Leeds United AFC: Unforgiven…

After the “Molegate” farce, “Lutongate” was next to put a dent in Dennis Wise’s fight for survival in 2006/2007. With 11 games remaining, skipper Kevin Nicholls was mysteriously dropped for the 2-3 home defeat to the Owls. After the game, Wise revealed how the player had stunned the club by asking to leave & link up with relegation rivals Luton Town. Wise told reporters: “I’m gobsmacked that he wants to go back to Luton. I wasn’t interested at all in letting him go but he has made his mind up. He feels he made a mistake joining us”. Wise promptly stripped Nicholls of the captaincy before stating that his former club must repay the £700,000 we paid them for his services if they wanted him back…

The matter turned into a total farce over the next few days, as Wise & Luton boss Newell exchanged insults. Newell’s claims that the player had been offered to QPR, were dismissed in Wise’s usual fashion. Ironically, the Whites next game was to be against Newell’s Luton & Wise’s words simply fuelled the fire. Wise’s assistant Gus Poyet claimed the “door was open” for Nicholls & if the player resolved the situation with Wise, he would be available to play in the Luton game. Nicholls refused & never played for the club again. After a reported bust up with Johnny Douglas, tonight’s opponents Preston paid £750,000 for the player, before he finally got his dream move to Luton a season later…

In the aftermath of his move to Preston, Nicholls branded Wise a “bully”. Breaking his silence the player claimed “The manager wasn’t a particularly nice man to work for. He came across as a bully & I don’t want to work for people like that.” However, his words did little to rebuild any bridges with the White Army. After featuring just 15 times due to injury, he was seen as a key figure in the fight to avoid the drop. Many felt that, as club captain, he had a responsibility to see out the season before moving on. Nicholls was branded a disloyal coward & to this day, he remains unforgiven. Our last visit to Preston was Wise’s first away game as manager of the Whites…

The game ended in a comprehensive 1-4 defeat, with Healy netting the only goal. Even “Molegate” & “Lutongate” couldn’t cover up the fact that Wise’s side weren’t good enough to stay up. Tonight’s Preston side may have been looking less than superior at the foot of the division, but the joint Achilles Heels of our defence & midweek jinx, meant no one dare rule out a repeat of that score line. As it transpired, despite a scrappy performance, we clung on for what could be a season defining win. It was somewhat fitting that 24 hours earlier, Grayson ignored his defensive issues & signed attacking midfielder Bannan on loan from Villa. Many are excited at the players arrival, but question whether this the type of player we need right now…

In his only change, Grayson rested Becchio & gave Paynter the chance to build on Saturdays momentum. Yet, as the game got under way, it was clear that only one side had any momentum. Preston’s new stand on our left made the ground feel more imposing, even if the home fans didn’t & from the start of the game, the hosts belied their league position. Indeed, they had 4 gilt edged chances in the first 10 minutes. Treacy crashed the ball off the underside of the bar early on & the impressive Hume, who was a key figure in the 4-6 defeat at Elland Road earlier this season, hit one over.  Kasper was then forced into smart stops from Brown & Johnson as the Whites struggled to get going…

The Whites attacks were sporadic & it was 15 minutes before Max fired just wide after some determined play. Minutes later, Howson shot wide after a stunning piece of distribution from Kasper & it was against the run of play when we took the lead. On 30 minutes Snoddy’s first real involvement saw him skip down the right, but disappoint with his cutback into the area. The home defence half cleared but the ball fell to Kilkenny on the edge of the area. The goal shy midfielder returned the ball with interest & his first time shot flew in the top corner via a post, sending the travelling faithful fkin mental. The unlikely lead from an unlikely source sparked a short period of domination from the Whites…

Gradel saw a cross shot kept out by Lonergan, before Paynter saw his shot blocked. However, the defence still looked frail & Brown should have levelled the game with a header. Up the other end, Paynter could have killed the game on halftime, but his shot went just wide. The halftime lead was a tad fortunate, but then, so were both Norwich & Doncaster’s recent halftime levellers. The second half started in much the same vein as the first & after a weak Johnson freekick, Treacy forced Kasper into a brilliant save. At every opportunity, the hosts swung the ball into the box  & Brown had the ball in the net, only for assistant referee Miss Massey to show Keys & Gray she knows the offside rule…

As play swung back in favour of the Whites, Gradel twice had half chances, before the moment we had all been waiting for. Paynter turned his man on the right of the area & took a touch before unleashing a rocket into the top left hand corner that sent us into ecstasy. It was a finish of the highest quality & well worth the wait. Back came the hosts & Carter forced Kasper into another great save, before Preston nicked one back. Unchallenged & from just outside the box, Hume hit a wonderstrike that left Kasper grasping thin air for 2-1. The Whites should have responded almost immediately, as a defensive mix up gifted Paynter a chance to notch a game killing second…

However the striker stumbled into the chance & though he beat the keeper from 3 yards, his shot hit the post before being cleared to safety. It was to be the last real opportunity for the Whites & with the game wide open, the hosts pushed on for a leveller. Grayson threw on Becchio for Paynter in the hope of finding a fresh outlet, but we began to drop deep. Ellington & Hume both went too close for comfort as cross after cross, corner after corner rained in & at times it felt like the “Alamo”. Grayson took off Kilkenny to allow Bannan a debut & the lad looked promising but the last few minutes were all about the defence. O’Brien & Bromby cleared at vital times as we looked to run the clock down…

Grayson bolstered the back line as Snoddy made way for Naylor & all 3 centre halves played a role in the nerve shredding & frantic final minutes. The final whistle brought utter relief & a vital 3 points. So, it was a night where the result was far more important than the performance. Though it has to be said that the combination of the midweek jinx finally ending  & Paynter’s first goal meant that cracks were papered over. Especially after we heard that other results had lifted the club to 5th & just 3 points from 2nd spot.  We head into the game against Bullard inspired Ipswich hoping that “Come on Billy”!! can now build on his goal & fire the Whites to 3 more precious points…

Leeds United AFC…“Billy One – der Goal” … Keep Fighting…

Youtube clip thanks to GMAKAIWTY…

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Posted March 9, 2011 by keepfighting in leeds united, Uncategorized

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