Mad Max strikes again

A little later than usual with the match report due to a weekend of drunken debauchery so I’ll keep it relatively short as everything that needs to be said, has probably been repeated numerous times already.

A 2-0 win over QPR at Elland Road moved the expectation levels up another notch as Leeds United sneaked into the automatic places with Cardiff City’s match postponed. Beating the league leaders was reason enough to celebrate, but the manner in which Leeds United kept QPR quiet and dominated this tie was, for me, the pinnacle of a very positive season so far.

Right from the off Leeds looked threatening and dominated almost entirely, with the midfield dictating play. Snodgrass was excellent out wide, as was Howson who seemed to shift between the central attacking position he’s been playing in lately and the left wing. Bradley Johnson meanwhile dictated play in the centre whilst Neil Kilkenny kept things neat and tidy and allowed Leeds to dictate the tempo.

With Johnson battling away and silencing the QPR midfield for large parts and Killa’s tidy passing spreading the ball in both directions, you could really see the midfield system Simon Grayson has been trying to create come together and give Leeds United almost total dominance.

There was of course, one other player I’ve yet to mention – Mad Max Gradel. From a liability to Elland Road superstar and back more times than I care to count, this was the superstar version of Max that can delight crowds and terrify defenders.

Max switched from Becchio’s strike partner up front and his more common position of winger (with the Shaun Derry marked Jonny Howson going in the opposite direction). It was these two individual positions that his two goals came from as Snoddy and Howson linked up to provide his first – an opportunistic half volley from a centre forward position, whilst his second came from one of those great solo runs where he usually gets dispossessed and then sulks because the nasty defender took the ball off him.

Two good goals that lifted Leeds United into the automatic promotion spots and gave the Whites fans plenty to celebrate this Christmas. Celebrations that were later refuelled by the news Luciano Becchio has finally signed a new contract.

I haven’t mentioned the defence, because overall they had a very quiet shift. Alex Bruce went off injured early meaning Leigh Bromby got some rare time on the pitch – he had little to do, but when called upon he did his job perfectly well. Out wide, the full-backs never hesitated to get forward and help out the attackers, whilst Kasper Schmeichel probably wished he’d brought something to read.

Paul Connolly again deserves special mention. Him and Snodgrass seem to have developed an almost telepathic understanding of what one another is going to do, and it’s formed a formidable attacking force down the wing. The two overlap one another and play one-two’s throughout, but also cover each others positions when needed. Great to see.

QPR

In the interests of balance, I should probably mention QPR. They did have the odd chance but nothing worth writing home about. Man for man, Leeds United were by far the stronger team and were worthy winners. It appears the lack of depth in the QPR side seems to be costing them. It’s a side with some obvious quality, but whether it will be enough to sustain an automatic push is doubtful – having played almost every team in the division now, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t put QPR in the top three or four.

…and Leeds’ promotion chances?

I said in pre-season that I expected to finish in the play-offs and part of my reasoning for that prediction was the sheer level of depth we have available to us. Ross McCormack, Billy Paynter, Sanchez Watt and Lloyd Sam (and maybe a couple of others) would be starting XI in most Championship sides, but at Elland Road they’re struggling to get a couple of minutes here and there in the first team.

Having played the majority of teams in this division now, the only one I would say was better than us is Cardiff. Leicester City were pretty outstanding too, but their failure to gain any kind of momentum leaves them way off the pace.

With that in mind, there’s absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t finish in the automatic places. I think our obvious quality and the strength in depth we have available to reinforce that in times of need, means we have a massive advantage over 90% of this league and that seems to be coming in to play as the season progresses.

  • Ron

    Glad to hear someone else was a dribbling wreck this weekend. A great performance and just what we needed ahead of a big couple of weeks. Better still, Uncle Ken has no reason not to open the purse strings if asked in January, now he’s seen we may be capable of promotion. Our depth is pleasing, but only going forward. I saw a rumour that Michael Johnson of Man City will be with us on loan in January. Yes please. One more central defender would be nice too. Onward and upward. MOT

  • Christopher Gee

    Just hope the players can lay off the juice before the visit to Leicester. It’s time we picked up some points at the crisp bowl. Great performance from Bromby given his lack of match practice, maybe deserves a longer run in the team? We must be one of the few teams at this level that doesn’t really need new faces in January – provided BJ doesn’t walk.

  • Bill

    A real team performance and to single out a MoM is really tough…but…Snoddy.

  • Tim Campbell

    Quite a weekend for us with the win, swansea losing, us up to 2nd, becchio signing new contract, Warnock getting a taste of his own medicine from the ref and whether its true or not ‘another’ Johnson being linked with us….phew i’m done out. I think the most important point to make is that we are not going to have the fixture pile up a lot of the other teams will face HAPPY CHRISTMAS to all leeds fans and its truly a WHITES CHRISTMAS LOL

  • Camaac

    Two positive comments about BJ! Is he winning you over? Simon Grayson obviously wants him to stay.

    • TSS

      @Camaac

      If he plays well, I’ll write accordingly. He’s still too inconsistent for my liking, but if we leave him in his current role where he doesn’t have the opportunity to give half the Kop a black eye each he looks much more of an asset than a hindrance.

  • TheReaper08

    Great result. Well done to the lads and well done to everyone at the club for yet again putting on a game when other supposedly more estemmed clubs failed.

    Agree with captaincrash that picking an MOM is tough, I too would go with Snoddy purely on Mersons summary of his performance (and trying to pronounce his name) on Sky.

  • Sunnyleeds

    “…Uncle Ken has no reason not to open the purse strings if asked in January,…”

    I feel that Uncle Ken has already opened his purse by accepting to have an enlarged squad which entails more wages. Bates/Harvey/Grayson have taken a different approach to other Championship clubs in having strength in numbers rather than spend money on transfer fees. Money is always a scarce resource so it is the manner one opts to utilise it that counts most. Leeds have gone for a big squad and its effect will be coming out now: with the team starting to gel and in busy periods.

    A bigger squad has given Grayson strength in a number of ways: greater selection options, players kept on the edge, change in formations, etc.

    The more games Leeds play, the more the team is gelling. TSS has pointed this out at least on two occasions in his report above, and this is what is making all the difference. So I do not necessarily agree that we should buy more players come January. There are a number of players who have been patiently waiting for their chance, and bringing more players in would tend to increase their frustration.

    What is more important is to give more opportunities to these players to help them grow and allow them to be part of the success. So I would prefer that the three reserves in each game are used to the optimum and the team is shuffled a little more every now and then, even though some would prefer not to change a winning formula.

  • henry vincent lewis

    I hope Bradley stays.
    He is a strong character and he has been under a lot of pressure from the fans.
    Also, where he is playing now is reducing his shooting opportunities!!
    I think Jonny Howson was drifting out to the wing to draw Shaun Derry out of position, when he realised (or the manager realised) he was being man-marked.

    Merry Christmas every one!

  • Mike

    It seems I may not have judged Larry entirely fairly ;-)
    He is certainly getting better almost with every match and it shows in the players and teams performances.
    Scared to say this but my confidence in promotion is growing, we could do with 8 out of the next 12 points available, then it could be a straight run if not exactly downhill.

  • steve underwood

    First up great performence,now i know must people hate ken bates but he must take some credit for backing grayson,the team a now getting stronger and when you look at the bench you see how strong the squad is.We are getting better in defence the midfield and attack look potent,other teams ie cardif qpr swansea have a strong starting 11 there back up is average i would say we have a very good 20 players.The Feeling i get is the same when oleary took over the team looks exciting there is a feeling from the players that promotion is there for the taking,so lets get right behind the team if we are still second after xmas there will be no stopping us MOT

  • Tim Wilsom

    Went out Christmas shopping on the Bonnie last night, after battling the traffic in town,came to the last light before the quiet 10 mile stretch to home, what comes on the i pod? Marching on together. ;) Merry Christmas

  • henry vincent lewis

    The squad looks good in attack, but defensively we are still weak.
    Two defenders on loan and little back up if we get injuries.
    I am sure Simon knows this so I am not worried.

    Henry.

  • foreverwhite

    I tend to agree with Mike. The next 4 matches are more crucial than most. Come away with 2points average and we should fear no one. QPR are doing what we did last year, big lead evaporating fast. Shame Cardiff can’t do the same.

  • trueyorxman

    Michael Johnson from City, one question…why?

  • West Stand Rebel

    Bandit steve. Have to agree with you there is now a feel good factor reminiscent of the O’leary babes era. Thank goodness Grayson takes no notice of the idiots on here who have a constant moan about Bradley Johnson. For me he was man of the match on Saturday. He never put a foot wrong and covered every blade of grass. At his age he will have poor games as well but look how Howson has suddenly matured. Bradley if he goes will be a great loss.
    Feel free to quote me in two years time if I am wrong about him. He will turn out to be a great player

    • TheReaper08

      @West Stand Rebel I have been a critic of Johnson because there have been far too few performances like those we are witnessing right now. It’s really easy to come out now as an armchair manager and state the obvious but he has been with us for a few years now and I think performances like last Saturday can be counted on one hand.

      If he continues to peform as he has recently then even critics like myself and TSS might be convinced. I never mind admitting I am wrong and you never know we might even be advocating a more suitable pay rise for him.

      I have to say I am on here a lot and I never hear constant moaning about Bradley, just a few opinons recently aired because of the pay rise fiasco. It’s a bit childish to call those people idiots just because they don’t share your own opinion.

      • West Stand Rebel

        Critics are fine but abuse from idiots isn’t in my book. Armchair I may, be but if you have read my postings for many weeks now you will find consistancy throughout about BJ. Both you and TSS are at odds with the real manager and I respect that, even though you are wrong

        • TheReaper08

          @West Stand Rebel I have read your posts and I respect your consistent opinon on this and any other subject, in fact if I am not mistaken we have been in agreement on more than one occassion.

          I hope I am wrong about BJ ( you would say I am already ;) ) and that he keeps turning in the performances, I also don’t think so much of myself that I can’t accept criticism and admit when I am wrong.

  • Mike

    Howson seems to mature every time he is Captain, I hope Larry has noticed that.

  • Chris from Wakey

    MoM is a hard call. Bradley Johnson had his best Leeds game ever for me. Killkenny was quiet in the first half but Larry must have kicked his arse at half time because he came out well after the break. Snoddy and Jon Howson at their best and just as Mad Max started to look ineffectual in the second half he popped in another brilliant goal. Overall a great team performance and one of the best games at ER for years. I hate to say it but if we keep this up we could go up automatically. Let’s go to Arsenal and have some fun and not care about losing. We certainly don’t want a wobble like we had this year after winning at Old Trafford. Beating ManU in their own back garden was pretty special but it didn’t compare with beating Bristol at ER this summer and getting promoted.

  • timm

    I’m a bit disappointed to see that Becchio signinging a new contract only gets a single line in TSSs write up? The ‘non signing’ of his contract has dominated all the Leeds sites recently,& as usual, Ken Bates has come in for a lot of stick. It looks like the clubs comments about Luciano wanting to stay, & the only hold up being to do with his agent not being in the country have turned out to be true. A great bit of business done brilliantly.
    Bradley Johnson was magnificent v QPR,probably the most complete performance i’ve seen from him. And as for Howson & Snoddy? Reminded me of Scott Parker & a certain Eddie Gray! Happy days! We’ve had a fantastic 2010 & I see no reason why we shouldn’t have been up for team of the year on Sports Personality of the Year last night. We’d definately win Fans of the Year!!

    • TSS

      @Timm

      I haven’t had the time to write anything more substantial I’m afraid Timm, and assume the other sites gave the news the coverage it deserved? I even noticed it on 302 on BBC’s digital text – very rare we get a mention on that these days.

  • White to the core

    Great team performance, and developing a greater consistancy. Yes johnson had one of his better games, but will be glad to see him go in January /May to hopefully be replaced with someone capable of playing consistantly at the next level. Great news Becchio signed a new contract. Just need to get rid of the deadwood in the squad come January and bring in some quality replacements. Defence, central midfield, and one of the strikers. I assume Grella to be most likely to go which you will get no arguement from me. Other come on Leeds. MOT

  • White to the core

    Assuming Johnson and possibly Kilkenny are on their way, who else would people like to see go and who ‘realisticly’ should we sign?

  • Mark R

    Well done Super Leeds & SG, great support as well for those of you who made the game on Saturday vs.QPR.

    On the presswires this afternoon: Michael Johnson of Man City linked:

    ”Leeds fan Johnson, 22, is fit again after a series of knee injuries and ready for a spell on loan to regain his sharpness, while City manager Roberto Mancini is not short of midfield options.

    Former England Under-21 international Johnson told the Sunday Express: “You can’t pick or choose, but I’ve always been a Leeds fan.

    “I’d love to play for them and a loan deal would be an ideal scenario.”

    He was an exciting midfielder before his injury and before the influx of overseas players into MC. He wants to play for us. More of a creative midfielder – but definitely worth a loan until season end in my view.

    MOT

  • Colin

    @Mark R
    I don’t understand why he said this publicly? I guess it was in a response to a direct question of “you’re a Leeds fan, would you ever like to play for leeds?” Secondly, I’m not sure he’d get a game at the moment. And if he does join, then fine, but only as long as Man City pick up the majority of his wage and we get a bargain loan out of the deal. I think he’s on £25,000 a week!!

  • TheReaper08

    @colin Let’s not forget that he is also rumoured to be the size of a small semi detached house right now as well ! If he needs to shift some timber let him do it elsewhere.

    A couple of years ago he was quality though….

  • saltburnwhite

    OUTS:
    crowe
    michalik
    grella
    tom elliott

    INS if any!
    Alan smith in place of bradley johnson if he goes
    Andy Obrien permanent

  • scott johnson

    Totally agree with west stand rebel

  • Tim Campbell

    An interesting point arises again, since the recent talk has inevitably surrounded promotion. There were a lot of fans at the start of the year who quite frankly did not really want to see us promoted this season but to ‘consolidate’. My personal view was promotion would bring its own riches, better sponsorship and even better quality players wanting to join. Now I say push on lads lets go for the winners position this year its obtainable!!!

    • White to the core

      Spot on Timm. Theres nowt wrong with having high expectations. I can see why after the lows of recent years why consolidation was seen as acceptable by so many. But i said at start that this was a good season to push on with most teams on a fairly level playing field. What with the relegated prem teams in financial meltdown. Next season will be a different kettle of fish. Once up though serious investment will be required to keep us there but the prizes in £s will be worth to stay amongst the elite. Which is undoubtetly where our great club belongs. On current form with the right outs and ins we are heading in the right direction. So yes lets get behind our boys push for promotion and show the doubting John Thomas’ what we are capable of. MOT

      • Tim Campbell

        I’m quietly confident pal that we have learned lessons from our meltdown period last season, which will serve us well in the coming months. As mentioned a few tweaks in the January transfer window and we can see this job out till the end of the season. One other point about that ‘consolidation’ statement and thats simply that there is no guarantee we could get up the following season. Damn it when the opportunity is there on a plate lets take it!!

        • White to the core

          I could’nt agree more Tim. Blimey whats happening to me (i usually like to partake in a bit of antagonism and friendly disagreement). Happy xmas to everyone. Heres to a successful xmas period and 2011. MOT

      • Craig

        @White to the core

        ‘doubting John Thomas’ – surely the most interesting mixed metaphor I’ve encountered in a long time!

        • White to the core

          Craig my friend, im glad i could put a smile on your face. MOT

  • Ron

    @ Sunnyleeds

    I am a fan of Bates and what he has done, especially off the pitch. Leeds are a viable club, covering their costs, something most clubs cannot say. However, it will not be out of place if we spend some cash in January on one or two players that really signal our intent to go up. In Football as in life, you get windows of opportunity and I for one want out of this division pronto. Consolidation my ass, we all want the top flight. I underestimated the quality of our squad for this division and have been happily eating a shit sandwich ever since. Let’s push on from here as it could easily turn into a year where we fall over. You make perfectly valid points though.

    Fingers crossed we have Paddy back for the 2nd half of the season too. That will be like a new signing.

    • Craig

      @rongalea

      Paddy won’t get back into the team this season barring injury or loss of form elsewhere. He wasn’t the same player after his last comeback and he’s going to need a whole pre-season training regime for him to regain the fitness required to take his place in a back four that is now gelling well.

  • EYLeeds

    Was amazed at how easy we beat QPR. If that is the best team in the Championship then why not start to think that we are capable of getting promoted.
    Trim some of the fringe players and sign a couple of quality defenders (or extend the loans of O’Brien and Mcartney) and we will be in the mix for sure.
    Great shout Timm with the Snoddy and Eddie Gray comparison.

  • Mike

    @rongalea
    Good post agree with all except the necessity to spend in January.
    My confidence in Larry is building and I think if Larry says I want/need this he will get it. Not sure he will ask as our bunch of lads are becoming a Team, and we have a lot of competent spares.

  • Matt BB

    I wonder if this sense of optimism will remain after a visit to Leicester on boxing day.. I think as Simon Grayson says we should keep our ambitions realistic, as IMHO thats what derailed the club (nearly) last year.

    We can expect better performances from JOhnson now as he’s in the shop window, and for me will probably end up leaving, particularly after his public spat with the chairman, and as reaper says his good performances have been few and far between.

    I think Michael JOnson a few years ago was an outstanding prospect but recent pictures of him show him to be seriously overweight (and thats from a 14st blob)

    We should be looking at players like Alan Smith, who would bring a bit of experience to the midfield, and he has a point to prove.

  • henry vincent lewis

    I agree with you Matt.
    It was not very long ago that Cardiff and QPR were promotion certainties.
    We will hit another rocky patch and fans will blame Simon, Ken B, tactics etc.
    At the moment everything in the garden is rosy and it feels great but we must be strong and balanced.
    I do not know how much truth there is in the Johnson rumour, but, in his condition and injury history, City would pay most of his wages to get him playing.
    He is no good to anyone the way he is just now.

  • Joey

    Best game I’ve been to all season, every player played so well constant pressing, the atmosphere was the best as well :) soo happy just got the text that my cardiff away application has been processed :D 4-0 leeds?