweek evening match at Elland Road and they maintained the same substitutes as they looked to register their third successive win and extend their unbeaten run to five.They started like a house on fire with Jermaine Beckford getting in a twenty-five yard shot which looked destined for the bottom left hand corner of the net until Shane Higgs pulled off a fine one handed save with only ninety seconds on the clock. Damian Spencer wasted a good chance for the visitors when a spooned his shot high into the crowd and Tresor Kandol missed an even easier chance when he headed over the bar from within the six yard box, after Bradley Johnson had picked him out with a perfect cross from the left. With thirty eight minutes gone, Frazer Richardson lost control of the ball just outside the box and David Bird pounced to beat Casper Ankergren with ease. United were not looking sharp near goal and Jermaine Beckford and Lubomir Michalik both missed the target just before half-time. Bradley Johnson had a fierce free-kick well saved by the in-form Shane Higgs soon after the break and Jermaine Beckford was just too high with a shot on the turn soon afterwards. United brought on Dougie Freeman for Jonathan Howson in the sixty-second minute but just two minutes later Cheltenham went two up when Alex Russell sent in a speculative shot from the left of the box and it flew past Casper Ankergren and into the corner of the net. United threw on Anthony Elding and Andy Hughes for Tresor Kandol and Frazer Richardson with nineteen minutes to go and it was Elding that reduced the arrears fourteen minutes later when he headed home a cross from Neil Kilkenny to register his first goal for United, but the visitors held on to register a double over United who remained seventh with fifty-three points.

Not surprisingly Gary McAllister made changes to his defeated team for the visit to another cellar-dweller in the form of Port Vale. Andy Hughes was reinstated at left back in place of the out of position and out of form Frazer Richardson, who took his place on the bench. Dougie Freedman was given a place in the starting line up as Tresor Kandol dropped to substitute alongside Sebastien Carole who took the place of Paul Huntington. The home side gave United an early scare when a clever flick from Paul Edwards made an opening for Luke Rogers but Casper Ankergren was quickly off his line to block the strikerís shot. It was the home side that took the initiative pinning United in their own half for long periods, but it was United that took the lead when, seconds after being denied a penalty, Rui Marques fired a right foot volley past Joe Anyon after the home defence had failed to clear a Bradley Johnson corner six minutes before the break. Just two minutes later it was again Bradley Johnson who was the provider as he set up Dougie Freedman for the loan striker to easily beat the keeper to fire into the left corner of the net from twelve yards for his first goal for United, who lead by a flattering two-nil at the break. After sixty-five minutes the game came to life when the home team were awarded a debateable penalty for a hand ball by Andy Hughes despite protests from the culprit and David Prutton. Paul Harsley confidently stroked the ball into the top right hand corner of the net to give Casper Ankergren no chance. Vale Park erupted two minutes later as Damian Rodgers showed determination to get his cross in and Danny Whitaker was on the spot to slide the ball home from close range for a deserved equaliser. However United refused to lie down and took the lead with just four minutes left on the clock as Tresor Kandol got in a looping cross for Dougie Freedman to place it expertly past the helpless Joe Anyon. However, justice was done in stoppage time when substitute Kyle Perry headed Paul Harsleyís free-kick across the face of the goal for Luke Rodgers to force the ball over the line to leave honours even as United slumped to tenth with fifty Ėfour point and their inability to beat lowly placed clubs was costing them dearly.

Andy Hughes was suspended and so Alan Sheehan took his place at left-back, while there was a welcome return after a three month absence with a knee injury for Jonathan Douglas and he replaced Sebastien Carole on the bench for the visit of Walsall to Elland Road and managed to get on the pitch for the final ten minutes. Despite Walsallís superiority in numbers in midfield United soon got on top and almost took an early lead after Dougie Freedman put Jermaine Beckford in the clear but his first time shot as narrowly wide. He was not to be denied, however, and after just one goal in eleven matches, it was he who gave United the lead after twenty-nine minutes as he latched onto a Neil Kilkenny pass and waltzed round the keeper to roll it into the net. Walsall offered little threat on the United goal and in their only chance in the first half Edrissa Sonko strayed offside and it was David Prutton who tested Clayton Ince in the Walsall goal with a long range effort. The Saddlers were livelier after the break and Lee Holmes clipped the ball over the bar from a free-kick and moments later Tommy Mooney shot over with the goal at his mercy. At the other end Alan Sheehan forced a good save from Clayton Ince from a thirty-yard free-kick and the keeper also had to keep out a Bradley Johnson header. United got their just deserts ten minutes from time as Jermaine Beckford used his pace to latch on to a Neil Kilkenny through ball and get beyond the defence to steer the ball past Clayton Ince for his nineteenth goal of the season. The three points lifted United above Walsall into eighth position on fifty-seven points and just two points away from the play-offs with a game in hand.

United were unchanged for the visit of promotion rivals Brighton and Hove Albion to Elland Road, apart from Paul Huntington being preferred to Frazer Richardson on the bench. After just two defeats in eleven games Brighton arrived at Elland Road with high hopes but Leeds dominated the game until the final stages and after a series of early corners it took a desperate goal-line clearance from Andy Whing to keep out Dougie Freedmanís fourteenth minute shot from fifteen yards, and the same player was also unfortunate as he rolled a Bradley Johnson cross narrowly wide. Jonathan Howson had a fine game in midfield for Leeds and also went close on several occasions. Brighton did have a few moments and Glen Murray had the ball in the Leeds net after sixty-three minutes but was flagged for offside and, after replacing Bradley Johnson after fifty-eight minutes, Jonathan Douglas made a clumsy challenge on Murray but the referee ignored the Brighton claims for a penalty. Tresor Kandol had the chance to win the game in injury time, when Jermaine Beckford crossed from the left but his shot carried no force and Brightonís defensive qualities had held United goalless and gained a point and kept them in seventh spot still two points ahead of United on fifty-eight points as the season came towards the end with United facing the prospect of five of their remaining seven games away from home and plenty of work to do to make the Play-offs.

For the midweek evening visit to Doncaster Rovers at the Keepmoat Stadium United made three changes with Paul Huntington, Jonathan Douglas and Frazer Richardson replacing the injured Rui Marques, David Prutton and Darren Kenton, who were not on the bench, which left places there for Andy Hughes and Sebastien Carole. It was a must-win situation for United and very much a case of smash and grab as Doncaster dominated for most of the match. The home team produced some fine passing and classy football but were guilty of wayward finishing and trying to walk the ball into the net and they could find no way past the impressive Casper Ankergren. Paul Heffernan and James Coppinger combined in a neat move in the eighth minute but the final shot from Jason Price was blocked. Four minutes later it was Heffernan who turned and shot marginally wide and was then baulked by good defending from Jonathan Douglas. In the sixteenth minute it was Casper Ankergren to the rescue as he saved at the feet of Paul Heffernan after he had been put clear through by Adam Lockwood. Completely against the run of play in the twentieth minute Alan Sheehan gave Leeds the lead as he guided a left-footed curling twenty-yard free-kick over the defensive wall and into the top corner of the net. Rovers responded immediately as James Coppinger dribbled his way through but his close range shot was kept out by an instinctive save from Casper Ankergren. Roversí skipper Adam Lockwood was stretchered off in the thirty-second minute with a suspected fractured foot, but the home team still applied all the pressure and were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty as Jason Price was bundled over two minutes later. Leeds had to defend heroically and were under intense pressure in the second half and had luck on their side just two minutes after the break as Bradley Johnson headed a Gareth Roberts effort off the line with Casper Ankergren beaten. There was another penalty claim from Rovers after Steve Roberts was bundled over in the area twenty minutes later but like the first it was waved away by the referee. Substitute Lewis Guy missed a great chance in the closing stages as he fired over the top when well placed and Rovers were denied a deserved equaliser when Paul Green saw his effort cleared off the line by Jonathan Douglas with the last move of the match. United did not improve on seventh but hovered just one point away from a play-off spot with a game in hand on sixty-one points.

United didnít change their winning formula for their visit to Brisbane Road, home of Leyton Orient. Their only change was with fit-again David Prutton being preferred to Sebastien Carole on the bench. United took a stranglehold on the game in the fifteenth minute, just three minutes after Dougie Freedman had had the ball in the net only to be adjudged offside. After Leyton defender Tamika Mkandawire had handled, Bradley Johnson sent over a fine free-kick and Paul Huntington guided the ball into the net from close range. The home team should have equalised just five minutes later when Jason Demetriou and Adam Boyd combined to create a chance for Tamika Mkandawire but he volley over from just six yards. United kept up the pressure and on the thirty-minute mark Orient keeper Glenn Morris was forced into a double save from Jonathan Howson and Dougie Freedman. But Orient were not a spent force and came back just before the break for Adam Boyd to test Casper Ankergren with a dipping volley and Jabo Ibehre headed wide a cross from Jason Demetriou. Five minutes before the break the home team lost Alton Thelwell with a knee injury which did not help their defensive cohesion and five minutes into the second half United wrapped up the points when Stephen Purches slipped over and lost possession. Dougie Freedman swooped on the chance and crossed for Jermaine Beckford to notch his twentieth goal of the season with a shot from twenty yards. Ten minutes later he limped off to be replaced by Tresor Kandol and the threat from Unitedís attack became less potent and Leyton came back into the game without threatening Casper Ankergren. Despite a couple of good efforts from Charlie Daniels and Jason Demetriou United held fast and finished worthy winners with their second consecutive clean sheet, and their third in four games, and moved into sixth spot on sixty-four points and still with a game in hand.

The visit of promotion rivals, and second placed, Carlisle United saw the return of Darren Kenton from injury in place of Alan Sheehan in an otherwise unchanged United squad. Both teams were in good form with Carlisle undefeated away from home since the end of January and Leeds having lost just one game of the last eleven and having the boost of Jermaine Beckford passing a late fitness test. Paul Huntington played against his hometown team with his head bandaged to protect an injury sustained at Leyton in the previous game. United found themselves behind after just sixteen minutes as Evan Horwood passed to Simon Hackney, whose cross eluded several players before Scott Dobie finally made contact at the far post and ran the ball into the net. Dougie Freedman should have equalised four minutes later but he headed a Darren Kenton cross too high from eight yards. He was off target once more from twelve yards after fine lead up play from Jonathan Howson, Jonathan Douglas and Jermaine Beckford. Leeds dominated possession as Carlisle stacked the midfield with only ex-Leeds loanee Danny Graham upfield as an attacker and they hit back after the interval with two goals in nine minutes to take the lead. Dougie Freedman atoned for his earlier misses when he equalised in the forty-ninth minute as he took Neil Kilkennyís pass into his stride to hold off a challenge from keeper Keiren Westwood and score from eight yards. Jermaine Beckford had left the field in the fifty-first minute and it was his replacement, Tresor Kandol, who got in a shot that was parried by the keeper and the eager Jonathan Howson smashed the loose ball into the net. It only took Carlisle two minutes to get back on level terms when Casper Ankergren dropped a Simon Hackney corner and Danny Graham was on hand to score from point-blank range. The goals continued to flow as Dougie Freedman scored his second and Unitedís third on sixty-nine minutes. Grant Smith had fouled Bradley Johnson and from the resultant free-kick Neil Kilkennyís free-kick from the left was pounced on by Freedman who fired home unstoppably from close range. Both David Prutton and Tresor Kandol went close to scoring in the dying minutes and the win gave United sixty-seven points in sixth spot four points clear of seventh placed Walsall.

Jermaine Beckford had not recovered from an ankle injury and was missing for the visit to Huddersfield Town at the Galpharm Stadium and he was replaced by Tresor Kandol with Sebastien Carole filling the vacancy on the substitutesí bench. It was a feisty encounter with Leeds dominating the possession in the first twenty-five minutes as Huddersfield strung five men across the midfield. Town came more into the game after that and were unlucky not to be given a penalty on the half-hour as Andy Booth took a tumble in the box under pressure from Paul Huntington, but the referee waved play on. The game was littered with cynical fouls and Leeds captain Jonathan Douglas was booked for a trip on Jon Worthington in the thirty-second minute and seven minutes later he was booked again for holding back Michael Collins and was automatically red-carded. It was all square in the sending off stakes as Jon Worthington, one of the smallest men on the field, was sent off for his second yellow card just on halfĖtime. He made a rash challenge on goalkeeper Casper Ankergren and was booked and sent off, he turned and squared up to Unitedís biggest defender Lubomir Michalik and the big defender was booked also. The teams went in at half time on level terms and each with ten men. Early in the second half Huddersfield were in the ascendency and Michael Collins hit the bar. Just when it seemed that the game was going to end in stalemate as no clear-cut chances were being created substitute Joe Skarz,who had only been on the field for four minutes pulled clear down the left and picked out Andy Holdsworth unmarked near the far post and the midfielder powered in a header which went into the net off the post. Soon after Skarz again was the cause for concern as his delicate chip was not far out but landed on the roof of the net. Without twenty goal Jermaine Beckford United were toothless and hardly threatened and despite five minutes of extra time could not find an equaliser. United remained in sixth spot still four points clear of Walsall as this was their game in hand, but it was a missed chance to make the play-offs a certainty.

Alan Sheehan returned from suspension and was preferred to Darren Kenton at left back. David Prutton was in for the suspended Jonathan Douglas, while up front Anthony Elding replaced Tresor Kandol, who dropped to the bench.Rui Marques and Peter Sweeney took up the vacant spots as United visited the Den and the Lions of Millwall. Off the pitch there was a hearing into whether or not the High Court would arbitrate in Unitedís favour and re-instate the fifteen points they had been deducted at the start of the season but the verdict was not expected until 1st May 2008. Nearly two thousand United fans swelled the crowd to produce by far the biggest gate of the season for the London club and it witnessed a tense start with Ahmet Brkovic shooting wide from a free-kick while at the other end Anthony Elding forced Rhys Evans to the first save of the game after eight minutes. Millwall were making the better chances and again Brkovic was wide with a curling free-kick, while another of his free kicks was hooked over the bar by Tony Craig and the Croatian was just over with another. Casper Ankergren saved easily from Jay Simpson and Vas Savage but Jem Karacan rattled his cross-bar and Simpson sent a thirty yard shot just over. United did hit back and after an hour Dougie Freedman was narrowly wide and then volleyed straight at Rhys Evans, before, after seventy minutes, a clearing header from Tony Craig fell nicely for David Prutton to hit a sweet strike into the corner of the net. Then, nine minutes later, Bradley Johnsonís persistence paid off and his bye-line cross was stroke home by the unmarked Andy Hughes, who had come on as a substitute for Anthony Elding just six minutes earlier. It seemed hard justice on Millwall as they had at times outplayed United and it was hard to understand their lowly position, but their ten home losses compared to Unitedís eleven away wins explained it as United remained in sixth spot four points clear of seventh placed Brighton and five behind fifth placed Southend United with just two games left.

There was a ground record crowd on hand at Huish Park to see United take on Yeovil Town with United still without the services of injured star striker Jermaine Beckford but strengthened by the return from suspension of Jonathan Douglas, who replaced David Prutton in midfield, and Prutton was consigned to the bench with Peter Sweeney being omitted for the evening clash. United were off to the perfect start, as after four minutes, Neil Kilkenny crossed from the right, picking out Bradley Johnson at the far post. His shot was parried by Steve Mildenhall but the experienced Dougie Freedman scrambled the ball over the line for what turned out to be the winning goal, with the Yeovil Manager complaining bitterly that a hand had been used. Although Yeovilís football was neat and precise it was not until the twentieth minute that they had an attempt on goal when Marcus Stewart headed over. They had their best opportunity six minutes later when Aidan Downes got in a cross for Marvin Williams to force a superb save from Casper Ankergren with a six-yard header. It was the United keeper who again saved Leeds with just three minutes to go as he dived full length to turn a shot from Aidan Downes round the post. Alan Sheehan had Unitedís best effort in the sixty-ninth minute with a thunderbolt free-kick from forty-yards which had Steve Mildenhall flying across his goal to turn the ball for a corner, but Unitedís day was clouded by an incident just four minutes earlier when Alan Sheehan was dismissed for an appalling high two footed tackle on Lee Peltier which produced an instant red card and an all-in melee involving just about ever player on the pitch and the joy of gaining a play-off play was reduced by the incident as United edged seven points clear with one game to go and just two points behind fifth placed Southend.

The final game of the season saw relegation near-certainties Gillingham visit Elland Road with little but pride to play for although it was still likely that United could manage to gain fifth spot with a victory if results went for them. There were several changes made with the suspended Alan Sheehan being replaced by Andy Hughes coming off the bench to fill the left back spot. Scott Gardner played at right-back with Frazer Richardson being rested. Jonathan Howson was also rested and replaced by David Prutton with Fabian Delph coming on to the bench and Peter Sweeney replacing the also rested Neil Kilkenny. Veteran Alan Thompson was found a place on the bench as was Sebastien Carole. Tresor Kandol was given a chance up front in place of the rested Dougie Freedman in a team designed to rest key players for the play-offs rather than field the strongest eleven. Off-field the hearing had been decided in favour of the FA and the decision to deduct the fifteen points stood as United had agreed to the decision in order to regain their Ďgolden shareí and the court saw no reason for any appeal given that fact. So United had to bear the deduction and play in the play-offs and forget about any automatic promotion. The biggest crowd in League One for the season of 38,256 were there to witness Unitedís final League game of the season and were not happy at the poor display by United. A mistake by Paul Huntington gift-wrapped a goal for Simeon Jackson after twenty minutes, as he lost possession to the striker who avoided challenges from Lubomir Michalik and keeper Casper Ankergren to put the ball in the net from twelve yards. Huntington did partially atone for his mistake as he made an excellent block in the goalmouth from a twenty yard drive from Stuart Lewis as Gillingham looked to increase their lead. Without the threat of Dougie Freedman and Jermaine Beckford United were pretty toothless and Gillingham keeper Derek Stillie was never troubled in the first half which ended with United being booed from the field. United replaced Peter Sweeney with Sebastien Carole on the hour and just nine minutes later he was instrumental in United equalising as he crossed from the right and found Bradley Johnson unmarked twenty yards out and he equalised with a crisp shot. The winner finally arrived with just two minutes left on the clock when a long through ball from Andy Hughes found Tresor Kandol and the tall striker dispatched it into the net. The 2-1 defeat sent Gillingham into League Two and pushed United into fifth position on goal difference above Southend United on seventy six points just four points behind Carlisle United, who they would play on an home and away basis in the play-off semi-finals. However, they would have needed to show a large improvement on their recent showings which had yielded plenty of points but no great flair or entertainment and being outplayed for long periods by inferiorly positioned opposition.

After all the trials and tribulations of a season that started with a huge weight place round Unitedís neck, saw them rise to the challenge and looked like beating all the odds as they hit the top momentarily at the halfway point then nosedived almost into oblivion before again rising like a phoenix from the ashes of a burnt out season. They finally had a chance to redeem themselves in a winner take all play-off for the right to promotion to the CCCL and play alongside Swansea City and Nottingham Forest who had already booked their places. To do that they had to beat Carlisle United on aggregate over the home and away legs to get to the Wembley play-off Final. Considering they were the form team of the League with eighteen points from the last seven games and although finishing four points behind the Cumbrians they had, without the fifteen point deduction, actually gained eleven points more than their rivals in the season. Although Carlisle had halted Unitedís thirteen game unbeaten run from the start of the season by beating them 3-1 at Brunton Park, while in the return at Elland Road it was United who triumphed 3-2 to keep their play-off hopes alive and put a dent in visitors direct promotion aspirations. So it was all to play for with United installed as favourites as they had their full compliment back on the pitch as they lined up: Ankergren; Richardson, Michalik, Huntington, Johnson; Prutton, Howson, Douglas, Kilkenny; Beckford, Freedman. Lucas, Marques, Hughes, Carole and Kandol were the substitutes. Surprisingly, the crowd was less than for the final League game against Gillingham and of the 36,291 there were only just over one thousand in the visitors enclosure which seemed to be the only section of the ground where there were any empty seats. Carlisle had promised that they had come to attack and they were as good as their word, almost taking an eighth minute lead when Marc Bridge-Wilkinson shot against the outside of the post. Although Dougie Freedman went close with two twenty-yard efforts it was the visitors who created plenty of chances with Simon Hackney usually involved. United failed to heed the numerous warnings and when ex-Leeds loan player, Danny Graham, met Simon Hackneyís centre Casper Ankergren was forced to concede a corner. From that thirty-second minute corner Leeds failed to clear the ball conclusively and when the dangerous Hackney fired in a stinging volley from the left hand corner of the box there was Graham to get the final touch as the ball entered the net. Jermaine Beckford should have equalised two minutes before half-time after Neil Kilkenny had found him with a defence-splitting pass but his shot on the turn was well saved by Keiren Westwood. Simon Hackney was proving to be too hot to handle on the United right flank and he played in Evan Horwood, whose pass was stabbed into the net from eight yards by Marc Bridge-Wilkinson, giving Casper Ankergren no chance. United would have been happy to see the back of Hackney as he limped off in the sixty-ninth minute. Keiren Westwood was proving to be a stumbling block for United and he brilliantly tipped over a strong header from Jonathan Douglas and even when he was beaten Paul Huntingtonís shot was kicked off the line. United had been pressing and they finally got their reward and left themselves with a fighting chance by reducing the arrears in the fifth and final minute of stoppage time. Carlisle-born Paul Huntington sent a high ball into the goalmouth and there was the persistent Dougie Freedman to blast the ball home from close range just as it had seemed United, who were again below-par, would travel to Carlisle for the return leg as underdogs and two goals in arrears, but at least Freedman had given them a fighting chance.

Striker Jermaine Beckford passed a late fitness test and United were able to name a totally unchanged squad but, although Carlisle pressured United early on, they never reached the heights that they had risen to in the first encounter, where they dominated and were good value for their win. The Cumbrians were hit by a sucker punch in Unitedís first real attack after ten minutes when the impressive Jonathan Howson played in Dougie Freedman on the wing, the on loan from Crystal Palace striker squared it back to him, and the onrushing Howson rocketed the ball between two defenders and left Keiren Westwood helpless as the ball sailed past him to put United level on aggregate. The home team had already had a penalty appeal turned down but in truth they rarely threatened and had to thank keeper Keiren Westwood for keeping the score down. Jermaine Beckford should have done better with a header and Neil Kilkenny went close with a volley, before a defensive slip-up let in Leeds again. Full-back Evan Horwood made a hash of an intended header back to the keeper and the dangerous Dougie Freedman was on to it in a flash and only Keiren Westwoodís quick reactions saved the day for Carlisle. There was a couple of flashes of danger from the home team just before half-time as Scott Dobie hammered a volley wide and Marc Bridge-Wilkinson went even closer but his low drive was blocked by Casper Ankergren. It was Leeds who dominated after the break and Jermaine Beckford twice went close with long distance efforts which flew narrowly wide. Marc Bridge-Wilkinson did almost equalise in the seventy-third minute with a clever volley, but that apart, it was all Leeds as they camped in the Carlisle half. United almost got the second as Bradley Johnson headed against a post in the seventy-eighth minute and, with Carlisle praying for extra-time, Jonathan Howson struck with seconds remaining to send United to Wembley for the League One Play-off Final to stun Carlisle with a fine 2-0 win. Once again it was the Freedman-Howson combination that saw Dougie Freedman feed the ball to Jonathan Howson, who slipped an inch perfect shot inside Kieran Westwoodís post for his second goal of the game. It was a perfect end to another famous away victory after all had seemed lost when they were two goals in arrears at Elland Road. To their credit United battled on and after Dougie Freedman had got the vital goal at Elland Road they found their true form at Brunton Park and their 2-0 win was well-merited and could easily have been more. Doncaster prevailed in the other play-off Semi-Final and were Unitedís opponents in the Wembley Play-off Final.

Gary McAllister kept his starting eleven that had served him so well in the Play-off Semi-Finals and his only change to the squad was the inclusion of Alan Sheehan, after serving his suspension, on the bench in place of Sebastien Carole. At Cardiff two years previous Leeds had played poorly to be well beaten by Three goals to Nil in the CCCL play-off Final by Watford and, although they produced a better display at Wembley, they were second best for long periods, particularly in the opening thirty minutes of the game. They had a let off in the eighth minute when Jason Price fired over the bar when it seemed easier to score and then Richie Wellens selfishly fired into the side-netting when a cross would have been the preferred option as Rovers had others better placed. Casper Ankergren kept United in the game with well-timed advances from his goal to deny first the on-rushing James Coppinger and then James Hayter. When United finally settled, Jermaine Beckford shot straight at Ex-United custodian Neil Sullivan, but it was Rovers who finished the half strongly with James Hayter again going close to breaking the deadlock. Just two minutes into the second half Doncaster finally got the goal they deserved and it fell to the player who had gone close several times previous as James Hayter, who found himself unmarked close to the penalty spot, headed the ball beyond the reach of Casper Ankergren. Leeds tried to respond and despite Jonathan Howsonís prompting they seemed strangely disjointed. It was Jonathan Howson who fired over the bar but Neil Sullivan was strangely untroubled as Rovers defence gave him blanket cover. For the 2008-09 season Leeds would still be playing the likes of Hereford United and Cheltenham Town while Doncaster would be in the second tier for the first time since 1958. It was only five years previous that Leeds were in the EPL while Doncaster Rovers were in the Conference League, but the following season it would be Doncaster who would be playing at the higher level.

In the season United played forty-six games in League One and three in the Play-offs, two FA Cup, two League Cup, and three Johnstone's Paint Trophy games. Casper Ankergren led the way with appearances featuring in forty-three League games, three play-offs, two FA Cup games, and two League Cup games. Frazer Richardson and Jermaine Beckford both started in forty-five games in total, but Beckford also made two substitute appearances and David Prutton made forty-five starts and a further five appearances as a substitute. Other regulars were Rui Marques, thirty-eight starts, Tresor Kandol, thirty-six, Andy Hughes, thirty-three while Jonathan Howson and Matt Heath both started thirty games. In the goalscoring stakes Jermaine Beckford led the way with twenty goals, all scored in the League, while Tresor Kandol was the only other player to register double figures with eleven goals, all scored in the League.

Photographs of the era:


2008-2009 (Courtesy Timothy Reynard)

Inset:Neil Kilkenny, Paul Telfer, Tom Elliott, Jonathan Webb, Aidan White.

Back Row: Harvey Sharman (Head Physio), Rui Marques, Ben Parker, Lubomir Michalik, David Lucas, Casper Ankergren, Enoch Showumni, Peter Sweeney, Robert Snodgrass, Andy Beasley (Goalkeeper Coach).

Middle Row: Darren Mowbray (Video Analyst), Neil McDonald (First Team Coach), Luciano Becchio, Bradley Johnson, Alan Martin, Paul Huntingdon, Jermaine Beckford, Steve Staunton (Assistant Manager), Matt Pears (Fitness Coach), Chris Beasley (Kit Manager)

Front Row: Alan Sheehan, Jonathan Howson, Fabian Delph, Jonathan Douglas, Andrew Hughes, Gary McAllister (Manager), David Prutton, Frazer Richardson, Andrew Robinson, Robert Bayly, Scott Gardner.

2008-2009: Juniors (Courtesy Timothy Reynard)

Back Row: Michael Whitwell, Adam Watson, Andrew Milne, Matt Edwards, Sam Jerome, Luke Garbutt, Callum Williams.

Front Row: Sam Jones, Jason Mycoe, Liam Darville, Aidan White, Will Hatfield, Josh Falkingham, Tom Lees, Jonny Birbeck, Lee Booth.

2008-2009 (Courtesy Timothy Reynard)

Back Row: David Prutton, Lubomir Michalik, Frazer Richardson, Luciano Becchio, Matt Pears (Fitness Coach), Andy Beasley (Goalkeeping Coach), Simon Grayson (Manager), Richard Naylor, Casper Ankergren, Andy Hughes, Peter Sweeney, David Lucas, Enoch Showunmi, Lee Trundle, Alan Sheehan, Bradley Johnson, Robert Snodgrass, Paul Huntington, Rui Marques, Jermaine Beckford, Fabian Delph, Neil Kilkenny

Front Row: Ian Miller (First Team Coach), Ben Parker, Glynn Snodin (First Team Coach), Andy Robinson, Jonathan Howson, Aidan White, Josh Falkingham, Mike Grella


Gary McAllister: Manager, Tomi Ameobi , Casper Ankergren , Robert Bayly , Luciano Becchio , Jermaine Beckford , Sebastien Carole , Leon Constantine , Fabian Delph , Jonathan Douglas , Gylfi Einarsson , Anthony Elding , Tom Elliott , Dougie Freedman , Scott Gardner Matt Heath , Jonny Howson , Andy Hughes , Paul Huntington , Bradley Johnson , Tresor Kandol , Darren Kenton , Neil Kilkenny , David Lucas , Jonathan Lund , Simon Madden , Rui Marques , Alan Martin , Lubomir Michalik , Stephen O'Halloran , Ben Parker , David Prutton , Frazer Richardson , Andy Robinson , Gavin Rothery , Alan Sheehan , Enoch Showunmi , Robert Snodgrass , Sebastian Sorsa , Peter Sweeney , Paul Telfer , Jonathan Webb , Ian Westlake , Curtis Weston , Aidan White .

LUFC Season 2008-2009 After the disappointment of once more falling at the final hurdle, this time in the in the quest to take the first step back towards the EPL, the club looked hopefully to Manager Gary McAllister to build on that near miss and ensure that the step to CCCL was achieved. The close season had seen the usual activity with several players being given free transfers. Matt Heath going to Colchester United on 13th May 2008, Leon Constantine to Northampton Town on 2nd July 2008, Tomi Ameobe to Doncaster Rovers on 23rd July 2008, Anthony Elding to Crewe Alexandra on 24th July 2008, after being persuaded by Manager McAllister that there was no future for him at Elland Road, despite his reluctance to leave. Curtis Weston went to Gillingham and Sebastian Sorsa to Hamilton Academical on 1st August 2008, while Darren Kenton was off to Cheltenham Town on the following day. They also released three players, former Captain Alan Thompson on 28th May 2008, and Filipe Da Costa and Simon Madden three days later. United had had three players on loan to them in the latter stages of the previous season and the unfortunate Stephen OíHalloran had returned to Aston Villa without being able to kick a ball for United, while the club decided not to pursue Crystal Palaceís Dougie Freedman on a permanent basis while they signed Alan Sheehan on 1st July 2008. United had not been idle on the inward side of the transfer market and as well as Alan Sheehan they had finalised the transfer of Andy Robinson from Swansea City on 1st July 2008, Enoch Showunmi finally decided to come to Elland Road from Bristol City on a two year contract on 8th July 2008, while on 25th July 2008 United pulled off a coup by persuading the very promising young Scottish winger, Robert Snodgrass, to join Leeds from Livingston, despite other larger clubs being interested, with the fee being fixed by tribunal due to his age. After taking Luciano Becchio on trial on their Irish tour Manager McAllister decided to sign him from Spanish side Merida on 1st August 2008, while a week later he bolstered his defence when he took the old and experienced Paul Telfer from Bournemouth. Having signed Showunmi and Becchio, Tresor Kandol was now well down the pecking order and he was loaned to Millwall on 1st August 2008 until the New Year. United started their pre-season on 12th July 2008 at the Kit Kat Crescent against York City. Gary McAllister had twenty-four players on his team-sheet and made a complete change at half time. In the first half his line up was : Casper Ankergren: Frazer Richardson, Rob Bayly, Paul Huntington, Ben Parker; Jonathan Douglas, David Prutton, Peter Sweeney, Andy Hughes; Jermaine Beckford, Curtis Weston. A fine run and cross by Andy Hughes saw Jermaine Beckford force the ball home from close range to give United the lead after twenty-five minutes. With Rob Bayly partnering Paul Huntington in central defence and Curtis Weston partnering Jermaine Beckford up front Leeds looked disjointed at times. Soon after the goal Beckford should have doubled the lead but hit the side netting, while before half time York midfielder Sodje should have equalised but Ankergren saved with his feet but two minutes before halftime he did equalise at the second attempt. For the second half United lined up: Alan Martin; Scott Gardner, Lubomir Michalik, Ian Westlake, Alan Sheehan; Sebastien Carole, Jonathan Howson, Neil Kilkenny, Bradley Johnson; Enoch Showunmi, Andy Robinson, with debuts for the last two. Robinson impressed and nearly scored with a curling free-kick after Alan Sheehan had been brought down. Sheehan also sent in a shot which was just over the bar. Bradley Johnson suffered a knee injury and with three minutes left on the clock he was replaced by Tom Elliott and just on time Alan Martin made sure the scores remained level with a good fingertip save. Sebastian Sorsa remained on the bench, being the only player not to get a run. United the took off on their tour of Ireland playing their first game on the West Coast against Galway United on Wednesday 16th July 2008. The starting eleven was: Casper Ankergren; Frazer Richardson, trialist Paul Telfer, Paul Huntington, Alan Sheehan; Jonathan Howson, Andy Hughes, Andy Robinson, Bradley Johnson; Jermaine Beckford, Enoch Showunmi. Gary McAllister changed policy and played substitutes rather than using a different team in each half in an effort to give his firdt choices extra time on the pitch. Paul Telfer was given his first chance, partnering Paul Huntingdon in central defence. Leeds played neat football and Beckford had the ball in the net but was ruled out for offside after eighteen minutes. Five minutes later Enoch Showunmi headed narrowly over from an Alan Sheehan cross after good work by from Andy Robinson and Jonathan Howson. It was Robinson who provided Jermaine Beckford with the chance to put United in front two minutes later and this time he made no mistake to get his second goal of the pre-season. One minute into the second half it was Beckford again who extended the Leeds lead when he picked up the ball just inside the Galway half and after a strong run scored with a good finish. Gary McAllister rang the changes after sixty-two minutes, giving twenty-one year-old Canadian Under-Twenty-one International Marcus Haber a chance in place of Jermaine Beckford and Robert Bayly, Jonathan Douglas, Peter Sweeney and David Prutton replaced Jonathan Howson, Andy Hughes Bradley Johnson and Andy Robinson. Twelve minutes later he sent on Alam Martin in goal for Casper Ankergren, Scott Gardner for Frazer Richardson, Lubomir Michalik for Paul Telfer, Ben Parker for Alan Sheehan, leaving Rui Marques unused on the bench and Paul Huntington and Enoch Showunmi to play the full ninety minutes, as the game got a little scrappy and the home side missed a few chances. Rui Marques took the captainís armband and trialist Marcus Haber was given a start as United visited Bray Wanderers on their second game of their Irish tour, while David Lucas was given a chance in goal, as United gave several players a chance to show their ability as they lined up: David Lucas; Scott Gardner, Rui Marques, Lubomir Michalik, Ben Parker; David Prutton, Jonathan Douglas, Peter Sweeney; Marcus Haber, Andy Robinson. United started promisingly, with Bradley Johnson heading over after four minutes after good work from David Prutton and Andy Robinson but received a shock five minutes later when Daryl Robson took advantage of the Leeds defence leaving him free on the edge of the box by rifling a shot past David Lucas. United pushed for an equaliser and Peter Sweeney hit a post but it was the home side that increased their lead after thirty-two minutes when Leeds lost possession in midfield and former Leeds trainee Alan Cawley fed Ger Rowe, who scored with ease. It was not a fair reflexion of play but nevertheless the home side took a 2-0 into the second half. United pulled a goal back from an Andy Robinson corner which Rui Marques met at the far post to head home powerfully and after Rob Bayly replaced Rui Marques after sixty-four minutes, four minutes later they drew level as Prutton provided the pass that found Marcus Haber at the far post to tap home his first goal for the club. Enoch Showunmi replaced Marcus Haber after seventy minutes and five minutes later Jonathan Howson came on for Andy Robinson and seven minutes from time, as the game seemed to be heading for a draw, the two combined and good work from Showunmi saw Howson score. Casper Ankergren, Frazer Richardson, Alan Sheehan, Paul Huntington and Paul Telfer all remained unused on the bench. The tour moved to Dublin and the final game with Shelbourne as goalkeeper Alan Martin was given his chance and trialist Luciano Becchio was given his debut. Lacking the injured Jermaine Beckford and Andy Robinson, United started with: Alan Martin; Frazer Richardson, Rui Marques, Paukl Huntington, Alan Sheehan; Jonathan Douglas, David Prutton, Jonathan Howson, Bradley Johnson; Luciano Becchio, Enoch Showunmi. Paul Huntington lead the side and Luciano Becchio was soon in the action as he shot wide in the first minute. There was little action in the opening fifteen minutes other than Bradley Johnson having a free-kick blocked and Alan Martin making a routine save at the other end. Becchio was proving to be a handful for the Shelbourne defence and the keeper was harried into a mistake and the new man steered the loose ball goal-wards but a desperate goal line clearance denied him. However, after Jonathan Howson had rattled a post, a goalkeeping error by Alan Martin, who cleared straight to Anthony Flood, Shelbourneís leading scorer and he scored the easiest of goals, after twenty-three minutes. Unfortunately for him ten minutes later his game was over after a challenge from Rui Marques left him stretchered off into the waiting ambulance and the game started to get out of control with fouls and yellow cards being issued to both sides as tempers continued to rise. It was Paul Huntington, who had been in the thick of the action and on the receiving end of some dubious challenges, that got Unitedís equaliser on the stroke of half-time as an Enoch Showunmi effort from a corner was going wide when the big defender appeared at the far post to head home. Lubo Michalik came on after half-time for Rui Marques, who had already been booked and then Ben Parker replaced Bradley Johnson four minutes later before on sixty-two minutes Robert Bayly, Paul Telfer, Scott Gardner and Peter Sweeney replaced Jonathan Douglas, Paul Huntington, David Prutton and Jonathan Howson, but Enoch Showunmi shot wide and Luciano Becchio headed straight at the keeper when well positioned. On seventy-three minutes Luciano Becchioís debut game came to an end as he was replaced by fellow trialist Marcus Haber and six minutes later the Canadian shot wide and then put a header wide also. Peter Sweeney was causing trouble with his free-kicks and Lubomir Michalik got on the end of one but fired straight at the keeper, while at the other end Alan Martin was proving equal to the task and twice saved well as the game petered out to a 1-1 draw and the two keeper Casper Ankergren and David Lucas were the only Leeds players not to get a run.. Underhill Stadium, home of Barnet, was the next stop for Leeds after their successful tour of Ireland had yielded them two wins and a draw. With Jermaine Beckford and Bradley Johnson sidelined by injury, there was another chance for trialist Luciano Becchio, youngster Fabien Delph and Andy Robinson was back after injury as United lined up: Casper Ankergren; Frazer Richardson, Rui Marques, Paul Huntington, Alan Sheehan; Andy Hughes, Jonathan Howson, Fabian Delph, Andy Robinson; Enoch Showunmi, Luciano Becchio. United started by playing up the step sloping pitch and Andy Robinson had a shot blocked before two minutes had elapsed, but Barnet showed they were not going to be pushovers as United scrambled away their corner as they responded. It was Luciano Becchio who was proving to be an awkward customer as he shot over and then on fifteen minutes forced the Barnet keeper to an excellent save to deny him from opening his account. However it was the lively Andy Robinson who gave Leeds the lead after thirty-six minutes, with a powerful strike from the edge of the penalty box. It was the former Swansea City schemer that also fashioned an opening for Luciano Becchio to shoot wide from one of his defence splitting passes and right on half time it was Robinson again who tested the keeper with a curling shot. The travelling fans were given more to cheer about just four minutes after the interval as Jonathan Howson doubled Unitedís lead as he btoke through the centre on the downhill slope and picked his spot to give the Barnet keeper no chance. Paul Telfer came on for Frazer Richardson after fifty-six minutes, while Lubomir Michalike replaced Paul Huntington twelve minutes later, followed by Scott Gardner for Luciano Becchio on sixty-eight minutes and finally trialist Marcus Haber was on for Enoch Showunmi a minute later. United started playing possession football and kept the ball for long spells but allowed Lubomir Michalik to push forward and he saw his shot deflected away from the net. Andy Hughes too saw a shot blocked and Marcus Haber could not get through the crowded Barnet defence as he looked to score from the rebound and then saw another shot deflected over the bar as Leeds won 2-0 with ease. David Lucas, David Prutton, Jonathan Douglas, Peter Sweeney, Robert Bayly, Ben Parker and Alan Martin all remained unused on the bench. United wore their yellow shirts bearing the name of new sponsor Netflights.com for their Tuesday night visit to the Darlington Arena. They had Jermaine Beckford back from injury and new signing Robert Snodgrass on the bench, as they lined up for the kick-off with: Casper Ankergren; Frazer Richardson, Paul Huntington, Rui Marques, Alan Sheehan; David Prutton, Jonathan Howson, Fabian Delph, Andy Robinson; Enoch Showunmi, Jermaine Beckford. The game started slowly as Enoch Showunmi shot over and Alan Sheehan was wide from a free-kick before the Darlington keeper was tested for the first time after eighteen minutes as David Prutton shot from a distance. Beckford also tested him on the half-hour as the game did not reach any great heights and Darlington failed to get any shots on target and the only chance of the first half came two minutes before the interval when Alan White was forced to head over his own bar to thwart a Leeds raid. The second half showed some improvement as Jonathan Howson had a shot blocked and Rui Marques headed over from a corner, while Frazer Richardson twice reacted quickly to block efforts from the lively Adam Griffin. New signing Robert Snodgrass made his first appearance on fifty-seven minutes as he replaced Enoch Showumni while two minutes later Bradley Johnson came on in place of Fabian Delph. Ten minutes after coming on, Robert Snodgrass headed over from a corner and then as the game got into the last fifteen minutes Andy Robinson had a shot blocked and Jermaine Beckford had an effort saved by the keeper. Darlington should have taken the lead after eighty-one minutes, when Casper Ankergren failed to hold a cross but Alan White headed over from five yards and the game finished in a goalless draw. David Lucas, Jonathan Douglas, Lubomir Michalik, Scott Gardner, Ben Parker, Peter Sweeney, Robert Bayly and Alan Martin were all unused substitutes. For Unitedís final pre-season friendly they entertained Belgian First Division side FCV Dender at Elland Road and it saw a first start for Robert Snodgrass and a final chance for others to impress Manager Gary McAllister before the season kicked off one week later. With Luciano Becchio out with a slight injury, the starting eleven was: Casper Ankergren; Frazer Richardson, Paul Huntington, Rui Marques, Alan Sheehan; Robert Snodgrass, David Prutton, Jonathan Howson, Andy Robinson; Enoch Showunmi, Jermaine Beckford. After the poor performance at Darlington Gary McAllister had harsh words with the squad and his starting eleven for the game against the Belgians looked like his strongest team and the eleven that he had in mind for the seasonís opener at Scunthorpe United. The first team squad had remained unbeaten in six pre-season friendlies and were looking to add FCV Bender to their list. Enoch Showunmi was obviously keen to impress and started like a house on fire, having one effort cleared and then a dipping shot from distance saved after being set up by Andy Robinson. The Dender goalkeeper Alexandre Martinovic had to be in good form as Andy Robinson, Jermaine Beckford and their fellow strikers all tested him. It came as no surprise when United took the lead after twenty-four minutes, when, after good work by Robert Snodgrass, Enoch Showumni played in Paul Huntington and the central defender powered the ball into the net. Just four minutes later it was 2-0 as Rui Marques headed home a Robert Snodgrass corner. Enoch Showunmi had been the Leeds danger-man from the off and he tried to beat the keeper from distance and was then denied again by the alert keeper. He was not having much luck himself but he laid on a goal for his strike partner Jermaine Beckford after thirty-four minutes and Gary McAllister would have been pleased with his sideís performance and a 3-0 lead they took in at half-time. Dender started off the second half much livelier and pulled a goal back after fifty-five minutes as Bart Van Den Eede finished well after receiving a good through ball. A minute later Gary McAllister started to ring the changes as Robert Bayly and Lubomir Michalik replaced Frazer Richardson and Rui Marques, followed by more changes six minutes later as Scott Gardner replaced Robert Snodgrass, Jonathan Douglas came on for David Prutton and the complete change to the midfield saw Fabian Delph and Peter Sweeney on for Jonathan Howson and Andy Robinson. Three minutes later he sent Ben Parker on for Jermaine Beckford, leaving just the two goalkeepers David Lucas and Alan Martin unused on the bench. With all the changes it was inevitable that United lost their rhythm and the game drifted to its inevitable conclusion. However with four minutes of normal time left Paul Huntington headed home a Peter Sweeney corner for his second and Unitedís fourth of the game as they cruised to a very satisfying 4-1 victory. There were starts for United new boys, Robert Snodgrass, Andy Robinson and Enoch Showumni, while Luciano Becchio came off the bench to make his debut and Paul Telfer although making the bench had to wait for another day for his debut. United still boasted the best first day without defeat record which stretched back almost twenty years to the opening day defeat at St Jamesí Park when Newcastle were the victors as long ago as 19th August 1989 in the 1989-90 Second Division Campaign when Howard Wilkinson led his team to the EPL as Champions. The first-ever League visit to Glanfield Park promised to be a challenge to that record, but United had been installed as the promotion favourites by the bookmakers and hopes were high of maintaining the first day sequence. Frazer Richardson led his full-strength team out and they lined-up as follows: Casper Ankergren; Frazer Richardson, Paul Huntington, Rui Marques, Alan Sheehan; Robert Snodgrass, Jonathan Howson, David Prutton, Andy Robinson; Jermaine Beckford, Enoch Showunmi. The bench comprised: David Lucas, Jonathan Douglas, Paul Telfer, Andy Hughes and Luciano Becchio. The game opened brightly with Jonathan Howson prominent at both ends of the pitch, winning a corner from which Paul Huntington headed narrowly wide and then the centre back and midfield man were back clearing consecutive corners. The game continue at a frantic pace and Jermaine Beckford shot high over from a Frazer Richardson cross, while Casper Ankergren was also getting plenty of work at the other end. Scunthorpe had a good chance on thirty-eight minutes but Paul Hayes shot wide and United quickly responded as Enoch Showunmi capitalised on good work by Robert Snodgrass and grazed a post with the keeper well beaten. The half finished in controversy as the Ironsí keeper Josh Lillis fumbled a shot from Robert Snodgrass and the ball appeared to have crossed the line, but the referee and his Assistant failed to see and United went to the break feeling aggrieved not to be in front. They were quickly in command as the second half started and Lillis had to make a fine save to deny Andy Robinson, Enich Showumni had a shot blocked and both Jermaine Beckford and David Prutton had efforts go just wide and Robert Snodgrass continued to be a source of menace and was twice denied. After applying all the second half pressure, disaster struck United after fifty-seven minutes when Scunthorpeís Gary Hooper escaped the marking of Rui Marques and exchanged passes with Paul Hayes before beating Casper Ankergren and putting the home side into the lead. United responded quickly and just three minutes later the impressive Robert Snodgrass flighted a long free-kick and Enoch Showunmi rose well to head the ball home. Five minutes later there was almost a replica goal, only this time Enoch Showumni could not get his header on target. On seventy minutes it was again Robert Snodgrassí free kick that caused Scunthorpe more problems and David Prutton was wide as a chance fell to him, quickly followed by more fine saves from Josh Lillis to deny Andy Robinson and Jermaine Beckford as the Ironsí failed to cope the Scotís set pieces. Inevitably United finally hit the front with ten minutes left after David Prutton had rattled the bar; Jermaine Beckford was on hand to power home the rebound. Gary McAllister immediately sent Luciano Becchio into the fray in place of Enoch Showumni and soon tested Josh Lillis with a sot from distance. There was a scare at the other end as a misjudged back-header by Alan Sheehan gave a chance to Gary Hooper but Casper Ankergren reacted well to save the situation and Jonathan Howson forced another good save from Josh Lillis and David Prutton was narrowly wide as United took the honours with a fine 2-1 away victory, as Andy Hughes replaced Andy Robinson at the death. United had been given a trip to the Deva Stadium to play League Two side Chester City in the First Round of the Carling Cup and Gary McAllister resisted the chance of wholesale changes against weaker opposition even though Chester City had suffered a 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Dagenham and Redbridge the previous game. David Prutton was injured and Fabian Delph took his place in central midfield, while Luciano Becchio was given a start as Enoch Showunmi dropped to the bench, where there were places for Lubomir Michalik, Bradley Johnson and Tom Elliott in place of Andy Hughes as the substitutes allowed was increased from five to seven. It didnít take United long to open the scoring as after just three minutes a long free-kick from Casper Ankergren was whipped into the bottom right hand corner of the net from close range by Jermaine Beckford, who had escaped the marking of former Leeds Captain Paul Butler. A second soon followed after just ten minutes as Andy Robinson released Fabian Delph down the left and Robert Snodgrass was left with acres of space to pick his spot and score his first Leeds goal. The goals kept coming but this time it was the home side that found the net as a Ryan Lowe shot deflected off Rui Marques and left Casper Ankergren a spectator as it looped over his head. Jonathan Howson was close with a dipping shot as the gulf in class between the two sides became apparent and United got a third after twenty-five minutes as Jermaine Beckford pounced on a defensive error to easily beat goalkeeper John Danby. A fourth goal arrived after thirty-one minutes as Jonathan Howson and Robert Snodgrass combined well to cut through the Chester defence and set up Andy Robinson who curled the ball into the net for his first United goal. It could have been 5-1 soon after bur Paul Butler got in a last ditch tackle as Jermaine Beckford looked odds-on to complete his hat-trick. However, it was only delaying the inevitable and the Leeds striker duly completed his first-ever Leeds hat-trick with Robert Snodgrass finding him in space and he scored with an audacious chip from near the touchline fully thirty-five yards from goal to leave the Chester keeper John Danby stranded to put the game way beyond any doubt after thirty-five minutes. The score remained the same until half-time and after seven minutes of the second half Gary McAllister gave Jonathan Douglas and Bradley Johnson their first run of the season and also sent on Enoch Showumni in place of Jonathan Howson, Andy Robinson and Jermaine Beckford and left David Lucas, Lubomir Michalik, Paul Telfer and Tom Elliott unused on the bench. Ten minutes into the half Luciano Becchio forced John Danby to be at his acrobatic best to push over a goal-bound header. Soon afterwards Fabian Delph headed wide from a Robert Snodgrass cross and the keeper did well to keep out an Enoch Showumni effort and then the big striker was just too high with a shot in the sixty-third minute. The pace of the game had slowed dramatically and Chester City did create a couple of half-chances before Frazer Richardson was adjudged to have brought down Damien Mozika in the box and Ryan Lowe made no mistake from the spot after seventy-five minutes to round off the scoring as Leeds progressed to Round Two by 5-2. Lubomir Michalik, Tom Elliott and Bradley Johnson were the substitutes to miss out as David Prutton returned from injury to replace Fabian Delph in the run-on team and Gary McAllister reverted to having just five on the bench for his first home League game of the season against old rivals Oldham Athletic. He also gave the job of partnering Jermaine Beckford to Enoch Showumni as Luciano Becchio started from the bench as he picked the same eleven that opened the season at Scunthorpe. There was a crowd of 24,631 to see former Leeds legend John Sheridanís team, which included ex-Leeds player Sean Gregan in their ranks, test the latest teamís quality. It was United that set the early pace as Andy Robinson saw a shot blocked and Jonathan Howson witnessed his shot curve wide, but twenty minutes had elapsed before Robert Snodgrass tried his luck from distance but Mark Crossley watched as it flew over the bar, but it wasnít until twenty-five minutes that Casper Ankergren was brought into action as Chris Taylor tested him from outside the penalty area. Taylor also figured in Unitedís next threat as he headed an Andy Robinson free-kick just past his own post as he tried to avert the danger. After thirty-seven minutes Jermaine Beckford had a shot blocked and Robert Snodgrass just over from the resultant corner and Oldham tetorted forcing Paul Huntington to clear hurriedly to cut out Lee Hughes and Alan Sheehan blocked a shot from Andy Liddell, whose father Gary Liddell was a former Leeds player, as the teams went to half-time goalless. The second half was only five minutes old when Lee Hughes tried to lift the ball over Casper Ankergren from close range and as the ball rebounded from the crossbar it was Chris Taylor who was first to the ball the head into the net. Lewis Alessandra had the ball in the net a minute later but the visitorís were denied by the Assistantís offside flag. On the hour mark Leeds were denied a penalty after Sean Gregan had appeared to pull Enoch Showumniís shirt in the six-yard box, but the referee adjudged the Oldham man the saint rather than the sinner and it proved costly as Oldham increased their lead five minutes later as Chris Taylor was given all the time in the world to gave Casper Ankergren no chance with a curling shot from the edge of the penalty area. Gary McAllister reacted by sending on Fabian Delph and Luciano Becchio on in place of Jonathan Howson and Enoch Showumni. Their impact was immediate as the Argentinian tested Mark Crossley with an header and Fabian Delph created an opening for Andy Robinson, who shot wide. Alan Sheehan put in a free-kick which did not trouble Mark Crossley with fourteen minutes to go as United did not pose much of a threat and were lucky not to fall further behind as Lewis Alessandra was in the clear but Casper Ankergren came to Unitedís rescue with a fine save five minutes from time, as United slumped to their first defeat of the season and found themselves in thirteenth place on the ladder. Surprisingly Gary McAllister kept faith with almost all of his favoured eleven but there was an exception as he gave Luciano Becchio his run-on League debut as Enoch Showumni took his place on the bench. Becchio repaid his faith after just twenty-five seconds of the second away match of the new season at Huish Park, home of Yeovil Town, who had started the season well with a win and a draw to sit in sixth spot. Rui Marques had lifted a speculator over the Yeovil defence and as they waited for each other to make a decisive move the Argentinian took advantage to nip in and steer a left-footed drive inside the left-hand post past a surprised Asmir Begovic in the Yeovil goal. His strike partner was also looking to get in on the act and his shot was just over the bar in the sixth minute as he proved to be a constant menace to the Yeovil defence who were quite prepared to stop them both no matter what the cost. And the free-kicks and yellow cards started to mount. It wasnít just one way as Yeovil had to use two substitutes as Danny Schofield, after fifteen minutes, and Aidan Downes, seven minutes into the second half, were unable to continue. The two Leeds strikers continued to cause Yeovil problems and four minutes into the second half, United could have doubled their lead after Robert Snodgrass fired in a twenty-yard shot which Asmir Begovic allowed to slip from his grasp, but, unfortunately for Leeds, it squirmed past the wrong side of the upright. United conceded an equaliser in the sixty-second minute when Paul Huntington clearly pushed Paul Warne in the penalty box. Substitute Lloyd Owusu placed the spot kick low to Casper Ankergrenís left and the keeper made a fine attempt to save but unfortunately he couldnít hang on to it and the substitute was able to follow up and put the rebound into the net. Yeovil were now in the ascendancy but their scorer missed a good opportunity as he put the ball over the bar and Gavin Tomlin had Casper Ankergren back-peddling madly as he tried to lob him from distance. After seventy-three minutes Gary McAllister made a double substitution replacing Andy Robinson with Enoch Showumni and Robert Snodgrass with Jonathan Douglas as United switched from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3. The game was wide open and Jermaine Beckford and Luciano Becchio remained the major threats on goal as the game reached its last ten minutes but equally Yeovil were still causing Unitedís rearguard plenty of problems and with four minutes to go Fabian Delph came on for Jonathan Howson. There were four minutes added for stoppages and United had Alan Sheehan to thank for stopping Gavin Tomlin from putting the ball in the net after he had rounded Casper Ankergren. In the end United were happy with a point which took them into twelfth place. Unitedís reward for beating Chester City was a home tie with CCCL side Crystal Palace which would give United a chance to see how they would cope with opposition from the higher League. Gary McAllister took the chance to give some of his fringe players a chance to get some game time in the first team. Sixteen year-old Aidan White was given his debut at left back and Paul Telfer also got his first game at the heart of the United defence and there were places for David Lucas, Lubomir Michalik and Neil Kilkenny was back after representing Australia at the Olympics as United lined up: David Lucas; Frazer Richardson, Lubomir Michalik, Paul Telfer, Aidan White; Fabian Delph, Jonathan Douglas, Neil Kilkenny, Andy Hughes; Luciano Becchio, Jermaine Beckford. With seven substitutes allowed United could choose from Alan Martin, Rui Marques, Andy Robinson, Bradley Johnson, Jonathan Howson, Robert Snodgrass and Enoch Showunmi. Palace had two ex-United loanees on their bench in John Oster and Leandre Griffit. David Lucas was soon in action as he Kieran Djali shot straight at him for him to make a comfortable save, but it was United that took an early lead as Jonathan Douglas shot home in the eleventh minute after Lubomir Michalik had sent a long ball forward and Jermaine Beckfordís flick on had found him unmarked and Leeds remained in command in the opening twenty minutes. After the twenty-five minute mark it was again Beckford to the fore as he forced a save from Darryl Flahavan and moments later there was an action replay which was saved at the expense of a corner. Kilkennyís flag kick was precise and it was the Leeds main striker who headed powerfully past the keeper to double his teamís lead after twenty-nine minutes. United continue to be the better side but could not improve the score before the interval. They effectively killed off the game seven minutes into the second half when Luciano Becchio got up well to meet a Frazer Richardson cross to head powerfully home. Manager Gary McAllister decided he had done his job and gave him a rest as he sent on Enoch Showunmi six minutes later and United were cruising with little threat from their CCCL visitors. Enoch Showumni almost made it 4-0 but was denied by Darryl Flahavanís desperate hand, after Jermaine Beckford had put him through in the seventy-second minute. Aidan White left to a standing ovation two minutes later as Bradley Johnson took his place and four minutes later Enoch Showunmi did make it 4-0 as he slid in to force the ball home and should have made it five soon after but took one touch too many and was closed down by the advancing keeper and with the job well and truly done Jonathan Howson came on for Jermaine Beckford with eleven minutes left on the clock as United waltzed into the Third Round with an emphatic 4-0 win over the more fancied Crystal Palace. After the strong performance in the midweek drubbing of CCCL Crystal Palace, Manager Gary McAllister stayed with the nucleus of the team that had given such an emphatic victory for the visit of eighth placed Bristol Rovers. Despite his excellent performance, there was no place in the squad for Aidan White and he did not include Paul Telfer either, preferring to bring in Bradley Johnson, for his first game of the season at left back, and Paul Huntington in central defence and Casper Ankergren, Jonathan Howson, David Prutton, Robert Snodgrass and Enoch Showunmi formed a strong bench. United started off confidently and were one up inside five minutes as Neil Kilkenny and Fabian Delph featured strongly in the build up and not surprisingly it was Jermaine Beckford on the business end of it as his strong shot went in off the hand of Bristol defender Steve Elliott. Bristol had their moments but it was united who were in control as the game reached the half-hour mark, but a moment of sloppiness proved to be costly as the United defence was caught square in the thirty-second minute after Paul Huntingtonís fine blocking tackle rebounded to Ricky Lambert, who found himself in plenty of space and had time to take aim before tucking the ball home for the equaliser. It got worse as the West Country team took the lead just five minutes later after they had been awarded a dubious free-kick, once more slack marking left Darryl Duffy unmarked as he shot accurately into the net from ten yards. United were quick to reply as Luciano Becchio got in a cross which Steve Elliott almost headed into his own net and this was quickly followed by Paul Huntington getting on the end of a Bradley Johnson free-kick, but his header was too high, while at the other end Duffy again found himself free but shot wide, as United went in at half-time 2-1 down. They started the second half at a quicker tempo and Bradley Johnson and Fabian Delph both could not convert chances into goals. After sixty-six minutes Gary McAllister took off Bradley Johnson and Andy Hughes and sent on Enoch Showunmi and Jonathan Howson as United pushed three up front. Howson almost immediately got in a shot which was blocked and Bristol showed they were prepared to defend in numbers and restrict Leeds to long range shots and crosses, and Gary McAllister threw on Robert Snodgrass for Luciano Becchio with fifteen minutes to go. However, it was Jermaine Beckford who got his second of the game and his seventh for the season in the seventy-seventh minute as he seized a chance in the area as Enoch Showunmi threaded the ball through to him and he finished confidently to equalise with a clever chip. Leeds looked the more likely of the two teams to get the winner and Neil Kilkenny saw a shot deflected wide as Leeds lay siege to the Pirates goal in the dying stages, but the Bristol defence held firm and they won their point but both teams slipped down the ladder with Rovers going to eleventh and United to fourteenth. United next had a Johnstoneís Paint trophy encounter with League Two opponents Bradford City at Elland Road and they took the chance to once more give some of the fringe players much needed game time. Aidan White was given another exposure at left-back after showing up well against Crystal Palace and the Leeds team was: David Lucas; Frazer Richardson, Paul Huntington, Rui Marques, Aidan White; David Prutton, Neil Kilkenny, Jonathan Howson; Robert Snodgrass, Enoch Showunmi, Andy Robinson. The five substitutes were Casper Ankergren, Bradley Johnson, Fabian Delph, Luciano Becchio and Jermaine Beckford. Gary McAllister started with three up front as Robert Snodgrass, Enoch Showunmi and Andy Robinson took those roles. United were quick to apply the pressure and David Prutton hit the post with an angled drive after just three minutes, but only seven minutes had elapsed before they took the lead. Paul McLaren handled in the box and Andy Robinson converted from the spot with an unstoppable shot. They did not have it all their own way and had to thank David Lucas for keeping the scoresheet blank. Jonathan Howson was the next to threaten the City goal as he fired a low shot wide from the edge of the penalty box. The Bantams thought they had got an equaliser after twenty-one minute when Neil Kilkenny was back defending on the line and his clearance hit David Lucas and cannoned back over the line but the flag was up for an offside. Eight minutes later Enoch Showunmi limped off and was replaced by Luciano Becchio who soon announced his arrival as he got in an header that was just over the bar. Bradford had a chance to equalise just before the interval but Barry Conlan headed over from close range, but after Andy Robinson had rattled the Bantamís bar, moments later it was 2-0 as Luciano Becchio got up well to head in a corner kick five minutes before half-time. It could have been 3-0 at the break but Andy Robinson failed to make the most of a chance after Bradfordís keeper Rhys Evans had kicked the ball straight to him. The second half was more of the first with City on the back-foot and after fifty-two minutes Luciano Becchio watched as the Bradford keeper clawed his goal-bound effort. Then Jonathan Howson hit the inside of the post and the keeper palmed a n Andy Robinson shot over the bar and then made a finger-tipped save from another curling free-kick from the same player. With twenty minutes left it was City that scored next as Barry Conlan turned a Kyle Nix cross into the net. Manager McAllister sent on Bradley Johnson to replace Neil Kilkenny one minute later but it was the visitors who pressed for an equaliser. With four minutes left on the clock Fabian Delph was sent on for Aidan White and David Lucas saved comfortably from Paul McLaren in the ninetieth minute as the Referee added three minutes but while the finale was tense United were through to the Second Round. For the home game with Crewe Alexandra United returned to their tried and true 4-4-2 system as they fielded the following team: David Lucas; Frazer Richardson, Lubomir Michalik, Paul Telfer, Alan Sheehan; Andy Hughes, Neil Kilkenny, Jonathan Douglas, Fabian Delph; Jermaine Beckford, Luciano Becchio. The substitutes were Casper Ankergren, David Prutton, Jonathan Howson, Robert Snodgrass and Andy Robinson. It saw Paul Telfer replace Paul Huntington in central defence and Alan Sheehan come in for Bradley Johnson at left back and Andy Robinson replace Enoch Showunmi on the bench from the team that had played out a 2-2 draw with Bristol Rovers. Crewe, who had lost three of their first four League games, had Anthony Elding in their ranks first his first return to Elland Road after leaving in the summer. United made much of the early running as Alan Sheehan created an opening, Jermaine Beckford as a threat and Jonathan Douglas headed wide before Andy Hughes had a header cleared off the line after twenty minutes. It was Fabian Delph, however, who gave United the lead after twenty-six minutes, as he celebrated his signing of a new four year contract by striking his first goal for the club from well outside the penalty box and the low shot clipped the left hand post on its way into the net. Ten minutes later Alan Sheehan added a second with another blistering long range effort, this time his left-foot rocket flew into the top right hand corner from thirty yards out. Luciano Becchio twice had headers pushed over the bar by Crewe keeper Steve Collis and it could well have been three or four by half-time as United dominated. Becchio started the second half by again being unlucky as his shot was deflected, but they didnít have long to wait for the third as three minutes into the half as Jonathan Douglas became the third player to score from distance as he drilled his first time shot inside the keeperís right hand post. With Fabian Delph controlling the midfield chances were arriving frequently and Jermaine Beckford and Lubomir Michalik went close. After sixty-four minutes Gary McAllister gave Jonathan Howson and Andy Robinson a chance to impress as they replaced Andy Hughes and Neil Kilkenny, and it was Andy Robinson who provided the cross for Jermaine Beckford to head home a fourth goal at the near post less than two minutes later, as he brought his seasonís tally to eight. After sixty-nine minutes Robert Snodgrass came on for Luciano Becchio, bit it was Robinson again that almost made it five as he rattled the crossbar and then, after seventy-eight minutes, forced Steve Collis to parry another effort. With nine minutes left on the clock he got his reward scoring with a spectacular curling shot from outside of the box. He then provided Jonathan Howson with a chance, but his header went wide. The game finished on a sour note for United as Lubomir Michalik was sent off after receiving a second yellow card for shirt-pulling and from the resulting free-kick Billy Jones headed a consolation for Alexandra. But the game was not yet over and Crewe salvaged a little more pride as Eugene Bopp scored with a deflected shot from the edge of the box with the final kick of the game. The win lifted United up into sixth spot and the extra goals had lifted them above the other three clubs on the same number of points. There was a trip down to the West Country to the County Ground to play Swindon Town, who were sat in eleventh spot, and Manager Gary McAllister had to make two enforced changes with Rui Marques coming in for the suspended Lubomir Michalik and Alan Martin replacing the injured Casper Ankergren on the bench. There was a very early yellow card for Rui Marques as he tripped Simon Cox on the edge of the box after five minutes, but worse was to follow as Alan Sheehan received a straight red card for a two footed tackle on Jon-Paul McGovern and United were reduced to ten men with only eight minutes on the clock. United dropped Andy Hughes to left back and played with a three man midfield with Jermaine Beckford helping out in defence whenever possible. David Lucas was soon in action saving from Simon Cox, but United were not a spent force in attack and Neil Kilkenny tested Phil Smith from distance and indeed took the leas after twenty-three minutes as a Frazer Richardson cross was not cleared properly by Jeril Ifil and Jermaine Beckford seized on the chance to shoot the ball into the net for his ninth goal of the season. Despite their numerical disadvantage United were holding their own and after Frazer Richardson had tried his luck from distance three minutes before the break and Simon Cox had also shot over with a speculator from outside the box, Cox was the next scorer right on the stroke of half-time when he was left unmarked and was able to pick his spot with a far post header. The Swindon keeper was soon in action as the second half saw Leeds straight on the attack with Kilkenny forcing him to save as Jermaine Beckford waited ready to pounce and Luciano Becchio was appealing for a penalty after he claim he had been pulled to the ground. So it came as no surprise when Neil Kilkenny gave Leeds the lead five minutes into the half with a shot from distance which looked innocent but the Swindon keeper spilled the catch and it rolled over the line. David Lucas made no such mistake as he pulled off an outstanding save to thwart Jon-Paul McGovern minutes later. On the fifty-eight minute mark Gary McAllister made a double substitution bringing on Jonathan Howson and David Prutton to provide fresh legs in midfield as Neil Kilkenny and Luciano Becchio came off, as United put four in midfield and left Jermaine Beckford as the lone striker, as Swindon started to make their numbers count. Nine minutes later Jonathan Howson and Fabian Delph combined well to make a break but Jermaine Beckfordís shot was off target. But United remained on the attack with Beckford chipping just over the bar and a Howson free-kick was cleared at the expense of a corner. Once again the Swindon keeper spilled the corner but it was scrambled away. Jermaine Beckford was always in the thick of the action and was unceremoniously upended in midfield after seventy-two minutes and it was he that clinched the match five minutes from time with a clinical finish after being put through by a long ball down the middle for his tenth of the season and he went off for a well earned rest a minute later as Robert Snodgrass came on. Even though there was five minutes of stoppage time United never looked anything but clear winners and recorded another fine away victory to take them into fourth spot. The suspension of Alan Sheehan gave Gary McAllister the chance to include the promising Aidan White at left back and gave him his League debut in an otherwise unchanged team for Unitedís visit to Brunton Park, which must have brought back fond memories of Unitedís play off victory there over Carlisle United. The sixteen year-old was soon in the action as he picked out Andy Hughes with a good cross from the left. Carlisle were quick to reply as Simon Hackney made good ground down the left before his cross went over the bar. The Carlisle defence was stretched after nine minutes when a good move in which Aidan White, Jonathan Douglas and Jermaine Beckford all combined well to let in Andy Hughes at the far post but his shot was scrambled to safety. United played good possession football and Jonathan Douglas went close with a strong shot but Carlisle quickly reminded them that they too posed a threat as Cleveland Taylor went close with a header after twenty-three minutes. However, after Neil Kilkenny had been denied by Carlisle keeper Ben Williams, United took the lead after thirty-two minutes from the resultant corner as Kilkennyís deep corner kick was put back into the middle by Paul Telfer and Luciano Becchio was on hand to force the ball into the net from close range. It was a deserved lead but Carlisle soon were back on the attack and Marc Bridge-Wilkinson shot from distance was not too far over the bar, while Jermaine Beckford and Rui Marques both went close for United as the half time break came. United soon created chances at the start of the second half as Luciano Becchio headed over a Frazer Richardson cross and Jermaine Beckford was just wide after he broke through the middle. Gary McAllister was forced to make his first change ten minutes into the second half as Aidan White limped off and was replaced by Jonathan Howson, as he took the midfield role with Andy Hughes reverting to left back. It was the new full back who came to Unitedís rescue as he cleared under pressure after Simon Hockey tried a shot as Carlisle mounted the pressure. Ex-United hero Michael Bridges came into the fray after sixty-three minutes but headed wide a minute later and his team-mate Danny Carlton did the same eight minutes later. Gary McAllister sent on Robert Snodgrass for Neil Kilkenny with fifteen minutes left as United conceded back to back corners, before Frazer Richardson rattled the bar from distance as United counter-attacked on eighty minutes. Two minutes later United were in luck as a goal-bound shot from Simon Hockey took a diversion, but with four minutes to go Robert Snodgrass broke down the right and Jermaine Beckford timed his run to perfection to shoot home from close range for his eleventh goal of the season as United completed a third successive away League victory to move into third spot on the ladder, as Andy Robinson took Luciano Becchioís place to wind the clock down. There were wholesale changes to the line-up as United entertained Hartlepool United at Elland Road in the Third Round of the Carling Cup. There was a first game of the season for Ben Parker at left back and Andy Hughes switched to right back and also took on the Captainís armband from Frazer Richardson. United had also allowed third choice keeper Alan Martin to go on loan to Conference National side Barrow to gain match experience. The team was: Casper Ankergren; Andy Hughes, Lubomir Michalik, Paul Huntington, Ben Parker; Robert Snodgrass, David Prutton, Jonathan Howson, Neil Kilkenny; Andy Robinson, Enoch Showunmi. David Lucas, Jonathan Webb, Aidan White, Fabian Delph, Jermaine Beckford, Luciano Becchio and Tom Elliott were the seven man bench. The night was off to a bad start as the visitors took the lead before two minutes were on the clock as Leeds-born Andy Monkhouse arrived unmarked at the far post to head a Joel Porter flick from a Ritchie Humphreysí cross past David Lucas. The United response was swift but Ben Parkerís shot was just off target as was an effort from Neil Kilkenny and Andy Robinsonís shot from distance was on target but keeper Arran Lee-Bennett coped easily with it. The equaliser duly came after fourteen minutes as Robert Snodgrass dispossessed Sam Collins on the edge of the penalty box and gave the keeper no chance with an accurate finish. Ten minutes later Andy Robinson created a chance for Jonathan Howson, but the midfielder shot wide and then shot just over after he had made another opening for himself. Despite Unitedís possession it was Hartlepool that scored next as Joel Porter found space on the edge of the box to score with a precision lob after he spotted Casper Ankergren off his line, after thirty-three minutes. Three minutes later United were forced to replace Robert Snodgrass, who was complaining of a stomach upset, by Jermaine Beckford and two minutes later Hartlepool almost increased their lead as Casper Ankergren was forced to push an Anthony Sweeney header over the bar and, on the stroke of half time United were again indebted to their keeper who saved them after Ritchie Jones had been put through by Andy Monkhouse. The second half saw Jermaine Beckford head just over the bar and Enoch Showunmi barge his way through only to be thwarted by the keeper, but it was he who scored the equaliser after fifty-seven minutes when he forced home the rebound after Jermaine Beckford had hit the bar. Five minutes later a David Prutton shot was just wide of the mark and then with twenty minutes left on the clock Luciano Becchio replaced Enoch Showunmi, but the winner would not come as Jermaine Beckford could not find the net as he chased a long clearance out of defence by Lubomir Michalik. With six minutes of normal time left and extra-time a distinct possibility, Gary McAllister sent on Fabian Delph for David Prutton, just in time to see Jonathan Howsonís powerful free-kick deflected over the crossbar. It was Andy Robinson who saved the game from extra-time and gave United the victory on ninety minutes as he cut in from the right and delivered a precision strike to give the keeper no chance and put United into the Fourth Round against possible EPL opposition. After the win over Hartlepool United Gary McAllister reverted to his winning side at Carlisle United except that he replaced Andy Hughes and Neil Kilkenny by Andy Robinson and Jonathan Howson as they took on Hereford United at Elland Road and the team that took the field was: David Lucas, Frazer Richardson, Rui Marques, Paul Telfer, Aidan White; Jonathan Howson, Jonathan Douglas, Fabian Delph, Andy Robinson; Jermaine Beckford, Luciano Becchio. The bench featured Casper Ankergren, Andy Hughes, David Prutton, Neil Kilkenny and Robert Snodgrass. It was Andy Robinson who tested the Hereford keeper Darren Randolph after five minutes with a shot from distance and it was also he who tried to play Jermaine Beckford in but Richard Jackson managed to clear the danger. United were well in command and Howson was wide and Delph tested the keeper before Aidan White cut in from the left only to see his shot deflected to safety by the Hereford defence. The visitors were heavily indebted to their keeper for keeping the scoresheet blank as he left his box to head clear and then thwarted Jermaine Beckford just after the half hour before denying Luciano Becchio after thirty-eight minutes. In the next three minutes, Jermaine Beckford was just wide with a curling shot from outside the area and Richard Rose put in a superb tackle to stop Jonathan Douglas from scoring from close range and then on the stroke of half time the keeper pulled off another fine save as Luciano Becchio headed goal-wards at the far post. The one way traffic continued in the second half as after three minutes Jermaine Beckford shaved the post with a shot from close range and then David Lucas was finally called upon to make a fingertip save to deny Nick Chadwick before Beckford was again close on two occasions as on the one hour mark United had had twenty shots on goal with ten of them being on target with barely a shot by Hereford as United had enjoyed over sixty per cent of the possession. Randolph was having an excellent game in the Hereford goal and he twice more denied Jermaine Beckford before Andy Robinson was just wide with an header and Randolph somehow kept out a Luciano Becchio header. United finally got the goal they had been looking for in the seventy-second minute but not before Randolph had performed another wonder save to deny Becchio and the goal came from a cross from Beckford which was met firmly by the head of Becchio and despite another fine one handed save by Randolph it only went into the path of Andy Robinson and he dived to head the ball into the net. Even after the goal Randolph continued with his man of the match performance to again thwart Luciano Becchio and the followed it up with a double save as he denied Jermaine Beckford. Gary McAllister sent on Andy Hughes for the young Adrian White after seventy-eight minutes. Then suddenly Hereford made a concerted effort to grab a point and Rui Marques got a decisive touch to deflect a Matt Done shot to safety in the eighty-fourth minute and a minute later Robert Snodgrass replaced Andy Robinson but it was Done who found an opening three minutes later but slipped as he was about to get in his cross and with Hereford showing a will to win Moses Ashikoda wasted a great opportunity a minute from time when he shot wide. In the end United were hanging on to their three points after having enough chances to have won the game with ease but they kept third place one point behind the joint leaders, Oldham Athletic and Scunthorpe United, but fourth placed Leicester City were also in the same points as United but had a game in hand. There was a midday kick-off for United as they visited Peterborough United at their London Road ground. During the week United had announced the release of Irish defender Robert Bayly and Manager Gary McAllister had chosen an unchanged squad but his plans were rapidly changed when David Lucas broke his finger in the pre-match warm-up and Ben Parker came on to the bench as Casper Ankergren came into the starting eleven in place of David Lucas. It was the Peterborough keeper Joe Lewis who was the first in action all-be-it to watch a Luciano Becchio shot go narrowly wide after five minutes as United were playing a 4-3-3 with Andy Robinson pushed up on the right wing. It was, however, Casper Ankergren who was the first to have to pull off the first goal-saving save as he made a splendid stop from Craig Mackail-Smith who had found himself in space. United hit back and Luciano Becchio headed over and Jermaine Beckford shot over before the first quarter of an hour had elapsed. United were enjoying the better possession but Casper Ankergren was again in the action as he saved a low shot from Paul Coutts, while Luciano Becchio also went close at the other end, before the keeper was again in action saving from George Boyd and Craig Mackail-Smith in quick succession as Peterborough came more into the game. Joe Lewis was also in action as he had to leave his line to thwart Jermaine Beckford and the United striker was appealing for a penalty after he had been impeded in the box soon after. Although United finished the half in the ascendancy they had Rui Marques and Paul Telfer to thank for some good defending after Shaun Batt had drawn Casper Ankergren and the ball was heading for the net and later the keeper was called upon to save with his legs to deny Craig Mackail-Smith. The game took on a totally different aspect after less than two minutes of the second half as George Boyd scored in controversial fashion when he netted by sliding in to divert a shot from Dominic Green, who had appeared to have handled a cross to the far post by Russell Martin before shooting. They almost added a second minutes later but Casper Ankergren reacted well to deny Craig Mackail-Smith. Jonathan Douglas was just wide for United and Craig Mackail-Smith even closer for the home team, before Fabian Delph forced Joe Lewis to make a good save as United mounted more pressure and Gary McAllister sent on Robert Snodgrass in place of Jonathan Howson after fifty-six minutes. The Scot was soon in action as his free-kick was blocked and more United pressure saw the home keeper fumble a Neil Kilkenny shot after seventy-two minutes and at the other end Casper Ankergren was largely untroubled but did save well as he stopped a glancing header from George Boyd. United replied quickly and Andy Robinson had a goal-bound shot deflected and it looked as if United had got the equaliser they deserved in the eighty-second minute as Luciano Becchio had the ball in the net after he picked up the scraps after Joe Lewis could only parry a Neil Kilkenny shot, but the referee disallowed it for offside. Four minutes later Andy Robinson could not get a clear shot on goal after a well crafted move and United were given hope as the referee indicated four minutes of stoppage time but it was Peterborough who benefited as, after George Boyd had been denied, the United defence hesitated and Craig Mackail-Smith was quick to put the ball in the net after two minutes of overtime to put the game beyond United and they suffered their first away defeat and slipped to fourth place. For the Johnstoneís Paint Trophy Second Round encounter with League Two side Rotherham United, Leeds made their first visit to the Don Valley Stadium with a much changed starting line-up, which showed eight changes from the side beaten at Peterborough as the teamsheet showed: David Lucas; Andy Hughes, Rui Marques, Lubomir Michalik, Ben Parker; Neil Kilkenny, David Prutton, Jonathan Howson, Robert Snodgrass; Enoch Showunmi, Andy Robinson. Substitutes: Casper Ankergren, Alan Sheehan, Fabian Delph, Jermaine Beckford, Luciano Becchio. In a bright start Robert Snodgrass rattled the crossbar with a free-kick and Andy Warrington pulled off a fine save as Andy Robinson shot from distance, but it was the home side that took the lead after eighteen minutes when Ian Sharpe got up well to a long throw from Andy Nicholas and the ball looped over David Lucas and into the net. Leeds were back on level terms when, after Andy Robinson and Robert Snodgrass had both had efforts stopped, Jonathan Howson was on hand to score from close range on the half hour and just before half time Neil Kilkenny was extremely close with a free-kick. It was Rotherham, however, who took the lead from the penalty spot after Andy Hughes had brought down Reuben Reid in the area and Mark Hudson scored at the second attempt after David Lucas had saved low down but failed to hold the ball and Hudson netted from the rebound. The second half was only three minutes old when the home side extended their lead, as Drewe Broughton headed a Dale Tonge cross from the right firmly past David Lucas and five minutes later they went further ahead as Nick Fenton made it 4-1 with another header, this time from an Alex Rhodes corner. Leeds reduced the arrears two minutes later as Enoch Showunmi latched on to a through ball from Jonathan Howson and scored to make it 4-2. Gary McAllister immediately gave Alan Sheehan his chance as he was sent on to replace Ben Parker and on seventy minutes he was just wide with a free-kick. A minute later Jermaine Beckford was sent on for Enoch Showunmi, quickly followed by Luciano Becchio in place of Andy Robinson as United tried to save the game. However, it was Robert Snodgrass who came close as his header was clawed away by Andy Warrington before Becchio rattled the bar and then saved well from Neil Kilkenny. Unfortunately Leeds were reduced to ten men as Alan Sheehan limped off and while he was receiving treatment Pablo Mills had the ball in the net with another header, which fortunately was ruled out because of an infringement. Andy Warrington remained in defiant mood and in the dying minutes pulled off a good parrying save from Jonathan Howson before recovering well to deny Luciano Becchio from the rebound as United dropped out of the Johnstoneís Paint Trophy to the League Two side. Elland Road welcomed Brighton and Hove Albion, who were managed by ex-United star Micky Adams and after two consecutive defeats Leeds were looking for a return to winning ways. Gary McAllister made six changes from his team that had lost at Rotherham United in midweek and also had Paul Telfer unavailable with a groin problem and Alan Sheehan out with a hamstring injury. So the team was: David Lucas; Frazer Richardson, Rui Marques, Lubomir Michalik, Adrian White; Neil Kilkenny, Jonathan Douglas, Fabian Delph, Andy Hughes; Jermaine Beckford, Luciano Becchio. Casper Ankergren, David Prutton, Jonathan Howson, Andy Robinson and Robert Snodgrass were on the bench. There was a cautious start to the game and visiting goalkeeper Michel Kuipers was not called into action until the tenth minute when he saved from Jermaine Beckford. David Livermore, the former Leeds player who never pulled on a Leeds shirt in the League, was on hand to make a goal-line clearance to stop United from going in front soon afterwards and it was almost twenty minutes before Brighton threatened with a shot from Joe Anyinsah was well over the bar. United were having the better of the possession and Jermaine Beckford went close after twenty-five minutes, before Frazer Richardson tried his luck from distance which the visiting keeper fumbled but then after Richardson was again on target on forty minutes he made a fine save. After the half had remained goalless for forty four minutes there was a flurry of goals as an Andy Hughes cross was deflected across the face of goal for Luciano Becchio to smash the ball home at the second attempt to register his fifth goal of the season. Almost before the fans had finished celebrating, good work from Fabian Delph and Aidan White created a chance for Jermaine Beckford which he converted with a fine header and United went into half time 2-0 to the good. Straight from the restart it was Beckford who almost made it 3-0 with a shot that was narrowly wide and as United continued to press Rui Marques headed a corner against the bar and Jermaine Beckford also went close. Fabian Delph was in outstanding form and a menace to the visitors and on seventy-six minutes there was a flare-up as players took exception to the teenager being scythed down on the edge of the area. The United pressure paid off and Jermaine Beckford got his thirteenth goal of the season almost on time with a clinical finish but there was still time left for Glenn Murray to punish a Rui Marques mistake two minutes into injury time to leave the score at 3-1 as Brighton lost their first game of the season on the road and United went third on goal difference. It was third placed United playing fourth placed Millwall at the New Den and Manager Gary McAllister relied on his same starting eleven but Enoch Showunmi came in for Andy Robinson on the bench. Tresor Kandol was not able to play for the home team under his loan agreement and the game saw a tentative start by both teams as late tackles were prevalent and it wasnít long before the referee was hading out yellow cards and Millwall were appealing for a penalty after David Martinís mazy run was ended by Frazer Richardson in the penalty box after fourteen minutes. It was Martin who had the home sideís first shot on target eight minutes later but it was wide as Leeds defended well in the first half hour. This was rewarded by Luciano Becchio scoring the first goal of the game after thirty-one minutes as he showed great skill to carve out an opening before scoring with a shot from twenty yards out and his lethal left foot shot gave David Forde no chance as it flew into the far corner of his goal. They only had the lead for six minutes, however, as the veteran Neil Harris combined well with David Martin for the youngster to lift it over advancing David Lucas to leave well beaten with a precise finish and the sides remained locked at 1-1 as half time came. Disaster struck for Leeds after fifty-nine minutes when Neil Harris gave the Lions the lead after he climbed to delicately head home a cross from Marc Laird after the Leeds defence had failed to clear a corner. After sixty-five minutes Gary McAllister went to a bold 4-2-4 when he sent on Robert Snodgrass and Enoch Showunmi for Neil Kilkenny and Andy Hughes, but it was at the United end that Enoch Showunmi proved useful as he made a good defensive header and Jonathan Douglas was also on hand to make a block as Millwall threatened to increase their lead. United did create some chances and a good cross from Robert Snodgrass saw Jermaine Beckfordís shot blocked by Paul Robinson and David Forde had to race from his box to stop Enoch Showunmi after he had been put through by Fabian Delph, but David Lucas kept United in the game as he blocked a shot from Lewis Grabban with four minutes left on the clock. Enoch Showunmi replied for United but his shot was deflected wide but it was Millwall that put the game beyond doubt with two minutes to go. Gary Alexander pressured David Lucas into a hurried clearance after Fabian Delph had not put enough strength into his back pass and the ball went straight to Neil Harris who side-footed into an unguarded net from an acute angle. The defeat saw United drop to fifth spot. Leyton Orient were the next visitors to Elland Road for a midweek encounter and they were languishing in the relegation zone eleven points behind their hosts and this gave Gary McAllister hope of a quick return to winning ways as he made three changes to his team. Ben Parker took over at left back from Aidan White, who dropped to the bench, while Paul Telfer had recovered from injury to take over from Rui Marques in central defence and Jonathan Howson took over from the injured Andy Hughes, while Andy Robinson was restored to the bench at the expense of Enoch Showunmi. Fabian Delph was the first to threaten the Orient goal as his shot from distance went narrowly wide and ten minutes into the game United had a gilt-edge chance to take the lead as the referee pointed to the spot after John Melligan handled a Ben Parker cross. Jermaine Beckford stepped up confidently to take the penalty but lost his footing as he made contact from the spot and the ball sailed harmlessly over the crossbar. The visitors were proving to be an attacking force too as Adam Boyd shot just over and Luciano Becchio was back in defence to head away a corner. On twenty-nine minutes David Lucas did well to block Dean Morganís shot from close range but there was little he could do in the thirty-sixth minute as the same player beat him comprehensively to give the visitors a shock lead. It could have got worse as Frazer Richardson made a vital block to keep out Paul Terry. That save proved to be the springboard for the Unitedís thirty-ninth minute equaliser, as Jermaine Beckford broke loose down the right and his cross was deflected over Orient keeper Glenn Morris by Stephen Purches, who was pressured by Luciano Becchio and Morris was again called upon to save from Jonathan Howson just before the interval. It did not remain 1-1 as right on the stroke of half time United took the lead as Luciano Becchio scored with a powerful header after Frazer Richardson had provided the cross in first half injury time. Beckford started the second half with a fine acrobatic effort just three minutes in which rattled the crossbar after good work from Jonathan Howson and he was also a threat minutes later before Leyton rallied, but the striker was again close after sixty-five minutes and again three minutes later as United applied more pressure and it took a spectacular one handed save from Glenn Morris to deny him in the seventy-fifth minute as the Leeds striker turned quickly before delivering a powerful shot. Luciano Becchio had the ball in the net nine minutes later but was ruled offside. Orient let Leeds know that they were not a spent force as Ryan Jarvis shot just wide as Gary McAllister sent on Andy Robinson for Neil Kilkenny with five minutes left on the clock. It was Jermaine Beckford once more who went within a whisker of putting the result beyond doubt but as he rounded the keeper his shot could only find the side-netting. David Prutton came on for Luciano Becchio on full-time and was denied by Glenn Morris in stoppage time as United finished on top and the 2-1 win saw them up to fourth place, but it could have been so different as in their eagerness to attack United left themselves open to quick counter-attacks and a combination of wasteful finishing and bad luck in front of goal meant that Orient were able to stay in the game until the end and but for a brave save by David Lucas as he denied Jason Demetriou and a terrible miss by Ryan Jarvis after United had been opened up down the middle the visitors could even have snatched an equaliser or more. With David Lucas unavailable through illness, Gary McAllister took the risk of not having a goalkeeper on the substitute bench for the visit of Walsall to Elland Road. Casper Ankergren took his place in goal in an otherwise unchanged starting eleven and Enoch Showunmi took his place on the bench, with Andy Hughes and Paul Huntington still unavailable with groin injuries and Alan Sheehan out for another couple of weeks with a ham-string problem and he had also loaned Ian Westlake to Cheltenham Town. Former Leeds player Michael Ricketts captained the visitors as United started brightly with Jermaine Beckford skimming the crossbar in the opening minutes. Jonathan Howson tried his luck after ten minutes and Jonathan Douglas got in a shot which ricocheted off Luciano Becchio and Clayton Ince made an easy save. Leeds had the majority of possession and Neil Kilkenny shot from twenty-five yards and Fabian Delph had a shot blocked by Clayton Ince and Jermaine Beckford put the rebound wide before United were called upon defensively with Frazer Richardson pulling off a timely clearance and then Michael Ricketts had a shot blocked. In a half which Leeds ruled possession they were forced to shoot from distance as Walsall defended well and this was reflected in the 0-0 score-line as the teams went to the half-time break. It soon changed as less than a minute into the second half Luciano Becchio struck as Walsall could not clear their line and the Argentinian made no mistake from close range. The goal forced Walsall out of their shell and, after Chris Palmer had made a swift break and Troy Deeneyís right wing cross had found Jabo Iberhe eight yards out, Casper Ankergren made a fine blocking save and the visitors won a corner. The high wind was not conducive to good football but Leeds still maintained their passing game, but they had to be wary of Walsallís threat from a quick counter attack as Jabo Iberhe proved when he just failed to connect with a Richard Taundry cross. After sixty-one minutes Gary McAllister made his first substitution as he sent on Andy Robinson for Neil Kilkenny and the ex-Swan was soon in the action as his free-kick was deflected for a corner and his flag kick brought appeals for a penalty as the ball hit Paul Boertienís hand as he stood on the line. However, his third involvement brought the Leeds second goal from a superb strike by Fabian Delph, as Robinson took the ball to the by-line and pulled it back to the youngster on the edge of the box, who sent an unstoppable drive into the top corner, after sixty-five minutes. It was Fabian Delph who almost increased the lead further in the seventy-ninth minute with another powerful shot from the edge of the penalty box. Michael Ricketts had a shot from distance to show that Walsall had not given up the ghost as Robert Snodgrass came on for Luciano Becchio on the eighty-two minute mark However, it was Fabian Delph who put the game beyond doubt three minutes before full time with another stunning strike as he bent the ball past Clayton Ince from distance, and the 3-0 win pushed United into second spot on goal difference, but fourth placed Leicester City were just one point behind and had a game in hand. Gary McAllister, who had loaned Bradley Johnson to Brighton and Hove Albion, fielded an unchanged starting eleven but had a keeper on the bench as David Lucas replaced Enoch Showunmi for the midweek trip to Roots Hall to face Southend United. Dougie Freedman could not play due to injury but Dan Harding was there at left back to play against his former club. Leeds started brightly and won a corner in the opening minutes before Jonathan Douglas didnít make the best of a chance that came his way after five minutes and put his shot wide of the right upright from twenty yards. After ten minutes the home side started to come more into the game and debutant Francis Laurent forced two good saves from Casper Ankergren. Laurent was causing United problems and he won a free kick on the right hand side of the penalty box. Up stepped Dan Harding and his curling left footed kick beat Casper Ankergren to nestle in the top corner of the net, after eighteen minutes. Southend were now on top and could easily have gone two up soon after when the dangerous Francis Laurent brought a good save from Casper Ankergren but it was only palmed straight to Hal Robson-Kanu who ballooned over with the goal at his mercy. United were now living dangerously and the ball seemed stuck in the Leeds danger area, but gradually they started to come back and in the thirty-fifth minute Jonathan Howson forced Adam Federici to make his first save of the game. Jonathan Douglas had the best chance to equalise but he hooked the ball wide before Fabian Delph forced Federici to make a great one-handed touch at full stretch to push the ball round the post as the youngster connected sweetly from twenty-five yards. Now back in the game United created a few chances and Jermaine Beckford was just over with a header but it was Southend who finished the stronger as the half came to a close and could have had a penalty as Lubomir Michalik was beaten by Francis Laurent and seemed to pull him down but fortunately for United the referee waved their appeals away. United came back strongly after the break and Luciano Becchio crossed from the left and Jonathan Howson headed down for Neil Kilkenny to strike a sweet volley from ten yards but it was excellently saved by Federici as he pushed it over the bar. Leeds remained on top in the first ten minutes of the new half but could not create any clear cut chances and against the run of play Dan Harding almost repeated his strike from a free kick but this time Casper Ankergren was equal to the test and pushed the ball over the bar. The game now became end to end and Alex Revell was in the clear only to shoot narrowly wide. As the game started to get scrappy Gary McAllister made a double substitution after sixty-six minutes as he replaced Neil Kilkenny and Fabian Delph with Andy Robinson and Robert Snodgrass. Andy Robinson, like usual, was soon in the action but his shot from inside the box was easily dealt with by the keeper. With ten minutes to go United started to mount sustained pressure on the Shrimpersí goal and the two substitutes combined well for the Scot to get in his cross but there were no takers. Although they continued to press they were unable to make the pressure count and they went down to their third consecutive away defeat and slipped to third, three points behind the joint leaders and Leicester were still one point behind with a game in hand. United travelled to Whaddon Road to meet Cheltenham Town and Gary McAllister resisted the temptation to make changes to his team despite their three consecutive losses on the road and again fielded the same starting eleven but brought back Enoch Showunmi on the bench for Aidan White. Cheltenham, who had performed the double over United in the previous season, did make several changes, one being caused by United player Ian Westlake not being available for them under the terms of the loan agreement, but Darren Kenton, who had joined them from Unite in the close season was in central defence. United were quickly on the attack and Frazer Richardson tested Shane Higgs with a low drive and then the keeper reacted well to deny Jermaine Beckford after he had been played in by Luciano Becchio. So it came as no surprise when United did capitalise on their dominance after just six minutes as Luciano Becchio rose to head firmly past Shane Higgs from a Frazer Richardson cross from the right. United were totally dominant and only more good work from Higgs stopped the lead from being increased as he saved well from Jermaine Beckford. He was quicly brought into the action once more as he twice denied the Leeds striker then he did well to keep out a shot from distance by Fabian Delph and could only watch as Jonathan Howson could not get the rebound on target. Casper Ankergren, who had tipped a shot over earlier was called upon to make his second save after twenty-six minute when he safely collected a Drissa Diallo header. United sustained the pressure and pushed for the second goal on the half hour when Jermaine Beckford again went close after good work by Jonathan Howson and Ben Parker and soon Luciano Becchio went close with a header. It was becoming a procession as Neil Kilkenny failed to connect cleanly on the edge of the box and Frazer Richardson was causing problems down the right flank and he laid on another chance for Jermaine Beckford. However it was Cheltenham who had the final word in the first half as Scott Murray took advantage of a defensive mistake to get in a drive which past marginally wide of the post. It was the home side that threatened first in the second half when Paul Connor was twice off target with shots in quick succession as united were forced on the defensive. On fifty-two minutes it was Connor once again who forced Casper Ankergren to block with his legs when he really should have done better from close range. Jermaine Beckford latched onto a long clearance from Casper Ankergren but could only put the ball into the side netting. Gary McAllister made hid first change ten minutes into the half when he sent on Andy Robinson for Jonathan Howson and he was quickly involved and almost got to the ball after Shane Higgs cold not hold a shot from Luciano Becchio, but the keeper recovered in the nick of time and then after sixty-five minutes he got in a shot that was just wide of the mark as United continued to apply the pressure. United made their second change as David Prutton replaced Neil Kilkenny, after sixty-nine minutes. Two minutes later Jermaine Beckford had the chance to put the game beyond the home teamís reach but he shot over when well-placed and then Shane Higgs was again to thank as he stood the test as Andy Robinson shot from the edge of the box. At the other end Casper Ankergren too made a fine save to keep out a shot from Josh Payne. With tem minutes to go Manager McAllister made his third substitution by sending on Robert Snodgrass for the out of touch Jermaine Beckford as it was Unitedís turn to withstand pressure as Cheltenham sent men forward in an effort to get something out of the game and substitute Damien Spencer used his strength to advantage but Casper Ankergren was quickly off his line to thwart him with two minutes to go. A minute later Luciano Becchio had the chance to put things beyond doubt as he worked himself a good opening but once more Shane Higgs was equal to the task. Although United were on the back foot they were able to withstand four minutes of stoppage time to grab the three points to take them into second place as two points covered the top five teams. United had drawn Northampton Town in the First Round of the F.A. Cup at Elland Road and were looking to progress past the first stage with a win that would have been the first since United prevailed over Crystal Palace in 2003. Manager Gary McAllister preferred Robert Snodgrass to Neil Kilkenny and Andy Robinson replaced Jermaine Beckford, who was absent due to a hip injury. Andy Hughes was fit enough to take his place on the bench and Aidan White and Jonathan Webb were added to raise the compliment of substitutes to seven. The game got off to a fiery start and Giles Coke was booked for an over-exuberant lunge that was to prove costly. Luciano Becchio put an early effort over the bar before the visitors stunned the Elland Road crowd by taking the lead in the ninth minute. After former United player Leon Constantine had caused problems, Ryan Gilligan got free on the right and his cross was turned into the net by Scott McGleish. Paul Telfer went close to equalising eight minutes later but his header from a corner was cleared off the line and the crowd were again shocked to see the ball in the United net on twenty-minutes but heaved a sigh of relief when it was disallowed for offside. After twenty-six minutes Giles Coke was left ruing his earlier lunge when another cynical challenge flattened Fabian Delph in midfield and his second yellow card saw him leave the game and left his side to struggle with ten men for over sixty-five minutes. From the resulting free-kick Lubomir Michalik was close to getting an equaliser with a powerful volley that was only just off target. Northampton also had their chances and Andy Holt set up a chance for Ryan Gilligan but Casper Ankergren was able to stop his effort and from the rebound Scott McGleish fired over from almost forty yards. Good work by Luciano Becchio gave Jonathan Howson the chance to force Frank Fielding into a fine save but on thirty-six minutes United were level. It came from the penalty spot after Mark Hughes had brought down Jonathan Howson and Andy Robinson coolly converted the penalty. Just before half-time Andy Robinson hit the post with a long distance shot and Jonathan Douglas had a shot blocked by Mark Hughes and Jonathan Howson had a shot deflected into the side-netting and from the corner Fabian Delph shot over. The start of the second half saw Andy Robinson shooting over, before Robert Snodgrass hit a post with a superb left-footed shot and on sixty-three minutes the Scot again tested Frank Fielding. There was a header from Jonathan Howson and then Andy Robinson again tried his luck from distance as United continued to assert their numerical superiority as the Cobblers answered with a massed defence and after seventy-two minutes Fabian Delph forced Frank Fielding to save low down. Gary McAllister sent on Enoch Showunmi for Jonathan Howson with twelve minutes left and the big striker was soon involved in a goalmouth scramble, followed by a penalty claim after he had fallen in the box. With seven minutes to go Aidan White was introduced for Ben Parker but the game fizzled out and United faced a replay at Sixfields ten days later. United had a midweek visit to Pride Park for their Fourth Round clash with CCCL side Derby County as Neil Kilkenny replaced Jonathan Howson in midfield and fit-again Jermaine Beckford took his place on the bench at the expense of Jonathan Webb. Robert Snodgrass, who was playing on the right of a three-man attack soon had Roy Carroll in trouble with a shot from distance but it was Derby that opened the scoring after only six minutes, when Emmanuel Villa held off a challenge from Lubomir Michalik to beat Casper Ankergren and moments later Ben Parker came to the rescue as he put in a decisive challenge to avert a second goal. United replied with some good work from Fabian Delph in central midfield, and, after Robert Snodgrass had continued the move, Luciano Becchio saw his shot deflected over the top and then the Argentinian had the ball in the net but was adjudged offside. After eighteen minutes Unitedís task became even harder when the home team got a second from Nathan Ellington who scored from close range after a good passing move. Following this Leeds had almost total possession and impressed with some good football but could not break down the home defence. Andy Robinson had a shot from distance fumbled by Roy Carroll before they got their reward five minutes before the break when Luciano Becchio headed firmly past the keeper from a Robert Snodgrass cross and just before half time Delph went close from distance. United had played some superb football and as they came out for the second half they knew the game was theirs for the taking even though derby had packed their midfield in an attempt to stifle the flowing football that United had produced. A curling free-kick from Robert Snodgrass almost brought an equaliser in the fifty-sixth minute as it hit the post and with Fabian Delph ruling the midfield Luciano Becchio was unlucky to be ruled offside after netting from a superb through ball from the young protťgťe. Seven minutes later Andy Robinson was denied by a great save from Roy Carroll after good build up work from Robert Snodgrass, but it was the ex-Swansí last contribution as he was replaced by Jermaine Beckford after sixty-four minutes. Unitedís top marksman first involvement was to fire into the side-netting as he cut in from the left, followed quickly by curling a shot wide and then Robert Snodgrass tested Roy Carroll with another well-taken free-kick. After seventy-five minutes Aidan White replaced Ben Parker and five minutes later Neil Kilkenny was on for Jonathan Howson as United looked to make their final assault. It was ex-United favourite Rob Hulse who next caused trouble as he forced Casper Ankergren into action with Derbyís first effort of the half, but United were soon back searching for an equaliseras Richardson shot straight at RoyCarroll and Delph was wide and as four minutes were added they still pushed on as Lubomir Michalik was thrown into the attack and saw his header go narrowly over with a minute of added time to go and Jermaine Beckford tried to lob Roy Carroll with a final bid. However there was not to be an equaliser as the whistle blew on Unitedís finest performance of the year with the travelling faithful chanting ďWe played you off the park.Ē There was an early kick-off for the Ďlocal derbyí with Huddersfield Town at Elland Road in Unitedís next fixture and Gary McAllister kept faith with the side that had played so well at Derby County in midweek, leaving out Andy Hughes and Aidan White from the bench which had to be reduced back to the normal five. The sides were greeted by the biggest crowd of the season at Elland Road, 32,028, but there were gaps in the Lower East stand due to the Terriers not selling their full quota. The big turnout was soon rewarded as United took the lead after only three minutes as Luciano Becchio crossed from the left and Robert Snodgrass was there with the decisive touch at the far post, as the Scot justified Manager McAllisterís decision to play him and leave Jermaine Beckford on the bench. Town replied with an effort of their own but a free-kick from the edge of the box went over. Fabian Delph replied with a shot from distance and Luciano Becchio was blocked by Michael Collins while after twenty minutes Andy Robinson had the ball in the net only to be denied by the offside flag. Town were not frightened to attack and Gary Roberts shot from distance and Ian Craney had Casper Ankergren moving quickly to avert the danger as he got himself into a good attacking position, but it was Robert Snodgrass who curled a shot over the bar with the last goal effort of the half. Town were quick out of the blocks in the second half and got themselves back in the game thirty-five seconds into the new half, as the Leeds defence failed to deal with a cross from the right and Joe Skarz was left with an easy chance to hammer the ball into the net. United came back quickly in replay as Ben Parker had a shot kicked off the line but Huddersfield were giving as good as they got with Keigan Parker shot over from an acute angle after Gary Roberts had put him through. After sixty-two minutes Gary McAllister sent on Jermaine Beckford in place of Neil Kilkenny and the striker was soon on target as he forced Matt Glennon to make a fine save from distance. Nine minutes later Luciano Becchio fit the woodwork with a header from a good Robert Snodgrass cross. On seventy-six minutes United made a double substitution with Jonathan Howson and David Prutton coming on for Fabian Delph and Jonathan Douglas and four minutes later had a penalty appeal waved away after Jermaine Beckford appeared to be pushed over in the box as United piled on the pressure as Frazer Richardson had a shot blocked and a good cross from Andy Robinson went begging. With one minute of ordinary time left Andy Robinson curled a shot wide but two minutes into stoppage time Huddersfield stole the winner when ex-Leeds player Danny Cadamarteri went clear on the right and Michael Collins was on hand to prod the ball home from close range which saw United plummet to sixth on the table. Gary McAllister had allowed Malcolm Christie to train with United to see whether he could get himself match-fit and assess his worth to Leeds as a player and he handed him his debut as United visited Northampton Town in their F.A. Cup First Round Replay at the Sixfield Stadium, in tandem with Jermaine Beckford, as United reverted to 4-4-2. Captain Frazer Richardson was unavailable due to illness and this meant a recall for Andy Hughes. Casper Ankergren, Fabian Delph, Andy Robinson, Robert Snodgrass and Luciano Becchio were all rested to the bench as chances were given to David Lucas, Jonathan Howson and David Prutton while Jonathan Webb was added to Enoch Showunmi on the bench to make it up to seven. The teams were greeted by a damp and miserable evening and a crowd of less than 4,000 with at least a quarter having come to support the visitors and the teams both won early corners. David Lucas was the first goalkeeper to see any action as he made a good save after Liam Davis had struck a strong shot from just outside the box after ten minutes. United were the first to strike three minutes later when Lubomir Michalik sent the ball forward and, after it had been flicked on by David Prutton, Jermaine Beckford controlled the ball well before beating Frank Fielding with a clinical finish. The United striker kept the keeper on his toes as he twice shot straight at him and Malcolm Christie tried his luck with a low shot. Northampton should have done better after twenty-four minutes as Andy Holt shot wide from close range in a goalmouth scramble and then Luke Gitteridge tried his luck from distance and it flew marginally over. United responded immediately and after twenty-eight minutes made the score 2-0 after Jonathan Howson had played a neat one-two on the edge of the area with Malcolm Christie before getting in his shot on goal which took a wicked deflection off Mark Hughes to leave Frank Fielding wrong footed. Scott McGleish headed wide from a Danny Jackman cross after thirty-seven minutes and then Jackman forced David Lucas to a good save with a shot that ricocheted of Neil Kilkenny. While the Leeds custodian was pleased with his save his opposite number was not as United went 3-0 ahead after he had completely misjudged a good shot from thirty-five yards by Ben Parker to give the Leeds left-back his first goal for the club. It seemed to have put the tie beyond Northampton but they pulled one back as Jason Crowe headed powerfully into the net from a Danny Jackman corner a minute before half time. However, Jermaine Beckford restored Unitedís three goal cushion in stoppage time as he bagged his second for the night when he rifled home a shot as he cut in from the left. United started the second half with purpose and Malcolm Christie and Jermaine Beckford combined well in an early threat and it was Beckford who completed his second hat-trick of the season as Neil Kilkenny split the Northampton defence wide open with a superb pass for the striker to have the ball in the net with ease. The Cobblers should have scored when ex-United striker Leon Constantine had only David Lucas to beat and Scott McGleish shot wide from the resultant corner after sixty-seven minutes. But United had the game won and Enoch Showumni came on for Malcolm Christie four minutes later, quickly followed by Luciano Becchio for Jermaine Beckford a minute later and five minutes after that there was a debut for Jonathan Webb who came on for Paul Telfer. There still seemed as if there wre more goals to come as Lubomir Michalik made a good clearance and Ryan Gilligan put a shot over the bar for the home side while with five minutes to go Neil Kilkenny had a shot deflected wide and debutant Jonathan Webb headed a corner over the bar, before Jason Crowe pulled a goal back in the final minute as he headed his second goal of the night from a Luke Gutteridge corner. United eased into the Second Round where they had been drawn to meet Non-League Histon on their own ground. United had decide to release Tore-Andre Flo from his contract and he left to join his ex-Chelsea team-mate Roberto Di Matteo at MK Dons and it was back to the League as United played hosts to Hartlepool United and Gary McAllister made three changes from the team that had seen United through to the Second Round of the F.A. Cup in midweek. Malcolm Christie was not risked as he had a rib injury and he and Jonathan Webb dropped from the squad while Andy Robinson and Luciano Becchio returned to the starting eleven, as did Fabian Delph after being rested in midweek, so that he could make his England Under-twenty-one debut at Bramall Lane the following night. Jonathan Howson and Neil Kilkenny dropped to the bench and were joined there by Frazer Richardson, who had recovered from illness but was not risked, with Enoch Showunmi giving way and Robert Snodgrass remained on the bench. David Prutton was the first to shine as he supplied Luciano Becchio with a cross that he headed just wide. Jermaine Beckford too was soon in the action but was denied by Aaran Lee-Barrett, but there was nothing the keeper could do after fourteen minutes as the ace striker headed firmly beyond his reach from an inch-perfect Andy Hughes cross. Lee-Barrett was soon in action again as he saved well from Luciano Becchio three minutes later. He was proving hard to beat as he got down well to deny another Leeds well-struck shot six minutes later. But it was Hartlepool who were the next on the scoresheet in the twenty-fifth minute, when a corner was only cleared as far as Michel Nelson and from the edge of the penalty area he lobbed the ball into the goalmouth where Joel Porter pounced to beat David Lucas unchallenged. United responded and Aaran Lee-Barrett pulled of a double save from Jermaine Beckford as they continued to dominate with Andy Hughes a source of danger down the right flank and just on half-time they won a succession of corners one of which was kicked off the line as Hartlepool were clearly on the back foot at the break. Joel Porter and James Brown had gone close in the first half and Michael Nelson blazed over the bar from a Sam Collinsí free-kick before United regained the lead after fifty minutes as Fabian Delph got his fourth goal of the season after Luciano Becchio gave him the chance to display his skills on the edge of the box before firing home. The visitors had a good chance to bring the scores level again as Kevin Kyle hit the bar and a Matty Robson cross was well blocked by Lubomir Michalik. United increased their lead after sixty-four minutes when Jermaine Beckford found Luciano Becchio with a long through ball for the Argentinian to finish clinically from eight yards. Four minutes later it was main striker Beckford who watched his well stuck shot get deflected wide and then Andy Robinson lifted a shot over the bar. Gary McAllister made his only substitution after seventy-seven minutes when he replaced the Luciano Becchio with Robert Snodgrass. Ten minutes from time Aaran Lee-Barrett almost blotched his copybook as he let a shot from Andy Robinson slip through his hands but he recovered in time to stop it crossing the line. Unted were still pressing as the minutes ticked by and in the final minute Jonathan Douglas shot over from a well-worked corner, bur Jermaine Beckford rounded off the scoring when he controlled a through ball and rounded the keeper to slot home his fifth goal in two games as United won 4-1 but remained in sixth spot just three points behind Leicester City, who had deposed Scunthorpe United at the top. United kept faith with the sixteen man squad that had disposed of Hartlepool United as they returned to the scene of their recent 5-2 F.A. Cup triumph at Sixfields Stadium for the Tuesday night fixture, hoping to repeat the feat against Northampton Town for the teams third clash in less than three weeks. United had the first shot on goal as Andy Robinson tried his luck after being given a chance by Luciano Becchio but it was easily saved and Northampton were soon down the other end and Scott McGleish should have done better with a header after Andy Todd had found him with a cross. It was a lively start and United responded with a quick break which ended with Andy Robinson putting a shot over the bar. The action continued at a frantic pace as after nine minutes the home side went close as Ryan Gilligan hit a post with a superb drive from twenty-five yards out and then David Lucas was called into action to save from ex-Leeds man Leon Constantine, while at the other end Frank Fielding had no problems as Andy Robinson shot from distance but Northampton who had been comprehensively outplayed in the Cup-tie were certainly giving as good as they were getting in a much closer encounter. No one could complain when they took the lead after twenty-nine minutes with an extremely clean strike by Liam Davis from the edge of the penalty area which left David Lucas totally beaten. Jermaine Beckford led the Leeds response and only a superb save from Frank Fielding denied the in-form striker, who was back again after thirty-seven minutes forcing Fielding into making another good block after Andy Robinson had put him through and almost immediately Fielding got a touch on another effort from the striker to deny him a place on the score-sheet. Fabian Delph was the next to be denied as his shot hit the upright. Beckford was in top form but United received a blow when Fabian Delph received his fifth booking of the season which automatically ruled him out of the upcoming clash with Tranmere Rovers. Jonathan Douglas was also booked before half time as Unitedís frustrations began to show. United were early on to the pitch for the second half and first to threaten and Fielding was forced to make a top save by Andy Robinson who had been released by Ben Parker. At the other end David Lucas got down well to deny Leon Constantine but after fifty-minutes the play swung to the other end and Frank Fielding again saved from Andy Robinson as Leeds continued to probe for an equaliser. Luciano Becchio rattled the crossbar two minutes later after Jonathan Douglas and Andy Robinson had combined well in the build up. The former Swansea man was finding plenty of space on the right wing and the Cobblers defence had to be on their toes to keep out efforts from Jermaine Beckford and Luciano Beckford. Gary McAllister made his first change after sixty-six minutes as he sent on the more attacking Robert Snodgrass for midfield anchorman Jonathan Douglas. The move paid dividends as the Scot had a hand in the build up to Unitedís equaliser. Andy Robinson supplied the cross and Jermaine Beckford got on the end of it to equalise from close range. United kept up the pressure as Frank Fielding saved well from Fabian Delph after good work from Luciano Becchio. There was more bad news for United in the seventy-eighth minute as Jermaine Beckford went down injured and had to be taken off with a heavily-bandaged thigh and he was immediately replaced by Jonathan Howson. Still United searched for the winner and Frank Fielding, the England Under-Twenty-One International goalkeeper, who was on loan from Blackburn Rovers, stood as the barrier to three points and he again made an awkward save from Andy Robinson and then got down well at the post to save from Luciano Becchio. Jonathan Howson was also thwarted by the young International but after Leeds had dominated the second half the Cobblers stole the game right on the death with what was their first chance of the second half. They won a right wing corner and, after Danny Jackman took it, the relatively small Nicholas Bignall rose highest to head home the winner and Leeds finished with nothing to show for their dominance and slipped to seventh six points behind leaders Leicester City. Sebastien Carole who had not featured in a game in the current season was allowed to go to Darlington, but Leeds made several changes for their trip to Bridge Road to play Blue Square Premiership leaders Histon. Captain Frazer Richardson was re-installed at right back and Andy Hughes moved into midfield, while Rui Marques replaced Paul Telfer in central defence and Alan Sheehan returned at left back after injury to take over from Ben Parker, who like Telfer and David Prutton moved to the bench. Jermaine Beckford was out with a thigh injury and Robert Snodgrass took his place as Casper Ankergren and Neil Kilkenny made up the bench. Heavy rain and a muddy pitch greeted the two teams as they took the field and Leeds were first to threaten as Alan Sheehan shot over the bar inside two minutes. Although Histon went close as Jack Midson headed wide early on, it was Leeds who looked the more dangerous. An Andy Hughes cross was almost deflected into the net by home defender Patrick Ada and then Luciano Becchio, who should have done better, shot over after good work by Robert Snodgrass. However, it was the home side who took the lead six minutes before half time as central defender Matthew Langston rose unchallenged at the far post to head the ball home from a Gareth Gwillim corner and the writing was on the wall for Leeds. It was yet another goal given away by a defence with a lamentable record of conceding soft goals by poor marking. Although Leeds did dominate possession in the second half they failed to get control of the midfield where Histon Captain Matthew Mitchel-King excelled and marshalled his team well. Manager McAllister sent on Enoch Showunmi for Andy Robinson after fifty-two minutes and Jonathan Howson for Andy Hughes seven minutes later but to no avail in a game of few incidents and conditions totally unconducive to good football, as the rain swept pitch threw up splashes of water each time the ball was kicked. However, United were very close to grabbing an equaliser in the sixty-fifth minute when Lubomir Michalik hit the inside of the post and Luciano Becchio twice went close. In the closing stages United piled players forward and Lubomir Michalik had a shot blocked on the line by substitute Antonio Murray, as the home team repelled attack after attack and they even withstood two corners deep into stoppage time, as Leeds slipped out of the F.A. Cup for the first time to a Non-League Club and suffered one of their biggest of several humiliations in a competition, where except for purple patches in the Revie era has been a succession of early exits often against lower less favoured teams. After such a humiliation it was expected that Manager McAllister would need to come up with fresh ideas to bolster his teams flagging confidence and get United back into the vanguard of the promotion contenders. He was still without star striker Jermaine Beckford with a thigh injury and he lost one of his form players, Fabian Delph, to suspension and also Andy Robinson to injury. He made four changes to his line up as Robert Snodgrass continued to deputize for Jermaine Beckford but moved to midfield in place of Andy Robinson as Enoch Showumni took on the strikerís role. He also recalled Paul Telfer and Jonathan Howson in place of Lubomir Michalikand Andy Hughes, who both dropped to the bench, while David Prutton was Fabian Delphís deputy as Casper Ankergren, Ben Parker and Neil Kilkenny remained on the bench as United looked to improve their away form which had seen seven defeats in their last nine games as they visited Tranmere Rovers at Prenton Park. After David Lucas had pushed over a dangerous cross from John Johnson it was United that started off on the right foot as Enoch Showunmi gave them the lead after just ten minutes after Frazer Richardson had helped on a Robert Snodgrass corner for the burly striker to show good composure to fire United ahead as he hooked the ball into the net with his back to goal from eight yards. The lead was short-lived as Tranmere came back six minutes later to equalize after Andy Taylor floated a free-kick into the Leeds goal area and Tranmere skipper Antony Kay got between goalkeeper David Lucas and Frazer Richardson to head the ball into the net from twelve yards. Luciano Becchio almost restored the United lead after twenty-six minutes when he forced the Tranmere keeper, Danny Coyne to make a good save right on the line from a corner. While the game carried on mainly in midfield with little between the two teams it was Robert Snodgrass who was close just before half time as he was narrowly wide as he shot from distance and the two sides went in on level-pegging at half time, after Edrissa Sonko was high and wide for Rovers. It did not remain that way for long after they returned after the break as after just four minutes the former Leeds striker Ian Moore returned to haunt his old team once more as he fired his side ahead with a strike from outside the penalty area which left David Lucas well beaten. United responded but first Enoch Showunmi with a header and the Jonathan Howson with a shot were wide of the target. On the hour Alan Sheehan forced Danny Coyne to concede a corner and from it Luciano Becchio had the ball in the net with a header from Robert Snodgrassí flag kick but it was disallowed for a push on Antony Kay. After seventy-one minutes Manager McAllister sent on Neil Kilkenny to replace Jonathan Howson and United mounted a period of sustained pressure which saw Luciano Becchio heading wide. As United continued to press Jonathan Douglas and David Prutton had efforts blocked before Luciano Becchio thought he had a good claim for a penalty for handball as his shot was charged down. Three minutes of stoppage time brought no change to the final outcome and United lost again away from home and their promotion hopes were slipping away as they were in seventh spot three points adrift from sixth place and nine behind leaders Leicester City as the season started to approach the halfway mark. For the home fixture with Colchester United Gary McAllister had Fabian Delph back after suspension and this saw Robert Snodgrass move up to partner Luciano Becchio in attack as Jermaine Beckford was still out and this meant Enoch Showunmi dropped to the bench at the expense of Ben Parker. Frazer Richardson, with a corked thigh, joined Paul Huntington and Andy Robinson on the injured list but Malcolm Christie had recovered from his rib injury to take his place on the bench as Andy Hughes filled in for the Captain at right back. Neil Kilkenny was restored to the starting eleven as Jonathan Howson dropped to the bench, which was completed by Casper Ankergren and Lubomir Michalik. Colchester were without former United central defender Matt Heath with a hamstring problem but another ex-Leeds defender, Irish International right back Alan Maybury made his debut after being signed the previous Thursday. The teams ran on to a soddened pitch with the rain pouring down heavily to make matters worse, which made for a tentative start by both teams. After thirteen minutes it was Colchester that had the first attempt on goal as Jermaine Easter fired wide from an acute angle, but the referee had already blown for a push by Easter on Paul Telfer, who was captaining the home team for the day. United went on the attack and Luciano Becchio had a shot deflected for a corner and then Robert Snodgrass shot over after a corner. The game was literally getting bogged down an chances were few and far between and David Lucas got down well to deflect a shot in the twenty-seventh minute but it was Leeds who finally took the lead in the thirty-fourth minute when Robert Snodgrass chased a long kick from David Lucas and sprinted clear of Chris Coyne before neatly side-stepping Paul Reid before firing wide of keeper Jimmy Walker for his fourth goal of the season. The young Scot almost notched a second before half-time as he deflected a shot from Fabian Delph towards goal and then on the stroke of half-time shot straight at Jimmy Walker after Luciano Becchio had put him through. Two minutes into stoppage time at the end of the first half Colchester drew level in contentious circumstances. Referee Nigel Miller had sent Rui Marques to the touchline to change his shirt, due to bloodstains on it, and while he was there the referee allowed Mark Yeates to take a Colchester corner kick while United were reduced to ten men. Dean Hammond headed that corner past David Lucas and United were understandably angry and David Prutton was booked for protesting. After an hour Gary McAllister sent on Malcolm Christie for his League debut as he replaced Neil Kilkenny but five minutes later United were reduced to ten men when David Prutton received a second yellow card for a foul on David Perkins on the edge of the box. It became worse as from the resultant free-kick Mark Yeates hit a powerful strike that gave David Lucas no chance and Colchester took the lead. United had a chance to draw level as Alan Sheehan took a free-kick from the edge of the box but his goal-bound shot was palmed over by Jimmy Walker. With fourteen minutes left Gary McAllister sent on striker Enoch Showunmi for right back Andy Hughes as he tried to salvage the game. Almost immediately Luciano Becchio found him with a good cross but the substitute was unable to get sufficient power behind his header. Leeds did go close with just seven minutes left on the clock as after an Alan Sheehan free-kick the ball was kicked off the Colchester line by a defender. It was their last chance and they slumped to their third home defeat and down to eighth, twelve points behind the leaders Leicester City. Frenchman Mansour Assoumani had been signed after a trial period as a free agent and the former Montpelier player went straight into the team at right back as United travelled to third-placed MK Dons in danger of losing contact with the promotion places. Lubomir Michalik was recalled to replace Paul Telfer in central defence as the former Saint dropped out of the squad. Jonathan Howson was also recall to replace the suspended David Prutton as Gary McAllister made three changes to his starting team. In addition Malcolm Christie was absent with the flu and Tom Elliott was brought onto the bench alongside Casper Ankergren, Frazer Richardson, Andy Hughes and Enoch Showunmi. United were the first to create a chance as inside three minutes Jonathan Howson got in a shot from distance which was mishandled by Willy Gueret and though Robert Snodgrass was first to the ball he was unable to hit the target. Former United loanee Jemal Johnson gave his old team a fright as he forced Lubomir Michalik to slice his low cross and David Lucas had to be alert to keep it out. The ex-Loanee was again the source of trouble and this time it was more damaging as after ten minutes his low corner kick found the Dons skipper Sean OíHanlon in space to steer the ball into the net to put the home side in front. They doubled the lead just seven minutes later when another corner by Jemal Johnson, which was not cleared and after a bout of head tennis inside the goal area Aaron Wilbraham got the decisive touch to score the second goal. Leeds went back up the field and immediately forced two corners. The first was headed clear by Jude Stirling and the second saw Mansour Assoumani force Willy Gueret to make a save. United kept pressing and Jonathan Douglas had a shot deflected wide and from that corner Lubomir Michalik headed over. United were contesting well in midfield and Luciano Becchio was put through on goal but Willy Gueret was alert to the threat and collected the ball at the second attempt. At the other end David Lucas was also alert and saved well from Aaron Wilbraham, who had been played in by Sam Baldock. There was four minutes of stoppage time at the end of the first half and this saw Wilbraham head across the face of goal from a Shaun Cummings cross. In the half-time break Gary McAllister changed the team around as he withdrew Lubomir Michalik, moved Mansour Assoumani to central defence and brought in Frazer Richardson at right back. As United settled to their changes Jason Puncheon shot narrowly over from distance but United roared straight back and three minutes into the second half Robert Snodgrass scored with a stunning volley from distance. Then just one minute later United were appealing for a penalty for an apparent handball after Robert Snodgrass hit the ball against Niguel Angel Liera, but Referee Tony Bates waved them away. It was the home team who struck next and on fifty-five minutes Jemal Johnson was again the instigator as he crossed from the left and Aaron Wilbraham got up well to head past David Lucas. Goalkeeper Willy Gueret was called into action in the sixty-third minute as Rui Marques got in a header on goal from a Neil Kilkenny free-kick. While eleven minutes later Sean OíHanlon had to make a timely clearance after Frazer Richardson put in a cross from the right and then Luciano Becchio hooked a shot wide from a corner. With fourteen minutes to go Gary McAllister threw on Enoch Showunmi for Jonathan Howson. Then Alan Sheehan skied a ball over the bar after more good work from Frazer Richardson but MK Dons were still a threat and David Lucas had to save a low drive from Jason Puncheon at the foot of a post. MK Dons threw on ex-United man Tore-Andre Flo with eight minutes to go but fortunately he did not punish his former team, but it was the Leeds substitute Enoch Showunmi that tested the home keeper as he got in a good header from a Jonathan Douglas free-kick and Luciano Beechio headed wide with a minute left, but although there were four minutes added for stoppages United could not change the score and went down 3-1 and dropped to ninth, fifteen points adrift from Leicester City, who continued to lead the League after their fourth consecutive defeat. It was too much, and Gary McAllister bowed to pressure and stepped down as Manager. United now had their third Manager of 2008 as Simon Grayson took over the reins from Gary McAllister and he could not have asked for a more sterner test than a home game against League One leaders Leicester City, in a Boxing Day clash in front of 33,580 spectators, which was the biggest crowd of the season outside the EPL. He was boosted by the return from injury of Jermaine Beckford and Andy Robinson while David Prutton had served his suspension and was also available. After just two training sessions to assess his new charges, there were several changes to the squad and starting line-up as Casper Ankergren was recalled in goal in preference to David Lucas. Frazer Richardson was also recalled to the starting eleven in place of Mansour Assoumani, who did not make the squad, and neither did Tom Elliott, who was also dropped from the bench. David Prutton and Andy Robinson came into midfield as Neil Kilkenny and Jonathan Howson dropped to the bench. While the return of Jermaine Beckford to partner Luciano Becchio meant that Robert Snodgrass was also on the bench. One of Unitedís major weaknesses of recent times had been their inability to defend set-pieces, so when Lubomir Michalik headed away an early free kick and then the defence coped with the ensuing corner it was good to see that the frailty appeared to have been worked on. Manager Grayson was almost given the perfect start when after fifteen minutes as Andy Robinson crossed from the right and under pressure from David Prutton the Leicester keeper Dave Martin lost the ball and Luciano Becchi got in a snapshot which rattled the post from close range. It was Leicester, however, who got the first goal after twenty-four minutes, when their leading goal-scorer Matt Fryatt made all the running before laying it off to Matt Oakley who placed a low shot out of the reach of Casper Ankergren. Leicester were proving to be a well-drilled unit and United were often second best, but on thirty-five minutes Frazer Richardson went close with a low shot which went across the face of goal and then just on half time Fabian Delph had a shot from outside the box blocked as Leeds enjoyed a spell of pressure. They started the second half in similar fashion and Luciano Becchio fired over after good work by Andy Robinson. Simon Grayson made his first substitution as he brought on Andy Hughes for David Prutton and he soon made an impression with a crunching tackle on Mark Davies. United continued to apply the pressure and Andy Hughes volleyed just over the top after Dave Martin had fisted a high lob from Alan Sheehan straight to him. With fifteen minutes to go play was held up for treatment to Rui Marques after a clash with Steve Howard as United still searched for the equaliser again a very well organized Leicester team who defended in numbers. On seventy-seven minutes United made a double substitution as Robert Snodgrass and Jonathan Howson replaced Jonathan Douglas and Andy Robinson and as the minutes ticked down Jonathan Howson thought he had a good penalty claim, but it was waved away and Jermaine Beckford was beaten to a high ball by the visiting keeper. United were not going to be denied and the equaliser finally came in the first minute of stoppage time, as the two latest substitutes combined as Jonathan Howson played in Robert Snodgrass at the far post and the Scotsman tucked it away to secure a deserved point. With three minutes still left they did press for three points but time ran out and the point gained kept United in ninth place but their pointless streak had been stemmed against the best team in League One. There were two changes to the starting team as Andy Hughes and Robert Snodgrass were preferred to David Prutton and Jonathan Douglas for the visit to Edgeley Park to take on Stockport County in the final game in 2008 as the season reached the halfway mark. There was no place on the bench for Neil Kilkenny as Malcolm Christie had recovered from his bout of flu and was included as the backup striker. After leaving it until stoppage time to score against Leicester to regain their confidence United soon had it dented as the home team went in front after just two minutes at Stockport Casper Ankergren had made a great save from Michael Rose inside the first minute but he was helpless one minute later when Carl Baker set up Johnny Mullins inside the area and his powerful shot hit Jonathan Douglas on its way into the net. United had several near misses but the most spectacular came when Jermaine Beckford hit the woodwork with an acrobatic overhead kick. An equaliser was never far away and it came in the nineteenth minute when Luciano Becchio got the final touch on a Robert Snodgrass corner. United where within a whisker of a second three minutes later when Owain Fon Williams got down well to parry another goal-bound shot from the big Argentinian and the quick-thinking Jermaine Beckford almost seized the rebound. United had been well on top since conceding the early goal and had been playing some neat football and the home team had been penned in their own half for the best part of thirty minutes but on thirty-two minutes the home side had a Carl Baker header, following a corner, cleared off the goal-line in a desperate clearance by Andy Hughes and two minutes later Casper Ankergren was called upon to make a fine save to repel the home side following a corner and then saved again soon afterwards from Anthony Pilkington who had been put through by the lively Carl Baker. The second half started like the first with Stockport on the offensive but good defending denied Tommy Rowe. United were again close after fifty-four minutes as Robert Snodgrass bent a free-kick round the wall and past the keeper but unfortunately also past the post. The game continued to see-saw from end to end as the crowd were getting value for their money and the home defence had to be on their toes to clear an Andy Hughes cross which was destined for the ever alert Jermaine Beckford who had worked himself into space, while at the other end Alan Sheehan cleared well from a corner. On the sixty-five minute mark United sent on Malcolm Christie for the tiring Jermaine Beckford and Jonathan Howson in place of Robert Snodgrass. Eight minutes later United took the lead when the Stockport keeper made a poor clearance straight to Fabian Delph, who sized up the opportunity and sent a well flighted shot back over the keeper and into an empty net from over thirty yards out. The goal meant that Leeds were in with a chance of their first win since in over a month and after Casper Akergren had saved well from Dominic Blizzard on eighty-six minutes Leeds quickly moved the ball up field as Rui Marques found Malcolm Christie who hit a tremendous half-volley which went in off a post and registered his first Leeds goal that sealed the victory for Leeds and then Leeds sent on David Prutton for Andy Hughes with a minute to go to wind down the clock. The win did not improve Unitedís ninth position on the ladder and they still trailed Leicester by fifteen points and the sixth club by five points. Leeds had taken striker Lee Trundle on loan from Bristol City and there was a place for him on the substitutesí bench as they were hosts to Carlisle United. They were, however without Jermaine Beckford with a Hamstring injury and so Malcolm Christie made his starting eleven League debut as his replacement in an otherwise unchanged team. There were changes on the bench, however with Bradley Johnson, who had returned after a loan spell with Brighton and Hove Albion, and Mansour Assoumana replacing David Prutton and Jonathan Howson. Former United striker Michael Bridges was in the Carlisle line up and it was he who was first into the action after seven minutes and he should have scored when he was played in by Cleveland Taylor but his shot was superbly saved by Casper Ankergren who was quick to advance from his line. Unitedís furst chance came five minutes later when Malcolm Christie had a shot blocked by Danny Livesey and then Luciano Becchio shot into the side-netting after a surging run from Robert Snodgross had given him the chance. United went close on eighteen minutes when Alan Sheehanís free-kick was saved by Tim Krul after it had taken a deflection. It was the visitors, however, who scored first after twenty-six minutes when Graham Kavanagh and Cleveland Taylor made all the running and former Leeds loanee Danny Graham scored from close range. United threatened to equalise as they struck back quickly with a great cross from Robert Snodgrass finding Luciano Becchio at the far post, but his header was blocked superbly by Tim Krul. Graham Kavanagh was once more the provider as Michael Bridges increased the Carlisle lead after thirty-five minutes as he scored from a very acute angle. Shortly before half time Andy Hughes got in a good cross but Malcolm Christie was unable to connect as it flew past the goal and right on the stroke of half-time Tim Krul saved low down from Luciano Becchio. The striker also went close as the second half opened and Lubomir Michalik was denied by some desperate defending after he had got on the end of a corner kick. After fifty-seven minutes United sent on Bradley Johnson for Alan Sheehan and Lee Trundle for his debut as he replaced Malcolm Christie and a re-organisation saw them go to 3-4-3 as Trundle soon tried his luck but shot over from distance. Robert Snodgrass went close after good play by Fabian Delph before Manager Grayson sent on Andy Robinson in place of Andy Hughes after sixty-two minutes. Four minutes later Luciano Becchio saw his shot pushed on to a post by Tim Krul and Andy Robinson miscued the rebound straight into the arms of the relieved goalkeeper. Marc Bridge-Wilkinson also wasted a great chance to kill off the game completely six minutes later when he fired wide of an empty net. United were still looking to get back in the game and Tim Krul saved well from Bradley Johnson while Dave Raven headed away an Andy Robinson cross before Lee Trundle went close with a free-kick. Four minutes of stoppage time only produced one chance as Bradley Johnsonís shot was deflected and despite having the territorial advantage and the most chances United had lost to a team that made two of their three chances count. It saw United slip to tenth fifteen points behind Leicester and five outside the six spot. Leeds had made two further loan signings with Leeds-born Richard Naylor coming in from Ipswich Town and left back Carl Dickinson arriving from Stoke City on a monthís loan. They both were given run-on debuts along with other loan signing Lee Trundle while Bradley Johnson made the starting eleven against the team he had spent most of the season on loan with as they visited the miniscule Withdean Stadium to play Brighton and Hove Albion. Lubomir Michalik and Malcolm Christie dropped to the bench, while Johnson replaced the injured Robert Snodgrass. Mansour Assoumana was not included in the squad and was released by the club in the next few days while former regular Alan Sheehan did not even make the bench. United started brightly and Rui Marques had an effort cleared off the line after a Bradley Johnson corner and after ten minutes had the chance to go ahead from the penalty spot after Luciano Becchio had been pushed at a corner, but unfortunately he failed to take advantage as John Sullivan saved his kick with his legs. United were the better of the two teams and, after a terrific cross from Carl Dickinson, Andy Hughes just failed as he tried to put it into the net. United looked strong at the back with Rui Marques and Richard Naylor featuring strongly and Carl Dickinson made a brave header to clear a dangerous cross before Brighton had their first attempt on goal after twenty-two minutes when Andrew Whing shot wide from distance. Only a good save from Casper Ankergren denied Stuart Fleetwood who had found himself in space after a long ball had eluded the United defence, but a mistake by the United keeper when his clearance hit Fleetwood was rectified as Richard Naylor was able to clean up and Frazer Richardson also made a good clearance after a corner kick. The pitch was not in the best of condition and was cutting up badly and hindering either side from playing good football as the first half came to an end. The second half started scrappily and it wasnít until the fifty-seventh minute that anything of note occurred and then it was Nicky Forster who hit his fellow striker Stuart Fleetwod as he shot. United finally took the lead after sixty minutes when Lee Trundle got his first goal for the club as Richard Naylor sent a long free kick towards the Brighton goal and it was flicked on by Luciano Becchio and Lee Trundle showed great quality as he made a great turn and finish from ten yards. Six minutes later an injury to Frazer Richardson saw Andy Robinson enter the fray as Andy Hughes switched to right back. The ex-Swansea man earned a couple of corners but the game seemed to be drifting towards a narrow Leeds victory before Fabian Delph conjured a goal from nothing in the eighty-third minute, as Andy Hughes headed a Brighton corner clear and the youngster picked up the ball well inside his own half on the right hand touchline before setting off on a fifty yard run and, as the Brighton defence retreated, he finished with a shot which gave John Sullivan no chance. Two minutes later Malcolm Christie and Jonathan Howson replaced Lee Trundle and Bradley Johnson and United tried to increase the margin as Andy Robinson was just wide and then Malcolm Christie could not hit the target after been put through. So United kept a rare clean sheet and the three points gained saw them move up to ninth still fifteen points behind Leicester and five points out of the sixth spot. Third placed Peterborough United arrived at Elland Road looking to secure a double at Unitedís expense and gain ground on MK Dons and Leicester City. Frazer Richardson had not recovered from his injury and so Andy Hughes switched to right back and his place in midfield went to Andy Robinson and Richard Naylor, on home debut, took over as the Captainís armband. Jermaine Beckford and Robert Snodgrass had recovered from injury but were included on the bench as Malcolm Christie slipped out of the squad and was released by the club before the end of the month. There was a tentative start to the game and it was not until the seventh minute that either side had a shot at goal and it was Lee Trundle who turned in the box before lifting an angled drive over the top. He also won a free-kick on the edge of the area after a foul by Dean Keates and Bradley Johnsonís low free-kick was deflected for a corner. That corner saw Rui Marques have his effort blocked on the line by Craig Morgan before the visitors cleared their lines. Eighteen minutes had elapsed before the visitors threatened, as George Boyd headed wide, and then Craig Mackail-Smith shot over the bar. That duo had scored Poshís goals at London Road and it was George Boyd who then tested Casper Ankergren with a shot from distance after twenty-two minutes. United nearly opened the scoring, but Joe Lewis made a terrific save to deny Andy Robinsonís flick after a shot from Jonathan Douglas. On twenty-seven minutes it was again Joe Lewis who got down well to palm another Andy Robinson shot on to a post. Casper Ankergren was also kept busy at the other end and made a good save to keep out another George Boyd effort before Lee Trundle went close with a glancing header five minutes before the break. It was Peterborough, who had impressed as one of the best teams to visit Elland Road, who made the early running in the second half and on fifty-two minutes it was George Boyd who shot over and Aaron McLean was next to cause concern as he fired his shot over from an acute angle. Lee Trundle showed his skill as United hit back after fifty-seven minutes to win a corner but it was developing into a very close encounter. Simon Grayson made his first change two minutes later as he sent on Jermaine Beckford for Luciano Becchio and the striker made an immediate impact as Joe Lewis was forced to parry a Bradley Johnson free-kick and it was Beckford who pounced to score from close range to give United the lead just twelve minutes after coming on. United went looking for a second and only a great save from Joe Lewis prevented Lee Trundle from netting after great work by Fabian Delph. However, on seventy-one minutes it was again Jermaine Beckford who doubled the United advantage after Lee Trundle provided him with a tremendous through ball and the striker kept his composure to slot the ball past the keeper. Just when United thought they had the game won Peterborough pulled one back with ten minutes to go. The dangerous George Boyd headed a Chris Whelpdale cross against the bar and, despite a valiant attempt by Richard Naylor, Craig Mackail-Smith forced home the rebound. Simon Grayson threw on Jonathan Howson for Lee Trundle two minutes later and after eighty-eight minutes Robert Snodgrass came on for Andy Robinson as the time ticked down. Four minutes of stoppage time was signalled and after one of them United increased their lead as Jonathan Howson swept the ball into the net to secure a 3-1 victory which swept united into seventh spot but they were still five points out of the six and eighteen points behind Leicester, who now were edging away but only nine behind second placed MK Dons as the chasing pack started to bunch. United had a Tuesday night visit from third-placed Southend United and Jermaine Beckford was recalled to the starting eleven as Luciano Becchio dropped to the bench in an otherwise unchanged squad from the welcome win over Peterborough. On the other hand their visitors were having injury problems and lacked nine first team players. Leeds were off to a flying start as Rui Marques scored his first goal of the season after just six minutes. He rose the highest to firmly head the ball into the bottom corner of the net. It could easily have been more soon afterwards but Adam Barrett twice saved the Shrimpers with timely blocks. United were not to be denied and after eleven minutes Richard Naylor got his first goal for the club in identical fashion to Rui Marques after eleven minutes as he headed home another fine Bradley Johnson corner to make it 2-0. It could have been more as Jermaine Beckford had appeals for a penalty waved away after he appeared to be impeded by Simon Francis when he was through on goal and then after twenty-one minutes the ace striker lifted the ball over the bar. The two goals had taken a lot of the competition out of the game and half time came and went without much incident until just after the break Andy Robinsonís shot was off target after a good build up. Steve Mildenhall, the Southend keeper. Served his side well as he got down well to get his left hand to a shot from Jermaine Beckford and then the striker was denied by Johnny Herd after Jonathan Douglas had seized upon a poor clearance by the keeper. It came as quite a surprise when Southend came close to pulling one back when Theo Robinson saw his low hard shot thump against a post. Simon Grayson sent on Robert Snodgrass after sixty-nine minutes to replace Andy Robinson and four minutes later Jonathan Howson took the field as Lee Trundle came off. With just six minutes left on the clock he sent on Luciano Becchio for Jermaine Beckford and it was the big Argentinian who almost made it three as he went close soon after coming on, but it was at the other end that he proved his value when he put a defensive header over the bar as the Shrimpers threatened from a corner, in what proved to be the last play of the game and United won their third game on the trot and were now just three points behind their visitors who had dropped to sixth spot after the defeat and only six points behind second placed MK Dons. Tresor Kandol had returned from his loan period with Millwall and was almost immediately loaned to CCCL side Charlton Athletic for the rest of the season, while youngster Tom Elliott went on a monthís loan to League Two side Macclesfield and another young player Scott Gardner was released, as the transfer window neared its conclusion. Manager Grayson, not unsurprisingly, kept faith with his settled squad, when they visited Banksí Stadium in search of a fourth straight win against Walsall. The home side took an early lead after seven minutes as SofieneZaaboub crossed from the left and Troy Deeney rose to head beyond Casper Ankergren. Zaaboub also tried his luck with a free-kick as Walsall took the early initiative and Leeds struggled to find their cohesion and it was Zaaboub once more who shot over following a quick raid. It wasnít until the twenty-seventh minute that United created even a half-chance until Andy Robinson won a corner and his angled shot was turned away. Two minutes later Bradley Johnson did have the ball in the net but it was disallowed for offside. Jermaine Beckford shot straight at Clayton Ince as the defence backed off. On the thirty-sixth minute mark Andy Robinson curled a free kick wide after a foul on Lee Trundle on the edge of the box. It was Walsall that finished the half on top as both Richard Naylor and Carl Dickinson made timely tackles to keep the home team at bay as the teams went to half time. Simon made a double substitution ten minutes into the second half as Luciano Becchio and Robert Snodgrass came on for Jermaine Beckford and Bradley Johnson. The move almost came off as Becchio featured in the build up as Jonathan Douglas forced Clayton Ince to pull off a good save low down four minutes later. United were now starting to exert pressure on the home team and the tackling got more tigerish and the referee was soon reaching for his yellow cards but it was Jabo Ibehre who next went close as the Saddlers came back into the game. Manager Grayson made his final substitution as he sent on Jonathan Howson for Jonathan Douglas with twenty minutes to go. This saw United attacking more and Robert Snodgrass headed wide from an Andy Robinson cross before the Scot tried his luck from distance after another foul had handed United a free-kick. A cross from Andy Robinson saw Luciano Becchio rise to head marginally wide after seventy-seven minutes and three minutes later United had a penalty claim ignored as Robert Snodgrass went down in the box under pressure. United were throwing men forward in search of the equaliser and this left them exposed on the break and Troy Deeney almost bundled in but was just wide with four minutes to go. At the other end Lee Trundle had a shot blocked and Robert Snodgross had a good effort go wide. Four minutes of stoppage time even saw Casper Ankergren join the attack for a corner kick and Luciano Becchio headed an Andy Robinson free-kick over the top just before the final whistle as United went down 1-0 but stayed in sixth spot four points adrift from sixth spot with a game in hand. Richard Naylorís loan period had come to an end but United bought him from Ipswich Town and decided to release Paul Telfer, while taking on American Mike Grella after a one month trial period in which he scored a hat-trick for the Reserves. The Leeds-born player again led United against fifth-placed Millwall who started the game at Elland Road five points in front of United but had two games in hand, leaving United in a must win situation if they were to force their way into promotion contention. United retained the same squad from their defeat at Walsall but Robert Snodgrass replaced Bradley Johnson in the starting line-up. The Captain almost got off to the perfect start to his new Leeds career, but was wide with a header. Jermaine Beckford had two half chances, Andy Robinson went close and Richard Naylor threatened from set pieces, as the visitors were remarkably quiet in the early stages. Millwall did finally come into the contest as they were denied by a fine save from Casper Ankergren and Richard Naylor, who cleared off the line with the Lions claiming it had crossed the line, but replays showed it had not. On thirty-two minutes it was United that took the lead with a superb strike from Jermaine Beckford after he cut in from the right and held off Andy Frampton to give David Forde no chance with a curling drive. The ace striker almost got a second after being put through by Jonathan Douglas but he was just wide as he slotted the ball past the advancing David Forde. Andy Robinson also was close with a dipping effort just before half-time. Lee Trundle started the second half by forcing David Forde into a fine save to keep out his curling shot. Jonathan Douglas was booked for a foul and his fifth yellow card of the season meant he was automatically out of the upcoming match at Hereford. Gary Alexander had a chance for Millwall but he failed to trouble Casper Ankergren as it flew wide. After seventy-four minutes Simon Gayson sent Luciano Becchio on for Lee Trundle and five minutes later Bradley Johnson was on for Andy Robinson as Millwall were applying the pressure but Robert Snodgrass went close with a free-kick from the edge of the box. However, Casper Ankergren was forced into a fine save as David Martin tried to surprise him with a quickly taken free kick with three minutes left on the clock and then there were loud claims for a penalty by the visitors as Rui Marques tangled with Jimmy Abdou. United weathered that storm and after Jonathan Howson had come on for Robert Snodgrass with two minutes to go, came close to doubling their lead in the last minute but Jermaine Beckford blasted over after being played in by Luciano Becchio. Moments later the two strikers again combined and it was Jermaine Beckford who made no mistake as he netted his second goal of the game and this twenty-third of the season to give United an important victory and even though they remained in seventh spot they were now just two points behind sixth-placed Millwall and two others with equal points. The win over Millwall was not without its problems as the F.A. had handed Jermaine Beckford a three match suspension for a video-taped incident which had gone unnoticed by the match officials. His enforced absence meant a return to the starting line-up for Luciano Becchio and a place on the bench for recent signing Mike Grella. There was an almost capacity crowd of 20,928 on hand as United visited their nearest neighbours Huddersfield Town and a tense opening period saw the two teams test each other cautiously with the first threat coming from the home team after nine minutes as Anthony Pilkington got in a teasing cross from the left. It was Leeds, however, who had the first direct shot on goal in the fourteenth minute as Andy Robinson played the ball out of the Leeds half for Lee Trundle to release Robert Snodgrass who advanced on goal but shot straight at the Town keeper Alex Smithies. There was a quick response from the home team and it brought the first goal two minutes later when, after Richard Naylor had acted quickly to clear the danger after Casper Ankergren was put under pressure, from the resulting corner from Gary Roberts, Nathan Clarke rose between Richard Naylor and Andy Hughes to head past Casper Ankergren, who had failed to cut out the cross. United replies with an Andy Robinson pile-driver which keeper Alex Smithies could not hold and conceded a corner from which Rui Marques forced him to another excellent save. At the other end Casper Ankergren too failed to hold a shot under pressure, but was quick to recover at the second attempt after twenty-five minutes. Leeds who were prone to losing possession easily were starting to look sharper and Robert Snodgrass again went close on the half hour when his shot curled just wide. At the other end Andy Hughes made two decisive challenges to avert danger as Huddersfield pressed. United were on the attack as soon as the second half started and Luciano Becchio was appealing for a penalty as he went to ground as he tried to get on the end of an Andy Hughes cross, who eight minutes into the new half had to leave the field to be replaced by midfielder Jonathan Howson as Jonathan Douglas dropped back to right back. It was Douglas who was instrumental in a move just five minutes later, which also involved Robert Snodgrass, and saw the substitute midfielder glance a header just wide. Alex Smithies, who earned the man of the match tag, was again in the action with a good save from a well-placed Andy Robinson header from a Robert Snodgrass corner as Leeds were now applying all the pressure but finding the equaliser very elusive. There was a debut for American Mike Grella with fifteen minutes to go when he replaced Lee Trundle, but it was Robert Snodgrass who forced Alex Smithies to another fine save and the keeper was there again to deny Andy Robinson with five minutes left on the clock. Huddersfieldís goal had led a charmed life and with three minutes to go Richard Naylor had a header hit the post from an Andy Robinson free-kick. Simon Grayson threw on Lubomir Michalik for Rui Marques with a minute of normal time left and he was soon in the action as he pressured the Town keeper to fumble a high ball. In the four minutes of stoppage time United threw everyone forward and it nearly cost them dearly as Casper Ankergren denied Huddersfield a second goal after they broke through two-on-one against Richard Naylor as United went down 1-0 and remained seventh , three points behind sixth place. United were still without the suspended Jermaine Beckford and the injured Frazer Richardson and the injury to Andy Hughes and the suspension of Jonathan Douglas added to their woes as they visited Edgar Street to play third from bottom Hereford United in a Tuesday evening fixture. There was a return for Ben Parker at left back as Carl Dickinson, in his last game of his loan period before returning to Stoke City, switched to right back to take over from Andy Hughes, while Jonathan Howson replaced Jonathan Douglas and David Prutton came on to the bench. United started well with Carl Dickinson getting in a well-struck effort which Hereford keeper Peter Gulacsi got down well to save. Leeds continued to press, winning two corners in quick succession and Lee Trundle just could not connect with a good cross early on. Hereford came back and gained a free-kick on the edge of the area, which Jonathan Howson cleared but Kris Taylor followed up with a shot that cleared the bar. The home team missed a great chance to take the lead in the twenty-first minute when, after a Leeds attack had broken down, Jennison Myrie-Williams used his pace to get away from Carl Dickinson but lifted his shot high over as Casper Ankergren advanced to close the angle. It was Unitedís turn to next strike on the break after a Hereford corner was cleared and Fabian Delphís shot was blocked by a defender, then shortly after the half hour mark Andy Robinson forced Peter Gulasci to save after he had dribbled free in the area. More trickery from Andy Robinson saw the referee point to the spot after he was brought down by Kris Taylor on the thirty-seven minute mark but Lee Trundleís firmly hit shot was pushed round the post by the keeper. From the resultant corner there was more bad luck for Leeds as the on loan striker got in the way of a goal-bound header from Luciano Becchio and to compound matters the home side broke quickly and Jennison Myrie-Williams made up for his previous mistake as he tucked the ball into the net past the advancing Casper Ankergren after thirty-nine minutes. Just on half time the home side almost added a second as Sam Hewson put a shot narrowly wide. The second half saw Leeds quickly on the offensive with Andy Robinson having his cross deflected into the arms of the keeper and then Luciano Becchio seemed to be held back by the shirt as he bore down on goal, but the referee saw nothing wrong. On the hour mark Simon Grayson made a double substitution with Mike Grella coming on for Lee Trundle and Bradley Johnson for Robert Snodgrass. It did not stop Hereford going two up two minutes later when a corner from the left was headed back towards the goal by Godwin Antwi and Fabian Brandy got the finishing touch to score. It left Leeds with a monumental task to salvage anything from the game but Andy Robinson was narrowly wide after sixty-nine minutes. Nine minutes later Manager Grayson made his final change sending on David Prutton for Ben Parker and switching to 3-4-3. Hereford once more hit on the break and a Steve Guinan chip floated just over the bar. Luciano Becchio shot wide after seventy-eight minutes but was shown a yellow card soon after and being his fifth booking of the season he automatically ruled himself out of the upcoming home clash with Scunthorpe United. Although three minutes were added in stoppage time United were never going to get anything from the fixture and the Leeds fans chanted ďWeíre shit and we are sick of itĒ as United were making heavy weather of beating lesser sides and they dropped to eighth place four points behind the sixth club and one point in front of tenth placed Huddersfield Town. Unitedís next game saw them pitted against rank bottom Cheltenham Town at Elland Road, still without the suspended Jermaine Beckford and with loan Carl Dickinson having returned to Stoke City but they did have Andy Hughes back from injury and Jonathan Douglas back after suspension. Hughes replaced Dickinson at right back and Douglas came into midfield in place of Robert Snodgrass who moved into the striking role at the expense of Lee Trundle who dropped to the bench, as David Prutton and Bradley Johnson were omitted and Neil Kilkenny came back onto the bench. Ian Westlake, who was on loan to Cheltenham, was in their starting line-up. United were quickly on the attack and Luciano Becchio just failed to get on the end of a Jonathan Howson pass. The same two threatened again soon afterwards when Howson forced keeper Scott Brown to a good save as he shot from distance and Becchio was thwarted as the keeper was quick off his line as he chased a through ball. The keeper was again in action as he got down well to stop a Richard Naylor shot from crossing the line and after twenty minutes Fabian Delph saw his shot blocked after good work from Andy Robinson and Jonathan Douglas and seven minutes later it was Douglas who hit the bar with a header after Rui Marques had headed towards goal. The one way traffic continued and Scott Brown had to save fro Jonathan Howson and then Robert Snodgrass to keep his goal intact. United were forced into a change after thirty-three minutes when Andy Hughes limped off. Jonathan Douglas switched to right back and Neil Kilkenny came on in midfield. Michel Townsend and Scott Brown denied Neil Kilkenny and Luciano Becchio around the thirty-seven minute mark while Andy Robinson headed against the post with the rebound from Neil Kilkennyís effort. Casper Ankergren was finally called upon to make a save shortly before half time when he had to spread himself to deny Lloyd Owusu and Andy Robinsonís free-kick was just wide after Fabian Delph had been fouled on the edge of the box. At the start of the second half United continued on the attack and Neil Kilkenny needed too much time on the ball and then Fabian Delph went close with a curling shot. The long awaited goal to confirm Unitedís dominance finally came after fifty-four minutes when Robert Snodgrass fed Andy Robinson and his cross was met by a firm header into the net by Jonathan Howson from ten yards. Eight minutes later Chelmsfordís lone striker Lloyd Owusu had the ball in the net but was ruled offside and two minutes after that United got the two goal cushion they needed as Jonathan Howson got his and Unitedís second with a left foot shot after he latched onto a clever through ball from Fabian Delph. Robert Snodgrass forced Scoot Brown into making a save from his free-kick with fifteen minutes left on the clock and was called on to repeat the action four minutes later as Neil Kilkenny had a header on target. Simon Grayson sent on Lee Trundle in place of Robert Snodgrass with four minutes left on the clock and he immediately headed just over from a Jonathan Douglas cross and to wind down the clock in injury time Mike Grella was sent on for Luciano Becchio as United made it four home wins on the trot but did not improve on eighth place and were just one point out of the six but Millwall and Scunthorpe United both had two games in hand. Scunthorpe United sat in fifth spot, two pints in front of Leeds but had two games in hand and as United welcomed them to Elland Road they also welcomed back Jermaine Beckford from a three match suspension. Jonathan Douglas switched to right back to replace the injured Andy Hughes with Neil Kilkenny taking his place in midfield, while Beckfordís return compensated for Luciano Becchio not being available due to suspension and his name was missing from the team-sheet for the first time in the season. Bradley Johnson took the vacant place on the bench. The visitors were the first to press as Kayode Odejayi headed over after eight minutes and there was a blow for Leeds after just fifteen minutes as Andy Robinson was injured and Bradley Johnson took his place. Five minutes later United had another injury scare as Matthew Sparrow caught Rui Marques high, but he was able to continue after treatment. The visitors had looked the better team and during the first twenty-five minutes Casper Ankergren twice had to deal with teasing crosses, but it was Leeds who had managed to soak up the pressure that scored first after thirty-two minutes. Jonathan Howson broke down the right and from his low cross Jermaine Beckford turned the ball into the net from close range. Six minutes later it was 2-0, when after a short free-kick by Robert Snodgrass on the edge of the box, it was Bradley Johnson who hammered the ball into the net with the aid of a deflection off Grant McCann to beat Joe Murphy. Three minutes before the break Scunthorpe pulled one back after indecision between Casper Ankergren and Rui Marques saw Gary Hooper latch on to a flick from Kayode Odejayi and convert an easy chance. There were again defensive frailties as Rui Marques and Ben Parker failed to clear near the touchline and Gary Hooper stepped in to head for goal and score his second and Scunthorpeís equaliser with a good finish after six minutes of the second half. Simon Grayson responded by sending on Lee Trundle for Neil Kilkenny after fifty-seven minutes but it was Jermaine Beckford who restored Unitedís lead after sixty-seven minutes when Robert Snodgrass opened up the path to goal for the Leeds striker to hammer home his twenty-fifth goal of the season as he beat Joe Murphy with ease. United were reduced to ten men with ten minutes left to go when Jonathan Howson picked up his second yellow card for a foul and the dismissal meant he was unavailable for the upcoming clash at Oldham Athletic. The dismissal gave Scunthorpe renewed hope and Casper Ankergren had to be alert to save a shot from distance with five minutes to go and Landsbury headed over from a free-kick. Simon Grayson sent on Lubomir Michalik for Lee Trundle to shore up the United defence, but in the four minutes of time added on it was Leeds who went closest to scoring as Jermaine Beckford shot narrowly wide. The win saw United complete the double over the Irons and move into sixth spot just a point ahead of them but having played a game more. United had another chance to make an impression on the promotion battle as they visited fourth-placed Oldham Athletic at Boundary Park in a Monday evening fixture, as they were just three points behind them with a game in hand. United had Luciano Becchio back from suspension but as Jonathan Howson was out due to suspension and Andy Robinson was not available due to injury it meant a return for Bradley Johnson and Robert Snodgrass dropping back into midfield and a return to bench duties for David Prutton. It was Robert Snodgrass who first threatened when he shot over from a Luciano Becchio cross. The was another chance for United as Neil Kilkenny played in Luciano Becchio but Daniel Jones was quick to close the opening with a well-timed tackle, but the ball seemed to strike his arm, however, the Leeds appeals were waved away. Play swung to the other end and Casper Ankergren bravely saved at the feet of Lee Hughes on the ten minute mark but there was little to choose between the two teams as they cancelled each other out and chances and excitement were both at a premium. On twenty-seven minutes Jermaine Beckford got in a header from a Robert Snodgrass cross but was off target and he also won a free-kick on the edge of the box, but Bradley Johnsonís kick was blocked by the wall. Chris Taylor hit the bar with a header just on half-time but the referee had already blown up for a push. The second half started with Bradley Johnson heading Robert Snodgrassí free-kick straight into the arms of Greg Fleming. Six minutes into the second half the home team took the lead as Lee Hughes arrived at the far post to get in a shot, after a Daniel Jones cross had been helped on by Deane Smalley, and it went through Casper Ankergrenís legs from the tightest of angles. The lead did not last long as Luciano Becchio got in a header which forced Greg Fleming to save acrobatically at the expense of a corner and from that corner he was left unmarked and headed home via the post from six yards to restore parity just one minute later. The goals seemed to liven up proceedings and Lee Hughes was denied by some good defending before Robert Snodgrass tested Greg Fleming at the other end. Then Chris Taylor fired wide from distance for the home team and Jonathan Douglas forced the Oldham keeper into the action to save a high ball into the box after seventy minutes. Richard Naylor was having a fine game at the heart of the United defence, as was ex-Leeds player Sean Gregan in marshalling the home defence but although both teams tried to win they were quite content with a draw. With five minutes to go Jermaine Beckford almost found a way through but the ball was quickly hacked away by a home defender and Jonathan Douglas performed a similar task to halt a home attack in the final minute. Three minutes of stoppage time could not separate the two teams as honours were even and Simon Grayson had not amended his starting eleven as United moved to fifth on goal difference from Millwall, but the Londoners still had two games in hand as ninth placed Tranmere Rovers were only three points behind United. Fourteenth placed Bristol Rovers were Unitedís hosts at the Memorial Stadium and Jonathan Howson returned from suspension as Bradley Johnson dropped out of the squad in an otherwise unchanged squad. Both sides had opportunities in the first five minutes as after United cleared a free kick from the home side Jermaine Beckford earned a free-kick from which Robert Snodgrassí shot was unsuccessful. Darryl Duffy was next to cause problems as he pounced on some indecision in the United defence but Casper Ankergren reacted quickly to save. It was the home side that took the lead after fourteen minutes as David Pipe raided down the right and his cross was met on the volley by Jeff Hughes who hammered the ball beyond Casper Ankergren. Rovers were the better team in the early stages and Richard Naylor and his defence had plenty of defending to do, but United did cause problems in attack as Robert Snodgrass sent a cross into the box but Jermaine Beckford was closed down before he could get a shot in. United did equalise on twenty-seven minutes in a move that was started by Jonathan Howson who won the ball in midfield and fed Robert Snodgrass for the Scotsman to advance to the by-line before getting a perfect cross in to pick out Luciano Becchio at the far post who headed home. The game was held up several times for running repairs, firstly when Neil Kilkenny had his head bandaged and then Rui Marques received treatment for a facial injury, and finally as Marques was being treated by the Leeds staff Robert Snodgrass was being attended to by the Bristol staff for a bang in the face. There was five minutes of stoppage time at the end of the first half, but even though United were on top they could not take the lead. However, after the interval it was the Pirates who threatened first as Darryl Duffy should have done better with a chip from distance, but United were soon back as Steve Phillips did well to keep out a Jermaine Beckford header from a Robert Snodgrass free-kick. The Scotsmanís pinpoint accuracy was to the fore as he gave United the lead after fifty-eight minutes as he curled a free-kick into the top corner with Steve Phillips being unable to prevent it. United were playing some excellent football and frustrated the home side by keeping possession for long periods with the midfield four in control but were not able to create any scoring chances, although Jermaine Beckford did twice try from distance. They appeared to be cruising to victory but Casper Ankergren did have to concede a corner which Ben Parker had to clear from the line. David Prutton came on for Neil Kilkenny with three minutes left but it was a travesty when the home team equalised right on the ninety minute mark as substitute Joe Kuffour latched onto a through ball to beat Casper Ankergren. Leeds now had to conjure up a goal in the four minutes of injury time and like in the previous thirty minutes they never looked like scoring and dropped two valuable points after victory had seemed a certainty. They dropped to seventh position whereas a win would have seen them in fifth position. Simon Grayson kept faith with his starting eleven and his only change to the squad was Bradley Johnson being preferred to David Prutton on the bench as United entertained Yeovil Town on a cold Tuesday night. After five minutes the play was held up for treatment to Gavin Tomlin after a strong challenge from Richard Naylor. While United started the better of the two sides in the first fifteen minutes the closest they came to goal was when Ben Parker over-hit a cross into the box which Luciano Becchio could not get to. Almost out of the blue United took the lead after twenty-six minutes when Ben Parker provided Jermaine Beckford with a chance to beat Josh Wagenaar with a shot into the far corner of the net. The ace striker had the ball in the net two minutes later from a pass from Luciano Becchio but the flag was up for offside and three minutes after that he forced the Yeovil keeper to save with a header from close range. Neil Kilkenny doubled the lead two minutes before half-time with a superb strike into the top corner of the net from twenty-five yards out as the Yeovil defence backed off and allowed him the room. Yeovil finally made a threat on goal soon after the start of the second half when Lee Peltier sent a free-kick from distance over the bar. Jermaine Beckford got his twentieth League goal of the season to increase Unitedís lead after he coolly slotted the ball into the net after Neil Kilkenny had provided him with an opening. He was hungry for his first League hat-trick but was twice denied by Aaron Brown who blocked his shots from an acute angle. He didnít need to wait long to achieve his objective as he lifted the ball over the advancing Josh Wagenaar from just outside the box after being fed by Jonathan Howson in the fifty-eighth minute to register his twenty-eighth goal of the season from just twenty-nine games. Luciano Becchio wasted a good opportunity for Leeds to go nap when he lofted the ball high over the bar from the penalty spot in the seventieth minute after a Yeovil defender had handled in the box. He had refused to give the ball to Robert Snodgrass the nominated penalty-taker. The miss was a big disappointment for Becchio, who was looking for his third goal in as many outings. Simon Grayson immediately sent on Mike Grella for Luciano Becchio and Bradley Johnson from Neil Kilkenny after seventy-three minutes but the game was already won. The easy four goal victory saw United achieve a six game home winning streak and jump back into fifth spot as the season countdown showed that United had just ten games to ensure their promotion. United next entertained lowly Swindon Town and Simon Grayson had been out into the loan market to bring in striker Liam Dickinson from Derby County for the rest of the season. He took the place of Lee Trundle on the bench as United were otherwise unchanged as they searched for their seventh consecutive win at Elland Road. The in-form Jermaine Beckford was quickly in the action in the first minute when he was just wide from a Robert Snodgrass cross. He then tested Phil Smith with a low drive from distance and then on sixteen minutes it was Robert Snodgrass who forced the Swindon keeper to concede a corner and seven minutes later Jermaine Beckford again tested Phil Smith from distance as it was all Leeds. Robert Snodgrass was again close with a curling effort that was just over, before Phil Smith saved well from Jonathan Howson and the Fabian Delph was wide from the rebound. It was not until the final minute of the first half that Swindon created a chance as Simon Cox headed a free-kick wide from close range. Sean Morrison had been the sole source of trouble for United with his long throws until Owain Tudor-Jones found Simon Cox with the free-kick. However, they were the first to threaten in the second half when Casper Ankergren saved on the line. The game was not high on excitement but Phil Smith saved twice in quick succession as he blocked shots from Jermaine Beckford and Jonathan Howson. He again saved a Jonathan Howson strike from distance in the seventieth minute just before Jermaine Beckford was over with an overhead kick. With ten minutes to go Manager Grayson sent on loan signing Liam Dickinson for his debut as he replaced Luciano Becchio and Bradley Johnson replaced Neil Kilkenny and four minutes later he sent on Mike Grella for Ben Parker as he changed the formation to 3-4-3. Jermaine Beckford again forced Phil Smith to make another save as he shot from a tight angle as United piled on the pressure in search of the winner. It came with just three minutes of ordinary time left. Robert Snodgrass was the provider with a chip into the box and there was Jermaine Beckford to get up well at the far post to head home for his twenty-ninth goal of the season. United tried for a second and two minutes into stoppage time Phil Smith saved from Jonathan Howson but in the final minute Jermaine Beckford received his marching orders as he picked up a second yellow card for dissent after being adjudged off-side and automatically ruled himself out of the upcoming game at Crewe Alexandra. The late winner kept United in fifth spot and they now had a three point buffer over the sixth club. Ian Westlakeís loan to Cheltenham Town had ended but he had been immediately loaned to Oldham Athletic for the rest of the season, and Peter Sweeney and Jonathan Lund were also similarly loaned to Grimsby Town. Jermaine Beckfordís suspension saw Simon Grayson give loanee Liam Dickinson his starting debut as Andy Hughes returned to the United squad on the bench as United visited Gresty Road to take on Crewe Alexandra and seeking to put an end to a five match losing streak in away games. There was a tentative opening with John Brayford for the home side and Jonathan Howson for United both having early shots at goal. Crewe were playing a defensive 3-4-3 formation and United exploited this by using the space conceded to good effect and Liam Dickinson forced John Ruddy to save with a shot from distance after ten minutes. Five minutes later he was even closer when he steered a Neil Kilkenny shot just wide of a post. There was a major turning point in the seventeenth minute when Billy Jones was given a straight red card after a foul on Robert Snodgrass. United started to press and a Jonathan Douglas cross caused panic in the Crewe defence before Fabian Delph had a shot blocked. United took the lead after twenty-seven minutes when Neil Kilkenny gave John Ruddy no chance with a fine shot. Three minutes later Luciano Becchio made it 2-0 as he took advantage of another fine Robert Snodgrass cross to score with a firm header. It became 3-0 on thirty-three minutes as Robert Snodgrass took advantage of a defensive mix-up to score with a fine shot. United were in total control and just on half-time Jonathan Douglas shot inches over. Manager Grayson sent on Lubomir Michalik for the second half in place of the injured Rui Marques, but it was Crewe that started the second half on the attack and Richard Naylor conceded a free-kick on the edge of the box and was lucky not to be booked for a second time in the match as he hauled down Byron Moore. The free-kick produced a teasing cross which Casper Ankergren allowed to slip through his hands and across the face of goal. United were soon back on the attack and Jonathan Howson tested John Ruddy. Robert Snodgrass then had a shot saved while John Brayford headed over for Crewe. Fabian Delph showed his skill with a fifty yard run but the home team averted the danger and responded with Casper Ankergren making a great save from Clayton Donaldson. It came at the expense of a corner and from it Julian Baudet headed in from close range to reduce the arrears from the Gylfi Sigurdsson flag-kick on the one hour mark. United were still controlling the game and playing some neat football and with twenty minutes left Mike Grella came on for Liam Dickinson. Three minutes later Unitedís two goal cushion was reduced to one as Tom Pope headed the home teamís second goal at the second attempt after Danny Woodwardís shot had been blocked. Bradley Johnson came on for Neil Kilkenny with fourteen minutes left and three minutes later he headed a Robert Snodgrass corner wide of the mark. Robert Snodgrass forced John Ruddy to make a great save following good work from Mike Grella and moments later the young American had a good opportunity but shot straight at the keeper. There were four minutes of extra-time and Crewe nearly pulled off a remarkable comeback as Casper Ankergren pulled off a marvellous save from a Gylfi Sigurdsson free-kick but United came back and John Ruddy saved well from Robert Snodgrass as United held on to get their first away win since mid-January and consolidated their hold on fifth spot with eight games remaining. There had been more comings and goings as Simon Grayson tried to revitalise his side for the run-in. Alan Sheehan and Oliver Hotchkiss had been loaned to Crewe Alexandra and Mansfield Town respectively for the rest of the season, while Goalkeeper Darryl Flahavan and Central Defender Sam Sodje had been similarly loaned from Crystal Palace and Reading. Sam Sodje went straight into the team for the injured Rui Marques as United welcomed fourth-placed MK Dons to Elland Road They were also happy to welcome back leading scorer Jermaine Beckford after suspension and Liam Dickinson dropped to the bench and Mike Grella was left out of the squad to accommodate him. Also Andy Robinson had recovered from injury and replaced Bradley Johnson on the bench. In front of a crowd of 27,649, the largest since Boxing Day, United were looking for their eighth consecutive home win. The visitors had not come to defend and after Jason Puncheon had shot over the bar from distance, Casper Ankergren had to push a Sam Baldock free-kick round the post after Richard Naylor had brought down Jason Puncheon on the edge of the box on the eleven minutes mark. United too were playing enterprising football and Luciano Becchio went close after twenty minutes. Jermaine Beckford showed skill to beat Sean OíHanlon and Shaun Cummings before he tried his luck on goal, but it was Robert Snodgrass who first tested Willy Gueret from distance after thirty-one minutes. It was, however, Jermaine Beckford who linked well with Luciano Becchio that scored his thirtieth goal of the season with a clinical finish in the thirty-seventh minute. A Ben Parker free-kick from the left was headed on by Becchio for Beckford to meet it with an unstoppable volley. Four minutes later Dean Lewington stopped a second goal after Fabian Delph and Jermaine Beckford had combined well with a last-ditch tackle on the striker. After the break it was United who threatened first as Jonathan Howson shot over. More good build up play saw Jermaine Beckford shoot over from an acute angle but after fifty-four minutes he made no mistake after Robert Snodgrass had made an incisive pass as he applied the finishing touch to double Unitedís advantage with his tenth goal in his last seven matches. He almost completed his hat-trick on the hour mark when he screwed his shot wide after beating two defenders. On sixty-one minutes Simon Grayson sent on Lubomir Michalik for Sam Sodje who had picked up a knock. United were well on top and Luciano Becchio got up well to head a Robert Snodgrass cross but Willy Gueret made a good save low down. MK Dons should have scored in the sixty-ninth minute but Sam Baldock could only turn a Jason Puncheon cross across the face of the goal. Three minutes later Andrew Hughes was sent on to replace Neil Kilkenny. Robert Snodgrass needed lengthy treatment after a clash with former Leeds loanee Jemal Johnson, but the visitors did not bother United and after three minutes of stoppage time they had a deserved win to stretch their winning home sequence to eight games and while remaining fifth moved to just one point behind their visitors and importantly now had a five point buffer and a game in hand over seventh placed Tranmere Rovers, who only had six games to play. There was a sell-out 9,559 ground record crowd at the Weston Homes Community Stadium to see if United could extend their eight-game unbeaten run as they visited thirteenth placed Colchester United. United maintained the same starting eleven but there were changes on the bench as Rui Marques had recovered from injury and replaced Lubomir Michalik. United started lively as inside the first five minutes Robert Snodgrass fed Jermaine Beckford but the ace striker was denied by some quick thinking by Mark Cousins in the Colchester goal. Colchester hit back and Karl Hawley struck well from distance to force Casper Ankergren into a good save low down. There were two corners from Robert Snodgrass in quick succession and Luciano Becchio got on the end of one to head narrowly wide. Jermaine Beckford was getting caught often by the Colchester offside trap but on twenty-two minutes he did get a hurried shot on target but Mark Cousins was untroubled. At the other end Mark Yeates should have done better when presented with a good chance but Casper Ankergren did well to thwart him. United were starting to control the game and took the lead after twenty-nine minutes when Luciano Becchio created an opening for himself on the edge of the penalty box to hammer the ball into the net, giving Mark Cousins no chance, for his thirteenth goal of the season. Neil Kilkenny created an opening for Jermaine Beckford a minute before half-time but the striker lost his footing as he tried to shoot and in first half injury time the Colchester keeper denied the thirty-one goal striker after he was through on goal. The home team emerged with renewed vigour at the start of the second half and play was held up as Fabian Delph was treated after being fouled. Kem Izzet, who had already been booked, was given a stern lecture by the referee after fouling Jonathan Howson just before the hour mark. On sixty-seven minutes Luciano Becchio had to receive treatment when he was brought down in the box but United had had to do more defending since the break but had done it well and Casper Ankergren had not been troubled. On seventy-two minutes Luciano Becchio had the ball in the net but an offside flag saw it disallowed and then Casper Ankergren was in action five minutes later when he fielded an ambitious attempt by Mark Yeates from distance. A head injury saw Richard Naylor leave the field for treatment as the game deteriorated and was soon in the refereeís notebook after he and Simon Hackney had clashed after the winger had scythed down Robert Snodgrass. It saw the Scotsman immediately substituted by Andy Hughes with two minutes left and in injury time Liam Dickinson came on for Luciano Becchio. There were four extra minutes for stoppages but Leeds were untroubled and with the last play of the game Mark Cousins denied Jermaine Beckford and Leeds extended their unbeaten run to nine games to remain in fifth place but now were seven points in front of the seventh team with a game in hand as Southend United only had five games left. Second spot seemed out of their reach as Peterborough had a ten point buffer although Leeds had a game in hand. United next had a Tuesday Night visit to Leyton Orient at Brisbane Road, now known as the Matchroom Stadium. They were without the injured Sam Sodje and Jermaine Beckford. They were replaced by Rui Marques and Liam Dickinson, with Lubomir Michalik and Mick Grella coming on to the bench. United were looking to continue their winning run which now stood at five and to further consolidated their push for a play-off place. United started brightly and soon forced the home team on the defensive as Neil Kilkenny was denied by the legs of Orient keeper Jamie Jones but there was a scare for them as Robert Snodgrass, who had also received a buffeting at Colchester, need to treatment after a foul by Charlie Daniels. Fortunately for United he soon returned to the action and after nineteen minutes it was he that gave them the lead. Neil Kilkenny had fed Fabian Delph who showed great skill on the right before delivering a measured ball into the path of the arriving Scotsman who finished with aplomb as he slid the ball into the far corner of the net. United continued to be the dominant team and Ben Parker was very close after twenty-eight minutes with a shot that was inches over the bar, but Leyton still threatened on occasions and six minutes later Jimmy Smith shot marginally over. There was bad news for United shortly before half time as Fabian Delph picked up his tenth booking of the season which meant that he would miss the upcoming games at home to Tranmere Rovers and away to Hartlepool United. It was Leeds who went straight on the attack after the interval and an offside flag denied Liam Dickinson and Fabian Delph went close with a shot from distance. After Jonathan Howson had been deflected for a corner, Luciano Becchioís shot from the flag-kick was handled by Jason Demetriou on the line and the referee had no alternative but to point to the spot and dismiss the Orient defender. There were no arguments this time as to who should take it and Robert Snodgrass, the designated penalty-taker stepped up to stroke the ball home for his second goal of the night after sixty minutes. Just five minutes later Orient were back in the game, as Casper Ankergren stood no chance after being wrong footed by a deflection from a free-kick by Sean Thornton. United responded immediately with Jonathan Howson rattling a post, after being played in by Liam Dickinson, and Robert Snodgrass was denied his hat-trick by a good save from Jamie Jones from the rebound. After seventy-seven minutes Andy Robinson replaced Liam Dickinson and then Robert Snodgrass saw another shot deflected wide as United continued to press, but it was the home side that scored next as they equalised with just five minutes left on the clock. A low cross by John Melligan from the left was turned across the goal by Dean Morgan and it could not be held by Casper Ankergren, who gifted a chance to Simon Church who made no mistake as he latched onto the fumble to score from close range. Andy Hughes was sent on for Neil Kilkenny but even though there were four minutes added United could not get the victory their play had deserved and had to settle for one point with their unbeaten run now stretching to ten games as they maintained fifth spot. However, to come back from 2-0 down after an hour, with ten men was a credit to Orient and eased their relegation worries. Jermaine Beckford was still not available due to injury as United entertained tenth placed Stockport County in the Easter Saturday clash at Elland Road, and Sam Sodje had not recovered either and so Rui Marques remained in central defence as the squad remained unchanged. Leeds were looking to equal the feat of Howard Wilkinsonís promotion winning side of 1989-90 by claiming a ninth successive home win and soon produced the first chance as Liam Dickinson, playing against the team where he became famous, headed narrowly over. Only nine minutes had elapsed when Leeds took the lead. Jonathan Douglas delivered a cross from the right, which was touched on by Luciano Becchio and Jonathan Howson took advantage of some poor marking to slot the ball home from close range. Stockport came straight back and Casper Ankergren was forced to save with his legs. After eighteen minutes United nearly doubled their lead as Liam Dickinson hit the crossbar and from the rebound Luciano Becchio saw his shot deflected to safety. United continued to press and Robert Snodgrass was only just over with a free-kick after thirty-seven minutes and with one minute left of the half it was Neil Kilkenny who shot narrowly wide. The second half started with Stockport making the running but they were soon pushed back and Jonathan Howson was brought down on the edge of the area. Simon Grayson was forced into an early substitution just nine minutes into the half as Andy Robinson was sent on for Luciano Becchio, who had picked up a knock in the first half and had not been able to run it off. Robinson infused a little purpose into the United attack and was soon in the action as he shot just over. However the game seemed to be loosing its sparkle and starting to drift to an inevitable conclusion with Leeds in firm control and twenty minutes to go. On seventy-three minutes Robert Snodgrass worked an opening but his shot was wide and soon after Craig Logan, the Stockport goalkeeper, made a good save from Andy Robinson quickly followed by a save from the same playerís free-kick. Stockport did press for a while in the closing stages and Casper Ankergren saved bravely to deny them. Mike Grella came on for Liam Dickinson with three minutes left on the clock and then Neil Kilkenny shot wide with less than two minutes to go and Casper Ankergren again saved from close range as United claimed the three points. With four games left to go United had a six point buffer on sixth-placed Tranmere Rovers but the seven club, Scunthorpe United, trailed by eight but had two games in hand. Leicester looked odds on to be champions eleven points clear of United with second placed Peterborough just four points behind them with Millwall just one point in front of United in third spot and MK Dons were fourth by virtue of a better goal difference and also had a game in hand. United had to travel to Leicester City for the Easter Monday fixture at the Walkers Stadium and it was on the cards that this would decide whether it would throw the League One title race wide open or consign United to the Play-off games and a crowd of 25,507 was on hand to witness the tussle, which was of vial interest to the top seven or eight teams but none more so than the two participants. The Leeds squad was still lacking their trump card Jermaine Beckford but Sam Sodje was back to take over in central defence with Rui Marques who had picked up an injury dropped out of sixteen. It was a 12-15pm kick-off and so the rest of the teams watched on in anticipation. It was the home side who pressed first but Lloyd Dyer saw his shot blocked and then Casper Ankergren pulled off a good save to deny Max Gradel from distance. Leicester continued to press and Richard Naylor was called upon to save United with a good blocking tackle after eleven minutes. United weathered the storm well and gained the first corner of the game after a length of the field passing movement. The corner was only cleared to Jonathan Douglas, who found Luciano Becchio, who had made a miraculous recovery to be fit to take his place in the team, in space but his shot from an acute angle hit the side-netting. Casper Ankergren was again in action after twenty-one minutes as he pulled of another good save to keep out an Andy King header following a corner. United were using their tight defence as a springboard to launch counter attacks and it made for a good game but it was a good job that Casper Ankergren was in good form and he next kept out Steve Howard at the expense of a corner which the Leicester striker headed wide under pressure from Jonathan Douglas. United were starting to pose threats at the other end and Robert Snodgrass went the closest to opening the scoring as his corner kick was pushed towards his own net by the Leicester keeper, David Stockdale, but it hit the bar and was kicked off the line by Max Gradel, but the keeper looked more assured moments later as he saved from Luciano Becchio. Three minutes before the interval Casper Ankergren got down well after Michael Morrison shot from distance and soon after Andy King headed over from a free-kick. Leicester went on the attack at the start of the second half but it was United who again threatened to score and almost took the lead five minutes into the half as the inspirational Richard Naylor climbed to get in a firm header but David Stockdale just blocked it on the goal-line. United were now starting to find space and becoming a very real threat to the Leicester goal and Sam Sodje was the next to go close as his header from a Robert Snodgrass free-kick was narrowly wide. It was not one way traffic as Casper Ankergren was called upon to push a Matt Oakley effort past the post and when the home team threatened again there was some good defending by Fabian Delph and then a decisive header out from Sam Sodje and Matt Fryatt was also wide of the mark after being crowded out. Luciano Becchio, who had given it his all despite carrying an injury, was replaced by Andy Robinson after sixty-four minutes. He was soon involved in the action as he fed Fabian Delph, who was denied by the legs of David Stockdale before the ball was booted to safety by Wayne Brown. Casper Ankergren was still earning his keep as he kept out a header from Steve Howard in the seventy-third minute and then got down well to save from Matt Fryatt as Leicester tried to get in front in what was a very absorbing contest. In Unitedís next attack Richard Naylor got in a good header which appeared to strike a Leicester defender on the hand in the home goal area, but it was not given. After seventy-eight minutes Simon Grayson sent on Andy Hughes for Neil Kilkenny and three minutes later David Stockdale produced a fine save to keep out a good shot from Andy Robinson after the ex-Swan had made an opening for himself. Two minutes later Mike Grella came on for Liam Dickinson in Unitedís last roll of the dice. It looked for all the world as if honours had finished even, but two minutes into stoppage time Steve Howard rose to head home from a Max Gradel corner beyond the reach of the gallant Casper Ankergren. It was a sad end to a fine performance from United and the end of their unbeaten run, which gave Leicester one hand on the championship trophy and left Leeds seven points adrift from second spot. There were now only eight teams left with the possibility of competing for the three promotion spots. With just three games left for all but two of the teams, Leicester City were already assured of a promotion spot and needed one point to be crowned Champions. Seven points behind them Peterborough United were favourites for second spot as they led Millwall by three points, but in fourth spot, just one point behind Millwall, MK Dons had a game in hand and a three point break on Leeds. Tranmere Rovers were in sixth spot three points behind Leeds, with Scunthorpe United two points behind them, but with two games in hand. Southend United trailed Scunthorpe United by three points and needed a miracle to scrape into sixth spot. So the home fixture with Tranmere Rovers could close the door on them or throw it wide open to the chasing pack. United were without the services of teenage sensation Fabian Delph who was suspended but Andy Robinson was an able deputy. There was a major boost with the return of leading goal-scorer Jermaine Beckford from injury as Liam Dickinson dropped out of the squad, while Rui Marques had recovered from injury to take the place of Lubomir Michalik on the bench with Bradley Johnson filling the vacant place as a substitute. United were going for their tenth consecutive home win which would take them past the nine achieved by Howard Wilkinsonís 1989-90 promotion side and put them in sight of the all-time record of twelve held by the Don Revie Football League championship team of 1968-69. They were off to a rousing start as Jonathan Howson rattled the bar with a fine effort from forty yards with keeper Danny Coyne well-beaten and it was United that took the lead after fifteen minutes as Jermaine Beckford notched his thirty-second goal of the season after combining well with Robert Snodgrass to beat the keeper with ease as he tucked the ball just inside the far post. It had been a lovely start with Leeds looking the more dangerous on the break and it took a foul by Steve Jennings on the edge of the box to stop Luciano Becchioís progress on goal, but Robert Snodgrass put the free-kick wide. The second goal was not long coming and in the twenty-sixth minute Jonathan Douglas found Neil Kilkenny in space and the Australian International scored from an acute angle. However a defensive mix-up a minute later let Tranmere back into the game as a Sam Sodje header looped over the stranded Casper Ankergren, as Sodje tried desperately to rectify his error. Tranmere had a further chance nine minutes later as Casper Ankergren failed to collect a corner and Antony Kay made a mess of a free header. They were also looking dangerous with four minutes to the break as Edrissa Sonko was bearing down on Casper Ankergren but Richard Naylor did enough to hurry him into putting his shot wide. It was the Leeds keeper to the rescue early in the second half as he pulled off an excellent save in parrying a shot from Antony Kay before quickly recovering to avert the danger when Ryan Shotton followed up. On the hour mark Leeds gave themselves a good cushion when Robert Snodgrass took a free-kick from distance and found it Luciano Becchio unmarked after a deflection off Jermaine Beckford and he put the ball in the net from close range. Simon Grayson took the opportunity to bring off Robert Snodgrass, who was carrying an injury, and give Bradley Johnson a chance to get good game time. The goal had killed off ant further threat from Tranmere and United were content to play possession football. Simon Grayson also helped to wind the clock down by sending on Andy Hughes for Andy Robinson after eighty-two minutes and Mike Grella for Jermaine Beckford three minutes later. The four minutes of stoppage time passed without incident as United got their tenth successive home win and moved six points clear of Tranmere to all-but ensure a place in the play-off finals but had to accept that second spot was out of their reach with two games left. United visited Victoria Park to play Hartlepool United in the final away game of the season and were still without Fabian Delph, who was serving his final game of a two game suspension, and Robert Snodgrass, who had not recovered from a knock picked up in recent games. Bradley Johnson was given a chance as the Scotsmanís replacement and Liam Dickinson took the vacant spot on the bench. United were soon on the attack with Jermaine Beckford looking dangerous and within the first two minutes he had made a good opening for himself and saw his shot deflected for the first of two early corners. Hartlepool broke quickly from the second of those corners and Casper Ankergren was called upon to save a Joel Porter header. The pendulum swung back towards Leeds and they missed a grat opportunity to go ahead after ten minutes. Neil Kilkenny found Luciano Becchio and the Argentinian advanced on goal and drew the Hartlepool keeper, Jan Budtz and squared the ball to Jermaine Beckford but he was denied by Joe Skarz who stopped his shot on the goal-line. Hartlepoolís next attack saw Casper Ankergren avert the danger by bravely diving at the feet of Daniel Nardiello, who had wriggled his way through the Leeds defence. A booking for Sam Collins for a cynical challenge on Jermaine Beckford on the edge of the box was the Hartlepool answer to Unitedís next threat, but Bradley Johnson was not in luck as his free-kick struck the woodwork. Hartlepool were not taking their chances either and a Joe Skarz corner was headed over and Leeds-born Andy Monkhouse should have done better than shoot wide when well placed. The catalogue of near misses mounted as Sam Sodje hit the woodwork when he headed on to the crossbar after half an hour as the game maintained its fast pace and entertainment. The intensity abated a little towards the break but in the first minute of stoppage time Leeds a good move involving Neil Kilkenny, Jonathan Douglas and Andy Robinson saw Richard Naylor putting an effort just wide. In the half time break a strong breeze came up together with steady rain and that put a dampener on proceedings and Ritchie Jones saw yellow for a bad challenge on Ben Parker but it was Hartlepool that missed the first chance as Gary Liddle shot wide. After fifty-seven minutes Luciano Becchio failed to keep an Andy Robinson cross down and it flew over the bar, but two minutes later United took the lead. Jonathan Douglas, Neil Kilkenny and Ben Parker all played a part in the build-up before the ball found Jermaine Beckford on the edge of the penalty area. The ace striker provided a great turn and finish as he netted his thirty-third goal of the season. Relegation threaten Hartlepool showed a little more urgency and Antony Sweeney was denied by Casper Ankergren, while Bradley Johnson had a free-kick well held by Jan Budtz. With eleven minutes left Simon Grayson sent on Andrew Hughes for Andy Robinson and Mike Grella was given a chance in place of Jermaine Beckford, while four minutes later he sent on Liam Dickinson for Neil Kilkenny. It was Liam Dickinson who gave Luciano Becchio a chanceas a he delivered a cross from the right but the Argentinian shot wide. The win saw United cement a play-off place and were just one point away from third spot in fifth spot, with Tranmere Rovers and Scunthorpe United left to fight out the sixth place. The final fixture of the League calendar saw Northampton Town, who were deep in the relegation fight and needing at least a draw for their survival, as the final visitors to Elland Road. Simon Grayson rested Sam Sodje and Rui Marques came back into the starting eleven. Fabian Delph was back after his two match suspension for Bradley Johnson, who dropped to the bench to joined Frazer Richardson, who was back after a long lay-off with injury, and Robert Snodgrass, who had missed the previous game at Hartlepool because of injury. United were going for their eleventh home League game in succession and the chance of three points seeing them in fourth spot in the final table and the biggest crowd of the season, 34,214, was there to cheer them on. Fabian Delph quickly made up for lost time as he was narrowly wide with a shot from distance and Northampton were soon on the defensive as United pressed with some neat football. Ben parker had to receive extensive treatment after nineteen minutes following a hefty challenge from Abdul Osman. United were close to opening the scoring after thirty minutes when Jonathan Howson played in Jermaine Beckford but the striker could not make it count and good defending by the visitors keeper at the near post kept Andy Robinson out. Northampton seemed to be happy to defend as United had long periods of possession but Goalkeeper Chris Dunn had to be alert to keep out Rui Marques and keep a clean sheet at the interval. He did not succeed as two minutes before the break United took the lead as Luciano Becchio struck from close range after Ben Parkerís excellent cross from the left found him in space and he rose to head home his eighteenth goal of the season, as Chris Dunn chose to stay on his line. Half-time showed that Carlisle United, who were in the relegation tussle with Northampton were leading Millwall, the team United were hoping to displace in fourth place, and so at half time Leeds were fourth, Millwall fifth and Carlisle safe and Northampton down, if results did not change in the second half. The Cobblers responded to the bad news and threw everything at Leeds. Ex-Leeds striker Leon Constantine was denied by a good tackle by Richard Naylor and Luke Gutteridge also went close, but there position worsened as Jermaine Beckford netted his thirty-fourth goal of the season to double the lead for United on the one hour mark. Scotsman Robert Snodgrass, who had replaced Neil Kilkenny only two minutes before, fed the ball through to the ace striker who sent the ball into the net to the right of Chris Dunn. The crowd were now in party mood an there was a standing ovation for Frazer Richardson seven minutes later as he came on to replace Ben Parker. Simon Grayson completed the substitutions by sending on Mike Grella for Jermaine Beckford with twelve minutes to go and three minutes later Andy Robinson went close but fired over and when they should have gone three goals up. Mike Grella was denied by goalkeeper Chris Dunn dashing from his line after he had broken down the middle. Finally United firmly put the final nail into Northamptonís relegation coffin in the last minute as Robert Snodgrass scored with a spectacular bicycle-kick after good play by Andy Robinson in the final minute. So United took fourth spot with eighty-four points, trailing Leicester City by twelve, Peterborough United by five and MK Dons by three points, while Millwall finished two points behind United with Scunthorpe United just attaining sixth spot, eight points behind them. This meant Leeds would take on Millwall in the play-offs and MK Dons would face Scunthorpe United. On Saturday 9th May 2009 United travelled to the New Den to take on Millwall in the first leg of the play-off semi-final and Manager Simon Grayson brought back Sam Sodje and Robert Snodgrass into his starting eleven as Rui Marques and Andy Robinson dropped to the bench with Frazer Richardson being omitted from the squad. The home fans turned up in force to swell the crowd to a seasonís record of 13,228, whereas the United fans were restricted to a meagre 1,000 but they were vocal enough to make their presence known and no doubt appreciated by the players. The previous evening MK Dons had gone to Scunthorpe and come away with a satisfactory 1-1 draw in the other play-off semi-fanal first leg. Jermaine Beckford got United off to a good start when he quickly tested David Ford with a good shot which Millwall keeper was unable to hold at first attempt. The home team were quick to respond as Andy Frampton sliced his shot on the volley wide, after Jonathan Douglasí weak clearing header had given him the chance, following a free-kick from Adam Bolder. The game was not rising to any great heights and it was punctuated by fouls and stoppages for injuries and after sixteen minutes Millwall had to bring on Neil Harris after Jason Price was unable to continue. The game continued to be mainly fought out in midfield and chances were at a premium. The Millwall keeper did have a Jermaine Beckford effort deflected into his arms, while Millwallís Neil Harris should have done better in the thirty-eighth minute when Sam Sodje denied him a more positive outcome. Leeds did also carve out a chance of their own soon after when Neil Kilkenny put a great ball through to Jermaine Beckford, but the Millwall defence were able to partly clear the danger. Luciano Becchio latched on to their clearance but his shot went narrowly wide and just before half time it was the Argentinian that headed a Robert Snodgrass cross straight at David Forde and the teams went into the break scoreless. Soon after the second half got underway Jermaine Beckford and Luciano Becchio linked up in the best move of the game to that point and Beckford was only denied by some desperate defending by Andy Frampton and United continued to press gaining three corners in quick succession. A well-flighted Robert Snodgrass free-kick caused the Millwall defence concern and when Becchio got on the end of it he headed just wide. Millwall hit back and Zak Whitbread missed a golden opportunity when he shot over the bar from close range following a free-kick. Casper Ankergren was called upon to make a good save from a Neil Harris backheel. This was followed by some sustained Lionís pressure with Gary Alexander shooting wide. The game seemed to have opened up and Jermaine Beckford curled a shot just wide of the post after sixty-three minutes. The goal drought was broken when Millwall scored after seventy-two minutes. Richard Naylor tried to stop a cross from the right from Gary Alexander but he was unable to prevent it reaching Neil Harris, who steadied himself to tuck the ball into the net beyond Casper Ankergren. Six minutes after the goal Simon Grayson brought Bradley Johnson on for Jonathan Howson and four minutes after that he sent on Andy Robinson for Robert Snodgrass as he looked to try and square the game. Andy Robinson and Jonathan Douglas both had a hand in Unitedís next attack but it broke down and Millwall broke quickly and Sam Sodje did well to thwart James Henry. After the goal had been conceded United seemed to be out of sorts. Millwall bossed the midfield and had the majority of possession in the game, something that United had not been used to in recent times. United never looked like pulling the goal back and so they returned for the second leg with a one goal deficit but with home advantage and the possibility of equalling the record set by Don Revieís immortals they would have done so with high hopes and confidence. On Thursday 14th May 2009 Unitedís season hung on the result of the game. With an almost perfect home record and the biggest crowd of the season outside the EPL, 37,036, with all but eight hundred and sixty there to roar them on, all they had to do was repeat their recent home results and they would equal the record set by Don Revieís champions and move on to Wembley to play either MK Dons or Scunthorpe United who were due to play the following day. There were no changes to the United team and Simon Grayson pinned his faith on the same squad and backed them to improve on their showing at the New Den. There was a fiery start to the game as Adam Bolder was booked for a foul on Robert Snodgrass and Jonathan Howson was hard on Jimmy Abdu and the scene was set for a tough encounter. United took the game to Millwall in the early stages but it was not until well after the quarter hour mark had been reached that Robert Snodgrass tested David Forde with the first shot of note after good build-up with Jonathan Howson. The Millwall keeper was soon called into more action as he saved first from Jermaine Beckford and then Fabian Delph but the war of attrition continued unabated. David Martin was booked after twenty-three minutes and three minutes later Fabian Delph was the next player to see yellow, after an incident with Gary Alexander. Neil Kilkenny also suffered as he was forced out of the game in the thirty-sixth minute as Andy Robinson came on in his place. United had had the better of the game to that point but Gary Alexander showed that Millwall were still in the game with a shot from distance that flew over the bar. United replied to assert their ascendancy by putting the visitors under more pressure with Robert Snodgrass showing how dangerous he could be when he got up after being fouled by Adam Bolder and forced the keeper to save his free-kick at the expense of a corner. Andy Robinson showed his danger from the dead ball as he curled a free-kick just over as the half came to its conclusion. No sooner had the game recommenced than Robinson was causing more problems with another free-kick. Just four minutes of the half had elapsed when Leeds should have taken the lead. Referee Mark Halsey awarded a penalty to them after he saw Andy Frampton wrestle Sam Sodje to the floor. Jermaine Beckfordís spot kick was neither accurate nor powerful enough and David Forde was able to get down to save it but was unable to hold it. Andy Robinson followed up on the rebound but shot over the bar from an acute angle. And United had blown a golden opportunity to level the tie on aggregate. They were level just four minutes later as Ben Parker, after a good run down the left, got in a low cross from the left and Luciano Becchio slid the ball home from close range for his nineteenth goal of the season to put United one up on the night and level on aggregate. After the goal it was all Leeds and Jermaine Beckford cottoned on to a ball down the middle but was unable to get his shot in. In the seventy-fourth minute Millwall struck a killer blow as Jimmy Abdu scored from close range after a perfect David Martin cross from the right had been teed up for him by substitute Lewis Grabban, in what was Millwallís first attack of the half. Four minutes later United withdrew Ben Parker and sent on Bradley Johnson and mounted one final push to save their season. Millwall responded by sending on Central Defender Paul Robinson in place of Midfielder James Henry with four minutes of normal time to go to re-enforce their defence. With two minutes left Bradley Johnson came within a whisker but his shot was wide, but despite six minutes of stoppage time being added United were unable to breach the Millwall defence and it was Millwall that went to Wembley and Leeds were left to contemplate a third successive season in League One. Another season! Another disappointment! Another season more down with the deadmen!