Leeds Lose Hulse And First Pre-Season Match

Last updated : 14 July 2005 By Kevin Markey
Thanks to Paul Dews of the Yorkshire Evening Post for this match report;

Kevin Blackwell made full use of his squad of 23 and fielded a different team in each half, except keeper Ian Bennett, who played the whole game.

The hosts had an overly-physical approach and given some of the tackles on display, Leeds were lucky to escape with just one injury, Rob Hulse was left with a damaged ankle after an horrendous foul, and as pre-season friendlies go this was as tough as it gets.

FK Haugesund are already in the middle of their season, and with a bigger crowd than usual for them, officially 3,780, they provided Leeds with a stern test.

Many of the crowd were Whites fans and of the squad, only Ian Moore (shin splints) and Simon Walton (hamstring) missed out on the night.

The two most promising individual displays came during the second half when Dan Harding and Eddie Lewis made their full debuts. They linked up well on the left and both players showed good pace and intelligent delivery and given the good work of the returning Stephen Crainey, making his first appearance since October 2004, and Danny Pugh in the first half, the signs are looking good for Leeds on the left-hand side.

Also pleasing were the performances of midfielders Seth Johnson and Eirik Bakke during the first half. They showed no ill-effects from their long-standing injuries and put some real energy and steel into the midfield.

Johnson is going through his first full pre-season since joining Leeds and on the evidence of last night and his efforts so far on the training ground he will be a valuable asset to Leeds this season.

It was the first time for 18 months he had played alongside Bakke in the centre and the Norwegian, who hasn't started a game since the pre-season tour to Sweden last summer, also put himself about to good effect.

During that opening 45 minutes, Leeds looked comfortable and assured and, while there was a degree of rustiness, they enjoyed plenty of possession and had a couple of sustained spells of pressure.

Jermaine Wright looked good on the right-flank, while David Healy provided a hard-working display up front. His partnership with Hulse was short-lived, though, after the £1m striker limped out of the game, following a reckless challenge by Haugesund's Milan Kojic.

Hulse was replaced by Angolan international Freddy Sandos who, for all his running and enthusiasm, failed to excite in the same way that he has on the training ground.

Neither side really looked like breaking the deadlock in that opening period, though, and meaningful action was in short supply.

Haugesund keeper Jan Kjell Larsen was called upon three times in the space of 90 seconds to deny Wright, Hulse and Healy while the home side's best opportunity came when Rune Wiken rattled the bar with a header.

Blackwell then performed his changes at the interval and within 15 minutes of the re-start United fell behind to a sloppy goal. Stig Krohn Haaland whipped over a cross from the right and an unmarked Wiken ghosted in at the far post to head home with ease.

The manager had stated publicly that results in Norway aren't paramount to his plans, but it was disappointing to see the hosts handed the lead in such easy fashion.

While the goal may have been tame, the niggly undercurrent which prevailed during the opening period remained in evidence. Shaun Derry had a spat while four Haugesund defenders were involved in an altercation with Michael Ricketts.

The goal did spur Leeds into action, though, and they regained their grip on the game without ever threatening to seize the contest by the scruff of the neck.

Harding, a constant threat, was unfortunate when his cross-cum-shot was pushed over the crossbar and then Matthew Spring, who replaced Wright on the right-hand side of midfield, came within inches of grabbing an equaliser, but his shot skidded inches wide.

Lewis also pushed and probed and he provided some excellent service without getting the result his efforts deserved.

The hosts did have a late opportunity to add a second, but Bennett came out quickly to avert the danger, while at the other end, Gylfi Einarsson narrowly failed to get the vital touch after good work by the industrious Derry.

At the whistle, the home players celebrated in front of their supporters as if they had won the promotion they desperately crave while Leeds boss Blackwell was left with plenty of food for thought.

There were some encouraging signs, some frustrating moments, and an expected level of rustiness, but Blackwell was pragmatic in his post-match assessment that it was the ideal warm-up for his troops.

Local hero Bakke was, unsurprisingly, given the man of the match award at a special ceremony held afterwards, but the biggest plusses were undoubtedly the efforts of Lewis and Harding who look like the real deal.

Haugesund: Larsen, Koch, Kojic, Andersen, Karlsen, Wiken, Kristiansen, Grindhaug, Andreassen, De Serpa, Nordtveit.
Subs all used: Steinar Eikje, F Haaland, S Haaland, Skogland, Warholm, Oddenes, Sten Ove Eike, Staveland.

Leeds (1st half team): Bennett, Kelly, Butler, Kilgallon, Crainey, Wright, Bakke, Johnson, Pugh, Hulse (Sandos 37), Healy.
(2nd half team): Bennett, Richardson, Carlisle, Gregan, Harding, Spring, Derry, Einarsson, Lewis, Ricketts, Sandos.
Attendance: 3,780.