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Rovers 1 Leeds Utd 2


Paul
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From the Message Board an excellent piece by Scotty:

The pre-match talk in The Ivy revolved around the importance of the first goal. Whoever got it would have a huge boost to their confidence and would probably go on and win. Sadly, predictably, we didn't get it.

I'm tired of saying this but, yet again, Souness made some baffling team selections. To drop Todd again was simply ridiculous. Todd has shown time and time again this season that he's our best defender - he's probably the only player who's been consistently good all season - and dropping him is just rank bad management. If the rumours about Todd storming off are true then I don't blame him. Playing Reid on the left instead of Andresen was less surprising but equally ridiculous when we have Gresko in the reserves kicking his heels.

Anyway, to the match. Tugay's first pass of the game went astray but led to nothing. His second pass of the match (after less than 2 minutes) went astray again but this time went straight to Pennant who promptly skinned him and Gray before winning a corner. Leeds played a short corner and Kelly, totally unopposed, whipped in a cross straight to Caldwell who was, wait for it, totally unopposed. 1-0 Leeds. The Premiership tonight highlighted that Stead should have been marking Caldwell. He wasn't even close.

The rest of the half was typical of our home performances this season. Lots of possession, lots of huff and puff, but no end product. Leeds comfortably contained us by simply marking Emerton, Cole and Stead and putting pressure on Tugay whenever he had the ball. The only half-chance I can remember us creating was a snapshot from Stead that was straight at Robinson.

To be fair we could have had a penalty mid-way through the half. Stead challanged Duberry for an awkwardly bouncing ball and it looked, at first glance, that Duberry hauled Stead down in the area. The TV replays showed that he did. The ref missed it - surprise, surprise.

The only other notable incident in the half was around the 15 minute mark when Amoruso failed to deal with a simple long ball and Smith broke free, only to be denied by a good Friedel save.

So, 1-0 to Leeds at half-time and an awful lot to do to get back into it.

Souness brought Gallagher on at half time but, instead of changing the shape and just trying to do something, anything different he made a like for like substitution by taking the ineffective Reid off and sticking Gally out on the left. It made fluck all difference.

We carried on were we left off - lots of effort, lots of possession, lots of nothing in front of goal. Leeds, meanwhile, used the little possession they had to full effect. They broke with pace and skill, using the brilliant Smith, Viduka and Pennant as outlets. They could have scored a second when Smith ran at our static, sh1t-scared defence and laid it off to Milner. His rasping drive hit the bar. The TV later showed that Friedel may have got a fingertip to it and, if he did, then it was a breathtaking save.

With about 5 minutes to go we actually carved out a real chance. A scramble resulted in the ball breaking to Cole who hit an instinctive, first-time shot at goal. Robinson's save was as breathtaking as Friedel's.

Almost immediately Leeds got their second. Pennant broke from deep inside our half, brushed past a pathetic attempt at a tackle from Tugay, skinned Gray again, and crossed to Smith. Smith tried to flick it in but totally missed his kick. Tragically for us though the ball carried on straight into the path of an unmarked Viduka who finished in style.

Cue a mass exodus from the home fans. Those that left early missed our consolation goal. Gallagher won a free-kick near the corner flag, got straight up, and whipped in a peach of a cross onto the unmarked Short's head. Too little, too late.

In our last two home games we've played teams that started the day below us in the table. Both those teams have looked better than us. Smith, Viduka and Pennant were a class above anything we could offer today. Their midfield had a hunger and a bite that was missing in ours. Their defence coped easily with our attack, whereas our defence always looked shakey against their attack.

It's hard to take any positives from the game. Amoruso, overall, played well yet almost every chance Leeds had resulted from an Amo mistake. Cole looked sharp and worked hard but he had no service and no decent partner to link up with. Short played well - at one point he ran the length of the field with the ball only to be let down by a lack of options up front - yet we still let in two goals. Flitcroft made a number of good runs beyond the front two but was rarely found with the pass.

The negatives are easier to spot. Reid had a shocker. He, like many a player before him this season, looked lost on the left. Every time he got the ball he laid it off backwards instead of turning and running at the defence. Gray had a poor game. He simply couldn't cope with Pennant - although he had precious little help from anyone else. Stead was anonymous. Tugay gave the ball away time and time again but, to be fair, what options did he have? Neill also gave the ball away lots. Emerton did OK but was tightly marked throughout. He's just not good enough to accept the creative burden that our tactics place on him. None of these things are new though.

I noticed earlier on this thread that people questioned the commitment and desire of the team today. I don't think that was a problem. We worked hard and matched Leeds for effort. We're just not good enough, individually or tactically. We're too easily contained and we can't defend. That's why we keep losing and that's why we're going down. That's also the reason why Souness should be sacked. We've been like this all season yet nothing has improved, if anything we've got worse.

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