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Season 2002-03 
Match Report 2002-03 - Leeds (h)

Wednesday 11th September 2002, 8.00pm. SKY PPV

Venue: St. James' Park

Conditions: Anxious, frustrating.

Newcastle United 0 - 2 Leeds United


5mins Dyer lost the ball in front of the Leeds box, as Dacourt stepped in to knock it on to the unmarked Barmby. He in turn swept it out to the left flank where Kewell had out-thought the home defence. Amid vociferous offside appeals from the crowd he squared the ball across the box to Viduka (who looked offside earlier in the move) and he beat Given in the Leazes end goal from six yards. 0-1

Half time:  Newcastle 0 Leeds 1

87 mins With Given having blocked one effort and the ball bouncing around with no home player seeming capable of controlling it, Alan Smith smashed it home from inside the right hand corner of the penalty area. That was the signal for a mass desertion by home supporters, as far away in level seven the away fans danced in celebration. 0-2

Full time:  Newcastle 0 Leeds 2

We Said

A defiant Sir Bobby spoke:

"We just have to retain the confidence, I was quite delighted with the performance for 70 minutes.

"I bet Leeds can't believe what has happened to them here but that's Premiership football for you. It would have been different if we could have kept the momentum going when Craig came on. I think that would have helped him. But we faded when he came off the bench.

"We faded in the last part of the game - we gave so much energy in that 70 minutes that I'm not surprised by that. We dominated the game, commanded the play and were the best side but their keeper was great, he played really well and frustrated us.

"Leeds defended terrifically well and made no mistakes. We made one mistake and we were punished for it, that lost us this game."

About Bellamy:

"Everybody thinks Craig Bellamy is a magician - he's not a magician. He is not going to wave a magic wand, he hasn't played for seven months,"

"He is not ready, if he was then we would have started with him. He will be a late September, early October player. People think he's the saviour, that he's Jesus Christ - he isn't Jesus Christ.

"He is a good player but the expectation for him to come on and do it was just too much. He is not a miracle worker, he's a great player but he doesn't make miracles happen.

"In two weeks' time he will be on song and ready to start a match again - it is not just about energy and fitness, it's about touch and control."

About Ameobi:

"I'm happy with Shola, - he did very well, showed good movement, held the ball up and made good runs - he was a threat and I liked him. I was reluctant to take him off but we needed to try something different."

About Speed:

"I don't think Gary Speed was too delighted on being taken off but this was no skin off my nose.I will make the decisions on who I want to take off.

"As it happens, Speed did not deserve to be taken off and neither did Shola Ameobi.

"Speed played 90 minutes on Saturday and, while I am not saying he cannot play two matches in four days, the game was ebbing away and I had to change things.

"I have no problems with Gary. After all, I did pick him for last night's match. He's a great professional. He has pride in his own fitness and performances and he is one of my blue chip players.

"But Hugo Viana is a different kind of player. Just like Craig Bellamy is a different type of player to Shola Ameobi. Speed has to learn that it is not just about 11 players these days."

About the defence:

"We did look a little bit vulnerable at times last night but don't forget we were up against the likes of Mark Viduka, Harry Kewell and Alan Smith who were backed up by Nick Barmby and Lee Bowyer.

"Yet we still managed to create more chances than they did."

Shay Given spoke to the Chronicle:

"They scored their two goals and I had a one against one with Harry Kewell and that was it on the night. But I think that summed everything up. It was just one of those nights.

"In fact we could still have been playing tomorrow and I don't think we would have scored. Their goalkeeper was their best player and all credit to the lad.

"Even when he went the wrong way on one occasion he still managed to get his foot to the ball.

"As I've said it was one of those nights for us but it was his night. To be fair to the rest of the lads I thought we played well.

"We had a lot of chances but we just never took them.

"We had two free headers but these were headed into the ground and we were not able to get the goal we so badly needed."

"I don't know whether Viduka was offside or not. But we have got to do better. It was just too simple for Leeds.

"And as far as their second goal was concerned I felt we should have had a free-kick as one of their lads bundled me into the back of the net.

"Then Lee Bowyer mis-kicked and the ball went straight to Alan Smith and to tell the truth I never saw his shot through the crowd of players in front of me."

They Said

Smug ex-smog Terry Vegetables said:

"I thought Paul Robinson was outstanding - he is an excellent keeper, he knew that he was going to be in for a busy night against a very good Newcastle side and he performed wonderfully well.

You're going to get plenty of shots from close-in, from distances, plenty of crosses, and not just crosses, good crosses."

"When you have two goalkeepers as good as Nigel Martyn and Robinson in your squad then it is very difficult to pick between them. They should both be playing every week.

"I could not fault any of the lads, they were all brilliant for me tonight.

"The game was exactly as I expected it - when you come here, all their home games are very, very tough.

"They throw everything at you with pace and skill, not just pressure, and you've got to be organised and you've got to keep off your goalkeeper and give him a chance.

"We did that and Robinson did his stuff, and it's great credit to all the team for the way they really worked hard."

Goalscorer Alan Smith commented:

"It's been a good game for me, but the main thing was to get three points - that was the only aim tonight. The lads are very tired after that because we've all worked our socks off.

"The gaffer had been showing us a few things on the training pitch and that's all paid off tonight. I was really pleased with my goal and hope to get some more like that."

Meanwhile the Yorkshire Post broke with tradition by being almost objective in their report:

"Often facing serious Newcastle pressure, Leeds remained strong, rode their luck at times and had to thank some outstanding goalkeeping from Paul Robinson to see them home.

"Games between these two attack-minded sides are rarely dull. Indeed, there were 11 goals between them in the two matches last season and there could easily have been as many in this 90 minutes of pulsating football.

"The boys from the North East had recorded the double over Leeds in each of the past two seasons. However, man for man, Leeds's performance was vastly superior to their previous two outings. The defence looked solid, the midfield had more bite and cohesion while the front men were fluid and swift."

Match Stats

Third anniversary of Bobby Robson taking charge of his first game as Newcastle boss.

We lost 1-0 at Stamford Bridge on 11/9/99 with the following:

Wright, Barton, Domi, Goma, Dabizas, Dyer, Shearer, Speed, Solano (Hughes), Ferguson (Robinson), Lee (Maric 77)

Subs Not Used: McClen, Harper

In the intervening three years including this Leeds defeat, his record looks like this:

P148, W71, D35, L42

This defeat by Leeds and the other Premiership scores meant that we sank to 19th position, equal to that which we sat in after an opening weekend defeat at Old Trafford in August 2000. 

We did occupy 19th for five games after Sir Bobby got the job in 1999, but by contrast
never dropped below 14th last season.

The end of our 8 match unbeaten home run in league and cup, but only the second time we've been beaten in 15 games at St James' Park in 2002. Arsenal of course went away with a 2-0 league victory in March. 

No place on the Leeds bench for toon fan Michael Bridges, who is on the comeback trail after nearly two years out of action and travelled with the squad to Tyneside.


Scoring goals can conceal a multitude of sins, causing forgettable matches to be accorded legendary status as the years go passing by. 

Meanwhile there are those games when despite all efforts, the goals for column remains unchanged and only those with total recall or a large video collection can remember the wasted effort.

This game was one of the latter.

Until Lennart Johnansson or some other corpulent freeloader devises a scheme where matches are decided via proportional representation, we'll just have to make do with the old-fashioned goalscoring system and therefore our heroes lost this game fairly and squarely.

Pre-match we of course raised the subject of the referee and his interesting record when taking charge of Leeds games, and eyebrows were certainly raised when, amid big shouts for an offside, the visitors took the lead.

That was the signal for a rising tide of support from the home ranks, which communicated itself in turn to the players who built up an attacking momentum towards the Gallowgate goal. But that breakthrough didn't come, and Robinson demonstrated why he deserves an England appearance alongside his club colleagues.

With players like him and Bowyer and the organisational nous of Venables (a man who let's not forget managed to save a rabble down at the Riverside) it was always a good bet that Leeds wouldn't lose a third game on the bounce, and so it proved.

If anything this match was reminiscent of a couple of our trips to Elland Road in the Premiership, where we've scored a goal and then held out while the home side battered us without reward, and then walked from the field shaking their heads at the unfairness of it all, while we jogged about in the Lowfields road.

Speaking personally, games against Leeds have always had a special aura about them and take on an importance out of proportion to their relevance, much like a derby match.

Whether it's being fed boyhood lines about the Revie monsters, experiencing large-scale madness on 1980's trips to Elland Road or having lived in Yorkshire is unclear - maybe it's a mixture of all of them. Or that I'm allergic to Jackie Charlton.

Whatever, this game has far more significance to me than the desperately hyped sideshow that is a Tyne-Tees "derby." 

Taking the religious symbolism out of a Glasgow battle, it's not far removed from a Rangers-Celtic game, with fierce competitiveness on the field accompanied by much hullabaloo and posturing from the fans.

The players certainly seem to get caught up in something of a ferment - Neither Smith nor Mills had been booked for over a dozen games, yet both were shown yellows in this match, while Mills of course went bonkers over Bellamy in the Roy Keane memorial corner of the ground last season.

However, there's maybe also something approaching a sneaking respect between the two clubs, especially now the media tart O'Bleary has been unseated. 

Admittedly there's no love lost between the fans on matchdays and the antics of Leeds players in recent years have drawn justifiable abuse from toon supporters, but despite that there's some indefinable common ground that just doesn't exist with Chelsea or Spurs for example. Or either of the Manchester clubs.

Back to the action then after that cod-sociology, and despite numerous good opportunities the ball just wouldn't go in for us. 

The introduction of Bellamy to great applause didn't do the trick, and when he blazed his first reasonable chance over the crossbar, that was probably the "start the car" moment when it became obvious there was nowt down for us in this game.

As is often the way in these things, the team pressing got caught - but not on the break, as Smith's shot went past a good clump of toon players into Given's net. No breakaway goal this time.

Post-match Bobby seemed to be subconsciously quoting from Monty Python with his "Bellamy not the messiah" line, but while he seemed to criticise the toon fans for over-expectancy wasn't he doing exactly the same thing in bringing the lad off the bench?

To use a technical term it was "shit or bust" as it was at Anfield. It's difficult enough to stir some people at St.James' into demonstrative support without the manager moaning about excess enthusiasm - the last time we had this sort of nonsense was the laughable comment about the mexican wave in the Bilbao UEFA Cup home game putting the players off.

To those who don't share Robson's enthusiasm for Ameobi, this game in many ways reinforced the position for and against. 

Some have claimed with a level of justification that this was the best of his 52 first team appearances. Others though point to a lack of goal assists and goals scored, despite some eye-catching runs and a couple of gilt-edged chances.

LuaLua wasn't in a fit state to play according to the manager, and with Bellamy short of match fitness and Cort not ready for the Premiership, then Shola was the only choice apart from some Robert/Viana jiggery pokery.

Fair enough, but it was once again evident that Shearer and Shola do not a lethal combination make. Whether it's because Ameobi doesn't play on the shoulder of defenders or link up well with his captain is unclear, but certainly there are question marks about the positional sense of the youngster - at times in this game his colleagues would have needed orienteering skills to find him with a pass.

Whether he'll learn that in time is open to question - other people writing in "proper" media channels can dance around the subject and come up with mealy-mouthed answers, but we're unencumbered by such conventions.

To be brutally honest, he's not good enough - skilful yes, but not tenacious enough for the very top line. Goals in the reserves are one thing, but in front of 52,000 when the chips are down are a slightly different matter.

He's got more to him than many previous toon strikers, but at the very highest level that we're aiming for he's lacking. Someone has to score the goals that we've come to rely on Shearer for, and it ain't him.

If you think this is unjust, sorry. 

Nowt personal against the lad, just gut feeling from someone who has seen every game at first team and reserve level he's played for the club, not to mention academy matches when he used to be deployed as a central defender!

His time in the England U21 side is close to ending, and he looks like joining club mate Cort in not making the transition to the senior set up. Whether Shola will be able to make his mark at a lower level is also open to question - football history is littered with talented forwards who couldn't find the time and space to exhibit their skills against Neolithic defenders.

So, having savaged one player we should now also mention the fitful contribution of Bernard, who isn't having a good time of things at present. It's also trendy to knock Bramble, but we prefer to lump the whole defence together into the "must do better" category - they are all reasonable players in their own right (notice non-use of the word defender there) but have some collective wobbles - some mundane training ground work should put that right surely?

Going back to our opening line, a goal or two would have glossed over whatever perceived or real weaknesses exist in our side. It didn't happen like that and of course that gives people like us licence to put forward our crackpot theories.

But this game deserves to be remembered as one when we didn't lack for effort, but pulled up short in the luck and concentration departments. Hardly the end of the world.

Two years ago at this stage we were top of the league - and a fat lot of good that did us. 


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Page last updated 14 July, 2016