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LEEDS UNITED FOOTBALL CLUB

Match v Wigan (2nd)
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                            WIGAN ATHLETIC........3 LEEDS UNITED............0
                                     Wigan Athletic badge                       Leeds United badge
 

United boss Kevin Blackwell was forced into making one change to the side that beat Reading the previous weekend with Gylfi Einarsson having picked up an injury.

That gave new signing Shaun Derry the chance to make his debut on the left hand side of midfield, the 27-year-old having only just signed for the club on Friday morning.

The Match

The first bit of action of any real note in this game saw Neil Sullivan pick the ball out of his own net after Nathan Ellington had put the home side 1-0 up on 10 minutes.

It was dreadful defending from United that gifted Wigan the goal. Gary Teale had made the run down the right flank and put in what seemed like an aimless cross towards the penalty area but neither Michael Gray, Sean Gregan or Paul Butler managed to cut it out and Ellington was left with a simple shot from six yards out.

Matters could have been even worse for Leeds before the first quarter of an hour was up as their poor start continued.

First Jason Roberts found himself in the clear but his weak shot was straight at Sullivan, then a minute later Jimmy Bullard, a scorer at Elland Road in Wigan's 2-0 win, was fed inside by Ellington's short pass and fortunately Sullivan came out well to make a good save.

Frustration was growing in the United camp as Gregan and Gary Kelly appeared to become involved in a war or words with each other.

Leeds first shot on goal came through last week's hero Rob Hulse in the 22nd minute, except this time he was given no opportunity to strip off again as Wigan defender Ian Breckin made a good block.

Wigan were still the most likely to score again and Lee McCulloch came within a few feet of putting them 2-0 up with a strike from 20-yards that just cleared the crossbar.

The same player should have done much better on the half hour when the lethal combination of Ellington and Roberts combined to set the ball up from him on the edge of the area, but after running through the defence, McCulloch could only blast it straight at Sullivan again.

The onslaught continued as Roberts turned last man Butler but couldn't beat Sullivan as the ball came off the Scottish international and landed just wide of the target. It was a real escape for Blackwell's men and again when the ball found the back of the net again from the corner but they were saved by the offside flag.

Leeds broke straight away after the disallowed goal and David Healy played the ball into the area for Jermaine Wright but he couldn't get his shot away quickly enough and in the end it was charged down. It had been one or too few opportunities for United.

Aaron Lennon was at least offering the near 6,000 Whites fans who had made the trip over the Pennines something to cheer about and he came close after skipping a challenge to take him inside the box and fire off a shot that nearly caught out an underworked John Filan in the Wigan goal.  It was in fact the first save he had had to make and possibly the first time he had touched the ball - with five minutes left to go to half time.

A free kick just before the end nearly caught the hosts out when Clarke Carlisle got on the end of it inside the penalty area.  He's deadly with his headers in that situation but this ball was to his feet and he passed the ball over to Rob Hulse who was instantly crowded out of the shot.

It was a forgettable first half as far as Leeds were concerned.

Leeds came out with more purpose in the second half as they realised that despite Wigan's dominance in the first, they were still in the game.

Within a minute Lennon slipped the ball through to Hulse but the flag went up on the far side for offside and shortly afterwards Hulse got goalside of the defence but was brought down on the edge of the area by Wigan skipper Matt Jackson but no foul was awarded by referee Phil Joslin, and Hulse picked up a yellow card for continuing his protest at the decision.

Ten minutes into the half though and Leeds found themselves with an even bigger mountain to climb after Wigan extended their lead.

It came after Gregan got back to cut out Roberts pass to Ellington to prevent him from helping himself to a second goal, but Leeds fell asleep at the resulting corner when Bullard swung in a cross that wasn't cleared, McCulloch had the header and Roberts may have had the final touch as the ball found the far corner of the net.

Shaun Derry picked up a booking on his debut after he brought Baines' run to an end with a clattering challenge on the England under-21 international.

Blackwell made his first change on 64 minutes when Frazer Richardson replaced Jermaine Wright.   The change saw a change in formation for Leeds with Gray moving up to the left wing and Richardson filling in at left back as Blackwell went 4-4-2.

Jason Roberts was the first Wigan player to pick up a booking for a very late challenge on Michael Gray. 

Richardson nearly got Leeds back in the game with a great run down the flank that saw him take the ball past three Wigan players, thread the ball through to Healy and then collect the return pass in space with just the keeper to beat. It would have been the goal of the season had Richardson managed to keep his shot down, instead it sailed over the crossbar.

Wigan though killed the game off on 75 minutes with their third goal of the afternoon.  A flick from midfield sent Roberts on a run and the striker had beaten everybody including Sullivan as he slotted the ball past him and wheeled away to celebrate - only for the ball to come back off the inside of the post.  Leeds though failed to clear convincingly but could do nothing about the 30-yard drive from Alan Mahon that flew into the back of the net.

At 3-0 the scoreline did not flatter the home side and Roberts could have added a fourth after dazzling the Leeds defence with his skills on the ball but not Sullivan who closed down the final shot.

It had been a severe lesson for Leeds, and one in which the gap in class between the three sides at the top of the table and those who harbour play-off hopes was all too evident. On this evidence the gap is a chasm and not just a short hop.

Wigan Athletic

Starting XI

1Filan, John

19Eaden, Nicky

6Breckin, Ian

4Jackson, Matt

26Baines, Leighton

20Teale, Gary

21Bullard, Jimmy

14Mahon, Alan

10McCulloch, Lee

30Roberts, Jason

9Ellington, Nathan

Substitutes

13Walsh, Gary

7Graham, David

15Wright, David

18Jarrett, Jason

24Whalley, Gareth

Leeds United

Starting XI

1Sullivan, Neil

2Kelly, Gary

4Carlisle, Clarke

6Butler, Paul

33Gray, Michael

7Wright, Jermaine

8Gregan, Sean

21Derry, Shaun

25Lennon, Aaron

29Hulse, Rob

9Healy, David

Substitutes

10Ricketts, Michael

15Richardson, Frazer

18Walton, Simon

20Johnson, Seth

30Deane, Brian

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