March 19th Leeds 1 (Dallas 22), HUDDERSFIELD 4 (Hudson 41, Bunn 69, Matmour 73, Wells 77) United team: Silvestri, Berardi, Bamba, Bellusci, Taylor, Bridcutt, Murphy (Cook 65), Mowatt, Dallas (Wood 74), Doukara, Antenucci. Subs: Peacock-Farrell, Coyle, Cooper, Diagouraga, Carayol. Referee: Graham Scott Booked: Murphy, Dallas, Bellusci, Taylor, Cook, Mowatt (United), Billing, Lolley (Huddersfield) Att: 29,311 (2,082 Huddersfield)

Leeds Utd V BHUDDERSFIELD 19-3-2016

Dallas gave Leeds the leas but the Terriers scores the next four

The Yorkshire derby with Huddersfield Town saw United head coach Steve Evans make two changes from the previous weekend’s victory at Blackburn Rovers, with Luke Murphy and Stuart Dallas returning to the starting line-up in place of Toumani Diagouraga and Lewis Cook. In front of the biggest Elland Road crowd of the season so far, some typically robust challenges set the tempo of the game during the early exchanges, and the visitors were awarded a 10th-minute penalty following Sol Bamba’s trip on Joe Lolley inside the area. But Marco Silvestri, one of United’s key figures during the three-match winning streak heading into the derby, was on hand to deny Nahki Wells’ spot-kick with a superb low save down to his right before gathering the loose ball. United soon threatened at the opposite end, though, Bamba looking to make amends with a towering header which sailed over Jed Steer’s crossbar after meeting Dallas’ pin-point free-kick from the left. Evans’ side were starting to assert their authority on the game and deservedly opened the scoring 22 minutes in. Liam Bridcutt battled to claim possession inside the Town half and drove forward before clipping in an inch-perfect back-post cross for Dallas to climb above Tommy Smith and nod beyond Steer in front of a jubilant Kop end. Leeds looked to be in the driving seat but needed to be alert as the visitors chased a quick-fire equaliser as Jamie Paterson’s low free-kick was diverted over Silvestri’s crossbar by Murphy. Philip Billing then forced Silvestri into a sprawling one-handed save to push away his low strike from 25 yards out, before Dean Whitehead hammered well over the United crossbar moments later after a corner was cleared into his path. The travelling fans sensed their side might be able to find a way through the United defence, and that proved to be the case four minutes before the half-time whistle, courtesy of Mark Hudson’s downwards header from a Paterson corner. The second half began in a pulsating manner, with United withstanding some early Town pressure before pushing forward in search of a second goal to restore their advantage. The in-form Mirco Antenucci came the closest to doing so following a swift counter-attack after 55 minutes, curling inches wide of Steer’s far post after latching onto Dallas’ cross-field pass. It was a game very much on the edge as the hour-mark passed, and Evans was soon prompted into his first change of the afternoon, introducing Cook in place of Murphy in midfield. But it was the visitors who managed to claim the third goal of the afternoon and take the lead, substitute Harry Bunn rifling a low strike in off the post after a corner rolled into his path on the edge of the United area. Huddersfield were then able to double their advantage within four minutes through another second-half substitute – this time Karim Matmour finding the net from close-range after being found arriving unmarked at the back post by Wells. And it went from bad to worse for United as Wells added a fourth on 77 minutes to seal the three points, firing beyond Silvestri with a powerful effort from inside the area. Town’s three-goal flurry, coming in the space of eight second-half minutes, stunned the home crowd to silence, as David Wagner’s side claimed their first West Yorkshire derby victory in five games

March 12th 2016 BLACKBURN 1 (Jackson 89), UNITED 2 (Bamba 34, Antenucci 69) United team: Silvestri, Berardi, Bamba, Bellusci, Taylor, Diagouraga (Murphy 90+3), Bridcutt, Mowatt (Dallas 74), Cook, Antenucci, Doukara (Wood 85). Subs: Grimes, Wootton, Carayol, Botaka. Referee: Keith Stroud. Booked: Hanley (Blackburn), Berardi, Bellusci, Cook, Antenucci (United) Att: 16,071 (3,344 United) The lunchtime trip to Blackburn Rovers saw United head coach Steve Evans make just the one change from the midweek victory at Cardiff City, with Toumani Diagouraga returning to the side in place of Luke Murphy in midfield. BLACKBURN V LEEDS - leeds souleman bamba congratulated on his goalIt was a lively start to proceedings at Ewood Park, with both sides making their intentions clear during the early exchanges. Liam Bridcutt had United’s first effort on goal, driving forward before dragging wide from distance, while Danny Graham called Marco Silvestri into his first save of the day with a looping header from Tommy Spurr’s cross. The hosts threatened again as Tony Watt crept behind the United defence and looked to cut the ball back from a dangerous position, only for Gaetano Berardi to be well-place to hack away the danger. Shane Duffy then towered a header over Silvestri’s crossbar after meeting Elliott Bennett’s free-kick from the right, but it was United who came closest to an early opener as Alex Mowatt saw his curling free-kick somehow clawed away by a stunning Jason Steele save as it hurlted towards the top corner. With just one point separating the two teams in the Championship table ahead of kick-off, the end-to-end manner in which the game got underway came as little surprise. That continued with sights of goal at opposite ends for Watt, flicking a header wide of the far post, and Souleymane Doukara, forcing Steele into a smart low save to clutch his 25-yard effort. Silvestri, on the back of a heroic display in South Wales the previous Tuesday night, made a big save to deny Graham as the on-loan striker escaped the United defence to go through on goal one-on-one, before United went up-field an broke the deadlock on 34 minutes. Mowatt’s inswinging corner caused panic in the Blackburn defence, where captain Sol Bamba charged in to volley the ball into the roof of the net from six yards out to the delight of the travelling supporters. Bamba’s second goal of the season sparked a controlled end to the first half for his Leeds side, with the visitors untroubled for the 10 minutes that followed as the lead was taken into the break. The two sides re-emerged unchanged and the second half began in an as equally as lively fashion as the first, with Graham glancing a corner wide of the far post within just four minutes of the restart, before Lewis Cook skewed a 25-yard strike well wide of Steele’s goal at the opposite end. United’s first real opening of the second period came following some smart link-up play between Antenucci and Doukara, exchanging a quick one-two 25 yards out before Antenucci’s first-time effort was held by Steele. But the in-form Italian striker soon managed to double United’s advantage, netting his fourth goal from his last three games with an ice-cool lofted finish from inside the area after being played in by Mowatt on a swift counter-attack. United were good value for their lead and the result appeared to be beyond doubt following Antenucci’s goal, but substitute Simeon Jackson pulled one back late on for the hosts, hammering the ball home from six yards out after a corner had fallen into his path, to set up a nervy finale. Evans’ side held out during six minutes of added time, though, and recorded a third consecutive league victory for he first time since February last season.

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George McCluskey (the last man to score the winner in Cardiff – 32 years ago)

Tues 8th of March CARDIFF 0, Leeds UNITED 2 (Doukara 37, Antenucci 90+4) United team: Silvestri, Berardi, Bamba, Bellusci, Taylor, Bridcutt (Diagouraga 71), Murphy, Mowatt (Dallas 76), Cook, Doukara (Erwin 86), Antenucci. Subs: Peacock-Farrell, Wootton, Carayol, Botaka. Referee: Darren Deadman. Booked: Murphy, Bridcutt, Berardi (United) Sent off: Fabio (Cardiff) Att: 15,273.  The midweek trip to Cardiff City saw United head coach Steve Evans make four changes from the weekend’s victory over Bolton Wanderers, with Gaetano Berardi, Sol Bamba, Luke Murphy and Alex Mowatt all returning to the starting line-up in South Wales. Defensive duo Lewie Coyle and Liam Cooper missed out completely through injury, while Toumani Diagouraga and Mustapha Carayol dropped to the substitutes bench. The hosts, who entered the game unbeaten on home soil since September, looked to start the evening’s encounter on the front foot, with Anthony Pilkington blasting over from 25 yards out after seizing upon a loose ball within just three minutes of the opening whistle, before the former Norwich City man headed a left-wing cross into the arms of Marco Silvestri. United soon started to make their presence known, though, as Saturday’s match-winner Mirco Antenucci curled an audacious attempt well over David Marshall’s crossbar after cushioning the ball on his chest and cutting away from his marker. Bamba, the Leeds captain, then had the best chance of the early exchanges, scooping the ball over the bar from six yards out after Giuseppe Bellusci had guided Mowatt’s wicked free-kick into his path.

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Doukara celebrates the first made by Antenucci

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Mirco Antenucci wraps the game up with his the 2nd and his 3rd of the week

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A good night for travelling Whites

Having survived those two United threats, Cardiff set about asserting some authority on the game and began to enjoy a good spell of possession inside the visitors’ half as they probed for a way through. Stuart O’Keefe saw his dipping half-volley bounce wide of the near post from 20 yards out, before Silvestri was called into the save of the night to superbly palm away Peter Whittingham’s goal-bound free-kick shortly before the half-hour mark. The United goalkeeper’s reflexes were soon tested again, Tom Lawrence seeing his low strike palmed away at full-stretch, before Evans’ side broke from the resulting corner and managed to open the scoring against the run of play. Antenucci collected the ball just over halfway and proceeded to run head on at the Cardiff defence before threading strike partner Souleymane Doukara into the area to beat Marshall with a low finish which took a slight deflection on its way in. The hosts went in search of a quick-fire equaliser at the opposite end as Lex Immers hooked a cross inches wide of the far post and Pilkington was again denied by Silvestri as United took the lead into the interval. Both sides re-emerged unchanged and United were left wondering how their advantage had not been doubled during the early stages of the second half, with Antenucci seeing his effort cleared off the line by Bruno Ecuele Manga following a mix-up at the back, before Marshall pushed away a Liam Bridcutt strike and smothered Antenucci on the rebound. It was a lively start to the second period, with Silvestri needing to be alert to deny another strike from Immers, before tensions started to boil over with a series of robust challenges resulting in yellow cards for players on either side. Among the players to go into the book was Cardiff full-back Fabio Da Silva- and the former Manchester United defenders was soon given his marching orders after being shown a second yellow for a cynical foul on Charlie Taylor just minutes after his first. Pilkington, substitute Craig Noone and Joe Ralls all found Silvestri standing in their way as the hosts were urged forward in search of an equaliser, while United introduced fresh legs in the shape of Toumani Diagouraga and Stuart Dallas in a bid to make their numerical advantage count. A nervy finale ensued, though, and Silvestri was in inspired form to keep out Noone’s curling free-kick before substitute Kenneth Zohore somehow clipped the crossbar after connecting with a low cross into the United area. But as Cardiff threw men forward during six minutes of stoppage time, Leeds were able to wrap up the points thanks to Antenucci’s third goal from his last two matches – a cool finish from inside the area after racing free of the last Bluebirds defender. The manager : We knew it would be tough,” said Evans. “But we were organised and defended resolutely. We broke and took our chances. “Hard work was the key tonight. “I’m so proud of the players – they deserve all of the credit here, not the head coach or anybody else, just them. “What happened last week at Brighton was a big learning curve for us, but we’ve shown how strong our team spirit is. There’s a real togetherness in the group. “We learned a very harsh lesson at Brighton – you never forget those days as a manager. “But I’m delighted with how we have responded. That performance tonight was for every fan who spent a penny going to Brighton – and I know they spend hundreds of pounds. “We hadn’t won here at Cardiff for 32 years, but what we’ve done is blow apart that record. The performance tonight deserved the win. “The lads up front worked incredibly hard and got their rewards with two very well-taken goals and, at the other end, Marco showed us exactly what we know he is capable of with some big saves.”

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Antenucci double sinks the Trotters

Sat 5th iof March Leeds 2 (Antenucci 39, 62), BOLTON 1 (Woolery 74) United team: Silvestri, Coyle (Berardi 22), Cooper (Bamba 45), Bellusci, Taylor, Diagouraga, Bridcutt, Cook, Carayol (Dallas 79), Antenucci, Doukara. Subs: Peacock-Farrell, Murphy, Adeyemi, Mowatt. Referee: Tony Harrington.Booked: Berardi (United) Att: 21,070 (725 Bolton) The visit of Bolton Wanderers saw United head coach Steve Evans make three changes from the humbling defeat at Brighton earlier in the week, handing recalls to Giuseppe Bellusci, Mustapha Carayol and Mirco Antenucci, as Sol Bamba, Scott Wootton and Alex Mowatt all made way. Both sides probed for early openings during an evenly-matched start at Elland Road, but clear-cut chances were at a premium during the first 15 minutes. United did threaten, though, Antenucci’s right-wing cross held on the line by former Leeds ‘keeper Paul Rachubka in front of the lunging Souleymane Doukara, moments after Marco Silvestri had held Jay Spearing’s low effort from distance at the opposite end. Silvestri was soon forced into his first real save of the afternoon, with the Italian at full-stretch to brilliantly palm away Liam Feeney’s curling effort as the Bolton midfielder looked to bend it into the far corner. United were then dealt a major blow as the game reached the 21st-minute mark, as Lewie Coyle was forced to leave the field on a stretcher following a collision with Spearing, with Gaetano Berardi making his return from injury by replacing the young full-back. Leeds were starting to see more of the ball and Rachubka was soon called upon, flying across his line to push away Carayol’s effort from a similar position to the winger’s stunning debut strike against Rotherham United. Liam Cooper then nodded wide from a hanging Charlie Taylor cross, before United were able to make their pressure pay on 39 minutes as Antenucci turned the ball home brilliantly with a deft flick from six yards out after Carayol’s corner was knocked into his path. And the striker came agonisingly close to adding to his sixth goal of the season just four minutes later, backheeling Taylor’s low cross inches wide of the near post as United ended the first half strongly. Cooper was forced to be alert at the opposite end deep into stoppage time, though, as the defender cleared a corner off the United line as Bolton looked to force home an equaliser, but the lead was taken into the break. That goal-saving action from Cooper, however, proved to be the defender’s final involvement as we forced off at half-time to be replaced by Bamba at centre-back. The visitors restarted the game brightly and had the first chance of the second half, Derik Osede firing over on the turn from inside the area after a corner was directed into his path by Spearing’s volley. But Leeds withstood some early second-half pressure and were able to double the advantage just after the hour mark through Antenucci’s second of the afternoon – a beautiful curling effort into the far corner after his initial cross was returned into his path on the left. Rachubka then fumbled Carayol’s strike from the edge of the area before gathering at the second attempt as Leeds pressed for a quick-fire third, but it was the visitors who were next to find the net as substitute Kaiyne Woolery fired home from inside the area after taking down Dean Moxey’s left-wing cross. It made for a nervy finale with 15 minutes remaining on the clock, and Zach Clough fired a low 20-yard effort wide as Wanderers chased an equaliser. Leeds made their final change of the afternoon, introducing Stuart Dallas in place of the tireless Carayol, and the Northern Ireland international was straight into the action, forcing a corner from which Bamba came agonisingly close to meeting as Cook’s delivery flew all the way across the area. United were being forced to defend deep as the game headed into five minutes of added time, but Evans’ side held on to returning to winning ways by recording a first victory since beating Wanderers at the Macron Stadium in January. Manager pleased : “It was very hard,” said Evans. “People look at Bolton and forget the quality of the manager and individual players they have got. “But we collectively took responsibility for a shambolic performance down at Brighton. We came back and I was so proud of the players. “We had lots of meetings which went on for most of the week. Not looking for who to blame, those things don’t happen in a good team. “We have got a fantastic spirit within the dressing room, from the players to the staff to the head of the football club. “The battling and the effort got us the points today more than perhaps the quality of the play.” On responding to Monday’s humbling defeat at Brighton, Evans added: “It’s very easy to apportion blame to players. If you have anything about you as a head coach, you look in first and I don’t think we got everything right at Brighton. “Certainly, from a players’ point of view, that never happened either. But collectively, we came together and didn’t look for an apportion of blame, but a reaction. “We said to the players that we had an opportunity to go and get three points. I thought on and off the pitch, from the minute I arrived at the stadium to when the referee blew his final whistle, the supporters were helping us get there. “When you haven’t won in a while, it’s important that the nerves don’t get the better of you. We were a bit nervous in the last ten minutes and you could feel the tension. “But it’s nice to get over the line and get the three points.”

 

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Evans and Raynor look on at the horror show

Weds 2nd of March Death by 1,000 water melons Post-match silence from the Leeds United camp at Brighton on Monday evening deafening in its explosive potential as far as supporters of the Elland Road club are concerned. Phil Hay reports.By leaving Brighton without a word on Monday, exposing himself to accusations of cowardice, Steve Evans inadvertently acknowledged one home truth: that he and Leeds United cannot talk their way out of the rut they are in. It was the club’s decision, rather than Evans’s, to bypass the post-match press conference at The Amex and no style of apology would have quelled the anger felt towards the protagonists in a 4-0 defeat. Leeds are judged by their actions these days and the party line from Elland Road is wearing thin. Evans was damned either way on Monday; condemned by his silence in the face of a shocking result but arguably incapable of striking a conciliatory chord. In the end it comes down to perception; the difference between the reality as the club paint it and the reality as others see it. Evans talks regularly about “building something”, as if Leeds are in the early throes of a revolution, but the club look like a model of short-termism from the owner down. Their head coach has a contract to the end of this season, much as he expects or hopes to extend it. The arrangement is the equivalent of a caretaker. United’s owner is disconnected from the public and typically aloof; still at risk of a lengthy Football League ban and unable or unwilling to make peace with the supporters opposed to him. Monday’s appalling defeat at Brighton also weakened Evans’s assertion that Leeds, as a team, have grown and matured under him. Uwe Rosler was never beaten as viciously. Brian McDermott was the last coach to take a thrashing so bad. Paul Raynor, United’s assistant who faced questions from Sky Sports on Monday night before the club halted all other media commitments, called Leeds’ performance “absolutely shambolic”. That description applies to more than the performance. Only Leeds could go from Friday’s press conference, where Evans said he was “100 per cent” certain of receiving a new contract, to a situation on Monday where the majority at Brighton wondered if Massimo Cellino would revert to type and sack him forthwith. In the end Evans made it home on the bus but if Cellino is as Cellino does, his remark about the Scot “talking too much” yesterday is blindingly ominous. Evans will not ask for sympathy and he will not get much but the result at Brighton, the capitulation of his players, patently hurt. It was there in his face as he walked past the media without saying a word in the tunnel at The Amex. It will hurt for two reasons: the humiliation of a display so spineless and the anxiety of knowing that a position he covets might be at risk. Evans has said many times that he will never hold a bigger job, that he will depart in tears when he loses it. Even if Cellino chooses to stand by him, the defeat at Brighton comes at the cost of some public confidence. Cellino and Evans had an agreement that the Scot’s contract – a deal which runs to the end of June – would be extended to the end of next season once Leeds were mathematically safe from relegation. It sounded like a reasonable compromise at the end of December when Evans had his squad 12th in the Championship, 10 points above the relegation places, but the past two months have made his performance as head coach less tenable. There is a difference between stabilising a season, as Evans was doing before Christmas, and scraping towards the run-in with one win in 11 and a 4-0 hiding at Brighton to recover from. The extension of Evans’s deal would require some explanation from Cellino and some rationale about the decision. In Evans’s defence, the squad is not his and he has made precious few changes to it, but Neil Warnock fell back on that excuse in the early months of his tenure as manager, only to find that his own players and his own plan failed in the same way the following season. United’s team at Brighton looked brittle, unbalanced and worryingly weak. It would be interesting to know if the players themselves feel the past few months have brought about an improvement or whether they think that Leeds have anything resembling a long-term plan. It should not be forgotten that Rosler’s sacking by Cellino in October was not something the squad were calling for. Many of the players were surprised by his dismissal. The weaknesses in the team at Leeds – the specific shortcomings, the general lack of depth, the absence of leadership on a night like Monday, and the constraints caused by injuries – are so evident that they do not need revisiting. The defeat at Brighton proved that, as a basic starting point, over and above the influence of the head coach or Cellino, United will go nowhere without raising their squad to the highest standards of the Championship. The league is an expensive environment; moreso with each passing year and moreso than Cellino realised when he bought the club in 2014. The standard was a shock to him then and it must be now. Monday was the heaviest loss of his entire reign as owner. Cellino has been uncharacteristically quiet recently – quiet by the standards of a man who once admitted openly that he had considered sacking David Hockaday before changing his mind – but he is central to the entire plot at Elland Road. The situation is bigger than Evans and bigger than the squad. Cellino, for his part, projects nothing more than a blurred vision. It is impossible to see where Leeds are going under him or where he thinks Leeds will go under him. Like Evans talking about “building something”, there is little for the supporters to buy into or to invest in emotionally. The club feels like a void and has done for all but a few months of last summer; like death by a thousand watermelons.