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Matt_no_7

A Step Down?

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There were only two changes to the squad that won their last game at Birmingham with Nunez coming into the left and Lalkovic making it onto the bench in cover of the injured McCormack. The break of five days had done them good and the entire team seemed fresh and ready to again hit the ground running as the highest scoring team in the football league.

npower Championship

26/12/2011

Leeds Utd vs Millwall

Formation: 4-2-3-1

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Paul Connelly

LB: Aiden White

CB: Tom Lees

CB: Patrick Kisnorbo

CM: Jonny Howson ©

CM: Mika Vayrynen

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Ramon Nunez

AMC: Matt Warner

ST: Andrew Keogh

SUBS:

GK: Andy Lonegran

RB: Stuart Parnaby

LB: Ben Parker

CM: Zac Thompson

AML: Milan Lalkovic

Leeds started in quick fashion in the damp conditions. Keogh picking out Nunez who drew a superb save from Forde in the Millwall goal then later Matt latched onto a Vayrynen through ball as Keogh drew his markers away but his effort was too high to trouble Forde into any meaningful action. It was after that when Matt picked up a slight knock thanks to a challenge from Robinson and with Leeds down to ten it gave Lees the chance to show how much he has begun to progress when Henderson looked clean through on goal only to be dispossesed by a superb sliding tackle from a youngster that was very much in the mould of a good old fashioned, no nonsence defender. The damp and dark afternoon started to get damper as a mixture of snow and rain began to fall from the darkening sky above. As the game wore on it was still Leeds doing the most to create chances, Snodgrass starting to find influence on the right. The best chance came as he cut inside, drew markers towards him and then released a ball down the middle for Keogh, his effort was saved well by Forde again but as the ball fell to Nunez he got it caught under his feet before he finally drove it at the side netting. The next best chance came moments later when Nunez worked well down the left before feeding it inside to Matt who turned and let loose an effort at goal which rattled the cross bar and in the ensuing melee Leeds earnt a free kick. Vayrynen came out of the arguments over who would take it with the ball and from the left he bent it around the wall and into the top corner to the delight of the home support. It was his first ever goal for Leeds since joining under Simon Grayson. For the most part after the goal Leeds just fell into a mode of control rather than chasing the 2nd goal though as the half drew to a close it was Matt who had the best chances as firstly he received the ball from Howson with his back to goal and following a clever turn his effort had Forde scrambling across goal to keep it out before moments later again the ball fell at his feet but his shot was right down the throat of the Millwall keeper.

The manager urged better finishing from his front two before sending them out for the second half where early on Leeds found themselves almost back on level terms as Henry burst inside off the right wing and let rip from distance. Rachubka was well beaten but was full of thanks that his crossbar came to his rescue and would hopefully serve as the only warning Leeds needed. Again the better chances soon began falling the way of Leeds as Matt continued what was starting to become a grudge match between himself and Forde, once again though the Millwall keeper managed to palm away Matt's rasping drive from distance. Snodgrass was also causing confusion as, following a good run inside and pass from Nunez, he found space in the area but his low drive beat all but the post before being cleared. Millwall were starting to grow in stature as the game wore on and Forde's form in the Millwall goal was starting to become a cause for concern. It became more of a concern when on 70 minutes the scores were level. Simpson and Barton linking up well before the latter crossed with no one really staking a claim to it so as the ball dropped Feeney connected with a volley which had Rachubka well beaten. Redknapp was straight off the bench to read his players the riot act before sending a couple out to get warmed up.

Shortly after Parker, Thompson and Lalkovic all came in in place of White, Vayrynen and Nunez but Millwall had their tales up at this point as was shown when Simpson again found Barton, this time in a more central area, but his first time effort was dragged inches wide. It was looking like one of those sort of nights before Snodgrass found a pass for Keogh to run at goal and after getting the better of Robinson, the normally solid Forde seemed all at sea when Keogh shot across goal flew past him and into the bottom corner. Straight from the restart a loose pass almost gifted Leeds another goal when Snodgrass again picked out Keogh but his shot this time just caught a deflection before heading out of play. There were a few more chances for Leeds to finish the game off, namely from a Snodgrass corner which found Lees at the near post but once again the crossbar played it's part though with 2 minutes left there was no such luck for Millwall. Snodgrass again picking up the ball before picking the perfect pass to connect with Matt's run from deep and with time and space on his side the England international hammered home high at the near post to wrap up a the perfect Christmas gift for the manager and fans of Leeds United.

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Leeds Utd 3 (Vayrynen 32; Keogh 82; Warner 88)

Millwall 1 (Feeney 70)

Att: 33,131

MoM: Robert Snodgrass (Leeds)

After the game, though pleased with the win, Redknapp warned that they would have to play better than that when coming up against better sides. There was also more cause for celebration as West Ham's went a 5th straight game without a win with a 1-0 defeat to Birmingham meaning it was now four defeats their last five games and just 1 point from a potential 15 available. It meant that Leeds were now a massive 8 points clear at the top of the table at the half way point of the season. There was also a defeat for Leicester while Reading picked up a big win to leap into 3rd place.

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Following what had been a tiring game Matt and Becky spent the next few days at his flat with a feeling that they'd just picked up where they had left off eight years before. Matt spent mornings at training before coming back to spend his afternoons with Becky. She'd be staying until the 2nd of January with them already planning a cosy new years eve in together. Things all started to fall into place until, on the Thursday, there was a knock at his door and with Matt at at training Becky answered.

His return from training wasn't greeted the way he would have wanted.

"I wonder..." She asked, as she stood by her suitcase, "..... When were you going to tell me that you might be a dad in the near future?"

After an internal face palm he took a deep breath,

"Becks.... No one knew who the dad was."

"So what if it is yours then? Were you just going to dump me and get back with her? Or were you going to just try and keep it from me?!" She screamed.

"I don't know.... Everything has happened so god damn fast i have barely had time to think. My dad dies, i find out i may be a dad soon, meeting you again..... I've had nothing but regret since we split the first time....." Matt replied, trying to take a step closer before she warned him against it with a look of thunder.

"I'm sorry.... But i can't do this. I have missed you, every day i wonder what would have happened if i'd have stayed but i can't believe you wouldn't tell me about this.... Above all else i thought we were friends who could be honest and open with each other!"

"Please don't go.... Being with you these last few weeks has made me realise i was stupid to let what we had before go without a fight."

She fought back the tears before pushing past him with her suitcase and out the door, only stopping to throw the letter Kelly had left at him.

"Goodbye Matt....."

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"What the f**k did you tell her?! You couldn't have just kept it to yourself for a few hours or called me?! Why did you do it, you jealous that i've moved on? Ya know what don't reply, you and f**kface have a nice life!"

The message said all it had to. The letter itself confirmed that the child Kelly was carrying wasn't Matt's and now he found himself back at square one. He wasn't angry that the child wasn't his, infact he was relieved in a way as it would only add more stress and complications to what had already been a highly draining month or so. He'd tried to call and text Becky for the a couple of days with no luck, "I'll be glad when this f**kin year is done.... Roll on 2012!" He thought to himself after what must have been the fiftieth attempt to call with no luck. Thinking to the future he put all his focus on the visit of a Crystal Palace side that were neck deep in a relegation dog fight. The team once more remained mostly unchanged with the only alteration being Silva coming in for Connolly who was serving a one match ban.

npower Championship

31/12/2011

Leeds Utd vs Crystal Palace

Formation: 4-2-3-1

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Bruno Silva

LB: Aiden White

CB: Tom Lees

CB: Patrick Kisnorbo

CM: Jonny Howson ©

CM: Mika Vayrynen

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Ramon Nunez

AMC: Matt Warner

ST: Andrew Keogh

SUBS:

GK: Andy Lonegran

RB: Stuart Parnaby

LB: Ben Parker

CM: Zac Thompson

AML: Milan Lalkovic

There was another bumper crowd in attendance as kick off came. Matt gave a glance towards where Becky was sitting just 5 days earlier, now replaced by just an empty seat. Leeds had the better of the early chances, Snodgrass coming close with a free kick while Nunez had a shot which Speroni had well covered. It wasn't long before Speroni was called on again as Nunez cut inside from the left before picking out the run of Howson but the captain's effort was acrobatically saved by the Palace keeper. The chances continued to go the way of the league leaders, Matt picking out Snodgrass with a clever pass only for the wingers effort to hit the side netting. As the half wore on Leeds continued to dominate but struggled convert any of their chances with a mixture of good saves from Speroni and poor finishing from Leeds the only thing keeping the scores level. At half time Redknapp demanded more spark, keen to see out 2011 with a win.

"We MUST start turning all this possession and all those chances into goals. We've controlled the game but we haven't really made them work very hard so it's time to up it, you've had your break so i want forty five minutes of non-stop pressure on that goal of theirs. I don't care if it's 1-0 or 10-0 when the whistle blows but i want to end this year with three points.... Understood?"

The second half continued much like the first half did, lots and lots of chances, bags of possession but very little to show for it. It wasn't a master class in defensive football it's just Leeds seemed out of sorts, lacking that killer ball or deft touch which could turn the game on it's head and things got worse when Bruno Silva, recently back from long term injury, again went down and had to be help off with Parnaby coming on in his place. The game still lacked the spark needed to end the year on the high Redknapp wanted and with that in mind Snodgrass and Vayrynen made way for Thompson and Lalkovic with Nunez heading to the right side of midfield.

Though they continued to press the intensity seemed to slowly die, almost as if they had come to terms with only taking a point from a game many thought would be a goal fest in Leeds' favour. When the whistle did blow for full time the players simply trudged off the field with Redknapp clearly diappointed with his sides efforts.

Leeds Utd 0

Crystal Palace 0

Att: 28,175

MoM: Nathaniel Clyne (Crystal Palace)

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What was looking like a great end to the year a few days earlier had now turned sour very quickly so as the clock hit midnight on December 31st Matt wasn't exactly sad to see the back of 2011. It wasn't bad for everyone however as Lionel Messi picked up the Fifa Ballon d'Or and the World Soccer Magazine's Player of the Year award while also being named in the Fifa World XI,

GK: Hugo Llroris (Lyon)

RB: Maicon (Inter Milan)

LB: Leighton Baines (Everton)

CB: Gerard Pique (Barcelona)

CB: Rio Ferdinand (Man Utd)

MC: David Silva (Man City)

MC: Javier Pastore (Paris SG)

AMR: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)

AML: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

AMC: Wesley Sneijder (Inter Milan)

ST: David Villa (Barcelona)

Subs:

GK: Manuel Nauer (FC Bayern)

CB: Nemanja Vidic (Man Utd)

MC: Luca Modric (Tottenham)

ST: Edinson Cavani (Napoli)

ST: Wayne Rooney (Man Utd)

AML: Gareth Bale (Tottenham)

ST: Luis Suarez (Liverpool)

There were also awards handed out closer to home the following morning with Jobi McAnuff being named as Championship player of the month, Leeds United's Aiden White was handed the award for young player of the month while the final award went to Brian McDermott for manager of the month following Readings recent good form.

In the Premiership it was very much a three horse race at the top of the table with Man Utd just a point clear of both Liverpool and Chelsea with Man City a further nine points back in 4th. Fulham continued their good form in 5th while further down Swansea sat bottom with QPR and Newcastle just above them in the relegation places with Sunderland only just keeping their head above water. In the scoring charts Andy Carroll (12) continued to lead with Bobby Zamora (11) in 2nd and Luis Suarez and Darren Bent (10) tied for 3rd place. In the Champions League all four of the English got through to the last sixteen with only Man City failing to go through top of the group and as a result bagged a tie against Real Madrid. Arsenal were given a two legged affair against Napoli, Chelsea drew Marseille and Man Utd will face Dortmund. In the Europa League only two of our sides made it through with Stoke and Birmingham bowing out while Tottenham and Fulham both progressed. Spurs will take on Rubin Kazan while Fulham were handed a tough task against Lyon.

In the Championship, following their draw with Crystal Palace, Leeds held a six point lead at the top of the table going into the second half of the season with only seven points seperating 3rd from 6th. At the bottom Peterborough, Watford and Barnsley sat in the drop zone all on seventeen though Coventry and Crystal Palace weren't too far ahead either. In the scoring charts Andrew Keogh (15) led the way with Craig Mackhail-Smith and Billy Sharp (14) tied for 2nd.

npower Championship Table 01/01/2012
| Pos | |      Team     | | P  | W  | D | L | F  | Ag | GD  |Pts | 
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 1st | | Leeds Utd     | | 24 | 17 | 5 | 2 | 57 | 18 | +39 | 56 | 
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 2nd | | West Ham      | | 24 | 15 | 5 | 4 | 47 | 27 | +20 | 50 | 
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 3rd | | Reading       | | 24 | 14 | 4 | 6 | 46 | 24 | +22 | 46 | 
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 4th | | Leicester     | | 24 | 13 | 5 | 6 | 50 | 30 | +20 | 44 | 
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 5th | | Middlesbrough | | 24 | 13 | 3 | 8 | 32 | 23 | +9  | 42 | 
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 6th | | Millwall      | | 24 | 12 | 3 | 9 | 41 | 36 | +5  | 39 | 
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 

Following his very uneventful New Year it wasn't all doom and gloom for those at Leeds as Matt found out when he caught Redknapp exiting his office with a wide smile on his face.

"Alright gaffer..... What you so happy about?"

"Oh Mr. Bates just upped the transfer budget. I won't say by how much but i reckon i can now strengthen where i need to."

"Cool."

"Which reminds me, your in your last six months now aren't you?"

Matt nodded, "Yeah i am but i'm not gonna discuss anything with anyone until the season is done. Got plenty on my plate still without adding to it."

"I can understand that but should we get promoted would you like to stay?"

"Right now i am where i want to be, lets just say that."

Redknapp nodded and left it at that before heading off down the hallway towards Peter Lorimer's office to plot his signings for the 2nd half of the season. There was no doubt that there were area's which would need strengthening though the following day it became clear that it wouldn't be all easy as Andrew Keogh, who has scored 20 goals in 29 games, made it clear that he intended to return to Wolves and try to force his way into the first team set up back at Molineux. It meant that the game against Palace was his last and would perhaps give Luciano Beccio a chance to stake his claim for the position on a more regular basis. Danny Pugh also returned to his parent club after falling out of favour in the final part of his loan spell while there was also talk surrounding a Brazilian defender named Anderson Martins who, so the media would have people believe, was in talks over a possible move to Leeds. Other names being thrown around was that of Andros Townsend, Gael Kakuta and Ignasi Miquel amoung others.

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The trip to Coventry would once again see Leeds face one of the leagues basement teams with four changes being enforced from the team which drew with Crystal Palace two days earlier. Bruno Silva was still recovering from the knock which ended his game early with Connolly returning to the starting line up following his ban, White dropped to the bench in favour of a fresher Parker at left back. Thompson came in for Howson following his full participation against Palace and Beccio starts in place of the recently departed Andrew Keogh.

npower Championship

02/01/2012

Coventry City vs Leeds Utd

Formation: 4-2-3-1

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Paul Connolly

LB: Ben Parker

CB: Tom Lees

CB: Patrick Kisnorbo ©

CM: Zac Thompson

CM: Mika Vayrynen

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Ramon Nunez

AMC: Matt Warner

ST: Luciano Beccio

SUBS:

GK: Andy Lonegran

RB: Stuart Parnaby

LB: Aiden White

CM: Jonny Howson

AML: Milan Lalkovic

The rain was falling pretty hard when the referee blew his whistle to get the game underway and proceedings started quite evenly though the best early chance came the way of Leeds as Snodgrass picked out Kisnorbo at the back post from a corner and the Aussie's effort was stopped only by the crossbar. This seemed to spur the away side to press the home side more and through the pressing they found the opener. Matt picked up the ball running the edge of the 18 yard box before laying it off to Vayrynen who smashed it goalwards and even though it was straight at Ireland he failed to keep it out. A second followed soon after Beccio controlled and held the ball before turning and finding a pass to compliment Matt's run from deep and as Ireland came out to meet him he drove it low just inside the near hand post to double the away team's advantage. Despite the two goals you can never factor in for a slice of bad luck and it only took a few moments to come along and throw a spanner in the works. Crainie's hopeful cross from deep dipped and moved in the air as Kisnorbo looked to have it covered, the ball glanced off his head and caught Rachubka flat footed to put Coventry back in the game with less than half an hour gone. The goal gave the home side a bit more confidence to push on and get at Leeds with McSheffrey leading the charge for an equaliser as the stand out player. His running with the ball was starting to cause some concern but the score remained unchanged going in at half time. Redknapp couldn't really have a go at anyone for the goal conceded but demanded improvement from certain members of the back line, namely Connolly and Parker. The warning went unheeded as Bell got the better of Parker and drove in at goal, his effort smashed the near post and dropped at the feet of Blackman but his effort was brilliantly blocked by Rachubka down low. Coventry continued to press and eventually the pressure told as Deegan played a long, low and teasing pass around the back of Kisnorbo and Lees with Blackman quickest to it and he made no mistake with the finish to level the scores. Redknapp was furious on the sidelines that they had thrown away a two goal lead and let his side know in no uncertain terms from the rain soaked touchline.

On the hour mark Redknapp decided that he had seen enough, Parker and Vayrynen being brought off for White and Howson in straight positional swaps but before the changes were made Leeds struck back. Matt found space to turn in the midfield before playing in Snodgrass who had stole a run on his marker before applying a low and classy finish at the near post. Despite retaining the lead though Coventry refused to know when their beaten and again it was Leeds who were left kicking themselves. Hutton this time jinxed past White before crossing into the area and McSheffrey, near enough unchallenged, applied the finish with a fine diving header to send the home support wild. Things got worse for Leeds heading into the last 10mins as Lees picked up a knock meaning he would be replaced by Parnaby with Connolly going in a centre back for the final few minutes. Coventry continued to press, Clingan forcing Rachubka to tip a long range effort wide while Blackman looked liked he'd almost found an opening as the backline continued to stand off but Connolly came to the rescue with a last ditch tackle.

At the full time whistle Redknapp laid into them, disappointed that on two occassion they couldn't keep hold of a lead, especially against a side who had struggled all season long for goals.

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Coventry City 3 (Kisnorbo o/g 28; Blackman 56; McSheffrey 72)

Leeds Utd 3 (Vayrynen 21; Warner 25; Snodgrass 60)

Att: 14,376

MoM: Matt Warner (Leeds)

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The week was a busy one with the transfer market now open leading upto the F.A. Cup 3rd round weekend. Leeds applied for work permits of both centre back Anderson Martins and left back Amadou Sidibe while also confirming the signing of Andros Townsend on a loan deal until the end of the season. It would mean that the young Spurs winger would go straight into the team which will face Brentford. Ahead of the game there were a host to changes, Bruno Silva came in at right back allowing Connolly a rest, Sam replaced Snodgrass on the right of midfield, Townsend came onto the left with Nunez switching to the free role behind the front man which meant Matt dropped to the bench. Brown also came into the starting line-up with Vayrynen given a rest.

F.A. Cup 3rd round

07/01/2012

Leeds Utd vs Brentford

Formation: 4-2-3-1

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Bruno Silva

LB: Ben Parker

CB: Tom Lees

CB: Patrick Kisnorbo ©

CM: Zac Thompson

CM: Michael Brown

AMR: Llyod Sam

AML: Andros Townsend

AMC: Ramon Nunez

ST: Luciano Beccio

SUBS:

GK: Andy Lonegran

RB: Stuart Parnaby

LB: Aiden White

CM: Jonny Howson

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Milan Lalkovic

AMC: Matt Warner

It would by no means be the biggest crowd of the season but as the game got going Leeds fell into the regular routine of early possession and those that did turn up were treated to a goal as early as 6 minutes into the game. Parker's throw to Nunez was controlled and crossed at the near post where Sam stole in unmarked and slid in to put Leeds infront. Though they started well Brentford were keen to show they were not going to be push overs, former Leeds forward Mike Grella worked himself some space after a pass from the right wing before Lees pulled out a superb tackle just as the American looked to shoot. It seemed to only spur Brentford on as they began to take control of the game while Leeds were left struggling to make it out of their own half at times. Brentford even had the frame of the goal rocking on 20mins as McGinn collected the clearance from his earlier corner before again crossing, the resulting effort evaded everyone and even had Rachubka scrambling back before it his the bar and went out of play. As the half wore on Leeds began to get more control of the game but Brentford were still looking dangerous at times so it was a relief when the referee did finally call an end to the half.

In the dressing room Redknapp demanded more control of the game, "Your letting them play around you, your standing off too much and i don't care who it is, if you continue to stand off you'll get punished. Your one of the countries form sides so get out there and show me and them that we are!"

The half began with Redknapp's words still ringing strongly in their ears and it seemed to do the trick they began to dictate possession and finally flex their muscles a little bit. Though they didn't create any really clear cut chances they were by far the better side as they hit the hour mark. With 20 minutes left to go Redknapp called Snodgrass and Warner off the bench with goalscorer Sam and Nunez looking tired and it instantly got a responce. With Leeds setting up camp on the edge of the Brentford penalty area Thompson played a pass to Matt who turned, burst past two Brentford defenders before hitting a vicious right footed shot into the top near hand corner. Moments later he was at it again as he once more jinxed past two Brentford defenders and hit a hard effort goalwards but the crossbar came to the rescue of the visitors though the 3rd did follow soon afterwards. Snodgrass bending in a left footed corner from the right side to the back post where Kisnorbo rose highest to power a header home and put the game beyond all doubt. With 10 minutes left to go Thompson came off to a standing ovation to be replaced by Howson. The rest of the game was not without incident as Matt instigated a scuffle between the side's after taking exception to a tackle from behind from Douglas before the Brentford man recieved his 2nd yellow and his marching orders. While it wasn't the final action of the game it was the only thing of note as Leeds saw out the game and their passage into the 4th round of the F.A. Cup

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Leeds Utd 3 (Sam 6; Warner 72; Kisnorbo 76)

Brentford 0

Att: 20,745

MoM: Patrick Kisnorbo (Leeds)

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As always with F.A. Cup weekend headlines were never far away. Man Utd destroyed any hope of a giant killing by beating lowly Crewe by a massive 11-0 at Old Trafford with both Gibson and Owen bagging hat-tricks. Other shocks included Leicester's 3-0 win away to Bolton, Newcastle knocking out Arsenal by the same scoreline at St. James' park and Colchester beating Fulham by 1-0. In the Sunday evening draw for the 4th round Leeds were drawn in an away tie to the winner of the Tottenham and Everton replay. Following the conclusion of the game it officially began what Matt and Chris declared as 'Smack Talk Week' in the days leading upto Leicester City's visit to Elland Road. It would be the first time that Matt and Chris have ever faced each other in a competitive match and add into the mix that they were both in good standing for a promotion, it had all the makings of a potential classic.

"Bring your best, won't make a difference. We have the best attack and the strongest defence.... Plus your walking into my house... Better bring a pen and paper so you can take notes cause your getting schooled on Saturday!"

"See, it's talk like that that we all want. Over confidence, you'll come in thinking you've already won and BOOM! i'll pop one in from 30 yards."

The rest of their texts and phone conversations followed along the same lines leading upto the game. In transfer news Amadou Sidibe's loan move collapsed following his work permit being denied while Leeds also appealed against the rejection of a work permit for Anderson Martin's £350k move. There was also increasing rumours that Reading had offered Leeds their young goalkeeper Alex McCarthey for around £750k following the players request for transfer while Leeds also tied up a loan deal for Everton's Magaye Gueye for the rest of the season. More rumours followed as the week progressed, the biggest one was that Seamus Coleman seemed on the verge of joining in a £2m deal from Everton after finding himself out of favour and playing reserve team football ay Goodison Park. What was a crisis at right back at the start of the season could soon become a situation of over population with Leeds already having the likes of Connolly, Parnaby and Silva who all played the same position.

The day before their game with Leicester City at Elland Road, Redknapp unveiled the signing of Alex McCarthy on a four year contract while also confirming that the deal for Anderson Martins had fallen through due to him being unable to get a work permit despite an appeal. Though the deal for Coleman was progressing nicely it was unlikely he'd be unavailable in time for the visit of Leicester who currently lay fourth in the table. In the team news there was a whole host of changes and some players available to return did with McCormack and Clayton being deemed fit to return to action following injury lay-off's. Connolly, White, Howson, Vayrynen, Snodgrass, Warner and Gueye all made the starting line up. The pre-match build up also saw alot of the games focus fall of Matt and Chris as both Sky and the BBC ran features on them during their Saturday score centre shows.

npower Championship

14/01/2012

Leeds Utd vs Leicester City

Formation: 4-2-3-1

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Paul Connolly

LB: Aiden White

CB: Tom Lees

CB: Patrick Kisnorbo

CM: Jonny Howson ©

CM: Mika Vayrynen

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Magaye Gueye

AMC: Matt Warner

ST: Luciano Beccio

SUBS:

GK: Andy Lonegran

RB: Bruno Silva

LB: Ben Parker

CM: Adam Clayton

AMC: Ramon Nunez

Though there had been plenty of talk between them and the media around the game Chris and Matt both sought each other out before kick off to wish each other luck while Matt also made a point of doing the same with his long time and best friend, James Pamma, who would start in goal. There was a bite in the air despite the sun shining over Leeds as things got underway with the homeside instantly under the cosh and former Leeds star Beckford danced away from the attentions of Kisnorbo before forcing a save from Rachubka. It was only a small respite as Leicester pressed once more, Beckford crossing from the right after showing a good turn of pace to beat Connolly. Vayrynen's headed clearence was weak at best and fell invitingly for Gallagher who smashed home from 10 yards. Redknapp was straight off the bench to question the defending of his side. Leeds managed to keep hold the ball for a few moments following the restart while failing to really create anything and it was from Leeds possession that Leicester almost went two goals ahead. A long ball down the right wing from Peltier saw Beckford collect, jinx past Lees before playing the ball to Chris' feet but Rachubka equal to it. Leicester were by far the better of the two sides, going close on a number of occassions with Chris smashing the crossbar from a 30 yard drive. Beckford was the real thorn in their side as Leeds struggled again and again to deal with his explosive pace on the ball. Leeds' best chance came when their own speed demon, Matt, collected a clearence and ran at the defence but with time to pick his spot he drove straight at Pamma in the City goal before going down under a challenge and much to his dismay, picking up a yellow card for simulation. Leeds began finding a rhythm as, from another clearance, Beccio found time down the right side to run and cross for Matt who nodded down for Snodgrass to volley but the drive was saved at the near post.

It was the sort of fight the fans had been waiting half an hour for though they still found themselves under the cosh for long periods they managed to make it to half time with the scoreline at just 1-0. In the dressing room Redknapp read them the riot act,

"That is the WORST half of football you guys have played under me. We've been second best to everything out there. The only reason this game hasn't been buried is because Paul has worked his arse off to keep you in the game..... It's time to f**kin wake up because mark my words, if we lose this game heads are gonna f**kin roll tomorrow morning!"

It was a clear message, one they all had heard at one point or another during their careers after a bad first half of football. Despite Redknapp's demands the half began the way the first one had ended with Leeds coming up second all over the pitch. On the hour mark though they came close to an equaliser when Matt crossed from the left only for Tunchev to misjudge it and head towards his own goal, though Pamma was again equal to it. Just past the hour mark Redknapp made changes, taking off Gueye who had been poor at best and Vayrynen who had started to struggle from an earlier tackle. Nunez and Clayton replaced them in straight swaps. The changes failed to have the desired effect as Leeds conceded a second goal with 18 minutes remaining. Following a small spell of pressure Tunchev found himself with the ball at his feet and though Kisnorbo disposed him he was caught with the ball by Gallagher who laid it to King to side foot into the bottom corner from 18 yards. The pressure failed to end and though Leeds did find the back of the net through Beccio, it was ruled out for offside. They had looked like a totally different side to the one that had been walking over teams in the first half of the season in recent weeks, some putting it down to the loss of Keogh while others were starting to believe that the lucky streak had come to an end. When the full time whistle went Leeds walked off the pitch well beaten and lucky that the scoreline was only 2-0.

Though he knew that in the days to come he'd be getting more than a few texts and calls but right now Matt could only congratulate James and Chris on what was a very impressive performance.

(

)

Leeds Utd 0

Leicester City 2 (Gallagher 2; King 73)

Att: 30,757

MoM: Paul Gallagher (Leicester)

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Redknapp's reaction was to be expected. While he wasn't throwing tea cups, flipping physio tables or kicking boots at people, he laid into most of those who had played for what had been an utterly out of character and shambolic display that meant Leeds were now three league game's without a win. With only two points from a possible nine questions were starting to be asked by some in the media, wondering if it was just a blip or a sign of things to come for the rest of the season. The loss meant that the top four were seperated by just six points. There was some good news for Leeds fans though as Redknapp confirmed they had signed Seamus Coleman from Everton for £2m on a five year contract. It was a big move for Leeds but there was also a feeling of mystery surrounding Coleman's fall from favour at Goodison Park after what had been a very promising start to his career on Merseyside. In other news the loans of Darren O'Dea and Milan Lalkovic were cancelled as Redknapp looked to do a little reshaping of the squad for the second half of the season.

The following day Matt made the trip down to Leicester for his nephew's first birthday party, ready for the barrage of questions from the keen following of Leicester fans that made up most of his family and that of his nephew's mother's family. By the time he arrived the party was in full swing, kids running around enjoying the bouncy castles that had been set up inside the local church hall. He was greeted by his brother Chris and nephew also in hand as he carried the gifts into the slightly hectic hall. His brother took him around the room, introducing him to Kaiden's mother's side of the family with most having at least one friendly jibe at the result of the day before. It was a usual birthday party with kids everywhere, the odd one asking for an autograph and a picture which Matt gladly obliged. When it came time to open the presents Matt had Kaiden sat in his lap and even though the kid had no idea what it was, the small ride on car that matched the Nissan GT-R that was parked outside went down a treat with everyone, as did the England kit with his name and the number 1 on the back. Following the party Matt spent the night in his old bed before he made the journey back up to Leeds. Through most of the party he'd tried with little luck to contact Becky in the hope that with him back in Leicester they could perhaps meet up and talk. Sadly for Matt though she never replied to his or answered her phone.

"So, lets hear your excuse then?" James said in cocky manner.

"Nah man, no excuses.... You guys were the much better side. We've been sh**e in the last few games for some reason."

"Well better get your acts together, it's starting to get tight up there now."

"True.... Soooo, have you spoke to Becky lately?"

"No, sorry mate. She still not returning your calls?"

"Nope. Can't believe i f**ked this up though it wasn't helped by Kelly running her mouth!"

"True but..."

Matt cut him off, "I know, i should have told her....." He sighed.

"Yep.... Just give her some time. Anyway i gotta go."

They said their farewell's as the Tottenham vs Everton replay ended in a 1-0 win for Tottenham meaning that it would be Redknapp vs Redknapp for a place in the 5th round draw and another inter family game following the Warner vs Warner game just days earlier.

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Leeds went into another tough game in the form of a trip to promotion contenders Bristol City who were only one of two teams to beat them in the league this season along with Leicester though Leeds held the best away record in the division. Coleman was given the greenlight to make his debut as Redknapp looked for Leeds to bounce back after a few off weeks in terms of form. Clayton would make his first start in nearly a month and a half while Townsend and McCormack also came into the starting line up in place of Gueye and Beccio.

npower Championship

21/01/2012

Bristol City vs Leeds Utd

Formation: 4-2-3-1

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Seamus Coleman

LB: Aiden White

CB: Tom Lees

CB: Patrick Kisnorbo

CM: Jonny Howson ©

CM: Adam Clayton

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Andros Townsend

AMC: Matt Warner

ST: Ross McCormack

SUBS:

GK: Alex McCarthy

RB: Bruno Silva

LB: Ben Parker

MC: Mika Vayrynen

AMC: Ramon Nunez

There was a hint of fog in the air as the game kicked off, the ears of the Leeds players still ringing from Redknapp's pre-match words to get back on track and go back to basic's. It took a while for the game to get going for both sides as the rain began to slowly fall but the first chance did fall the way of Leeds as Clayton's clever pass found Snodgrass in the middle, James saved the first effort before McCormack hammered the rebound towards goal only for James to again react and push it away. From the resulting corner Leeds managed the grab the lead. McCormack whipped it in, Kisnorbo beat everyone to head against the crossbar and up into the air and again the Aussie was first to it to nod in at close range. The goal gave Leeds the burst of confidence they had been lacking a week ago and they continued to dominate the half but in doing so never really forced James out of his comfort zone. At half time the manager was keen for his side to continue as they had been but also use the possession they had to put the game beyond the home side as quickly as possible.

But as recent weeks have shown, Leeds had seemed to struggle to turn their managers plea into on field results so when the scores were leveled inside of 2 minutes the familar sight of Redknapp pacing his touchline was once again on show. There was a hint of good fortune in the goal as Bolasie crossed to the near post it hit Clarkson rather than being turned towards the goal by any sort of skill but it didn't matter to him as the ball snuck inside the near post. The game became a more even affair following the goal with McCormack starting to find a bit more luck going forward but James again was rarely challenged. With 20 minutes left Redknapp made two changes with Clayton and McCormack making way for Vayrynen and Nunez with Matt going up front and Nunez finding his way into the free role in behind. The game was finely poised when things turned on their head. A long ball over the top had the beating of the Leeds' backline with Pitman controlling the ball before sliding it past Rachubka. The final minutes of the game were all Leeds with an equaliser coming close when following a Bristol City free kick Nunez, Townsend and Matt broke. Matt eventually got the ball and shot, only for James to pull out another good save to deny his former England team mate. In the dying moments Bristol came close to putting the game to bed but Rachubka came up with a good save. As the final whistle went it was easy to see the disappointment from Leeds following what was now a fourth game without a win and back to back defeats.

(

)

Bristol City 2 (Clarkson 47; Pitman 78;)

Leeds Utd 1 (Kisnorbo 20;)

Att: 17,689

MoM: Ryan McGivern (Bristol City)

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The defeat saw Leeds drop into 2nd place in the table, two points behind West Ham. Leicester moved upto 3rd after thrashing promotion rivals Reading by 5-0. In the transfer market Leeds agreed another loan deal, this time for defender Tamas Kadar while also being in talks with West Brom over a possible deal for Craig Dawson in the week leading upto their trip to White Hart Lane. Much of the pre-match banter was around the first meeting of father and son since the younger Redknapp had gotten into management. For the game itself there was a number of changes in the Leeds squad. McCarthy replaced Rachubka in goal, Kadar came in for Lees at centre back while Townsend dropped out unable to play against his parent club with McCormack going onto left wing and Beccio returning up front.

F.A. Cup 4th Round

28/01/2012

Tottenham Hotspur vs Leeds Utd

Formation: 4-2-3-1

GK: Alex McCarthy

RB: Seamus Coleman

LB: Aiden White

CB: Tamas Kadar

CB: Patrick Kisnorbo

CM: Jonny Howson ©

CM: Adam Clayton

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Ross McCormack

AMC: Matt Warner

ST: Luciano Beccio

SUBS:

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Bruno Silva

LB: Ben Parker

MC: Mika Vayrynen

AMR: Llyod Sam

AMC: Ramon Nunez

AML: Magaye Gueye

The ground was full of anticipation as Redknapp and Redknapp made their way to out of the tunnel chatting away, Jamie recieving a warm welcome from the home faithful. The sun was starting to force it's way through the fog that had settled in the morning when the referee blew for kick off, the game not really bursting into life until an incident between Matt and Modric. Modric appeared to make contact with Matt's ribs with his elbow, the result being the Leeds forward instantly hitting the ground in pain. The physio took a few moments before shaking his head towards the bench and signalling for a subsitiution, Nunez coming on for Matt. In the early exchanges Leeds were giving a pretty good account of themselves via some simple but effective passing play, that was until Spurs won a corner. Modric popped in a corner from the right with King beating Kadar in the air to head across goal where an unmarked Sandro finished off with a simple header. The goal spurred Tottenham to take more control of the game though it wasn't all one way as Nunez got on the end of a clever Beccio pass but his shot was well wide.

At the other end the likes of Lennon, Defoe and Bale were starting to cause major problems for the Leeds backline. Lennon collected the ball from a throw on the right and streaked away from White before putting in a cross which saw Bale beat Coleman and head down and past McCarthy. A third goal followed shortly after as, again, Modric provided the cross which took a deflection. Blae collected and played the ball to Sandro who knocked it straight back for the Welshman to drive into the top corner. The younger of the Redknapp's tried his best to give his team a boost from the sidelines and it seemed to work as near enough straight from kick off Beccio won a corner for McCormack to take. His corner found an unmarked Kisnorbo at the near post and the Aussie vice captain powered a header home to give Leeds a glimer of hope of perhaps getting something out of the tie. The rain began to fall as the sun which had threatened to turn the day into a nice one had disappeared behind ever darkening clouds. The whistle came for half time shortly after with the teams disappearing down the tunnel and into the dry.

"Boys! Come on, we need to get tighter, don't be afraid of them.... They're a good side but so are you. We have a way back into this so come on, lets drag these lot back to Elland Road!"

Early on in the second half things seemed more even but Tottenham still were causing problems as Defoe looked like having the better of the entire back line as they backed off him before firing off an explosive effort which had McCarthy beaten but thankfully for the away side his effort clattered off the post before being cleared. It was only a matter of time before Tottenham's quality came back to haunt Leeds once more. Van Der Vaart with the corner this time which found Sandro unmarked at the near post to head in with ease and launch the younger Redknapp of the bench to call question to the slack marking that was being shown again and again. Despite the screaming it was again a corner that was Leeds undoing, this time Modric took it and though it lacked quality, Kadar failed to clear with the ball dropping to Van Der Vaart to fire home past a stricken McCarthy. At this point Redknapp had seen enough and dragged off both White and Beccio who had been particularly poor in favour of Parker and Gueye. Spurs continued to have the lions share of possession while Leeds continued to struggle against corners despite having a height advantage. Panic seemed to rule in the area as King hit the crossbar fro yet another corner.

For fans of Leeds it was deeply painful watching and signalled how much work would have to be done in terms of defence if they were to win promotion. The loss of Matt early on didn't help matters but many would expect alot more fight. In the dying minutes the referee gave what could be described as a soft penalty at best and presenting Bale with the chance to clinch his hat-trick. He stepped up with confidence and fired to the keepers right to complete his hat-trick. The side of recent weeks seemed to be some sort of cruel imposter to the one that had humbled Man Utd, found themselves eight points clear at the top of the table and were one of the countries form sides. Not even Kisnorbo bagging his second goal, this time meeting Snodgrass' near post delivery unmarked again to soften what was a massive blow.

(

)

Tottenham Hotspur 6 (Sandro 22, 57; Bale 34, 38 & 88; Van Der Vaart 60)

Leeds Utd 2 (Kisnorbo 40, 90+2)

Att: 36,610

MoM: Gareth Bale (Tottenham)

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Redknapp walked into what was a very quiet dressing room, looked around briefly before simply walking out again. It was Leeds' worst defeat of the season, a game that highlighted what had become an increasingly worrying problem. Though a team as strong as Spurs were expected to win when fielding a near enough full strength side, what Redknapp found most infuriating was the fact that many seemed to just forget how to do basic footballing things. After the game it was confirmed that Matt would miss at least the next two games while Nunez also picked up a knock and would be ruled out for upto three weeks with a damaged elbow. Following the defeat the team were ordered to attend a team meeting to get to the heart of what had been going wrong these last few weeks. The meeting was going well until Bruno Silva made it clear how pointless he felt the meeting was which kicked off a war of words between Silva and Redknapp. The result, after he made his feelings on his lack of first team football and the destruptive influence he'd become in recent weeks, was that Redknapp placed him straight onto the transfer list and making everyone aware that he wouldn't stand for anymore sub par and lazy performances.

For Matt though the end of the meeting brought a trip down to Leicester for his mothers birthday. She was still reeling and while they would have normally been going out for a meal, a show and a few drinks in London, as they did for most birthdays, they instead visited his fathers grave, "I miss you so so much.... Oh, you old fool, why aren't you here with me now eh?" His mother said as she fought her way through the tears. Matt could only hug her as she stood, removing the old flowers and placing new one's down before they left. The ride home was a quiet one, the only sound being the odd bump in the road and the sound of the heavy rain on the wind screen. When they reached home his brothers came round, nephew in tow also, and despite attempts to get their mother out of the house soon they just settled in for the night, watching TV in near silence.

The next game would see the debut of two new signings in Craig Dawson who completed a £1m move from West Brom and David Jones who joins from Hull for £500k as Redknapp sought to fix the defensive problems they had been experiencing of late and add some more experience to the midfield. Their first game would come against promotion rivals Reading with a win needed to keep pace with West Ham who had snuck back ahead of Leeds in recent weeks. The home side would also be without Matt and Nunez through injury meaning there would be a slight change in formation and tactic's.

npower Championship

31/01/2012

Leeds Utd vs Reading

Formation: 4-2-2-2

GK: Andy Lonegran

RB: Seamus Coleman

LB: Ben Parker

CB: Craig Dawsom

CB: Patrick Kisnorbo

CM: Jonny Howson ©

CM: Adam Clayton

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Magaye Gueye

ST: Ross McCormack

ST: Luciano Beccio

SUBS:

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Paul Connolly

LB: Aiden White

MC: David Jones

AML: Andros Townsend

Following the heavy defeat to Tottenham three days earlier Redknapp made a host of changes. Lonegran, Parker, Dawson and Gueye all came into the starting line up. They also switched to a 4-2-2-2 having seen how isolated Beccio was at times and also due to Leeds lacking a player who could play in the hole behind the front man. On the opposition side a familar face lined up against the home side in the shape of their current top scorer Andrew Keogh who had turned down a perminent move to Leeds in favour of what he said was "A chance to establish myself at Wolves." The game started slowly between two sides that had recently suffered heavy losses and now with both only having the league to concentrate on it was clear to see they were reluctant to go for the jugular too early. It took a good 15 minutess before either side had any real chances, the first falling the way of Reading with Quintero's goalbound effort deflecting off Coleman and harmlessly out of play. As had been the case against Tottenham three days earlier, Kisnorbo was a deadly asset to have during set pieces. This time round McCormack's corner found him at the front post, his glancing header was met by Dawson at the back post and though Federici got a hand to it, palming it upwards, Kisnorbo managed to get on the end of it to head it in.

Reading weren't without their chances also, Leigertwood firing straight at Lonegran following a short free kick and Karacan from having a go from distance without really chanllenging Lonegran. The rest of the half played out without much more incident, both sides did have chances but never looked like scoring. Redknapp urged caution, pointing to the recent defeat to Bristol City and draw with Coventry as blue prints of what not to do in the second half. It seemed though, once again, that not everyone was listening. Following a simple looking ball down the left, Parker, who was already on a yellow card, came together with McAnuff resulting in a freekick and a second yellow card leaving Leeds with an entire half of football to play with just 10 men on the field. Redknapp could only sigh, it had taken barely 30 seconds for them to fall back into the old habit of silly mistakes at crucial times. It meant that McCormack made way for White leaving Beccio on his own up front.

The mistakes kept coming as White failed to pick up McAnuff and though he did get back and make a challenge, the ball caught Lonegran out as he looked to close the Reading man down. The Leeds keeper looked to have the ball gathered but made a mess of it and spilled it into his own goal. The entire stadium, with the exception of the travelling support, let out a collective sigh of frustration as they once again showed a complete inability to hold a lead. It didn't stop Leeds looking to surge forward as a well worked move from a throw on the left found White in the middle, his effort missing by what must only have been a couple of inches at most. Leeds continued to press and look the better side with both Clayton and Gueye forcing Federici into good saves to keep the scores level though it seemed to be only a matter of time until the next goal came and it came in familar fashion. Snodgrass with a corner from the right, this time Federici could do nothing to deny Dawson a debut goal as he powered an effort high into the net from 6 yards. Reading weren't without threats though, McAnuff inparticular proving his worth as he again snuck away from White before crossing low to Quintero but the forwards effort was straight at Lonegran who saved down low before the ball was cleared into touch.

With just under quarter of an hour left though Reading's personel advantage showed when Karacan picked out a through ball for Hunt that looked to have more than a hint of offside when he side footed across the out stretched Lonegran into the bottom corner to level the scores. Leeds continued to create chances and look the more dangerous of the two sides as time ticked down, Redknapp also bringing on another new signing as Jones replaced Clayton. The game did finally play out to a 2-2 draw though it wasn't without it's controversy as 2 minutes of added on time turned into 6 without much reason for it other than the referee's reluctance to blow the whistles, much to the annoyance of both the player and coaching staff of Leeds.

(

)

Leeds Utd 2 (Kisnorbo 27; Dawson 74)

Reading 2 (Lonegran o/g 50; Hunt 78)

Att: 25,137

MoM: Craig Dawson (Leeds)

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"Yo Craig, brilliant game man."

Matt went round the dressing room praising what was some very good performances, Dawson very deserving of his man of the match award. Snodgrass, Coleman, Lonegran and Kisnorbo also found themselves on the end of a pat on the back and a well done from the injured forward. Redknapp walked in a few moments afterwards.

"Ok boys... Not going to lie, i'm disappointed we didn't win that game. Ben, you didn't have to make that challenge and it really made things tough for us after but Craig, you were immence today, Paddy, Rob, Seamus... All very good too, Andy you weren't bad either. Most important thing now is to take the momentum from the way we played in the second half and move ahead with it. Were away to Barnsley at the weekend, nineteen games to go.... Time to get back on track now and stop the silly school boy mistakes!"

They soon started to change and filter out of the changing rooms and home, the mood feeling a little bit better than it had been following recent results. The next day marked the end of the month and the transfer window with many big transfers coming from the Premiership as the top three seeked to strengthen their title challenge with Chelsea signing Ganso for £21.5m and Hulk for £16.75m, Man Utd bringing in Joao Moutinho for £14m and Liverpool buying Jadson for £13m and Dusan Tasic for £5.25m. The big transfer sae Everton let Marouane Fellani join Real Madrid for around £17m. The league table was pleasant reading for fans of Man Utd as now they held a four point lead with a game in hand while Chelsea and Liverpool sat in 2nd and 3rd with only a point seperating them. 4th place sat a whopping twelve points behind meaning it was going to be an interesting fight for the last Champions League place. At the bottom Swansea continued to prop up the table with QPR just above but though Sunderland sat in the relegation zone they were a full seven points ahead of QPR who sat just behind them. Newcastle, Bolton, Wigan and Norwich were also still within touching distance. In the scoring charts Andy Carroll (12) still sat at the top with no less that six players tied for 2nd place with Rooney, Agbonlahor, Crouch, Zamora, Suarez and Bent all on 11 goals.

In the Championship Leeds recent form had seen them drop to 2nd following a disasterous start to the year that had seen the Yorkshire giants manage to pick up just two points from a possible 12 though despite this they still possessed the most potent attack and the strongest defence according to the stats. West Ham sat top two points clear of Leeds and four points clear of Championship form side Leicester City with Reading, Bristol and Burnley filled out the rest of the play-off places. Watford and Peterborough still filled out two of the relegation spaces with Crystal Palace also joining them in the basement of the league. In the scoring charts Craig Mackail-Smith and Billy Sharpe tied on 16 goals each, Reading loan signing Andrew Keogh sat just behind them on 15 goals. There were also awards handed out with Sven Goran Eriksson picking up the award for manager of the month after leading his side Leicester to four wins out of four in the league during January. Fernando Belluschi picked up the gong for player of the month while young player went to Ipswich's Jay Emmanuel-Thomas.

npower Championship 01/02/2012
| Pos |      Team        | Pld| W  | D | L | F  | A  | GD  | Pts| 
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 1st | | West Ham     | | 29 | 19 | 6 | 4 | 62 | 30 | +32 | 63 | 
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 2nd | | Leeds Utd    | | 28 | 17 | 7 | 4 | 63 | 27 | +36 | 58 | 
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 3rd | | Leicester    | | 29 | 17 | 6 | 6 | 62 | 31 | +31 | 57 | 
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 4th | | Reading      | | 29 | 17 | 5 | 7 | 54 | 32 | +22 | 56 | 
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 5th | | Bristol City | | 29 | 13 | 10| 6 | 46 | 40 | +6  | 49 | 
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 6th | | Burnley      | | 29 | 14 | 6 | 9 | 42 | 33 | +9  | 48 | 
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

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Though Matt tried he couldn't get Becky to answer his calls or texts and with results on the pitch along with still trying to get over the loss of his dad it was turning into a really crappy start to the new year. His agent had informed him of some tentative contact from both Spain and France with Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain both seemingly interested in his services for next season and despite what he'd said when joining Leeds that he didn't want to leave England, the events of recent months had him wondering if a move abroad for a fresh start would be the best option. He wasn't the only one who was looking to the future as Andy O'Brien met up with the lads after a training session to announce his decision to retire at the end of the season. Early suggestions from the specialists he'd seen were that he would struggle to play at anywhere near the level he was playing at before the injury. It was a sad way to end any career and it was very easy to see the disappointment in his eye's though he said he would see out the rest of the season before making it all official. Leading up to the televised game away to Barnsley, Matt resumed full training following his rib injury but Redknapp had decided to rest him rather than rush him back in. Another who would be rested was that of Clayton who had began looking tired following the recent run of games. Jones looked set to make his full debut with Vayrynen taking up a place on the bench while Rachubka seemed like he'd also return to the starting birth as the merry-go-round that was the goalkeeping position continued. The last change saw White replace the suspended Parker with Kadar making the bench. For the trip Matt travelled with the team but accepted a last minute request to appear for Sky Sports who were broadcasting the match.

"And in the studio with us tonight also is Leeds and England forward Matt Warner. Matt, first of all, how come your not starting tonight and also how do you see Leeds chances of getting that win they have been in dire need of?"

"Well first of all thanks for having me. Errrmm the reason i'm not playing is i only just returned to full training yesterday following bruised ribs and the manager didn't want to rush me straight back in.... As for Leeds chances they are good, we showed alot of character to come away with a point after going down to ten men so early in the second half against Reading. But we need to cut out the silly mistakes and start taking our chances up front again if were to get anything at all....."

npower Championship

04/02/2012

Barnsley vs Leeds Utd

Formation: 4-2-2-2

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Seamus Coleman

LB: Aiden White

CB: Craig Dawso

CB: Patrick Kisnorbo

CM: Jonny Howson ©

CM: David Jones

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Magaye Gueye

ST: Ross McCormack

ST: Luciano Beccio

SUBS:

GK: Andy Lonegran

RB: Paul Connolly

CB: Tamas Kadar

MC: Mika Vayrynen

AML: Andros Townsend

The snow had began to fall a couple of hours before kick off which put the game in jeopardy but luckily for players and fans alike the groundsman had managed to stay on top of it and after a quick inspection from the referee they were given the green light for the game to go ahead as planned. The early exchanges between the two sides were nothing to write home about, the dark cloudless sky above making for a bitter Feburary evening. The first chance of note fell the way of Leeds as Jones, making his full debut, whipped in a lovely corner which found Dawson rising highest though his headed effort was stopped only by the crossbar and some scrambled defending from the home side which, despite their lowly 20th position, were considered favourites for the game. Leeds started to find their feet a bit more, the early chance serving to give them a confidence boost they were in dire need of lately. Barnsley weren't without their threats though they failed to make Rachubka really move out of his comfort zone as the half wore on. With 10 minutes left in the half Beccio looked to have scored his first goal from a Howson freekick but as he was celebrating it was ruled out, the linesman judging him offside meaning his wait for a first goal of the season continued. Rachubka first save worth mentioning came shortly after when some slick passing finally released Gray to shoot at the near post though the Leeds keeper was equal to it. Leeds still looked the more dangerous of the sides but their possession was failing to yield any end result, the Barnsley high lines serving to frustrate the team in white. At half time the scores remained level with Redknapp demanding his side find another gear and put the game beyond the home side nice and early in the half.

"We need to make these chances count otherwise were going to find ourselves being left exposed at the back as we press further towards the end. We have to finish this game off early, get out there and get it done!"

For the first time in what had seemed like an age Leeds managed, early on at least, to comply with the managers wishes. Howson collected a clearence before feeding the ball to Beccio who turned and played a through ball for Gueye. The Everton youngster stayed composed and produced a sublime chip to leave the on rushing keeper stranded and put Leeds infront early on in the half. The goal looked like being the confidence booster they had been sorely needing and they almost came close to a second as McCormack found Dawson at the back post with a corner but again he was denied by the crossbar. Barnsley did have chances but again they never really forced Rachubka to make anything other than routine saves. With 15 minutes left Gueye picked up a knock and Redknapp took the chance to make 3 changes with Coleman coming off for Connolly, Vayrynen replacing Howson and the injured Gueye making way for Townsend all in straight positional swaps. Following the changes Leeds came ever so close to a 2nd goal as a McCormack free kick from out on the left caused havoc in the Barnsley area before the ball fell at the feet of Vayrynen with an open goal to aim at but Preese denied him what perhaps would have been a sure winning goal.

With the game entering the final 5 minutes Barnsley began to find more and more possession with fans in the ground and surely at home watching on TV all looking like having to suffer a very long and nerve racking end to the game. Haynes drew a good low down save from Rachubka after McCormack lost possession through what many thought was a foul before Dawson cleared and in added on time Haynes again caused Leeds problems as a run from inside his own half on the break saw him drive to the byline down the left before crossing to the back post for Butterfield to head what looked like a nailed on goal onto the crossbar and out of play. After what seemed like an eternity though the referee blew the whistle to give Leeds their first league win since the Boxing Day over Milwall.

(

)

Leeds Utd 1 (Gueye 53)

Barnsley 0

Att: 14,885

MoM: Matthew Lowton (Barnsley)

Back in the studio Matt sat with a satisfied smile as the adverts ended, the director of the broadcast giving them the count down before they went live once more.

"So Leeds get the win they had been so desperate for and it's been a while in coming. First off Matt... Will this be the kick start Leeds into getting back on track and maybe retaking the top spot?"

The camera panned to Matt before a graphic appeared at the bottom of the screen. "I think so. It was by no means a classic performance but sometimes, especially when your on a poor run of form, you need to grind out a result. We did that tonight so hopefully we can push on from this and start playing like we did in the first half of the season."

"As for yourself, we've been hearing rumours of interest from various teams all over Europe, will you be staying at Leeds or moving on?" He asked, looking down at his notes.

"At the moment i just want to concentrate on Leeds and once i know where all the pieces of the puzzle are at the end of the season i'll make a decision. I'm not in any rush and i won't be talking to anyone until the season is done."

"Ok and lastly, the goal that won the game, superb from the loan signing Gueye. How have the new signings settled in?"

"Well, Coleman and Dawson have been brilliant though some settle in quicker than others but take nothing away from Gueye, he had a good game against Reading and this goal shows just why Everton rate him the way they do."

"Ok well once again thank you for joining us Matt. Leeds back on track thanks to a wonder goal from Gueye but will it last? Thanks for joining us and goodnight from all at Sky Sports..."

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Following the game it was discovered that Gueye had twisted an ankle during a clash with Lowton and would rule him out for upto 5 weeks which was disappointing for all involved as he had began to really settle and put in some good performances. It meant that the likes of McCormack and Townsend would more than likely find themselves battling it out for the left midfield birth as it seemed Matt would be deployed up front following Redknapp's decision to switch up the formation. There were also rumours beginning to gather momentum that Redknapp's performances as Leeds boss hadn't gone without notice as some seemed to suggest that the likes of West Brom and FC Twente were looking at him replacing their current managers should they leave at the end of the season but as with most rumours you hear in the press it was best to take them with a pinch of salt.

It was all starting to come thick and fast once more but with the new signings around it would hopefully ease some of the pressure while also aid in keeping the team fresher for longer without having to take too many risks. There was also good news for Redknapp as his dad Harry was cleared over tax evasion charges. He'd seemed slightly subdued at times throughout the trial but, for Jamie at least, it was a weight off his shoulders, some even going as far as to blame the trial in some way for the form of Leeds in recent weeks but the young manager was quick to deny that while wishing for the whole affair to be put away and for football to take centre stage once more.

npower Championship

11/02/2012

Leeds Utd vs Birmingham City

Formation: 4-2-2-2

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Seamus Coleman

LB: Aiden White

CB: Craig Dawson

CB: Patrick Kisnorbo ©

CM: Adam Clayton

CM: David Jones

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Ross McCormack

ST: Matt Warner

ST: Luciano Beccio

SUBS:

GK: Andy Lonegran

RB: Paul Connolly

CB: Tamas Kadar

MC: Jonny Howson

AML: Andros Townsend

The message was clear, it had been driven into them all week following their win at Barnsley, the old mantra dusted off and presented to them again "Control the ball, control the game!"

There was a light drizzle falling from the sky, giving the turf a nice zippy sort of feel as the sides kicked off. Birmingham had the better of the early exchanges without forcing Rachubka to perform anything spectacular, Leeds still looking like a side lacking confidence at times. A rusty sort of feel and anyone who didn't know about football would have thought the team of now and the team of the first half of the season were completely different when in truth there had been very little negative changes. It wasn't a classic to watch, the first real chance of the game taking a good 22 minutes to appear and as seem customary it was from a Leeds corner, Snodgrass delivered and Kisnorbo climbed high only to be denied by the crossbar. It didn't serve to make the viewing any better as both sides seemed to labour about their business until McCormack won the ball in the middle, laid it to Matt who instantly fed it to Snodgrass. His cross found McCormack arriving at the back post but his effort was straight at the keeper and was palmed away. From then on Leeds began to gather confidence, first a wild McCormack effort was palmed away once more with Snodgrass collecting at the byline before his cross almost caught the keeper out before it was tipped over.

Soon enough though it was half time, "Come on boys, we need to wake up out there. Were playing like a pub team who was out on the lash last night. We've been the better team but we must step it up and get that goal.... We've got more than this and they've shown me nothing to suggest they can beat you.... Get it done!"

The message was inspiring but ultimately yielded little. The first 25 minutes of the second half decending into a very tiring affair for those in attendence. With around 15 minutes left on the clock Redknapp made the first changes of the game, Howson and Townsend replaced Clayton and Beccio. Townsend went onto the left while McCormack was shifted up front with Matt. Despite the fresh legs though there was very little change to the flow of the game, the final chance fell the way of the visitors as Zigic got his head to a corner but did very little else with it. The game ended, the fans almostly breathing a collective sigh of relief that it was over and they could go and watch something more entertaining, like paint drying.

Leeds Utd 0

Birmingham City 0

Att: 30,589

MoM: Boaz Myhill (Birmingham)

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Redknapp had made it clear how disappointed he was at the backwards nature of the match. After finishing the half strongly they seemed to just become lazy and content with a point almost after drawing a couple of good saves from Myhill. There would be little time for rest with an away trip to Doncaster the following Tuesday on the cards and the prospect of playing against one of the more lethal strikers in the league in the shape of Billy Sharp. He'd given Leeds a torrid time the last time the teams faced off so the plan was to keep him as quiet as possible, a task Dawson seemed very interested in. Beccio, following a string of sub par performances, dropped to the bench with Matt and McCormack deployed up front while also giving Townsend the chance to make the left wing berth his own. Howson also returned which demoted Clayton to a place on the bench.

npower Championship

14/02/2012

Doncaster Rovers vs Leeds Utd

Formation: 4-2-2-2

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Seamus Coleman

LB: Aiden White

CB: Craig Dawson

CB: Patrick Kisnorbo

CM: Jonny Howson ©

CM: David Jones

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Andros Townsend

ST: Ross McCormack

ST: Matt Warner

SUBS:

GK: Andy Lonegran

RB: Paul Connolly

CB: Tamas Kadar

MC: Adam Clayton

ST: Luciano Beccio

"Ok i want you to attack. We tried control, but i want you to play more attack minded football. Were good all over but going forward is our main strength so let's flex the muscles tonight and get some goals.... And Craig, i want you on Sharp like glue tonight ok?"

The rain was pouring down once more though in truth it hadn't really stopped in the last week or so. The early action was frantic if nothing else, Coppinger earning himself a yellow card inside of 3 minutes for a cynical challenge on White with the resulting free kick eventually bringing the opener. Leeds retained possession from the set piece on the half way line before Howson eventually played the ball wide left to White who had time to pick out the perfect cross which found Matt unmarked and with time to crash home a rare header from 12 yards out. Leeds held control of the game from that point with chances to double the lead coming but also going. First McCormack latched onto the loose ball following a challenge from Matt but Sullivan was equal to it and moments later Dawson got on the end of a Snodgrass corner but his header was very high and very wide. A second was very much on the cards and eventually Leeds played in the perfect hand as it were.

Jones collected the ball in the middle from McCormack before bending a through ball towards Matt but the slick pitch saw both the Leeds forward and the Doncaster defence miss out, however Matt was to the loose ball fastest and, after setting himself with a good first touch, delivered a hammer blow low at the near post to make it 2-0. Doncaster did manage to fashion a chance as Gargorov was given too much time and space to run at the Leeds defence though thankfully his effort was horribly off target. It was then a case of wondering what might have been for Doncaster as Leeds strode straight up the other end and won a corner. The kick delievered by Jones fell low into the 6 yard box and with Dawson challenging for it the ball squirmed into the net though it was adjudged a Mason own goal by the referee. The changes made looked to be the perfect tonic for what had become a very dull and undawnting Leeds side of late as they were looking like scoring every time they got within 20 yards of the Doncaster goal. And so was the case once more as again from a corner Leeds bagged once more, this time Jones delivered to the near post where Kisnorbo bagged his 9th goal of the season from close range after shaking off his marker to reach the ball first. The goal had him level with Snodgrass as Leeds' 2nd highest scorer this season.

Dean Saunders going mad on the sidelines seemed to kick Doncaster into gear slightly and hold Leeds a little better, even going as far as to create a couple of chances though it was nothing more than speculative efforts from distance and routine clearances. At the other end with the exception of Sullivan denying Matt a first half hat trick and Snodgrass dragging a shot just wide of the far post it ended calmed slightly as the teams went in at half time. There was very little praise, Redknapp instead keen to point out the mistakes made, though thankfully there were very few. "We can play the praise game when we have the game won, right now we need to pick up that Gargorov a bit earlier as he's the one causing the problems. And lets try and keep the ball on the ground, lets play our way, make them chase it and let them and the ball do the hard running for us alright?"

The start of the 2nd half was much like the start of the first with a goal being served up early though it wasn't without it's protests. Rachubka's free kick from the back was contested by both McCormack and Naylor with the former seeming the push the Doncaster defender. With the ball missing them both and the Doncaster defence caught flat footed, Matt stole in with Sullivan advancing, controlled and instantly just lifted it over the now stranded keeper to give him his first hat trick since he last played for Leeds. After the trials of recent weeks it was the happiest he'd looked in a while and celebrated in what was now a customary fashion with his arms out stretched to his sides before pointing towards the sky with one finger. There was very little waiting for the away support who by now were gripped by an outbreak of goal fever. Once more it came via a corner and once more it was Jones who delivered the perfect cross for Dawson to attack at the back post and this time there was no question that the goal was his.The game clamed somewhat after that though Jones did go close from a free kick but all in all Leeds fell into a more controlled pattern of play, keen now to just see the game out. With 15 minutes left Redknapp took the chance to make three changes in one swoop. Coleman made way for Connolly, Jones was replaced by Clayton and Matt was given a standing ovation as he came off for Beccio.

Though the night wasn't complete just yet there were few who witnessed it as many of the hoem fans had decided to depart earlier. Though the rain had stopped sometime before, misery replaced it as again the goal went the way of Leeds, Beccio drove to the byline before turning back and passing Connolly. He played it right to Howson who had time to line up and fire off a low drive across the keeper for his first goal of the season. The game was over inside of half an hour but it didn't stop a the loud roar from the away support followed by a torrent of loud booing from the home fans when the final whistle sounded. It was tough to pick out a man of the match though in the end the hat trick hero beat out the likes of Dawson, Kisnorbo and Jones to the award. Everyone got praised for their efforts, Dawson saw off the challenge of Sharp in style, Jones show his worth in his passing and superb set peices, Matt's running and finishing with and without the ball was lethal, Howson led from the middle of the park and so many more incredible performances could be mentioned but soon enough they were all on the bus, Matt making sure to take the match ball with him.

(

)

Doncaster Rovers 0

Leeds Utd 7 (Warner 3, 18 & 47; Mason o/g 23; Kisnorbo 27; Dawson 51; Howson 83)

MoM: Matt Warner (Leeds)

Att: 15,231

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Matt had the ball signed by all his team mates before they arrived back Elland Road in the dead of night. After saying a few hello's to waiting wives and girlfriends Matt left the car park for the journey home. Deep down, though alot weighed on him still, the goals had him feeling alot better. He was sat at the some traffic lights when he felt the familar vibration from his pocket that signalled the arrival of a new text message.

"Great hat trick tonight and i hope your ok. I'm sorry i haven't replied to your messages or answered your calls but if you want you can call me tomorrow and we can talk, if you wanted to still. Hope to hear from you soon, Becky xxx"

He smiled slightly before the car behind hooted to get his attention back on the green light that was shining out just above them. He wanted to text back but by the time he'd kicked off his shoes and collapsed onto the bed he was fast asleep, keen to enjoy the lay in that was gifted to them for the fine performance against Doncaster. The following day they arranged for Matt to call her after she'd finished work leaving Matt some time to figure out what he was going to say to her. He found it odd that he'd gone over what he would say to her if she'd have answered his earlier calls again and again but now he knew she would answer he was at a loss.

"Hi."

"Hey."

"How are you?"

"I'm ok how are you?"

"I'm good........ "

There followed a short silence, both trying to figure out what to say.

"I'm sorry.... I know i should have told you sooner..... I understand why you didn't want to talk to me."

"I know.... It just hurt because we never used to keep anything from each other.... And were back on for a few weeks and you keep something this massive from me.... It was a shock."

"I know, it was a stupid thing to do."

"Yeah.... And though i forgive you for it seeing as you did and still do have alot on your plate...."

"Yeah?"

"But we can't make this work.... We'd try, when things got tough we'd work at it but in the end it would end the same way. I've seen how proud and happy you are playing in Leeds, i couldn't ask you to give that up.... And i don't want to leave Leicester."

"Ok...." The way he said it fully conveyed his disappointment. After what had been a brief glimmer of hope that they may get back on track Matt was once again left with that empty, nervous feeling in the pit of his stomach.

"Well lets stay in touch this time yeah?"

"Yeah... Well i have to go, got some work still to do for tomorrow but we'll speak again soon."

"I hope so.... Bye."

"Bye."

As the call ended Matt sighed and rubbed his eye's, finishing off the can of red bull that was sat infront of him. The feeling of joy that came from his hat trick the night before had all but disappeared by the time he'd placed the phone back in his pocket.

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Redknapp made the decision very quickly to name an unchanged line up for the home game against Brighton, feeling that now they had found a very productive groove the last thing they should be doing is changing anything when they didn't have to. Even though Nunez was deemed fit he failed to make the bench.

npower Championship

18/02/2012

Leeds Utd vs Brighton

Formation: 4-2-2-2

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Seamus Coleman

LB: Aiden White

CB: Craig Dawson

CB: Patrick Kisnorbo

CM: Jonny Howson ©

CM: David Jones

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Andros Townsend

ST: Ross McCormack

ST: Matt Warner

SUBS:

GK: Andy Lonegran

RB: Paul Connolly

CB: Tamas Kadar

MC: Adam Clayton

ST: Luciano Beccio

The game started in quick fashion, the rain that had been plaguing the country for near on two weeks now was in full flow once more, as was the Leeds. A very effective and quick passing move saw McCormack pick out the unchecked run of Townsend with 30 seconds on the clock but the young loanee could only drag his effort wide of the mark. It instantly had the crowd on their feet and showing their appreciation that the team from the first half of the season had seemingly started to show up again. Brighton weren't without their threats, Barnes judged only just offside before firing home and in Mackail-Smith the visitors also had the leagues top scorer at their disposal. Leeds though were having the better chances, Coleman found space to cross after a well worked throw in with Jones arriving unmarked to head towards goal but former Leeds stopper Ankergran was at full stretch to deny him. At the other end Vincente's curling effort made sure Rachubka was on his toes. The next chance fell the way of Leeds when Jones whipped in a free kick from the right to the back post where Dawson looked certain to score but his volley towards goal went straight at Ankergran from point blank range with many around the stadium already celebrating before disappointment sat in after the ball was cleared.

The game fell into an entertaining but unwanted end to end pattern of play which highlighted a distinctive lack of finishing prowess on both sides as Mackail-Smith and Snodgrass both had chances which went horribly wide. Finally though, with 2 minutes left of the half, the first goal came. Coleman collected a clearance before driving down the right, his cross dropped right for McCormack at the near post and he volleyed home in style to the delight of the large home support in attendence. In the changing room the manager praised the play of the forwards and wingers while asking for the central midfielders to get more of a hold on the game while also highlighting that he didn't want to see the game become an end to end affair in the second half. "We need to be stronger in the tackle, some of you are being too soft with them.... Plus we have to control the midfield because they've stacked it in there so we can't afford for you guys to let it break down... We'll have our backs to the wall if we do so we have to be stronger!"

The words seemed to be heard early on as Leeds took a firm grasp of the game, both Dawson and McCormack forcing good saves from Ankergran while Kisnorbo had Calderon scrambling to clear a headed effort off the line. Though they were dominating there was a growing sence of frustration around the ground that the second goal was still yet to come, the stubborness of Ankergran being the main crux for the home support. It took a good 20 minutes for Brighton to make any kind of impact at the other end though Coleman cleared the corner and instantly set up a counter attack. Matt charging down the left before cutting inside and finding McCormack but his effort was again saved and held by Ankergran. Soon enough though the home fans had the second goal they had been craving. A good, patient passing build up pulled Brighton all over the place before it came to Coleman. His teasing cross from deep found Townsend at the back and he applied the finish for his first goal since joining in January. Following the goal Redknapp called for Kadar and Beccio to get ready with White making way for Kadar and the goal scorer Townsend coming off for Beccio meaning McCormack went onto the left wing for the rest of the game.

Leeds continued to press and create chances heading into the last 10 minutes, Clayton also came on for Jones who had again impressed. But just when it seemed Leeds could relax, Brighton struck back. A poorly cleared corner dropped to Mackail-Smith, he laid it off to Dicker unmarked on the left and with time and space he picked his cross to meet the run from Buckley who applied a diving header to make for a nervy end to the game. It served to wake Leeds from their slumber as a Snodgrass header saw Matt collect and turn his man on the half way line before driving in at goal only to pass to Beccio who's shot was again saved well by Ankergran. Moments later McCormack grabbed his second of the night before it was ruled out for offside. Despite a couple more chances for Brighton, Leeds held tight to pick up what was in the end a hard earned three points.

(

)

Leeds Utd 2 (McCormack 43; Townsend 73)

Brighton 1 (Buckley 89)

Att: 28,893

MoM: Seamus Coleman (Leeds)

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Following the game Leeds had a week long rest before their next game, a daunting trip to Southampton. Matt spent most of the week just trying to keep himself busy, either by doing extra training for or spending time with his team mates after training but with most of them having wives or girlfriends he was eventually left on his own with just his thoughts. He hadn't had the best game against Brighton which wasn't that much of a surprise as he never seemed to perform following disappointment in his love life. For the majority of the week Matt and Becky continued to text each other though there was an overwhelming feeling that it was somewhat being forced on both ends, each of them desperate to stay in touch even though for the most part it was idle chit chat. There was no denying the feelings they had for each other but even Matt's gentle probes into a possible change in her feelings was stone walled almost straight away leaving him feeling only more disappointed.

For Leeds there was good news and bad news. The good news was that West Ham lost their mid week game 4-1 away to Coventry meaning Leeds trailed them by just a point but the bad news followed the next day in training as Coleman pulled up during a sprint which was later discovered to be a torn hamstring that would probably rule him out for the rest of the season which was very sad not only for the team but also Coleman himself after he'd made finally began to get some much needed first team football it was snatched away during the final run in. On the international scene Matt was called upto the England squad for their friendly game against Italy at Wembley along with what looked like a pretty standard looking squad selection. The one exception to that was the inclusion of now free agent David Beckham who's future was subject to daily speculation from all over the sporting world. Coleman's injury on the Thursday was followed by another injury on the Friday as Kadar was ruled out for upto 5 weeks after twisting his ankle during the morning's training session. There had been some concerns about the amount of training being done but the majority of the playing squad laughed off the notion that they were being overworked as suggested by some outside sources.

With the injuries to Coleman and Kadar midweek it saw Connolly come into the starting line up while Parnaby got a place on the bench along with Parker. There were no other changes to the side that had won back to back games for the first time in well over a month. The drive down to the south coast was a long and drawn out one with the days where Leeds would pay for flights very much a distance memory. Southampton had been one of the season's big spenders following their promotion and takeover meaning for a very tough test ahead.

npower Championship

25/02/2012

Southampton vs Leeds Utd

Formation: 4-2-2-2

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Paul Connolly

LB: Aiden White

CB: Craig Dawson

CB: Patrick Kisnorbo

CM: Jonny Howson ©

CM: David Jones

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Andros Townsend

ST: Ross McCormack

ST: Matt Warner

SUBS:

GK: Andy Lonegran

RB: Stuart Parnaby

LB: Ben Parker

MC: Adam Clayton

ST: Luciano Beccio

The sun was trying in vain to peak through the clouds as the game kicked off. There was still a nip in the air thanks largely in part to the wind which was swirling through the ground from the coast. The early exchanges saw chances for both sides, Ameobi forced a save from Rachubka after breaking free from Dawson while at the other end Matt's through ball for McCormack saw the Scot attempt to chip the keeper but the ball dropped behind the goal rather than in it. The game continued in the same fashion for the most part though Leeds were looking the more likely. Ameobi did manage another chance on goal after picking Dawson's pocket 20 yards from goal but skewed his effort wide of the mark while at the other end Davis in the Southampton goal was kept honest on a number of occassions, McCormack and Snodgrass both being gifted good chances only to be denied. It wasn't all plain sailing for Leeds as with just over half an hour gone White was forced off with injury meaning Parker would replace him. Leeds kept control of the gae for the rest of the half though they were still to find the opening goal.

Redknapp called for continued calm, "It's been good so far but don't panic, the goal IS going to come if we kept doing what were doing. They can't handle it, we've just got to be a bit more lethal with our chances and we'll have this lot on the ropes ok? Keep it going, come on!"

The first chance of the second half took very little time to come, many still making their way back to their seats as Lallana's cross from the left found Parker sandwiched between Ameobi and Lambert, with the latter's header looping onto the cross bar and eventually down onto the roof of the net. The early chance aside the game died down into a somewhat boring affair, both sides struggling to get out of first gear following the break. There was the odd chance, McCormack coming close from a free kick, but it was very few and far between. One of the few chances again saw the cross bar rattling, a looping cross deep to the far post found Jose Fonte rising hightest but his header was denied once more by the wood work, Rachubka's goal and clean sheet living a very charmed life at times. The chance looked to have woken Leeds up a little bit as they began to once again find their groove, McCormack proving to be the big threat as Southampton seemed to focus more on Matt than his strike partner which was, for Matt at least, becoming tiresome. For the first time in the half Leeds challenged the keeper.

Following a crunching challenge on Matt the ball sprayed free to McCormack and his right footed effort from distance looked destined for the top corner before the finger tips of Davis set the ball just over the bar. The first tactical change of the game came shortly afterwards with Howson making way for Clayton leaving Kisnorbo to take the captains arm band. Following changes on both side the Leeds crossbar took a 3rd blow of the day. Again a Lallana cross, this time from a corner, found Jose Fonte once more and again the effort met the woodwork, leaving it shaking for a few moments after while Rachubka eventually gathered the ball. Southampton continued to prove themselves dangerous from set pieces but neither side could break down the door and on the evidence of the game Leeds should count themselves lucky they were leaving with a point.

Southampton 0

Leeds Utd 0

Att: 18,958

MoM: James Chester (Southampton)

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Following the game Aidan White's injury was confirmed as an ankle sprain which would see him miss upto two months of action and leaving Leeds with just one fit left back in the form of Ben Parker. There was good news for Leeds though as they weren't the only side to drop points, West Ham being held to a 1-1 draw against Bristol City though Leicester picked up a 3-0 win over rivals Derby to close to within four points of top spot and three points being Leeds. Evidence of Leicester's growing confidence came via text message as both Chris and James sent simple but clear messages, "Coming to get ya!". There were also injury problems at international level as Rio Ferdinand was ruled out of the England squad, Michael Dawson coming in to replace him for the friendly against Italy but with Capello expected to experiment with his team it could turn out to be a blessing of sorts as he gains the chance to review certain players. Elsewhere the first silverware of the season went the way of Chelsea as they beat Fulham by 1-0 at Wembley, Didier Drogba grabbing an 82nd minute winner following a game that was played out in an overly cautious manner.

With domestic football taking a short break Matt linked up with the England squad for what would be a highly anticipated against a strong looking Italy side that many believed would be there or there abouts at the business end of the European Championships in Polnd and Ukraine. The days leading upto the match though Matt found himself at the mercy of the rest of the squad in regards of his current contract situation.

"Ya know you'd fit in well at Old Trafford and Sir Alex does admire you." Rooney said as he tucked into his breakfast.

"Nah man, being a Leeds fan i think i'd get hanged if i played for Man Utd...."

Rooney nodded in agreement before Milner chimed in with the conversation.

"Well, always room at Man City."

"Where? You've got like 20 strikers."

Before too long a friendly argument broke out over his future with Chelsea, Liverpool, Man Utd and Man City all getting their name thrown in, even Real Madrid got a mention. Matt sat and listened for a while before deciding to put an end to it.

"GUYS! Look, while it's nice that you guys are wanting me at your clubs, right now what i've said to the press goes for you lot too, i'm not thinking about where i'll be next season, i'm just concentrating on now...."

He turned to walk away,

"Besides, none of your teams can afford swagger like this!"

They all broke out laughing as he walked out with a mocking pimp limp.

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International Friendly

29/02/2012

England vs Italy

Formation: 4-4-2

GK: Joe Hart

RB: Micah Richards

LB: Leighton Baines

CB: John Terry ©

CB: Chris Smalling

CM: Frank Lampard

CM: James Milner

RM: Aaron Lennon

LM: Ashley Young

ST: Wayne Rooney

ST: Matt Warner

SUBS:

GK: Scott Carson

RB: Glen Johnson

CB: Phil Jagielka

MC: Michael Carrick

ML: Stuart Downing

CB: Michael Dawson

DL: Ashley Cole

CM: Tom Huddlestone

ST: Darren Bent

Wembley wasn't quite packed to the rafters as they walked out onto the damp, lush pitch. Despite the bitter weather that had plagued the country for the past few days it was a pretty good showing from the fans that had turned out which made for a highly charged atmosphere. Matt always got a chill down his spine in anticipation of games and nights like this, only a packed Elland Road could match this in his mind. After the team pictures, national anthems and coin toss it was Italy who got the action underway with both sides hitting the ground running. Straight from kick off almost Italy worked their way towards the England goal where, from a good 20 yards, Pazzini struck a thunderous effort which smashed off the crossbar before going behind for a goal kick. The early effort seemed to wake England from their early slumber as Matt turned his man well before firing just over and Rooney got on the end of the good passing move to draw a top notch save from Buffon. With the action coming thick and fast an early got seemed inevitable and to the joy of the home support it went the way of England. A throw in from Richards found the feet of Lennon who turned and crossed low for Rooney who'd escaped his marker to slide home cooly into the bottom corner with 6 minutes on the clock. The crowd erupted and began to spark into life but just as they were getting into their stride the equaliser came near enough straight from the kick off. After their initial move broke down, Montolivo played into Giovinco who turned and let rip with an unstoppable shot high at the near post. Despite a strong hand from Hart it ended up in the roof of the net to make the scores all level with less than 10 minutes gone. The end to end nature of the game continued as both sides probed each other in search of the lead. Montolivo and Smalling both had good chances, only to be denied by smart saves from Hart and Buffon. The 3rd goal that had been coming for a while finally did arrive with half our on the clock as Hart launched a free kick forwards and though Chiellini won the ball in the air his header only served to flick the ball on. With the Italian defence caught on their heels Matt stole in and slotted in past an advancing Buffon to put England back on top.

The goal settled England and they began to close their grip on the game with Matt in particular causing havoc for the visiting defence with his movement and pace. With England pressing high up the pitch Italy managed to break with Rossi's eventually working a shot which found it's way out for a corner. From said corner Italy bagged the equaliser with Giovinco turning provider this time when he found Bocchetti at the back post whose looping header eventually found it's way in via a failed attempt at a clearance from Rooney who was stood on the post. It was a case of back to square one for England as the recent domination failed to keep the Italian side at bay, Capello coming straight off the bench to question some of his sides marking, most notably that of Milner who did very little to prevent Bocchetti getting the better of him from the corner but he wasn't left waiting too long for redemption. After their first move broke down, Pirlo nodded a clearance to Rossi who had his pocket picked by Milner before he fed the ball into Rooney and with both Italian defenders fully focused on the Man Utd striker he laid it left to Matt who was unmarked to fire it low across Buffon. The half time whistle followed almost straight from the kick off. During the half time break Capello decided on a change with Bent coming in for Rooney. The half time team talk was a double edged sword for those who started the game. The forward line was praised massively while the defence was found themselves on the recieving end of demands for improvement. The second half kicked off much like the first had, with flowing attacking football being played however, to the pleasure of Capello on the sideline, it was all England. Chances fell the way of both Bent and Terry but both were denied by good saves from Buffon. Italy, in contrast to the first half, were a completly different side with the men in blue finding themselves very much under the cosh for long periods. The pace of Matt, Bent and Lennon was proving troublesome at best but as the game wore on England were unable to add to their first three goals despite both Milner and Huddlestone hitting the post. The final whistle went to a loud cheer from the home support, Matt straight away making his way towards De Rossi for a shirt swap.

(

)

England 3 (Rooney 6; Warner 30, 45)

Italy 2 (Giovinco 9; Rooney o/g 40)

Att: 73,972

MoM: Matt Warner (England)

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The win added further fuel to the growing opinion that England had turned a corner in the last 18 months and were turning into genuine contenders following wins against the likes of Holland, Spain and Italy this season alone with many foreseeing that those three teams could be the on a direct collision course with England in the summer in the latter stages. Matt though took all the hype with a pinch of salt as it wasn't the first time he'd heard talk such as this when it came to the national side's chances leading upto an international competition but though he wouldn't admit it to the press, choosing instead to remain cool, he himself was starting to believe that with a bit of luck along the way they could be contesting the final come the 1st of June. With another month at an end it was once more time for the awards to be handed out to those who had impressed in the month gone by. Portsmouth boss Steve Cotterill bagged manger of the month after leading to four wins from five. Jay Rodriguez of Burnley was named as player of the month while new Leeds signing Craig Dawson won the award for young player of the month following his superb start to his career in Yorkshire.

In the Premiership Man Utd continued to lead the league by three points with Liverpool in second and Chelsea a further four points behind though they did have a game in hand. The top three were still a country mile ahead of anywhere else as Arsenal sat in 4th were a full eleven points behind their London rivals Chelsea though Man City, Tottenham and Everton were also very much in the fight for the final Champions League place. At the other end QPR, Swansea and Sunderland all sat in the drop zone with the latter sitting in 18th while being a full four points from safety. In the scoring charts Luis Suarez and Peter Crouch led the way with 15 goals each though both Andy Carroll and Bobby Zamora weren't far behind on 13 goals a piece. In the Championship things at the top were starting to become tighter and tighter with four points seperating the top of the table West Ham from 3rd place Leicester. Reading sat 4th, four points behind Leicester while Burnley and Middlesbrough rounded off the play off places a further five and seven points adrift of 4th place respectively. In the scoring charts Andy Keogh continued to lead the way, adding 5 goals for Reading to the 15 he netted for Leeds in the first half of the season. Craig Mackail-Smith (19) sat 2nd and Jermaine Beckford and Darwin Quintero sat joint 3rd with 17 goals.

npower Championship 01/03/2012
| Pos   | Inf   | Team           |       | Pld   | Won   | Drn   | Lst   | For   | Ag    | G.D.  | Pts   |
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 1st   |       | West Ham       |       | 33    | 21    | 7     | 5     | 70    | 36    | +34   | 70    |
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 2nd   |       | Leeds          |       | 33    | 20    | 9     | 4     | 73    | 28    | +45   | 69    |
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 3rd   |       | Leicester      |       | 33    | 20    | 6     | 7     | 70    | 34    | +36   | 66    |
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 4th   |       | Reading        |       | 33    | 19    | 5     | 9     | 63    | 38    | +25   | 62    |
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 5th   |       | Burnley        |       | 33    | 17    | 6     | 10    | 51    | 37    | +14   | 57    |
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 6th   |       | Middlesbrough  |       | 33    | 17    | 4     | 12    | 41    | 37    | +4    | 55    |
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

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While Matt returned from England duty with a fresh batch of hype surrounding his future he shrugged that off to celebrate his mate James' 26th birthday back in Leicester. Though it was a simple night which included a curry and a few drinks he still managed to find himself on the wrong end of a bad headache the following morning before travelling back up North. Back at Leeds though Gueye made his return to full training following an injury lay up but it was unlikely that he'd been deemed fit for Leeds' crunch tie against Middlesborough who themselves were also carrying strong promotion aspirations. Ben Parker was the only enforced change following Aidan White's injury in the draw against Southampton with Redknapp otherwise choosing to keep an unchanged line up.

npower Championship

03/03/2012

Leeds Utd vs Middlesbrough

Formation: 4-2-2-2

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Paul Connolly

LB: Ben Parker

CB: Craig Dawson

CB: Patrick Kisnorbo

CM: Jonny Howson ©

CM: David Jones

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Andros Townsend

ST: Ross McCormack

ST: Matt Warner

SUBS:

GK: Andy Lonegran

RB: Stuart Parnaby

CB: Tom Lees

MC: Adam Clayton

ST: Luciano Beccio

As they stood in the tunnel, Matt found himself looking over his floresent green Nike boots as the crowd rose to their feet while they made they're way out onto the pitch. The sun was out but there was still a strong nip in the air as the referee signalled for the start of the game and early on found themselves as the side in control as early on with good work between Townsend and Jones opening up a chance for McCormack from distance but he failed to challenge the keeper. Following that Jones also found space to have a pop from long range but again the shot was high and wide of the mark. The opener which the home side craved however was not far away and soon enough they were out of their seats to celebrate. Connolly picked up the ball on the right before playing it to Howson and the skipper made some space for a pass to Matt who, with his back to goal, turned his man and unleashed an unstoppable shot to send the home support into delierium. Matt once more, after celebrating in front of the greatful home support, extending an arm upwards to point to the heavens. The game continued to play out in favour of the home side, limiting Middlesbrough to mostly just clearences and hit and hope long balls over the top which the Leeds backline lapped up with ease. Shortly after the half hour mark Leeds bagged a 2nd. After Snodgrass had cut inside and been brought down, Jones lined up the free kick with his left boot and dispatched a superb effort up and over the wall and beyond the best efforts of Steele in the Middlesbrough goal. It was his first goal since joining Leeds and nothing more than he deserved after a string of impressive displays. Middlesbrough did manage to carve out a chance following a strong run down the left by Arca he managed to pick out Martin in the middle but his effort lacked power and was gathered by Rachubka. It was a rare chance in a half that was dominated by Leeds and as the half time whistle went many were wondering how they weren't ahead by more. Redknapp had very little to say but was quick to calm a couple of the lads down, warning them that the game wasn't yet done.

The crowd greeted them warmly as they stepped out for the second half but the first 15 minutes lacked the same full blooded attacking football that the fans had been treated to in the first half. The one chance Leeds did manage to carve out came from a corner though it lacked very little in terms of threat to the 'Boro goal. The tables seemed to have turned as Leeds found themselves under the cosh a little, Letsholonyane beginning to stamp his mark on the game, namely after beating Dawson for pace and pulling out a good save from Rachubka with a low shot at the keepers near post. With just under 20 minutes left Redknapp called for a change as a tired looking Jones made way for Clayton in a straight swap to try and freshen up the midfield and get back the free flowing football that they had displayed in the first half of the game. The change served to add a bit more stability to the defensive side of things but they were still found to be stalling when going forward which now only served to turn the match into a midfield battle. There were a few more chances carved out, Matt inparticular coming close to netting a goal of the season contender after taking a McCormack cross on his chest before hitting just inches away from the top corner. That chance was the last clear cut opportunity of the game with Redknapp and the home support greatful for the final whistle and conformation of three points.

(

)

Leeds Utd 2 (Warner 21; Jones 35)

Middlesbrough 0

Att: 30,551

MoM: Patrick Kisnorbo (Leeds)

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"With Leeds getting closer and closer to promotion, have you given any thought to perhaps making the move perminent?" Asked the reporter before pushing the mic in Matt's direction.

"No... Right now i want to see how things are at the end of the season. It doesn't matter if Leeds offer me a deal or if Real Madrid come in, right now i won't be discussing anything with anyone until the season is finished."

"Ok well it's another good win for Leeds today, you seem to be back on track after the Christmas and January blip but some still say you still lack the killer touch, what are your thoughts?"

Matt took a drink from his water bottle while wiping the sweat from his face, "Well the blip did take something out of us and there were changes made but everyone is settling in well once more and we seem to be back on track and playing well, keeping clean sheets again. If we can stay unbeaten until the end of the season i think we'll still be in the automatic places."

"And has the banter been flowing between you and your brother with Leicester hot on Leeds' heels?"

Matt laughed, "Yeah, we talk daily and there is always playful little digs at each other but deep down as much as i want to go up this season i'd also want him coming up with Leicester."

"Ok and lastly what do you think of recent talk that England may finally be in a position to pose a major threat in an international tournement?"

"Well after getting wins against Holland, Spain and Italy this season it would be easy to say we are contenders but.... Ya know i think we need to just calm the hype and focus on doing the job rather than talking about it.... We can talk all we want but at the end of the day if we don't back it up everyone will be lining up to lynch us so i'm personally just gonna steer clear of the talk and concentrate on playing."

"Well Matt thank you and congratulations on the win once more."

Matt gave a kindly nod before heading back off to the changing rooms.

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There was very little in terms of respite for the Leeds squad with a Tuesday night trip to Cardiff looming larger and larger with each hour that passed. The Welsh outfit had become a bogey team for them in recent years, many attributing the hoo-doo to the defeat Leeds suffered against Cardiff in the F.A. Cup in 2002 while some went even further by saying that the defeat to Cardiff all those year ago was the beginning of the end in some respects as during that years competition Leeds had been pegged by many as favourites for the cup and the defeat had set Leeds down the path with eventually led to relegation and financial ruin.

The side remained unchanged from that which picked up a 2-0 win against Middlesbrough with Redknapp keen for them to at least continue the form which had seen them go over a month without defeat.

npower Championship

06/03/2012

Cardiff City vs Leeds Utd

Formation: 4-2-2-2

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Paul Connolly

LB: Ben Parker

CB: Craig Dawson

CB: Patrick Kisnorbo

CM: Jonny Howson ©

CM: David Jones

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Andros Townsend

ST: Ross McCormack

ST: Matt Warner

SUBS:

GK: Andy Lonegran

RB: Stuart Parnaby

CB: Tom Lees

MC: Adam Clayton

ST: Luciano Beccio

There was a biting nip in the air as Cardiff got the game kicked off but Leeds started the better side, cutting out a couple of good early chances. First of which fell Matt's way after coming away with the ball following a Turner challenge but with time and space he only managed to slice his effort wide of the mark. McCormack was also gifted two golden oppourtunities, first came as Matt tried to turn and shoot only for Turner to dispossess him with the ball falling to an unmarked McCormack. His first effort was straight at Marshall and as the fall fell back to his feet the second followed the same path before being cleared. While Leeds had managed to trouble Cardiff the first goal fell the way of the home side. Conway's free kick from deep found Hudson completely unmarked at the back post with Rachubka unable to do anything to keep his bullet header out of his goal. Redknapp was straight off the bench to read the riot act to his defenders with even Matt joining in, "Hey! HEY! Why the f**k is he getting a free header there?! F**kin sort it out back there!" Leeds continued to look the more dangerous of the sides when going forward with Townsend's cross finding McCormack at the near post, he flicked it up and Snodgrass got his head to it before Marshall acrobaticly turned it around the post.

Soon though, all the Leeds pressure paid off as once more Jones turned provider with a corner to the back post and Dawson managed to beat Cardiff goalscorer in Hudson in the air to power his header into net and level the scores. The goal only served to encourage Leeds to push on further though Cardiff would still threaten on occassion, mainly from set pieces and long throws it was still Leeds who looked to more likely of the sides to add another goal though the half time whistle came before they could make their pressure pay off in the first half. In the changing rooms Redknapp cursed their naivity for the goal they conceded "Our marking for that goal was shocking, if your marking someone you go with them! I don't care if they go for a p*ss, you follow them! It's time to start turning this pressure into goals, put this game to bed lads come on!"

The their managers words still ringing in their ears it took them all of 20 seconds to cut Cardiff open once more. Howson drove forward before feeding the ball to Jones who in turn pushed the ball forward to Matt. His pass to McCormack was hit first time and had Marshall beaten all hands up but sadly it also managed to beat the post by what must have barely been a couple of inches. Cardiff looked like they had also been given a stern talking too as they also managed to create a couple of good chances in the early going, the game decending into an end to end affair. Earnshaw stole a marsh on Kisnorbo and round Rachubka but with the goal gaping he could only hit the post with Dawson mopping up the rebound. Cardiff though continued to pluck away and soon got their reward. Another long throw was the catalyst as Leeds failed to clear it properly and as the ball came to Naylor his cross caused more confusion as the ball pinballed around the Leeds area before Conway managed to bundle the ball past Rachubka. Redknapp again leapt off his bench to curse the lacklustre defending his side were producing. The game seemed to calm after the restart, the end to end nature of the match being replaced more of a midfield battle now though Leeds were not beaten just yet and did manage to create chances.

One such chance saw Matt fire home from a low cross before the linesman's flag ruled it out however the next time the goal rustled the net there would be no rescue for Cardiff. Matt once more making trouble with his running, out stripping Turner before crossing low from the byline. McCormack's first effort was once more stopped by well Marshall but the former Cardiff man wasn't to be denied as fired the rebound home to put the visiting side back on level term. Following the goal the game fell back into a familar pattern of control for Leeds as they toiled away trying to get the lead for the first time of the night but thanks largely to some poor decisions and some good goalkeeping the scores remained level. Both sides were starting to press now, Matt having two good chances but being denied on both occassions by Marshall while at the other end Conway looked to have again restored the advantage but this time it was only the side netting that his effort found. Leeds first change of the game came as a tired looking Jones made way for Clayton with 10 minutes left to go but it failed to make any real difference as despite a couple of chances for the away side there was no denying the disappointment felt come the full time whistle.

"Mark my words, defending like that will yield two things.... One being another season in the Championship... And two, some of you being shown the exit door come the summer. Defending like that would be frowned upon on a playground let alone amoungst professional footballers." Redknapp turned towards the door, stopping just short of opening it, "Training tomorrow at 9am, if your late your docked a days wages!" The door quickly slammed shut behind him.

(

)

Cardiff City 2 (Hudson 13; Conway 54)

Leeds Utd 2 (Dawson 30; McCormack 60)

MoM: Craig Conway (Cardiff)

Att: 22,847

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The nights other games saw some good news and some bad for Leeds. The good news was, as had become almost customary in recent weeks, West Ham also managed only to draw, this time 1-1 at home to Doncaster but the bad news was that Leicester were now firmly on their heels following a 3-0 win against visitors Hull. The results meant that 1st and 3rd were seperated now by just two points going into the final eleven games of the season. Training the following day at Thorpe Arch yielded more than a few tired bodies by the end of it with Redknapp turning his focus more on defending after some shambolic displays the night before. What made the situation more difficult was the fact that they were very short in both full back positions due to injuries and also at centre back with the only back up that was available being that of Tom Lees and teenage German defender Monty Gimpel who had begun training with the first team at the start of the new year.

Leading upto the home game with Watford it was made clear that a clean sheet and a big win would be the only thing that would be tolerated. Watford had failed to win in ten games and had also lost all of their last five, keeping them rooted to the bottom of the table despite having players like Hodson and Sordell in their ranks. Howson would be missing for the game due to suspension meaning that Clayton would start and Vayrynen would move onto the bench while Kisnorbo would take the captains armband.

npower Championship

10/03/2012

Leeds Utd vs Watford

Formation: 4-2-2-2

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Paul Connolly

LB: Ben Parker

CB: Craig Dawson

CB: Patrick Kisnorbo ©

CM: Adam Clayton

CM: David Jones

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Andros Townsend

ST: Ross McCormack

ST: Matt Warner

SUBS:

GK: Andy Lonegran

RB: Stuart Parnaby

CB: Tom Lees

MC: Mika Vayrynen

ST: Luciano Beccio

There were more than a few empty seats around but those that were in attendance were expecting a big scoreline and made their voices heard in the early going. As expected Leeds took a firm hold the game in the early going with Matt managing a couple of early chances which were both denied by the side netting while a Jones freekick found Dawson but his header only served to scuff the crossbar before going out of play. A goal was very clearly on the card so it wasn't really a surprise as Leeds opened the scoring. Connolly's throw in from the left went to the feet of McCormack who crossed to the edge of the area for Clayton, he laid it off kindly to Jones who fired off a rasping low drive past a helpless Loach in the Watford goal. Watford did have the odd chance, Buaben having a go from distance which went close without really challenging Rachubka but Leeds seemed to take their foot off the gas in the minutes that followed the goal as the odd chance for Watford was becoming all the more familar with the away side even going as far as to have a sustained spell of pressure which served to annoy both the fans and their young manager. That annoyance became more and more profound just after the half hour mark.

Iwelumo, who had been growing in stature as the game went on, picked up the ball on the half way line and after a succession of unchecked passes Hogg eventually played Iwelumo back in and with Kisnorbo gifting him time and space the big front man made no mistake with a well hit effort towards Rachubka's near post. Matt could only sigh and shake his head while Redknapp erupted in a fit of anger as once more lazy defending had cost them. Leeds snapped out of their slumber somewhat after the goal though as Jones had another savage effort from distance which Loach this time did well to turn it away while Kisnorbo also went close from a McCormack corner but again it was Loach at full stretch to keep the scores level. Just as it looked like Redknapp would once more be tearing into his team for not finishing chances, as well as their defending, Leeds took the lead once more. Connolly's cross from deep found McCormack who headed back across goal only to be denied by the crossbar and with the ball looping up into the air Mirfin tried to clear only for his effort to land straight at the feet of McCormack barely 2 yards out and he made no mistake with Loach still on the floor.

Much was said in the dressing room, Redknapp beginning to sound like a broken record as he again demanded better finishing and more stern defending before sending them out 5 minutes early for the second half. The half started with Leeds very much in control once more, Clayton having a crack from distance while Loach continued to frustrate after Matt had beaten three defenders on his way to goal only to be denied by the visiting keepers legs. With each minute that went past though the pressure was becoming more intence on Leeds to get another goal and put the game beyond the team in yellow and red and just after the hour mark they got it. Again it was Connolly who got the ball on the right after exchanging passes with Clayton before crossing from deep, this time it was Townsend arriving at the back post and he rose well and headed it down back across goal to make it 3-1. It was a good header but in truth it should have been dealt with by Loach with reletive ease though it didn't matter much to the home side and their fans, seens of jubilation all around Elland Road. The trend of control which Leeds had displayed for the entire half continued, Dawson once more coming close from a corner before Redknapp called for two players off the bench. Clayton made way for Vayrynen in a straight swap while Townsend was replaced by Beccio with McCormack taking up the left wing role for the remainder of the game.

Pressure was applied in large portions to the suspect Watford back line and once again it eventually told with 10 minutes left to go. Parker moved with the ball down the left before playing it into McCormack, he turned inside and crossed the ball and Beccio, a man who hasn't been on the score sheet for near on a year, applied a looping header which beat Loach and sent the home support wild. The entire team went off to celebrate with him, a clear indication of how popular the Argentine forward was in these parts. While there was time for more goals, Beccio imparticular looking much more confident going forward, the scoreline remained the same. There was a loud cheer if appreciation from the home fans as Leeds stretched their unbeaten run to 9 games.

(

)

Leeds Utd 4 (Jones 14; McCormack 45+3; Townsend 64; Beccio 81)

Watford 1 (Iwelumo 34)

MoM: Ross McCormack (Leeds)

Att: 28,059

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There were more than a few top class performances on the day, McCormack of course stood out along with Jones who's passing and set piece delivery always seemed to cause problems but also the likes of Connolly, Townsend and Dawson impressed. The only one who failed to stand out was Matt who, despite a couple of good chances, never really got going. He knew full well dropping down a league and being an international footballer would paint a target on his back for defenders looking to make a name for themselves. Each game carried more than one hard challenge and large dossage of unwanted attention from multiple defenders and midfielders.

"Awful quiet over there Matty, whats up?" Howson asked before sinking another ball and chalking his cue.

"Honestly..... Thought i'd have more goals by now." He replied, taking another drink of his ice cold pint.

McCormack nodded before lining up his shot on the 7 ball.

"Not really used to having so much attention from defenders. I mean at Arsenal it was easier, there was Van Persie, Fabregas, Walcott.... You had time. Now, and no disrespect, it seems i'm always the target. It's good for the team because you've said it yourself Ross, you get a bit more breathing space now, Robert gets more time as most defenders always have one eye on me regardless of who there are actually supposed to be marking.... It's just frustrating."

The pair nodded in agreement as Matt finished off his pint before taking a look at his watch, with it beginning to get late he soon bid farewell to Howson and McCormack before heading out the door. The street outside the pool club was dark, where as earlier it was lined with cars now it was empty and quiet as he headed towards where he'd parked. Maybe it was thoughts of his form, the heavy rain or the struggle he was having getting his keys out of his pocket but by the time he'd heard the rushing footsteps it was too late to react, before he knew it he was on the floor as the two hooded figures laid a couple off kicks into him before making off with his phone, wallet and keys. His Nissan GT-R whizzed past and off into the distance a few moments later as he tried to compose himself. It took him a few minutes but eventually he struggled to his feet, the pain in his chest and the feeling of blood trickling gently down his face all too prominant as he stumbled back into the pool hall for help....

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"Seriously doc i'm fine.... Just a couple of bumps. I'm sure there are people in far greater need than me." He said while standing.

"MR WARNER FOR THE LAST TIME SIT DOWN!" Snapped the older female doctor. "You've had a bit of a bump to the head and just to be on the safe side i want to keep you in overnight for oberservation."

"She's right Matty, just stay in... I've text the gaffer so he'll be down in the morning to see you...."

Matt laid back down on the bed, pride more than anything else urging him to get out of the hospital and head home. Howson and McCormack had gone to the hospital with him and stayed a while before eventually heading for home when the police showed up to get a statement. He ran through the events with them while they also aided him in cancelling his credit cards and posting a car outside his flat just incase the people in question decided to use the flat keys that were attached to the car keys they had swiped.

Over the next 24 hours there were calls from his mother, brothers, friends and more news agencies than he could count, the news agencies especially making his agents night a sleepless one. Redknapp, as promised, stopped by the following day with a large comedic card signed by all the players and staff.

"How ya doing?" Redknapp asked as he helped himself to a seat next to Matt's bed.

"I'm fine gaffer.... Seriously eating the food here is more painful than the attack..... It's weird, before i left i was talking to Jonny and Ross about how much rough attention i get from defenders, five minutes later i'm outside getting jumped."

"Well they'll get caught, you just focus on healing up...."

Matt nodded, pulling his t-shirt on. "I will but don't think you'll be resting me for the Burnley game."

"Well we'll cross that bridge when we come to it... Come and see me on Thursday, the physio's will see how your doing and then we'll think about training and maybe you playing against Burnley."

Matt nodded before the doctor came in to give him the all clear to go home, Redknapp keen to drop him off.

In the days the that passed the media focus was very much on the attack with the incident being plastered on the front pages in the papers and the opening headline on most news channels, the reaction was one that went as far as Downing Street as many saw the attack as a chance to outline once more the growing feeling fear people we starting to develope when it came to the rise in violent crime. While Matt wasn't fearful he could see why others were when you can't even walk the streets at night for fear of attack by gang of hooded youth's who would rather steal than do a days work for their money, the same youth's who saw prison as an all expences paid holiday. From the stories seen in the papers the words 'Holiday Camp' isn't too far off the mark when it comes to the nations prisons these days. Thankfully there was other news going on around the football world and as always there was some good and some bad for Leeds United. The good was that the new batch of promising young players had been brought in with a couple catching Redknapp's eye during an inter club friendly with the current youth side while the bad news was that Howson picked up a pulled hamstring which would rule him out for upto a month. Thomson also suffered injury after pulling up during a reserve match with what was later found to be a damage achilles tendon which sadly ended his season early.

Outside of Leeds though the Champions League was down to the quarter final stage. Man City dropped out after a 3-1 aggregate defeat to Real Madrid, Arsenal, Chelsea and Man Utd all went through after beating Napoli, Marseille and Dortmund over two legs. They would be joined in the quarter finals by holders Barcelona who eased past Porto, FC Bayern who swept Lille aside, Benfica who beat Udinese and surprise package Olympiacos who dispatched Inter Milan 4-1 on aggregate. The draw pitted FC Bayern against Chelsea, Arsenal were drawn against giant killers Olympiacos, Benfica would face Man Utd but the tie of the round was without question Barcelona being drawn with Real Madrid in a game which many were saying would yield the eventual winners of this season's Champions League.

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The week long break had served to energize the squad for the final ten game run in. Matt, though feeling better and returning to full training on the Friday, was dropped to the bench in favour of Beccio who grabbed his first goal of the season a week earlier. Clayton kept his place in the team following Howson's injury meaning that Kisnorbo also kept hold of the captains armband. The game would be another difficult one as Burnley sought to further cement their place in the play-off's but in Leeds they would face a side who were unbeaten in their last 9 games and held both the best defence and the best attack in the league.

npower Championship

17/03/2012

Burnley vs Leeds Utd

Formation: 4-2-2-2

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Paul Connolly

LB: Ben Parker

CB: Craig Dawson

CB: Patrick Kisnorbo ©

CM: Adam Clayton

CM: David Jones

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Andros Townsend

ST: Ross McCormack

ST: Luciano Beccio

SUBS:

GK: Andy Lonegran

RB: Stuart Parnaby

CB: Tom Lees

MC: Mika Vayrynen

ST: Matt Warner

It was a mild sort of day at Turf Moor as the home side got proceedings underway, Matt settling into a seat on the bench next to Lees. The game started with some neat attacking football at both ends along with some crunching early challenges, Hines came close with an effort from distance while at the other end Beccio headed wide from a Jones corner but it was at the same end that the opening goal came from. Jones collected the ball in the middle before finding the feet of Beccio with his back to goal. The Argentine forward got away from his marker and turned before playing a sublime pass through to Townsend who shot low across Jensen to open the scoring and make it two in two for the Spurs loanee. The end to end nature of the game continued after the restart with both sides having chances but once more Leeds recent defensive frailties came to the fore. Treacy found space to attack down the left before crossing low into the area where Bartley arrived unmarked to apply the finish and level the scores at 1-1 with barely 15 minutes gone. Redknapp was part way into a rant at the restart when Leeds struck back near enough straight away. Townsend brought down Parker's chested pass before feeding it inside to Beccio and with time and space he once more found the perfect pass, this time to McCormack who had timed his run to perfection and applied a cool side footed finish. Redknapp, though still annoyed at the fashion in which they conceded, couldn't help but applaud the way in which they hit back.

The game died down slightly, Leeds managing to command a measure of control as the half wore on but even though they had managed to keep Burnley quiet it wasn't all plain sailing as Kisnobo went down following a strint attempt and the physio, after taking a few moments to look him over, signalled to the bench that his game was at an end. Lees came into the fray to replace him with the captains armband now going to Connolly. The control Leeds had over the game continued after the change and soon the away support had more reason to celebrate. Beccio's collected a clearance and ran towards goal but as the challenge from two players got closer he managed to nudge it right to Snodgrass whose chipped pass forward had the home defence beaten all hands up. McCormack was the benefactor and with time to set himself he made no mistake in adding his 2nd goal of the game. As the half wore on Leeds had further chances as the foward four caused no end of problems for the Burnley back line, Snodgrass and Beccio both forcing saves from Jensen as he struggled to keep Leeds from finishing the game before the interval arrived. Burnley did manage at times to exert some pressure on Leeds but Dawson and Lees were growing in confidence as each minute passed and when they were beaten Rachubka was on hand to keep out the Burnley hoards with a couple of fine saves, most notably from Hines.

"Ok boys, good half... Disappointed about the goal we conceded but the reaction was brilliant. We can't start thinking this game is won ok? Robbie, Luchi and Ross, just keep doing what your doing and more goals will come ok? Lets continue to control this game and send out a message." Connolly chimed in as he rose from his seat on the bench. "Come on boys, lets get it done!!!"

Burnley had clearly been given a dressing down by Eddie Howe at half time as they began the half with a bit more fire but while it wasn't all Burnley they were starting to get more of a foot hold on the game while at the other end McCormack's quest for a hat trick continued, Burnley seemingly incapable of handling his movement. Beccio also was starting to look back to his old self as McCormack's run down the right yielded a cheeky pass inside for him but his low shot at the near post only managed to rattle the frame of the goal before it was eventually cleared to safety. Soon though Redknapp felt the need for a change and with another game on Tuesday there was always going to be one eye on that when changes were made. Clayton made way for Vayrynen while Matt's introduction ended any hope of McCormack bagging a hat trick but not the threat of more goals as shortly after the changes Leeds bagged a 4th goal of the game. Jones this time turning provider with a well timed pass forward, Beccio broke the offside trap before applying a confident finish at Jensen's near hand post. The goal had now surely wrapped up a big win with Leeds starting to look like the team which had run riot in the first half of the season.

Leeds didn't offer any let up and even went close to a 5th goal as Matt found himself with space to chip over Jensen but luckily for Burnley Duff managed to get back and head off the line while at the other end Stanislas almost pulled one back in injury time but his shot through a crowded area evaded everyone and the goal before the referee called time. The win was a big one for Leeds but Redknapp's attitude was a calming one, making it clear that he wanted the side to keep their feet on the ground and just pick up where they left off against Portsmouth on Tuesday night.

(

)

Burnley 1 (Bartley 15)

Leeds Utd 4 (Townsend 9; McCormack 17, 27; Beccio 80)

MoM: Luciano Beccio

Att: 21,942

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Though the win was a big highlight for Leeds the footballing nation was rocked by the collapse of Fabrice Muamba which was later confirmed as being a heart attack. Messages of support flooded in around the world for the hugely popular 24 year old midfielder which showed many that despite all the bad press that surrounds the game at times, football did have a heart. Matt didn't really know him as by the time he'd has joined Arsenal in 2006 Muamba had already been shipped out on loan to Birmingham City. Following their return to Leeds the shine of the win was dulled further when physio's confirmed that Kisnorbo would miss upto four weeks with a pulled hamstring and Dawson, who also picked up a slight knock to his ribs, would miss at the very least the game with Portsmouth which presented Redknapp with a very tough choice to make. With Gimpel being their only other fit centre back it meant that the young Leeds boss would either have to play someone out of position or go with an inexperienced teenager for what would be another crunch game.

The day before the game though Matt recieved some more bad news following the completion of training with Matt and Redknapp the only one's left in the changing rooms as his phone rang,

"Hello, Mr. Warner? This is Inspector Phillips, we spoke at the hospital."

"Yeah i remember, whats up?" Matt asked curiously.

"Well we've found your car...."

"Awesome, when can i have it back?"

"I'm afraid you can't.... Sadly we found it burnt out on an old disused industrial estate. It had been there for a couple of days so we imagine that when they couldn't sell it they just decided to destroy the evidence."

Matt sighed, "Ok... Well thanks for the call, i'll talk to my insurance company..."

"Not a problem Mr. Warner, if you need anything or if you remember anything again, give us a call."

Matt put the phone down and slumped back down onto the bench in the changing rooms.

"Whats up Matty?" Redknapp asked as he turned from the team board for a moment.

"They killed Godzilla...."

Redknapp gave him a confused look, "You what?"

"My car.... The little s**ts that jumped me last week torched my GT-R.... Little f**kers!" He yelled, tossing one of his muddy boots across the room as he did.

"Sorry mate.... You gonna replace it?"

"Dunno... Still got the SRT8 so maybe i'll just stick with that. Anyway, you know who your playing at centre back with Tommy?" Matt replied, trying to change to subject to calm himself.

"No, i'm gonna give Monty one last look tomorrow and make my choice then."

"Any idea if i'll be starting this time?" Matt asked with a sly smile.

"Just like Monty, you'll find out tomorrow."

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The day of the game came around and as promised the team sheet went out with not one, but two surprises in the shape of Monty Gimpel being given his first start while 18 year old left back Charlie Taylor was given a place on the bench. Other than that there were no other changes to the squad which beat Burnley three days before.

npower Championship

20/03/2012

Leeds Utd vs Portsmouth

Formation: 4-2-2-2

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Paul Connolly ©

LB: Ben Parker

CB: Monty Gimpel

CB: Tom Lees

CM: Adam Clayton

CM: David Jones

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Andros Townsend

ST: Ross McCormack

ST: Luciano Beccio

SUBS:

GK: Andy Lonegran

RB: Stuart Parnaby

LB: Charlie Taylor

MC: Mika Vayrynen

ST: Matt Warner

"Ok, remember what happened last time? Huseklepp had your number.... I want him quiet as a church mouse tonight. Tom, keep talking to Monty alright, let him know where he needs to be, you too Paul. Right then, it's been good the last couple of weeks, lets keep that momentum going.... Plenty of up and down from the midfield.... Ross and Becs, more of the same from you two." Almost like clock work the bell sounded after Redknapp had finished his sentence. The war cry came as the squad lept to their feet and headed out the door to the exit of the tunnel. The evening air was crisp and chilly as they were given the nod by the referee, Matt not heading onto the pitch as he'd been used to, instead he would once more take up a seat on the bench. After the coin toss and the usual pre-match pleasantries there was a minutes applause for Fabrice Muamba, who was recovering well from his heart attack the news suggested, before Leeds got the encounter under way. The early action and chances went the way of the home side as McCormack, full of confidence from his recent good form, managed to find space to have a dig from distance but it didn't trouble Ashdown in the away goal. But while the start was good from Leeds the bad news continued to flow from the injury front as debutant Gimpel was forced off with an injury just 7 minutes into the game meaning Parnaby came on at right back with Connolly moving the replace the young German at centre half. It seemed to be the encouragement that the away side needed as Huseklepp crossed from the left, Lees cleared onto Futac's foot but luckily for Leeds it rattled the post before being cleared.

After settling once more Leeds started to take control of the game, Snodgrass being the main focal point of the home attack with a couple of good chances, one of which he managed to put away before the linesman's flag halted the celebrations. At the other end Portsmouth did manage an opening or two, Halford blazing over a free header from barely 6 yards out after a Lawrence corner. Leeds though were continuing to have the lions share of possession with the only thing lacking from their build up play being a goal though Beccio came within inches of opening the scoring following a curling long range effort but it was Portsmouth who again went closest when Futac's pass from the byline found Varney, though while his shot beat Rachubka, it failed to bea the woodwork. Leeds, though surviving a couple of scares, still held a stronger grip on the game and soon their turn to hit the upright came. Snodgrass jinxed and tricked his way around three Portsmouth defenders before delivering a teasing low cross to the back post for McCormack but his low strike managed only to hit the base of the post before going out. The final few minutes of the game began to turn into an end to end affair as both sides looked to take an advantage into the half time break and soon one did. McEachran collected a short free kick from Mullins and after getting away from Clayton, delivered a lovely through ball which Futacs gladly buried low from 12 yards out on the brink of half time.

"Ok, no need to panic but we MUST be better in the second half. We need to get tighter to their front two and we've got to take our chances! I've got options on the bench so time to get your game faces on. Were better than this lads!"

Redknapp left it at that, taking time to talk to a few players individually before they were sent out for the 2nd half. The early going showed exactly why a goal just before half time is important. Portsmouth looked far more calm and confident on the ball while Leeds had more than a hint of panic at times, on more than one occassion rushing or forcing a chance rather than just going back to square one. But as the saying goes, when it rains it pours and they would be pouring into the physio's room in the morning as Parnaby stayed down after making a tackle on Varney meaning that Taylor was summond off the bench to play in an unfamilar right back role. With their defence looking threadbare it took barely 7 minutes before Redknapp's night decened into utter chaos and put the entire season in jeopardy. Clayton this time going down under a challenge and failing to get back up meaning Redknapp's last role of the dice came in the shape of Vayrynen. He mouthed a sorry to Matt, the intention to use him as an impact subsitute firmly sunk with the 3rd injury of the game. Despite the drawbacks Leeds did manage to achance or two in what had been a very poor half in truth, Lees coming closest with a header courtesy of a Jones corner.

But when things looked like they couldn't get any worse they did. Taylors misplaced pass inside set Portsmouth away on the counter attack and with blue shirts all lined up Futacs picked out a low cross to McEachran who finished with ease to put the game all but beyond Leeds. Redknapp's frustration and the look of dispair on Taylors face said more than any full page report ever could. Leeds did continued to try and create a way back, McCormack's low effort following a Jones through ball forcing Ashdown into a smart but pretty standard save and in the end that was the best Leeds could muster as Portsmouth just saw the game out and completed the double over the men from Yorkshire.

(

)

Leeds Utd 0

Portsmouth 2 (Futacs 45+2; McEachran 71)

MoM: Marko Futacs (Portsmouth)

Att: 25,409

Redknapp cut a forlorn figure as he left the changing rooms, the players looking and feeling down as the manager disappeared into the corridor to take questions from the media.

"Jamie, a disappointing night for you. How are the players doing?"

Redknapp sighed slightly, "Well... They're disappointed. They and myself felt this was a winnable game but luck didn't favour us. We had some good chances but when your forced to use all your subs due to injuries then your always going to struggle."

"What does this do to the teams chances as now you have no less than eight first team players potentially being unavailable for the clash with West Ham on Saturday?"

"Well it limits them.... Our defence was threadbare even before we started tonight so to be perhaps without two more defenders puts us between a rock and a hard place. Were hoping to have Kadar and Dawson back in time but it's... It's going to be very touch and go."

"Do you feel you can get a result against West Ham?"

"Yes but we'll need some luck, we'll have to be at our very best and we'll need a few medical miricles as well...." Redknapp said as he gave the interviewer a nod and headed back into the changing rooms.

The game had took it's toll on Leeds in a big way. While there was some good news in the fact that Parnaby and Clayton's injuries were only minor, Gimpel's pulled hamstring looked set to possibly end his season after just seven minutes. It was also another missed oppourtunity for as West Ham dropped points away to Burnley while Leicester lost once more, this time 3-1 away to fellow promotion hopefuls Bristol City making for interesting reading when it came to the league table. The other interesting reading came courtesy of Redknapp's attempt to bring in former Leeds defender Matthew Kilgallon on a short term loan deal with Dawson, Kisnorbo and Gimpel all out but as the week progressed it seemed less and less likely that the deal would be done in time for the top of the table clash with West Ham. It was clear to see the pressure on not just Redknapp but everyone else, defeat would almost certainly see West Ham near enough beyond them in the title race but the bigger worry was that back to back defeats would cause much more damage on a psychological level.

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As predicted Kilgallon's deal didn't get put through in time but both sides were still confident that the deal would be sealed before the loan deadline the following Thursday. There was some good news on the injury front though as Kadar returned to full training and was deemed fit enough to be named in the squad though after a very poor performances midweek Townsend was dropped in favour of Gueye while Matt came into the starting line up to replace McCormack who had also failed to impress. The game many had been waiting for had arrived, first versus second in the table with a huge turn out expected, the teams in and around the title hunt still hoping for a Leeds win or in the very least a draw in order to aid their own championship hopes.

npower Championship

24/03/2012

West Ham Utd vs Leeds Utd

Formation: 4-2-2-2

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Stewart Parnaby

LB: Ben Parker

CB: Paul Connolly ©

CB: Tom Lees

CM: Adam Clayton

CM: David Jones

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Magaye Gueye

ST: Matt Warner

ST: Luciano Beccio

SUBS:

GK: Andy Lonegran

LB: Charlie Taylor

CB: Tamas Kadar

MC: Mika Vayrynen

ST: Ross McCormack

The atmosphere was intence, a win for either side would offer the perfect platform to attack the last few games of the season and wrap up the title along with promotion but as with most encounters of this size the game started slowly. Despite Leeds' injury woes the home side afforded them alot of respect in the early going which made for a even opening to the affair until from a Leeds attack the first goal was scored. Clayton managed to find space down the right before crossing low but the resulting clearance put Leeds on the back foot with Bentley marauding forward before playing in Carew who, seeing the run of Nolan, fed the perfect through ball and the former Newcastle man made no mistake with a sharp side footed effort into the bottom corner to give the home fan's something to get out of their seats for in the early going. Leeds did manage a couple of chances, Jones in particular going close with a effort from just outside the area but Green was equal to it. The main threat hwoever was coming from Leeds attacks as West Ham were managing to break with speed and precision each time making for some nervy viewing for the travelling support and bench until, with 20 minutes still to arrived on the clock, the equaliser came. Gueye slipped the challenge of Faubert on the half way line before breaking down the wing and providing a teasing cross the back post. The ball was out of reach for both Matt and the West Ham defence but Snodgrass arrived late to tap in at the back post for his 10th goal of the season. The goal, while confidence creating for Leeds, did spur West Ham on further as they began to take a firm grasp on the game following the restart but due to some good defending the home side were limited to only efforts from distance in frustration.

The luck Redknapp had spoken about in the wake of the Portsmouth game managed to rear it's head in their favour also as Bentley's long range shot into a crowded area took a wicked deflection which had Rachubka all but beaten though lady luck saw fit to have to shot rebound off the post before Leeds managed to clear their lines. West Ham's pressure continued with Leeds not taking to counter attacking football and efforts from distance, Jones once more stinging the hands of Green from a free kick while at the other end Rachubka kept the scores even as Jantscher was gifted time and space at the back post. The resulting corner though saw the luck run out. Noble with the effort to the back post where Carew was waiting to apply the headed finish with half time looming.

In the changing rooms Redknapp made it clear how unimpressed he was with the performance so far, "This lot aren't better than us.... They've had a bit of possession and alot of shots from distance but we need to start defending better! Both goals stunk of naivity, we know where they are going to go with set pieces, two of you should be able to deal with one man! We gotta win this half or the title is all but gone for us!"

The early going saw Matt test Green after a nice run and through ball on the right from Snodgrass, the resulting corner however gave Leeds the lifeline they were looking for as Demel climbed all over Connolly at the back post, making for an easy decision as referee Probert pointed to the spot. Jones was quick to grab the ball and stake his claim to it but after a confident run up he beat Green but not the post, the ball cannoning out to Gueye who played it back into Clayton though his shot took a deflection and was gathered with ease by Green. Leeds though had started the better, again flooding forward before a chance opened up for Jones, once more forcing Green to save well to his left hand side. it was the start Redknapp had aked for but West Ham still posed danger on the counter as they broke with good link up play between Carew and Bentley before the latter broke through on goal and once more thumped the woodwork before Rachubka collected. The game settled into a pattern of control for the away side, Matt once more tricking his way through the West Ham defence before firing off a shot which Green had to come out of his comfort zone to keep out, the England international's now seemingly intent on a personal duel and it was Matt's running which created the equaliser. Lees cleared it to Snodgrass who played a superb first time pass to Matt's feet which set him off down the right wing. He cut in at the byline, worked an opening and crossed to the back post for Gueye to produce a stunning volley past Green. The away support went wild, as did Gueye who had more than deserved his goal for a fine afternoon's work so far.

With the game heading into the last 20 or so minutes Redknapp took his chance to replace some tired legs with both Clayton and Parnaby making way for Vayrynen and Kadar in straight swaps as West Ham once more began to get a foot hold, Carew again coming close from a Noble corner which clipped the top of the cross bar before going harmlessly out of play and it's from a set piece that the 5th goal came from. Snodgrass was felled by the right hand touchline giving Jones the chance to sweep a free kick in and the resulting effort found Connolly slipping his man to power home a header and give Leeds a well deserved lead. Redknapp and the rest of his staff and subs celebrated like they'd won the cup, the magnitude of the game and the goal clear for all to see now but it would make for a very intence last 10 minutes. Things were made more intence with 81 minutes gone. Almost straght from kick off West Ham broke forward with Carew and Nolan before they eventually picked out the run of Bentley coming in off the right wing. He looked to be free and clear of Lees but the young centre back, in a fit of desperation, tugged the Spurs loanee's shirt and that was all that he needed to go down. The referee took a dim view and with him being the last man there were no prizes for guessing what card he was shown. He said sorry as he passed Redknapp but it now meant Leeds would have to shuffle things around with Beccio coming off for Taylor to go in at right back while Kadar took up position at centre half, Matt was left as the lone front man as Redknapp gave the signal to defend and look to hit them on the break. But as Nolan took the free kick Rachubka couldn't reach it and as it rebounded down off the crossbar Cole was gifted a tap in to level the scores once more.

After the restart the system looked to be working, Snodgrass collected Matt's through ball before curling a shot at goal, Green palmed it out and with the goal at his mercy Matt shot only for Demel to make a last ditch block while at the other end Bentley continued to cause problems for Parker, his chipped cross found Carew but the big strikers header only found the fans behind the goal. There were a couple more half chances but in the end both managers looked happy to come away with a point, the final run in looking more and more interesting by the day.

"I tell you what, we may have conceded three goals today but thats the sort of character that WILL get you promoted. It would have been easy to let your heads drop after the penalty didn't go in but you rallied, kept your cool and gave them a very big scare. Most important thing is we didn't lose, were still in the hunt for this title... You've done the fans, me and more importantly yourselves all proud today. No training until ten on Monday so your free to do whatever you want tonight.... Enjoy it!"

(

)

West Ham Utd 3 (Nolan 10; Carew 42; Cole 84)

Leeds Utd 3 (Snodgrass 15; Gueye 58; Connolly 79) [Jones missed pen 49] [Lees s/o 82]

MoM: John Carew (West Ham)

Att: 34,421

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Upon their return to Leeds most of the players decided they would head out to a few clubs and bars to wind down and celebrate the result. The night was filled with laughs, drinks and more than their fair share of attention from the ladies. Matt had never been a big fan of clubs but on this occassion, mainly down to the attentions of a young nurse named Katie, he stance was eased slightly. As the night wore on they all soon began to filter home with Matt being one of the last to leave with the nurse in tow. They exchanged small talk during the short taxi ride back to his place and after tipping the driver with a £20 note they strolled up the steps, Katie admiring the building.

"Wow... Bet the view is amazing."

"Yeah it is, but we've got plenty of time for that but in the meantime...." Matt said as he leaned in and kissed her before they walked arm in arm up the stairs to the entrance.

He wasn't quite sure why but Matt found his eye's drawn to the empty front desk as he entered the building. He shrugged it off as they reached the elevator but as he glanced back he saw him, Dave, laying motionless behind his desk. Katie gasped "Oh my god!" before they both ran over. Matt couldn't help but feel a twinge of the familar, he called for an ambulance and the police before standing up.

"You ok here?"

"Why where you going?!" She quizzed.

"To my flat, send the police straight upto the 29th floor as i reckon thats where the culprits are right now."

With that he ran to the elevator, pressing the button for the 28th floor, the one just below his. Call it a sixth sence, deductive logic or just a wild hunch but Matt had a feeling that the people that jumped him and stole his car were the same ones who had knocked out the door man. And with the keys to his flat taken along with his car keys there was a good chance that they were trying to get into his flat. The lift door opened and Matt sprung out, making a b-line for the stairs as with the elevator mere feet from his door he wanted to get the drop on whoever was there. Soon though he reached his floor, slowly slipping out of the door and into the corridor quietly. He could hear hushed but frustrated voices around the corner from the stairwell,

"Why won't these key's work!"

"Maybe they changed the locks.... Come on, we need to get out of here bruv!"

Matt took a sneaky peek around the corner and while he didn't get a real look at the guys who jumped him the next thing he heard confirmed what he'd suspected.

"We ain't leaving.... We couldn't sell the car so were gonna get something out this flat so just shut up and let me work this lock out!"

Matt took a deep breath and paused for a moment before springing into action. He charged around the corner, catching the lookout with his back turned and delivered a stamp to the back of his knee. He yelled in pain, an loud crunch following the kick and before his partner could react Matt had him pinned down, laying a few well measured punches to his hooded face before standing.

"Ya know what TV in this country is sorely lacking..... England's dumbest criminals..... Are you f**kin mental, stupid or a mixture of both?! Of course i had the locks changed you f**king clowns."

One of them shifted, Matt laying a solid kick to his mid-section before another yelp of pain followed.

"Stay the f**k down!"

By this point Matt's blood was boiling.

"Now i've got you arseholes where i want you, lets see if there really is no honour amoungst thieves..... Which one of you of mugs torched my car?!"

"Arrrrggghhh it wasn't me bruv, it was him... It was all his idea.... We didn't even know it was you bruv i swear!"

Matt leaned over the one who talked, giving him a solid back hand across the jaw, "Bruv? I ain't your f**kin bruv you thieving little c**t!"

"I'm sorry.... Please man just let us go, we'll call it quits...."

"Quits?..... QUITS!?!..... You blind side me.... Steal and torch my car.. AND my wallet.... Knock out the doorman downstairs.... Try and break into my flat and NOW you wanna call it quits.... Oh you better hope the cops show up soon cause i'm gonna throw one of you off the f**kin roof!"

Barely had he finished his sentence when the elevator pinged and the doors opened.

"Get your hands up and step away!" The cop shouted at Matt.

Backing away with his hands up, "Woah woah, i live here.... these are the muppets that jumped me a couple of weeks back.... Call Inspector Phillips."

"We didn't do nowt to you bruv, he's lying!" The one clutching his knee shouted.

"I think the finger prints you idiots left on the keys to my flat.... Ya know, the one's that were attached to the cars keys you nicked off me, would say different..... My god, did you idiots dress yourselves this morning.... Do you have a special bus to school or..."

The cop chimed in again as a few of his colleagues cuffed the two suspects, "Ok sir thats enough, step away... We'll take it from here. Don't go anywhere because we'll need a statement."

In the hours that followed Inspector Phillips showed up, Dave was taken to hospital with thankfully only minor injuries while the two suspects were arrested with Phillips instantly recognising the pair of them as both were very high on his 'Person of Interest' list in connection with the attack. While Matt was free to go sadly the events had somewhat killed the mood, Katie deciding that she'd had enough excitement for one night before heading off in a taxi.

"Heroically detain two criminals and i still can't get laid..... Is this the twilight zone or something?!" Matt muttered to himself as he watched her taxi pull away and disappear into the night.

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The week that followed became a media circus with Matt making front page news while being dubbed a hero, the PM going as far as to praise his actions while the lads at Leeds had began calling him 'Superman'. While it was sort of nice he wasn't going to get carried away with it, instead just focusing on training and breaking the drought he suddenly found himself in. Though difficult to see at times amoungst stories about the night of heroism, there was news involving other Elland Road players. Dawson returned to full training to boost Leeds title hopes and Kilgallon completed his loan switch, quickly making it clear that it was a dream move for him after a tough season at Sunderland. With Lees due to serve a ban for his sending off it meant that Killa, as many called him, would start in their trip to Blackpool. With the exception of Taylor dropping out of the squad, Parnaby going onto the bench and Connolly moving back to his more familar right back spot there were very few changes made to the side which did so well against West Ham.

npower Championship

31/03/2012

Blackpool vs Leeds Utd

Formation: 4-2-2-2

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Paul Connolly ©

LB: Ben Parker

CB: Craig Dawson

CB: Matthew Kilgallon

CM: Adam Clayton

CM: David Jones

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Magaye Gueye

ST: Matt Warner

ST: Luciano Beccio

SUBS:

GK: Andy Lonegran

RB: Stewart Parnaby

CB: Tamas Kadar

MC: Mika Vayrynen

ST: Ross McCormack

With much of the pre-match talk focused on Matt's crime fighting antic's it hard to believe that there was actually a game due to be played but as things got kicked off it was Leeds who started the better, the whole team still riding on the high of last week's draw against West Ham. Early chances came and went for Beccio and Clayton, neither really challenging Gilks in the home goal but the break through wasn't long in coming. After a stunning strike a week earlier it was Gueye once again who took his chance, Snodgrass cutting inside and feeding Beccio before the Argentine turned and found the unchecked run of the young Everton loanee who composed himself well before finishing with a well struck shot across the keeper and into the bottom corner. The flow of the match remained the same, Leeds playing with confidence and swagger. That same confidence almost had them 2-0 up as Beccio nodded on Kilgallon's clearance for Matt to chase and as he raced clear only the finger tips of Gilks denied what was looking a nailed on goal. Blackpool did manage to create a couple of openings, mainly from distance but on the whole Kilgallon and Dawson dealt with everything that was thrown their way until, in almost identical fashion to the penalty a week earlier, Connolly climbed over Molina to try and deal with a Phillips cross. The referee was left with no option but to point to the spot but as with last weeks incident the spot kick failed to find the net, this time though it was a fine save from Rachubka rather than the post which kept the ball out of the goal.

The penalty had given Blackpool a confidence boost as they began to have more of a say in the proceedings, Evatt coming the close from a Molina corner but the cross bar this time denied Blackpool an equaliser. As the momentum was shifting though the referee called an end to the first half. "First half hour, brilliant, can't fault you for that but we've let our foot off the go pedal in that last part... We need a second goal, get that and it will kill the confidence they've been building! Time to start getting our foot on the ball again, play it around.... There is space in behind them so lets use it." Redknapp seemed more calm than he had been in recent weeks, the aftermath of the draw in London stretching further than just the players. The hope was that the break would kill the that momentum which had began to swing towards the home side but sadly luck wasn't in attendance it seemed as Blackpool continued to look the better side, Phillips in particular making life a misery for Parker while Molina was also starting to frustrate Connolly. Both men having chances but both blazing the efforts well wide and well over the bar but at the other end, to the joy of the travelling support, one man managed to keep his shot down. Jones swung in the corner to the front post, Kilgallon trapped it and shot on the turn with Gilks and his defence at sixes and sevens at the back as Leeds went 2-0 up.

The goal though made very little difference to the flow of the game as Blackpool continued to create and chase a way back into the game, Rachubka forced on no less than 3 occassion's to deny Phillips who was running riot over a very lost looking Ben Parker. The Blackpool fan's, with a full 20 minutes left, had began to leave but a few were tempted back as Connolly picked up a second yellow card for a silly shirt tug on Grandin. Beccio again made way with Matt being left as the lone front man, Parnaby coming on to fill in at right back. As the resulting free kick was gathered by Rachubka he threw it out to Parker who quickly fed it to Gueye who cut inside away from his marker. With a quick look up he played a pin point ball into Matt's feet, he raced away and time and space on his side he applied a low finish under the on rushing Gilks to all but seal it. His celebration was aimed at his team mates as he held his arms out like Superman and mock flew to the corner flag but the delight on his face was real as he ended his goal drought. While being 3-0 up with less than 20 minutes left to go in most circumstances would mean game over, being down to 10 men made nothing certain and that was proved true just 6 minutes later. With Dawson receiving treatment on the sidelines Crainey sent a pass from the left to Taylor-Fletcher, he turned away from Clayton before picking out Ferguson's run from deep and with only the keeper to beat he rifled it into the roof of the net to give Blackpool a way back in. It served to be the confidence boost the home side needed as they began to flood foward again and again, Molina coming close after getting away from Parnaby but the shot was straight at Rachubka.

With a few minutes left to go Clayton's number was shown by the 4th official with Vayrynen going in to see out the last stint of the game though but deep into injury time there the chance to put the icing on the cake. Kilgallon got up well and cleared a Blackpool corner before out stripping Evatt for pace and hoofing the ball upfield. Matt got on the end of it, cut across the last defender and with Gilks well off his line he came up with a sublime chip to round off the game and the move in style, again launching into mock Superman celebration as the away fans went nuts. The final whistle came as soon as the kick off was taken, Redknapp and Holloway exchanging handshakes as one stormed down the tunnel while the other headed onto the pitch to congratulate his players for a fine second half performance.

(

)

Blackpool 1 (Ferguson 77)

Leeds Utd 4 (Gueye 15; Kilgallon 63; Warner 72, 90+4) [Connolly s/o 70]

MoM: Magaye Gueye (Leeds)

Att: 14,376

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"Like bloody busses, wait ages for one then two show up...."

"Yeah but you ended the drought and your at least guranteed a place in the play-off's."

Matt nodded to himself, the win against Blackpool meaning Leeds would finish 6th at the very least as Pancho was keen to point out.

"So how goes things at Spurs?"

"Not too bad... We still in the hunt for fourth but we need to win our game in hand."

"Still if all else fails your in the semi final of the F.A. Cup and pretty much in the Europa League semi as well."

"Anyway i better go Superman, Lex Luthor is having me over for dinner."

"You been talking to Townsend?" Matt asked with a laugh.

"Nah.... But he spoke to some of the other lads and it got to me.... Anyway i'll speak to you soon."

"Later muppet."

Matt put the phone down and turned his focus back to the TV as Sky Sports news highlighted the monthly award winners for March. Chris Hughton was given the award for manager after winning six of his seven games this month, Reading forward Darwin Quintero won player of the month while Josh McEachran picked up the gong for young player of the month. In the Premier League Man Utd held a seven point lead at the top over Chelsea who were a single point ahead of Liverpool who had a game in hand over both while holding a massive lead over 4th. Man City, Arsenal, Fulham, Everton and West Brom were seperated by five points in their chase for 4th place, Spurs sat a further three points behind but again with a game in hand. At the bottom of the table Swansea sat bottom with seventeen points, QPR just above with nineteen points but Newcastle were a full seven points clear of the both of them. Sunderland and Norwich were too far ahead but Bolton seemed all but safe, sitting a full nine points clear of the drop zone. In the scoring charts Bobby Zamora lead the way with 19 goals while Wayne Rooney and Peter Crouch were tied with 17 goals each, it also meant that Fabio Capello would have a few tough choices to make with all of the top three scorers being English.

In the Championship the gap between West Ham and Leeds was only two points, Leicester sat a further six points behind with Reading right on their heels while Bristol City, Burnley, Birmingham and Brighton were all in contention for the last two play off places. In the scoring charts Darwin Quintero sat top by some margin with 28 goals, Craig Mackail-Smith held 2nd place with 23 goals and Jermaine Beckford wasn't far behind in 3rd with 21 goals as the season hit the home stretch with just six games remaining.

npower Championship 01/04/2012
| Pos   | Inf   | Team           |       | Pld   | Won   | Drn   | Lst   | For   | Ag    | G.D.  | Pts   |
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 1st   | Pl    | West Ham       |       | 40    | 25    | 10    | 5     | 83    | 42    | +41   | 85    |
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 2nd   | Pl    | Leeds          |       | 40    | 24    | 11    | 5     | 92    | 38    | +54   | 83    |
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 3rd   |       | Leicester      |       | 40    | 23    | 8     | 9     | 83    | 44    | +39   | 77    |
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 4th   |       | Reading        |       | 40    | 23    | 7     | 10    | 82    | 47    | +35   | 76    |
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 5th   |       | Bristol City   |       | 40    | 18    | 13    | 9     | 61    | 51    | +10   | 67    |
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| 6th   |       | Burnley        |       | 40    | 19    | 9     | 12    | 59    | 46    | +13   | 66    |
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

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The win against Blackpool had only served to boost confidence in the dressing room with Redknapp announcing that the side would remain unchanged from that which started the last game while on the injury front Howson returned to full training while White was also close to full fitness and was included in the squad for the game at home to Derby. Kisnorbo was also closing in on a return to full training but it would still remain touch and go as to wheather he would feature again this season.

"Matty, can i have a word?" Redknapp pulled him to one side as he was headed to the changing rooms.

"Whats up gaffer?"

"Ok.... Well with Paul suspended and Jonny and Paddy injured.... I'm making you captain today." With that Redknapp handed him the armband, Matt struggling to contain a smile that spread across his face.

With the crowd jumping and the Sky Sports camera's in attendance Matt stood at the exit of the tunnel, taking a moment to shake hands with his opposite number before he led the team onto the pitch. In all the years he was at Leeds before rejoining he never managed to captain the team but as he stepped out he couldn't help but look to the sky, thoughts of his dad suddenly filling his mind before he snapped back to job at hand. With West Ham losing to Blackpool earlier on in the day it gave Leeds the chance to return to the top with a win but they would face a stern test from Derby.

npower Championship

07/04/2012

Leeds Utd vs Derby County

Formation: 4-2-2-2

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Stewart Parnaby

LB: Ben Parker

CB: Craig Dawson

CB: Matthew Kilgallon

CM: Adam Clayton

CM: David Jones

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Magaye Gueye

ST: Matt Warner ©

ST: Luciano Beccio

SUBS:

GK: Andy Lonegran

LB: Aiden White

CB: Tom Lees

MC: Mika Vayrynen

ST: Ross McCormack

The rain began to fall as the signal was given to start the game, both sides making good starts with some nice passing and moving but little in way of chances as both of the defences on show took centre stage. Derby deployed a five man midfield which was proving hard to break down while their one striker was always crowded out by the back four of Leeds. Though the game was an even affair Leeds were looking the more likely to open the scoring, Beccio in particular having a couple of chances but there was an unusual relectance from the home side to shoot when the chance did open up. Just past the half hour mark though the fear of shooting suddenly disappeared. A scramble in the Derby area saw Clayton nod a clearance to Jones on the edge of the area. Jones layed it back to Clayton who shot low and hard, his effort hit the post but Matt was quickest to the rebound and fired home into the near enough empty net before charging off to celebrate with the home fans, pointing first to the sky and then to the captains armband as his team mates congratulated him on what was his 20th goal of the season. With Leeds looking like they would perhaps start to tighten their grip on the occassion the familar problem of complacency reared it's ugly head. Coutts picked up the ball on the half way line before beating both Kilgallon and Parker, sliding the ball right to Sibibe who shot straight at Rachubka but as he palmed it away Daves responded quickest and finished the follow up to level the scores.

Chances were few and not worthy of real mention so when half time did come Redknapp looked to lift a few dejected looking players, the dressing room unusually quiet until Matt stood. "Hey, get your heads up.... We ain't finished yet. This lot have gotten lucky but we can't go through this game afraid to f**kin shoot! If you get an opening just hit the bloody thing, with the pitch as slick as this anything along the deck it will make it tough for their keeper.... Come on boys, were better than this!!!"

Redknapp sat back and let his captain take the talk for a few moments. He chimed in with a few minutes to go, pressing home the message that Matt had put forward that they need to shoot a bit more and be a bit more mean in front of goal. With the bell sounding they all jumped to their feet, Matt once more leading them out onto the floor lit pitch. Early on Leeds began to take control of the game, a succession of corners in the opening exhanges making for a nervy few minutes for the away side as they struggled to keep them at bay. The game started to even out around the hour mark, Brayford's looping header just inches away from beating Rachubka while at the other end Matt's run yielded a through ball for Snodgrass but his shot aimed at the far post curled well wide of the mark. Snodgrass came close once more a few moments later as Parker made his way to the byline before crossing for the man in question but his downward header was blocked by the feet of Fielding before being cleared. With roughly 20 minutes left to go Redknapp moved to the touch line with McCormack and Vayrynen in tow, Beccio and Clayton given the signal that their evenings work was at an end.

Leeds continued to look the more likely to add to the scoring, Vayrynen's long ball over the top found Matt's run and with space he aimed a vicious shot goalwards but Fielding was once again equal to it. Despite the best efforts of both sides the form of Fielding and the resolve of the Leeds backline saw fit to keep the scores level, though disappointing for the home support it was another game without defeat but once more for Leeds it was another chance gone begging.

(

)

Leeds Utd 1 (Warner 33)

Derby County 1 (Davies 41)

MoM: Steven Davies (Derby)

Att: 29,560

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The chance that went begging was one Leeds had been praying for and with now just five games left to go in the season chances to pip West Ham to top spot were becoming slimmer and slimmer as each time they dropped points is seems Leeds were unable to capitalise. With the games now coming thick and fast there was little respite with Peterborough due to visit Elland Road on the Monday night and Redknapp now promising a host of changes to keep the squad fresh but also give others a chance to show they can get the job done as the pressure begins to build.

The changes in question were in multiple area's. Alex McCarthy was given a chance in goal, Connolly returned to right back while White went in at left back. Howson returned to first team action with Clayton dropping out of the squad in order to be given a rest and McCormack returned to the starting line up for the match with a Peterborough side that were in the brink of relegation.

npower Championship

09/04/2012

Leeds Utd vs Peterborough Utd

Formation: 4-2-2-2

GK: Alex McCarthy

RB: Paul Connolly

LB: Aiden White

CB: Craig Dawson

CB: Matthew Kilgallon

CM: Jonny Howson ©

CM: David Jones

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Magaye Gueye

ST: Matt Warner

ST: Ross McCormack

SUBS:

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Stewart Parnaby

LB: Ben Parker

MC: Mika Vayrynen

ST: Luciano Beccio

Redknapp made it clear that he wanted a demolition job with Leeds being the most lethal attacking side in the league and that it was time to start exploiting the mistakes of West Ham, "This title will NOT be handed to us.... If we want it we have to take it and that starts with us winning today!"

With the words still ringing in their ears Leeds got the game underway with possession spread evenly between both sides but the demands of their manager, the noise from the home support and the gulf in quality saw the first goal come early. McCormack ran onto a Snodgrass pass with the visiting defence backing off him all the way to the byline and when the did challenge, the cross attempt was deflected back to Snodgrass who set himself and shot at the near post to gift the home team the lead inside of 10 minutes. The pressure began to mount on the away side, the early goal breeding confidence in what was an unfamilar line up but as has been customary in recent weeks there was a lapse in concentration. Boyd whipped in a corner to the back post where Thompson beat Dawson in the air to apply a superb header which evaded both White on the post and the outstretched hand of McCarthy. Redknapp's reaction was on of brief dispair which desolved into a fit of rage in which the defence were warned to buck thier idea's up. Leeds continued to press, McCormack feeding Matt to break clear of the defence but the keeper was equal to his low side footed effort while minutes later there was a reverse as Matt got space to run down the left before cutting the ball back to McCormack but his shot was well wide of the mark. With time in the half running it Leeds began to apply heavy pressure, Gueye, McCormack and Jones all testing the keeper but as the whistle went the score remained level.

"Why? Why the hell do we keep shooting ourselves in the foot with these stupid mistakes?! Craig you didn't even get off the f**kin ground....." Redknapp yelled as a water bottle flew across the room "I'm not going to tell you what to do, by now you should all know what you have to do and if you don't then i promise you, you'll be going in the summer, promotion or no promotion!"

Peterborough got the second half underway but almost instantly Leeds took the ball. Kilgallon winning it in the air with a strong headed to Howson who turned and played it to Jones' feet. Jones, with time, layed a simple pass into Matt's feet and after a getting himself half a yard he hammered a shot goalwards on his more unfamilar left foot but the result what more than familar as it flew high into the net though there were more than one puzzled look aimed in the visiting keepers direction for failing to deal with an effort that looked to be a simple catch. The game restarted in much the same sort of fashion as Leeds began to tighten their grip on the game though with barely 10 minutes of the half gone a very tired looking Howson made way for Vayrynen. The change made little difference as Leeds continued to look the stronger side, McCormack's corner to Dawson at the back post saw his head back across goal beat the keeper but not the man on the post as it was cleared with Kilgallon baring down on him. As the half wore on though the fan's were starting to voice their frustration at not being up by more despite near constant pressure and Peterborough almost got level once more in almost a carbon copy of the first time, a Frecklington corner found Thompson rising highest though this time his effort grazed the top of the bar before heading out for a goal kick.

Chances continued to go begging until Leeds finally granted the fans in attendance their wish. McCormack looked to have got free of Bennett but the visiting defenders tackle forced the ball back to Gueye who played the ball across the edge of the area to Matt who managed to shake a challenge, come away with the ball and shoot low past Hradecky to give the home side the two goal cushion they'd been looking for. With the score at 3-1 Redknapp took the chance to take off Snodgrass who had picked up a small knock in the first half, Beccio coming on with McCormack going onto the left wing. The goal was Matt's 20th league goal of the season and the whole atmosphere improved in an instant until the injury problems of old made a return. White, on his return to first team action, went down and the physio was left shaking his head meaning Parker would come on for the final 12 or so minutes of the game. The chances continued to come for the home side with both Beccio and McCormack getting chances to add to the scoreline while at the other end the Leeds defence mopped up whatever came their way and with injury time looming the game was sealed foe sure. McCormack knocked a ball left to Matt who held for a moment before completing the one-two, McCormack calmly sidefooting his effort into the back of the net to make for a miserable second half for the visitors.

It proved to be the last notable action of the game, the home support giving them a rousing thank you for the performance. Redknapp was also keen to extend his thanks for a better second half display while Matt was congratulated on his man of the match performance which yielded two goals and an assist.

(

)

Leeds Utd 4 (Snodgrass 9; Warner 48, 73; McCormack 90)

Peterborough Utd 1 (Thompson 25)

MoM: Matt Warner (Leeds)

Att: 23,753

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The win kept Leeds hot on West Ham's heels who managed to sneak past Nottm Forest at home while both Leicester and Reading, still having an outside chance at the title, both recorded 2-0 wins away from home. Closer to home though there was more good news as Kisnorbo and Gimpel returned to full training but as seemed to be the case bad news followed as White's injury was confirmed as a groin strain which all but ended his season. Following what was a tough three days period they were given the Wednesday off in order to keep the team as fresh as possible for the title deciding run in. Both Leeds and West Ham had difficult end's to the season but Leeds were seen to have the easier of the two with games away to Ipswich, Nottm Forest and Millwall along with one final home game against Hull. West Ham on the other hand would face away games to Crystal Palace and Reading while also having to contend with home fixtures against Leicester and Birmingham.

After having a brief lay in Matt decided to go car hunting. Though he'd toyed with the idea of getting another GT-R, upon passing the local BMW dealership he was instantly drawn to the gleaming white M3 sat front and centre of the showroom.

"Beautiful isn't it?" The salesman said as he approached.

"It ain't half bad..." Matt said as he circled the car.

"Well, how about we set you up on a test drive then maybe talk some numbers?"

Matt nodded and soon enough they were out on the road and after getting used to it he gave the salesman a sly look, "Any objection to me.... Giving it the beans?"

The salesman hesitated for a moment, in normal circumstances the answer would be an instant no, but being a well known profesional footballer had numerous advantages, this being one of them. As the suited man gave him a reluctant nod Matt in turn pressed his foot down, the V8 roaring into life, the rear wheels giving a slight squeak while they struggled to cope with the sudden increase in power... 60, 70, 80mph were all passed by the glowing needle as the noise began to build, the salesman starting to cling tighter and tighter to the binder he had brought with him.

Soon though the salesman grip tightened further as Matt's phone rang,

"Yo..."

"Hello, is this Matt Warner?" The male voice with the thick, deep European accent asked.

"Yeah.... Who's this?"

"This is Jose Mourinho...."

Matt paused for a moment, half of him willing to bet it was a joke while the other half wondered if it could actually be the manager of Real Madrid.

"Errrmmmm.... Ok, what can i do for you?" He asked, foot holding steady.

"Well, with your contract due to end in a few months i've informed the president that i would like to bring you to Madrid.... I believe you could be a very big success here." He said with a hint of arrogance.

"Well.... I'm flattered.... My agent deals with all the contract stuff so put an offer down on paper and...." He was cut off quickly.

"An offer was faxed to your agent just before i called so i imagine he'll be trying to call you now." Almost instantly the beep to signal a call waiting burst into his ear.

"Look it over. We'll talk again soon." Mourinho said finally before putting the phone down.

He put the phone down, three missed calls already showing up on the screen from his agent Rory as he pulled the car into dealerships forecourt. The salesman almost leaping out of the car as it came to a stop with a screech of the front tyres while Matt sat in an almost trance like state, still processing the call for a few moments before he snapped out of it. Getting out of the car he gave it one more look over before throwing the still shakey salesman the keys.

"I'll take it."

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With no new injury news for Leeds they made their way south to Ipswich, Redknapp fully intending to name the same starting line up with the exception of White who would be replaced by Parker, Kadar taking his place on the bench. Ipswich had endured a tough season but looked as though they would escape relegation being eight points clear of the drop zone with just four games left though a defeat could change all that should teams below them manage to win.

npower Championship

14/04/2012

Ipswich Town vs Leeds Utd

Formation: 4-2-2-2

GK: Alex McCarthy

RB: Paul Connolly

LB: Ben Parker

CB: Craig Dawson

CB: Matthew Kilgallon

CM: Jonny Howson ©

CM: David Jones

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Magaye Gueye

ST: Matt Warner

ST: Ross McCormack

SUBS:

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Stewart Parnaby

CB: Tamas Kadar

MC: Mika Vayrynen

ST: Luciano Beccio

The sun sat beaming high in the sky making for a unusually warm April day as the teams and fans gave a minute applause in respect of Trevour Francis who suffered a heart attack days earlier, all around football wishing him a quick recovery before the game kicked off with a nice early chance falling the way of Gueye. He collected Snodgrass' cross to the back post but after coming inside his right footed effort lacked power but the same couldn't be said for the next chance on goal. With less the 5 minutes on the clock Ipswich went up the other end, Dallku and Fernandez exchanging passes before the latter collected a pass at a tight angle and fired past an almost shocked looking McCarthy at the near post. Redknapp once again letting his players know how upset he was at yet another lapse in concentration. Straight from the kick off though Leeds went close to getting back on level terms almost instantly as Matt and Snodgrass worked themselves down the right before the latter crossed for the former, Matt's diving glance of a header narrowly missing out on nestling in the bottom corner as once again his weak heading ability came to the fore but redemption wasn't far away. Snodgrass picked up a pass from Connolly on the right side and dinked a pass infield to Matt, catching his marker flat footed he turned and burst towards goal. He took a moment to set himself before hammering a shot goalwards which beat Stockdale all hands up and had them level again with barely 10 minutes gone.

The game calmed following the two early goals, both sides now seemingly content for the time being to just feel each other out though there was still the odd chance. Dawson had a header from McCormack's corner cleared off the line while Jones went close with a free kick but before too long Leeds were clearly the dominant side and the scoreline would reflect that. Snodgrass once more feeding the ball into Matt from the right, this time he dinked a pass forward and after shrugging off the challenge of Ingimarsson McCormack slotted past the stranded Stockdale. Though Ipswich tried to create an opening, the chances they did fashion failed to challenge McCarthy. Leeds continued to threaten at the other end however and soon enough they extended their lead. Matt sprang loose down the right wing before cutting a pass back to Snodgrass who applied a low cross to the edge of the 6 yard box where McCormack nipped in ahead of Dallku as he attempted to clear, the ball trickling into the back of the net to heap more woe on the home side. Soon enough it was half time and Redknapp, while praising the efforts of the first half, warned his players to keep their focus "Great half lads but this lot are on the brink, they are still dangerous so keep your heads on the job, don't get ahead of yourselves and put the game to bed nice and early.... You got this... Come on!!" The message was heard loud and clear as their focus, much like the first half, was squarely on the Ipswich goal.

Gueye's run down the left wing ended with a cross to Snodgrass arriving at the back post and though his cleaver diving header was saved, the loose ball fell right at Matt's feet and he obliged by finishing it off with a left footed effort to send the travelling support wild. After the restart the pressure continued to be applied in unrelenting fashion to the nervous looking Ipswich back line, Gueye hitting the side netting with a shot from an accute angle while McCormack went one step further by firing home what would have been his hat-trick had it not been for the flag that was raised unflinchingly by the linesman. With just over 20 minutes left and with another midweek game on the horizon Redknapp hauled off both Howson and a tired looking Snodgrass, Vayrynen and Beccio coming on as McCormack took up position on the right wing. Almost straight away though another goal followed but this time it went the way of the home side. Fernandez returned a throw in to Cresswell's feet on the left hand side and his looping cross produced a header of the same nature from Murphy, McCarthy's fingertip's unable to keep it out as Ipswich got a life line. You'd be forgiven for thinking at this point that a nail biting barrage of pressure was to follow but almost straight from kick off the gap was restored. McCarthy's short free kick to Parker on the left saw him play the ball to Gueye and with time and space to turn he dinked in an inviting through ball. Matt got away from his man with ease and after bringing the ball under control with his left he dispatched a low shot from 18 yards out to complete his hat trick.

Ipswich, though still trying, once more sat pinned in their own area as Leeds put wave after wave of pressure to them and once again they eventually buckled. Vayrynen controlled Parker's pass into his feet, turned and played a low ball forward to Matt who, after a cheeky flick, got away from Loovens and with the goal at his mercy once more he made no mistake in bagging his 4th goal of the game. Shortly after the full time whistle sounded with the travelling support sounding their approval of truly top class performance, the game in question was Matt's 150th for the Leeds and the goals saw fit to fire him into 2nd in the league's goal scoring charts while Jonny Howson also reached a landmark, his being for 200 league games for the club which, at 23, was massively impressive.

(

)

Ipswich Town 2 (Fernandez 4; Murphy 72)

Leeds Utd 6 (Warner 10, 48, 74 & 88; McCormack 22, 35)

MoM: Matt Warner (Leeds)

Att: 16,571

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While many sides sent messages of support and hopes of recovery for Trevor Francis who suffered a heart attack, the football was once again rocked as the collapse and sad death of former Italy U21 midfielder Piermario Morosini during a Serie B game. Following a similar incident with Fabrice Muamba just a month earlier many players were now requesting cardiac exams while multiple authorities were calling for them to be made more frequently by all professional clubs.

The win for Leeds took them past the 100 goal mark but still they sat 2nd in the league as West Ham managed to sneak past Crystal Palace in a 2-1 win but it also meant for Leeds needed just four points from their next four games to guarantee themselves a place in the top flight next season but they could also rubber stamp a return to the big time with a win against Hull should other results also go their way, namely West Ham beating Leicester. There was also the guarantee of at least a play off place for Reading after they beat Cardiff by 2-0 while Leicester dropped points in a 1-1 draw at home to Burnley but stayed in 3rd place just two points ahead of 4th placed Reading. Elsewhere in the F.A Cup semi final Liverpool beat Tottenham by 3-1 courtesy of a Luis Suarez brace and a Ledley King own goal, Gallas getting the goal for Spurs but the real shock came in the other semi final. Peter Odemwingie's double either side of a Niko Kranjar strike saw West Brom beat Man Utd to set up a date at Wembley in May against Liverpool. There would be little time for Leeds to catch their breath with only three days between the win against Ipswich and their final home game of the season against Hull. The squad remained near enough unchanged with the exception of Clayton coming onto the bench in place of Vayrynen.

npower Championship

17/04/2012

Leeds Utd vs Hull City

Formation: 4-2-2-2

GK: Alex McCarthy

RB: Paul Connolly

LB: Ben Parker

CB: Craig Dawson

CB: Matthew Kilgallon

CM: Jonny Howson ©

CM: David Jones

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Magaye Gueye

ST: Matt Warner

ST: Ross McCormack

SUBS:

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Stewart Parnaby

CB: Tamas Kadar

MC: Adam Clayton

ST: Luciano Beccio

The fans turned out in their droves for the final home game of the season which, depending on the final score from the West Ham vs Leicester game, would either see Leeds promoted or go top of the table. The team was on a high as the referee blew his whistle to signal the start, Matt and McCormack getting proceedings underway with Leeds just edging the early exchanges, the most notable chance falling the way of Howson, his effort giving Basso something to think about but to the joy of the enthusiastic home support the first goal didn't take long to follow. Howson and Jones exchanged passes before the latter moved the ball forward to McCormack and with a quick glance up he played a smart through ball for Matt who beat the offside trap, rounded the keeper and netted his 10th goal in his last five games to send the hardcore support in the Revie End into party mode. The goal instantly raised the volume inside the ground as mexican waves and songs broke out and though it wasn't a constant barrage of pressure from the home side, they were looking the more likely to add to the scoring. Snodgrass was the next to go close as his long run across field yielded a shot which had Basso well beaten but luckily for him the effort just harmlessly grazed the bar. Things were going well but, as there always seemed to be, no plan came without a hitch and as Hull's Dawson whipped in a free kick from the right Dawson of Leeds was somehow ajudged to have fouled Garcia, the referee pointing to the spot in an instant. The chance was handed to former Leeds player Barmby, his attempt ending up in the top corner to level the scores once more. It turned out to be the last piece of real action of the half.

In the changing rooms the volume was just as loud, "We have not been anywhere near good enough. It's time we matured, i'm tired of seeing have to make mistakes before we really start playing! Win the half.... 45 minutes.... You ARE better than them, you just have to show everyone so get your f**kin arses in gear and do the work!"/

The half started in even fashion, Garcia and Snodgrass having tame but on target efforts which each keeper made light work of. The first truly good save the half came from Basso as Howson picked out a long ball over the top for Matt to chase, his low curling attempt being tipped up and away from goal, McShane clearing with McCormack baring down on the loose ball. The game though, in fairness was a drab affair peppered with the odd spell of pressure and chances from the home side though very rarely did it take the visiting keeper out of his comfort zone. The pressure continued, Leeds seemingly getting closer and closer to retaking the lead, one such instance coming from a corner as Jones found Dawson at the back post but his power header goalwards was cleared off the line by the head of post minder Rosenior to add to the frustration of both the players and the fans, the latter becoming more vocal as chance after chance went begging, Gueye, McCormack and Snodgrass all finding themselves with chances to put Leeds back in front but all buckling when it mattered most. Subs were getting warm on the sidelines while Redknapp took to his technical area over and over again to try and inspire his players to show the lethal touch.

As the half progressed further again though Basso became a cause for frustration when a goal looked nailed on. Snodgrass tried and failed to find space down the right before playing back to Connolly who looped an effort to the back post first time, Gueye rose brilliantly and headed down only for Basso to get down equally well and palm it clear, Koren eventually hoofing it into touch. Just when things were starting to look desperate, the form striker in the league decided to step up. Working from the back in a patient manner soon the ball found it's self at the feet of of Gueye who played it back to Jones in space. With a brief look up he hit it first time over the defence, Matt breaking clear of the flat footed back line and with Basso closing in the shot and finish he produced had it all, power, placement and the right amount of flair. The entire bench, along with the rest of the stadium, was on their feet as a few fans found themselves onto the pitch to celebrate with the crowd of players that had gathered around the corner flag. After alot of commotion the stewards and the referee finally restored order, Matt taking one last look back and delivering a Leeds salute to those in the crowded stands. With the 3 minutes of added on time nearing it's end there was an almighty cheer that soon made it's way around the ground, the stewards lined up in large numbers to keep the fans in place. Matt couldn't help but wonder what it was, had Leicester beaten West Ham? Had they drawn? Had West Ham pipped Leicester? As the whistle blew for full time the crowd once again erupted in a flurry of joy, Matt giving them a wave before trotting over to the touch line only to be met by Clayton who pretty much dived on him.

"What? What happened?"

The smile said it all really.

"West Ham won 2-1.... Were going to the Premier League!"

Soon the word spread to the whole team, the celebrations on the pitch eventually decending into an all out pitch invasion. Players mobbed by fans both young and old, some, Matt included, were hoisted onto their shoulders and carried around for what seemed like a good half hour. Leeds were going home....

(

)

Leeds Utd 2 (Warner 9, 88)

Hull City 1 (Barmby pen 40)

MoM: Matt Warner (Leeds)

Att: 35,027

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Cheers mate, second half of the season was a real slog but still got a couple of games left to go so stay tuned!

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Matt and Redknapp stood ready for questions to be fired their way, the changing room area noisy and hectic as celebrations were in full swing, champagne already flying everywhere.

"Jamie, your first season as a manager and you've guided Leeds back to the Premiership when many said you would struggle to survive past Christmas, whats going through your head right now?"

He laughed for a moment as he was soaked in champagne, "Honestly? I've been thinking we should have won by more tonight but at the end of the day were up, we'll be playing Premier League football next season and the only thing that would make it better would be going up at Champions. As for those who gave me and this team little chance, well just look at us now!"

"And Matt, to score in such dramatic fashion, that will surely live long in the memory won't it?"

Matt nodded, taking a gulp from the champagne bottle in his hand, "Oh for sure.... I said i had unfinished business here when i arrived so errrrr... To win it with a late goal, in a tight game, infront of such a large and amazing crowd.... I can't think of many better moments if i'm honest."

"Is it now job done or will you be gunning to snatch the title from West Ham Jamie?"

"Were not done yet, we have two games left and as long as the title in within touching distance we'll keep chasing.... They'll be no let up on our end i assure you."

"Well guys congratulations once more, i'm going to try and find somewhere dry...." The reporter said as more champagne was sprayed his way.

He left with the players singing "Marching On Together." at the top of their lungs. In truth it wasn't the greatest game of football ever but the greatest games aren't about the full ninety minutes, they are about those little moments which can turn a drab draw into a dramatic win. In the hours that followed Matt receieved numerous texts and phone calls from family and friends, his brother Chris and best friend James in particular giving him and Leeds the seal of approval, one of them sending a text that read,

"You lot were top notch all season, rode your blip out well and hit form at the right time.... Fully deserved.... Just keep your eye out for an invite to Wembley!"

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The following morning Matt woke to a shuffling noise just next to him that, thanks to the large amounts of champagne he'd downed the night before, seemed like a jack hammer. Rolling over the find the source she paused slightly while collecting her clothes.

"Hi." Rachel, the club receptionist, whispered.

Matt took a moment, his mind trying to track back to the events of the previous night with little luck.

"Did we....." He lifted the covers to take a peek, finding himself naked, "... We did didn't we?"

She nodded, eye's scanning the room every now and then for any piece of clothing she may have missed.

"What time is it?"

She managed to get a glance at her watch without dropping anything, "Nearly eight..."

"Then why the f**k are we awake? Lets go back to sleep."

"I have work in an hour.... Listen can we keep this between us? I don't want this to jeopardise my job and.... I sort of.... Have a boyfriend. Can we keep this to ourselves?"

Matt rubbed his eye's and yawned, half paying attention to what she was saying, "What... Oh yeah yeah, no worries.... My lips are sealed.... You know your way out?"

She nodded while slipping her shoes on.

"Cool... I'm going back to sleep then, nighty nighty."

With that he rolled back over and instantly back into a deep sleep. An hour or so passed before he was drawn from his drunken slumber once more, this time the vibration of his phone causing his to groan in frustration,

"What?"

"Matty it's Rory, you seen the papers?" He said referencing the back page coverage of their promotion and that of a well known visitor.

"Dude, seriously, all i want is some sleep..."

"Zidane was at the game yesterday, we spoke about the offer. I've looked it over twice and it looks good."

"What are the numbers?" He sighed, rubbing his eye's.

"Three years, £75,000 a week.... £1m loyalty bonus and a nice tidy fee for myself."

"As always..."

"So what do you say..?" Matt paused for a moment, sencing Rory's eagerness on the other end of the phone.

"Has there been anything from Leeds yet?

"Sorry mate.... I've not heard anything.... Maybe they are waiting until the season is done but this Madrid offer may not wait..."

"Listen let me sleep on it for a few days, i'll let you know soon ok...."

"Ok, i'll call you soon."

With that Rory ended the call and turned back to his desk, lifting two sheets of paper from the dark wooden surface so he could look them over once more. One from Real Madrid while the other bore the crest of Leeds United at the top of it. With a deep breath he turned his chair slighty towards the small shredding machine that sat next to his desk. He paused for a moment before feeding the Leeds offer into it, the device bursting into life and make short work of the paper it was given before falling silent once again. Rory glanced back to the Madrid offer, eye's focused on the six figure number set out as an agent fee....

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Three days earlier...

A single light hung from the ceiling, lighting the dark round table below as the men around it sat in silence, the thick clouds of cigarette and cigar smoke hanging in the air around them. Rory glanced down at his hand and back to the chips laid out in the middle of the table, the cool sum of £500,000 arranged in a make shift pile, just waiting for his opponent to take the bait. The man across from him, an older gentleman and the only one other than Rory still in the game, just stared across the table at him before uttering the words Rory had been hoping for.

"All in..." He said and deep tone, pushing the remaining chips into the middle of the table.

The dealer nodded, the sum increasing to close to the one million mark as Rory was left glancing at the cards on the table, two eights, one of clubs and one of diamonds, a 9 of clubs, jack of spades and an ace of diamonds. Rory's heart was pounding, partly due to the large sum that was due to become his but also partly due to the two gentleman stood away from the table just behind him. The dealer called for them to reveal their cards, Rory confidently placing his down, a ace of clubs and a eight of spades,

"Full house.." Said the dealer, Rory's hands eager to reach across and grab the money which would finally get him out of the mess he found himself in. The dealer turned to the man across from Rory as he looked up, his look of disappointment turning to one that sent waves of dread through Rory.

He laid his cards down on the table, a 10 of hearts and a queen of diamonds.

"Straight flush..." Rory's face dropped as the dealer pushed the chips out of reach, the feeling that he'd had in the pit of his stomach all night increased ten fold in a matter of seconds as the two gentleman who had been stood static made their way to the table. They stood next to Rory, who by now had his head in his hands, before lifting him from the table and leading him out of the back door to an alley.

"Ah Rory, i assume all didn't go to plan then?" The man said, casually smoking his cigar.

"Look, i can get the money... Please Mr. Morris i'm begging you i got something big coming up..." Rory pleaded.

The man laughed for a moment, tossing the last of his cigar on the floor before angling a solid punch into Rory's mid section.

"Seeing as your having to come to me to fund your little habbit i highly doubt, having just lost another one hundred thousand, that you can come up with over seven times that..." He said, straightening his jacket before giving his two heavies a nod, "Now Jack and Phil here don't like you very much... But don't let it be said that i'm not fair... You have two weeks to find my money otherwise my two friends here are going to do some very nasty things to you."

He slipped into the back of the Jaguar that sat waiting silently before rolling down the window.

"And just so you know i'm serious..." Not a second past from the end of the short statement did a flurry of punches rain down on Rory from the two large men, leaving him in a crumpled heap on the floor before they also got into the car.

"Two weeks Rory, don't disappoint me." He said, closing the window as the car departed down the alley way.

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The Tuesday and Wednesday night also saw action of a different kind in the form of the Champions League which was now at the semi final stage. In the big tie of the quarter final Real Madrid finally got the better of their bitter rivals Barcelona in a 3-1 win on aggregate. Arsenal ended Olympiacos' European adventure, over coming them by 4-3 over the two legs. Man Utd demolished Benfica by 9-2 after a 6-0 2nd leg win over their Portugese opponents at Old Trafford while Chelsea made it three English teams in the semi final thanks to a last minute Didier Drogba goal at Stamford Bridge to send the blues through 3-2 on aggregate against FC Bayern. In the semi finals, of which the 2nd leg took place on the same night as Leeds' win over Hull, Chelsea faced off against Arsenal while Real Madrid drew Man Utd. In the first leg Chelsea blitzed their London rivals by 3-0 before losing the 2nd leg by 1-0 to seal Chelsea's spot in the final to be held at the Allianz Arena while in the other contest Real Madrid started well by beating Man Utd by 4-2 before the second leg yielded only a 1-1 draw meaning Jose Mourinho would face off against his former club while Villas-Boas would face his former mentor.

In Leeds though it was back to business as usual. There was one small change to the line up which had won promotion five days earlier, Kisnorbo deemed as fit to return to the defence at the expence of Kilgallon who had done well in his short time at the club, a point Redknapp had made a mental note of for when the transfer window opened again. Despite the promotion midweek the coaching staff had drilled them slightly harder than normal in training with the league title still very much up for grabs. Nottingham Forest went into the game without a win in their last five games but as the manager was keen to point out, being title contenders against a team with nothing to play for painted a target on their back, both Forest and Millwall would be intent of taking a scalp and denying them the title of champions.

npower Championship

21/04/2012

Nottm Forest vs Leeds Utd

Formation: 4-2-2-2

GK: Alex McCarthy

RB: Paul Connolly

LB: Ben Parker

CB: Craig Dawson

CB: Patrick Kisnorbo

CM: Jonny Howson ©

CM: David Jones

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Magaye Gueye

ST: Matt Warner

ST: Ross McCormack

SUBS:

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Stewart Parnaby

CB: Tamas Kadar

MC: Adam Clayton

ST: Luciano Beccio

It was easy to see that the city ground was a sell out, their chairman midweek also going as far as to see this would be an unforgettable match of football for home and away fans alike. The sun was once more out in force as the teams stepped onto the pitch with both sides being greeted enthusiasticly by their sets of fans. Forest won the coin toss and opted to kick off and the game started, slowly, at first before both sides managed to calve chances out. McCormack's found Dawson leaping highest at the back post but his header ended up behind the goal while Forest almost got lucky with a chance of their own. Findley picked up the ball in the middle and looked for a pass out wide to Reid but in blocking it, Howson sent the ball right onto Tudgay's run but luckily for him McCarthy closed the angle and managed to tip it wide of the mark. The resulting corner once more made trouble for the Leeds defence, Greening's attempt seeking out Morgan who beat Dawson in the air and near enough everyone else only for Parker to clear off the line with his head. The game once more calmed slightly, some fan's voicing their frustration at the chess like nature of the match but soon enough they were both creating chances again, Leeds coming closest as Gueye's run down the left ended with what was a poor cross, McCormack though snatched the ball from Morgan and laid it back in for Matt but his high shot was straight at Camp from 8 yards. Though there was plenty of effort on both sides neither was able to come up with anything truly clear cut and as half time arrived the scores remain all square.

"It's lazy boys..... I've seen chances ready to open up but were unwilling to play the killer ball! Get your heads up alright.... Nothing in this world worth having comes easy so if you really want to go up as champions your gonna have to work damn hard in the next forty-five minutes...." He urged as the players sat, listening intently. Each department and some individual players were given instruction. Matt and McCormack were given a slight talking to, "I've not heard a peep out of you two today.... Start talking! I want goals off the both of you today!"

With his words still ringing in their ears they headed back out and they seemed to do the trick. Matt managed to find space to shoot with Camp saving but the corner that followed didn't have the same outcome, much to the dismay of the home fans. Jones left footed corner once more found Dawson's leap at the back stick, this time his header carried both power and placement as Camp failed to keep it out. With their tails up Leeds pressed on, McCormack and Matt both having chances saved well by Camp in the Forest goal, the latter of the two coming in for some stick from the home support due to his Leicester roots. Forest weren't without their threats though as Findley showed as he zipped away for Kisnorbo and with McCarthy racing out he managed to side step him and shoot, but the effort was wayward and rolled harmlessly out for a goal kick. The disappointment on his face was clear to see and it only served to grow a minute later. Howson collected the ball on the just outside the 18 yard box, turned and passed to Matt who set off, slipping away from three Forest defenders before laying up a short low pass right to an unmarked Snodgrass to fire into the roof of the net with half an hour left to go. Following the goal Forest began to mount a continued spell of pressure, Leeds standing strong and McCarthy making a couple of good saves in the process, most notable of which denied Reid after he was gifted time and space by Connolly. Going into the final 10 minutes the score remained at 2-0, chances and possession starting to even out once more as both sides entered the home stretch. In the final few minutes Redknapp decided to make three changes in one fell swoop. Parnaby came in for Connolly, Clayton replaced a tired looking Howson and Gueye made way for Beccio with McCormack going onto the left wing for the final few minutes. The changes, though time consuming, failed to yield any goals and with the full time whistle came another loud cheer from the large away following though the cheer itself carried more than a hint of relief.

"It was a good professional performance boys in the second half lads, well done. We've done what we needed to on our end, now it's down to Reading to do us a favour!"

(

)

Nottm Forest 0

Leeds Utd 2 (Dawson 47; Snodgrass 61)

MoM: Craig Dawson (Leeds)

Att: 30,576

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Following the game the players were rushed onto the bus with the radio already tuned in to hear the Reading-West Ham game. As things stood before kick off Leeds were top and anything but a win for the away side would see that stay unchanged going into the final game of the season. It was hushed on the bus as they listened intently, each one of them a Reading fan for the next 90 minutes.

"Short corner by Harte to Keogh.... Who plays it back. Harte looks for space to cross and does to... KARACAAAN!!!!..... I think it may have taken a deflection though.... Yes, the cross played in by Harte, Karacan volleys but the ball takes a slight deflection off the shoulder of Robson-Kanu. Reading 1-0 West Ham."

The bus erupted for a moment in a haze of joy before they once again settled in, nerves back to jangling with each minute that passed. The action died down and before they knew it they were back a Elland Road. There was a rush to get off the bus and into the clubs bar but suddenly they all stopped....

"Lansbury now, looking to cross.... Oh superb tackle from McGugan and Reading can break now. Robson-Kanu finds a ball to Quintero but he's crowded out..... Cuts it inside to Karacan and he plays in Keogh.... Andy Keogh with time and space through on gooooal.... SCORES! A brilliant counter attack from Reading, Keogh, the former Leeds man even now doing favours for his former club with Reading now 2-0 up with just under twenty-five minutes left to go..."

Again there was punching of the air, high fives and cheering, Keogh it seemed still intent on helping Leeds despite his refusal to sign on a perminent basis. They waited for a few moments before deciding to make a break for the players lounge, the game being shown on the BBC. Things looked to be just about done and dusted, Reading sweeping the ball around with confidence until....

"Diop hoofs a ball forward for Nolan to chase..... Nolan with the ball now, Carew in the centre screaming for it..... 2-1! Nolan picks out a low cross for John Carew who slides in and gives West Ham the life line they have been seeking with seven minutes left in the game...."

Matt dropped his head into his hands for a moment, some sat silently while a couple of defenders went as far as to question the marking. Still soon they settled into a dead silence once more, every now and then each of them glancing at the clock in the corner of the screen with time seemingly wanting to drag it's feet in the final moments of the game.

"Belluschi now with the ball.... Driving down the right looking for one last chance.... The cross comes in and... Khumalo clear into touch..... THATS IT! The referee calls time on the game, a big win for Reading which all but guarantee's them 3rd in the league but the bigger news is West Ham drop to 2nd with the defeat, two points behind Leeds who won earlier in the day with both sides set to be in London for their final games in a weeks time...."

The room took a collective deep breath and a sigh of relief before a few low key cheers. Redknapp rose from his seat and turned the TV off.

"It's yours to win now boys..... But also yours to lose..... Off you go, get rested up and back in on Monday morning."

Each one finished their drinks before filtering out safe in the knowledge that one more win would give them a league title.

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The week seemed to fly by, news of Madrid offer to Matt now being speculated on a daily basis. The players spoke to him about it once or twice but oddly enough Redknapp, nor anyone else in the coaching staff even batted an eye lid which left Matt wondering slighty. Soon though it was Saturday morning and the squad boarded the bus for the trip down to London, the players also being made aware that their game would now be televised along with West Ham's home clash with Birmingham. Burnley and Brighton would also recieve television coverage with a slip for either side meaning they could forfeit their place in the play-off's with both Bristol City and Birmingham ready to pounce. Relegation had already been sealed for those that were due to go down, Watford, Peterborough and Coventry all set to drop into League One for the 2012/13 season come the conclusion of the days games. Soon enough though Sunday and kick off time arrived, the whole day whizzing by in a haze of activity until Redknapp gathered everyone around for his pre-game talk.

"Twenty years....... Twenty years..... Thats how long it's been since the fans of Leeds United were able to celebrate their team winning a trophy. Some may say that it's only the Championship but to them it isn't.... To them this is what they have been begging for.... What they've dreamed about and.... What they have DESERVED. Right now you've got one hand on the title.... Seven miles from here West Ham are ready to take that from you.... And the fans that follow you rain or shine, up and down the country, week in and week out.... Do it for the medal, do it for the plaudits but most importantly..." He paused, pointing upwards as they could all faintly hear the travelling support singing "Marching on Together" in the stands above them, "..... Do it for them!"

npower Championship

29/04/2012

Millwall vs Leeds Utd

Formation: 4-2-2-2

GK: Alex McCarthy

RB: Paul Connolly

LB: Ben Parker

CB: Craig Dawson

CB: Patrick Kisnorbo

CM: Jonny Howson ©

CM: David Jones

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Magaye Gueye

ST: Matt Warner

ST: Ross McCormack

SUBS:

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Stewart Parnaby

CB: Tamas Kadar

MC: Adam Clayton

ST: Luciano Beccio

The team was unchanged from that which beat Nottm Forest just over a week before. The home fan's hostile towards a team they saw as their rivals thanks largely to off field battles more than those on field as the side stepped out into the late April sun. Millwall got the game underway and soon enough gave the home support something to cheer about. Henderson collected the ball with his back to goal before knocking it back to Trotter who, with time and space on his side, played a very simple ball back through to Henderson. With no one tracking him and McCarthy rishing to close the angle he struck low under the young keeper to put Millwall a goal to the good inside of 3 minutes. The early going saw Millwall keeping the ball, running Leeds in circles at times to the annoyance of Redknapp on the sidelines. It took a full 15 minutes before Leeds fashioned their first chance of the game, Dawson getting his head to a Jones corner, his effort too high to trouble Forde in the home goal. Leeds began to grow in confidence after their slow start, Forde starting to get tested on multiple occassions with both Matt and Gueye being given the chance to level the scores without success, Millwall proving difficult to break down in the early going but it wasn't all one way. Bostock came close from a free kick in dangerous territory while Marquis was set loose by a Hackett through ball but his effort was blazed wildly over the bar.

Leeds though was starting to fashion the more dangerous of the chances as the half drew toward it's end. Gueye's having an effort well saved before McCormack reacted brilliantly to head back towards goal, Forde only just managing to keep the ball out before it was cleared. Soon enough though Probert had seen enough and called an end to the half with news from West Ham serving to calm them slightly as their title rivals found themselves both a goal and a man down at half time, Ilunga getting his marching orders after just 6 minutes. Redknapp though was less than pleased,

"What the f**k was that? Are you trying to throw this game away?! FORGET whats happening at West Ham.... We can't afford to think because they are a goal and a man down that they can't still win.... We've won games when down a man and they are just as good as us. Craig, Paddy, Matt.... I want better from you three for a start, get your arses in gear... Time to s**t or get off the pot!"

The second half started as the first ended with Leeds in control, Snodgrass's early effort again forcing Forde to push it away, this time for a corner. Dawson once again got on the end of it as a light rain began to fall, this time his effort was denied by the cross bar before Millwall cleared their lines but the home side continued to pose problems, Trotter with a shot from distance which McCarthy did well to tip over the bar. The game fell into a back and forth motion as each side took turns in testing the opposition keeper, the clock ticking past the hour mark in the process with the score staying locked at 1-0. Soon though Redknapp was casting glances back to his sub bench while talking to Snodin about possible options. Snodgrass, after looking a little worse for ware, was replaced by Beccio which once more meant that McCormack would go onto the left wing with just under 15 minutes remaining in the game. Though Leeds tried, they couldn't seem to break them down, Millwall shutting up shop and looking the far more confident of the sides. Smith's throw in from the right found Hackett who nipped clear of Parker and crossed at the near post to an unmarked Henderson to head goalwards, McCarthy saved brilliantly and the ball dropped for Howson to bring it clear. He took a touch and sent a ball over the top for Matt to chase down the left, Mkandwire trying in vein to keep up with him and as he reached the byline he looped a cross in. There was very little in way of support but in fairytale fashion Beccio arrived surrounded by blue shirts and rose highest to apply a low powerful header into the bottom corner infront of the away support. They went mad, a few breaking clear of the stewards to celebrate with their heroes as Leeds drew level with just 2 minutes of injury time left in the game. The whole team moved to the corner to celebrate a goal which could see them perhaps snatch the title. Eventually order was restored but time was short and before too long Lee Probert blew the final whistle to confirm their new status as Champions.

(

)

Millwall 1 (Henderson 3)

Leeds Utd 1 (Beccio 90+1)

MoM: Darius Henderson (Millwall)

Att: 19,734

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