What The Locals Say.........

Last updated : 06 October 2003 By Kevin Markey
Our second look at the locals is from Paul Dews of the Yorkshire Evening Post, he writes;

Don't you just love it when a plan comes together.

After another week of turmoil at Elland Road, it was left to the players to have the final word on Saturday when they proved their support for manager Peter Reid in the only way possible.

It was a performance that was always going to be scrutinised, given the events surrounding the club, and it turned out to be one of the best since Reid's arrival.

If there were any doubts about how Reid's Leeds would respond to the pressure, they were dispelled right from the off as United tore into Blackburn with an attitude that said, yes, we do care.

Watching from the sidelines, Reid looked like he had all the troubles in the world on his shoulders, but he mellowed as the game wore on and his jubilant salute after the game said more than words ever could.

He'd been to hell and back, yet still emerged victorious.

He is a proud man and his battlers gave him their all.

If the day was all about the manager, then the supporters also made their feelings known in no uncertain terms about the position of Reid.

It took just 20 minutes for the Revie Stand to start chanting the manager's name. Terry Venables had to wait a full seven months before he was afforded a similar reception and that was only as an act of defiance to the board.

But Reid is winning the people of Leeds over. His reluctance to become involved in political shenanigans ensured, whatever happened on Saturday, he would take his place in the dug-out with his head held high.

Just for good measure, the manager re-shuffled his pack and there was more of a British bulldog spirit about his troops than there has been.

That was largely down to the tactical switches made by Reid and the inclusion of a certain David Batty.

Watching Batty stick two fingers up at all his critics as he rolled back the years with a superb display was a pleasure.

They said he wasn't fit or he wasn't right mentally. Some suggested he couldn't last 90 minutes in the Premiership. Were you watching Mr Venables?

Batty was simply an inspiration for United. He hassled and harried throughout and never stopped working. He even pushed forward with alarming regularity and was causing mayhem when United scored their second goal.

Batty's display epitomised that of United. Tigerish, committed and determined.
Batty and Jody Morris won the battle in midfield early doors and United never looked back.

Seth Johnson was lively on the left while Jermaine Pennant was a constant threat on the right.

At the back, United looked like a different side from the one which had leaked 10 goals in their three previous Premiership outings.

Skipper Dominic Matteo renewed his partnership with Zoumana Camara and the Frenchman looked in far better shape. Camara is still prone to the odd blunder, but he looked solid and composed again, and dealt with everything that came his way with the minimum of fuss.

With Matteo at the heart of the defence, Salomon Olembe became the fifth player this season to try his luck at left-back and, maybe, just maybe, the Cameroon international could be the answer to United's problems.

Olembe, who has played in the position before, got better and better as the game wore on and his positive attitude was another major plus.

The organisation at the back and the strength of the midfield allowed Leeds to dominate the contest and, for the first time in weeks, they created chances by the bucket-load.

On another day the tireless Alan Smith would have had a hat-trick such was his presence, while the much-maligned Mark Viduka turned in his best 45 minutes of the season.

Viduka is becoming a target for United fans, but he showed plenty of craft and guile and was at the heart of almost all the attacking forays. He ran hard and worked well, and looked as though even he had a point to prove.

Sadly, his substitution on 67 minutes proved the only sour point of the day. Instead of remaining on the bench to watch, Viduka refused to shake his manager's hand and headed straight down to the tunnel. His actions brought a smattering of boos.

But, up until the last five minutes, it looked like nothing would spoil the day. Smith had already missed two golden opportunities to score when Johnson netted his first goal since February. Brad Friedel fumbled a Viduka shot and Johnson was on hand to rifle the ball home after just 11 minutes.

The former Derby star then trebled his goal tally for the club by netting a second shortly before the half-hour. A Pennant cross appeared to be handled by Steven Reid, but Johnson was on hand at the far post to volley home.

At 2-0, Elland Road was rocking and United boss Reid was the man of the moment. God only knows the emotion he was feeling.

Blackburn hadn't really had a look in, due to United's dominance, but Andy Cole did rattle the upright on a rare raid forward.

After a whirlwind opening period, the second half was slowly turning into a drab affair until Dino Baggio arrived as a late substitute.

The Italian immediately made his presence felt - Paul Robinson pulled off a stunning save from close range - and Baggio dragged Blackburn back into the game with a far post header four minutes from time.

That set up a nail-biting finale as the visitors surged forward in numbers, no doubt mindful of United's tendency to surrender a lead.

But Leeds held firm and the equaliser never came. Reid gave a clenched fist salute and the players hugged in the centre of the park. There was relief and joy all around. It was that sort of afternoon.