Saturday 23 February ~
Leeds United have won just twice in the last 11 league games and neither of those victories was in the last six. However, the last time they did win was away to Crewe on January 14. Today sees the return leg and even with a backdrop of High Court writs, Ken Bates proclamations and a ban for leading scorer and match-winner that day, Jermaine Beckford, Leeds should win this one.
Crewe have financial troubles and supporter unrest of their own. In the first full season since Dario Gradi moved upstairs the hangover is profound. They currently find themselves two points above Gillingham in the relegation places but having played a game more. Despite the last two games which featured a good away win at Leyton Orient and an outwardly impressive but fortunate two-goal 82nd-minute comeback against runaway leaders Swansea, things look precarious.
Due to this recent poor form, Leeds are losing touch with their promotion rivals. Yet the statistics, a Leeds goal difference of plus 23 to Crewe's minus 18, suggest a comfortable home victory. No doubt aware of losing ground on the top six – in the unlikely event of the 15 points being returned Leeds would leap into second place – they recently urged the courts to move quickly on the writ issued earlier in the month. Friday's Yorkshire Post reported that confusion has been caused by a letter regarding the writ from Football League chairman Brian Mawhinney. This letter, sent to every club in the League, stated that Barnsley, and only Barnsley, were supporting the campaign in Leeds. Barnsley chairman Gordon Shepherd denied that this was the case and completely disassociated his club from the legal proceedings 23 miles up the road. Whatever the explanation for this odd confusion is, Shepherd's rebuttal leaves Leeds completely isolated.
By six o'clock this evening if results are extremely favourable and Leeds, as expected, beat Crewe they could re-enter the top six. However, if their dreadful League form continues, expect Ken Bates to become progressively more vociferous, and possibly even litigious, as the season goes on. Ed Upright