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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Previews of Tonight's Game at Leeds

[See Also: QPR Report's - Leeds Preview & Look Back at last two Leeds Visits - QPR Report]

Yorkshire Post

Football Gray expecting tense night as White Rose foes meetAS Yorkshire's trio of Championship strugglers prepare for potentially key relegation showdowns, Eddie Gray is predicting a night of high drama and tension.
The battle to avoid dropping into League One will intensify tonight when four of the bottom six go head to head with Leeds United hosting QPR and Hull City making the trip to Barnsley.
Just three points separate bottom-placed Leeds and Luton in 19th place so it could be a hugely significant night in what has been a desperately disappointing Championship season for the White Rose county.
Sheffield Wednesday, who seem destined to finish in mid-table despite having claimed just one point from a possible 18 in 2007, could do their Yorkshire rivals a huge favour tonight by winning at Kenilworth Road.
Gray, a former manager of both Leeds and Hull, has seen all three Yorkshire strugglers in action this season while working for BBC Radio Leeds.
He said: "There are six teams involved in the relegation battle. Those on 37 or 38 points might be looking a bit nervously over their shoulders, but it would take a horrible run for them to be dragged in.
"Teams such as Norwich and Coventry will win a couple of games in the next few weeks and that will be enough to keep them just out of range.
"The other six are in the thick of it, though, and for four of them to be playing each other on the same night makes it an important one.
"Barnsley and Hull are both on 32 points so if one of them wins (at Oakwell) they can pull away a little.
"But if Leeds win and the game at Oakwell finishes as a draw, which, if I am honest, is what I want to happen, then all three will be level on 33 points. Alternatively, Leeds could lose and be six behind QPR."
Gray, who spent a season in charge of Hull in the late Eighties, added: "The games will not determine who stays up, there are too many games still to play between now and the end of the season.
"But whoever wins will have a psychological advantage. That is why it will be a tense night at Leeds and Barnsley.
"Barnsley and Hull know what a big advantage they can give themselves by winning at Oakwell, and it is the same for Leeds and QPR.
"Luton are at home to Sheffield Wednesday and if they lose that then they are right back in it even though they got a good point at Stoke on Saturday."
Gray made 569 appearances for Leeds and enjoyed two spells as manager at Elland Road so it is no surprise that he hopes Dennis Wise's side can retain their Championship status.
He added: "We keep saying Leeds have the players to get out of trouble, but it has not happened yet and we are still bottom. It is now time to start making things happen.
"The result against QPR will be huge for Leeds if we win and massive if we lose.
"QPR have the benefit of knowing that no matter what the result, Leeds cannot go above them. They have also had the benefit of having the weekend off while we had to go to Cardiff.
"On the other hand, they are the team that has been struggling lately and there has been all the speculation in the last couple of days about their manager (John Gregory possibly being sacked). That can unsettle players."
Southend complete the bottom half dozen clubs in the Championship and the Essex side host Crystal Palace tonight.

Coca-Cola Championship
Bottom P W D L F A Pts
Coventry 33 11 5 17 32 45 38
Norwich 30 10 7 13 37 47 37
Luton 32 8 9 15 38 52 33
QPR 32 9 6 17 38 53 33
Hull 32 8 8 16 33 45 32
Barnsley 33 9 5 19 35 58 32
Southend 33 7 10 16 32 52 31
Leeds 32 9 3 20 34 57 30
20 February 2007
Yorkshire Post

Yorkshire Evening Post - Spotlight on:Queens Park Rangers»
View GalleryThe Gaffer
John Gregory. QPR's manager has a wealth of experience, but he could not have asked for a greater challenge than the one which faces him at Loftus Road.
Rangers made hard work of staying in the Championship last season and this year's battle is also heading for the wire. Gregory will be the last man to panic, however, after a managerial career that started in 1989. He has seen active duty with Portsmouth, Plymouth, Wycombe, Aston Villa and Derby County, and Rangers preferred his credentials to those of Gary Waddock, who was in charge when Leeds visited Loftus Road for their second game this term.

The Danger
QPR's squad is not packed with recognisable faces, but Gregory is in possession of a handful of match-winners. Their most reliable goalscorer this season has been Dexter Blackstock, the former Southampton striker who has found the net on eight occasions – more than any United player. Blackstock struck during Rangers' 3-1 victory over Burnley at the start of this month, and is a player with plenty of potential at the age of 20.

The Form
Confidence at Loftus Road must be at an all-time low. Rangers were thrashed 5-0 by Southend in their last league fixture, and their away record is poor. The club have also had to deal with the fall-out following the brawl with the Chinese Olympic squad, a PR disaster of major proportions. Rangers do have the potential to spring surprises, though, as their 3-1 win over Burnley showed. Gregory's side are also one of only two teams to have triumphed in Cardiff this season, and a fourth away victory of the season is not out of the question tonight.

The Record
The last meeting was something of an epic, producing a 2-2 draw at Loftus Road in August. Leeds led on two occasions but were pegged back by two goals in the final 10 minutes. But the Elland Road club tend to cope well against Rangers, and have not lost a game against the Londoners since 1995 – also the last occasions QPR won in West Yorkshire. Their clashes also have a habit of producing goals, and United have never bettered the 6-1 defeat they inflicted on QPR in 2004.

The Odds
Leeds are starting to show greater assurance at home, and it is not a surprise to see them priced a 10-11 with Ladbrokes. QPR, meanwhile, are 12-5 having failed to win away from home since November 17, and Ladbrokes are offering the draw at 9-4. Between them, Leeds and Rangers have produced only nine stalemates this season.

The Whistler
Tony Bates. The Staffordshire official is a long-serving ref, but he has never succeeded in graduating to Select Group status. He has taken charge of only a handful of Championship games this term, and has handed out 71 cautions and three red cards in 29 fixtures. Bates' controlled United's 2-0 win over Burnley at Elland Road last term.

Yorkshire Evening Post

Leeds plump for American to sort out the Rangers
By Press sports reporter

Jemal Johnson is set to make his Leeds United debut in the relegation battle with QPR tonight.

The 21-year-old, American-born striker signed on a month's loan from Wolves yesterday and while he won't be able to play when Leeds travel to Molyneux on Saturday, he is likely to be on the bench against Rangers in place of the struggling Tresor Kandol.

Ironically, Johnson fell out of favour at Wolves after the arrival of former Leeds striker Andy Keogh, but even though he has only netted three times in 24 appearances for the Midlands club, Leeds boss Dennis Wise thinks he will freshen up his squad.

The now infamous, but still unknown Leeds mole' would have a job to reveal the line-up for tonight's game because even Wise is struggling to know what it will be.

He is waiting for last minute checks on two of his three central defenders. Rui Marques is doubtful after sustaining a badly gashed head at Cardiff on Saturday.

That leaves Hayden Foxe to partner Matt Heath but the Australian also picked up a knock at Ninian Park and is carrying a long term injury that prevents him playing two games in a week.

Wise is hoping for better news about Alan Thompson, who should be fit to return to midfield and is likely to replace Ian Westlake.

Victory over a QPR side, whose manager John Gregory is expected to get the sack if they lose, will lift Leeds off the bottom whatever the result in the other massive relegation struggle between Barnsley and Hull.

Defeat, on the other hand, would be a massive blow, from which Leeds might not recover. The Press


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