TRESOR KANDOL has certainly had his share of ups and downs in his time at Leeds United, but after crucial goals in the last two weeks he has gone a long way to repaying the club's faith in him, writes Tony Harber.
The recent signing of Anthony Elding, the change in manager and Gary McAllister trying to sign Dougie Freedman from Crystal Palace have all added pressure on Kandol to perform at the level he did in the first three months of the campaign when he netted eight times and formed League One's most potent strikeforce with Jermaine Beckford.
But while he has not quite found the same outstanding form yet, there are encouraging signs and after he ended his long goal drought with the equaliser against Crewe he went one better by heading in the winner at Swindon on Saturday.
Now if he can get his great friend Beckford to also get back among the goals Leeds can still play a part in the promotion race. Beckford remains the leading scorer in League One with 17, but he has only found the net twice in his last 10 appearances and one of those was a penalty.
The key to the Swindon win was really at the other end of the pitch as despite having to make a late change with the right-footed Frazer Richardson coming in to play left back after new loan signing Stephen O'Halloran was injured in the warm-up United kept a clean sheet for only the second time in their last 11 away games.
The return of Rui Marques from African Cup Of Nations duty looks to have tightened things up again and the form of goalkeeper Casper Ankergren is also playing a part in an improved defensive effort, although Leeds were lucky when Swindon's Simon Cox somehow headed the ball over an open net from no more than six yards out.
By then United were already ahead as Kandol headed home a David Prutton cross from the left. Later on they felt they were denied a penalty when Kandol was sent tumbling in the box while Lubo Michalik went close with an amazing 60-yard lob and Beckford and Prutton were not far away. Swindon felt they had enough chances to earn at least a draw, but it was a good defensive effort from Leeds who are now up to eighth, two points outside the play-off zone.
With his first win as Leeds manager tucked away, now it is a first home win McAllister seeks as Bournemouth visit Elland Road this Saturday. With this game quickly followed up by another at Elland Road against relegation threatened Cheltenham next Tuesday this has to be a chance to close the gap on the sides above and realistically the last opportunity to get in the race for automatic promotion.
Recent home form is not great, but McAllister wants the Swindon win to be the launch pad for a run.
He said: "We need a run to get up where we want to be. We know we're going to have massive support for the next two games at home and we've got to utilise that.
"We've had three draws and if we can back them up with two or three wins then they might actually turn out to be decent results. I'd have liked the results to be better, but the response from the players has made it all worthwhile.
"There's an old adage that I've used all the way through my career which is that the harder you work, the luckier you get, and these guys have been working really hard. They deserved a break. It was an awkward one (at Swindon) – really windy and bobbly and ugly.
"The conditions weren't good and it was a day for the players to use their experience,knowing when not to take chances. It's a one-nil grinder.
"There were a few scary moments, a few blocks and headers, but we deserved a bit of luck."
McAllister felt for his young loan defender O'Halloran who injured his knee in the pre-match warm-up, but was pleased with the effort of Richardson in his unfamiliar role at left back.
He added: "It's not a good start for the young guy. He'd been in for two or three days and he was really looking forward to it. He felt something pop behind his knee, so it's fingers crossed.
"It was very unfortunate, and Frazer had to come in, adapt, and play in a position he's not familiar with. But we never gave it a second mention. He did a fantastic job."
Swindon Town 0
Leeds United 1
Saturday, March 1, 2008
Swindon (4-4-2): Smith; Comminges, Aljofree, Kanyuka (Ifil 17), Vincent; Roberts, Easton, Peacock, Allen (McGovern 68); Paynter, Cox.
Leeds United (4-4-2): Ankergren; Kenton, Marques, Michalik, Richardson; Prutton, Howson, Kilkenny (Thompson 78), Johnson; Kandol, Beckford.
Referee: Chris Foy