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Standard set at Leeds - the challenge is to maintain it


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Tonight's rarely wrong Chron says:

 

Grounds for optimism

 

Reporter: Michael Yarwood at Elland Road

Date online: 18/08/2008

 

Leeds 0, Oldham 2

 

OFTEN, it only takes one mighty shove to take a sport, a nation or a team in a whole new direction.

 

Rebecca Adlington’s heroics in Beijing will spawn the next generation of successful British swimmers; build a top-class velodrome in Manchester and watch the cycling medals roll in; introduce Shane Warne to cricket and enjoy the art of leg-spin being reborn; unearth one Boris Becker and, next thing you know, the bloomin’ Germans are trampling all over world tennis.

 

Momentum can be everything, and Athletic have taken just one week of the new campaign to get themselves on a roll.

 

After the astonishing victory over Millwall and 10-man battle against Rochdale, Saturday’s triumph at Leeds sent out a message — Athletic, on this early evidence, could well be a major force.

 

Please, let no-one go overboard just yet, but John Sheridan’s team produced an outstanding display en route to their second consecutive win at Elland Road.

 

If reproduced in, say, half of the remaining 44 league games, they will be guaranteed a top-six finish. The standard has been set, and now the challenge is to maintain it.

 

Promotion favourites Leeds, and especially their chairman, Uncle Ken Bates, are still trying to stir up anger at last term’s 15-point deduction, aiming to galvanise the players with a spirit of ‘no-one likes us, we don’t care’.

 

The home fans certainly build an atmosphere, but the roar was turned to a relative murmur when Athletic set out their stall in the opening exchanges.

 

Discipline was the watchword as Sheridan’s back four kept an organised line and Leeds, despite having fluidity in midfield, were stifled in key areas.

 

Stage two of the masterplan was to add an attacking edge, which Athletic achieved with a brace of goals in 14 minutes as Chris Taylor raised his personal tally to three in three outings.

 

Taylor has started the season with immense confidence, showing pace, a desire to commit defenders and an eye for goal which mostly eluded him during his first two full campaigns.

 

Remember, this is a bloke who needed 52 games to open his senior account, but you’d never believe it from the way he is posing a huge threat around the opposition box — his transfer value increases every week, not that many Latics fans would want to lose their homegrown hero.

 

While Taylor was the main man going forward, Athletic also had inspirational figures at the back as both Sean Gregan and Reuben Hazell played blinders.

 

Very few teams will prevent Leeds scoring at home, but those two centre-halves, ably supported by the fighters around them, ensured their ’keeper had little to do.

 

The joy was particularly sweet for Gregan, a player kicked out of Elland Road and making his first return after missing last term’s clash through injury.

 

Even Gregan resembled an Oompa-Loompa next to the gargantuan Leeds striker Enoch Showunmi, but such was his hunger to impress that there was only going to be one winner.

 

While Leeds controlled possession at the start, their movement and aggression didn’t lead to any real goalscoring chances.

 

Athletic weathered the storm and gave the impression that they would cause problems at the other end if their two wingers, Taylor and Andy Liddell, could be utilised more often.

 

A few promising moments came to nought before Leeds missed an opening through Robert Snodgrass, who headed off target from a corner.

 

But while most of those present won’t quite remember the first half until their dying day, Sheridan and his men could be content with their work.

 

Good became excellent after 51 minutes when Athletic shocked the home crowd by carving out, and converting, the clearest opening of the entire match.

 

And much credit goes to young striker Lewis Alessandra, who had been kept in check until producing a moment of quality near the corner flag.

 

Alessandra’s quick feet helped him to retain possession and find Liddell before the veteran wide man — and Leeds United supporter — dug out a cross under pressure.

 

Lee Hughes helped it against the bar as ’keeper Casper Ankergren was drawn out of position at his near post, leaving Taylor with the easy task of nodding in the rebound.

 

Athletic thought they had doubled their lead five minutes later, only for Alessandra to be correctly judged offside as he turned home a shot from Mark Allott.

 

The next big decision went in the visitors’ favour, with huge penalty appeals being rejected after Showunmi tangled with Gregan.

 

Showunmi then squandered a chance, yet Athletic were brimming with self-belief, and nobody more so than Taylor.

 

Goal number two stemmed from a Kelvin Lomax throw-in which was chested back by Hughes — Taylor took it in his stride, cut across the edge of the box and bent an unstoppable drive just inside the post.

 

Leeds sent on ex-Barcelona striker Luciano Becchio (as you do in League One), but the Argentinian missed with two difficult headers and Andy Robinson fired wide from 20 yards.

 

Athletic kept their cool, saw out the victory with ease and almost scored again through Alessandra. And as statements of intent go, you can’t get much better than this.

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Also in tonight's edition, Shez says:

 

Sheridan: We made crowd work for us

 

MANAGER John Sheridan felt the way his team responded to a big occasion was vital to their success against Leeds.

 

Athletic have won twice at Elland Road in 2008 as they were also the first side to conquer Leeds at home last season.

 

Sheridan said: “It lifts you coming to a ground like this with massive crowds — if you can’t get up for a game at Leeds, you never will.

 

“We were outstanding here last season and this performance was excellent as well, but I’ve warned the lads we’ve got another big test against Cheltenham next week.

 

“I want them to enjoy their weekend and have a pint, but we’ve got to treat every game just the same if we are going to achieve anything.

 

“Our record against the top sides was very good last season, but we’ve got to make sure we build on this result.

 

“We knew the crowd would be right behind Leeds, but sometimes that can help the opposition as well and we’ve made it work for us in the last two seasons.

 

“It’s good to win at a big club and it gives everyone belief, including the fans because they are getting something to shout about.

 

“I don’t usually like to pick people out, but I thought Sean Gregan and Reuben Hazell were outstanding against two awkward players in (Jermaine) Beckford and (Enoch) Showunmi.

 

“We were excellent from one to 11, but they dominated the strikers and were part of a very good team performance.

 

“Apart from the first 10 or 15 minutes I always thought we were in control. Other than setpieces, I couldn’t see how Leeds were going to score.

 

“That was down to a good effort from the whole team, which is pleasing because ever since I took over I’ve wanted all my players working defensively.

 

“To win our first two (league matches) is just what we wanted, and it should give the players confidence which we’ll hopefully take into our future games.

 

“Consistency is my favourite word — that’s what I’m looking for, and the earlier the better so we can get points on the board.

 

“I’m pleased for Chris Taylor to score the goals because he was excellent again. He’s so positive in his game.

 

“I was more pleased with his first goal because he gambled and got himself in a good area, but he was a threat and I wouldn’t like to mark him.”

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And Taylor says all the right things (my highlighting):

 

Taylor hails good start

 

Reporter: Michael Yarwood

Date online: 18/08/2008

 

WINGER Chris Taylor believes the rest of League One will view Athletic as promotion contenders after their superb weekend victory at Leeds.

 

Taylor hit both goals in a fully-deserved win, giving his team six points from their first two games — one of only two clubs in the division with a 100-per-cent record.

 

The Oldham-born star said: “People are going to take notice of us because we’ve beaten a very good side away from home.

 

“It’s a good start to the season and we can definitely go on from here if we keep listening to what the coaching staff tell us.

 

“All we’ve done so far is make the good start which Shez (manager John Sheridan) has been banging on about for a while.

 

“Obviously Leeds are a strong team and we had to dig very deep, but we got the result we wanted.

 

“I don’t remember them creating many chances and our centre-backs played brilliantly, but I don’t know anyone who didn’t do the same.

 

“All the lads deserve a lot of credit and, although I scored the goals, it’s about the team, not me.”

 

Taylor has already struck three times in the new campaign as he grabbed a dramatic winner against Millwall on the opening day.

 

Last term’s tally was a modest five, but he went on: “The manager wants me to get more goals this year, which I feel I can do.

 

“I feel like I’m going to hit the target every time at the moment and hopefully it will be part of a good season — all I’ve ever wanted is to win promotion with Oldham.

 

“For the first goal (on Saturday), Lee Hughes was unlucky not to score when he hit the bar and I was just glad to be picking up the bits.

 

“The second was pleasing and I managed to find the corner with it, so I was absolutely delighted when that went in.”

 

Athletic have rejected bids for the highly-rated Taylor (21) since the end of last season — and they could well receive more offers before the transfer window shuts on August 31.

 

But he insisted: “I don’t listen to any of that. I just get on with playing football and playing for Oldham Athletic because it’s all I want to do.”

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It's been a fantastic start and all the right noises are being made by the club. I detect a strong sense of optimism on this board so, I'm feeling extremely confident.

 

We could really show that we mean business with a convincing win in front of a big crowd (please!!) this coming Saturday. Even my dad is getting excited!!!

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It's been a fantastic start and all the right noises are being made by the club. I detect a strong sense of optimism on this board so, I'm feeling extremely confident.

 

We could really show that we mean business with a convincing win in front of a big crowd (please!!) this coming Saturday. Even my dad is getting excited!!!

 

Now that's a bit far-fetched! No, not the big crowd - your dad getting excited! :grin:

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Now that's a bit far-fetched! No, not the big crowd - your dad getting excited! :grin:

 

He's a reformed character these days, Diego.

 

The only moaning that he's done, so far, this season relates to the fact that they've knocked his "bloody stand down!!"

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Can we beleive anything in the Chron when they seem to think the Farne Islands are in Scotland? It is a good job they were not in charge of rescuing the six Oldham divers in trouble off the islands or they would have been sending the Oban lifeboat out to save them.

Edited by stewrat
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