LEEDS UNITED.......1 GILLINGHAM..........1
United boss Kevin Blackwell has been forced into making one change to the side that drew with
Millwall last Sunday. Shaun Derry has had to undergo an operation on his knee which is likely to keep him out for the
next fortnight at least. That meant a recall for Jermaine Wright who came back into the side after a two game absence.
The game was preceded with a minute's silence following last week's sad news of the death of
midfielder Matthew Spring's baby and physio Bruce Craven. It was impeccably observed by both sets of fans.
The opening ten minutes produced very little action to get excited about, Gary Kelly fired
a shot over and Gillingham came close was a Jonathan Douglas header that fell onto the roof of the net after Leeds failed
to clear the ball properly.
As usual Aaron Lennon was providing the occasional spark to get Leeds going and his good running
produced an opening on the quarter hour mark that saw Rob Hulse head over from Kelly's chip into the box.
Hulse came close again with another header that was deflected over by a defender on the line
after he met Kelly's corner.
Sean Gregan, who misses the next two games though suspension, was on the receiving end of a
late tackle from behind by Gill's on-loan midfielder Douglas. Fortunately Gregan was able to continue after what had been
as bad a tackle as you are likely to see all season.
The football lacked the quality United fans had become accustomed to in the last few weeks,
but in Hulse they know they have a real Jack-in-the-box who can pop up with a goal from anywhere. The striker nearly did just
that eight minutes before half time when he beat the keeper to a header but the ball landed on the roof of the net again from
Old habits die hard and Leeds were nearly caught out on the counter-attack again just as they
have been so many times at home this season against teams they might be expected to beat comfortably. Neil Sullivan
was able to hang onto Michael Flynn's volley after Nicky Southall found him making the run into the penalty area with a great
Another nervous moment came with three minutes remaining in the half as Gillingham won a free-kick
just a yard outside the box.
United had reason to be concerned and they certainly were after the free kick was taken with
the visitors making the breakthrough thanks to no small measure of good luck.
Flynn rolled the free-kick short and Chris Hope hit it low and hard but it took a wicked deflection
and Sullivan beaten as his dive failed to get to the ball.
It could have been even worse as deep into injury time Sullivan was forced to tip away a shot
from Mamady Sidibe and Kelly just got there in time to hack the loose ball away.
At half-time Leeds had it all to do if they were to maintain their play-off challenge.
Blackwell would have had plenty to say at half-time after a poor half from Leeds but he could only watch in astonishment as
they nearly let the visitors in for a second goal shortly after the restart.
From a throw in Sidibe flicked the ball on and Douglas was found unmarked just five yards out
but headed it straight at Sullivan.
Sean Gregan was then shown his 11th yellow card of the season after a foul on Douglas.
Ten minutes into the half and Simon Walton found himself in unfamiar territory with a clear
run to goal but just as he made his way into the box Nyron Nosworthy came in with a tackle to deny the teenager.
Walton and the United fans in the Kop screamed for a penalty but referee Mark Cowburn deemed
the challenge a fair one and Walton picked up a booking after continuing his protests.
Frazer Richardson then came on for Gary Kelly as Blackwell made his first change of the afternoon.
There was no indication of what was about to erupt in the moment that proceeded one of the
biggest on-pitch battles that Elland Road has seen in years.
United full-back Micky Gray and Gills' Darius Henderson clashed and it started a melee that
appeared to involve everybody on the pitch, all the coaching staff, about five stewards and countless others.
Once everything had cooled down, which took some time, both Henderson and Gray received their
marching orders as they were shown the red card for violent conduct. A three match ban for Gray now awaits.
Leeds huffed and puffed but Gillingham put everyone back and every time just did enough to
prevent an equaliser. They really were fighting for their lives.
Marlon King made his entrance against his former club with twelve minutes remaining, coming
on for Jermaine Wright.
It was Gillingham's Michael Flynn who missed the change to kill the game off and secure the
points for the visitors when he headed a glorious chance wide from three yards out.
Time was running out for Leeds and the time to throw everything at Gillingham had long passed
but the equaliser finally came with ten minutes of normal time left and there was no small measure of irony in the fact that
King was involved.
The on-loan Nottingham Forest striker crossed from the right and the Gills defence failed to
deal with it and Hulse managed to get the ball under control and somehow scramble it home from four yards out.
Leeds were still in danger of being caught out on the break and Sidebe nearly punished them
when he broke clear from the half-way line but Matthew Kilgallon raced back and got a foot in to knock the ball towards Sullivan.
As the clock ticked down Healy made a run into the area and shot across the face of goal where
it looked like Ian Cox was about to turn the ball into his own net but instead the defender managed to make a life-saving
In that move though Hulse picked up an injury and was forced to come off with Brian Deane replacing
him for the final few minutes.
There were some five minutes of extra time to be played which just about accounted for all
the time spent clearing up the scrap earlier.
Deano came inches away from giving Leeds a late, late winner but failed to connect with Kilgallon's
header back into the area from Richardson's free-kick.
Healy then saw a cross nearly drift inside but the keeper tipped it away and in the end Leeds
had to make do with a point.