Tag Archives: Middlesbrough

Trauma and Relief as Kalvin Phillips Makes a Late Point for Leeds at Middlesbrough – by Rob Atkinson

Kalvin celebrating a late point-saver for Leeds at Middlesbrough

After Aston Villa’s late comeback against Sheffield United, Leeds United knew that a point at Middlesbrough would see them return, if only temporarily, to the Championship summit. And so it turned out, although the draw was only achieved at the last gasp of a lengthy stoppage period, which resulted from a traumatic scare over the health of teenage United star winger Jack Clarke.

Leeds had travelled north to Teesside bolstered by the fact that local rivals Sheffield United had failed to capitalise on their 3-0 lead at Villa Park and remained two points back in third place. With long term injury absentee Patrick Bamford starting his first league game for Leeds, and with the dependable Kalvin Phillips back in his defensive midfield role, Leeds were perhaps better equipped to meet the stern challenge of promotion rivals, as compared to their previous match at home to Norwich. They started brightly enough against a Middlesbrough side humbled at League Two Newport County in midweek. But the home side had the incentive of recovering from that humiliating Cup exit and, as the first half wore on, they began to trouble the Leeds defence.

Reaching the interval with the match goalless, Leeds must have been looking forward to taking greater control later on, with Pablo Hernandez replacing Jack Clarke in an effort to pierce the Boro defence. But only two minutes into the second half, Pablo was guilty of a bit of ball watching as Boro broke down the left wing, to put a dangerous ball across the edge of the Leeds box, where Lewis Wing found a smart finish to put the home side 1-0 up.

The remainder of the match was a troubled mixture of worry and frustration for Leeds, with young Jack Clarke taken ill on the Leeds bench and needing lengthy treatment with play held up. Clarke, 18, received first class treatment at the ground and was then taken to hospital for tests, with players on both sides clearly shaken that such a young player showed such alarming symptoms.

As play resumed, Boro did indeed tire after their exertions on a heavy pitch at Newport, and Leeds duly exerted some sort of control over proceedings. All of a sudden, the odds seemed much more in favour of United salvaging at least a point, or maybe even a crucial comeback victory. But the breaks still weren’t coming up front for all their attacking play, with some good chances created and missed, notably for Bamford and Kemar Roofe. Eventually, though, the pressure told and Boro were denied at the last gasp when Leeds United scored from a left wing corner. The ball found Liam Cooper, who headed powerfully goalwards where Phillips connected with the ball to dispatch the equaliser past Boro keeper Darren Randolph. The point-saving goal had come in the last of twelve added minutes, much to the joy and relief of the travelling United support who duly raised the roof of the Riverside Stadium.

A draw was probably a fair result, as each side had dominated half the game, though both would regret some missed opportunities to add to the scoring. All was well that ended well, with young Clarke evidently feeling better by the end of the day. And there was a classy touch from Boro manager Tony Pulis, who deflected questions about the lengthy stoppage time by saying  “The more important thing is making sure the boy, fingers crossed, hopefully the boy’s okay and he recovers because he’s a very, very talented young player. All our thoughts from Middlesbrough Football Club actually go to the lad Clarke.”

Managerial Merry-go-Round: is Garry Monk Heading Back to Leeds? – by Rob Atkinson

Garry-Monk

Garry Monk – a second return to Elland Road?

With the appointment of failed Wendies manager Carlos Carvalhal as the new Swansea boss, that particular route back into football for the increasingly slithery Garry Monk has been well and truly blocked off. Attention now turns to whose will be the next hapless posterior to occupy the Hillsborough Hot Seat, with Anglo-Dutch Leeds United fan Schteve McClaren being touted as a candidate in some quarters.

Another possibility, though, is that Monk himself could be interesting Sheffield’s second club – which raises the tantalising prospect of a second return this season for the scaly one to Elland Road. Garry rocked up to LS11 as recently as November of course, in charge of the Bonny Boro – but it wasn’t a good day for the fork-tongued former centre-half, as goals from Pablo Hernandez and Gjanni Alioski put Leeds two up, before a visually-impaired linesman gave a penalty against Luke Ayling for being wrestled to the ground by Daniel Ayala.

The 1-2 reverse at his former place of employment must have been a bitter pill to swallow for Monk, who had hoped to be the centre of attention for a more palatable reason – though he characteristically attempted to put a positive sheen on another defeat: “It wasn’t about me. It’s about my team and the players on the pitch and we’re disappointed with the result and should have got more”.

Garry had a fair bit of practice in his brief time in Smogland, dreaming up similar platitudes to deflect any blame from himself after each disappointing result for his expensively-assembled squad. Could it possibly be that he’ll be mouthing similar excuses after the visit of Wednesday to Leeds in mid-March? It would be a deeply satisfying reprise of his crestfallen demeanour after the Middlesbrough game, but it’s probably too much to hope for.

Surely, after all, even Wednesday can’t be that daft.

Danny Ings or Benik Afobe Would Be Just Right for Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson

Ings

Danny Ings – perfect fit for Leeds?

I was always being told in days gone by that you can’t have your cake and eat it – usually by the same people who’d murmur disapprovingly about “people today who want t’spice and t’ha’penny”. It’s that instinctive northern hostility to the concept of wanting the best of both worlds – but, really, what’s wrong with that? In any event, if Leeds United can now play their cards right, having banked an impressive number of millions from the onward moves of Taylor and Wood to Burnley, and with Liam Bridcutt heading for the Forest – then they could indeed end up in a win-win situation.

Since news of Wood’s departure for Turf Moor was confirmed, the names advanced as possible replacements have been many and varied. In fact, I can’t think of many realistic striker options who haven’t been mooted as possibilities – and most would do some sort of job. But in my mind, there are two outstanding candidates, both of whom would probably be loans rather than purchases, which could leave us with a nice little warchest for January, assuming that we’re somewhere near play-off contention by then.

The players I have in mind are Danny Ings, coming back from injury and down the pecking order at Liverpool, and Bournemouth‘s ex-Wolves striker Benik Afobe. For me, these two have more to recommend them in terms of fitting into the new Leeds style, than most other names so far advanced (notably Rudy Gestede). Then again, United have in Victor Orta a man who seems to have an eye for a player that bears comparison with the great Peter Taylor, who was the secret of Brian Clough’s success. So if he says Gestede is the man, then perhaps he has a point. Garry Monk appears to be pouting at the very idea though, so it may be that United will have to look elsewhere.

Afobe and/or Ings, perhaps on loan for the season, would provide Leeds with an admirable array of options up front, without depleting the treasury too much. Whether or not they are options United are seriously considering is another question – but it’s one that will have to be answered sometime over the next eight days before the transfer window slams shut.

Leeds Wizard Botaka In At the Riverside Deep End?   –   by Rob Atkinson

New Leeds United man Jordan Botaka: debut today?

The same ground and the same fixture that saw the introduction to English football of Middlesbrough‘s Brazilian star Juninho could today witness the debut of another mercurial talent. Almost twenty years after the Boro star made his bow, heralding a new era on Teesside, Leeds United‘s exciting new signing Jordan Botaka might just be about to unleash his own brand of magic on the Championship – in the most challenging of circumstances. 

Two decades back, Juninho stepped out against Leeds to introduce himself to an adoring Riverside Stadium. This lunchtime, Congo international Botaka is in line for a first United appearance, backed by the Whites’ travelling army and scrutinised by the critical eye of Sky Sports live coverage. The key to the tricky wide man’s first outing is the mindset of off-colour prodigy Sam Byram, United’s defender-turned-winger, who is currently the subject of much speculation and debate – not to mention the withering attack launched on him this week by Leeds’s outspoken owner Massimo Cellino.

Byram, such a hot prospect only two years ago, has reportedly turned down a new deal at Elland Road. His form over the last eighteen months has been patchy as he’s made a troubled comeback from injury. Now it would appear that his heart and soul may be elsewhere as transfer speculation has him linked with some of England’s major clubs, as well as Sunderland. In circumstances like that, his inclusion against a rampant Boro would be a risky business for United coach Uwe Rösler. It’ll have to be all hands at the pumps for Leeds at the Riverside today, just to avoid being swamped. 

And yet this has been traditionally a happy hunting ground for United since that memorable occasion of Juninho’s first game in England. A one-all draw on that occasion was distinctly respectable, but in the intervening period there have been rich pickings here for the Yorkshire giants. Only last season, the Whites turned up, struck early through Alex Mowatt, and held on grimly in the face of a Smoggies onslaught to depart triumphant. 

A win today would be in the face of similarly daunting odds. Boro are on a roll, win after win making them stand-out performers in the depressed environment of football’s far north-east. Middlesbrough will be confident of beating a Leeds side conceivably unsettled by Cellino’s latest outburst – and this alone could make the case for the benching of Byram. Gaetano Berardi is doing a fine job at right-back, and Botaka could be the wing presence United have needed to bring out the very best of Chris Wood. The case for change is compelling – and if form is the deciding factor, Byram could hardly complain about being “rested”.

Twenty years back, Junino made his mark, but Leeds were the happier side as they salvaged a draw. Today could be the start of another player’s story as Jordan Botaka waits on the wing – and another draw would be another highly worthy result. 

EXCLUSIVE: Police Fears of Betting Fix Allayed by Spurs Result – by Rob Atkinson

Police alert!

Police alert!

Police in Manchester, as well as detectives in London’s Metropolitan Police, were all geared up for a full-scale investigation into a possible betting sting earlier today, Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything understands. Concerns were raised as news came in of some “incredibly unlikely” scores in the 4th Round FA Cup games around the country, as well as in certain league games.

The matches under the spotlight were Chelsea versus non-league Bratfud City, Manchester City at home to smog-bound Middlesbrough Ironopolis and the Southampton v Crystal Pulis game at the St Mary’s Stadium. All three encounters ended in highly unlikely away wins, and alarm bells were ringing. Asked whether nefarious activity by a Far East betting syndicate was suspected, a Police spokesman confirmed “That was very much the case. We were looking at a branch of BetFred in Scarborough.”

The police were on high alert towards the end of the afternoon fixtures. “We were looking for a pattern and starting to see one,” said DCI Ivor Truncheon of the Yard. “One more dodgy scoreline, and the boys and I were going to swoop.”

The game that might have tipped the balance from what could just have been an unlikely sequence of results, into a full-scale betting scandal, took place at White Hart Lane. “At one point, Tottenham Hotspuds were actually winning,” we were told. “Yes, things were getting that bizarre. But then Leicester got the digit out, imposed their superiority – and in the end, they won. Thankfully, that was enough to convince us that everything was legit. But if Spuds had actually won – along with all those other frankly ridiculous results – well, you can well imagine that we’d have had to take it all very seriously indeed.”

Asked whether the Watford v Blackpool game (where the away team led 2-0 at the interval, only to lose 7-2) came under any scrutiny, our police source was dismissive. “Nah, that’s just Blackpool being crap, isn’t it. We understand the FL might look at the slope at Vicarage Road, but that’s not a criminal matter.”

The FA Cup is 143.